The Gospel Reaches the Gentiles

Everything has been leading up to this time. There have been three steps on the way. First, Philip preached to the Samaritans, but the Samaritans after all were half-Jewish and they formed, as it were a bridge, between the Jewish and Gentile world. Second, Peter had accepted Cornelius. Now the church had taken the most epoch-making of all steps. Christ’s missionary plan was being fulfilled:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

News of this reaches the church of Jerusalem and by the providence of God, they sent a man such as Barnabas to Antioch. He is “sent out” (exapostello exapostello), indicating he goes with the authority of the Jerusalem church, not only to investigate the situation but to take charge of it. Note that both Barnabas and Paul are called apostles in Acts 14:14. Barnabas received his ordination from the Church at Jerusalem and Paul from Christ.

When he arrived at Antioch, Barnabas saw the evidence of the grace of God—the door of faith had been opened wide to the Gentiles. Consequently, Barnabas begins preaching and brings a great number to the Lord (Acts 11:22-24). Christianity will not be another sect of Judaism.

Barnabas finds that he is responsible for this new and growing church and the task is too big for one man. The Christians at Jerusalem may have forgotten about Saul, not Barnabas. Filled with the Spirit, he knew that Christ had chosen and called Saul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Already acquainted with Saul’s ability to teach, he wants him as a co-pastor. Therefore, Barnabas goes to Tarsus to look for Saul. He finds a half-bald, bowlegged man of about forty-one, rough and tough, alone and obscure yet ready to speak for Christ. Needing no words of persuasion, he brings Saul to Antioch (Acts 11:25).

After serving alone for fourteen years, Saul had a partner in the faith. One of the biggest problems a church has is matching the right man with the right man. Warm, loving and condescending Barnabas was matched with the bold, aggressive and assertive Saul. Both were righteous men filled with the Holy Spirit. They were a perfect match!

So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people (Acts 11:26). What makes a church grow? Teaching the Scriptures, Barnabas and Saul committed themselves to teaching for one year, and the results were great. The fruits of their teaching are seen in Acts 13:1:

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul (Acts 13:1, NIV).

They taught men who became teachers of other men. That’s the purpose of the church (Matthew 28:19-20).  The calling of every church is to teach and make disciples, not to entertain, placate, or create recreation for the saints. Teaching is the goal and design of the church.

The term “Christian,” for the disciples of Christ, was first coined at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The Latin suffix ian (“belonging to the party of”) is added to Christ (the Greek for Messiah) to get Christian, that is “one who belongs to the party of Christ.” This title appears only three times in the NT (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).

HERODIAN PERSECUTION. During this year of teaching, the situation at Jerusalem began to deteriorate rapidly. For the political interests of Palestine, Herod Agrippa I joined the Jewish opposition to the church. Although the apostles escaped the previous persecution (Acts 8:1), they were apparently the only objects of attack this time. Perhaps James and Peter were the only apostles presently in Jerusalem. James the son of Zebedee was executed by the sword, probably by beheading. Because the death of James pleased the Jewish leaders, Herod proceeded to arrest Peter with the same purpose in mind. However, the scrupulous Herod would not pollute the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread so he postponed the execution. The Lord sent an angel who delivered Peter from prison and Herod executed the guards (Acts 12:1-19).

Herod’s death in A.D. 44 is attributed to the direct intervention of God because of his failure to repudiate the divine honor which the populace paid to him at Caesarea (Acts 12:20-23). God was preparing the world for the spread of the Gospel through various events.

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