Acts 11 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
1. 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.
The news, that Peter had preached the Gospel to Gentiles, was offensive to some of the Jewish believers.
Like Peter, they assumed that the Gentiles were unclean and were not worthy to participate in the promises which God made to Israel regarding their Messiah. They 'contended' {GK=diakrino, made a distinction, were at variance with} Peter because he, being a Jew, had not separated himself from the Gentiles. In their minds, he had defiled himself by entering into inappropriate close fellowship with those who were outside of the Covenant that God made with Israel.
     Until very recently, Peter himself had shared their attitude toward the Gentiles. Therefore, he carefully laid out the history, to show that he had not initiated this ministry to the Gentiles. In fact, it was contrary to his thinking, but God had prepared and directed him through a series of supernatural events.
4 But Peter rehearsed [the matter] from the beginning, {Acts 10:9-24}
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:
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.
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.
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:
What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.-
The Jews, being God's chosen people, regarded the Gentiles as 'common' {GK=koinos, ordinary, profane, not holy} and 'unclean' {GK=akathartos, not cleansed}, and therefore, not acceptable before God. But through Christ's sacrifice, God has provided the means to transform unholy sinful men into His own holy people (saints). Athough the Jewish believers did not yet realize it, this means of cleansing is not limited to the Jewish people (Isa 49:6; Rom 3:21-30).
the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing 'doubting' {GK=diakrino, ie., making no distinction, without separation}...-
Peter's natural inclination, like that of the Jews who were contending with him, was to maintain his distance from Gentiles. (Note that 'contended' in v.2 and 'doubting' in v.12 are the same GK word.) But God had corrected his thinking, through the thrice repeated vision, which was coupled closely with the arrival of Cornelius' three servants. On top of that, the Holy Spirit had given unmistakeable instruction to go with them, without regarding himself as holier than they.
Moreover, these six brethren accompanied me...- (10:23)
Peter, having anticipated that Jewish believers might have difficulty accepting his interaction with Gentiles, had wisely taken several men with him from the congregation in Joppa. They were witnesses to all that transpired and would corroborate Peter's account, which continues in the next verses (which summarize Acts 10:24-48).
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;
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?
...the Holy Ghost fell on them...-
More important than the testimony of Peter or of the six men who had been with him,
was the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who marked these Gentile believers as 'saved.'
  • in keeping with the word of the Lord Jesus (v.16 quotes Acts 1:5; See also Joh 14:26).
  • in the same (visible) manner that the Spirit came upon Jewish believers at Pentecost ('at the beginning', Acts 2:1-4).
  • in baptism with the Spirit, which was a 'gift freely given' to the Gentiles (as to the Jews) on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ, apart from any merit of their own.
...what was I, that I could withstand God?-
The salvation of the Gentiles, was according to God's initiative and design. Peter's initial misunderstanding could not derail God's purposes. Therefore, his thoughts had to be realigned to fit God's thoughts.
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.
The Jewish believers in Jerusalem accepted God's plan that salvation through Christ is for the Gentiles also.
However, it would not be long before some would insist that, in order to be saved, believing Gentiles must also become Jews. Acts 15:1
19. Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen {Acts 8:1-4}
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.
The Jewish believers who had been dispersed from Jerusalem, due to persecution, had taken the Gospel with them.
Up until this time, in accord with Jewish thought, they had proclaimed it exclusively to Jews. But now that Peter had opened the Gospel to the Gentiles, some of the scattered Jewish believers, went to Antioch and began to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the Grecians {GK=hellinistes}. Up to this point, in Acts, where this word has been used, it has referred to Hellenistic Jews. But from here and onward, it refers primarily to Gentiles.
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.
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.
The news that Gentiles in Antioch were responding in 'large numbers' to the Gospel,
warranted oversight from the church elders in Jerusalem (cp. 8:14).
...they sent forth Barnabas...- whose character and reputation commended him to the task:
  • he was a good man...- 'Good' reflects on his moral character and also on the 'beneficial' nature of his interaction with others. He was known as the Son of Consolation, ie., one who would come alongside another to help them grow stronger (eg., 4:36,37; 9:26,27).
  • full of the Holy Ghost...
  • [full of] faith...
...who, when he came...- Barnabas took on the role of a pastor, shepherding the new believers.
  • he 'was glad' to see God working.
  • he 'exhorted them all' by preaching and teaching, not merely to convey head knowledge, but to encourage each believer to wholeheartedly dedicate his life to knowing and serving the Lord. [The word 'purpose,' in v.23, is used elsewhere of the 'showbread' which was 'set forth' in devotion to the Lord (eg., Mat 12:4; Heb 9:2) and of the 'purposes' of God (eg., Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11; 2Tim 1:9).]
  • much people was added unto the Lord.- Under the ministry of Barnabas, the new believers in Antioch grew spiritually, and the church there continued to grow in numbers.
25 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.
Barnabas probably saw the need for an assistant, as the church was growing beyond what one man could oversee.
But given his heart for building up others, he saw this growing church as an opportunity to prepare Saul for future ministry. Barnabas and Saul worked together at instructing {teaching doctrine to} the believers concerning their new life in Christ.
...the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch...-
The term 'Christians' refers to 'followers or adherents of Christ.' It is generally thought that this term was originally used by unbelievers, in derision of those who (they thought) foolishly clung to the memory of a crucified man called Christ. (This was probably Herod Agippa's intent in Acts 26:28.) The name is frequently used in the context of suffering as a Christian (eg., 1Pet 4:16). But as that verse indicates, the believer counts it an honor to suffer for Christ's sake. Therefore, in time, the name was adopted by believers.
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 great dearth... which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.-
The Greek historian, Josephus, mentions a great famine that began in the fourth year of this emperor and lasted for several years.
The only other mention of Agabus is about 18 years later, in Acts 21:10-12, where he warned Paul of things that would befall him at Jerusalem.
...then the disciples... determined to send relief...-
The Gentile believers in Antioch decided, on their own, to send financial aid to the believers in Judaea, to prepare them for this time of want, because they were already impoverished due to persecution in that region.
     Giving to this project was according to the ability of each believer, not under pressure. They were sharing from their physical wealth, to help those from whom they had received spiritual benefit. Subsequent aid to the brethren would be modeled after this gift (Rom 15:25-27; 2Cor 8:12-14).
...which... they... sent... by the hands of Barnabas and Saul...-
The gift was sent in care of two trusted men, to ensure honest and secure delivery (as also in 2Cor 8:18-22).
The hands of Saul which had formerly worked to harm the church in Jerusalem (8:1-3), were now bringing blessing. (But the hands of others still troubled them. 12:1)

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