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ch. 11:1-18    ch. 11:19-30

Peter Explains His Actions (ch. 11:1 - 18)

In verse 1 we note that it did not take long for the news that Gentiles had "received the Word" of God.  So, when Peter got back to Jerusalem he had some explaining to do to his "circumcised" brothers.  Note that Luke calls these brothers the "circumcised" brothers in verse 2.  You see the apostle Paul often referring to the Jews as "the circumcision group", and so does Luke here.

Note in verse 1 says that the Gentiles received the Word of God.  In so doing, they received the Holy Spirit.  It is important to know that even though Cornelius was a god-fearer, he was not saved until he received the WORD OF God.

In verse 3 these circumcised brothers confronted Peter by saying, "you went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them".  Notice their first reaction as recorded by Luke was not one of joyfulness because the Gentiles were now coming to Jesus, but their reaction was, "why did you disobey the Law by eating with pagans"?  Once again, the apostles did not understand as yet that the gospel was for everyone.  They still had a Jewish only mentality.  Jesus command to evangelize the world in Acts 1:18 had not fully sunk into these Jewish apostles as yet.

It's interesting to note, at least from what is recorded, is that those back in Jerusalem did not criticize Peter for preaching to the Gentiles, but going into a Gentile's house and eating with them.  I would not be surprised that those back in Jerusalem also criticized Peter for preaching to these pagans but it's not recorded.     

Verse 4 says that "Peter began to explain to them precisely what had happened". 

In verses 5 through 8 Peter explained to them how he had seen the vision of the unclean animals on what looked like a sheet.  He mentioned how a voice told him to get up and eat.  He mentioned that he replied to the voice by saying, "certainly not Lord.  Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth". 

In verses 9 and 10 Peter says the voice responded by saying, "do not call anything impure that God has made clean".  The voice spoke three times, and then the vision disappeared as the blanket was taken back up into Heaven.

Peter pretty much explains this word for word as it is recorded in chapter 10.  It's almost like Luke copied and pasted what he wrote from chapter 10 and inserted it hear.

In verse 11 Peter explains that at the same moment the vision ended the Holy Spirit told him that certain men were at the door and that he was to go with these men.  So Peter went with them, taking six men with him.  Luke doesn't tell us in chapter 10 how many men went with Peter to Cornelius' house.  We learn that here.

You've got to wonder at this point what the brothers are thinking as Peter explains these things to them.  They must have been confused.  They must have wondered how the Holy Spirit would say such a thing to Peter.  Why would the Holy Spirit tell Peter to disobey the Law of Moses that God mandated Jews to keep over the last number of centuries.  We've got to know that Peter wasn't simply disobeying rabbinical laws here. He was disobeying the Law of Moses; the very cornerstone to Judaism. 

We may be harsh at times when thinking of these Jewish apostles for their slowness to come around to Jesus' command to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  If we put ourselves in their shoes, we would know this was not an easy time for them.  They were raised in a strict Judaism and now their whole religious world has been turned up-side-down.  We'd be no different than these men if we were in their shoes back then. 

In verses 13 and 14 Peter proceeded to tell the others that Cornelius, the Gentile, had a visitation from an angel.  The angel said, "Send to Joppa for Simon, who is called Peter.  He will bring you a message through which you and your household will be saved".

In verse 14 we learn something that we don't learn from the very event in chapter 10.  In chapter 10, verses 4 to 6, is where we see the angel speaking to Cornelius.  Luke does not record that the angel told Cornelius that Peter would tell him how to be saved.    

In verse 15 Peter states that while he was speaking, "The Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us in the beginning".  Peter was referring to Acts 2.  What Peter was saying here was that the same outpouring of the Spirit that came on the one hundred and twenty Jewish believers in Acts 2 happened to these Gentiles.  In fact this was an Acts 2 experience for the Gentiles.  This was the opening of the door to the Gentile world.  This was a turning point in the history of the church.  It also happened to be another one of those defining moments, or should I say, redefining moments in the history of God and His people.  This was just another shift away from the Old Testament Law of Moses, which in my thinking was only a temporary thing, into the life of the Holy Spirit.

The light-bulb went on in Peterís head.  The words of Jesus came to his mind, as seen in verse 16, giving him the understanding he needed for this occasion.  He remembered Jesus saying that "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit".  We note from these words that the way in which, both the Jews in Acts 2 and the Gentiles in Acts 10 received the Holy Spirit was through a baptism of sorts.  This word "baptized" is a descriptive word to illustrate how these people received the Holy Spirit for the first time in their lives.  Prior to this, neither the Jews in Acts 2 or these Gentiles had the Holy Spirit.  Peter makes this clear when he says, "so if God gave them the same gift He had given usÖ.  We should note that the gift is the Holy Spirit.  God gave the Gentiles the gift of the Spirit, not a gift called the baptism in the Spirit as some might suggest. 

In verse 16 we see Peter's use of the word "baptize' in reference to the Holy Spirit.  This is why Pentecostals and Charismatic people use the term "baptism in the Holy Spirit".  I will remind you that the most popular view of this experience is that it is a second work of grace.  That simply means the one gets saved and receives the Holy Spirit at that time, and then, at some subsequent moment in time the Holy Spirit comes on them in a special experience.  The baptism in the Spirit is often called a second work of grace for this very reason.  You will notice though, when the Holy Spirit came on the Gentiles, this was not a second work of grace.  It was their salvation experience.  Therefore, you cannot prove the baptism in the Holy Spirit being a second work of grace from this passage as Pentecostals and Charismatics do.      

In verse 17 Peter pointed out that if the Gentiles received the Spirit of God "who was I to oppose God". 

Peterís explanation satisfied the other apostles.  In verse 18 they replied by saying, "so then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life".  The words "God granted repentance" suggest to me that these other apostles believed that repentance itself was a gift from God, and that man cannot repent totally on his own.  We need the Holy Spirit in every step of the process of salvation.  We are that depraved.  We often think that we have the ability to repent and believe on our own, but that is not

The Church In Antioch   (ch. 11:19 - 30)

Luke mentions in verse 19 that those who fled Jerusalem because of persecution only preached the gospel to the Jews in their travels.  They had no idea or thought of preaching to Gentiles.  Their new found faith, for them was a Jewish faith, an extension of Old Testament Judaism.  This is just the opposite of what Jesus told them in the Great Commission and in Acts 1:8.  Jesus told His followers to go throughout the whole world preaching His good news.   You can't go into all the world and not come in contact with Gentiles.  Even with the Holy Spirit in their lives these early Christians missed this point. That's why Jesus had to deal with this situation as He did with Peter. 

There is another way to think about the apostles reluctance to share the gospel with Gentiles.  I'm not convinced that even if they wanted to share the gospel with the Gentiles prior to Acts 10 it would have worked.  God has His time table of events.  The Acts 2 outpouring of the Spirit was for the Jews.  The Acts 8 outpouring of the Spirit was for Samaritans, who were half Jew and half Gentile in both a biological and religious sense.  Then Acts 10 was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to full fledged Gentiles.  Do you see the progression here?  The apostles could not have affectively preached to Gentiles prior to Acts 10.

In verse 20 we see that there were some exceptions to the early Christians preaching to Jews only.  Luke points out that there were certain men from Cyprus and Cyrene did preach to the Greeks in Antioch, leading many to Jesus.  Luke does not say when this had transpired.  Many suggest that these men preached to Greeks after Acts 10 took place.  Others suggest before Acts 10.  It's just hard to know for sure, but, if my assessment in the lat paragraph is correct, then this preaching to the Gentiles had to have taken place after Acts 10. 

We should understand the Greeks mention here are not Greek Jews.  These are Greek Gentiles.  They were out and out pagans.  We should also note that these men who preached to the pagans preached Jesus as the text states.  They did not preach the Law of Moses. Those who read this verse in the King James Bible or the New King James Bible will note the word Hellenists instead of the word Greeks. The word "Hellenist" is another word for "Greek".   Greek speaking Jews who lived in Asia Minor and who spoke Greek and not Aramaic were often called Hellenists.  They were also looked down on by the Hebrew or Aramaic speaking Jews of Judea because they were viewed as ones who compromised their true Jewish culture with Greek and Roman culture.   

As I've mentioned before, we have an Acts 2 event and an Acts 10 event that fulfills the Biblical principle, "to the Jew first and then to the Gentile" as seen in Romans 1:16.  

Verse 21 says that "the Lordís hand was with them".  The use of the words "the Lordís hand" should not be taken literally.  These words are a New Testament idiom meaning the power and authority of the Lord was with them as seen in the miracles they performed and the fact that people came to Jesus.  The word "hand" as it is associated with God in the Bible is an idiom.  God does not have a literal hand as humans have.  He is spirit.  The word "hand" symbolizes power and authority in Greek New Testament terms. 

In verse 22 Luke mentions that "when this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem they sent Barnabas to Antioch".  Remember, Barnabas was not one of the Twelve.  We first see Barnabas back in Acts 4:36 where we see him selling land and giving the proceeds to the apostles.  He was a Levite and lived on the island of Cyprus.  His real name was Joseph but the apostles called him Barnabas.  He later became a friend of Paulís.  He was sympathetic to the Gentile cause.  The twelve apostles in   Jerusalem obviously trusted Barnabas or else they would not have sent him to investigate all these Gentile conversions. 

By this time some of the original misunderstanding about Gentiles becoming Christians was in the process of being cleared up, although there were still some major outstanding issues to be resolved.  Yes, Gentiles could become Christians, but the questions concerned how they should relate to the Law of Moses still needed to be answered.   

In verse 23 Barnabas arrived in Antioch and saw "evidence of the grace of God".  He thus encouraged those new Gentile believers to stay true to Jesus in their hearts.  What evidence would Barnabas have seen?  Most likely he saw people with a heart after Jesus, and that is why he encouraged them to stay true in their hearts. 

In verse 24 Luke says that Barnabas "was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith".  Compared to men like Paul and Peter, we know little about Barnabas, but these words say a lot about this man.  By what Luke says here, you can see why Paul and Barnabas became friends and fellow workers for Jesus.   

Verses 25 and 26 tell us that Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Saul.  The verb tense here tells us that Barnabas looked all over for Paul.  In modern vernacular you might say that Barnabas looked high and low for Saul.  Many Bible teachers believe that this was at least seven years after Saul left Jerusalem with Barnabas.  What Saul was doing for all these seven or so years is not exactly known.  We do know that Barnabas went to find him, and when he did, he brought Saul back to Antioch, where the two of them worked together, teaching the disciples.  I'm sure that Paul was teaching the Word of the Lord prior to Barnabas finding him.  He might well have been doing so as he made tents to support himself.  

Tarsus is where Paul grew up as a child.  Tarsus was the third most important city in the Roman Empire at the time, just behind Rome and Alexandria of Egypt.  There was a major university there which was well known for its intellectual endeavors.  Anyone growing up in Tarsus , Paul included, would have been influenced by the intellectual and philosophical thought of the day.  We can see Paul understood these things from what he says throughout the book of Acts.  Paul was one well educated man.     

Luke points out that the believers were first called Christians at this time in Antioch, probably around 43 A D.  This designation was most likely placed on them by others, by Greeks, not themselves.  The term Christian is used only in two other places in the New Testament, that being in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. In both of these instances the term Christians seem to be used in a negative sense, thus, many believe the term was a derogatory term. The name Christian was not the most common name for these people.  Disciples, saints, or believers, were a more widely used designation.  In today's world the word Christian doesn't really denote followers of Jesus any more.  We've lost the real meaning of the word.  There is no use asking someone if he is a Christian, because there's a good chance he will not define Christian in true Biblical terms.  It's interesting to note that we have chosen the least used Biblical word to describe us, but that's nothing new.  Take the word "pastor" as another example of this.  It's the least word used for a church leader in the New Testament, but we've turned it into the most used word today for a leader in the church.      

In verse 27 to the end of the chapter, Luke tells us the story of a prophet named Agabus.  Luke says that "some prophets came down from Jerusalem".  First of all, note the word "down".  Geographically speaking, Antioch is up from Jerusalem, not down.  Elevation wise, Antioch is down from Jerusalem and that's why the word "down" is used here in this sense, as it is throughout the Bible. 

Verses 27 and 28 are the first mention of New Testament prophets.  We have seen the apostolic ministry from the beginning of Acts.  Now we see the prophetic ministry.  This clearly tells me that the ministry of the prophet is a valid New Testament ministry.  I'm not convinced though that these New Testament prophets could be considered on the same level as Old Testament prophets.  I also believe in the apostolic ministry being valid today, although, I don't believe that today's apostles are on the same level as the twelve apostles and Paul found in the New Testament. 

Agabus was one of these prophets who came from Jerusalem.  During this year when Saul and Barnabas were teaching in Antioch, Agabus stood up in a meeting and through the Holy Spirit, prophesied that a famine would spread through the Roman world, which it indeed did during the reign of Emperor Claudius.  History tells us this to be true. There were a series of famines between 44 and 48 A D, the most severe around 46 A D. 

As a result of this prophecy, in verse 29 we see the disciples decided to help the believers in Judea.  Why these believers were helped and not other believers throughout the Roman Empire is not known.  Maybe because of the Jewish dispersion they were poor to begin with, not having time to re-establish themselves in their new communities.

The method chosen to help these people was for believers to give "according to his ability".  This action had nothing to do with tithing.  People were encouraged to give over a period of time, according to their ability to give.  This is the way the New Testament deals with the giving of money.  Tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament, other than in passing when it speaks of the Law of Moses.  It's my opinion that Christians are not mandated to tithe.  They are mandated to give cheerfully and liberally, as we see here.  Like all the laws in the Old Testament, they have been replaced in New Testament terms.

Saul would have been part of this giving.  He would later mount a major fund raising campaign to help these Jewish Christians once again.

Luke closes this chapter in verse 30 by saying that once sufficient funds were raised, Saul and Barnabas took the money to the elders at Jerusalem .  Note the use of the word "elders".  The text states that the funds went to the elders, not the apostles.  I'm not sure how to take this.  Some might suggests that the term "elder" should be thought in terms of the apostles in Jerusalem who seemed to be considered as the leaders of the church in the city.  Others might suggest we have an evolution in church leadership here.  That is to say, the body of apostles is now seen as a body of elders. 

We should note that the word "elders" as applied to the Christian leadership here is the first time in the book of Acts that the word "elders" is used for Christian leadership. Prior to this, the word "elders" has always been used in relation to the leaders of Israel .   

It is important for us to understand that when speaking of elders in the New Testament, the word "elders" is always plural.  A group of men called elders cared for the church.  One man, or, an elder, did not care for the church.  Plurality of elders is how the New Testament viewed church leadership.  I believe we should follow this example today, but most church groups don't.         

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