Africans in the Scriptures
by Dr. Robert E. Fowler, Sr.
Senior Pastor, Victory
Missionary Baptist Church
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
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
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
African Missionaries to
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
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.