I find it interesting that the report about the church in Antioch follows Peter’s explanation of Gentile conversion. Antioch was a “melting pot” city – a place where cultures merged. The IVP Commentary says it:
1) Held a “strategic position at the crossroads of trade routes.”
2) Had a population of 500,000 with 70,000 Jews.
3) Josephus ranked it as the 3rd greatest city in the Roman Empire.
Although the Gospel had only been preached to Jews up to this point, some were “Hellenist” Jews. (These were Jews who would have been considered a bit more liberal ‘cause they read the Scriptures in a different version and spoke Greek instead of Aramaic.) These were the people who would have been closer to the Gentile world and they may very well have been great assets for spreading the Gospel to the Greek speaking world. These Hellenists were also similar to Antioch itself. As the Gospel was proclaimed in Antioch, it would naturally be spread to many other parts of the world. God used the trade routes that went through Antioch to reach the Gentiles.
I love watching on as God puts the right people in the right places at the right times. I’m amazed at how often I’ve been in situations where I needed help and someone shows up at just the right moment – never too late – never early – just in God’s time. I also love seeing how God used the church in Antioch (or to be more clear, “the believers in Antioch”) to spread the Gospel. I ask myself often, if I’m standing in any “melting pot” places where I can proclaim the Gospel? When I find myself along the “trade route,” what does the billboard of my life say? Are we putting ourselves in places where people who don’t know Jesus might recognize Him in us?
– Steve Corn