Africans in the Scriptures

by Dr. Robert E. Fowler, Sr.

Senior Pastor, Victory Missionary Baptist Church

 

Ebed-Melech

 

In Jeremiah 38:4–13, you have an incident where King Zedekiah, just before the fall of Jerusalem, got discouraged with Jeremiah’s prophecies. He accused Jeremiah of discouraging people from fighting against the Babylonians. He might as well have been accusing Jeremiah of treason, as it were. So, he told some of his henchmen, “Do something about this man, just get him off the scene, and just shut him up.” 

 

So, they got together, ganged up on Jeremiah, seized him, and threw him in an empty cistern. It didn’t have water in it, but it had mud in it. And it was far down that Jeremiah had no chance of climbing out. 

 

Well, that’s when you begin to have a remarkable young man named Ebed-Melech. He was a Cushite; he was an African. He heard about what had happened to Jeremiah and was incensed. So, he came to the king and told the king what they had done to Jeremiah; the king, of course, pretended that he was outraged. Ebed-Melech led about thirty men to get Jeremiah out of the cistern. He rescued the prophet. He pulled him up by ropes and rescued the prophet.

 

Simon of Cyrene

 

Another example is the coming of the gospel to Africa. Africa proved to be a fertile ground when the gospel first came. Often people don’t realize this, but the last man in Luke 23:26, as Jesus is carrying the cross a man from Cyrene, which is in Africa. He was seized to carry Jesus’ cross for Him.  I’ve heard it said that maybe this might have been a statement, kind of an obscured statement, that people of African descent might be key in carrying the cross to world evangelism in the last days. Who knows? But he was an African from Cyrene.

 

Believers from Libya and Cyrene

 

In Acts 2:5–12, you have the situation where, on the day of Pentecost, all these nations gathered in Jerusalem, and among those nations were people from Libya and Cyrene. They all heard the gospel, and understood the gospel in their languages. Again, Africans were not strangers to the times of the early church. Of course, you know the rest of the story. They ask, “What does this mean?” Peter got up and boldly proclaimed the gospel, and three thousand came to Christ that day.

 

African Missionaries to Antioch

 

In Acts 11, a time of persecution broke out. In those days the Jewish culture and the Greek culture was the subdominant culture in the land of Israel. Some of these people who would become Christians were of Greek background, and some were of Jewish origin. The Greek widows were being left out in the daily distribution of food. So, they appointed seven Greek deacons, one of them was named Stephen.  Stephen went against the grain. In those days, you had to become Hebrew in culture to be a Christian, and Stephen was showing that he was Christian in all of his Greek-ness because he believed in Jesus Christ. He maintained that faith in Jesus Christ did not require a particular cultural orientation. So, Stephen was stoned to death, because his fellow Greeks did not like what he was doing; they wanted to maintain the status quo.

 

After that, a great persecution broke out, and people scattered from Jerusalem all over. Acts 11:19–21 says that among those who scattered, some went to the island of Cyprus. The early ones who went to Cyprus were of Hebrew background, and the Bible says, “They began to spread the word of God to Jews only.” Then the Scripture says, in verse 20, that “men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks, also” again, Africans playing a significant role in the early missions of the church. We think of sending missionaries to Africa, but actually, Africa was one of the first places to send missionaries.

 

And as you know, the rest of the story: The church in Antioch grew. Finally, the Jews and the Greeks came together, and it was there that they were called Christians for the first time. 

 
 

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