In Chapter 11 we see that Peter explained his actions to the Jewish (circumcised) believers who criticized him for fellowshipping with Gentiles. Peter described to them his vision and how he came to the home of Cornelius. He further explained that while he was speaking, the Gentiles experienced the Holy Spirit, just as they had at Pentecost. Peter let them know, that he then remembered something the Lord had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” I love what Peter tells them next, “If God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to thing that I could oppose God?” How often do we want to oppose God, because what He leads us to do does not go along with what the world says? How many times do we agree with our friends or those who influence us, rather than follow what God says? I pray that we can be bold in the Word and stand up for the Truth, rather than what others “think”. By standing up for the Truth, Peter showed these Jewish believers that it was God’s work, not his, and they had no further objections. They actually gave praise to God and said, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” They were rejoicing that others could receive. Have you ever been faced with someone you thought was unworthy, and they had accepted Christ? Did you feel like they were lying, or that they couldn’t possibly be forgive, or that they should not have been forgiven? I am so glad that I do not have the responsibility of God, in choosing who is “worthy of salvation” and who is not. I am afraid I would fail miserably in that judgment. I pray that I can always rejoice when others come to Christ, even those who hate me.
In verse 19 we are given an account of the Church in Antioch. Those who scattered when Stephen was stoned, traveled quite a distance telling the message of Christ. But they were only sharing with the Jews. Some, who were in Cyprus and Cyrene, traveled on to Antioch and shared the Gospel with the Greeks. Through the hand of the Lord, a great number of people turned to the Lord. The church at Jerusalem heard about the work being done in Antioch and sent a man named Barnabas, who was full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Through this, more people were brought to the Lord. Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Saul and together, for a year, they taught the people at Antioch. This is where we first see disciples being called Christians.
Prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch and predicted a severe famine would spread over the Roman world. We know, according to “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”, a British history, that in 46 AD, during the reign of Claudius, there was, indeed, a sever famine. Other important Ancient historians: Josephius, Suetonius, Orosious, and even the Roman historian Tacitus, wrote of this famine. History reveals that many died during this time. I mention this because in modern day America, Ancient History curriculum does not use the Bible as a basis of fact. I enjoy seeing other cultures talk about things that happened that prove God’s Word is without error. The disciples at Antioch, according to his own ability, gave to provide for the brothers in Judea, who were experiencing this famine and were without. Saul and Barnabas were the ones chosen to take this provision to the elders in Judea. I pray that we can give, as to our ability, to others in need.