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Acts 11:19-30 NKJV
Barnabas and Saul at Antioch
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Relief to Judea
27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
We live in a day when many evangelical churches seek to build their attendance through gimmicks and entertainment. Years ago, when this trend toward church growth was beginning to take hold, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones told a group at Westminster Chapel in London, where he was pastor, that he knew a way to insure that every seat would be filled the following Sunday. To understand this story, you need to know that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a very proper Welshman who always wore a suit. In his biography, there is a picture of him at the beach with his little daughter, and he is wearing a suit as he sits on the sand! I think he was born wearing a suit!
Anyway, the people in his church said, “Tell us, tell us,” and “Let’s do it!” “It’s very simple,” he said. “Put a notice in the Saturday edition of The [London] Times that I shall appear in the pulpit the next day wearing a bathing suit!” After a shocked silence on the part of the group, Dr. Lloyd-Jones went on to talk about the biblical basis for proper worship, as opposed to the approach of using entertainment to entice people to attend church (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Iain Murray [Banner of Truth], 2:112).
Pastor’s today flock to seminars that tell them how to market the church in today’s world. They learn how to make the church user-friendly for outsiders. They are taught how to shorten the sermon and make it non-threatening to the unchurched, while using drama and multi-media to get the message across. And, the methods “work”! Some of the largest evangelical churches in America use these methods and teach them to thousands of pastors who see dramatic results.
In our text, we see an example of impressive church growth. From a small group of persecuted refugees, the church in Antioch saw large numbers of people come to Christ. In fact, three times Luke underscores the large numbers (11:21, 24, 26). But the reason this church experienced such remarkable growth was not that the leaders employed the latest church growth principles. They didn’t study the demographics of Antioch and come up with a strategy to market the church to the masses. Rather, the reason for the growth was simple: “The hand of the Lord was with them” (11:21). This was a church that God was blessing. That should be our aim; that the hand of the Lord would be with us.
The passage of scripture covers the founding of the first great Gentile Church. The Church was founded under God’s sovereignty, control, and will. The church is set forth very simply, yet it provides a dynamic pattern for all churches and believers to copy.
This passage tells what happen to the believers who were forced to flee Jerusalem after the death of Stephen. Saul had launched a terrible persecution against them, attempting to stamp out the name of Christ (Acts 8:1-4: 9:1-9). They scattered all over…
However as the believers scattered, they preached Christ. The picture is that there was not an area left untouched by the gospel. Wherever the believers went, they shared Christ.
The focus of this particular scripture is upon Antioch, the great church that was founded there. Note what it was that gave birth to the great church.
There were three essentials.
The gospel of Christ is for the whole world. It may have begun with the Jew, but God is the God of the universe, of all men. Therefore, He longs for all men to know about the coming of His Son into the world and to be saved through Him.
Note also that the message preached was the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.
Men and Women are saved through hearing and believing the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ!
If the spreading of the gospel or the functioning of the church depends on the labors of full-time missionaries or pastors, ministry will be severely limited. But if every person who has trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord feels the obligation of serving Him and of telling others the good news about Him, the gospel will spread and the church will be built up. Every Christian should sense his or her responsibility to serve Christ and bear witness of Him.
To understand our text, you need to know something about Antioch. It was located 300 miles north of Jerusalem and was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria, having more than 500,000 residents. It was a center for commerce and a crossroads for travel and trade between Europe and the Orient. This made the city a melting pot of various races, including the Romans, the local Syrians, Jews, and others.
The city was proverbial for sexual immorality. In fact some five miles outside of town was the grove of Daphne, where worshipers of Artemis and Apollo pursued their religion of pleasure with temple prostitutes.
Antioch was so corrupt that it was said to have impacted Rome, more than 1,300 miles away. (Stanley Toussaint, The Bible Knowledge Commentary [Victor Books], 2:383).
It is significant that when God picked a city that would become the center for missionary endeavor, He picked a cosmopolitan, morally corrupt city like Antioch. In this secular, pagan environment, common Christians began telling the simple gospel message that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, that whoever believes in Him receives eternal life and forgiveness as God’s free gift. The same gospel that is the power of God for salvation to the Jews proved to be the power of God for salvation to these pagan Gentiles as well.
God overruled all the trials and opposition and caused the church to be born.
The end of verse 20 literally reads, “telling [or preaching] the good news [of] the Lord Jesus.” But in telling the good news, they didn’t dodge the hard matters of sin and repentance, since we read that a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
This means that these former pagans gave up their idols, their sexual immorality, their lying, and their corrupt business practices when they put their trust in Jesus as Lord. When Barnabas came, he witnessed the grace of God (11:23).
We must understand that although we cannot see God’s grace, we can see the effects of it in a person’s life. And – Barnabas could see that God had changed these people and that they had repented of their wrong doing.
One remarkable proof that the gospel is from God is that wherever it goes, it has the same powerful effect. The message does not need to be changed when it is taken to a tribe of primitive headhunters. It does not need to be intellectualized when it is taken to a sophisticated university crowd. Whatever their culture or background, people are all sinners who need to know how to be reconciled to God before they face Him in judgment. If we will tell the simple gospel message to the people we come into contact with, God will bless us and take care of the rest.
The result: “a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.” The first great Gentile church was born, and it was born through God’s sovereignty.
Every growing church needs a good TEACHING MINISTRY!
Note three significant events that happened.
Barnabas was a man who lived by God’s grace, and so he saw the grace of God and rejoiced. No doubt he also saw a lot of imperfection in these new converts. New believers do not drop all of their pagan baggage the day they get saved. A church made up of people from such different backgrounds as those in Antioch was bound to have some irritations and conflicts. But rather than focusing on the imperfections and problems, Barnabas focused on God’s grace in saving these people. Instead of slapping a bunch of Jewish rules on them, he rejoiced at what God was doing, and then began to encourage them to remain true to the Lord.
The need was sensed and the decision was made to seek help in the training efforts of the church. But the only question was who should be selected? A unique person was needed, a person who not only had Jewish background, but a person who knew the Greek language and the Greek culture and could relate to both Gentile and Jew alike. The person also needed to be fearless and bold in his witness for Christ because of the godless, immoral society of Antioch.
Barnabas knew such a man: Saul of Tarsus. Barnabas and Saul met with the church for an entire year and taught considerable numbers (11:26).
Training: The believers met constantly for intensive training.
The church developed an unbelievable heritage for itself and for Christ. Then we read, “and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Probably this was a nickname that the pagans in town gave them. It meant, “Christ-men.” It’s only used in the Bible three times: here; in Acts 26:28, where Agrippa chides Paul for trying to make him a Christian; and, in 1 Peter 4:16, where Peter urges his readers not to be ashamed if they suffer as Christians.
The believers at Antioch were the first to be called “Christians.”
Every person that calls themselves a Christian should be a true follower of Christ. How tragic it is that so many are not!
The church launched its ministry and worldwide mission. Prophet came from Jerusalem to help in the ministry efforts of Antioch. We do not know what led them to come but many scholars speculate that it could have been: an invitation from Antioch, a commission by the Jerusalem Church, or by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
However, we do know that it was God’s will that they came!
Antioch is set before us as an example. It was a church founded by simple believers who knew that God has called every Christian to serve Him. They proclaimed the gospel as the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. They operated by God’s grace, not by legalism. They saw grace as the motivation to go on with the Lord. Their leaders set the example and taught them from God’s Word. They were generous givers, trusting God to meet their needs. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.
I want to be a part of a church, like Antioch, where growth clearly comes from the Lord and where, also like Antioch, we become a center for worldwide impact for Jesus Christ. Then the glory won’t go to church growth principles or to any man, but to the Lord of the church, who strongly supports those whose hearts are completely His
Acts 10:44-48 NKJV
The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
God and God alone saves the Gentiles, that is, the people of the world. No man can save another man. No man has the power to save anyone else; therefore no man has the authority to save. Salvation – the gift of the new birth and God’s Spirit – is of God and God alone. This is made abundantly clear in this passage, the passage where the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit of God.
This is made clear in Acts 11:17. They heard and received the message, hungering and thirsting for the Word of God in their lives. Therefore, they believed it immediately
Every believer should hunger and thirst for the Word of God and for their salvation that they do not wait for the invitation of the messenger. Rather they just believe while they are hearing.
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.
No man had anything to do with God pouring His Spirit upon these believers. The gift of the Spirit was the act of God and God alone.
Thought: The Gospel is universal for the whole world. If this is true then we do we as Christians try to place a monopoly on God?
The Gentiles believers spoke in tongues and praised God. Note: speaking in tongues led the Gentile believers into a glorious and joyful praise of God. They magnified God. They were caught up in an ecstatic praise of the Lord. “Speaking with Tongues” seems to be the sign that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the Gentles.
We must understand that both Peter and the Jewish believers needed a sign, a sign that would leave no doubt that the Gentiles were saved. Speaking in tongues or breaking out in ecstatic praise of God, was such a sign. It was the sign that would leave no doubt in their minds whatsoever. It was their speaking in tongues that utterly shocked the Jewish believers who were with Peter; for the Gentiles were, as Peter says, receiving “the Holy Spirit as well as we.”
The Gentile believers were baptized. Note that Peter asked a question. Apparently he was challenging the Jewish believers who were with him. There could be no question; the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit. No one present could deny it. Therefore could any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?
The door to the Gentiles was now opened. Peter commanded the Gentile believers to be baptized. Evidently he commanded the six Jewish brothers to baptize them.
What happen in this passage of scripture is of critical importance to church history.
Remember most if not all the believers at Jerusalem were Jews. They were circumcised as small children and had been committed to the law of Moses since childhood. When they accepted Christ, they did not forsake their Judaistic religion. Rather they saw Christianity as an extension of Judaism. In Their minds Christ had only added new teachings to their existing law and religion. Therefore, if a person wished to accept Christ, he had to become a Jew first…
Once a person had done these things, become and Jew, then and only then could he receive Christ and be baptized. Then and only then could he be accepted into the church. Peter had gone contrary to these beliefs and practices. He had…
The news was bound to travel fast. The early believers who were still loyal to their Judaistic religion, were shocked. The Jerusalem church was being shaken to its foundation. The basic belief of so many early believers – that Jesus had come only to enlarge and extend Judaism – was being challenged. Peter had to give an answer, and it had to be clearly explained and understood.
God’s will for the church was a world-wide mission. Peter reached out to the contentious. He explained as clearly and straightforwardly as he could. He simply shared what had happened. Peter stressed that God’s will is a worldwide mission; the door of salvation is to be thrown open to the whole world.
The church’s response to God’s will was the conviction of a worldwide mission.
This passage gives the first message ever preached to Gentiles by one of the Apostles. It is the message that opened the door of salvation to all the people of the world, to the Gentiles. It gives the points that need to be preached to all the nations of the world.
"Jew and Gentile are on the same footing in God's sight. Those who fear the Lord in any nation, of any race, will be accepted."
"Acceptance cannot be obtained on any other ground than that of the covenant of mercy, through the atonement of Christ; but wherever true religion is found, God will accept it without regarding names or sects."
1. God shows no favoritism – He accepts anyone who fears Him and does what is right (v.34-35)
2. God sent His word to Israel; He sent Jesus Christ preaching peace (v.36-37)
3. Jesus is the savior, anointed by God (v.38-39)
4. Jesus was crucified and Jesus was raised from the dead by God (v.39-40)
5. Jesus appeared to some who were chosen to be witnesses (v.40-41)
6. Jesus will judge the living and the dead some day in the future (v.42)
7. Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and Jesus brings forgiveness of sin to those who believe Him (v.43)
God shows no favoritism
God is no respecter of Persons. The term respecter of persons means to regard with partiality and favoritism; to favor a person because of looks, position, or circumstances.
The great point of this chapter is that God has no favorites and no prejudice against anyone. He shows no partiality or discrimination whatsoever. He does not accept a person because of nationality, race, caste, social standing, or class. God does not favor a man because:
• Who he is
• What he does
• What he has
Person or appearance, possessions or position, abilities or works, health or stature – these things do not make a person acceptable to God. “God is no respecter of persons.” He had always said so; but men, including Peter, had not paid attention to Him. They just went right on ignoring the truth of God’s Word and feeding their prejudices. Note that Peter said…
• God is no respecter of persons
• God is no respecter of nations
There are two things I would argue that make a person acceptable to God. Peter covered them both.
1. Fearing God
o Not fear out of ignorance or fear of the unknown
o But fear out of reverence to who God is
o Fear out of respect for what God has the power to do (and)
o Fear of His judgement and the consequence of disobedience.
2. Working righteousness
a. To be right
b. To do right
i. There are those who stress being righteous and neglect doing righteousness or doing what is righteous. This leads to two serious errors.
a. False security. It causes a person to stress that he is saved and acceptable to God because he/she has believed in Jesus Christ. But he/she neglects doing good and living as he/she should. He/She neglects obeying God and saving man.
b. Loose living. It allows one to go out and do pretty much as they desire. They feels secure and comfortable in their faith in Christ. They knows that what they do may affect their fellowship with Christ and other believers, but they think this behavior will not affect their salvation. They thinks that no matter what they do they are still acceptable to God.
The problem with this is that it is a false righteousness. Righteousness in the Bible means being righteous and doing righteousness. The Bible knows nothing about being righteous and not living righteously.
ii. There are also those who stress doing righteousness (righteous things) and neglect being righteous. This also leads to two serious errors.
a. Self-righteousness and legalism. It causes a person to stress that they are saved and acceptable to God because they do good. They work and believe morally and keeps certain rules and regulations. They do the things a Christian should do by obeying the main laws of God. But they neglects the basic law: the law of love and acceptance – that God loves them and accepts them not because they do good, but because they love and trust the righteousness of Christ.
b. Being judgmental and censorious. A person who stresses that they are righteous because they keep certain laws often judges and censors others. They feel that rules and regulations can be kept, because they keep them. Therefore, anyone who fails to keep them is judged, criticized, and censored.
The problem with this is that it, too, is a false righteousness. Again, righteousness in Bible is both being righteous and doing righteousness. The Bible knows nothing about being acceptable to God without being made righteous in Christ Jesus.
God sent His Word to Israel
God sent His Word to Israel; He sent Jesus Christ preaching peace.
God sent His Word to Israel. Israel was the first nation to receive God’s Word. Salvation is of the Jews
God sent His Word to Israel by Jesus Christ, God’s very own Son. It was Jesus Christ who brought the message of God.
However, God’s Word was not meant for Israel alone. Jesus Christ did not come just for Israel’s salvation. God is no respecter of persons. God accepts people from every nation, all those who fear Him and work righteousness. Peter declared three facts.
1. “Christ is Lord of all”
Not only of the Jews – But of – The Gentiles, every nation
Not only of the Privileged – But of – The Heathen
Not of the Poor or the Religious – But of - The people who truly fear Him
2. Peter declared that Jesus Christ had been talked about throughout all Judea. Peter told Cornelius: “You know. You have heard the Word.” Cornelius and the ones sitting there had just paid little or no attention to it.
Thought: Think how many hear and sit under the gospel and pay little attention to it.
3. Peter said that Jesus Christ began to preach God’s Word in Galilee right after John’s ministry of baptism. (A Jewish Town)
No one had an excuse for rejection the gospel of God’s Kingdom. Jesus Christ had traveled and preached the gospel everywhere, and He was the topic of conversation upon everyone’s lips. Any who opposed Jesus and heard Him speak were without excuse. So it is today with those who have heard the gospel. They are without excuse.
Jesus is the Savior – The Anointed One of God
His very name “Christ” (Messiah) means “the Anointed One of God.” Jesus was anointed by God in a very special way.
1. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. But note: He was anointed with the Holy Spirit in a way that no other person has ever been anointed: the Holy Spirit was given without measure to Christ. He received an unlimited measure of the Spirit, and it was once-for-all. That is, the Spirit’s fullness never left Christ, not for a moment.
2. Jesus was anointed with miraculous power. Power is the presence and outworking of the Holy Spirit within a person. Jesus declared this. He was very clear in declaring two things.
a. He Himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit so that He could be anointed with the power to minister.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit so that He could go about “doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil,” oppressed by his…
o Evil spirits
o Temptations and sin
o Lying and deception
o Bitterness and hatred
o Neglect and unconcern
o Enslavement and bondage
b. The believer receives the Holy Spirit so that he can have the power to be a witness to the world.
Jesus Christ did not come nor was He anointed to debate theories and theology with the ministers and priest of His day. He was anointed to “go about doing good” and helping people by delivering them from the oppressions of the devil.
3. There is proof that Jesus did these things. Peter and the earliest believers saw and knew Him.
1 John 1:1-4
What Was Heard, Seen, and Touched
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—
2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
Jesus Christ is still working in lives today, delivering from the oppressions of the devil. The proof is clearly seen in the lives and witness of genuine believers.
Jesus was crucified and Jesus was raised from the dead by God (vv.39-40)
Jesus Christ was raised up by God. Jesus’ ministry on earth was climaxed in His passion and resurrection. His death and resurrection assures the salvation of all mankind.
By arising from the dead He conquered death for mankind and makes available a new life of power for the believer.
Jesus after being raised from the dead:
o Showed Himself – presented Himself alive.
There are ten resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. However there were apparently many more not recorded.
o Jesus gave many infallible proofs of His resurrection.
Jesus made it so that those who saw Him would have no other choice but to believe in Him.
Jesus appeared to some who were chosen to be witnesses (v.40-41)
Jesus appeared to some people who were chose and appointed to be witnesses. Three points are stressed about Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
1. God showed Jesus openly, which means that God sent Jesus before people so that He could be visibly, openly, and publicly seen. God manifested, showed, and set Him forth as the Risen Lord.
2. Jesus appeared to chosen witnesses. The word “chosen before” means to be pointed out, to be designated, to be appointed. Before Christ ever arose, God chose some people to be witnesses of His Son’s resurrection. They were chosen for the very purpose of proclaiming the resurrection to a world of dying men.
3. The witnesses did “eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.” They had close and intimate fellowship with Him.
a. To stress that He and the other witnesses had real contact with the risen Lord. They not only saw Him, they “ate and drank.” Communed and fellowshipped with Him. They were as closely associated with Him as persons can be. They were true, verifiable witnesses.
b. To stress that Jesus actually arose from the dead. The Person they saw was the Jesus whom they knew. His body was real. It was really Him; His body had been resurrected.
Jesus will judge the living and the dead some day in the future (v.42)
Jesus shall judge the living and the dead of all nations. He shall judge both the Jew and the Gentile. God has ordained Jesus to judge all men, no matter who they are or where they are, alive or dead. He and He alone shall judge every soul who has ever appeared on earth.
Jesus Christ alone is ordained to be the Judge. He alone, as the risen Lord, has the right to determine judgement.
1. He determines the condition of salvation: what a person has to do to be saved; how a person is saved; who is and who is not saved.
2. He determines the conditions of eternity: what eternal life shall be like; what eternal death shall be like; the state, the environment, the reward, and the punishment of both heaven and hell.
Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and Jesus brings forgiveness of sin to those who believe Him (v.43)
John 3:16 (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.