The persecution that arose about Stephen - That is, those who were obliged to flee from Jerusalem at the time of that persecution in which Stephen lost his life. See Acts 8:1.
Cyprus - An island of the Mediterranean Sea, over against Syria. See on Acts 4:30; (note).
Antioch - A city of Syria, built by Antiochus Seleucus, near the river Orontes; at that time one of the most celebrated cities of the east. For the situation of all these, see the map accompanying this book.
Unto the Jews only - For they knew nothing of the vision of St. Peter; and did not believe that God would open the door of faith to the Gentiles. The next verse informs us that there were others who were better instructed. See below.
Now they - This verse introduces a new train of historical remark; and from this point the course of the history of the Acts of the Apostles takes a new direction. Thus far, the history had recorded chiefly the preaching of the gospel to the Jews. From this point the history records the efforts made to convert the Gentiles. It begins with the labors put forth in the important city of Antioch (Acts 11:19-20); and as, during the work of grace that occurred in that city, the labors of the apostle Paul were especially sought (Acts 11:25-26), the sacred writer thenceforth confines the history mainly to his travels and labors.
Which were scattered abroad - See Acts 8:1.
As far as Phenice - Phoenice, or Phoenicia, was a province of Syria, which in its largest sense comprehended a narrow strip of country lying on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and extending from Antioch to the borders of Egypt. But Phenice Proper extended only from the cities of Laodicea to Tyre, and included only the territories of Tyre and Sidon. This country was called sometimes simply “Canaan.” See the notes on Matthew 15:22.
And Cyprus - An island off the coast of Asia Minor, in the Mediterranean Sea. See the notes on Acts 4:36.
And Antioch - There were two cities of this name, one situated in Pisidia in Asia Minor (see Acts 13:14); the other, referred to here, was situated on the Orontes River, and was long, the capital of Syria. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor, and was called Antioch in honor of his father Antiochus. It was founded in 301 b.c. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but is several times mentioned in the Apocrypha and in the New Testament. It was long the most powerful city of the East, and was inferior only to Seleucia and Alexandria. It was famous for the fact that the right of citizenship was conferred by Seleucus on the Jews as well as the Greeks and Macedonians, so that here they had the privilege of worship in their own way without molestation. It is probable that the Christians would be regarded merely as a sect of Jews, and would be here suffered to celebrate their worship without interruption.
On this account it may have been that the early Christians regarded this city as of such particular importance, because here they could find a refuge from persecution, and be permitted to worship God without molestation. This city was honored as a Roman colony, a metropolis, and an asylum. It was large; was almost square; had many gaines; was adorned with fine fountains; and was a city of great opulence. It was, however, subject to earthquakes, and was several times nearly destroyed. In the year 588 it experienced an earthquake in which 60,000 persons were destroyed. It was conquered by the Saracens in 638 a.d., and, after some changes and revolutions, was taken during the Crusades, after a long and bloody siege, by Godfrey of Bouillon, June 3,1098 ad. In 1268 it was taken by the Sultan of Egypt, who demolished it, and placed it under the dominion of the Turk. Antioch is now called Antakia, and contains about 10,000 inhabitants (Robinson‘s Calmet). “There was everything in the situation and circumstances of the city,” say Conybeare and Howson (“Life and Epistles of Paul,” vol. 1, p. 121), “to make it a place of concourse for all classes and kinds of people. By its harbor of Seleucia it was in communication with all the trade of the Mediterranean; and, through the open country behind the Lebanon, it was conveniently approached by the caravans from Mesopotamia and Arabia. It united the inland advantages of Aleppo with the maritime opportunities of Smyrna. It was almost an Oriental Rome, in which all the forms of the civilized life of the empire found some representative. Through the first two centuries of the Christian era it was what Constantinople became afterward, ‹the Gate of the East.‘ “If any city in the first century was worthy to be called the Pagan Queen and Metropolis of the East, that city was Antioch. She was represented, in a famous allegorical statue, as a female figure, seated on a rock and crowned, with the river Orontes at her feet” (Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1, p. 125).
Preaching the word - The Word of God, the Gospel.
To none but unto the Jews only - They had the common prejudices of the Jews, that the offers of salvation were to be made only to Jews.
Up to this time all had spoken the same language; now those that could understand one another's speech united in companies; some went one way, and some another. “From thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” Verse 9. 8T 215.1
In our day the Lord desires that His people shall be dispersed throughout the earth. They are not to colonize. Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. When the disciples followed their inclination to remain in large numbers in Jerusalem, persecution was permitted to come upon them, and they were scattered to all parts of the inhabited world. 8T 215.2
For years messages of warning and entreaty have been coming to our people, urging them to go forth into the Master's great harvest field and labor unselfishly for souls. 8T 215.3Read in context »
After the disciples had been driven from Jerusalem by persecution, the gospel message spread rapidly through the regions lying beyond the limits of Palestine; and many small companies of believers were formed in important centers. Some of the disciples “traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word.” Their labors were usually confined to the Hebrew and Greek Jews, large colonies of whom were at this time to be found in nearly all the cities of the world. AA 155.1Read in context »
Those who have gained an experience in this work have a special duty to perform in teaching others. Educate, educate, educate young men and women to sell the books which the Lord by His Holy Spirit has stirred His servants to write. God desires us to be faithful in educating those who accept the truth, that they may believe to a purpose and work intelligently in the Lord's way. Let inexperienced persons be connected with experienced workers, that they may learn how to work. Let them seek God most earnestly. These may do a good work in canvassing if they will obey the words: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.” 1 Timothy 4:16. Those who give evidence that they are truly converted, and who take up the canvassing work, will see that it is the best preparation for other lines of missionary labor. 6T 330.1
If those who know the truth would practice it, methods would be devised for meeting the people where they are. It was the providence of God which in the beginning of the Christian church scattered the saints abroad, sending them out of Jerusalem into many parts of the world. The disciples of Christ did not stay in Jerusalem or in the cities near by, but they went beyond the limits of their own country into the great thoroughfares of travel, seeking for the lost that they might bring them to God. Today the Lord desires to see His work carried forward in many places. We must not confine our labors to a few localities. 6T 330.2
We must not discourage our brethren, weakening their hands so that the work which God desires to accomplish through them shall not be done. Let not too much time be occupied in fitting up men to do missionary work. Instruction is necessary, but let all remember that Christ is the Great Teacher and the Source of all true wisdom. Let young and old consecrate themselves to God, take up the work, and go forward, laboring in humility under the control of the Holy Spirit. Let those who have been in school go out into the field and put to a practical use the knowledge they have gained. If canvassers will do this, using the ability which God has given them, seeking counsel from Him, and combining the work of selling books with personal labor for the people, their talents will increase by exercise, and they will learn many practical lessons which they could not possibly learn in school. The education obtained in this practical way may properly be termed higher education. 6T 330.3Read in context »