A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 11:25-26. The Greek mission is consolidated by Saul.
Barnabas’ next action was to go *to Tarsus to look for Saul* (25), for Tarsus was Saul’s home town to which the Jerusalem believers had sent him, when his life was threatened (9:28-30). That was seven or eight years previously. What he had been doing meanwhile we do not know, although in his letter to the Galatians he seems to indicate that he was preaching in Syria and Cilicia (Gal.1:21ff). Some commentators have suggested that it was during this period that he suffered some of the physical persecutions to which he later referred (2 Cor.11:23ff), and was disinherited by his family (Phil.3:8).
We cannot help admiring Barnabas’ humility in wanting to share the ministry with Saul, and his sense of strategy also. He must have known of Saul’s calling to be the apostle to the Gentiles (9:15,27), and it may well have been the Gentile conversions in Antioch which made him think of Saul. At all events *when* Barnabas *found him, he brought him to Antioch*, and then *for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church*, most of whose members were young and uninstructed believers, *and taught great numbers of people* (26a).
They must have taught about Christ, making sure that the converts knew both the facts and the significance of his life, death, resurrection, exaltation, Spirit-gift, present reign and future coming. Is it because the word ‘Christ’ was constantly on their lips that *the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch* (26b)? Luke has so far referred to them as ‘disciples’ (6:1), ‘saints’ (9:13), ‘brethren’ (1:16; 9:30), ‘believers’ (10:45), those ‘being saved’ (2:47) and the people ‘of the Way’ (9:2). Now it seems to have been the unbelieving public of Antioch, famed for their wit and nicknaming skill, who, supposing that ‘Christ’ was a proper name rather than a title (the Christ or Messiah), coined the epithet *Christianoi*. It was probably more familiar and jocular than derisory. Although it does not seem to have caught on initially, since elsewhere it appears only twice in the New Testament (Acts 26:28 and 1 Pet.4:16), it at least emphasised the Christ-centred nature of discipleship. For the word’s formation was parallel to *Herodianoi* (Herodians) and *Kaisarianoi* (Caesar’s people); it marked out the disciples as being above all the people, the followers, the servants of Christ.
Tomorrow: Acts 11:27-30. d). The Greek mission is authenticated by good works.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.