Acts 11 begins with a recap of Acts 10. The recap was necessary since Peter was receiving criticism from the “circumcision party.” How would you like to be known as the “circumcision party”?
Let’s move on and not get distracted by the terms and titles of that day. However, it’s incredibly important to note that this is a monumental moment because they’re moving from an exclusive viewpoint to an inclusive viewpoint. God loves everyone and wants everyone to receive His love and become His sons and daughters.
Here are some key phrases in Acts 11:1-18…
- … the Gentiles also had received the word of God. (11:1)
- … what God has made clean, do not call common. (11:9)
- … this happened three times. (11:10) [Peter needed 3 experiences to believe it!]
- … and the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. (11:12)
- … the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. (11:15)
- … if then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way? (11:17)
- … and they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (11:18)
The apostles and disciples are living out the Great Commission they received in Acts 1:8. They’re going beyond the intellectual and experiencing the difference spiritually and relationally. They’re looking at people differently. God is removing the differences and the judgments associated with those differences. Ultimately, everything is being redefined by God’s love and what it truly means to love one another.
Obviously, this is a tall task because we still struggle with it today. But can you imagine how bad it would be if God wasn’t clear about His desire to love everyone equally? The most famous words in the Bible – John 3:16 – take on even greater significance and importance in light of Acts 10 and 11.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And don’t leave out the all-important John 3:17…
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
It’s also essential for us to remember our role in 1 John 3:16…
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Now, let’s turn our attention to what Acts 11:19-30 says about Barnabas.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Who did they speak to initially?
- No one except the Jews.
What happened when some of them started speaking to those beyond the Jews (the Hellenists)?
- The hand of the Lord was with them.
- A great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Why is this significant?
- It’s affirming and building upon what God told Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10.
- Acts 10:15—What God has made clean, do not call common.
- Acts 10:34—So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…”
- Acts 10:47—Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
What did the church in Jerusalem do when they heard this news?
The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Who did they send?
- Barnabas, the son of encouragement.
What did he see? How did he respond? What did he do?
- He saw the grace of God; the underserved kindness of God.
- He was glad for God’s grace to be given and received.
- He exhorted them to remain faithful with steadfast purpose.
This should be an obvious response, but the majority of religious leaders didn’t respond that way. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of skepticism among religious leaders today, too. The spirit of competition leads to the spirit of comparison. Basically, that means we make it about ourselves instead of about God and others.
Who was Barnabas? What made him so special and unique?
- He was a good man.
- This speaks to his character; to the transformed purity of his heart.
- He was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
- To be full of the Holy Spirit is to be presence driven.
- To be a living and holy sacrifice that’s acceptable to the Lord.
- To live our life as a spiritual expression of worship.
- To be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
- To discern what the will of God is: what is good, acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
- To be full of the Holy Spirit is to be presence driven.
- To be full of the Holy Spirit is to walk by the Spirit and bear the fruits of the Spirit.
- Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. (Galatians 5:16-24)
- To be full of the Holy Spirit is to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5-6)
- Most arguments divide instead of unite.
- Lofty opinions are prideful opinions that are trying to prove themselves.
- The Spirit leads us to go beyond agreement to application of the truth.
- To be full of the Holy Spirit is to use our gifts to strive to excel in building up the Church.
- Barnabas was sent to see and discern what was happening.
- Barnabas saw the grace of God and bore witness that this was good.
- Barnabas used his gifts to exhort them to remain faithful with steadfast purpose.
What was the result? A great many people were added to the Lord.
Why don’t we see a great many people being added today?
- It’s unacceptable for us to be content with less.
- We must not adjust or lower our expectations of God’s heart and work.
What does Barnabas do next?
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Do you remember who Saul is and what role Barnabas plays in Saul’s story?
And Saul approved of his execution.
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
Apart from Jesus, who is the most influential leader in the New Testament? Most people would say it’s Paul. (God changed his name from Saul to Paul.)
Would Saul ever have become Paul without Barnabas?
- Saul became Paul because Barnabas stood up and spoke up for him.
- Saul became Paul because Barnabas took him under his leadership.
- Saul became Paul because Barnabas discipled Paul.
- Saul became Paul because Barnabas empowered Paul.
- Barnabas saw Paul’s gifts and made Paul the primary leader and himself a complimentary leader.
- In other words, Barnabas was an amazing leader and discipler who defined success by the success of his disciples.
What was the result?
- They met with the church in Antioch for a year.
- They taught a great many people.
- The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Let me leave you with 2 primary applications from this chapter…
- How was Barnabas described in Acts 11:24?
- What does God want to add to your character?
- What does God want to add to your experience with the Holy Spirit?
- What does God want to add to your faith?
- What is an application for all of us in this passage?
- Who is discipling you? Who is your Barnabas?
- Who are you discipling? Are you somebody’s Barnabas?