19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Phoenicia (v.19) — A country on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded roughly by Mt. Carmel on the south and the river Orontes on the north. It contained the important cities of Tyre and Sidon. Coasting vessels from Caesarea would readily convey these evangelists to the ports of Phoenicia. We find churches, some years later, at Tyre and Sidon (Acts 21:3-4; 27:3). — Walker, page 254.
Antioch (v.19) — The capital of the Roman province of Syria, and the residence of the prefect. It was built by Seleucus Nicator about 300 B.C. and named after his father Antiochus. It was situated about 16 miles from the sea, at the spot where the river Orontes flows through the mountains. Its port was Seleucia (Acts 13:4). After Rome and Alexandria, it took rank as the third city in the empire. It contained a large Syrian population, with a considerable number of Jews also. But its civilization and culture were Greek, and its official and political tone Roman. It was thus a sort of cosmopolitan center, and well adapted to become the center of a missionary church. — Walker, page 255.
men from Cyprus and Cyrene (v.20) — Jews who were used to doing business with Gentiles
Every student of Acts should know the difference between Grecians [Hellenists] and Greeks. Grecians were Jews living, or having lived, outside of Palestine among the Gentiles, where the Greek language was spoken and Greek culture prevailed. Thus they became Grecianized, but were Jews nevertheless — Grecianized Jews. The Greeks on the other hand, were Gentiles. Thus we find Grecians among the believers before the conversion of Saul, while Greeks are not included until after. The word Grecians (Gr. Hellenistes) is found twice in early Acts (6:1; 9:29) and not again after that, while the word Greeks (Hellenes) is not found in early Acts but occurs 12 times from Acts 11:20 on. — Stam, page 110.
hand of the Lord (v.21) — God approved of this ministry.
Barnabas (v.22) — from Cyprus, with a good reputation (Acts 4:36)
In the remainder of the record of this assembly at Antioch nothing is said to indicate that Barnabas and Saul still, like those of verse 19, ministered to the “Jews only,” or that later on some Gentiles among them also believed. From the start their program differed from that which had prevailed at Jerusalem (Acts 11:29 cf. 4:32). It was this church that became the first great center of Gentile evangelism. It was this church from which Paul and Barnabas later traveled to Jerusalem to preserve Gentile freedom from the bondage of the Mosaic law. And significantly, it was no one from among themselves but “certain men which came down from Judea” who sought to bring these Gentiles under the law. And note: “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them” (Acts 15:2).
At the close of the great Jerusalem Council, the elders sent letters to “the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia” (Acts 15:23). And when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch with the news, “the multitude,” hearing the epistle, “rejoiced for the consolation” (Acts 15:30-31) indicating that the congregation there was overwhelmingly Gentiles. — Stam, page 112.