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The Importance of the country of Syria in Christianity
by Robert Randle
3/09/2010 / Devotionals
Matthew 4: 23-24
And Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.
NOTE: This is the only narrative that mentions that Jesus' fame spread beyond the Sea of Galilee/Tiberias, roughly 33 Longitude/36 Latitude, into the upper NE region of Syria.
Acts 9: 1-2, 19b
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the LORD, went to the high priest [in Jerusalem] and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus [Syria], so that if he found any who were of the Way ("ha Derekh"), whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
Acts 11: 19-22, 25-26
Now those who were scattered after the persecution of Stephen [in Jerusalem] traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch [Syria], spoke to the Hellenists [Greek-speaking Jews??], preaching the LORD Jesus [Yeshua]. And the hand of the LORD was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the LORD. The news of these things came to the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the Church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called "Christians" in Antioch.
NOTE: It was in Syria that the 'Name' which believers claim as the identification of their Faith was penned from here (Cp. Acts 26: 26; 1 Peter 4: 16). Even the offering or collection of the Christian Church was first practiced [as far as the Scriptures reveal] by the believers in Antioch (Cp. Acts 11: 27-30).
Acts 13: 1-3
Now in the Church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit (Ruach ha Kodesh) said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then having fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
NOTE: This is the only place in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit of God directs someone to a special ministry or work, and this occasion doesn't appear to be the result of a dream, vision, or revelation; but audibly. This happens in Antioch [Syria] whereas it seems that decisions in Jerusalem were handled by the apostles and the elders at the Temple. This does not mean however, that the Spirit of God did not influence their decisions.
Acts 14: 25-26
Now when they (Barnabas and Saul) had preached the Word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch [Syria], where they had been commended [by the Holy Spirit] to the grace of God for the work which they had accomplished. Now when they had come and gathered the Church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed a long time [many years??] with the disciples [at Antioch, Syria].
Acts 15: 1-2, 5-6, 13, 19-20
And certain men came down [to Antioch] from Judea [Jerusalem] and taught the brethren, "Unless you become circumcised according to the custom [tradition and not Law??] of Moses, you cannot be saved." Therefore, when Paul [no longer Saul] and Barnabas had no small discussion and dispute [a heated argument] with them, they [the Antioch leadership] determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law [Torah] of Moses." Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ""Men and brethren, listen to me: "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood." Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church (assembly), to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
NOTE: It seems that since the Church started in Jerusalem, doubtless somewhere among the Temple precincts with the 120, including the Apostles (Cp. Acts 1: 12-15; Acts 2: 1, 14), the authority over the New Movement emanated from Judea with those who were the first to share in this supernal grace.
Acts 15: 35, 40-41
Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch [Syria], teaching and preaching the Word of the LORD, with many others also. But Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (assemblies).
Acts 18: 22-23
And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the Church, he went down to Antioch [Syria]. After he spent some time there, he departed [probably for the last time as recorded in the NT] and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening the disciples.
COMMENTARY: The Earthly headquarters for Christianity started in Jerusalem among the Jews who were converted while attending the Feast of the Day of Pentecost. It seems that the authentication of true conversion as well as the teachings had to be validated by the Apostles or their authorized emissaries who met at the Jerusalem Temple, but all of this must have radically changed with the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 AD; as well as the persecution, age-related mental impairment, imprisonment, and death of the Apostles, elders, and prophets of the Early Church.
Aside from the Church in Judea (Jerusalem), the only other Church assembly that had a similar organizational structure and wielded some Ecclesiastical authority, perhaps, is the one in Antioch [Syria]. Also, one cannot forget to think about the disciples in Damascus [Syria] who along with a believer named Ananias, helped Saul (Paul) in his early conversion. Doubtless, over the Millennia the Christians in Syria still continued to worship their LORD in the same manner as they have always done, especially by those who did not have to suffer from the oppressive heel of the Roman occupation force as those in Judea; and still in their native tongue of Syriac [Gr. Aramaic]. The liturgy and religious tradition is still practiced today among the Christians of not only Syria, but in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, etc. who still trace their faith practices back to the simple purity of "Apostolic Times."
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