Acts Chapter 11: Jews Contend with Peter, Barnabas

Jan 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Acts, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Acts Chapter 11: Jews Contend with Peter, Barnabas

Acts 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

Acts 11:2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,

Acts 11:3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

Acts 11:4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,

Acts 11:5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:

Jewish Christians were stirred up and “contended” with Peter when he went to a conference in Jerusalem in regard to his preaching to and fraternizing with Gentiles. Peter used the opportunity to relate “the matter from the beginning.” The other apostles, as well as brethren, were present. It was advantageous for him to be able to explain to many at the same time rather than to rehearse the matter to them one by one at various times.

Because the host controlled the order, or the procedure, there was a big difference between Gentiles eating in Jewish homes and Jews eating in Gentile homes. The latter situation was especially frowned upon. Business dealings were one thing, but staying, eating, and communing with Gentiles for any length of time were another circumstance. For the Jew under the Law, such fraternizing was to be avoided if possible. Spiritually speaking, Paul’s counsel was not to “eat” with anyone who is called a “brother” if he has committed unrepented-of grievous sin (1 Cor. 5:11). Otherwise, we would be having a rapport with the individual instead of disfellowshipping him.

Acts 11:6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

Acts 11:7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.

Acts 11:8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.

Acts 11:9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

Acts 11:10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.

Acts 11:11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.

Acts 11:12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:

Acts 11:13 And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;

Acts 11:14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.

Acts 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

Acts 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

Immediately after the sheet was drawn up into heaven the third time, “the Spirit bade” Peter to go downstairs, where he saw the three men sent by Cornelius. Then, “nothing doubting,” he went with them back to Caesarea. Verses 6-16 are mostly repetition and a historical review.

Verse 12 supplies the information that the Jewish brethren who accompanied Peter were six in number. Verse 15 proves Peter was interrupted: “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them.” The implication is that he had intended to speak longer, so he was just getting warmed up about Jesus when he was interrupted.

Acts 11:17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Peter’s rehearsal of the details convinced the others that God had also granted repentance to the Gentiles. And Peter had six Jewish witnesses to corroborate his words.

Acts 11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

Stephen’s persecution, in which Paul had been involved, caused many Jewish Christians to leave Israel for Phenice (Phoenicia, just north of Israel), Cyprus (an island in the Mediterranean), and Antioch (east of Cyprus on the shoreline and north of Phoenicia). In these places, the Jewish Christians preached only to Jews.

Acts 11:20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

Converts, Christian Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and preached to the “Grecians” (Greeks, that is, Gentiles). These “Greeks” were not Jews, for the Grecian Jews had been preached to earlier. This development with the Gentiles was significant and startling, for shortly after Cornelius and other Gentiles were accepted at Caesarea, as Peter testified, a similar situation occurred north of Israel, where additional Gentiles embraced the truth. In other words, Christian Jews fleeing persecution in Jerusalem preached to the Jews in Cyprus and Cyrene. Some of these Jews accepted Jesus and, in turn, preached to Greeks in Antioch.

Many Greeks believed—even more Gentiles than at the time of the conversion of Cornelius.

Another case is recorded where “Grecians” were not Jews (John 12:20,21). Just before Jesus’ crucifixion, some Greeks desired to hear his message. They wanted an audience with Jesus, but the Gospels do not say whether he complied.

Acts 11:22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

Acts 11:23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

Acts 11:25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

Tidings of Gentile converts in the north reached the ears of Jewish Christians still in Jerusalem.

Gentile converts now began to come into the Church in droves, and Antioch became very famous as a center of Christianity. It took this outside multiplication for many of the Christian Jews to realize that a great dispensational change was taking place. The conversions showed that the Grecian Jews were more flexible in their thinking than the Jews in Israel.

The Jerusalem Jews decided to send Barnabas to Antioch. He was a good man who had much faith and was filled with the Holy Spirit. In addition, Barnabas had wealth and was John Mark’s uncle and a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36). Being more open-minded than other Jews, he had recognized Paul’s conversion as sincere. Because of his quality of open-mindedness, the brethren in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch in regard to the flood of Gentile converts coming into the Church (Acts 9:27). After seeing the “grace of God” in their lives, he exhorted them to be steadfast and to “cleave unto the Lord.” Then Barnabas left Antioch and headed for Tarsus to find Paul, the zealot, who would be a wonderful associate in handling the Gentile influx.

Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Barnabas found Paul and brought him to Antioch, where they assembled with the Church for a year and did much teaching. Antioch became famous as the first place the name “Christian” was used. In fact, it was almost like a tacit rebuke—that the first city to be Christianized was Antioch and not Jerusalem and was even outside Judea because of prejudice.

Acts 11:27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

Acts 11:28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

Acts 11:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:

Acts 11:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

When Agabus prophesied of a coming famine in Jerusalem and all the earth, the disciples, according to ability, sent relief money to the Judean brethren by means of Barnabas and Saul  (two very trusted ones). The money was sent in advance of the famine to be on hand as a fundfor the brethren in their coming time of need.

As was characteristic, Luke named Claudius Caesar, thus giving recognition to Gentile chronology. The chronology is helpful, especially since it is not in the other Gospels. Luke also mentioned Augustus and Tiberius Caesar (Luke 2:1; 3:1). The famine occurred during the reign of Claudius Caesar, which was future from the time setting of Acts Chapter 11, when Caligula was emperor. When Caligula died in AD 41, Claudius was made emperor and reigned from AD 41 to 54.

Prophecy was one of the gifts in the early Church, and Agabus had that gift. There was no New Testament then, so literal prophecy of coming events was given as a gift.

(1991–1992 Study)

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