Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch.
The disciples were first called “Christians” at Antioch.
Last time, Acts 10 – conversion of Cornelius, the Gentile = a milestone in the church’s history.
Cornelius was first fruit of Gentiles receiving Christ.
Peter, very Jewish, had to be convinced by a vision to receive Cornelius and go to his house.
In Acts 11, Peter recounts his vision and actions.
The angel said, Peter will give them a message by which their whole household will be saved.
The Holy Spirit fell on them, and the same manifestations of the Spirit appeared on them as had appeared at Pentecost on the Jews.
How does Cornelius conversion affect Gentile standing with Jews?
It doesn’t fix or set the proper relationship, Jews and Gentiles.
The circumcised believers (Jews) criticized Peter “You ate with uncircumcised! (Gentiles)”
The emphasis of circumcised believers shows that some in the church insisted that ALL people should be circumcised in order to REALLY be saved (fundamentalist?)
They didn’t really care that Peter had baptized a Gentile. They only cared that Peter went into their home, fellowshipped with them and ate food together.
Sharing food symbolizes sharing spiritual life.
Gentiles often offered their food to idols (problem in the early church – even Paul addresses it in Corinthians).
So, the circumcised Jews felt that Peter had “tainted” the fellowship by joining with the Gentiles in eating.
So, Peter had to explain himself “precisely.”
He describes Acts 10 with some new info. (v.14) “He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”
Peter also talks about the 6 other believers who ALSO entered the house with him (v.12). This suggests that he expected to be challenged (these are witnesses, maybe bodyguards?). So these 6 also had been converted and their testimony would be important, and hold weight for the other Jews.
So, God has put his stamp of approval on this event – Peter PLUS 6 other religious Jews are all in this together.
Peter can point to God as the one who arranged the whole thing.
Cornelius prayed, the angel visited Peter, he saw a vision of animals in the sheet, he was reluctant, but the Spirit of God encouraged him to continue, to greet the “unclean” Gentiles, to share the good news.
It was all a God thing.
Peter figured, if God gave them the same gift, how could I oppose God?
This argument was so convincing that even the hard-core circumcised believers were OK with it (v.18). “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
Interesting: Peter spoke a message to save Cornelius and his family.
Cornelius was a leader, a good man, generous giver, religious, seeker of God, went to church, feared God, was respected by other church-goers.
Something was lacking. The knowledge of salvation of Jesus Christ alone.
Going to church isn’t enough.
Being a good person isn’t enough.
But, these things drew Cornelius to God.
It is clear that Peter is sharing the good news with Cornelius. It was clear that Cornelius had heard of some of these things.
In Luke, the author mentions 5 centurions like Cornelius – and has good words for each in their dealings with Jesus. So, Cornelius had likely heard many stories of Jesus and other centurions (like himself).
Cornelius, good man, church-goer, still needed Jesus, needed to be born again, needed the Holy Spirit.
This story Peter told, appears to be the end of the controversy with the Gentiles, but it isn’t. This is a huge transition – a whole paradigm of a whole population of people that would need to change.
It would take much convincing that God wanted Gentiles just as much as Jews.
The believers in Jerusalem would be concerned with LOTS of Gentile believers. How would that affect the Jewish church in Jerusalem?
These problems will linger until Acts 15, where a council is formed to establish some rules.
Now, Luke is ready to write about the main theme of his book, the expansion of the church, the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles. The stage is set, so Luke will continue his book with Paul – the missionary to the Gentiles.
Antioch became the headquarters (2nd) for missions. Jerusalem was the headquarters of the church.
Antioch was large, but sinful.
Luke begins his story of Antioch with the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, killed for Jesus.
Saul (hardcore Jew) had witnessed this and saw Stephen as a threat to his own beliefs. He agreed and watched the killing.
The same day that Stephen was killed, a great persecution of Christians started, so they scattered – preached the gospel as they left, in Samaria, Ethiopia, Acts 10 (Roman centurion), Cyprus, Antioch, etc..
They had preached mostly only to Jews, but by Acts 11, 12, and on, they started preaching to the Gentiles, the Greeks in Antioch, etc.
The hand of the Lord was with them, and many turned to the Lord. The church in Jerusalem heard these things, so they sent a delegation down to Antioch to see what was happening (same as what happened with Samaria). So, they sent Barnabas.
Barnabas, from Cyprus, a good man, man of faith. He would be a good bridge between Jerusalem and Antioch (different peoples, different cultures).
He encouraged the believers in Antioch.
He was instrumental in introducing Saul (Paul) to the believers in Jerusalem. After Paul’s conversion, the Jews were hesitant to receive him. But Barnabas saw his true conversion and testified to it and introduced Paul to the Jews, who received him largely on Barnabas testimony.
Barnabas realizes that the ministry in Antioch is too much for him, so he goes to Paul (in Tarsus) and brings him. They preached and built up the Antioch church for a year.
Many of those who shared the gospel are nameless in the Bible. They simply received salvation, and wanted to spread the good news.
A great awakening, revival began with nameless people.
If you think, what can God do with insignificant me? Think about them. God did much!