Ethnic Barriers Broken
1The news traveled fast and soon reached the apostles and the believers living in Judea that non-Jewish people were also receiving God’s message of new life. 2When Peter finally arrived in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers called him to task, saying, 3“Why did you stay in the home of people who aren’t Jewish? You even ate your meals with them!”
4Peter explained what had happened, saying, 5“One day when I was in the city of Joppa, while I was praying I fell into an ecstatic trance and I went into another realm. # 11:5 See footnote on Acts 10:10. I saw in a vision something like a linen tablecloth descending out of heaven, being let down by its four corners, and it got close to me. 6As I examined it I saw many four-footed animals, wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 7Then I heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat them.’
8“I said, ‘I can’t do that, Lord! For I’ve never eaten anything that is forbidden or impure according to our Jewish laws.’
9“The voice spoke to me again, saying, ‘Nothing is unclean if God declares it to be clean.’
10“The vision repeated itself three times. Then suddenly the linen sheet was snatched back up into heaven. 11At that moment three men from Caesarea, who had been sent for me, approached the house where I was staying. 12The Spirit told me to accompany them with no questions asked. These six brothers here with me made the trip, and we entered into the home of the man who had sent for me. 13He shared with us about the angel who appeared to him and told him to send messengers to Joppa to find Simon, the Rock. The angel had told him, 14‘He will tell you and your family the message of how you can be saved!’
15“Shortly after I began to speak, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, just like what happened to us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the words the Lord had told us: ‘John immersed you in water, but you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit.’ 17So I concluded that if God is pleased to give them the same gift of the Holy Spirit that he gave us after they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who am I to stand in the way of God?”
18When they heard this, their objections were put to rest and they all glorified God, saying, “Look what God has done! He’s giving the gift of repentance that leads to life to people who aren’t even Jews.”
The Church at Antioch
19Because of the persecution triggered by Stephen’s death in Jerusalem, many of the believers were scattered. Some reached as far as the coast of Lebanon, # 11:19 Or “Phoenicia.” the island of Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria, but they were still only preaching the word to Jews. 20However, some of the believers from Cyprus and Cyrene, # 11:20 A city on the coast of Libya. Some have linked the man who carried the cross of Jesus, Simon of Cyrene, to this group of missionary evangelists. who had come to Antioch in Syria, # 11:20 Antioch was important from both a commercial and a military point of view. It was the seat of the Roman governor-general, with large garrisons and military supplies stored there. It was also a center of art and culture, known for its beauty and recognized as the capital of the Syrian kingdom. The church prospered greatly in Antioch, and it became a Christian hub and headquarters for the apostles. For many centuries in church history, Antioch remained a strong witness for evangelization, sending missionaries into Persia and throughout the Roman Empire. preached to the non-Jews living there, proclaiming the message of salvation in the Lord Jesus. # 11:20 In the early days of the church, every believer was a missionary. There was a great cost involved with following Christ. They laid their lives down to serve him and to make him known among the nations. Not just the apostles, but all of the believers did their part in spreading the teachings of Jesus wherever they went. 21The mighty power of the Lord was with them as they ministered, and a large number of people believed and turned their hearts to the Lord.
22News of what was happening in Antioch reached the church of Jerusalem, so the apostles sent Barnabas to Antioch as their emissary. 23When he got there and witnessed for himself God’s marvelous grace, he was enthused and overjoyed. He encouraged # 11:23 Barnabas was given the nickname “Encourager.” See Acts 4:36–37. the believers to remain faithful and cling to the Lord with passionate hearts. # 11:23 The Aramaic is “He begged them to imitate the Lord with all their hearts.” 24Barnabas was a good man, # 11:24 The Aramaic is “He was a blessed man.” full of the Spirit of holiness, and he exuded a life of faith. Because of his ministry even more crowds of people were brought to the Lord!
25Barnabas left for Tarsus to find Saul and bring him back to Antioch. 26Together Saul and Barnabas ministered there for a full year, equipping the growing church and teaching the vast number of new converts. It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first revealed as “anointed ones.” # 11:26 Or “Christians.” The Greek word chrematizo means “supernaturally revealed” (imparted), more than simply “called.” It was first in Antioch that the revelation came that the believers were anointed ones. See also Matt. 2:12, where the term is used as God giving revelation in a dream.
Agabus Prophesies a Coming Famine
27At that time there were prophets in the church of Jerusalem, and some of them came to Antioch. 28One of them, named Agabus, stood up in one of the meetings and prophesied by the Holy Spirit that a severe famine was about to come over Israel. (This prophecy was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius Caesar.) # 11:28 This would have been about AD 45–46. 29So they determined that each believer, according to his or her ability, would give an offering to send as relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30They set aside the gifts and entrusted the funds to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders # 11:30 The Aramaic is “priests.” of the church in Jerusalem. # 11:30 Upon hearing the prophecy of a famine coming, the church of Antioch determined to receive an offering for the Judean believers, for the gospel came to them from Jerusalem. They gave back to the place where the gospel was sent to them.