ACTS CHAPTER ELEVEN
The Disciples Called Christians
Suggested Teaching Objectives
1. To teach pupils to never develop a "class conscious" attitude about others in the church.
2. To teach the plan of salvation.
3. To teach the importance of being "filled" with the Spirit for service and empowering.
4. To teach the value of a life consecrated to God such as Barnabas' life.
5. To show the value of a life devoid of jealousy.
6. To show the importance of one of the great characteristics of Christianity -- sacrifice.
INTRODUCTION: The Gospel had now been given and accepted by the Jews, the Samaritans and the Gentiles. Peter had been the special emissary for God in these things. Now, he was confronted with the task of explaining and verifying the conversion of the Gentiles.
I. THE ACCUSATION -- Vs. 1-3
Vs. 1-2 -- They of the circumcision. It's not clear who these are:
It could mean simply circumcised Jews who had been saved, yet didn't believe Jews should have close fellowship with Gentiles. Ephesians 4:17-19
It could be Jews who were saved but were not well indoctrinated and therefore were blind to the applications of the Great Commission in Matthew. 28:18-20.
It could be Jews who had accepted Christ but who believed that in order to stay saved they had to live by the Old Testament demands of circumcision and the Ten Commandments. Galatians 1:11-16,20,21; 3:1-3.
It could be Jews who had gotten in the church believing that in order to be saved a person had to accept Christ and be circumcised.
Most probably, "they of the circumcision" meant those under numbers one and two above because in Vs. 18 they did accept Peter's account. We should be willing to accept in our churches those of all types, regardless of past lives, past standards and financial situations, etc. James 2:1-9. Of course, we should not have in our churches those who are not saved.
As a teacher, you could use 3 & 4 above as a means of explaining that salvation is by Grace through faith, plus nothing and minus nothing.
Vs. 3 -- They accused Peter of eating with the Gentiles. To the Jews, Gentiles had lower moral standards, practiced idolatry and polygamy and Jews had little to do with Gentiles. But God wants the vile and wicked sinners saved too. Roman. 1:16; I Corinthians. 6:9-11.
II. THE ANSWER -- Vs. 4-17
Vs. 4-15 -- Peter recounts the events of Ch. 10 and the Gentiles conversation.
Vs. 15-17 -- "The Holy Spirit fell on them." This was in a manner to manifest to Peter and the other brethren from Joppa that these Gentiles, too, were saved. This does not mean that they had "cloven tongues as of fire" as at Pentecost. "Baptizing" and "filling" are words seemingly used interchangeably. cf. Acts 1:5; 2:4; 11:16. There was only one real "Baptizing of the Holy Spirit" and that occurred at Pentecost. Now there is only one Baptism and that is water Baptism. cf. I Peter. 3:21; Ephesians. 4:5; Roman. 6:4.
These Gentile believers were (though Peter was reminded of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, vs. 16) "filled" with the Holy Spirit. To be filled means to be totally surrendered to God's will for obedience and service. Thus Peter, "filled with the Holy Spirit," 4:8, was empowered to speak and win souls. When we fully surrender to God and seek soul winning power, we can have it. Acts 4:29-31; Matthew. 7:7,8. Stephen, too, had it. cf. Acts 6:5. For the promise is to all the saved. Acts 2:39. Although we are only once indwelled with the Spirit, we are to be filled many times and that is for service. Ephesians. 5:18. The Christians were filled more than once and that filling was for service. Acts 2:4; 4:31.
The like gift was "this filling". Think of Baptism as immersion. Peter was convinced by what he saw at Cornelius' house that these Gentiles, too, were saved and empowered in a like fashion to that at Pentecost.
II. THE ADMISSION -- Vs. 18.
The church members in Jerusalem accepted Peters' account that conversion and salvation had come also to the Gentiles.
III. THE AMBASSADORS -- Vs. 19-23
Vs. 19 -- Phenice or Phoenicia was up in the Lebanon area. Cyprus was an island in the Mediterranean. Antioch was ever further north in the lower part of Asia Minor. These preached only to Jews.
Vs. 20-21 -- The Grecians were Hellenistic Jews. Many were saved and a fine church was established.
Vs. 23-24 -- He saw that those folks were really saved and that a real revival was going on. These early Christians were real missionaries and as such were good ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
The character and work of Barnabas is noteworthy. He was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost, and full of faith. As a result of such characteristics and consecration, we see a fine commentary on his life -- "much people was added unto the Lord." Will as much be said of your life?
IV. THE ASSOCIATE -- Vs. 25-26 a,b.
Barnabas saw that these new converts needed much instruction, that it was more than he alone could handle and he knew of a man who had the capabilities to help him in this situation. Saul -- who was now at Tarsus. He went to Tarsus, told Saul, who was always ready to serve his Lord, and they returned to Antioch. They taught the people for a whole year together.
Now it would be Barnabas and Saul. cf. 12:25; 13:2. Later, it would be Paul and Barnabas. 13:46. Saul was a good associate and later Barnabas, without jealousy, became the associate of Paul and the Kingdom of God made progress. Jealousy hinders God's work and we must all guard against it.
V. THE ADORNMENT -- Vs. 26c.
The disciples (followers of Christ) were first called Christians (Christ's ones) at Antioch. Probably by their enemies. They were so called because they were Christlike. Does anyone think of Jesus by looking at your life?
THE ASSISTANCE -- Vs. 27-30
These were real Christians. Their brethren at Jerusalem were in need and they gladly sacrificed to help them out. Yes, they had Christ in their hearts alright, and they were truly Christians.
CONCLUSION: In this chapter, we have seen the Jerusalem church accept the fact that Gentiles also could be and had been saved. Now they knew the Gospel was for everybody. Now they went north to Antioch and preached and people were saved. A great missionary church was established and built up in the faith. A church of people that had a heart for others -- their brethren and the lost world. It was a Gospel preaching church and a sacrificing church. Let's all do our part to make our church to have the same kind of characteristics and reputation. Then, we will be known as Christ's ones (Christians), too.