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Acts of the Apostles: 21 - Acts 11:19-30

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Acts of the Apostles

21 - Acts 11:19-30



Acts of the Apostles: 21 - Acts 11:19-30


In this class we will discuss Acts 11:19-30 and focus on the story of the Church at Antioch.


[Darris McNeely]: All right. So, this morning we are in Acts 11, and we’re getting into the meat of the Book of Acts. Meat, this is more of a personal comment. When we start getting into the travels of Paul and some of the other stories up through about chapter 21, 22 we are kind of in the heart of the story of Acts, and there’s just a lot of interesting things that are going on that we will deal with from a textual point of view, the historic point of view, the geographical aspects of the Book of Acts and of course, the expansion of the gospel as it begins to go out.

So, we have covered the... In chapter 11, we came down through verse 18 and Peter’s defense to the Jews in Jerusalem about his trip to Cornelius at Caesarea, and all that took place there. And he successfully defended himself, and they accepted what he said. I think we concluded on what verse 18 of Chapter 11.

Acts 11:18 says, “When they heard these things...” All that being Peter’s description of how the spirit of God was upon these gentiles just as it had been with the Jews at the original description and the start of the Church in Acts 2 on Pentecost, and therefore the gentiles were in. gentiles are part of the Church, and they spoke in tongues and sign from God, basically saying, now, let’s go forward with this. “And when they heard these things,” verse 18, “they became silent, and they glorified God saying, then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

And I think I gave you the quote, I can’t take this one as my own, but it comes from F. F. Bruce, who was a Scottish commentator, wrote a number of commentaries, but his commentary on Acts is very good. And he said at this point on page 236, for those of you that like attribution completely, “Their criticism ceased, their worship began.” Their criticism ceased, their worship began. And I think that’s a pretty good point to just to kind of start with this morning in terms of how a church should be, how a group of people dealing with spiritual issues, big theological matters, in this case, the gentiles coming into the Church. But in our day, whatever it might be, the coming to a fuller understanding of the nature of God, the divinity of Christ.

Once you settle and you establish teaching and doctrine, then it’s time to move to the weightier matters of the law. And those deal with the interpersonal matters of love and relationships and the worship of God based on truth. And so these Jews, their criticism stopped. When our criticism can stop or at least get tamped down to a level where we can, you know, have time to focus on bigger issues, then our worship of God can begin. So, I like that quote, and I think it typifies, not only explains where the Church in Jerusalem was for that moment, but gives us something to think about for our own contemporary issues and Church life to work for, and that is to tamp down the criticism, deal with legitimate issues, but move to worship, move to application of the truth, the depth of truth in our lives. And that’s where doctrine teaching and understanding should ultimately take us.

And so, the scene shifts now here in verse 19 of chapter 11. And we are now at a focus upon the thread of the story at the city of Antioch. And we’re going to spend a bit of time on this and kind of go back and forth in the verses and pick up a thread from earlier chapters and jump ahead a little bit, because I kind of want to tell this story as it is told by Luke. But he chops it up over several chapters, and it’s a story of the Church at Antioch. And what happened there? This is kind of my term in terms of examining the story of Antioch, which has been a fascination of mine for a number of years, and trying to understand it again, for application to us today in the Church, in our efforts to fulfill our mission, which is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God to all the nations as a witness. Making disciples and caring for those disciples.

And so, what happened here is a fascinating story that at least in my earlier years before I started teaching Acts, I didn’t really focus on, and I don’t recall hearing too much about it, but it’s a part of the story here in the Book of Acts. And so let’s pick it up here at verse 19, because Luke shifts the scene.

Acts 11:19 He said, “Now...” So that’s a sign that he’s going to a different perspective, “those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch preaching the word to no one, but the Jews only.”

All right, so the scene shifts. Now, let’s go back to chapter 8. Hold your place here, turn back to chapter 8 just to pick up the thread of this. Where it tells us what happened after the death of Stephen. There was a scattering, if we remember, of the disciples.

Acts 8:1 “Now, Paul was consenting to his death, Stephen’s death. At that time, a great persecution arose against the church, which was at Jerusalem, and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

So, there was a scattering that began to take place. The apostles stay, it says, they stay, it seems in Jerusalem by the implication here, but there is a scattering. Stephen’s buried, we move into the story of Philip and his trip down to Samaria, and then later with the Ethiopian eunuch. And so there’s a scattering that takes place. So, when we come back to chapter 11:19.

Acts 11:19 “Those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen...”

So here’s where the connection is made. Now picks up that thread from 8:1. He expands it. They’d gone as far as Samaria, but now he adds more dimension, more understanding to the scattering that took place. And remember, except the apostles, which tells us that this scattering was essentially disciples. We would, in our terminology, I think have to say unordained, non-ministerial disciples who left.

Acts 11:19 “They traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but to Jews only.”

Now, the map that we have on the board, and for those watching online we have a copy of this map, I think, for you to download or to access off of our website as well. You will see at least Jerusalem and Samaria down at the bottom, the island of Cyprus, right in the middle of the Mediterranean there, at least this part of the map anyway. And Phoenicia is along the coast, north of Samaria, going up towards Syria and up toward Antioch and into the regions of Syria and over into Seleucia, Tarsus there. And that puts you into Asia Minor to modern-day Turkey.

And so, this begins to at least give you a geographic perspective of the extent of the scattering. And it is significant at this time.

Acts 11:20-21 “Some of the men were from Cyprus,” which has already been identified, “and from Cyrene.” Cyrene on the map is down in the lower left-hand corner along the North African coast. And so, there were some from Cyrene who were a part of this. Luke doesn’t tell us all the details as to who they were except just where they came from. And so there becomes this movement toward Antioch, “And they came to Antioch,” it says in verse 20, “spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”

And so, they go to Antioch and they preach the Lord Jesus. So, they are preaching the gospel. How do they do that? Well, there were synagogues in the city of Antioch, and it was a large city, well over a quarter million people by most estimates, which was quite large for the ancient world. It’s not an insignificant city even today, but quite large.

And so they would’ve found people to engage, Jews in a synagogue, people in a marketplace, people in public gatherings, which would’ve been done more in that age than what we would consider today. You and I don’t go into Walmart and start preaching the gospel to people, do we? I mean, we have a church culture where we don’t do that. Let’s just, you know, call it what it is. And I’m not saying we should, that’s not my point. But it was different then. They had no qualms engaging people where they met them and talking about God, talking about faith, and in this case, preaching the Lord Jesus. And so this takes place here.

Now, let’s think for a moment about the city of Antioch and what it was. We have already talked about this when we were back in Daniel 11, especially of Daniel. If I were to ask you, who’s the city named after? Who would you immediately bring to mind? Antiochus. And of course, the big figure of Daniel is Antiochus Epiphanes, who was technically Antiochus IV in a long line of rulers, Greek rulers named Antiochus or the Antiochian family. And they put their name on this city and other cities throughout the region. When we get to chapter 13, we’re going to see the apostle Paul in what is called Antioch of Psidia, P-S-I-D-I-A. We’ll talk more about that. That’s another Antioch. This is Antioch on the Orontes. The Orontes is a river that runs through the city of Antioch. And so, we’ll call this the Antioch of... It’s sometimes called Antioch of Syria or Antioch on the Orontes. On the Orontes River, to distinguish it from all the other antiochs.

The Antiochians were not bashful, and if they put the time and money into building a city, they wanted their brand on it, and it did. And they had several antiochs throughout the ancient world. Now, this, keep in mind, is the Greek dynasty started by which General of Alexander the Great? Anybody know that name real quick? Seleucus. So it’s the Seleucid Dynasty, and it comes down to all these various Antiochians, and the fourth being the big guy, Antiochus Epiphanes. It was a huge center, not only as a capital of the Antiochians at this point, it was Antiochus Epiphanes’ main capital when he was running back and forth to Egypt, causing mayhem down in Jerusalem. He, you know, would always go back to his capital here at Antioch. And it was a Greek city, which tells us a number of things. I mean, it was built on a Greek model. It had a theater, it had a hippodrome, it had a stadium. It had a huge palace for the rulers there. And large colonnaded streets.

The modern name of Antioch is Antakya. I went there last April, a year ago on a tour, and went down into that part of Turkey. It is right down in the southeast part of Turkey today. And five years ago, I couldn’t have gone there because ISIS was in that territory, and the Turks would not let tourists go down there. But the Turkish army went in there and cleared out the ISIS Islamic people, and it’s now safe to go there. So, we went there, and hopefully, we can take a tour group there sometime in the future on a kind of a journey through the first travels of the apostle Paul. That’s what the tour was that I had in April along through the first journey of Paul, which is fascinating, and we’re getting into that first journey. So, I’ll tell you a bit about that, and we’ll, at least by next class or a couple of classes, probably put some slides up there. But today, it’s modern-day Antakya.

But go back to the ancient world. Here’s something to understand. Under Antiochus IV, or Epiphanes, remember what happened in Jerusalem that set up the rebellion of the Maccabees, and then Antiochus going in and desecrating the altar with the abomination of desolation. And we had that several years of Maccabean war, culminating with an expulsion of the Greeks from Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple and all of that episode right there. But what precipitated the rebellion, and in that mix was the Greek culture from Antioch coming down to Jerusalem. And the Jews in Jerusalem wanting to become Greek. I told you how extreme some of the males were to become Greek by reversing their circumcision.

But what else happened was the Greeks built in Jerusalem, they built something that we know well about, called a gymnasium, from which we have a gymnasium where we play volleyball, basketball, and whatever, but it’s a Greek word. And any self-respecting Greek city in that age had a gymnasium. That’s where everybody worked out. But it was more than that. It was where the Greek worldview was passed on. The Greek view of life. And the Greek view of life was that man was at the center of the universe, the human form, the human, the individual. That’s important to understand because this is what led to the problems in Jerusalem. They built a gymnasium right in Jerusalem, not too far from where the temple was. And Jewish youths wanted to go there after 5:00 to play volleyball, but they played volleyball naked, and they threw the discus, and they did all the things that Greeks did back then as part of, you know, their athletics through the javelin, as you see in all the carvings and everything. But they also passed along educationally, the idea of the human form. Secular, secular humanism, that man’s the center of the universe.

The Jewish point of view, long-held, essentially, was that who’s the center? Who would be the center of the Jewish point of view? God. God is the center, and man worships God. But the Greeks had it all backward. And so with that worldview coming in, you got a clash. You got a clash in Jerusalem. And this is what led to the division among the Jews that Antiochus Epiphanes exacerbated and leveraged even to the point of ultimately desecrating the temple and creating the Maccabean revolt and all of those problems there. But this goes on and it’s very prevalent in the message to the seven Churches in Revelation and the conflict that’s going on in the 1st century A.D. for the Church. When we go to Sardis, here in the tour that I’m leading to Sardis, we’re going to see in Sardis a very large synagogue built right next to a Greek gymnasium in the city of Sardis. And it raises all kinds of questions. Why? Why did the Jews build this big synagogue so close to a Greek gymnasium, when you have a clash of cultures there? But it at least gives you a point of illustration to talk about what the problem was, and to the message to Sardis and to all the Churches then and is still a part of the conflict that we deal with in the Church today.

But when we bring this back now to what we’re reading here in Acts, now we see it’s not so much the Jewish nation as it is the Church that is dealing with these disciples who have gone down to Antioch, preach the Lord, and all of a sudden you got a Church, Bible study, fellowship group, whatever they had going, they had something happening there because it tells us that.

Acts 11:21 “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”

Word comes to Jerusalem, somehow. The communication was pretty good back then. The Church in Jerusalem hears about this, and they want to know what’s going on. And part of that, you would have to... I’m reading into it, I’m inferring, would go back less than 200 years to what happened with the Greek effort to bring their culture into Jerusalem.

Now, the Church is taking the Church culture to Antioch. And so, I’m sure some of the Church of differing ideas. What’s going on? Well, we need to check into this. Well, what’s going on is this, it’s Matthew 16:18. It’s Matthew 16:18, the Church that Jesus built. He said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell [or hades] will not prevail against it.” When we talked about the doctrine of the Church, I explained to you that that teaching, I mean, what that really, I think a prime way to understand what Jesus is saying to the Church is, you’re going to be on the offensive. You’re going to batter down the gates of hell. And this is, I think an example of where the disciples went to Antioch and they made inroads. Many believed. They didn’t convert the whole city, but they had a presence there, and something was happening in Antioch, and it was done by disciples scattered after the time of Stephen’s death. So, this is a significant step out that is happening here, as we look at this. And so, what do they do? Let’s look at verse 22.

Acts 11:22 “Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem.”

After a period of time, they hear about it. They want to check it out. They want to know what’s going on. Jerusalem, of course, is if you will, it’s where it all began. It would be the largest gathering of disciples at this time. And it’s, you know, you’ve got James, the brother of Christ there that we’ll see in chapter 15, who seems to be the pastor of the Church, the leading elder, and a base for everyone else. Everything eventually comes back to Jerusalem, as we will see in the story of Acts. Paul goes back. Peter will be there, and then he goes out and does his thing. And no doubt the other apostles cycle back through there. And so I hesitate to... Let’s just call Jerusalem is the home office church, all right? I don’t like to use the term... We don’t use the term headquarters in United so much in our culture today, but it’s a home office church, let’s just put it that way, where things are looked into.

So, what did they do? They sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. This is an interesting situation too. They send Barnabas to go. How did they choose Barnabas? Luke doesn’t tell us. Remember Barnabas? He’s the one from Cyprus, the disciple earlier in the story of Acts, who sold his belongings, moved to Jerusalem, gave, you know, a lot to the Church, which kind of sets up the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the next few verses.

Barnabas is a disciple. And remember, Barnabas was the one who welcomed the apostle, or Paul, wouldn’t call him the apostle necessarily at that time. He welcomes Saul-Paul into the Church at Jerusalem after his road to Damascus conversion when nobody else it seems would go across the hall and welcome this former tormenter into their fellowship. He takes him, this Barnabas. He’s a remarkable man that we’re not told that much about. But when he does appear, he makes the right decisions. He does the right thing. He has the courage to go and welcome Paul into the Church. He’s not afraid of Paul. And he vouches for him, introduces him around. The name Barnabas means son of encouragement. Whether we had a number of Barnabases in our midst at any given time in the Church, any congregation. Members who gave encouragement.

I mean, I’ve had those... I hope all of you have had somebody in the Church, older member, whatever it might be in your congregation, that you can look back and say, that person made a difference in my life. For me, it was one of my early pastors, probably my first pastor that I had, man named Bob Steep. I usually like to mention his name sometimes just to keep a name from the past alive. But he was very influential in my teen years and encouraged all of us as young adults in our Church, long before we had any type of formal youth program or young adult program in the Worldwide Church of God at that time, we didn’t. I mean, but he organized us, had activities for us, let us organize church activities.

When I got turned down for Ambassador College, the first time I ever applied, and I thought I was headed for the lake of fire and, you know, going to be kicked out of the Church, he came across the hall the next Sabbath, found me. And because he’d heard, because I was hiding in the back on that day, I was ashamed. And he walked across the hall, found me, and put his arm around me and encouraged me to try again. He said, “Don’t worry about it.” He said, “You know, you’re on a sitting...” I remember the words. He said, “You’re sitting on a gold mine right now. You get in there and dig.” Which I did. And I went to a local university for a year, improved my grades, which were a problem at the time, applied a second time, and got accepted to Ambassador.

But without that moment, and it was a moment in church on a Sabbath, when he came across and encouraged me, I don’t know, I was pretty down because two other friends got accepted that year and they were going to be leaving me behind. And every congregation needs somebody to encourage, a grouping of people. And so, where you can be that, do it. Barnabas is that type of person. They picked the right man to go down to Antioch in what could be a dicey situation to, in a sense, check it out. So, he goes as an emissary, and he goes down there and let’s read what it says.

Acts 11:23-24 “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged...” There’s that word again, “...encouraged them all that with purpose of heart, they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

They picked the right man. Had they picked someone who was perhaps a bit more stickler for detail, process, legalist, whatever, who would say, “Whoa, what are you guys doing? Did you fill this form out in triplicate? Did you pass it up through the administration? Did the council of elders approve this?” Well, no, they didn’t. These people, these disciples, they acted on the principle that it was easier to get forgiveness than permission. Easier to get forgiveness than permission. You might want to remember that one. There are times when you go ahead and act, do something, as long as it’s legal, as long as it’s godly, not illegal, not breaking any of the commandments. But you might find yourself in certain situations where a decision has to be made. You take an action, you may not work it up back through all the process. You got to be wise, you got to be smart. But these disciples, they just took Acts 1:8 literally and said that you’re going to be witnesses of me, Christ said. And so they got up there and they were witnesses of Christ. And God bless that. Barnabas sees it. Now he gives them permission. So, they didn’t have to have forgiveness. But, you know, sometimes it’s just, you know, go ahead and act. I’ve done that a few times in my career, but you have to be careful. So, if you don’t do it wisely in the future, don’t call me or text me that I got you in trouble. You got to follow through on all these. So, remember that and apply that properly.

But Barnabas comes down and notice, here’s where we have really the best explanation or description of his character. Good man, full of the Holy Spirit. And he said, but he gave them permission. Hey, what you’re doing is of God. Now, how did he see that? He probably talked to everybody. How did this happen? What did you talk about? He interviewed some of the Greek gentile converts from this city, some of the Jewish converts probably. And after a number of interviews, he came to his conclusion and he saw that God was working there. Now, he also saw something else, and it’s this, that there was a work God was doing in Antioch, because in verse 25.

Acts 11:25 “Barnabas then departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.”

This is Paul. Later, we’ll talk about why it becomes Paul, but he departs for Tarsus. Now, if you look at the map and you see where Antioch is, Antioch of course is right here, and Tarsus is right here. Tarsus is Paul’s hometown that he later talks about. He was a Roman citizen of Tarsus. No mean town, no insignificant town. You should know where Paul came from and know that Tarsus is that town or that city. Paul, remember had gone there about 10 years earlier from this time. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he spends three years running around Arabia, down in Petra and all this Nabatean Kingdom. Goes back to Damascus, gets hot there, goes to Jerusalem, and stays a short time. They take him down to Caesarea and he goes back to Tarsus. This happened, you know, three years after his conversion.

Ten years about now have passed to the scene we’re in right now. And so with that, Barnabas goes to get Saul over here. What has Saul been doing for 10 years? We don’t know. Luke doesn’t tell us. This is one of the aspects of Luke’s history and a way of writing history. He doesn’t give us all the details of everything. And so he leaves Paul there for 10 years. Now, something that maybe that Paul just didn’t set, making tents, that he may have gone out into some of the regions here of what is Galatia to whom he writes the book of Galatians eventually. And he may have preached, that’s possible. Again, we don’t know from any history, biblical or otherwise what he did. But I think it’s reasonable to make an assumption that he was probably not totally inactive there. Barnabas either remembers that he was over there, or perhaps there’s been some communication. I would suspect there’s been some communication through that 10-year period, you know, between Paul and Barnabas who had, remember Barnabas kind of took him under his wing and there was a relationship there. So, Barnabas knew where to go that Paul even was still there 10 years later. So, probably, there’d been some communication.

Now, Barnabas either goes down to the Port of Seleucia, which is about 15 miles from Antioch down on the coast here, and he takes a boat over there, or he takes a more difficult route through some rugged mountains and walks or rides a donkey or maybe a horse or a cart on a long trek through some pretty rugged area. We drove through this area after we left Antakya, drove over to Tarsus. And fascinating area. There’s a NATO airbase right up in here Incirlik. Any of you that read Tom Clancy novels or, you know, stories of that nature will know that Incirlik is a place here in Turkey that has a NATO airbase and used to have nuclear weapons there, but I think that NATO’s removed those, but it’s still a significant base for operations in the Middle East for NATO and run by the Turks now. But fascinating area, history-wise, the battle of Issus happened near there. We drove actually through the battleground, the area where the battle of Issus with Alexander the Great and the Persians took place. So, you know, side note, I hope that this year we’re doing a seven churches, may do the seven churches again next year, but I hope to put together a tour that would take people through this region, basically the first journey of Paul and see this area firsthand up close and personal. It’s fascinating area of Turkey today. Hopefully in a year or two we might be able to do something like that. But Barnabas goes to get Paul because he knows that there’s work to be done.

Acts 11:26 “When he found him, he brought him to Antioch. And so it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

Now, I like this verse here, verses 25 and 26, because not only does Barnabas bring Saul over when he finds him, they come to Antioch and they, for a year, one year, 12 months, they assemble with the Church and taught a great many people. We’re going to come back to this. But what happens within just one year of training under the tutelage of Paul and Barnabas, it results in an evangelistic effort by the Church sending Paul and Barnabas out to, on what is going to be the first journey to these areas here in establishing Churches in these gentile regions.

But let’s go ahead and jump ahead to that because I want to tell this story here. Hold your place here, turn over to 13:1, and look at that.

Acts 13:1-3 It says, “Now in the church that was at Antioch...” Now some time has passed, and we’re going to talk about what happens in between here. But “In the church that was Antioch, there were certain prophets and teachers named Barnabas, Simeon, who was called Niger,” meaning that he was likely black, “Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ And they fasted, they prayed, laid hands on them, and they sent them away.”

This is the beginning. This is the first trip, first evangelizing trip, the books will call it the first missionary trip of the apostle Paul, but he’s with Barnabas. But it takes place a year or more after Barnabas grabs Paul from Tarsus and brings him into Antioch. And they teach. And what I like for us to think about here, and the Church to think about, any congregation to think about. And if you find yourselves in this, in coming years, it doesn’t take a lot of time to train people. And then it does take a lot of time to train people. I mean, training is a lifetime process. I’m still learning after 50 years. But a concentrated amount of time with the right type of instruction can begin to produce disciples who are able then to teach and help take care and do the work of the Church. But you got to have a program. We used to have Spokesman’s Club in my day which helped train a whole generation of speakers in the Church of God, myself included.

I was 17 when I joined my first Spokesman’s Club, giving speeches like you guys were doing yesterday here in class. Not that we were giving sermonettes at that time, but we were learning the mechanics of, there were 12-lesson program built on the Toastmasters International model that the Church had at that time. And I still think is probably the best introduction to speaking that anybody could ever go through and still has value even in the Church today, where it’s been used. And some of our pastors do continue with Spokesman’s Clubs or variations of it. But you can learn, you can do a lot in a short period of time. And that’s what Barnabas and Saul did. On the other hand, you find yourselves there. You guys are here for a concentrated one-year course at ABC. Don’t sell yourselves short, ladies and gentlemen, or your roles, your future roles within the Church and what you’re learning here, what you can take then back to your congregations and utilize in your own personal life and by your example to others to encourage and of faith.

You men, if you are then given opportunity to speak, hopefully, your training here will prepare you as well as your biblical education and knowledge that you’ve gotten into. Ladies, and you find yourselves in a role, in a pre-teen camp or camp situation, teaching a Bible class at church, any other type of roles, all that you have been a part of here in one year can be a catapult to your valued service in your congregation. Don’t sell short what you’re learning here, what you’re experiencing in class, the activities, even the late-night social hours that you guys get into. Hopefully, they’re productive enough at one level to, you know, direct you to God, direct you to the Bible. But Barnabas and Saul trained in one year, and a lot of disciples, we read here, where a small group were being considered to go out, God led them to choose Barnabas and Saul, but we don’t know what happened to the others and their service. We assume that they did other things and maybe they went other directions eventually. The account just focuses on what happened with Barnabas and Saul. And so this is what happens here in this particular situation. So, we go back to the text here and the phrase at the end of verse 26. Let’s comment on that for a moment.

Acts 11:26 “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

Now, this is an interesting phrase. We use the term Christian today and apply it to ourselves, a follower of Christ, not a difficult appellation to understand, but here they were first called Christians. Now the commentators essentially believe that this was done from the outside, not necessarily a term that the Church was giving themselves. Oh, well, what are we going to put on our sign outside the door or outside our hall? First Christian Church in Antioch, or Church of Christ in Antioch or whatever. It didn’t come from the Church. More likely it came from the gentiles. And it wasn’t always considered a complimentary term as the gentiles looked at this group of Christ followers. Christ followers is a term that has become common as people talk about the Christians at this time, the Christ followers. There’s only two other places in the New Testament where it’s used. And the second time is when Paul is before Festus and Festus uses it. And then the last time is in 1 Peter 4:16.

1 Peter 4:16 Where Peter writes, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in his matter.”

So, it doesn’t seem to originate with believers, but it eventually post-biblical period, 2nd century, and it’s begun to be seen in some of the other writings of the post-apostolic period. But Luke doesn’t give us any indication of this.

The other terms we find for the Church are Nazarenes. We’ll see that. And of course, that’s speaking of Christ who was from Nazareth. And it’s not always considered that that even was a complimentary term, but, you know, just put upon them by the Jewish community. And then we’ve already talked about The Way, The Way as being the other way which maybe a case could be made that The Way, this way or whatever is what the Church maybe called themselves more than anything else, as Luke records it here. So, this may have come... The Way may have come from internally, while it’s generally felt Christian or Nazarene came externally, but of course, today we use the term Christian to... We call ourselves Christian. And of course, the wider Christian community does the same thing. And sometimes we have to try to distinguish that as we write about it or talk about it in our own conversation, communication within the Church at this time. So, they are first called Christians here in Antioch. Let’s go on to verse 27 then.

Acts 11:27-30 “In those days, prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.” These were teachers. These were from the church community in Antioch or in Jerusalem. “And one of them who was named Agabus stood up and showed by the spirit” so, he’s led by God’s spirit “that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. And the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

Now, here’s another interesting development coming out of the Church at Antioch. First of all, there’s a prophecy of a famine. Now, this is generally understood to be a famine that took place in the year let’s say 45 to 46 A.D. We can date this. We’re given a timing and we have external references to a famine going on at this time during the reign of Claudius Caesar here. And they generally think that this took place...and the brunt of the famine, probably in 46, a famine takes a little bit of time to develop. They know that there was a low... The Nile did not flood as much in the year 44, 45, which cut down the grain supplies coming out of Egypt. Egypt was the granary of the whole ancient world there in the Mediterranean basin, Rome, Judea, they exported a great deal. And so the harvest wasn’t as good.

There was also in Judea, at this time, a lower harvest in 45. They also say that year 45 was a sabbatical year, which would’ve diminished... If they were keeping it, they would’ve diminished the amount of grain available. Scholars discussed that idea back and forth because they don’t think that even the Jews were keeping the sabbatical on a regular schedule, whether or not the Christians or the Church would’ve been, is unknown, you know, any more than their backyard plots, which is about all that we could do today in terms of keeping a sabbatical seven-year cycle or whatever. But then if that is the case, it was diminished, and then there was a critical failure in 46. And so, it sets up a famine and that’s disastrous today, and even more so back then, because they didn’t have the supply chains back then like we do today, but we still have famine in parts of the world today. The Russian Invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated that during the last year, food supplies, especially in some of the developing nations of the world. But this took place back then, and we know that for a fact that it happened. So, it helps us to date this period of the story and also to rely upon Luke’s narrative here as something that is of truth. But notice what happens.

Acts 11:30 “The church, the disciples, gave according each to his ability and determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they did. And then they sent it by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

And this is what happens here, when you go again, turn back over to chapter 12.

Acts 12:25 It says, “Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they took with them John, whose surname was Mark.”

And the intervening, there’s been a story of Herod, which we’ll get to, but that picks up at the end of chapter 11:30 where they sent this up by the elders through the hands of Barnabas and Saul. This is probably the second trip that Paul makes, and it’s probably the one that he’s referring to in Galatians 2 when he goes up after 14 years, the 14 years being from his conversion to be understood. Some commentators connect that with Galatians 2 as being, this is that particular trip. There’s also a thought that in Acts 22, where Paul refers to a vision that he has in the temple where God tells him to get out to the gentiles in Acts 22:18, Paul’s referring to that particular visit that we’re reading where he and Barnabas takes this relief offering up to Jerusalem.

Now, we have to assume that when they took it up there, that they just didn’t drop it and go. They very likely stayed and helped in the distribution of it. And this begins to cement Paul’s relationships with the Jerusalem Church and the members, and kind of washes away the years of his torment and his persecution. And so, again, we’re not reading too much into it, I don’t think to realize that as he goes up with Barnabas, they’re bringing relief. They’re not bringing gold and silver. They’re bringing corn, barley, wheat, grain, figs, other dried fruits, and they stay there and they make sure it gets out. So, it’s quite an effort that you have to understand would’ve taken place. Logistically, getting it up there, keeping it stored, making sure it was fairly evenly distributed. And in doing so, good was done to the Church.

So, we’ll end it there. And in the next class, I want to draw some conclusions from this and finish this story of Antioch. Then we’ll move into the story of Herod and Peter in chapter 13. So, we’ll break at this time and pick it up with the next class.