Acts 11 Peter's Explanation; Gospel Spreads to Antioch
Summary

The acceptance of Gentiles into the body of believers in Christ met opposition from Jews in Jerusalem. Peter explained what he had done in preaching to Gentiles by informing them of the vision he had seen, the appeal of those who came to the house where he was staying, and the actions of the Holy Spirit in enabling them to speak in tongues as the apostles had on Pentecost. Of course, they could not resist that evidence and so began to glorify God. The text then moves to the activities of Barnabas who took the gospel to Antioch (in Syria). Barnabas then went to Tarsus to bring him to Antioch. A prophet named Agabus from Jerusalem came to Antioch to inform them of a famine. The brethren sent relief to help them.

Peter Reports to the Church

11Now the apostles and the brothers[1] who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3“You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Question 1

What initial issues did the Jewish Christians have with Peter for going to Cornelius’ house?

Question 2

What evidence did Peter offer that it was alright to receive the Gentiles?

The Church in Antioch

19Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists[2] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Question 3

What significant thing happened first at Antioch?

27Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers[3] living in Judea. 30And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Question 4

Specifically how was relief transferred from brethren in Antioch to brethren in Judea?

People
  • Peter
  • Returns to Jerusalem to explain about the acceptance of Gentiles

  • Christians
  • Scattered by persecution

  • Barnabas
  • Goes to Antioch to preach

  • Saul
  • Brought by Barnabas to Antioch

  • Agabus
  • Comes from Jerusalem to Antioch

Places
  • Jerusalem
  • Peter returns to the church there

  • Antioch in Syria
  • Barnabas and Saul preach there

  • Judea
  • Benevolent relief sent to the churches there from Antioch

Peter Reports to the Church

11Now the apostles and the brothers[1] who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3“You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:1

The issue of this chapter is the Gentiles receiving the word of God in Christ.


Acts 11:3

The initial verbal complaint twofold: 1) Peter had stayed with Gentiles; 2) he had eaten with them.

Both of these violated Jewish halakic (traditional and/or legal) aspects of the Law.


Acts 11:4

Peter does not argue his staying and eating with Gentiles. He goes directly to the reasons for his going there – he was sent by God.


Acts 11:12

Notice, Peter informs us that there were “six” men with him at Cornelius’ house.

The Church in Antioch

19Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists[2] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Acts 11:19

The gospel is spread to Phoenicia (a coastal country north of Israel where Tyre and Sidon had been important cities); to Cyprus (an island in the Mediterranean); and Antioch (a city in Syria).


Acts 11:22

Remember Barnabas fromActs 4:37 and Acts 9:27.


Acts 11:25

Barnabas made a trip to Tarsus (southeastern Asia Minor) to look for Saul.


Acts 11:26

Disciples are students who have received and adopted the teachings of a philosopher or teacher.


Acts 11:26

It is difficult to determine certainly whether the disciples called themselves “Christians” or others used that name in referring to them. Isaiah said that God would give His people an “everlasting name” (Isaiah 55:5)… a “name which the mouth of the Lord will name” (Isaiah 62:2). The word “Christian” appears only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16).

27Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers[3] living in Judea. 30And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:27

A prophet is a spokesman who serves as God’s mouthpiece to deliver His message. These were New Testament prophets (see 13:1; 15:32; 21:10; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; 14:29-37; Eph. 2:20; 4:11).


Acts 11:28

Agabus helped to relieve the damage by a famine through seeking benevolent help.

Agabus also prophesies concerning Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14).


Acts 11:30

Notice that not only are we encouraged by the generosity of the Antioch church; but we are also Informed of God’s will concerning how and to whom one church may send to another.

Perspectives

Peter confirmed to Jerusalem brethren the need for acceptance of Gentiles as equally Christians.

We see here the rapid spread of the gospel to new areas.

We learn from example the pattern for church benevolence.