The focus now shifts from Peter to a wider view and we read of those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen (cf. Acts 8.1). Some travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except the Jews.
In the world of the day, Antioch was an important city. Some considered it the third city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria. The founder of the city was one of the generals who inherited the empire of Alexander the Great, and there were multiple cities in the region bearing the name ‘Antioch’ founded by the same man. This one was known as ‘Syrian Antioch’ or ‘Antioch on the Orontes’. It was a large city, around half a million people, and was known for business, culture, sophistication, and immorality. Pagan worship was rife and as F.F. Bruce wrote
“The city’s reputation for moral laxity was enhanced by the cult of Artemis and Apollo at Daphne, five miles distant, where the ancient Syrian worship of Astarte and her consort, with its ritual prostitution, was carried on.”
Into this environment the Gospel arrives and we read that it was shared with Jew and Gentile alike (vv.19-20). Into this dark and barren spiritual world the Gospel broke and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The Good News of Jesus is brighter than any dark place.
The Good News of Jesus is stronger than any entrenched false religion.
There is nothing that the Gospel will not conquer when the hand of the Lord is behind it. If the preaching and teaching of the Lord Jesus by these men can bring to faith those living in such a decadent and despicable place then it can certainly overcome whatever it is that you are working through right now.
The power of God to change hearts and minds is limitless and knows no bounds. Situations that we might cower from are conquered, places we are nervous to tread are nothing to the Lord, and if the example of Acts 11.19-21 teaches us anything it is that the power of God to save cares not about obstacles we may consider insurmountable.
Whatever you are working through now, read Acts 11.19-21 and take comfort from seeing and knowing that the power of your God is greater than your problem.