Acts 11:1-18-Word spread to Christians throughout Judea that Gentiles had been saved. Peter returns to Jerusalem. News had preceded him concerning what happened in Caesarea with the Gentiles and those who promoted the requirement of circumcision (in order for a Gentile to be saved) disagreed with him. They accused him of breaking the Jewish law pertaining to being ceremonially clean by entering into a Gentile home. Peter carefully detailed to them what had happened in chronological order…from his vision in Joppa, to the arrival of the men sent by Cornelius, to his interview with Cornelius, to the Holy Spirit falling on them. He was very specific in telling them that the Holy Spirit had come upon them and that this was a sign of salvation. His closing remark is that if God was doing this…who was he to stand in the way. They agreed that God had granted salvation to the Gentiles, as well.
There were those who wanted Gentiles to be circumcised and conform to Jewish law in order to be saved. They did not feel that grace was sufficient. Today, we refer to this group as “Judaizers”. In Acts 11, we see their theological ideas beginning to be voiced in the early church. Their influence would continue to be a source of dispute throughout church history, in one form, or another…and is even seen in churches, today.
For additional information on the Judaizers see:
Acts 11:19-24-Because of the persecution that had begun as the result of the stoning of Stephen, many believers left Jerusalem and traveled to other cities. Initially, as they went, they only told Jews about Jesus. However, some of them came to Antioch (300 miles north of Jerusalem; the capital of the Roman province of Syria; 500,000 people, third largest city in the Empire; one of the cosmopolitan centers of that day, and a center of commerce). They shared the Gospel with some of the Greeks (Gentiles) who lived there. Many of them were being saved. Eventually, Antioch became the center of early missionary activity of the Church. When news reached Jerusalem about these Gentiles being saved...the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to investigate. Luke tells us that when he met these Gentiles and saw that indeed, God had saved them…”he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord”. He was a "good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (:24). Interestingly enough, Acts 4:36 tells us that his name means “son of encouragement”. We need more men like Barnabas in our churches, today.
Acts 11:25-26-Barnabas left Antioch and went to Tarsus to find Saul. He then brought him to Antioch. They remained there for about 1 year teaching these new believers. It was at Antioch that they were first called "Christians" (:26; this word is used only here, in 26:28, and in 1 Peter 4:16).
Acts 11:27-30-A group of prophets arrived in Antioch. One of them was named Agabus. He predicted that there would be a bad famine that would affect the whole world. A severe famine did occur (Ryrie Study Bible-Josephus reports that a famine occurred in about A.D. 46). The disciples took up an offering and sent it to the believers living in Judea...where the famine was much more severe. This offering was delivered by Barnabas and Saul.
Prayer: Father, not everyone is quick, or willing, to recognize when You are at work...as in this instance. There always seem to be those who have an agenda, or a personal, preconceived idea of how things should work. I ask for three things Lord. Please give me the wisdom to know the truth of the matter. Second, to then be able to communicate that truth to Your people in a way that will be clear and compelling. And third, please help them to be receptive. Lord, please help me to be able to identify the people that You have supernaturally enabled to accomplish the work that You have given us. As Barnabas enlisted Paul...help me to enlist the people that You have gifted spiritually to accomplish this mission. Help me to see both the opportunity and the resources that You have given. I can’t imagine what would have happened to Saul...if Barnabas had never gone and gotten him. Would he have languished away in Tarsus and never become the great missionary leader of the church? How many people would have never heard him preach…and been saved? Lord, who is there that You are calling out, even now, to serve You? Please direct me to them that I might be their Barnabas.