Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 
ACTS CHAPTER 11

I. PETERíS DEFENSE.

VERSE 1-3 "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. {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.

A. "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God..."
1. The word of Corneliusí conversion spread like wildfire among the brethren, arriving at Jerusalem before the return of Peter.

2, We are not told whether or not Peter returned to Joppa before going to Jerusalem. It is likely that he returned directly to Jerusalem to report to apostles and the elders of the church at Jerusalem. Peter must have been aware of the volitility of the issues involved in Corneliusí conversion.

B. "they that were of the circumcision contended with him, {3}Saying..."
1. We see the beginning of the faction in the church that will claim that the old law must be kept strictly by Christians in order to be pleasing to God.

2. They will fight long and hard with Paul over the right of the Gentiles to be part of the church unfettered by the restriction of circumcision and other parts of the Law of Moses.

3. The thrust of their accusation against Peter was simple. He went into a Gentileís home to eat with them, against the traditions of the law.
 
 

VERSES 4-12 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: 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. {11}And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:"
 
 A. "But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying..."
1. Peter, who had been just as hesitant to go into the house of Gentiles, proceedes to explain the reason for his change of heart. Being a message from God Himself, Peter is sure that is will be sufficient to change the minds of the other Jewish brethren.

2. He recounts in detail the vision that he had on the roof of Simon the tannerís house.

3. The importance of Peterís words, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common", could not have been lost on these Jewish brethren.

4. It is with this groundwork laid that he procedes to explain his actions.

B. "And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me."
1. Here Peter makes the link. Immediately upon the conclusion of the vision, with Godís word still ringing in his ears, these Gentiles from Cornelius arrived at the door inquiring about Peter.

2. And, to enforce further why he went, Peter adds that the Holy Spirit told him to go.

3. Finally, Peter told them that he brought six other brethren, whom Peter had wisely brought along with him, to accompany him to Caesarea.
 
 

VERSES 13-18 "And he showed 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."
 
 
A. "And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house..."
1. When Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius Cornelius recounted how the angel had appeared to him and had told him to call for Peter. Peter would then speak words, when obeyed, would saved both him and his house.
B. "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning..."
1. Early in his sermon Peter witnessed the Holy Spirit coming upon these Gentiles.

2. It is clear that what happened to these Gentiles was the baptism of the Holy Spirit from the fact that Peter referred to the Lordís promise to the apostles before Pentecost. See Acts 1:5.

3. That is was not the exact same of what the apostles received is seen in the word like, which literally means "similar." It was similar in that the Gentiles were able to speak in other tongues, but had nothing to do with the passing on of spiritual gifts.

4. Peter then declared that he had no choice. He had to obey God and baptize them.

C. "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying..."
1. To their credit, these questioning brethren full accepted Peterís testimony and glorified God for extending the Gospel to the the Gentiles.
II. THE PROGRESS OF THE CHURCH AFTER THE DISPERSION.
 
 

After recounting the two most important conversion in the history of the New Testament church, Saul of Tarsus and the house of Cornelius, Luke turns back to telling us what happened to the brethren who were scattered abroad after the death of Stephen. These must not be looked on as taking place chronilogically after the conversion of Cornelius, especially since Luke specifies that the brethren did not preach the gospel to the Gentiles at this time. As we will see, the brethren will not hesitate to take the gospel to the Gentiles after Peter "breaks the ice."
 
 

VERSES 19-21 "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."
 
 

A. "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled..."
1. Acts 8:4 tells us that the brethren were scattered abroad as a result of the persecution inflicted by Saul of Tarsus. Luke will tell us where they went.

2. Phenice was the coast of Phoenicia, or modern day Lebanon. It was north of Samaria.

3. Cyprus was an island to the north of Phoenicia and off the southern coast of present day Turkey. It was the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and was the area of work for Barnabas and John Mark when they seperated from Paul (Acts 15:39).

4. Antioch was farther to the north on the Mediterranean coast close to present day Turkey. It was 300 miles north of Jerusalem and close to Paulís home, Tarsus. It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, behind only Rome in the West and Alexandria in Egypt. It had a huge Jewish population that attracted potential Gentile converts, thus present an excellant field for evangelism.

B. "And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch..."
1. Luke continues by telling about the beginnings of the great Antioch church, which we will learn more about in the coming chapters.

2. Cyprus was close to Antioch and was a natural stopping off point on the way there. Cyrene was is the location of present day Libya on the North African coast. Simon, who was compelled to carry Jesusí cross, was a native of Cyrene (Matthew 27:32). There were Jews from there to hear the first Gospel sermon (Acts 2:10). Also, one of the outstanding figures in the early Antioch was a certain Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1).

3. The Grecians (according to the KJV) here were not the Gentiles but the hellanistic Jews as described in Acts chapter six.

a. There is a variant in the text. Some of the later versions (NASV, for example) uses "Greeks" which would imply that these new converts were Gentiles.

b. Which is true? It depends on the dating of the evangelistic work, and the text. If it could be determined that this was after the conversion of Cornelius it would surely be Gentiles. If it is Grecian, as the KJV uses, it would undoubtedly by Hellenistic Jews. If it is "Greeks" it would likely be Gentiles.

c. There does seem to be some contrast between the work of these men and the preaching to "Jews only" just before that.

C. "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord."
1. With the ground being so fertile, it was no surprise that the church began to grow rapidly in Antioch. The Lord was blessing their work.

2. Notice as well that belief is seperated from turning to the Lord. An effective commentary to this verse is found concering the Corinthians brethren (Acts 18:8).
 
 

VERSES 22-24 "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."
 
 
A. "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."
1. News of the preaching of the Gospel and Antioch, and its excellent results, filtered back to Jerusalem and the Apostles. The Apostles were church wide officers, having oversight over the Lordís work work wherever it grew. And it would be natural that the brethren in Jerusalem would be concerned about the work being carried on by those who had so recently been party of the family of God in Jerusalem.

2. The mission of Barnabas is seen in the following verses. He was to check on the work and to encourage the brethren to further labor for the Lord. He was not coming to bestow spiritual gifts, as was the mission of Peter and John in Acts chapter eight with the Samaritans. No doubt that a large number of brethren who had traveled from Jerusalem already possessed the gifts. Barnabas was going to do what he did best.

B. "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."

1. Barnabas saw the results of Godís grace in action. Sinners were being saved, brethren were growing spiritually and laboring diligently.

2. Notice Barnabasí character. Some would have been resentful that there were not in the middle "of the action." Many good works have been sabatauged because a brother or sister was jealous that they were not taking the lead in the work.

3. But instead, Barnabas encouraged them to continue in their good work. He urged them to remain faithful. It is natural that with such a burst of energy that there would be a danger of stagnation. Congregations need men like Barnabas, who can encourage brethren to keep us the good work begun.

C. "For he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and faith..."
1. He was a good man, one who was morally upright and faithful to God. The New Testament uses the phrase sparingly. It is also said of Joseph of Arimathaea (Luke 23:50). In the absolute sense the New Testament teaches that there is no one who can be called good (Mark 10:18).

2. Being full of the Holy Ghost and faith implies that Barnabas was full of the fruits of the Holy Ghost as enumerated in Galatians 5:22ff and faith seems to imply that Barnabas was strong in his convictions.

D. "and much people was added unto the Lord."
1. As a result of Barnabasís encouragement there was even more work done, and consequently even more converts to the faith.
VERSES 25-30 "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. {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."
 
 
A. "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:"
1. Why did Barnabas seek out Saul?
a. Because there was a need. The work was growing faster than Barnabas could handle it. There were lost sinners who were showing interest in the the Gospel, young Christians who need growth, and Faithful Christians who need encouragement and continual strengthening.

b. Because Barnabas was not interested in who received the credit for the work. He could have continued the work by himself, receiving the praise of men. However, this would not have been best for the cause of Christ.

c. Because Barnabas recognized qualities about Saul that would be valuable in the Antioch work. Saul was a hellenistic Jew. He would be able to relate to both Jew and Gentile in Antioch. He grew up close by, in Tarsus. He was full of energy, which would be necessary for this work. He evidently must have also proven himself from his work in Tarsus (See Galatians 1:22-23).

2. Look at the results of Barnabas and Saul working together. The church great at an even faster rate than before. That they "taught much people" simply means that they carried on the preaching work of evangelism toward the lost and strengthening the brethren.
B. "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
1. It is uncertain who first called the disciples Christians. Was it themselves, or their enemies?

2. There is one things certain. It was a name intended by God.

a. Isaiah 62:1-2

b. 1 Peter 4:16

3. The Greek definition includes the concept of "being revealed by God."
C. "And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch."
1. It was clear that-
a. The gift of prophecy, i.e. miraculous knowledge, was an established part of the church in the first century.

b. That these men, who were led by Agabus, were well known and respected by the brethren in Antioch is obvious.

2. The gist of the prophecy was that there was going to be a great famine in the civilized world. It was surely the hope of the prophets, and the certain will of God, that the church of Antioch help the brethren in Judaea.

3. Look at the greatness of the brethren in Antioch. They were not selfish, thinking of only themselves. They knew that the brethren in Judaea were not as financially well off as them and quickly made the decision to aid them. Each man determined. It was thus a decision of the entire church.

4. It was according to ability. See 2 Corinthians 8:12.

5. This help was sent by those two that they trusted most implicitly, Saul and Barnabas.

6. It was sent to the elders. The book of Acts does not specify as to when the Judean churches were fully organized but it is significant that they are here. In Acts 15 they are mentioned as being at the church in Jerusalem.
 
 

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