The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 11

Act 11:1

Act 11: "The work of the Truth in the first century continued apace as the apostle Paul defended his preaching to Gentiles. It was a time of acute agitation, as brethren contended over the matter. It was difficult for the Jewish believers to accommodate the involvement of Gentiles on the same basis as those of the covenant nation. 'They of the circumcision' (Act 11:2) questioned the work of the apostle with Cornelius (Act 10). The witnesses that Peter took with him as so described in Act 10:45. Perhaps, before he left with the messengers of Cornelius there had been some discussion as to whether such action should be taken, and Peter had selected witnesses who had voiced their opposition to such a reversal of tradition. In the face of God's obvious endorsement of Cornelius (vv 44-46), they were silenced, and Cornelius was baptised. In Jerusalem, however, the action of Peter had created a party now known as 'they of the circumcision', determined to maintain the traditional attitude of Judaism. He had anticipated this, and took six witnesses back to Jerusalem with him (Act 11:12). So the record continues: (1) Controversy within the ecclesia: vv 1-3. (2) Peter explains the circumstances: vv 4-17. (3) The opposition is temporarily silenced: v 18. (4) The Gospel spreads to Antioch: vv 19-21. (5) Barnabas is sent to supervise the work: vv 22-24. (6) Barnabas seeks the help of Paul: vv 25,26. (7) Famine predicted: relief is sent to Jerusalem through Barnabas: vv 27-30" (GEM).

Act 11:2

PETER WENT UP TO JERUSALEM: Accompanied by the six witnesses (Acts 10:23; 11:12).

Act 11:3

Did the "agape" feast involve non-kosher food?

Act 11:19

Vv 19-30: Antioch becomes the new center for the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles.

Act 11:20

GREEKS: Actually, "Hellenists", ie, ones who imitate the manners and customs or the worship of the Greeks, and use the Greek tongue; used in the NT of Jews born in foreign lands and speaking Greek.

Act 11:21

THE LORD'S HAND WAS WITH THEM: By miraculous signs: Act 2:47; 13:11.

Act 11:23

EVIDENCE OF THE GRACE OF GOD: "Grace must find expression in life; otherwise it is not grace" (Karl Barth).

What was the evidence of God's grace in the new believers? Holy Spirit gifts? Not necessarily. How about? (1) Self-sacrifice for Truth: the giving up of this life's pleasures for the hope of something far better. (2) Willingness to change: the true measure of a profession of repentance. (3) Eagerness to learn, from the Bible itself and one's teachers, the details of the plan and purpose of God, and personal and practical application of the teachings of God's Word. (4) The love of the brethren, in real and practical examples.

Act 11:25

Barnabas recruits Saul for the great new work.

Act 11:26

CALLED: Gr "chrematizo", sig "to impart a revelation, injunction or warning; bear a name, be called or named... a divine statement or answer" (NIDNTT). Elsewhere the sw ref to communication from God or an angel (Mat 2:12,22; Luk 2:26; Act 10:22; Rom 7:3 -- poss; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25). Therefore, even though it appears that the name "Christian" is given to the disciples by the people of Antioch, such a naming may have been arranged by God in His providence. Why? Because -- with the imminent influx of Gentile believers -- a new designation was in order for a new "church" which would no longer be exclusively Jewish.

CHRISTIANS: A name occurring elsewhere only in Act 26:28 and 1Pe 4:16.

Act 11:28

AGABUS: Sig "locust": the insect of famine. (Both of his prophecies were of calamities.) Cp Act 21:10.

Act 11:29

TO PROVIDE HELP FOR THE BROTHERS LIVING IN JUDEA: The Christians in Jerusalem would be the most affected, being a much hated, yet significant, minority. The other Jews would use the famine as an excuse to deny them food and other necessities.

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