During this time [of growth for the church in Antioch] some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.)
— Acts 11:27-28 NLT
In today's reading, Luke revealed several realities for the church in Antioch:
- The Antioch church shared in genuine fellowship with the Jerusalem church.
- The Spirit had blessed the church with prophets to help guide and prepare the disciples for the challenges of living for Jesus in difficult times.
- Christians recognized that they had responsibilities as citizens of the world as part of seeking first the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 6:33).
- Luke made sure to anchor his story in history by referring to Roman emperors to give the story a time-stamp,* much as he did in his gospel.**
As followers of Jesus, our ultimate allegiance lies in our heavenly Kingdom (Philippians 3:20-21), but that allegiance is not some abstract, "spiritual" thing. It has very real consequences in how we live with and treat other people (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 2:45, 4:32-35; Galatians 5:22-23) and how we submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Acts 5:28-29). Also, we should remember that instructions about submitting to authorities were given even when Christians were being persecuted (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Almighty God, Lord over all rulers on earth, please give me wisdom in knowing how best to live honoring my responsibilities to my citizenship in your Kingdom. I want to seek your Kingdom first, O God, and bless Jesus' fellowship of believers worldwide. Help me know how best to meet my responsibilities to earthly governments without compromising or sacrificing my loyalty to you and your people. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.