Peter Defends His Ministry among Gentiles: Acts 11:1-18.
Acts 11 describes how the church in Jerusalem reacted to the conversion of gentiles. When Peter went to Jerusalem, he faced criticism for associating with non-Jews (11:1-2). Jewish Christians at Jerusalem were zealous about their traditions and having fellowship with gentiles was a new experience for them. It was a matter of culture too hard for them to break. They looked on non-Jews as outsiders. They did not know that in Christ, Jews and gentiles are united in the church (Gal 3:26-28). Peter explained his experiences at Joppa and Caesarea to them (11:4-18). His experience at Cornelius’s home convinced him that he should not stand in God’s way (11:17). Peter made reference to the teaching of the Jesus concerning baptism and said “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”. The pouring out of God’s Spirit on the household of Cornelius brought about the realization that salvation is for Jews as well as for the gentiles. Peter was convinced of the vision he received from God (11:15-17). When they heard this, all their objections were answered and they praised God saying that now God has given the gentiles the privilege of turning from sin to salvation. The baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues was not an everyday occurrence in the early church. Samaritans received the gift of Spirit through laying of hands on them (8:14-17). But the Cornelius household received the Spirit the moment they trusted Christ. The cultural differences and traditions have no place in the church (Rom 14).The door was now wide open to make disciples of all nations. Pray that God would give you a burden to share the gospel with others.
The Church in Antioch: Acts 11:19-26.
The persecution following Stephen’s death scattered the disciples. Thus God used persecution to spread the gospel to the gentile world. Some of them ended up in Antioch, the capital city of Syria. It was a city of great wealth, commerce and political power. Antioch was a free Roman city with a population of half a million people. This city was open for evangelism. A great number of people believed in Jesus and turned to the Lord. Thus an effective church was formed there and became the center of work among the gentiles. When the church at Jerusalem heard what happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith. When he saw the great number of believers saved by the grace of God, he was glad, and he encouraged them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose (11:23). He knew that the grace that saves them can also keep them in their faith. The grace of God was evident as the gospel message rapidly spread among gentiles (11:24). And a great many people were added to the Lord. Barnabas needed support for the ministry and he went to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found Soul he brought him to Antioch. Soul was chosen and prepared person for the ministry among gentiles (9:15). The next year, under the ministry of Barnabas and Saul the church grew both in number and depth. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. It was a derogatory term originally. Christian means “Christ-ones”. Some follow Jesus for the miracles he performed, some considered Jesus as the carpenter's son, some expected him to be their political leader and some thought he is a great teacher. Sadly many people do not acknowledge Jesus as the provider of eternal life. The term Christian is used three times in the Bible (Act 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16). They were willing to suffer for Christ
(1 Pet 4:16). Unfortunately the word, "Christian" has lost its meaning and significance in this pluralistic society.
This was a Caring Church: Acts 11:27-30.
During this time a prophet named Agabus came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. He predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire world. This occurred in the days of Claudius Caesar (AD 41-54). So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea. They entrusted their gift to Barnabas and Saul to take it to the church in Jerusalem. It was a pleasing expression of the love for the brethren (John 13:35). A model church should not only care for the souls but also for the basic needs of people (Gal 6:6). There is a blessing both in giving and receiving in Christian life. This church was a growing model church. Is your church a spiritually growing church, a missionary church and a caring church?