Now Peter travels back to Jerusalem with the news that Gentiles (non-Jews) received the Holy Spirit. But instead of high-fives and back slaps, Peter is accosted because he went into a house with non-Jews and ate with them. Those that were upset with Peter were followers of Jesus, which shows us how ingrained racial elitism had been in their culture. After Peter explained God’s leading and the vision, they accepted what happened and praised to God. They concluded that God had granted the Gentiles repentance that leads to life.
Have you had any ingrained beliefs of which you had to let go? It’s an unsettling feeling when something you’ve believed for a long time isn’t completely true. When those times come, we need to dig deeper for the truth and a fuller understanding of who God is.
Meanwhile, scattered because of persecution, Jesus’ followers were preaching the good news as far north as Antioch. This city is on the Mediterranean Sea, close to the southern border of modern day Turkey. At that time it was the third largest city in the Roman Empire and was inhabited mostly by Greek people.
Many in Antioch believed, so Barnabas traveled there to encourage and teach them. He also went a little farther north to Tarsus, got Saul and brought him to Antioch. While there, God spoke through Agabus that a famine was going to strike the whole Roman world. In response to this prediction the believers began to provide help for the Christians in Judea (the southern part of Israel). Also, Antioch was the first place where Jesus’ followers were called "Christians". The word "Christian" means "little Christ" and has stuck since that time.
Ever thought of yourself as a little Christ? After we accept Jesus’ death on the cross, God begins to make us into the person he wants us to be. That is, God moves us through a process of becoming like Jesus. In the Bible this process is called sanctification (talk about a fancy word!). And as we grow in our relationship with God we become like mini versions of Jesus. Just as “little” is part of the label, so is Christ. Pray that God would make us more like Christ so that we can be true to our name.
- Written for Verve by Mike Zimmerman