Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 11:19-29
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 11:19
v19: At this verse Luke turns his attention from Caesarea to Antioch, 250 miles north, because it was in that Syrian city that the church began to expand rapidly among the Gentiles. Jesus had commanded His disciples to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:44; Ac 1:8); Philip had gone to Samaria (Ac 8:4-8, 14-17, 25) and had been divinely guided to an Ethiopian official (Ac 8:26-39); Peter had been given a vision and then watched a house full of Romans baptized with the Holy Spirit (Ac 10:1-48); yet the cultural barriers were so deep between Jew and Gentile that the leadership in Jerusalem still had made no deliberate effort to evangelize those who were not Jews. The fact that most of the apostles are not mentioned in Acts after the first chapter (Ac 1:13, 26) is likely because they had left Jerusalem and traveled to other lands. Christian tradition tells us they did. So it can’t be said none of the Lord’s apostles obeyed Him. But as far as the Jerusalem church itself is concerned, the response to His command to go to the Gentiles had been passive.

Monday: Acts 11:19
v19 (continued): Beginning at this verse Luke shows us how the gospel broke through these barriers. From this point on the Gentile church becomes larger than the Jewish church and rapidly spreads into other nations. v19 (continued): The violent persecution which arose after the stoning of Stephen had driven many Jewish believers out of Israel, but even so most continued preaching Christ only to Jews. Luke says, “However, those who had been scattered by the persecution which occurred after the stoning of Stephen left the country and went to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, but they were not preaching the gospel to anyone except Jews” (literal). Believers escaped northward to what is now Lebanon, the island of Cyprus, and the Syrian city of Antioch. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, with over half a million people. Its main street ran four miles from gate to gate (G. Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles, Fleming Revell, 1924, p285), and it had a large Jewish community which had been in existence since its founding by Alexander the Great’s general, Seleucus Nicator, in 300 BC (Jamieson, Faussett, Brown, A Commentary, Volume 3, part two, Eerdmans reprint, 1982, p75).

Tuesday: Acts 11:20, 21
v20: Luke says it was men from Cyprus and Cyrene who “preached the Lord Jesus” to Gentiles. The gospel had probably arrived in Cyprus and Cyrene (Libya) shortly after Pentecost (Ac 2:10, 41; 4:36). Luke doesn’t name the men who broke down this barrier here, but it seems likely Lucius the Cyrenian would be one of them, and Simeon called Niger another (Ac 13:1). v21: By saying that the “hand of the Lord was with them…” Luke is telling us God did miracles through them. The situation in Antioch probably looked very much like Philips ministry in Samaria (Heb 8:5-8). God used signs and wonders to confirm the truth of their words “…and a great number of people believed their message and turned to the Lord.” And by displaying His power, God also indicated His approval of the evangelization of Gentiles.

Wednesday: Acts 11:22-24
vs22-23: The report that a large number of Gentiles were pouring into the church in Antioch appears to have been met with concern in Jerusalem (Gal 2:11-14; Ac 14:26-15:1). Barnabas was sent to investigate. Since he himself had ties to Cyprus (Ac 4:36) he likely knew the men who were doing this or at least knew the families of those who came from Cyprus. And being a Levite, he would also be very aware if “cleanness” laws were being violated. It’s interesting that Peter wasn’t sent on this mission. He may have had obligations which prevented him from going but he may also have been disqualified in the minds of “the brethren” because of his role at Caesarea (Ac 11:1-18). He did go to Antioch later on only to have some “men from James” follow him there and cause controversy (Gal 2:11-14). vs23-24: If anyone in Jerusalem expected Barnabas to hinder the evangelism of Gentiles they were soon disappointed. He was a very discerning man and when he arrived and saw the “grace of God at work among them” he “rejoiced and encouraged all of them to resolve in their hearts that they would remain committed to the Lord” (literal). Luke then explains that Barnabas responded this way because “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…” and as a result, a “sizeable multitude was added to the Lord…”

Thursday: Acts 11:24
v24 (continued): The reference to Barnabas being “a good man” most likely means he was generous, and we certainly have evidence of his generosity with finances. He modeled sacrificial giving in the early church (Ac 4:36, 37). In this situation his generosity can be seen again as he gladly gives the gospel to the Gentiles. Luke also says he was “full of the Holy Spirit,” certainly meaning that he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, but he notes it here to say that Barnabas was still moving strongly in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. And finally, Luke describes him as “full of faith,” meaning he deeply believed the gospel. Luke says when he came to Antioch he “witnessed the grace of God” and clearly decided that if God was blessing these Gentiles then so would he. He didn’t take notes on what was happening and then return to Jerusalem and give a report. He stayed to help.

Friday: Acts 11:25, 26
vs25-26: It did not take him long to realize that if the church was to keep growing it would need more teachers, but the cultural resistance in the Jerusalem Church made it difficult to recruit help from there. As he sought for guidance the Lord must have reminded him of the call He had placed on Saul on the road to Damascus (Ac 9:15, 16; 26:15-18). After all, Barnabas had been the one who carefully listened to Saul and then described his encounter to the apostles (Ac 9:27). Luke says he “…left Antioch and went to Tarsus determined to search for Saul until he found him.” And when he found him he brought him back and the church gave them both room and board for a whole year while they taught a large crowd of believers. And it was Barnabas and Saul in Antioch who, for the first time, called the Lord’s disciples, “Christians.”

Saturday: Acts 11:27-29
vs27-28: Sometime during that year prophets from Jerusalem traveled to Antioch to minister to the church. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and warned the church that a great famine was about to come upon all who were living on the earth. Judging from the word Luke uses to describe how Agabus communicated this warning, he probably acted it out in some symbolic way (Ac 21:10, 11). Luke then notes that this famine arrived during the reign of the Roman emperor named Claudius (AD 41-54). According to ancient historians this famine took place during the fifth, sixth and seventh years of Claudius’ reign, so it began in AD45 and lasted three years (Josephus, Antiquities, 20:2.5. See footnote, p634 in Josephus, The Complete Works, translated by William Whiston, Thomas Nelson, 1998). v29: This largely Gentile church did not respond by hoarding resources for themselves, even though the prophecy stated they too would experience famine along with everyone else. Instead they took up an offering for impoverished believers in Judea. Those who had sufficient resources determined to set some of it aside to be sent to help those who would be most vulnerable to the famine.

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