Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
And the hand of the Lord was with them: Because God was with them, their ministry was blessed and multiplied, the result was that a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21
The church at Antioch was started in the middle of pagan and imperial worship. It was known as one of the great cities of the Roman Empire, with of course Rome being the political power center, Alexandria being the intellectual center, Athens being the philosophical center and Antioch being about business and immorality. It was located about 480 Klm. north of Jerusalem and had a population of about 500,000!
The dichotomy of the dispersed believers after Stephen’s death shows the hesitancy to follow the command of their Lord; “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) The mindset was ‘this is for the Jews’. But when a few of the people of Cyprus and Cyrene (present day Libya) got the message, they brought the good news to the Greeks who were living in Antioch.
This declaration of the gospel to non-Jews was novel and different, but following the principle that since all had sinned, Christ’s death was for the sin of the world and the announcement was necessary for people to believe. But we notice as David Guzik points out:
- A ministry can’t turn people to the Lord unless the hand of the Lord is with them.
- You can turn people to a personality without the hand of the Lord.
- You can turn people to a social club without the hand of the Lord.
- You can turn people to a church or an institution without the hand of the Lord.
- But you can’t turn people to the Lord without the hand of the Lord.
We ask, “What is the ‘hand of the Lord’?” From my study in a Bible study program I find it used 33 times in the Old Testament and 3 times in the New testament. Sometimes it is used in a punitive way, destroying those who stood against Israel. Once in the NT, Paul’s action against an antagonist causing him blindness is called the “hand of the Lord”. (Acts 13:11)
We can have an educational program in our churches, schools and homes, but for it to be a Christ centered and God-blessed ministry, we must have the hand of the Lord!
So we note some interesting things about the time of this incident:
- It was a time of persecution
- It was a place of paganism
- These were people of purpose
We must realize that no matter what the circumstances are, there are some things worth standing for. The future generations must have a witness and the preparation of the children of today will mean that there will be light tomorrow. The entire world is filled with fear today because of the lack of knowing Jesus Christ and the hope He brings when accepted as Savior. He brings peace and hope in a hopeless situation like we find ourselves in.
The educational programs of this world untether a student from the foundations of principles and truths needed for a happy and productive life. These include:
- God’s creation of humanity as made like and for a relationship with Him;
- Our personal responsibility for our decisions,
- The answer to man’s dilemmas are found only in the Scriptures, and
- God’s unfailing love as demonstrated by Jesus’s life and death
The purpose that we have must be in line with the teaching of Scripture. We know that we are to bring up our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”! The purpose could not be clearer. But to accomplish fully His intentions by our efforts we must have the power of HIS HAND on our activities.
It is our purpose at School of Tomorrow® Philippines to assist churches, education enterprises and homes to impact the young people God has entrusted to our hand. We seek to build a generation, who like John the baptizer, will bring a message from the Lord. Only then will people be able to say:
“What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.” (Luke 1:66)