God's Grace Defended
11:1-3 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them."
When the Church in Jerusalem heard that the Gentiles had responded to the gospel they were not overjoyed about it and when Peter returned they found fault with him and became hostile, opposing and disputing with him because he had gone to the Gentiles and even ate with them.
11:4-14 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!' But I said, 'Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!' But the voice replied a second time from heaven, 'What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!' This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house. He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, 'Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.'
In these verses Peter explains that he had done so in obedience to God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. He ends this by telling them how the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles just as it did upon them at Pentecost. When he saw this happening he remembered what Jesus had said to them concerning the Holy Spirit. He asks them what power or authority did he have to interfere, forbid or withstand against God ? Of course the answer is none. The Jewish Christians at Jerusalem had no answer for this and so they now rejoice and praise God that by His grace salvation was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Isaiah 42: 1; Rom. 10: 12 - 13)
11:19 Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one but Jews.
Some of the believers who were scattered because of Saul's persecution after the death of Stephen (see 8:1,4) went as far as Phoenicia, on the Mediterranean coast, the island of Cyprus and Antioch 300 miles north of Jerusalem. God's purpose in allowing the persecution was to push the believers out of Jerusalem into the uttermost parts of the world. This was the beginning of it. They did not go to hide away or to keep secret the fact that they were followers of Jesus Christ, they preached the gospel but only to the Jews. "'
11:20 But there were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene among them who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus.
However there were those among them who had been born in Cyprus and Cyrene who were Greek speaking Jews and when they reach Antioch they went to their own to give the good news. "'
11:21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The presence of the Lord was with them in great power and many believed and received Jesus as their Saviour. "'
11:22-23 A report about them came to the attention of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts,
As news of this reach the church in Jerusalem they sent Barnabas to investigate. On finding that what was happening was genuine conversions he rejoiced in the Lord, and in keeping with his nature and meaning of his name he encouraged them to continue and remain steadfast in the faith (Heb. 10: 23). "'
11:24 because he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and a significant number of people were brought to the Lord.
Here we see that Barnabas still had a good testimony. A "'"good man""' that is in a physical and moral sense which produces benefits to others. Still full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Eph. 5: 18 Amp. N.T. "ever be filled and spurred on with the Holy Spirit). And so many others were added to the Lord.
11:25-26 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people. Now it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
The work became to much far Barnabas so he seeks out Saul (Paul) to come and help him with the work and they remained there for a year teaching and building up in the faith the believers. It was the unbeliever's, those who mocked who called followers of Jesus Christ "Christians" and did so to give offence and insult like some call us "Bible bashers" today. Are we continuing steadfast in the faith, growing in grace, keeping our testimony, encouraging others, preaching the gospel ?
A Prophetic Word
11:27 At that time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
The term prophets here refers to the "office" of the "prophet" as one of the ministry gifts of Christ (Eph. 4: 11) and not to the gift of prophecy which is given by the Holy Spirit. The prophet predicted about specific future events.
11:28 One of them, named Agabus, got up and predicted by the Spirit that a severe famine was about to come over the whole inhabited world. (This took place during the reign of Claudius.)
One of them named Agabus stood forth and showed by the Spirit (John 16: 13) that there would be a great famine throughout the world. The test of a prophet of God is that their prophetic word comes to pass (Deut. 18: 21 - 22). This prophecy was fulfilled in the year AD46 when Claudias Caesar was Roman emperor. "
11:29 So the disciples, each in accordance with his financial ability, decided to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
The churches believed and responded to the prophetic word and prepared to provide for those who would be the most affected, the Christians in Judea. They took up an offering and sent it by Barnabas and Saul to the elders in Jerusalem (Rom. 12: 13). There were many such offerings taken up and distributed according to the needs after this (Rom. 15: 26; 1 Cor. 16: 1). A challenge to give is an opportunity sent from God to us, whether prophetically given or as the need is brought before us. How do we respond to it ? (2 Cor. 9: 6 - 8).
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