HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Peter defends his ministry; Gospel goes to Antioch
Peter gives an account of the events in connection with the conversion of Gentiles in the home of Cornelius. The news that the Gentiles had received the Word of God did not seem to bring any joy to the church in Jerusalem. They demand that Peter give an explanation of his conduct, so Peter must defend his ministry . . . which is really difficult for Simon Peter, for he himself feels apologetic about it.
Antioch becomes the center of the Gentile church.
Peter Defends His Ministry (Acts 11:1-18)
Acts 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. (KJV)
And the apostles and brethren . . . the Christians in Judea. Heard . . . about the extraordinary event at Cæsarea, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, and their reception into the church. This should have excited the church, but did not. It was simply contrary to all the ideas of the Jews, that it is no wonder that it led to contention. The brethren, had only one God as their Father, and were born of the same Spirit, and fed by the same milk of the Word of God.
The Gentiles had also received the word of God; this was a most incredible thing unto them who were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, and were not acquainted with that mystery that Abraham would be a blessing to ALL families of the Earth (Gen.12:2-3). These Jews looked upon the Gentiles as terrible people, such as the apostle describes Eph.2:11-12), that had no hope, and were without God. Therefore no less than a miracle, and that well attested, as this was, could make them change their opinion.
Acts 11:2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, (KJV)
They that were of the circumcision . . . the Jews, argued against taking in the Gentiles into any fellowship with them.
Acts 11:3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. (KJV)
The objection they make against Peter, is that, contrary to the tradition of their elders, and ideas of their wise men, Peter had been friendly with the Gentiles (Acts 10:28), which was looked upon as blameworthy.
So, there was doubt and division in the church. We need to understand that to the Jews the action of Simon Peter was a terrible thing. In fact, if we could have talked to Peter a month before this, he also would have said it was a bad thing to do. Actually, Peter gives an apology, making it clear that he did not want to do it at all, but that the Spirit of God was in charge of the whole incident.
Acts 11:4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, (KJV)
This is the same style of Luke (Luke 1:3). Peter tries to remove their prejudice, and give them the reasons for his conduct, he thought it best to give them a simple relation of the whole affair; which he does, as we have seen in the preceding chapter, with a few additional circumstances here. Actually, this great apostle condescends to the least and weakest among them, and gives an account of what he had done and the reasons that moved him to it, trying to gain some and confirm others.
Acts 11:5 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: (KJV)
See this whole story in chapter 10. It came even to me . . . to show that Peter was especially concerned about this vision, for it really was his instruction from God.
Acts 11:6 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. (KJV)
Peter began with the vision which he saw, and told the story of the various events in order, as they actually happened. A simple and unvarnished statement of facts is always the best way of disarming prejudice and silencing opposition.
Acts 11:7-8 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. (KJV)
Peter here states that he had lived in this ceremonial righteousness. Hath at any time entered into mouth . . . Peter had abstained from all the appearances of evil.
Acts 11:9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (KJV)
This is told to Peter twice, that it might be not be questioned by him and others. The voice answered me again from Heaven: What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common; . . . meaning that what God has declared to be clean and fit for use, and did not defile the man into whose mouth it entered, and therefore should NOT be pronounced unclean, and of a defiling nature. This Christ Jesus did, Who is God over all, and by Whose death an end was put to the ceremonial law, and the distinctions of meats by it (Mat.15:11).
God had promised all through Scripture that He would reach the nations. This started with his Promise to Abraham (Gen.12:3; 18:18) and became very specific in Malachi's statement: "My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun" (Mal.1:11). BUT . . . this was a very hard truth for Jews, even the Jewish believers, to accept. These Jewish believers did understand how certain prophecies were fulfilled in Christ, but they overlooked other important Old Testament teachings and prophecies. Far too often we want to accept only the parts of God's Word that appeal to us and support our ideas, ignoring completely the teachings we don't like. We must accept ALl of God's Word as absolute Truth.
Acts 11:11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. (KJV)
And behold, immediately . . . The moment the vision was over; there were three men already come unto the house where I was . . . they stood before the gate, as in (Acts 10:17), and were asking about Peter, whether he lived there; and these men were sent from Caesarea unto me . . . this incident happening just at the close of the the vision, helped greatly to explain it to Peter, and encouraged him to do what he had done. Also, he had the direct order of the Spirit, for his going with them to Cornelius's house . . . as follows.
Acts 11:12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: (KJV)
And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting . . . If God (the Holy Spirit) speaks, we had better listen! Moreover, these six brethren accompanied me . . . these six brethren with him, would be witnesses for him, of what they had seen and heard, which was a very wise step. And we entered into the man's house . . . the house of Cornelius.
Acts 11:13 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; (KJV)
And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house . . . the clause, "in his house", is very appropriate, for since an angel of God had entered into the house of Cornelius, it could not be a crime for Peter and the six brethren to go in.
In one place the angel is called a man, and in another place an angel (Acts 10:3,30). Because, although he was an angel, yet he appeared in the form of a man , as it was usual for angels to do (Gen.18:2; Josh.5:13; Mat.1:20; 2:13; Mark 16:5; Luke 1:28; 24:4; John 20:12; Acts 1:10). Whether Cornelius knew that he was an angel, is not certain, since he calls him a man. It is Luke and Peter, who repeat the account of the vision, and call him an angel. But, Cornelius looked upon him as an extraordinary person, as sent to him from God, and therefore obeyed the heavenly vision.
Acts 11:14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. (KJV)
Who shall tell thee words . . . meaning that Peter shall preach doctrines, such as relate to the Person and office of Christ, to peace and pardon, and righteousness and salvation by Him.
Whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved . . . Peter would instruct him and his family in the right and true way of salvation; for the Gospel points out ONLY one Way of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12), that being Jesus!
Acts 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. (KJV)
Peter's defense for eating with Gentiles was just a simple restatement of what had happened. He brought the six witnesses with him to back him up, and then he quoted Jesus' Promise about the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16). These Gentiles' lives had been changed, and that was all the evidence Peter and the other believers needed. Changed lives are an equally powerful evidence today.
The reason of the tongues was to give evidence to Simon Peter that the Holy Spirit had actually "fallen on them." How else would he have known that they had been baptized by the Holy Spirit which placed them in the body of believers?
Simon Peter then tells what went through his mind.
Acts 11:16 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. (KJV)
Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said . . . just before His ascension (Acts 1:5) . . . John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. And as they were baptized on the day of Pentecost, so now Cornelius and his family were. And since they had the greater baptism, the baptism of the Spirit, the lesser baptism of water could not be denied them.
Acts 11:17 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? (KJV)
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift . . . of the Spirit, of speaking with different tongues, just as He had done with the Jews at Pentecost. They who have the inward baptism of the Holy Spirit, must not be denied the outward baptism of water. Just as someone who has a right to an inheritance, cannot without injustice be denied that inheritance. To deny baptism to any to whom it belongs, is to withstand God . . . to keep back the token of God's love from one to whom it is sent. Peter could NOT hinder the baptism of these persons in water, whom God had baptized with the Holy Ghost, and who believed in Christ Jesus. The Spirit of God is a Gift, which God bestows on whomsoever He pleases.
Jesus had clearly demonstrated that He and His message were for ALL people. He preached in Samaria (John 4:1-42); in the region of the Gerasenes, populated by Greeks (Mark 5:1-20); and He even reached out to Romans (Luke 7:1-10). The apostles should not have been surprised that they were called to do the same. When the Jews rejected Him, He turned to the Gentiles (Mat.13:1; John 10:16).
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (KJV)
Even the Judaizers had to shut their mouths now. A Judaizer is a person who is not a Jew, but follow in whole or in part the Jewish religion or claim to be Jews.
They could no longer object because this was most certainly of God. So they glorified God. This was a great day . . . the door had been opened to the Gentiles! We see now that the stage is being set for the Gospel to move out to the ends of the earth.
Gospel Goes To Antioch (11:19-30)
Those which were scattered abroad because of the persecution that arose with Stephen, traveled as far as Phenice, Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the Word only to the Jews.
Acts 11:19 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. (KJV)
Acts 11:20 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. (KJV)
And some of them were men of Cyprus . . . meaning that some of the preachers, that were scattered abroad, were Jews born at Cyprus: such was Barnabas (Acts 4:36) although he was not with these, as appears from Acts 11:22. "And Cyrene" . . . such was Simon that carried the cross for Christ (Mat.27:32), and his sons Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21), and others that heard the apostles speak with tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10).
Which when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians; or Hellenist Jews, who were born and brought up in Greece, and spoke the Greek language.
Preaching the Lord Jesus . . . the dignity of his person, as the Son of God; what He did and suffered to obtain salvation for lost sinners; His resurrection from the dead, His ascension to heaven, and His intercession for us; the virtue of His precious Blood for peace and pardon of His sacrifice for atonement of sin, and of His righteousness for justification (1 Cor.1:30; Rom.3:24-25; 5:1). So far, the preaching has been to Jews only.
Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. (KJV)
And the hand of the Lord was with them . . . not only His Hand of providence, which brought them thither, and protected them; and His Hand of love, grace and mercy, which was upon them, and supplied them with gifts and grace, and everything necessary for them; and His Hand of wisdom, which guided and directed them; BUT His Hand of power, which when revealed, the report of the Gospel is believed. But if God's power is not put forth, or grace is not extended, none will believe, none will be converted.
Many ministers today labor in vain, but this was not the case here in this Passage. It was just the opposite with these humble preachers! Even though they had travelled many miles, and were in strange places, they were not without God. He was with them so they had success, because the power of God attended their ministry. The Gospel preached by them came not in Word only, but in power, and it was the power of God unto salvation!
So . . . a great number believed . . . not the Gospel only, but in the Christ preached in it (Acts 11:20), which was not because of the force of moral persuasion in the preachers, nor to the power of free will in the people, BUT to the hand or power of the Lord! The work of faith is NOT a work of man's will, but of God's almighty power and grace! And any time when that is displayed, multitudes believe in Christ for righteousness and eternal life. They turn to the Lord; and they obey His commands (Ps.119:59). Obedience is as a fruit, and is the result of believing in Christ. Obedience to the commands of Christ, is as the fruit of faith.
Acts 11:22 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. (KJV)
There is a great moving of the Spirit of God in Antioch, and the church in Jerusalem hears about it. So the Jerusalem church sends Barnabas to Antioch. We shall now see that Antioch becomes the second center of the church. In fact, the center actually shifts from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Then tidings of these things . . . news of the spread of the Gospel in several areas, and the success of it in the conversion of sinners, especially at Antioch. Came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem . . . the news was brought to the apostles and brethren there, by messengers which the ministers of the Word sent unto them to let them know what success they had had.
Even with the persecution raised against the church of Jerusalem at the death of Stephen, and the havoc that was made of the members of it, and the dispersion of others, it still continued on as a church.
And they sent forth Barnabas . . . who himself was a Hellenist, and of the country of Cyprus, and so it seemed proper that he be sent to the Grecians or Hellenists at Antioch, who had received the Gospel to confirm them in it. His orders were, that he should go as far as Antioch which is said to be about fifteen or sixteen days journey from Jerusalem.
Acts 11:23 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. (KJV)
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God . . . when Barnabas came, and saw the grace of God . . . Was glad . . . rejoicing at heart, and giving glory to God, at the success of the Gospel in the conversion of sinners. And exhorted them all . . . encouraged all those in whom he saw the grace of God implanted, who had received the grace of God, and had gifts of grace qualifying them for service. That with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord . . . means an unmovable stand in the grace and strength of Christ, to hold to Christ, abide by His Truths and ordinances, stay close to His people, standing fast to His cause and holding on to Him to the end; to continue in the faith of the Lord, and in the doctrine and grace, of faith in Christ.
Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. (KJV)
For he was a good man . . . Barnabas had the grace of God working in his soul, and did good works; he was kind, generous and giving. He sold what land he had, and gave the money to the apostles, for the use of the community (Acts 4:37).
And full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith . . . he was full of the many graces of the Spirit, especially faith; and was full of the apostolic gifts of the Spirit, he was full of the doctrine of faith, and of spiritual gifts for the preaching Jesus, very much the same character is that of Stephen (Acts 6:5).
A.and much people was added unto the Lord; because of Barnabas, through his ministry. He drew large multitudes to the Lord.
Quite a wonderful thing that is said about Barnabas. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of faith. There is no reason why every Christian couldn't be a good person.
Barnabas became the pastor of the church there. He began "exhorting," which would be preaching, teaching and encouraging. And much people was added unto the Lord. As the church grew, Barnabas had to have help, and he knew where to get a good one. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, find Saul.
Acts 11:25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: (KJV)
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus . . . In Cilicia, to seek Saul; who had been sent there by the brethren that he might escape the rage of the Grecians, who sought to slay him (Acts 9:29).
Saul (Paul), was Barnabas's friend and acquaintance, whom Barnabas had brought to the knowledge of the apostles (Acts 9:27); he goes now to find him, that they might advise and strengthen one another in the work of the Lord.
Acts 11:26 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. (KJV)
And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch . . . that he might be useful to help in settling new and numerous churches; establishing the members, and in putting them into Gospel order, and in a way to secure and maintain peace, especially now since they might consist both of Jews and Gentiles.
And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church; preaching the Gospel, and administering the ordinances to them, during that time. There were many converts whom they taught with success, enlightening, convincing, converting, comforting and establishing.
It was here that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were first called "Christians." I do not think this was a term of ridicule. I think it simply meant that these were the ones who were the followers of Christ, they were Christians. It is an excellent name.
Acts 11:27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. (KJV)
Some time in that year that Saul and Barnabas were at Antioch, there came from Jerusalem some Christian prophets. These prophets not only a gift of expounding the more mysterious prophecies of the Old Testament, but also could foretell things to come (Acts 13:1; Eph.4:11).
Acts 11:28 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. (KJV)
By the Spirit . . . as one of His gifts, and not by judicial astrology, or any other means real or pretended; for it is a prerogative of God only to foretell things to come (Isa.41:22-23).
This drought . . . Which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar . . .it may be there were several famines, or one might continue several years; but thus God, who provided for the patriarchs by means of Joseph's foreseeing of the scarcity in Egypt and elsewhere, provides for this church now, also by a like prediction. God's omniscience is exerted for his church's preservation.
And there stood up one of them named Agabus . . . the same name with Hagaba in Neh.7:48 and with Hagabah, or Hagab in Ezra 2:45 and which the Septuagint there called Agaba and Agab. The name signifies a "grasshopper" (Lev.11:22), or "a locust" (2 Chron.7:13). The things which Agabus predicted was the general dearth here, and the binding of the Apostle Paul (Acts 21:11). This Agabus is said to be one of the 70 disciples that Christ sent forth (Luke 10:1). He seems to have been an itinerant prophet, who went from place to place delivering his prophecies.
Acts 11:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: (KJV)
Then the disciples . . . that were at Antioch, every man according to his ability . . . whether rich or poor, master or servant, everyone according to what he possessed, whether much or little, which was a good rule to go by . . . determined to send relief to the brethren which dwelt in Judea . . . either because that Agabus might have suggested, that the famine would be the severest in those parts; or because that the Christians there had parted with their substance already, in the support of one another, and for the spread of the Gospel in other parts. So therefore the Christians at Antioch, in gratitude to them for having received the Gospel, resolved to help them with their temporal things, when in distress.
Acts 11:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (KJV)
Which they also did . . . they not only promised, but they put their resolutions into action, and did that which the apostle recommends (2 Cor.8:11). And sent it to the elders . . . to the apostles; for although there were deacons there, yet they chose to send it to them, that they might put it into proper hands to distribute it properly. It was sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul . . . of this journey to Jerusalem, Paul makes no mention in Gal.1:17.
The Biblical incident that is recorded here is also verified in secular history. There was a general famine, but the effect was especially felt in Jerusalem where the church had been so persecuted, destroyed and hurt. The believers were in great need during this time. It is wonderful to see the bond of love, that held the early church together. The other believers sent help to the troubled church in Jerusalem.
We remember that Saul had been one of those who had devastated the church in Jerusalem by his relentless persecution of them. It is good to see that by his own hands, a transformed Saul now brings relief to that same church that was his past enemy. That is TRUE Christianity. That is the way it should be.
Book of Acts
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