God’s Word for You
Acts 11:1-21 Our second-article faith
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, April 17, 2020
19 Now those who were scattered as a result of the persecution that happened over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one except the Jews alone. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene. When they came to Antioch, they also began to preach to the Greeks, preaching the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Luke understands that two important events relating to Saul of Tarsus affected the early growth of the church throughout the known world. One of these was the conversion of Saul, but the other was the earlier persecution headed by Saul. This was “the persecution that happened over Stephen” here in verse 1. Christians from Jerusalem and Judea (Franzmann mentions an estimate of 25,000 believing souls) scattered all around the western and southern Mediterranean coastline. Phoenicia was to the north, the Old Testament Lebanon which included Tyre and Sidon. Cyprus is one of the five big islands in the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia, Crete and Sicily are the others), a little smaller than Michigan’s upper peninsula. It’s a little over sixty miles off the coast of Lebanon (Phoenicia), so it can’t be seen from shore, but it’s so close and so large that any course from Tyre or Sidon heading west-northwest to north-northwest will contact the island. Cyrene was the main harbor of north Africa, the last port east of the big Gulf of Sidra.
Peter’s message from the Holy Spirit and the realization of the doctrine of the law fulfilled in Christ had a profound effect. Many of the persecuted Christians fleeing from Judea had confined their preaching to the Jews only, but now they began to reach out to the Gentiles as well. The result was another increase in numbers to the church. Luke does a service to the church by not focusing on the actual number of believers at this or that place at this time, but on the faith of the people, turning to the Lord. The gospel’s success is not for us to measure, especially with numbers. We are delighted that many people in distant places are turning to Christ, but we must always remember to focus our own faith always on Jesus. The Christian church worships the Triune God, but our focus must remain especially fixed on the Second Person of the Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. When a church begins to veer toward a first article faith, on the creating Father, it runs into the danger of downplaying both the role of Christ and the need for Christ. Such a church will drift away from the sacraments, failing to see the need for them, and will be led into false fellowships with Jews who reject Christ altogether or Unitarians (who accept all faiths except Christians) or even the Ba’hai who catch everything under a joint Islamic-Hindu umbrella. The other side of the coin is no prettier. Christian churches that leave Christ behind in favor of a third article faith and the Holy Spirit’s work miss the message of the Holy Spirit altogether and live in a hazy quagmire of Millennial arguments, too much concerned about the chronology of the morning of Judgment Day than about leading its people to faith and repentance.
The second article of the creed is the foundation of God’s work of forgiveness. We worship Jesus Christ; we must keep the central message of our worship and in our hearts to be Christ crucified for us; for me. Then we will truly appreciate the work of God the Father and know that the faith given to us by God the Holy Spirit is faith in Christ, and that all eyes must turn to him. He is our Savior, he is our future, he is our eternal life.
Pastor Timothy Smith