Peter explains his eating with Gentiles, Agabus and his team of prophets appear and predict a worldwide famine, and the disciples are first called Christians in Antioch, and Barnabas and Saul are commissioned to bring relief to Jerusalem Christians.
As I write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each passage and of this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Peter Is Questioned and Replies (Acts 11:1-18)
1 Now, the apostles and brothers and sisters who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Peter began to set forth things in an orderly sequence for them and said, 5 “I was in the town of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision of an object descending, something like a huge sheet being lowered by four corners from heaven, and it came right in front of me. 6 As I stared at it, I began to observe and saw four-footed domesticated animals, wild animals, and reptiles, and birds of the sky. 7 Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!’ 8 I replied, ‘No way, Lord! Nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 A voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has made clean don’t you call common!’ 10 This happened a third time, and everything was pulled back up into heaven.
11 Then look! Three men sent from Caesarea for me were standing at the house where I was. 12 The Spirit spoke to me to go with them, without overthinking it. These six brothers went with me and entered the man’s house. 13 He recounted to us how he saw an angel in his house, standing and speaking. ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, nicknamed Peter, 14 who shall speak a message to you by which you shall be saved and also your household.’ 15 Just as I was beginning to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as upon us at the beginning. 16 I remembered the word of the Lord, how he was saying, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave to them this gift equally, as we also believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to stop God?”
18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Indeed, God has also given to Gentiles the repentance leading to life!”
Luke repeats this episode about Cornelius and God’s acceptance of Gentiles three times (Acts 10:1-48, 11:4-17; 15:7-9). Paul’s conversion is also repeated three times. He is initially converted, and the Lord tells Ananias, the disciple who prayed for him, that Paul will be sent to the Gentiles (9:1-19, see especially v. 15). Paul speaks to a crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3-16) and before king Agrippa (26:9-18). Further, the entire narrative that goes from 10:1 to 11:18 is the longest one of a single piece in Acts. Clearly Luke intends his Gentile readers of Acts to understand that God accepts them. Jewish followers of Jesus must also realize the same thing.
Bock places this event before A.D 41 (comment on vv. 1-2).
This section summarizes Acts 10. Please go there for more comments.
Entering the house of Gentiles was bad enough but eating with them went too far. It takes a long time to break away from old traditions. Some people never give them up.
Jerusalem is getting powerful in the Messianic Jewish world. Even Peter has to answer to a coterie of men who quickly formed. Is it time for Messianic Jews to break free from this committee? But it seems even Saul / Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, felt the need to honor this city as the new capital of the very earliest Christianity. (Acts 15; 21-23:22; Gal. 1:17-18; 2:1; Rom. 15:19, 25-26, 31; 1 Cor 16:3; 2 Cor. 1:16). I suppose there is nothing wrong with a Christian presence there to this day, but I prefer decentralization.
“circumcised believers”: in this context, it refers to overly scrupulous and extra-strict Messianic Jews. They were harder to convince than the six Messianic Jews who accompanied Peter (10:45-46). Yet even these Jews of Jerusalem relented and celebrated the Gentiles’ salvation without their obeying food laws or getting circumcised (v. 18). This is a message to the Hebrew Roots Movement today in America. They say or imply that if we don’t follow the law as they closely and devoutly as they do, we are inferior in some way. No, sorry. Slow down, Hebrew Roots Movement!
“word”: It comes from the noun logos (pronounced loh-gohss) and is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Let’s explore this versatile Greek noun a little more deeply.
I repeat the following comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
“I stared”: it comes from the verb atenizō (pronounced ah-teh-nee-zoh) and also means “stare intently or intensely.” Luke is fond of it: Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 1:10; 3:4; 3:12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. Then Paul uses it twice: 2 Cor. 3:7, 13.
“praying”: it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.
Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!
Prayer can be (1) for oneself, like overcoming sins and vices in your heart and mind or receiving wisdom from above (James 3:17) and not being double-minded about receiving it (Jas. 1:5-8), but (2) it is also for the needs of the community. It was coming under attack, so prayers were offered. Praying for boldness to reach out and spread the word is wonderful. We should do it more often. (3) Further, prayer brings down the manifest presence of God. God is omnipresent (everywhere) of course, but his presence can make itself felt and experienced. God showed up and shook the place where they were gathered.
Prayer can be visualized like a pebble in a pond, and the ripples go outward. (1) It starts with oneself and one’s needs; (2) then it goes outward to one’s own family and (3) to the Christian community (your home church). (4) It goes out to evangelism and the needs of the world around the community, (5) and finally to parts around the globe. But this prayer here in Acts varies the order, which you may do, if you like. Prayer is ultimately and most deeply a conversation with God.
Most of these words and ideas are covered in Acts 10, but the one fact that Peter omits in his retelling is that “the man” (v. 12) was a Gentile centurion! He was the occupier! Despite Peter’s quick acceptance of Gentiles receiving the Spirit, he still gave in to peer pressure when Jewish believers came to Antioch and he stopped eating with Gentile believers (Gal. 2:11-21).
In v. 11, “I stared”: the Greek verb is katanoeō (pronounced kah-tah-noh-eh-oh). Noeō is what the mind does: it thinks, perceives, understand, gain an insight, considers, takes note of, thinks over; thinks or imagines. Now add the prefix kata– to it, and it means what F. F. Bruce (1990) called “master the mystery” or intellectual domination of a mystery or a supernatural event like a burning bush that is not consumed (Acts 7:31). I did not choose his rich and wonderful suggestion this time. So “I stared” could be freely translated as “I tried to master the mystery.” However, the standard definition encompasses “notice,” “observe,” “look at, contemplate,” “consider, notice in a spiritual sense.”
Peter is tempted to overthink things, so the Spirit has to tell him not to do this. Obey.
“overthinking it”: This comes from one Greek verb diakrinō (pronounced dee-ah-kree-noh), which is a mental activity and means these things, depending on the contexts and verb form: “make distinctions, differentiate, single out”; “pass judgment, judge correctly, recognize, render a decision;” “take issue, dispute, doubt, waver.” But when it comes to this verse the Greek dictionary guys would have us translate it as “hesitate.” Yes, hesitation is a mental activity in the mind, so I translate the verb in its fullest sense. Peter, who is famous among current preachers as being a blabbermouth and speaking without thinking, was actually a thoughtful man. In this verse the Spirit has to tell him to put away his doubts and mental gymnastics and just obey. But let’s not be too hard on him, because he had a difficult time visiting and eating with non-Jews, even after this visit with Cornelius (Gal. 2:11-21).
“trance”: the noun ekstasis (pronounced as it looks) literally means “standing outside (oneself).”
It befell him; he did not ginger it up or use soul power.
“vision”: the noun horama (pronounced as it appears and where we get our word panorama). It is mostly translated as “vision,” or it could be a supernatural sight (Matt. 17:19; Acts 10:3, 17, 19; 18:9). You’ll know it when you see it, with no room for misinterpretation. And Renewalists believe that visions still happen today. They get them all the time. It’s biblical. But our visions must be submitted to the written Word because our vision may not be right, but self-serving. In contrast, Scripture has stood the test of time. Your dream or vision has not. Scripture is infallible; you are not.
“No way!”: it can be translated “Certainly not!” “By no means!” I use a more updated phrase.
“common”: the opposite is holy, which means “set apart.” “Common” means everybody acts this way and has the same degraded moral status. It’s common! However, you personally are set apart by God; you are not common in the sense of profane or unclean or “unkosher.”
Peter learned that Cornelius is just as set apart for God as the Jewish nation is. Gentiles too can be grafted into God’s Chosen People. They too can be consecrated to God and made holy.
And as to God making something holy, he has to declare it to be holy. Those classes of animals are not holy or unholy, kosher or unkosher in themselves, by their nature; they are just animals. But God decreed some animals to be kosher or holy or clean, and other animals to be the opposite. (It is odd that a locust is clean or kosher [Lev. 11:22], for example.) To use other verbs, he considered or imputed or calculated or reckoned certain animals holy or kosher. Yes, scientists have figured out that a pig is a scavenger and can eat bad food, but what about a pig that is given special treatment and is fed only the best food? So it is all about God’s declaration, not about the animals being who they are by nature. The same goes for humans. All humans are sinful and unclean by their nature, so God has to get them ready for judgment and declare them clean. Then he sends his Holy Spirit into them to work out what God has declared over them.
God did this to Cornelius and his household and gave them the Holy Spirit.
“look!” it comes from the standard Greek (and Hebrew) term “Behold!” I updated the word because that is the sense of the context.
“word”: see v. 1 for a close look at the noun logos.
Peter and the six make seven, the number of completeness. Now it becomes clear whey Peter needed them to witness God’s gift of the Spirit on Gentiles. He was being cross-examined by hardcore Jewish traditionalists.
“house”: Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8).
“angel”: An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
“saved”: it is the Greek verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times). Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō.
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, which is the authoritative lexicon of the NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8).
The verb “saved” is in the passive voice, so we have another instance of a divine passive, which means that God is behind the scenes working, doing the saving. He is the subject of the verb.
“household”: this verse of salvation is a promise for your household. Pray for them, and never give up. Trust God that he is working behind the scenes, even when you don’t see any progress. Another great verse of promise for your household is Acts 16:31. Read it and base your prayers on v. 14 here and 16:31.
“just as I was beginning to speak”: Here is a perfect example of Peter compressing his account (through Luke), for Peter did preach a brief sermon of ten verses (10:34-43). We simply have to get used to these variations and literary techniques of condensing, expanding, omitting, including, telescoping, and so on. The Scriptures are still infallibly inspired, yet the original authors were not androids who received and then dictated a message. They kept their minds intact and varied their message as they saw the need.
Then the Holy Spirit fell on them. In Acts 10:44-48, heavenly and Spirit-inspired prayer languages were given to Cornelius and his household. Here in v. 15 Luke through Peter (or Peter through Luke) omits this detail, and he (they) will omit the detail in Peter’s shorter account in Acts 15:7-11. Why the omission? Probably because Luke assumes we will fill in this gap with the fullness of the Spirit, and now Luke wants us to focus on Gentile salvation. So how does this relate to the overall very charismatic book of Acts? We should always read verses about the fullness and infilling and power of the Spirit in light of manifested gifts of God, like prayer languages, even when they are not openly stated.
“beginning”: this refers to Pentecost. Later believers can experience their own Pentecost, even as we can today. Remember what this same Simon Peter said at that time: “For the promise is for you and your descendants and all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to himself” (2:39). This Pentecost is for us, if we want it.
“how he was saying”: This is in the imperfect tense, indicating more than one reminder to the disciples.
“baptized”: This too is in the passive voice, so we have another divine passive in this verse. The Father sends the Spirit, and the Son baptizes repentant believers in or with the Spirit. However it may be worded, God the Father is the source.
Cornelius and his household had heard the message. Faith and trust were sparked in their hearts. The Spirit baptized them. And then they were water baptized. Conversion first. Water baptism second. Water does not save, but Jesus does. Salvation goes beyond initial justification or initially being declared righteous. It involves one’s whole life. And being water-baptized for the washing away of sins means that water symbolically washes away one’s sins.
The fulness of the Spirit is God’s gift to us. I hope no one around the world sneers at it, even when it comes with heavenly languages.
“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Here it is connected to “saved.”
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
Please see my word study on believe and faith:
The assembled group accepted his testimony, but trouble is brewing. Peter will be arrested, and the motives for Herod Agrippa taking him was to please the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem. Peter was the lead apostle, and he was the first to eat with the Gentiles, and a Roman centurion, a soldier in the occupying force.
“repentance”: it comes from the noun metanoia (pronounced meh-tah-noi-ah), which literally means “change of mind”; however, throughout the New Testament, it means more than that. It means regret and turning around and going in the other direction, and it must bear fruit (Matt. 3:8; Acts 20:21; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; Heb. 6:6). It is a radical life change.
However, warning! Heb. 6:1-2 tells us that repentance is an elementary teaching:
1 Therefore leaving the message about the elementary principle about Christ, let us carry on to maturity, not again laying the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God and 2 of the teaching about baptisms and the laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment (Heb. 6:1-2).
“The elementary principle about Christ,” which is a literal translation, but it could also be “leaving the basic teaching about Christ.”
In any case, the main idea is about the Jesus we teach to little children. Or the phrase in Heb. 6:1 could mean calling adults and the youth to enter the kingdom of God for the first time. Repent! Follow Jesus! Yes, it is wonderful as a foundation, but we must move on to Christ’s deeper teachings. In our context today, we should teach repentance to an audience where there may be the unrepentant and unconverted, but let’s not harangue the church with constant calls for them to repent. They need mature teachings. Too many fiery preachers never allow their churches to grow, but shriek about fire and brimstone (eternal punishment). Happily, this seems to be changing, and preachers bring up repentance, but also realize that there are many other doctrines in Scripture.
“life”: it comes from the Greek zōē (pronounced zoh-ay). It is more than life in heaven, but life down here on earth. We can have God’s kind of life right now. God offers people who love and know him eternal life in the here and now, so it means both life now and life in the age to come. The kingdom breaking into the world system through the life and ministry of Jesus brings life right now.
Now let’s look at life more closely.
It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG is the authoritative NT Greek lexicon, and it says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
“Peter’s detractors might concede in 11:18 that God might save God-fearing gentiles or even welcome some isolated gentiles as ‘exceptions,’ but Luke’s point in 11:18 is fuller: that God has given ‘repentance’ to them as a group, as he did for Israel (5:31)” (Keener, p. 308 emphasis original).
As usual, Polhill’s summary comments on this section of Scripture are spot on:
Not all the problems were solved, however. Not all the Jewish Christians were satisfied with taking in Gentiles without circumcision. As yet there had been no mass influx of Gentiles, and the problems were not altogether evident. Things would change, particularly with the great success of Paul and Barnabas’s mission among the Gentiles. Once again the issue would be raised by the more staunchly Jewish faction—“Shouldn’t Gentiles be circumcised when they become Christians?” “Can we really have table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles who do not abide by the food laws?” (author’s paraphrase). These issues would surface once more for a final showdown in the Jerusalem Conference of chap. 15. (p. 268)
GrowApp for Acts 11:1-18
A.. Peter says that God smashed through religious traditions and regulations and ethnic barriers. Has God called you to set aside those things that held you back? What were the results?
Antioch Becomes a Christian Base (Acts 11:19-26)
19 And so those who were scattered from the trouble that happened with Stephen went as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word except to Jews alone. 20 But certain men from among them were Cypriots and Cyrenians, after going to Antioch, began speaking also to the Greeks, preaching the good news of the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
22 The news about them was heard in the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged everyone to remain with the Lord with a resolute heart, 24 because he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large crowd was brought to the Lord. 25 Then he went away to Tarsus to look Saul up. 26 When he found him, he brought him to Antioch. It so happened to them that for a whole year they met together in the assembly and taught a large crowd. In Antioch their daily living and business practices marked them to be called Christians for the first time.
You can look for Antioch on an online Bible map; it is in Syria. At this time it was a major center.
I let Bruce, a true historian, describe Antioch in full:
Antioch on the Orontes [River] … situated some eighteen miles upstream, was founded in 300 B.C by Seleucus Nicator, first ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, and was named by his after his father Antiochus. He had already given his own name to Seleucia Pieria at the mouth of the Orontes, the port of Antioch (cf. 13:4). As the capital of the Seleucid monarchy, Antioch rapidly became a city of great importance. When Pompey reorganized Western Asia in 64 B.C he made Antioch a free city; it became the seat of administration of the Roman province of Syria. It was at this time the third largest city on the Greco-Roman world (surpassed in population only by Rome and Alexandria). It was planned from the first on the Hippodamian grid patter; it was enlarged and adorned by August and Tiberius, while Herod the Great provided colonnades on either side of its main street and paved the street itself with polished stone. The produce of Syria and lands farther east passed through it on its way to the west; it was a commercial center as well as a political capital. Because of its situation between the urbanized Mediterranean world and the eastern desert, it was even more cosmopolitan than most Hellenistic cities. Here Christianity first displayed its cosmopolitan character. (comment on v. 19)
That long excerpt is included because of the last sentence. Followers of the Way were first called Christians in this city. Jewish colonization also thrived there from the very beginning. So of course the early Christians felt at home before they split off from Judaism. Recall that Nicolaus, a proselyte, was one of the seven servants (deacons) who helped out in food distribution (6:5).
Bock says that these groups lived in this important and big city: Greeks, Syrians, Phoenicians, Jews, Arabs, Persians, Egyptians, and Indians (comment on vv. 19-21). I’m struck by the Indians. Could it be that they were a path back to India? Could Christians had witnessed to them and then sent missionaries there? Tradition says Thomas went there. Could this be the link? We will never know for sure. Let’s move on.
We resume the story that began with Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1).
Recall this passage:
1b And so on that day there was a severe persecution against the church in Jerusalem. Everyone except the apostles was scattered to the region of Judea and Samaria. 2 Devout men took Stephen up for burial and lamented for him.
3 Saul was devastating the church, going from household to household, dragging off both men and women and putting them in prison.
4 And so those who were dispersed spread out, preaching the word. (Acts 8:1-4)
What else happened to those who were scattered? Recall that Cyprus is Barnabas’s home island. He is about to reenter the narrative. And the sons of Simon of Cyrene were well known in the early church, and that’s why their names were remembered (Mark 15:21).
“trouble”: is it the Greek noun thlipsis (pronounced th’leep-sees, and say the p- in ps-). It can also be translated as “trial,” “tribulation,” or “persecution.”
It took persecution and trouble to pry the Messianic Jews loose from Jerusalem, so they could reach out to others.
“word”: It is the noun logos, and see v. 3 for a closer look.
“Jews alone”: these Messianic disciples believed that the Messiah was for Jews alone. Apparently, Peter’s revelation and supernatural meeting with Cornelius had not yet fully impacted the Messianic Jews in Antioch. Or worse, the monumental change did happen and the were still stuck in their old exclusive way.
These men somehow heard that God used Peter to expand the outreach to the Gentiles. Or it could be that the Spirit spoke to them to preach independent of Peter’s outreach to Cornelius. So they naturally shared the gospel with Greek Gentiles. These were not Hellenistic Jews. So did Peter’s testimonial reach these preachers to Gentiles, or did they take the initiative without it? I say they took the initiative. God was working in ways that bypassed the lead apostle and the committee of Jerusalem Messianic Jews, who felt that the message of the gospel might be for Gentiles if the new Jesus Movement kept kosher and required circumcision and maintained as much of law as they could. However, I must admit that Peter’s experience may have reached Antioch in a matter of a week or however long it takes to go from Jerusalem to Antioch.
“began speaking”: it is in the imperfect tense, so it could be translated as “were speaking,” but I believe Parsons and Culy are right; its an “inceptive” imperfect (began).
“preaching the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke-Acts, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!” “Preaching or spreading or proclaiming the good news” is traditional and better, however.
“Lord Jesus”: they are not recorded as preaching the Messiahship of Jesus, but his Lordship, to the Greek Gentiles. Lordship was relevant to them, not so much the Messiahship, because it takes training in the OT to find out why this title was important. And these Greeks listeners had no training in the OT, so they needed to hear about the Lordship of Jesus. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. Bible study would have to come later. Remember, the Bible or even sections of the Bible were handcopied and very expensive.
“hand of the Lord”: Of course this is not literally a hand, because God is Spirit (John 4:24). This is called an anthropomorphism, a fancy word meaning the use of human terms to describe God. “Hand” speaks of his power, because workers make things with their hand or warriors fight with their hands. People need these images to help them understand God more clearly, on their level.
As for the conversions, we must see them as eventually getting the fulness of the Spirit, and probably with prayer languages, because that is the major theme of the book of Acts and the reality of the earliest church. The 120 in the upper room were probably all alive at this time, and they would surely touch more people who would in turn touch even more people, much like Priscilla and Aquila explained to Apollos the way of the Lord “more fully” in Ephesus (Acts 18:26). Far-flung Christians in Ephesus knew about John’s water baptism, but not Jesus’s full baptism in the Spirit, so they learned about the fulness of the Spirit, as well (Acts 19:1-6).
Luke does not need to link the fullness or baptism of the Spirit with prayer languages in every verse that talks about turning to the Lord. It would be like Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, intervening to tell his readers on every other page, “Don’t forget! We’re on a whaling ship!” The author assumes the readers know this from the context.
“believed”: see v. 17 for more discussion.
“turned”: It is another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). Here it is epistrephō (pronounced eh-pea-streh-foh). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life. Believing requires a turning to the Lord. It cannot be intellectual assent or agreement.
“in the ears”: That is a literal translation, and it is a Semiticism, or a Semitic way of speaking. Don’t forget that Luke is doing research into the sources for his book. And some sources are Semitic; that is, they come from the Messianic Jewish community.
“church at Jerusalem”: Once again, the Jerusalem church functions as the headquarters. Messianic Jews there needed to show a guiding hand to all the new converts (or so the headquarters believed).
“church”: In Greek it is ekklēsia (pronounced ek-klay-see-ah) and the meaning has roots in both Hebrew and Greek. It literally means “the ones called out” or “the called out” or “the summoned” who gather together. It describes an assembly or gathering.
Some extra-enthusiastic and super-confident Renewalists say that from this definition, they can “legislate” events to happen (or something). Of course, they overstate the basic meaning of the word outside of the church context. Just because an assembly can legislate in the pagan world does not mean Christians can now do this in the Spirit world. Further, another legislative body was the Council (boulē, pronounced boo-lay), the upper chamber of the rich landowners. They had to approve of the lower chamber’s legislation. If we take the historical context too far, then where is the Council? So, to judge from the historical context, the church as the ekklēsia cannot legislate. Instead, these extra-human-centered Christians should simplify things and ask God for his intervention. Prayer to our loving Father is sufficient, without complications or convoluted trends and ideas that promote human-centered power.
Let’s look more deeply at the rich term. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, has a long discussion, but let’s look at only one subpoint.
By far the most Scriptures where ekklēsia appears comes under this definition: “congregation or church as the totality of Christian living and meeting in a particular locality or large geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place” (Acts 5:11; 8:3; 9:31; 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; see also 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:16; Jas. 5:14; 3 John 9). “More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22; see also 2:47) in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1); in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1); Laodicea (Col. 4:16; Rev. 3:14); in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1); Colossae (Plm. 1, subscript). Plural churches (Acts 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 8:18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13; 22; 22:16); the Christian community in Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14); in Galatia (Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1); in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20); in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1).
Please see this post for BDAG’s fuller definition.
Fellowship is so important for believers. Don’t believe the lie circulating in American society, particularly in social media, that not going to church is good enough. People who skip constant fellowship are prone to sin and self-deception and satanic attacks. We need each other.
This link has a list of the famous “one another” verses, like “love one another.”
Further, since American Christianity is undergoing discussion on the sizes of churches, let me add: the earliest Christian community met either in houses (Acts 2:46) or in Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem (Acts 3:11; 5:12) or a large number in Antioch (11:26), which could hold a large gathering—call it a mega-church—and presumably in mid-sized gatherings. Size does not matter, since it varies so widely in Scripture.
Moreover, I’m not a church planter (or planner), but one thing that impresses me about all those above references, is that the apostles, as they planted churches, were guided by the Spirit—always—and they were also deliberate about setting them up and establishing them. Planning is Scriptural. So wisdom says: listen to the Spirit and plan. Listen as you plan and be ready to drop your plans at a moment notice, when the Spirit says so. God will grow the church as we proclaim the good news.
Barnabas was the perfect man for the mission. For a short study of his life and qualities, click on Acts 4 and scroll down to vv. 36-37.
“grace” and “rejoice” sound similar in Greek, both having a “khar” stem or sound. This is a deliberate pun on Luke’s part.
Grace comes from Greek noun charis (pronounced khah-rees) and has these meanings, depending on the context: graciousness, attractiveness; favor, gracious care, help or goodwill, practical application of goodwill; a gracious deed or gift, benefaction. In some contexts, it means “exceptional effects produced by divine grace,” in other words, empowerment to accomplish a task. In this case it means his ability to do wonders and great signs. God gave him the grace and power to accomplish them.
Let’s go deeper, by repeating part of what I wrote in the post Do I Really Know God? He Is Gracious. Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words teaches us about the Hebrew and Greek words. The Hebrew noun ḥen (pronounced khen) “describes that which is favorable or gracious, especially the favorable disposition of one person to another” (p. 302). The Greek noun further means “the acceptance of and goodness toward those who cannot earn or do not deserve such gain” (p. 303). The verb in Hebrew is ḥanan (pronounced khah-nan) and means to be gracious, “to show mercy favor, be gracious” (ibid.).
Here is a quick definition. God’s grace means he gladly shows his unmerited goodness or love to those who have forfeited it and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation.
Good news! We do not have to suffer condemnation for our past sins because God hands us his grace.
“encouraged”: it comes from the Greek verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh). It is related to the noun paraklēsis (pronounced pah-rah-klay-sees), and the Greek in the Gospel of John is paraklētos (pronounced pah-rah-klay-tohs) (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:6). The three words are related and can mean the following things, depending on the context—or they can mean all of them at the same time. What do you need from the Spirit? Here are some options: “counselor / counsel,” “advocate (defense attorney),” “helper / help,” “comforter / comfort,” “encourager / encouragement,” and “intercessor / intercession.”
“with a resolute heart”: the people should have a resolute heart, though the NASB says Barnabas with a resolute heart encouraged them. Either way, a resolute heart keeps us fixed on the ultimate prize—remaining true to the Lord.
“resolute”: it is the Greek noun prothesis (pronounced pro-theh-sees). It means “plan, purpose, resolve and will.” It is one more indicator that humans have significant free will even in their salvation. But I believe that God woos and courts us to salvation. We just can’t stride into God’s kingdom without a behind-the-scenes invitation worked into our hearts, as we hear the gospel in some form. And yes, God wants all of humanity to hear the gospel, and then each one has enough free will to resist the Spirit’s wooing all of his or her life. So we do not have enough free will to strut unassisted into the kingdom, but we have enough free will to resist God’s invitation to salvation all of our lives.
“good man”: there’s nothing wrong with calling a man good. Do we always have to accept a version of Christianity that says he is totally depraved after salvation or the Old School Renewalist “boast” that “I’m a sinner saved by grace”? It is possible by the Spirit’s inner working (a.k.a. sanctification), to be a good man or woman, measured on a human level. But he is not morally perfect before God.
“full of the Holy Spirit”: Once again, this has to include a prayer language, archaically and formerly called ‘tongues,’ because it is inconceivable that Saul / Paul and Barnabas would work together so closely and Barnabas not having this wonderful, God-ordained gift.
Saul, after all, writing later, said he spoke in his Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18). He said he wanted everyone to pray in their spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:5) and not forbid this wonderful gift (1 Cor. 14:39).
Therefore, Luke does not need to link the fullness or baptism of the Spirit with prayer languages in every verse that talks about this fullness. It would be like Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, intervening to tell his readers on every other page, “Don’t forget! We’re on a whaling ship!” In Acts, Luke omits some of these details, but that is how all four Gospels and Acts are presented to us: elliptical. But the entire context of Acts is Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled. The entire book is very charismatic. Luke expects us to fill in the ellipses with the power of the Spirit and manifested gifts, like prayer languages.
It is like the anointing of Jesus at his water baptism with the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove (Luke 3:31-22; 4:18-19). From then on, Jesus worked miracles of nature and healing and demonic expulsion in the third Gospel, and Luke does not have to announce every time Jesus did those things: “Remember when I wrote that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit? He worked that miracle based on those verses!” Rather, Luke expects us to fill in those omissions with the power of the Spirit. Likewise, in the many cases of Christian witness from town to town in Acts, Luke expects us to fill in the omissions with the same empowerment because of Acts 2:1-4. And so Luke-Acts is all very charismatic, which is normative for the church throughout its history. Spirit-filled empowerment and anointing continues.
It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34. Believe it or not, but during Paul’s and Barnaba’s first missionary journey, Luke does not record even one water baptism. But we can be sure that every new convert was water baptized. Luke expects us to fill in these omissions. This is why I have nicknamed him Luke the Omitter. (Or he could be called Luke the Condenser.)
“full”: it is the translation of the Greek adjective plērēs (pronounced play-rayss), and it simply means—full!
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or piss-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross. True acronym: F-A-I-T-H = Forsaking All, I Trust Him. See v. 17 for more discussion of the verb (believe) and noun (faith).
In Barnabas’s case, he worked signs and wonders, much like Stephen did, when he was said to be full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3), full of faith and the Holy Spirit (6:5), and full of God’s grace and power (6:8). Incidentally, Stephen was said to be full of the Spirit three times: Acts 6:3, 5 and 7:55. Barnabas will exhibit this fulness throughout his ministry with Paul.
See the post:
Recall these verses:
28 And so he went with them around Jerusalem, boldly proclaiming in the name of the Lord. 29 He was both speaking and debating with Hellenist Jews, but they were trying to arrest him to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. (Acts 9:28-30)
Barnabas needed help. He could not teach so many people on his own. Whom should he get? Of course! Saul of Tarsus! Without Luke mentioning it, I believe that the Spirit told Barnabas to look for Saul. This is a first-century charismatic church, after all, and big decisions like this are not taken independently of the Spirit. Once again Luke expects his readers to fill in the gaps in his narrative, namely, with the Spirit’s guiding hand in the background.
“assembly”: it is the standard word for church, and see v. 22 for more comments.
Well, the Greek surprised me in the last sentence in v. 26. The verb chrēmatizō (pronounced khray-mah-tee-zoh), and its noun chrēma (pronounced khray-mah) have to do with money or conducting business or living in prosperity. Therefore I get the impression from this verse that the Christians became so numerous and prosperous and influential in Antioch that they were a business force to be reckoned with. As these Christians lived their daily lives, their behavior and business transactions were distinguished from the worldly people. They were honest and trustworthy. This large, believing community therefore first became known or were first called Christians in Antioch. But the Greek dictionary Liddell and Scott tell us to translate chrēmatizō with “bear a name,” “named,” or “called.” I like my interpretation, however.
“Christians”: the suffix –ian is Latin, much like in the word Herodian. Clearly the believers in Jesus referred to themselves as Christ’s followers so often that the Roman authorities attached the suffix to Christ. They were Christians. They belonged to Christ. They were a large crowd of them, So let’s call it a mega-church that gathered.
“they met together in the church and taught”: It must have been great Bible studies! No doubt it included Messianic prophecies.
At that link, there is a table of OT and NT prophecies. But Jesus goes beyond just fulfilling quoted verses. He fulfills entire themes and shadows and systems in the OT, like animal sacrifices and the way of salvation.
GrowApp for Acts 11:19-26
A.. Certain Christians broke down religious and ethnic barriers and preached the good news to Gentiles. Barnabas was sent to check things out and observed that God was at work, so he encouraged everyone because he was a good man and filled with the Spirit and faith. Has your deeper walk with God changed your perspective, as it did with Barnabas? How have your deeper walk changed you?
Famine Relief Sent to Judea (Acts 11:27-30)
27 In those days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and indicated through the Spirit that there was about to be a severe famine in the whole world (which happened during the reign of Claudius). 29 In proportion to anyone of the disciples as he prospered, each one of them determined to send aid to the brothers and sisters residing in Judea. 30 This they did and sent it by the hand of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
The office of the prophet functioned in the first-century church, and it functions today.
Agabus seems like an interesting character who circulated throughout the Christian community in Judea (Acts 21:10) and here in Antioch, a long distance from Jerusalem. Too bad we can’t interview him to find out how to do the ministry of the prophet today. No doubt he submitted to the church leaders in Jerusalem. He was also part of a team of Messianic Jewish prophets. He was not an independent operator. His predictions came true. Is there a connection between being part of a team of prophets and accurate predictions? Probably. Teamwork keeps one safe from self-delusion and soul power.
Please this post for a deeper look:
“indicated”: the Greek verb is sēmainō (pronounced say-my-noh), and it is related to the word for “sign.” I get the impression that Agabus acted out his prophecy here, much like he did in Acts 21:10-11, in which he took Paul’s belt and bound his own hands and feet with it. Then he predicted that the authorities in Jerusalem would do the same to Paul and turn him over to the Gentiles. The prophecy came true. But how would he act out a prophecy about famine? I don’t know. But he would fit right in to the ministry of charismatic prophets today! They too have a flare for the dramatic!
Claudius ruled as Caesar from A.D. 41-54 and was the nephew of Tiberius Caesar. Famine hit the first, second, fourth, ninth, and eleventh years of his reign (Bock comment on vv. 27-30).
“severe famine”: God did not cause this famine. He knew about it in advance, but he did not cause it. Don’t confuse the two terms “foreknowledge” and “causation.” They are two different categories. Just because God knows something in advance does not mean he causes it. Far from it. Through Agabus he mercifully spoke to his church that the famine was coming, and they used their heads to prepare for it. Do people who live in earthquake, hurricane, and tornado zones prepare for it? God expects us to do this.
Please click on this post:
Giving should be in proportion to one’s financial ability, but with some sacrifice behind it (2 Cor. 8:1-7). They had to be determined to give. Tithe means ten percent; it is not a generic word for giving or offering. The New Covenant church never practiced the old theocratic tax on gross income, as spelled out in several places in the OT. Instead, the church after the cross practiced generosity. See my posts:
“aid”: it comes from the noun diakonia (pronounced dee-ah-koh-nee-ah), where we get our word deacon, but let’s not impose our modern meaning on the old Greek word. It meant those who did practical service, but this does not limit their service away from the Word, as we shall observe with Philip and Stephen. But it gradually come to mean those people at the church who did practical service (1 Tim. 3:10, 13).
Barnabas and Saul were strong candidates to transport money to the church in Jerusalem. Highway bandits prowled the road (cf. 2 Cor. 11:26). No doubt Barnabas and Saul got a prayerful send off from the large community of believers—most of whom were Messianic Jews. They had to trust God on their journey and take precautions, like traveling in a large group of other Christians. Did they defend themselves if robbers appeared on their horses and threatened them? Probably.
“elders”: they probably functioned as a “Nazarene” Sanhedrin; that is, they formed a council to discuss matters of theology and practice and ethics. How should Messianic Jews live? They are about to take up the issue of Gentiles being saved, and which laws they should keep, if any (Acts 15). Here they took care of the practical matter of receiving the offering for the upcoming famine. The seven deacons were assigned to do practical things (Acts 6), but Philip left to evangelize after the persecution erupted (Acts 8).
Here is Bruce the prominent (and devout and respectful) historian about the famine, after saying that the Christians must have somehow figured out that Judea was about to be hit hard by the famine:
We know that Judea did in fact suffer severely from a famine at some point between A.D, 45-48. At that time, Helena, queen-mother of Adiabene, a Jewish proselyte, bought grain in Egypt and figs in Cyprus and had them taken to Jerusalem for distribution, while her son King Izates sent a large sum of money to the authorities in Jerusalem to be used for famine relief. The church of Antioch similarly organized a relief fund for the mother-church. The various church appears to have allocated a fixed sum out of their income or property as a contribution to this fund, much as Paul was to advise the Corinthian Christians to do when he was organizing a later relief fund for Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4). When the collected sum was ready to be sent to Judea, Barnabas and Saul were deputed to take it there. On their arrival, they handed it over to the elders, who from now on play an increasing part in the leadership of the church of Jerusalem. (comment on vv. 29-30)
So the offering taken at Corinth and mentioned in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 is a later one.
Commentator Schnabel offers this table for Paul’s five visits to Jerusalem and his missionary work in between.
|Year||Occasion for Visit to Jerusalem|
|31/32||Conversion of Saul|
|32-34||Missionary work in Arabia and in Damascus|
|33/34||First visit (Acts 9:26-20), three years after Paul’s conversion|
|34-44||Missionary work in Syria and Cilicia (eleven years)|
|44||Second visit (Acts 11:27-30): taking gifts to the poor, eleven years after the first visit|
|45-47||Missionary work on Cyprus and in Galatia|
|48||Third visit (Acts 15:1-29): Apostles’ Council, three years after the second visit|
|49-51||Missionary work in Macedonia and Achaia|
|51||Fourth visit (Acts 18:22): three years after the third visit|
|52-56||Missionary work in the Province of Asia and visit to Achaia|
|57||Fifth visit (Acts 21:15-17): collection visit, six years after the fourth visit|
|57-61||Arrest in Jerusalem and imprisonment in Caesarea and in Rome|
|Schnabel, p. 455|
The fourth row is relevant to the verses here. This is an excellent timeline, without being crowded with details. Focused and clear.
“elders”: where were the apostles? They may have been out preaching, but they will return in Acts 15. Polhill: “Evidently the apostles were giving themselves more and more to the word, like Peter on his mission tours in Samaria and along the coast. More and more responsibility would be assumed by these lay elders, based almost surely on the pattern of the elders in the Jewish synagogue. Paul would organize his own churches along the same pattern (cf. 14:23; 20:17)” (comment on v. 30).
GrowApp for Acts 11:27-30
A.. A famine was coming! These Christians did not panic but took action. Have you ever taken action to soften the impact of natural disasters? Distribute supplies? Give money? Pray?
Observations for Discipleship
Do you feel bound by traditions? Are the traditions good ones? If so, keep them. But what if they replace a personal and powerful walk with God, like circumcision? Or what if they block people from receiving Christ, like dietary restrictions? Judaism has 613 laws and regulations in it. Were the apostles and the leaders in Jerusalem too closely aligned with Judaism? I say yes. But I did not live back then, so I don’t know how I would have managed the linkage between the new Jesus movement and Judaism.
I’m sure, however, I would have followed Paul’s path. The continuity from the Old Covenant to New Covenant was minimal, except some moral laws. However, the all of promises of God in the Old Covenant are yes and amen in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
In other words, all those rich promises of grace and mercy and salvation and God hearing and answering our prayers and hope and good plans that are in the Old Covenant Scriptures still apply to us today. But all the curses and judgments and wrath in the Old (Deut. 28) no longer apply to the New Covenant community—to you and me. Instead, God fills us with his Spirit, who directs us towards right living and righteousness and holiness—becoming more like Jesus.
The Spirit-led life, guided by Scripture, is the basics of Renewal theology.
Please see this post:
Further, the earliest Christians practiced generosity. They were not in bondage to the theocratic tax on gross income demanded in the OT. No, you do not have to give the church ten percent on gross income. You already pay taxes. It made no sense to impose the theocratic tax on early Christians, since the apostolic community, living in Jerusalem, was aware that this OT tax was for the temple. They were moving beyond this old system. Instead, earliest church practiced generosity, even while the temple in Jerusalem was still going strong. You have to be generous with God’s money in proportion to how he prospers you. Give something, even if it’s small at first.
The tithe teachers could reply that this is a special offering for famine relief. However, nowhere does the post-cross and post Pentecost apostolic leaders ever teach the tithe. See the above links.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.