The title for this piece comes from Acts 11:26, not as an introduction but as a summation of the biblical account.
The Apostle Peter had just visited Cornelius, the Roman centurion, in Caesarea, and through this experience, learned from the Lord that the Gospel was not just for Jews but also Gentiles, including even a Roman soldier.
God made it clear to Peter that the Word of God was for all times, countries, and cultures and that “everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).
Now in Antioch, Jews from Jerusalem who had accepted Christ and later scattered (the first diaspora) in the wake of persecution in connection with the martyrdom of Stephen “began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus”… and “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).
These Gentiles believed and turned. They expressed faith, and a spiritual transformation took place. The Apostles Barnabas and Paul showed up and taught “great numbers,” and the new followers of Christ began to be called “Christians.”
Interestingly, this spiritual awakening did not take place in Jerusalem but in Antioch, not in the Holy Land but in ancient Anatolia. Antioch was not “Jewish,” but a leading city in the Hellenistic Period and later also during the Roman and Byzantine Empires.
The modern city of Antakya, in Hatay Province of Turkey, was named after the ancient city of Antioch. On Feb. 6, 2023, Antakya was near the epicenter of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks that hit this region in Türkiye and Syria, killing tens of thousands. Two more earthquakes erupted within two weeks, leaving Antakya little more than a pile of rubble, ancient religious sites destroyed, and survivors without direction or hope. Months later, these people still need spiritual and physical relief because such natural disasters come with a long tail of hurt and destruction.
In ancient Antioch, when the Jewish Christians declared their newfound faith in the Way, the Truth, and the Life, they called Him the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). The word “Lord” was added purposely so that pagan seekers would know these Christians were not representing a prophet or priest or great man or notable Jewish leader but God Himself, Savior of all who believe.
SAT-7 broadcasts Christian programming, including the Good News, 24/7 daily in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish throughout 25 countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Today, some two thousand years after those early Jewish evangelists testified to Greek idol worshippers about the “Lord Jesus,” SAT-7 still takes care to speak of Jesus as more than a man.
On air, SAT-7 speaks of “Yasuu’-Masiih,” Jesus the Christ, so that non-Christian viewers will know SAT-7 is not talking about a prophet but about the Son of God, the Lord and Savior. This is the name found in Arabic translations of the Bible. In North America, the transliterated term “Isa Al-Masih” is used because this is the phrase used for Jesus in the Quran.
Pentecost (Acts 2) took place in Jerusalem not long after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This might be considered the first spiritual awakening, one comprised of “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven,” which then expanded the fledgling early Church.
Antioch, though, was decidedly different. This awakening was comprised of Greeks, Hellenists, and likely other assorted Gentiles, a word that is pretty much all-encompassing.
In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20). This is how God launched the early Church – a varied and variegated group of Jews in Jerusalem followed not too long later by a varied and variegated group of Gentiles in Antioch.
This is what SAT-7 does in its ministry today, working to make God’s love visible throughout the Middle East and North Africa, a vast region covering the entire western half of the 10/40 Window of unreached people groups.
The Middle East and North Africa today is fraught with tension and turmoil.
If the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk returned today, he could look about the Middle East and repeat his opening lines in the book named for him:
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen? Or cry out to You, “Violence!” but You do not save? Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the Law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”
Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the Middle East and North Africa? Does it sound like the USA?
Then the Lord answered Habakkuk, saying:
“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:2-5).
The disciples were first called Christians in ancient Antioch, and God is still at work calling people to Himself in the virtually destroyed modern city of Antakya.
Diverse peoples responded to the Good News of the Lord Jesus in “Jewish Jerusalem” and in “Gentile Antioch.” Today, every day, SAT-7 hears from seekers, isolated believers, the distraught and desperate, men and women, boys and girls representing all classes, races, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, languages, even religions. They hunger for hope.
And because of God’s grace, SAT-7 is able to respond with the words of the Apostle Peter, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right,” (Acts 10:34).
Arabs are believing and turning to the Lord.
Persians are believing and turning to the Lord.
Turks are believing and turning to the Lord.
Afghans are believing and turning to the Lord.
“So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
Praise God, SAT-7 is called and commissioned to communicate this truth in these turbulent times.
Dr. Rex Rogers
President, SAT-7 USA
Banner image: City view from Hatay – Antakya