"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
Peter Explained His Ministry
(Acts 11:4, NKJV)
“Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning.”
When we concluded our last lesson from the Book of Acts, Peter had been given a divine vision which taught him that Gentiles were not “unclean,” had been sent by God to minister to Gentiles at Caesarea, had preached to Gentiles in the home of a Roman soldier, had watched as God empowered a new Gentile church with the Holy Spirit, and had even baptized these new Gentile converts.
Let’s review the story as Luke wrote it: “Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again… While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them’…The following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends…Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day…To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word…Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:9b-16…19-20…24…34-35…38-40a…43-44…47-48a, NKJV). To the mind of a first-century Jewish Christian, this would certainly be an unusual ministry assignment! After all, they didn’t believe God loved or valued Gentiles, at all.
II. Peter’s Explanation
When God chooses to give a ministry to a church or an individual that is unusual—not according to the status quo, others often misunderstand, become argumentative, and need an explanation in order to answer their concerns. That is exactly what happened to Peter in the aftermath of his ministry to the Gentiles at Caesarea in Cornelius’ house. Luke described the sequence of events when he wrote, “Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’” (Acts 11:1-3, NKJV).
Because the Jewish Christians in the Jerusalem Church didn’t fully understand what had happened during and prior to Peter’s ministry in Cornelius’ house, they argued that he was in the wrong by even entering a Gentile’s house. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “Those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’” (Acts 11:3b, NKJV).
In order to regain harmony in the church, these Jewish believers needed an explanation of the unusual nature of Pete’s ministry at Caesarea, so Peter offered it to them. Luke wrote, “Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning” (Acts 11:4, NKJV).
Peter offered his explanation when he said, “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:5-17, NKJV). Peter’s explanation: I did what I did because God told me to do it. What an wonderful explanation!
An orderly, thorough explanation of the reason for a particular ministry decision is often all that is necessary in order to soothe concerns and stop arguments. Luke made this fact clear by describing the effect of Peter’s explanation of his ministry at Cornelius’ house. He wrote, “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 10:18, NKJV). As a result of Peter’s explanation, rather than raise concerns and voice arguments, the Jewish believers at Jerusalem “became silent” and “glorified God.” An important spiritual lesson from this moment in Peter’s life is: “When God gives us an unusual ministry assignment, we should be prepared to offer an orderly, thorough explanation of the reason for a particular ministry decision.”
God has given The Open Door Church an unusual ministry assignment—developing a residential Christian treatment center for men and women with addictions! I’m sure you are aware that this is quite an unusual ministry assignment and people in our community—believers and non-believers alike—will have concerns about this ministry. Therefore, I want to share with you an appropriate explanation to what will be an often voiced concern—“We don’t want a bunch alcoholics and drug addicts in our town.”
Here’s the explanation: “They’re already here! They’re driving on your streets and highways endangering you and your children. They may be running a meth lab in the house next door that could explode and endanger your life and property. They may very well be steeling from you and your neighbors to support their addictions. What our elders believe God wants us to do is address this problem—that already exists in our community and every other community in America—by offering freedom to people trapped in addictions so they will no longer endanger the lives and property of others as a result of their addictive behavior!”
The only way to help them gain freedom is to saturate their minds with truth.” Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, NIV). These powerful words spoken by Jesus are the reason we have chosen to name our addiction treatment center “Freedom House.” That is exactly what this ministry will be all about—helping people gain freedom by learning truth!
A Gentile Church in Antioch
(Acts 11:20-21, NKJV)
“Some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who,
when they had come to Antioch, 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.”
In today’s lesson from the Book of Acts Luke makes a sudden shift in the story line. He briefly turns our attention away from Peter and his ministry to the Jews and inserts the story of what God was doing in the city of Antioch among the Gentiles. Luke wrote, “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch” (Acts 11:19a, NKJV). “Antioch” was the third largest city in the Roman Empire with a population of well over half a million. It was well known for gambling, prostitution, and all kinds of immoral pagan worship.
If there was ever a place that needed the Gospel, it was the Gentile city of Antioch! But because of their racial prejudice against Gentiles, the Jewish Christians avoided any contact with Gentiles and preached “to the Jews only.” Luke described this sad scene when he wrote, “Now 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” (Acts 11:19, NKJV).
There is no way to calculate how many Gentiles, non-Jews, missed heaven and went to hell because of racial prejudice on the part of the first-century Jewish Christians. An important spiritual lesson to learn from this sad scene is this: “Racial prejudice must be overcome in the life of every Christian, because it has the power to prevent us from preaching the Gospel to people for whom Jesus died!” His final command to His disciples was, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV). That command leaves no room for racial prejudice in the life of any follower of Jesus!
II. God Stepped Into This Sad Scene
We shouldn’t be surprised that God suddenly stepped into this sad scene. He did so by motivating some of the Jewish Christians who were fleeing persecution in Jerusalem to actually overcome their racial prejudice and begin preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch. Luke described what happened when he wrote, “Some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20, NKJV).
We don’t know exactly why these Jewish Christians suddenly decided to preach to the Gentiles. Maybe they were influenced by Peter who had said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34b-35, NKJV). Maybe they were influenced by the leaders of the Jerusalem church who, after hearing Peter’s explanation of what had happened at Cornelius’ house, said, “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18b, NKJV).
We may not know why these Jewish Christians suddenly had such a drastic change of heart, but we do know what happened when they did. God blessed their preaching and Gentiles were saved! Luke wrote, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21, NKJV). So now there is “A Gentile Church in Antioch!”
III. Barnabas at Antioch
Then one day a Jewish Christian named Barnabas showed up at Antioch. He was a member of the church at Jerusalem and had been sent to Antioch to check out reports that there had been a large number of Gentile converts to Christ. Luke wrote, “News of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch” (Acts 11:22, NKJV).
This is the same “Barnabas” that was in the vicinity of Damascus when Paul was saved on the outskirts of the city limits and later help Paul gain acceptance by the leaders of the Jerusalem Church. Luke recorded that incident when he wrote, “When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out” (Acts 9:26-28, NKJV).
When Barnabas arrived at Antioch, he was immediately aware that “the grace of God” had been at work there. Luke wrote, “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23, NKJV).
The question must be asked, “How can one see the grace of God?” The answer is that “the grace of God” appears in two ways.
The first one is that people get saved. Paul wrote to the believers at Ephesus, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).
The second one is that lives are changed. Paul also wrote, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13, NKJV).
An important spiritual lesson to learn is: “Grace gets you saved…and grace changes your life!”
I want you to notice Luke’s assessment of Barnabas. He was able to see the grace of God at work in Antioch and he had a successful evangelistic ministry there because he was “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Luke wrote, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Acts 11:24, NKJV).
An important spiritual lesson to learn from Barnabas’ life is: “To be an effective witness you must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and have faith that God can and will use your witness to save non-believers.”
If that’s true, then two questions demand an answer. First, “How can I be full of the Holy Spirit?” The answer is simple—just ask God for it. Jesus said, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13, NKJV).
The second question is, “How can I be full of faith?” Matthew gave us the answer when he wrote the story about Jesus and a Roman soldier. He wrote, “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’
The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” (Matthew 8:5-10, NKJV). The key to gaining more faith is to be “under authority.”
Barnabas Recruits Help
(Acts 11:25-26a, NKJV)
“Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.”
During our last lesson from the Book of Acts we watched as some obscure, unnamed Jewish Christians fled persecution at Jerusalem and traveled to Antioch where they broke with Jewish tradition and began to preach to the Gentiles of that sprawling, metropolitan city. God began to work through them and an evangelistic revival broke out among these Gentiles. Luke described the events like this: “Now 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. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, 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” (Acts 11:19-21, NKJV).
News of this wave of evangelism among Gentiles reached Jerusalem and the church there decided to send Barnabas to investigate the reports they had heard. When Barnabas arrived at Antioch and realized the reports were true, he began to minister to the new Gentile converts and even more Gentiles were saved. Luke wrote, “News of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and 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” (Acts 11:22-24, NKJV).
Then Barnabas did something that to us might look a little strange…and that’s what I want us to look at in this sermon.
II. What Barnabas Did
In the middle of an incredible evangelistic movement, Barnabas took several days—maybe even a few weeks off—to leave Antioch in search of Saul. Then when he found Saul, Barnabas brought him to Antioch to help disciple the new Gentile believers. Luke wrote, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people” (Acts 11:25-26a, NKJV). When I think about what Barnabas did, it tells me a lot about the kind of man he was and why God blessed his ministry like He did.
Humility. The first thing that is revealed about Barnabas by his decision to recruit Paul to help disciple the new Gentile believers at Antioch was his humility. Humility is the ability to see yourself as you truly are—a lowly slave, undeserving of your Master’s mercy, yet redeemed by His goodness, and still struggling with the law of sin in your members!
Barnabas saw himself as he was. Even though things were going quite well at Antioch under his leadership, he knew his limitations. He realized that he was not sufficiently equipped or gifted to effectively teach God’s Word to Gentiles, but he knew Paul was.
God had told Ananias about his plan for Paul to minister to Gentiles. Luke wrote, “The Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel’ (Acts 9:15, NKJV). Ananias had evidently shared that information with Barnabas. So when he saw the number of Gentiles that were being converted at Antioch, “Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul” (Acts 11:25, NKJV).
Not many big-name Christians of our day would do what Barnabas did. It took a man of genuine humility to admit to himself that he wasn’t up to the job and then recruit someone to help him teach the Gentile converts at Antioch.
No doubt, God blessed Barnabas for his humble spirit, because Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12, NKJV). The Greek word translated “exalted” literally means “to lifted up.” So an important spiritual lesson to learn from this statement of Jesus is: “If you want Jesus to take you to the top in His kingdom, you need to aim for the bottom! If you aim for the top, Jesus will take you to the bottom.”
Grace. Because Barnabas was a man of abundant humility, he was also a man full of God’s grace. I can say that with confidence because James wrote, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b, NKJV). Here’s another important spiritual lesson: “The key to getting more grace is humility!”
Grace is the desire and the power to do God’s will. Paul described pouring His grace into the life of a believer when he wrote, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” Philippians 2:13, NLT).
It took a man with lots of “grace” to recruit someone to help him teach Gentiles who was—by God’s appointment—a better teacher than he was. Paul himself wrote, “I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (I Timothy 2:7, NKJV). Did you get that? Paul said, “I was appointed…a teacher of the Gentiles.”
A clear indication of Paul outshining Barnabas as a speaker occurred when they took the Gospel to the city of Lystra. Luke wrote, “Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:12, NKJV). It is quite a man of “grace” who would choose someone to assist him who would ultimately outshine him—but that is exactly what Barnabas did.
Power. Because both Barnabas and Paul were men of “grace,” they were also men upon whom “the power of Christ” rested. As we have already learned, Barnabas was a man of “grace,” because he was a man of humility.
Paul was also a man of “grace.” I know this is true because of what Jesus said to him when Paul had prayed for the third time requesting that He remove a physical ailment that he referred to as “a thorn in the flesh.” Let’s look at the story as Paul wrote it: “A thorn in the flesh was given to me…Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’” (II Corinthians 12:7b…8-9a, NKJV). You see, God had poured so much “grace” into Paul’s life that he had the “power” to cope with his physical ailment! He was definitely a man of “grace.” Immediately after Jesus explained to Paul that His “grace is sufficient,” Paul said, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Corinthians 12:9b, NKJV).
An important spiritual lesson to learn from Paul is: “Grace” not only gives God’s people the “desire” to do His will, it also gives us the “power” to do it, as well!” Remember what Paul wrote: “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT). Therefore, we can safely conclude that both Barnabas and Paul were men of spiritual “power.”
When you put two men with spiritual “power” together to work in the same city teaching Gentile converts, you have a winning combination! That’s what happened at Antioch. Luke described the results of this powerful team when he wrote, “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” (Acts 11:26b, NKJV).
Barnabas and Paul spent a year teaching Gentile converts in order to transform them into Gentile “disciples.” That’s what Jesus commanded His people to do just before he ascended back to heaven. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a, NIV).
Because Barnabas and Paul were men of such humility, grace, and power, they produced high quality “disciples”—so much so that they were the first “disciples” to be called “Christians,” which means “Christ-like!” Luke wrote, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26c, NKJV).
The Antioch Church Launches a Relief Ministry
(Acts 11:29-30, NKJV)
“The disciples, each according to his ability,
determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
This they also did, and sent it to the elders
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
During our previous lesson we watched as some unnamed Jewish Christians began preaching to the Gentiles in Antioch and as a result a church was planted there with numerous Gentile converts. Then Barnabas arrived and continued to evangelize Gentiles. The number of Gentile converts swelled to the point that he left Antioch, travelled to Tarsus in search of Paul, found him and brought him back to Antioch to disciple the new Gentile believers. The two of them worked in a Gentile-disciple-making ministry for an entire year.
Luke described this joint ministry of Barnabas and Paul when he wrote, “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” (Acts 11:26b, NKJV). So by the time we begin today’s lesson, the Gentile church at Antioch is just over one year old. That’s an amazing point, considering the spiritual insight displayed in today’s lesson by this new church full of new converts.
II. Prophets Come to Antioch
Luke began today’s story like this: “In these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch” (Acts 11:27, NKJV). The phrase, “In these days,” obviously refers to that segment of time near the end of Barnabas and Paul’s year-long teaching ministry at Antioch. At that point “prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.” We don’t know why they “came.” Maybe God led them to Antioch to assist Barnabas and Paul in their teaching ministry. Maybe God led them there to prepare this new Gentile church to launch a “Relief Ministry” that He had planned to aid the Jewish church at Jerusalem. We really don’t know. What we do know is that they “came from Jerusalem to Antioch.”
There is a more important question than “Why did they come?” That question is “Who were these New Testament prophets?” Let me begin by saying that these New Testament prophets do not have the same ministry as Old Testament prophets. Old Testament prophets spoke primarily to the nation of Israel, while New Testament prophets spoke primarily to churches.
Paul indicated that these “prophets” are one among four categories of gifted men given as gifts to the church. He wrote, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12, NIV). Notice the four categories— Apostles,  Prophets,  Evangelists, and  Pastor/Teachers.
The role of these gifted men is to minister to the church so God’s people will learn to do “works of service,” which will result in the church being “built up”—both spiritually and numerically. Read again what Paul wrote, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12, NIV). An important spiritual lesson to learn is: “When God’s people do “works of service,” the church grows—both spiritually and numerically!”
III. A Prediction Made & Fulfilled
In the case of the “prophets” who came to Antioch from Jerusalem, their ministry included both prediction and explanation. Luke described the prediction made by one of the “prophets” whose name was Agabus. He wrote, “One of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar” (Acts 11:28, NKJV). Agabus predicted “that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world.”
The test that determines whether a man is truly a “prophet” of God is whether or not his predictions happen exactly as he says they will. Jeremiah wrote, “The prophet…will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (Jeremiah 28:9, NIV).
It is important to understand that there are “false prophets”—men who predict occurrences that do not happen exactly as they say they will or who offer explanations that contradict clearly revealed Scripture. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15, NKJV).
John echoed Jesus’ warning when he wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1, NKJV).
In the case of Agabus, what he predicted happened just as he said it would. Look again at what Luke wrote, “One of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar” (Acts 11:28, NKJV). Agabus was an authentic “prophet” of God!
IV. The Church Took Action
The ministry of the prophets who came from Jerusalem to Antioch included not only prediction, but also included explanation. They must have explained what this new Gentile church should do in light of the fact that a “famine” was coming, and as a result of their explanation, the church took action. Luke wrote, “The disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea” (Acts 11:29, NKJV).
“The brethren dwelling in Judea” were Jewish Christians who were already poverty-stricken as a result of persecution by both the Romans and non-believing Jews. The “famine” would intensify their poverty. So, the Gentile Christians at Antioch “determined to send relief” to them. An important spiritual lesson to learn from the Gentile believers at Antioch is: “It is legitimate to engage in ‘relief’ ministry designed to meet the needs of the poverty-stricken!” That’s why we have our “Food Pantry” and “Clothes Closet” ministries here at The Open Door Church.
What evidence of God’s grace at work that these Gentiles at Antioch, who knew all too well the long-standing Jewish prejudice against Gentiles, “determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea,” who would have been Jews! But then, God’s grace teaches God’s people to do that sort of thing. Paul wrote, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12, NKJV).
Gentile Christians sending a relief offering to famine-stricken Jewish Christians to help alleviate their suffering was the sober, righteous, and godly thing to do. Because of God’s grace and the ministry of the “prophets” from Jerusalem, the Gentile Christians at Antioch knew what God wanted them to do…and they did it. Luke wrote, “This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:30, NKJV).
When God’s grace…and maybe His “prophets”… teach God’s people what we should do, and then we fail or refuse to do it, God says our failure or refusal to follow through with what we know we should do is “sin.” James wrote, “If anyone… knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17, NIV). An important spiritual lesson to learn is this: “Knowledge brings responsibility!”
In addition, Jesus taught that when we have the opportunity to learn and fail to take advantage of that opportunity, we will be judged more severely than those who did not have the opportunity we have had. He said, “Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum…if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you’” (Matthew 11:20-24, NIV). So another important spiritual lesson to learn is: “Opportunity determines the severity of judgment.”
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.