Antioch

After the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and following the Day of Pentecost, the birth of the early Christian church began.  It consisted of Jews who were primarily located in Jerusalem.  The things we take for granted now, where not a given in those days.  In fact, the very early Christian church modeled itself much after the traditions associated with Judaism.

In order for the Christian church to become what God had intended, there were at least three primary things that had to occur:

  1. Doctrinal shift from the Law to Faith and Grace supplied by Christ, as means of salvation and reconciliation to God.
  2. Allowing Gentiles to have the same status, rights, and association in church and society as the Jews.
  3. Expanding the evangelistic reach of the church beyond Jerusalem to the rest of Israel and eventually the world.

While we take these things for granted these concepts were mind-bending to the Jews of the early church.  There were several things that occurred to push the early church into these reforms.

For one thing, there arose a great persecution of the believers in Jerusalem and surrounding areas.  This persecution was so intense it caused believers to be dispersed and to flee Jerusalem.

The second thing that happened was a revival breakout that occurred in the Christian church at Antioch.  This church exhibited several key characteristics that marks it as the real beginning of modern Christianity as we know it today.  Antioch was the first Christian church of note, that had more Gentiles than Jews.  It was the first church of note, that had an outpouring of the Spirit, along with the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.  It was the first church of note, that sent out missionaries into the Gentile world to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The fact that Antioch had a large contingent of Gentiles meant that Jewish traditions had little hold on the membership, and made the concepts of moving from the doctrine of Law to the doctrine of Faith and Grace easier to accept.  We must remember that one of the biggest threats to the early Christian church was not from outside persecution, which was at times severe, but from inside where orthodox Jews wanted to revert back to the traditions, customs, and laws of Judaism.  This was perfectly natural, as they were raised from birth with these traditions and customs, and it only seemed natural to live them going forward as believers in Christ.  However, as Paul so distinctly pointed out it is not possible to live in both worlds at the same time.  One is either saved by keeping the Law or one is saved by faith and grace in Christ.  You cannot live in both realms at the same time, and must at some point choose one or the other.

The early church had great problems in this area, and it took great courage for Jewish leaders, who lived primarily in Jerusalem, to move into the new area of faith and grace as our foundation for the future.  Additionally, they had to accept the new idea that Gentiles were also granted equal status with Jews when it came to God’s plan for saving the world.

Of the many accomplishments of Paul the Apostle, perhaps one of the greatest was his constant and persistent promotion of this new concept that Gentiles were a part of God’s plan for the church.  Often, he was alone in this quest, and was often rebuffed and rejected for his pursuit of this idea.  But, Paul was convinced that what Christ had created was something that was born out of Judaism, but would be different in its nature, traditions, customs, and future.  The God of Judaism was not abandoned, abolished, or changed, but instead God’s fuller plan for including the Gentiles was brought to light.  There were definite references to the Gentiles in the Old Testament, but it was only the birth of the Christian church that these ideas were brought to full fruition and fulfillment.

And, so, the church at Antioch was the prototype for the modern Christian movement, without which the Christian movement and birth of the early church might have died before the end of the first century.  At best, it might have reverted back to some form of Judaism, which would have rendered the work of the Cross powerless.

 

One Response to “Antioch”

  1. Barbara L. McGuire Says:

    Great blog! You made it simple to understand and it was a great history lesson. Blessings!

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