Sermon: An Affectionate Exchange (Acts 11:1-30)

An Affectionate Exchange

Acts 11:1-30

Introduction

In Chapter 11 of Acts, we have the third account of the events that took place, bringing Peter to Cornelius and the Holy Spirit falling on all who heard the Word.  I’m not going to preach another sermon on these events.  We’ve looked at them twice already and so you can go back a study one of those messages because this third account is almost verbatim with the other two.

I will, however, read it and bring out a few slightly different nuances.  I would like to focus our attention today mainly on verses 19-30.

First, notice that the Jews in the region of Judea heard about Cornelius and what had happened.  Literally, they were not too thrilled over the matter.  They were still thinking of the Gentiles as unclean and that for them to become a Christian, they would have to first convert to Judaism.  We must not forget that this way of thinking did not come easy for Peter either, after all it took divine initiative on God’s part to give Peter a vision to convince him that Gentiles who come to God through faith in Christ are accepted.

Another different nuance is that Peter explains in verse 16 that when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles that day, he was reminded of what the Lord had said

Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

It even adds further proof that in Peter’s mind Gentiles are now every bit as much part of the church as the Jews.  That saying came from Jesus directly to the Jewish followers and so Peter to connect that saying with the Cornelius event says that He truly sees the Holy Spirit also marking the Gentile believers as God’s people as well and the Jewish believers.

Acts 11:1-30 (ESV)
1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying,
3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order:
5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me.
6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’
8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’
10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.
11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea.
12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.
13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter;
14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’
15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.
16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Luke now reintroduces some of the men from before, namely, Barnabas and Paul.
This passage shows a significant topic.  It says that the believers in Antioch were first ones to be called Christians.  This is as most scholars attest the first Gentile Christian Church.
This Church was not formed by a vision of the Lord nor was it formed through a pouring out of the Holy Spirit to the degree that that happened at Pentecost but this Church was born in the midst of persecution.
God has moved in miraculous ways when He sends the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when the Jewish believers received the Spirit as the mighty rushing wind, which blew through the upper room.  He move a second time in a similar way when in the house of Cornelius the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who hear the Word of God.  But now we are going to look at a group of believers who were not formed out of a Pentecost type miracle but through persecution.   These believers were no less loved by God simply because their story of conversion may not have been connected to some manifest miracle, they were born again through struggles and hardship.  The Church at Antioch was just as real as the church in Jerusalem and this passage goes to great lengths to show that.

TT- Believers prove their love for Christ as they care for each other.

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching 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 report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
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 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius).
29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Each point must move primary claim forward

1.  Jerusalem Sends Teachers to Antioch

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching 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 report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
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 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

If my count is accurate, Antioch is mentioned six times in these verses.  It’s a big deal.  Due to the persecution resulting from the death of Stephen, the disciples were scattered.  We saw that some like Philip went to Samaria, sharing the Gospel with those who lived there.  Others scatter all over the region and still others travel to far away places.  All along the way they are bold in their evangelism.

Many travel up the coast… as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch.

Antioch (Map 13 in your Study Bibles) is located just tucked away in the corner between Asia Minor and Europe.

When they began to share their faith, they were sharing only with other Jews they met along the way.  Then others began to share the Gospel with the Hellenists, which if you remember from earlier passages were Greek speaking Jews.  Those were the Hellenists in Jerusalem, but these were Greek Gentiles who were being converted.

The efforts of the early church were very successful…21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
When those in Jerusalem heard this, they sent teachers to the young church in Antioch, much like sending Peter to Joppa.  The church in Jerusalem knew that the young believers in Antioch needed help.  They needed to be taught and instructed in accurate Doctrine.  They needed right theology if they were to persevere through the trials they were about to endure.

22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
When the Jerusalem Church heard what was happening up in Antioch, they were very excited.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ was now spreading to the Gentiles.  We saw last week that Gentile family heard and believed the Word of God and all were saved.  Now, it’s more than a household it is large numbers being saved.  Gentiles are coming to Christ in large numbers… and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

Barnabas was the right man for the job…

23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
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.

Barnabas was bilingual speaking both Hebrew and Greek.  He came from Cypress the nation/island where many had been dispersed, not too far from Antioch.  And Barnabas was a man of character who loved Christ.  He was perfect for the job.

Even as good and as qualified as Barnabas was things were happening faster than he could handle.  Hundreds were coming to Christ and he needed help…he knows just where to get the help he needs.

25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Paul and Barnabas taught the believers in Antioch for a year.  Things concerning the deity of Christ, the Trinity, what it means to follow Christ, How to persevere in trials, what God requires of His people.  Luke reports something quite impressive, And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
The Greeks in that region who were unbelievers and still pagan, attached to their false gods saw in these people something different.  Many of the unbelievers had heard of Jesus and the way He lived and taught and when they looked at this early church in Antioch they said, They act just like that man who was crucified, Jesus Christ of Nazareth!  It wasn’t out of appreciation and love they referred to them as Christians.  They pagans hated Jesus and hated the followers of Jesus as well.  In those early days, the Christian referred to themselves as brothers, disciples, believers, saints, and those who belonged to “The Way”.  Here in Antioch those outside the Church called the followers of Christ, “Little Christs” or Christians.  It was a term of slander and yet it stuck.  It became so popular that the Apostles began calling others Christians.

Here are the only other places in the Bible the title is used…

Acts 26:28 (ESV)
28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
1 Peter 4:16 (ESV)
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Before we move on, we should consider why are we called Christians?  If you ask most people today in America if they are a Christian they would almost always answer yes.  Many in the church would also give the same answer.  The truth is however, we can only truly call someone that when we see them imitating Jesus Christ.  Many call themselves Christians but that does not make it true.  Are you walking like Christ?  Do you value the things Jesus valued?  Are you concerned what the Father commands?  IS Christ your treasure?  Is your life a picture of someone who consistently follows Christ?
Remember Barnabas’ instructions…
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,

Remain faithful to the Lord and remain steadfast in purpose.

We must be intentional and direct when it comes to following Jesus.  We must be aggressively obedient and not passive.  If we are to rightly be called Christians then we must reflect the very nature of Jesus.

Are you a Christian?

2.  Antioch Sends Relief to Jerusalem

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius).
29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

The first amazing piece of this divine exchange was that the Jewish Jerusalem Church gave the Gentile Antioch Church some of its best teaching resources in Barnabas.  He was what this new infant church needed.  They cared and loved these Gentile believers.  The wall of separation was beginning to crumble.

Now, just as amazing these Gentile believers held no animosity toward the Jews because of the way they were formerly treated but reciprocated the gesture of love.  They could send the Jerusalem Church help in other ways.

Verse 27 tells us that there also came prophets from Jerusalem to the Church in Antioch.  Who were these prophets?  You might be thinking that prophets were only found in the OT?  Where OT prophets primarily foretold the coming of Christ and called Israel and Judah to repent, NT prophets were basically preachers of the Gospel who through the Holy Spirit foretold future events.  They are referred to in a number of NT passages…

Acts 15:32 (ESV)
32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.
Luke reports that one such prophet was named Agabus.  His job was to preach the Gospel and the Holy Spirit gave him a special word.  There was going to be a great famine all across the land.  Luke also tells us that these words were fulfilled during the reign of Claudius Caesar.  Claudius reigned over the Roman Empire from AD. 41-54.  This then gives us a general date of when these events took place.
History also tells us that this famine was severe in that it was widespread throughout the Roman Empire.
The Gentile Christians listened to the Word of God through Agabus and responded with a gift sent back to Jerusalem to help their fellow believers in their struggle for food, thus, further tearing down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile.
This Word from God through Agabus  to the people shows one example of God knowing future events.  God controls the weather and the food supply.
The Gentile Christians in Antioch established a relief fund and gathered their resources in order to help those who were in Jerusalem, before the famine even hit.  I’m sure they too believed the Word of God and took the money to begin stocking up the food supply so that they would have enough.  This sounds much like the story of Joseph in Egypt.
Another important thing to not is that it was this crisis, shared by all in the Roman Empire that gave the Antioch Church the ability to help and to minister to their fellow Christians in Jerusalem.
Today, in America, we live in times of political, social, financial instability.  Please understand God has not given me the ability to fortell the future like He did Agabus.  However, should a crisis ever take place when we do not have enough food, funds, etc, always remember this situation as difficult as it may be would serve God’s greater purposes.  Hardship will always open the door to evangelism.  Where food is scarce, the Gospel will flourish.  Should a crisis hit us, God will be with God and us will be glorified.
TT- Believers prove their love for Christ as they care for each other.

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