Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
(Acts of the Apostles 11:19-26 NLT)
The area of Phoenicia was a major commercial region. The Phoenicians were very successful in trade, particularly purple, which was derived from the purple dye of the Murex snail. This purple was used to make Royal clothing and perhaps other garments for affluent people. The Phoenicians also are credited with the invention of oar powered ships and the alphabet, from which most alphabets today derived.
Cyprus was a Mediterranean island. Antioch was the third largest Roman city, following Rome and Alexandria. These areas were highly populated and made perfect places for the evangelism of the gospel. Remember, it was the laity(church congregants) that had carried the gospel to these places(see Acts 8). The apostles had remained in Israel. Many people were converted to faith in Jesus Christ in theses places, so many that word had reached Jerusalem and Barnabas was sent to investigate the claims. He was so impressed that he went north to Tarsus, where Saul(or Paul) was staying to bring him back with him to Antioch in Syria to help disciple these new believers. They spent an entire year in that city teaching these believers the truths of Jesus. It was in this city that the believers were first called "Christians". They were called this, not because they owned a bible, went to church, dressed a certain way, or even had certain rituals. They were called "Christians" because they not only professed faith in Jesus, they conducted themselves in a manner that mimicked Jesus Christ. By the way, Christ means Anointed One. It is a title. It isn't Jesus last name. We, today, should make sure that we, too, conduct our lives in such a way as to mimic Jesus. Only then can those around us identify our professed faith in Jesus. Let's do more than profess, let's possess and practice. There are far too many professors. We need possessors. In our modern, American age, we have many who identify themselves as "Christian" yet they have no fruit that evidences that profession. If a tree is an apple tree, shouldn't it bear apples? You will know a tree by its fruit(Matthew 7:20; 12:33; Luke 6:44).
Rev. Curtis Norris