... continued from last week
It was about this time that God sent Barnabas to Tarsus to get Paul. Barnabas knew from the moment he met Paul that God was going to use him mightily to bring the gospel of King Jesus to many people. Of course at that time Barnabas was mainly thinking Jews. In the six years or so since he last saw Paul, Barnabas had moved north to Antioch, a little more than a two week journey north.
God was moving in amazing ways in Antioch. Sure, Jerusalem was still where Peter was based, the center of the movement. Everyone believed that Jesus would return to Jerusalem when he returned from the skies to fully bring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
From Jerusalem, the Spirit had taken the word all over the world by word of mouth. Several of the disciples had immediately spread the word in Galilee. Within three years of the resurrection there was a strong community of Jesus followers even in Damascus, as you know. Peter and the Hellenists preached all over Judea in the first decade of the Way. A follower of Jesus from Jerusalem named John had even spent some time in Samaria spreading the good news in those days.
Then it had pushed north into Syria. Now almost fifteen years after the resurrection, the house churches in Antioch were as numerous as those in Jerusalem. It was a community with believers from all over the Roman Empire and beyond. For example, Lucius was from Cyrene, and Simeon called Niger was also from North Africa. There were both rich and poor. A man named Manaen had actually grown up with Philip the tetrarch, a Herod.
There were so many prophets in the house churches at Antioch! One named Agabus was especially well-known among the followers of Jesus. Jesus had not stopped speaking to his disciples when he went to heaven. He continued to speak often to the church through prophecy. At Antioch, the prophets were just as central to the movement as the apostles were...