Author: Florence Tan, Former Lecturer and Director of Field Education, Singapore Bible College
The Bible records in Micah 6:9a, “The LORD‟s voice cries to the city” declaring punishment for injustice. Jesus wept for His city, Jerusalem. He loved the people, even the Pharisees, and reached out to them with His mother-love image as portrayed in Matthew 23:37-39, speaking pointedly so that the hearers would choose to receive or reject His outstretched hand. He talked to the cities: Chorazin, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Tyre and Sidon.
God‟s heart had always been for the inhabitants of urbanised localities with all their cultural and religious plurality and exclusiveness existing side by side, immorality and idolatry. He would be mindful of that one faithful soul in Sodom. He ensured that the thousands in Nineveh got the good news from Jonah. Therefore, just as a pastor is directed to serve in a particular church, a missionary to an unreached people group, so an individual with evangelistic objectives can fulfil a mission in a certain city to which God might lead.
Antioch in Syria was a significant city during the first century AD. A focal point of trade and industry, it was one of the places that people of multi-faith gathered. After Stephen‟s death, persecuted followers of Jesus Christ made their way to Antioch as well as other areas around and beyond Phoenicia, like Cyprus. The gospel was preached and well received as mentioned in Acts 11:21.
The leadership at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to check on the Antiochan church; he ended up encouraging the healthy growing group of believers known for their social concern. He later invited Saul to join him in strengthening the flourishing congregation. It was a good training ground for the latter who together with his mentor stayed on a full year engaged in the disciple-making ministry. Antioch earned the status of being the mother of Gentile churches, as Christians there proclaimed unreservedly, “Jesus is Lord.” This unique city also excelled in becoming a solid missionary-sending base claiming Barnabas and Saul (later renamed Paul) as their famous missionaries, the first mobile church-planting team. The called and confirmed pair was commissioned by the Spirit in an era uncomplicated by church rules and mission agency regulations.
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