Acts 11:1-30

The Gospel radiates further from Jerusalem.

1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

[Heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.] Because of the Roman system of roads, news travelled relatively fast. Nearly any point in Judea was within two day's travel by horseback from any other point.

2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

[And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem,] Peter, as an apostle, was headquartered at Jerusalem. During a lull in the ongoing persecution of Christians Peter took the opportunity to visit some of the nearby communities. The cities mentioned during this trip formed a triangle running about seventy five miles northwest from Jerusalem to Joppa on the Mediterranean coast, then south thirty miles to Caesarea and finally another seventy five miles back to Jerusalem.

[They that were of the circumcision contended with him,] These critics were Jewish Christians. As we all know from personal experience, it is very difficult to let go of lifelong beliefs. Instead of being thrilled that Gentiles had been granted access to salvation, these people were offended because Peter had not followed Jewish tradition. See the notes beginning with verse 28 of Acts chapter 10 for a discussion of the circumstances.

Plan on it! If you are active in the service of the Lord you will receive criticism. Satan will see to it. Don't give up. Galatians 6:9.
Note to youthful Christians. We are often tempted to react in anger when receiving criticism. The correct response is to first get control of our emotions (by praying for ourselves) then pray for that person. If the criticism is severe enough to warrant a response then gently educate him/her in what God says about the subject. And do not be surprised if you discover that some part of the criticism was justified.
Matthew 5:11-12, Matthew 5:44, Ephesians 4:1-3, Ephesians 4:31-32, 1 Timothy 5:1-2.
Note for more elderly Christians. If we feel that a rebuke is in order, we should make certain that our criticism is of a doctrinal error, not just that the younger generation sings unfamiliar songs or does not dress the way we did when we were their age. We do not want to introduce discord into the family of Christ unless there is a very good reason.
Titus 1:4-14, Titus 2:1-15.

4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.

[Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning] Notice how important this event was in the eyes of God. The statement to Peter that, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." was repeated three times to make sure Peter got the message. Then, to make certain that Christianity through the ages gets the message, the Holy Spirit caused the story to be published in detail two separate times in the book of Acts. See Acts 10:9-16.

11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

[When they heard these things, they held their peace] Unfortunately, this is not the last we will hear of Jewish Christians demanding that Gentiles, in order to become Christians, must first subject themselves to Jewish law. Old traditions die hard, especially when they are promoted by Satan for the purpose of sowing discord in the body of Christ.
Acts 15:1-12, Ephesians 2:11-22.

19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the LORD Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

[They which were scattered abroad] As we saw earlier, Acts 8:1, after Stephen was martyred a great persecution arose, driving many Christian believers to relocate from Jerusalem to other cities, carrying the Gospel with them. Some of these were natives of Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and some were natives of Cyrene, a city in what is now modern day Lybia. Historical note! It was Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus. Matthew 27:32.
The city of Antioch, at roughly the same lattitude as the northern tip of Cyprus, was located in Syria near the Mediterranean coast. Antioch was at the time reputed to be the world's third largest city, exceeded by only Rome and Alexandria.

[Preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.] This persecution and dispersion occurred before Peter's experience with Cornelius so the initial Christians at Antioch operated under the rule of, "To the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 10:5-6.
Since the time of Alexander the Great (some 350 years previous) nearly all the world continued to speak Greek and follow Greek culture. Devout Jews, especially in Jerusalem, strenuously resisted such influence. They tended to use the term Grecian to refer to any person, Jew or Gentile, who lived among and/or was influenced by Greek ways.

22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

[And they sent forth Barnabas] It was Barnabas who brought Saul to the church at Jerusalem and defended him when everybody else was afraid of him. Acts 9:26-27.

The church had confidence in Barnabas' judgement so they sent him to evaluate the Christian movement in Antioch. The Holy Spirit led Luke to describe Barnabas as, "A good man" with good reason. When he saw the success of the Antioch church he was not jealous or a fault-finder, he was pleased and with his whole heart joined in with the work. Barnabas was also described as being, "Full of the Holy Ghost and faith", a tool which could be greatly used by the Lord. The church at Antioch grew to the point where additional qualified pastoral help was needed.

25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

[Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul.] Saul was originally from Tarsus, so when the Grecians at Jerusalem determined to kill him the church sent Saul back to his home town where he would be safer. Acts 9:29-30.

[And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.] We have used the term Christians freely throughout these studies in Acts because it is convenient and an apt title for the followers of Christ. The title, however, originated in Antioch and is used to denote a follower of Christ.

27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

[Came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch] It is evident that prophets (those who fortell future events) were not restricted to Old Testament times. Prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Agabus probably did not spend his full time issuing predictions or we would have heard more about him. However, on this occasion the Holy Spirit so strongly impressed a message upon him that he travelled from Jerusalem to Antioch to warn of the oncoming famine, and another time made the journey to Caesarea to warn Paul of the danger which awaited him at Jerusalem. Both prophecies proved to be emminently accurate. Acts 21:10-11.

[A great dearth throughout all the world] Some of the newer translations of the Bible use the term "All the Roman world." This seems to be more accurate because we see that the church at Antioch (in northern Syria) determined to send relief to the believers in Judea rather than to lay up stores in anticipation of their own problem.


This page updated 07/11/2008

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