Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (Acts 13:1 ESV)
God the Holy Spirit loves diversity and where He is at work diversity is always present in one form or another. Here in this single verse we see many forms of diversity in cosmopolitan church of Antioch :
(a) diversity of race
(b) diversity of geographical background
(c) diversity of social class
(d) diversity of religious background
(e) diversity of sinners
(f) diversity of spiritual gifts
Barnabas was a 'Levite from Cyprus’. Therefore Jewish like Saul of Tarsus. On the other hand Lucius of Cyrene, was most likely an Arab from from North Africa. Cyrene was a Roman province in Libya. That takes care of (a), (b) and (d).
Simeon (a Hebrew name) called Niger (‘black’) who was a black African, and just conceivably none other than Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus. That also takes care of (a), (b) and (d)
Manaen, who is called in the Greek the 'syntrophos of Herod the tetrarch', that is, of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. It may mean Manaen was ‘brought up with’ or ‘close friend’. That takes care of (c) because he was a cut above the rest in social standing!
Saul is of course from Tarsus in Cilicia. Whilst Niger witnessed the death of Christ, Paul was infamous for murdering followers of Jesus. And in this we see the diversity in sinners rescued by Jesus - our point (e).
Finally, (f) is self explanatory - God the Holy Spirit gave the church at Antioch prophets and teachers. Two distinct offices and gifts in the Church.
It is a beautiful mosaic of diversity - blacks, Jews, Hebrews, Africans, Gentiles (pagans), murderers, rich and poor all rescued by the blood of Jesus and now employed by Him as servants of His Kingdom.
We serve a God who loves true diversity. He does not need lectures on the subject. We need lectures from Him on how to have true diversity. If we want diversity we must look to Jesus.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013