TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10
SCRIPTURE: Acts 11
Yesterday we encountered the story of how God took the Gospel to the Gentiles. Because we are Gentiles who look back on this event, it doesn’t seem that big of a deal to us. After all, why shouldn’t we have the privilege of hearing the Gospel and the opportunity to be saved. Both The Great Commission and the Acts 1:8 model point to the fact that Jesus wanted everyone to hear the Good News.
But as you get into this chapter, it is quickly evident that not everyone was that excited. When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was quickly met by a group of Jewish men referred to as “the circumcision party” or “those of the circumcision”. These may very well have been men saved by the grace of God through Jesus but who were still very ignorant of God’s great grace. They were still trying to marry the Jewish law with Christianity.
They were men that still clung to the Jewish traditions. One of those would have been the absolute necessity of circumcision. This will be a major point of contention later. Another one of those would have been the long standing cultural divide between Jews and Gentiles. Many Jews would have thought of Gentiles as no better if not worse than dogs. They would not have had anything to do with them in any way. In fact, for Gentiles to even be recognized by religious Jews, they would have had to converted to Judaism.
Peter was quick to tell his story. As he did, he made a most interesting comparison. The Gentiles at the home of Cornelius were saved and received the Holy Spirit just like the disciples did on the day of Pentecost. This is remarkable. The Samaritans also received the Holy Spirit, but it was in a different way. The Gentiles, however, had a very similar experience to what happened at Pentecost. The satisfied those of the circumcision, at least temporarily.
From there the story shifts to the church in Antioch. We are reintroduced to Barnabas. I love the way he is described: a good man, full of the Holy Spirit, and faithful. We should all desire to be known that way.
God was busy saving a lot of Gentiles in Antioch. Barnabas got a bit overwhelmed and left to go to Tarsus to get Saul. It is at this point in the Acts narrative that Saul/Paul will begin to take on a much more prominent role. But in the meantime, Barnabas and Saul teamed up to disciple the believers in Antioch.
The fruit of that discipleship was evident. First, disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. In other words, this is the first time that disciples lived such unusually graceful lives that people identified them with Jesus. Second, the church in Antioch sent financial help to Christ followers living in Judea. This is the first time we really see a cooperative effort of churches ministering to other churches.