Peter Explains His Actions, 1-18

Acts 11:1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

Acts 11:2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him

Acts 11:3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Acts 11:4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened:

Acts 11:5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was.

Acts 11:6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air.

Acts 11:7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

Acts 11:8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

Acts 11:9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’

Acts 11:10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

Acts 11:11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying.

Acts 11:12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.

These six brothers – Twice the number of witnesses required by Jewish law.

Acts 11:13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter.

Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

Centrality of the Family

The family is meant to function as a spiritual unit. The Old Testament Passover was a family occasion (Exod. 12:3). Joshua was setting an example when he said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). Households became the units of Christian commitment in New Testament times (Acts 11:14; 16:15, 31-33; 1 Cor. 1:16). The fitness of candidates for church office was assessed by observing whether they had led their family well (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6). The building of strong family life must always be a priority in our service of God. (J.I. Packer, Concise Theology)

Acts 11:15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.

Acts 11:16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

Acts 11:17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

The Church in Antioch, 19-30

Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.

Acts 11:20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.

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

Acts 11:22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Barnabas, Paul and Mark

The peripheral figure of Joses/Barnabas from Cyprus has a considerable amount of coherent evidence confirming the stories involving him: Luke reports that he was a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36); he vouches for Paul’s sincerity as if knowing him, which is explained by Cyprus being annexed to Cilicia, in which Tarsus, a centre of education, was the main city. They might have both studied there, explaining Paul’s Greek education and since there was unlikely to be a major school in Cyprus. Since they both moved to Jerusalem, they might also have known each other there. They might also have common friends. Barnabas also took Paul from Tarsus to Antioch seemingly unnecessarily.

Barnabas’ being a Cypriot also explains why he was chosen in particular to go from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 11), since there were Cypriots in Antioch preaching the gospel. It also explains various journeys of Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 13:4; 15:32). In this latter journey, Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus even after Paul refused to take Mark. This is explained by Barnabas and Mark being cousins (Col 4:10), hence Barnabas’ loyalty and arguing with Paul. It might also explain why Paul refused to take Mark in the first place. Paul refers to Mark deserting them in Pamphylia, which might be explained by the earlier report of the incident, where it turns out they sailed to Cyprus previously. It might be that Mark wanted to go to Cyprus for sentimental reasons without being very serious about preaching the gospel elsewhere afterwards.

(Calum Miller, based on Blunt)

Acts 11:23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

Acts 11:24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,

Acts 11:26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch – They were generally called something else: ‘all who believed’ (Acts 2:44); ‘the disciples’ (Acts 6:1); followers of ‘the way’ (Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9; 22:4).

The name ‘christiani‘ seems to be a Latin construction. The ending ‘iani‘ sometimes denotes the soldiers of a particular general: Tacitus, for example, refers to Galbiani, Galba’s men. References also occur to Augustiani, Caesariani and, in the gospels to Herodianoi, partisans of Herod.

The name ‘Christian’ is used three times in the NT (Acts 11:26; 26:26, and 1 Pet 4:16).  In each of these three cases it is used by outsiders.  That this usage is very early is attested by Tacitus, who uses the term in the same way of Christians in Rome at the time of the Neronic persecution (AD 64).  For a more recent parallel, consider the use of the term ‘Methodist’ – first used by outsiders, and then later adopted by themselves.  (See the relevant article in Cross & Livingstone’s Dictionary of the Christian Church)

Acts 11:27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.

Acts 11:28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)

Acts 11:29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.

‘There is more to this than meets the eye. For these Christians were the church of Antioch, and the congregation which had come into being at Antioch was the first church in the world which was not primarily Jewish. The mother church in Jerusalem had literally never seen anything like it, and there must have been Hebrew Christians who doubted whether such a phenomenon could be a true church at all. No wonder a deputation was sent to see what was going on. Barnabas was sufficiently convinced when he “saw the grace of God” at work in Antioch. But how is this new congregation to vindicate itself publicly as a true congregation of God’s people? The answer of the New Testament is, by rising to the challenge of the temple. “Who then will offer willingly?” cried David in the days of the first temple, and the Chronicler in the days of the second. The third temple, the New Testament one, is no longer a building but a people, yet in its thoroughly practical need to be supported by gifts in cash and in kind, it provides the same down-to-earth test of a true devotion to the Lord.’ (Wilcock, in The Message of Chronicles [BST], 114) See 1 Chron 29:1-9.

Acts 11:30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Keys to growth

Looking at this passage (vv19-30), the following principles of growth appear:

  1. Persecution helps the church to grow, v19
  2. The gospel breaks boundaries, v20.
  3. The Lord’s favour was with them, v21.
  4. The word does the work, enabling people to remain faithful in the face of heresy and persecution, v23.
  5. The Lord uses key individuals, including those whose names are unnkown, v20.
  6. Faith is applied in practical expressions of love and unity, v28-30.

(See Crossway, Autumn 2018, art. ‘Flourishing Steadily’ by Lee Gatiss)