Some cities have a geographical location that seems especially designed by God as a springboard for communication. Antioch on the Orontes, for example, bears the thumbprint of God.
Scripture’s first mention of Syrian Antioch refers to the city on the Orontes River, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Antioch served as the Roman capital of Syria and ranked as the third largest city in the entire Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria.
Its influence came from its location.
- The river snaked southwest along a narrow valley between the Amanus Mountains and the harsh Lebanon Mountains.
- This valley offered the easiest access inland for those traveling from the Mediterranean Sea.
- Anyone journeying overland across the Taurus Mountains would have to pass by Antioch.
The land funneled all who traveled in this area by Antioch. No wonder the Lord chose this city as a springboard for the known world to hear God’s universal good news.
Antioch offers a great lesson in our motivation for God.
Antioch and its Amazing Significance for Christianity
After the stoning of Stephen and the resulting scattering of Christians from Jerusalem, “some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20).
The significant conversions caused the Jerusalem leaders to dispatch Barnabas, himself also from Cyprus, to follow up with these new believers. Barnabas then sent for Saul in Tarsus (cf. 9:30) to come and help him.
- Together Barnabas and Saul, later named Paul, ministered in Antioch a full year. There “the believers were first called Christians” (v. 26).
- In years to come, all three of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys had Antioch as its home base (Acts 13:1-3; 15:35-40; 18:23).
- Ignatius, one of the church’s early bishops, served in Antioch, knew the Apostle John, and as an old man, suffered martyrdom in Rome for the name of Jesus Christ.
- In the 4th century, Antioch became a major center for biblical studies under Lucian. It also gave stage to heresies such as Arianism and Gnosticism.
Antioch’s Amazing Model of Willingness
In the midst of the new Christians’ growth and effective ministry in Antioch, something surprising occurred:
While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2–3)
What tough words to hear! The local church had to give up two of its most gifted teachers, Barnabas and Saul. That called for spiritual maturity on both sides. Barnabas and Saul chose to go, and the church chose to let them go.
Whenever God leads us, taking the initiative suddenly becomes a moral issue—a matter of obedience.
No more sitting still.
Energizing Your Right Motivation for God
We love God because He first loved us and sent someone else to share Him with us. Our right motivation comes from obedience that drips with gratitude. As much as we would prefer to hole up in our Christian communities and fellowships until Jesus comes—to withdraw from a culture whose moral boundaries continue to erode—God clearly has a different purpose.
Antioch shows us that.
Antioch’s strategic location made it an ideal springboard for the spreading of the gospel. The city reminds us God wants us to do more than embrace the gospel.
He wants us share it.
Tell me what you think: What motivates you most to share God with others? To leave a comment, just click here.