It may aid us in making these epistles of Paul seem like real and living messages to recall, in general, some of the peculiar conditions and problems which called them forth.
Simon, as he was originally called, or, as he was afterward named, Peter, was the son of the fisherman Jonas. He was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, and a resident of Capernaum, where he followed his father’s occupation.
Antioch of Syria is located along the Orontes River in modern-day Turkey. At one time, this Hellenistic city was one of the largest in the Roman world. Antioch of Syria played an important role in the book of Acts.
It was quite befitting, therefore, that our Lord should explain to his fisher friend the momentous and glorious ministry that awaited him, through the calling in which he had been engaged from boyhood, and which had so many points of resemblance with the work of winning souls.
Christian was the term used to designate Christ’s early followers, as groups or as individuals. In the earliest years of the Christian era, when the church was unified, no denominational names (such as Baptist or Roman Catholic) existed. Local churches did not have names but were known by their locations (such as “the church at Ephesus”). Nor was there a single official name for the new Christian movement. Many designations were used for the followers of Christ, and these changed as the historical situation changed.
The gospel was first brought to Samaria by Philip, not the apostle, but one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5. 21:8), who, as colleagues of Stephen and as Hellenistic Jew, were doubtless among the chief sufferers by the persecution.
The mother church of Christendom, after so glorious a beginning, grew mightily, both inwardly and outwardly, and at first found great favor with the people, (Acts 2:47), for the purity of its walk, and the glow of its first love and benevolence, which reached even to a community of goods.
The astonishment of the well-disposed hearers at these wonderful proceedings, and the mockery of the unbelievers, who ascribed the speaking with tongues to intoxication, called for an explanation and apology; and this first independent testimony of the apostles, poured forth from the fullness of the Spirit, was the effective signal for gathering in the first fruits of the new spiritual creation.