The Church (Congregation) in Antioch
Comments for Study 13
Acts 11:1-30; 13:1-3; 14:21-28
Memory Verse: 13:2
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I. The Church in Antioch (11:1-30)
>1. What did Peter tell the Jewish believers and how did they receive it? (11:1-18)
* Acts 11:1-3 "The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them."
* Verses 1-3 show that where there is the work of God, there are often people who attack it, sometimes from within. Before this the attack was mostly from the outside. Now the attack would be from inside the church. Not everyone who calls themselves Christian and who attend church are of God. They may even know and teach the Bible (as these did) and some will be deacons and elders. If Jesus' ministry had Judas, then the church has those who follow Judas' ways. Jesus asked, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice." (Luke 6:46-47) Then he told a most vivid parable. Recently when I told some in the church I attend of the amount of people using these Free Bible Study Help Materials they do not rejoice, but criticize. I know how Peter must have felt when he came back to Jerusalem.
* Verses 4-17 is an account of what happened. Peter added things so that those listening would understand some of the meaning of what was happening.
* Acts 11:18 "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."
* Jesus way of introducing this new development is such a powerful and beautiful thing. From this moment on the church, Jews and Gentiles, recognized that a person does not need to become a Jew to receive salvation from God though Jesus christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are now equal. Paul would later write this in his letters.
* "Gentiles" -Gentiles loosely means non-Israelite, but more specifically non-Jews. (Exodus 6:21; Neh. 5:8; Isa. 9:1, 42:6, 49:6, 22) The term and understanding did not come in use until the return of the southern kingdom of Israel from exile. Those returning consisted mainly of descendants of Judah, Benjamin, Simeon (assumed that some were blended into Judah), and some from Levi. (Ezra 1:5) They did not include the other tribes of Israel though they too were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those returning excluded the other tribes because they considered them unclean saying they intermarried with non-Israelites and worshiped the LORD in areas other than Jerusalem after the split of Israel. They had forgotten that Judah's descendants were from a Canaanite woman who was not even Judah's wife. Also, after the return they were the ones who excluded the other tribes from having anything to do with the temple. (Ezra 4:1-3) Still, the term Gentile stayed and lead to pride and prejudice. Jesus knew God's promise to David, and yet would not have anything to do with pride. The church in Jerusalem learned this, though not all and not all at once.
>What made Christians in Jerusalem scatter to many parts of the world? (19; 8:1-3)
* "Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews." (19)
* "And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." (8:1-3)
* "Now" -After Luke tells how God began working amongst the Gentiles he tells how the Lord Jesus continued it in a town outside of the promised land, Antioch.
* "scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen" -The persecution was also the work of Jesus. Those who were persecuted most likely at the time did not understand what was happened. Perhaps some wondered if the flame of the gospel would soon be snuffed out. Jesus would keep his word, the gospel would spread to the Gentiles.
* "Phoenicia" -The small stretch of land between the Lebanon Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea from Tyre north to Arvad. The southern most part is in the Promised Land (tribe of Asher), but was never completely conquered by Joshua.
* "Cyprus" -Island state in the north-east side of the Mediterranean Sea west of the coast of Phoenicia.
* "Antioch" -A city just north of Phoenicia. Some consider it the third most important city in the Roman Empire because it was the third largest. Many devout Jews lived there. Antioch is around twenty miles (30km) inland from the Mediterranean Sea, yet had a sea port because of the Orontes River. (See previous Acts studies for more information.)
* "telling the message only to the Jews" -Humans tend to witness to those around us, family, friends, and neighbors. The Spirit compels us to witness to everyone. This is the case that Luke makes in Acts, the spread of the gospel because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness of sins in Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that we are in perfect understanding of God's will, still God uses us. Our life with Jesus is an every learning and growing experience, eventually, if we are open to it, we will learn of God's will. (i.e. Abraham)
* Only the apostles remained in Jerusalem so thousands of believers in Jesus scattered to the north and to the south. (Note: to the west was the Arabia desert where no one lived.)
* Basically all of Palestine and Asia minor had believers who were witnessing about Jesus, Messiah and Lord.
>What was the new development that occurred in Antioch? (20)
* "Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus." (20)
* "Some of them" -not all believers ventured to people of other cultures, race, and background.
* "Cyrene" -Cyrene was a very large Roman city in northern Africa. Simon, the man who helped Jesus carry the cross was from this city.(Matt. 27:32) Many Greek speaking Jews lived there, as well as some believers in Jesus.
* "went to Antioch" -The Holy Spirit was moving many laymen in the spreading church. Perhaps the churches in these areas were visiting each other, but it also appears that they were going on short term mission trips. This is consistent with Luke's account of Philip and Peter.
* "and began to speak to the Greeks also" -The Greeks were not Jewish converts nor believers in Jesus. They were men and women whose ancestors conquered and ruled the world under Alexander, including all of Israel. Since most of the church was Jewish, to have them witness to former enemies is truly a work of God.
* "telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus" -Witnessing to others is telling them good news. The good news is found in Jesus, who is Lord of all. Jesus taught us about the kingdom of God. Jesus died to take away our sins. Jesus rose from the dead so that we will not die. Jesus rules from heaven in the hearts of those who believe in him. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit so that we can live a life that is pleasing to God and will lead to rewards in the kingdom of God. Jesus will come again to establish his kingdom of this earth, a kingdom of love, joy, justice, righteousness, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and rest. This is the good news of Jesus that all should share with anybody.
* The Holy Spirit was leading. He lead Philip and Peter to gentiles. He was leading everyone. Some have wrongly stated that Peter lead the way to the gentiles and his congregation followed his example. This is a lie told by people who desire control over people.
>How did God bless them? (21)
* "The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord." (21)
* "The Lord's hand was with them" -Jesus was conducting all and still is conducting all to this very day. Are you living by the Spirit, full of the Spirit, following the Lord's hand?
* "a great number of people" -No small amount. The gospel was spreading very fast in the first few years.
* "believed" -Accepting in one's heart, mind, and soul.
* "turned to the Lord" -This phrase is has been stated before. Again, it means turning away from sin and accepting God's personal love and reign.
>2. How did the church in Jerusalem respond to the needs of Antioch? (22)
* "News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch." (22)
* "News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem" -A group of men were not conducting and leading the spread of the gospel. Some state that Jerusalem is said to be the head of the church at this time, yet they didn't know what was going on in Samaria and now Antioch until after it was happening. They did not organize the spread of the gospel. The head of the church has always been Jesus Christ, not some city, group of people, or person here on this earth. Yet, this has not stopped many form trying to reign control under them. However, anarchy did not reign. The local congregations kept in contact with each other. They prayed for one another and supported one another. They sent envoys to each other. The organization of the churches as portrayed by Acts, I believe is how Jesus will organize the nations during the Millennium.
* "they sent" -They sent them to see what was happening in Antioch, to encourage them and to see how they could help the, even teach the Bible.
* "Barnabas" -Either Jerusalem sent one person or perhaps only Barnabas is mentioned. The first is likely because few believers in Jesus were in Jerusalem after the persecution (8:1); and yet since this is around eight years later the Jerusalem congregation may have grown in size. Luke started out this chapter reminding us that all were scattered (except the Apostles) so it would appear that the size of the Jerusalem church remained small though most of apostles were still there.
>What does the Bible tell about Barnabas? (23-24)
* "When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord." (23-24)
* Acts 4:36-37 states, "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet."
* Acts 9:27-30 states, "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
* "man of encouragement" -He did not put down but spoke in love. Speaking of Jesus, the kingdom to come, the rewards Jesus will give, practically helping, praying for others, listening to others, say the right thing at the right time, to build up and not tear down, etc.
* "he saw evidence of the grace of God" -clear confessions of faith, assurance of salvation, clear understanding of the basics, evidence in their actions and words, witnessing, etc. Note the verses that state a great number were brought to the Lord.
* "remain true to the Lord with all their hearts" -no compromise, not give up, continue to produce fruit. Jesus' parable of the four kinds of soil contains soil; two would be people who did not remain true to the Lord and only one produced fruit.
* "brought to the Lord" -Our witnessing should bring people to the Lord in understanding and heart.
>Why do you think Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus? (25-26)
* "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (25-26)
* So he could have a co-worker in teaching the word of God.
* "Barnabas went to Tarsus" -He did not go to Jerusalem to get someone. The Jerusalem church had sent Paul off to Tarsus around eight years earlier. Very little is mentioned of what Paul did during these eight years. From the following chapters which deal with Paul's missionary journeys we can conclude that they were his first. If Paul left Tarsus, it was not because of going to new lands to witness about Jesus. Tarsus as Paul's hometown. (22:3)
* "when he found him, he brought him" -This seems to indicate that either Saul was hard to find or Saul was reluctant to come.
* "taught a great numbers of people" -Understanding and presenting Bible knowledge and the ways of the Lord is described as a desired gift of the Holy Spirit.
* "Christians" -meaning one who follows the Christ (Messiah in Hebrew). Disciple also means one who follows another. Christians, Jew and Gentile were seen as different than the Jews who remained in the Mosaic laws and Jewish culture. Since the Christians were made up of people from different areas, it obtained a culture of its own.
>Here, what do you learn about being a man of God?
* A man of God should be ready to go and teach the word anytime and anywhere.
* A man of God does not do it alone, he had co-workers who are equal, if not better in ability.
* A man of God helps people grow.
* A man of God may go for awhile, even years, without doing much noteworthy things and then be greatly used.
* A man of God may not be recognized by other men as being useful leader material. Paul did not look like a leader and so he was sent off and all but forgotten. (2 Cor. 10:10) I know of a man, a reported leader of a Christian group who did not judge people according to God's will and blessing (even though his hair was changed). So he did everything, even evil to resist those whom God blessed, in favor for people whom he believed were leader materials. In the end all left him and his ministry for the blessing of God was not on him and he himself was not the leader he believes himself to be. We should never judge people based on outwards appearance or we could be like Israel who ended up with Saul as their king, a man who tried to pin David to the wall with his spear.
>3. How did Saul contribute to the growth of the Antioch church? (26)
* "and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (27)
* He taught the word of God.
* 1 Corinthians 14:1-12 states the importance of Bible teachers in a church. If a church does not have good Bible teachers, what is it? Paul wrote, "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."
* See also 1 Tim. 5:17
>What was the significance of the Antioch church in the Christian history?
* As mentioned above, for the first time believers were called Christians. This was distinctive because believers were no longer considered a sect of the Jews but a new religious movement.
* The difference with Christians is Christ, following him. Even the worldly people should see this.
>4. How did the Antioch church respond to the needs for the world? (27-30)
* "During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." (27-30)
* "During this time" -The one year that Barnabas and Paul taught."
* "prophets" -One who conveys God's words to people, whether written in the past or given in the present, in Acts they spoke of future events, though Paul sometimes gave a broader meaning in his letters.
* "came down from Jerusalem" -The individual churches kept in constant contact with each other.
* "severe famine" -43 A.D.
* "gifts" -The local congregations gave support to each other as needed. Generosity is a mark of a healthy congregation.
* "elders" -not in physical age, but spiritual maturity in Jesus. Each congregation should never be under the leadership of one person, but a group of men that most of the believers in that congregation recognizes as being men of God. Some congregations devise sneaky ways so that the elders are appointed by one person or only a few people which is wrong for it is still governing by one. The Letter to Titus gives a description of an elder.
II. Barnabas and Saul Sent Off (13:1-3)
* The illustration title "Barnabas and Paul go out as Missionaries" by an unknown author is now in public domain.
* Chapter 12 deals with Peter and Herod with Luke going in chronological order. 12:1 starts, "It was about this time..." This study jumps ahead to chapter 13 to learn what happens next in Antioch. Study 13 is on Acts chapter 12.
>5. Who were the prominent Bible teachers in the Antioch church? (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." (1)
* "Prophets and teachers" -See notes above. For prophets see Duet. 18:18-20; and 2 Peter 1:21, 2:17-18; and 1 Cor. 12:29-32, 14:29-32, Eph. 2:20, 3:5; 4:11; Luke 11:49, Rom. 12:6; and 1 Cor. 12:10. For teachers see Acts 11:26, 15:35, 18:11, 20:20, 28:31; and 1 Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11.
* "Barnabas" -Recognized first and is thus considered the pastor of the congregation. He is a Jew from the tribe of Levi from the island of Cyprus. He is considered older than the rest and perhaps much of what Paul wrote in his letters was perhaps learned from Barnabas or at least agreeded upon by him.
* "Simeon called Niger" -Simeon is a Jewish name. Niger is Latin for black.
* "Lucius of Cyrene" -Lucius is a Latin name. Cyrene is the capital of Libya.
* "Manaen..." -In Hebrew its Menahem. He is believed to be the foster brother of Herod Antipas. Herod was not a Jew. He must have been the source of some of the information about Herod.
* "Saul" -Listed last and considered the least important at this time in church history. He is not recognized as Paul until later in this chapter. (13:9)
>What does this suggest about spiritual leadership of the church?
* There were many leaders, able Bible teachers.
* None of the twelve apostles are mentioned. This can be considered the second and third generation of believers.
* The Antioch congregation was a cosmopolitan. Leaders were from all different parts or the world where the gospel was being preached.
* Earlier Luke said there were many. These are the only ones listed at this time.
>6. What are the characteristics of the Antioch church? (2a)
* "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting..." (2a)
* They loved the Lord and worshiped him. They were devoted to him.
* They were a praying congregation. Prayer is two way communication with God.
* They were a fasting congregation. Fasting focuses ones thoughts on God.
* They worked together.
* They studied God's word, they did not rely on new prophecy by itself. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. They checked with what the word says too.
>Who initiated the church to send off Barnabas and Saul?
* "...the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (2b)
* "the Holy Spirit said" -The name of the prophet is not even mentioned.
* "Set apart for me" -Not for the church or anybody else.
* "Barnabas" -If he was indeed the pastor then he was sent off.
* "Saul" -God had plans for Saul, the least teacher in the church.
* "for the work" -We all are assigned work for the Lord.
* "I have called them" -Not the church or the church leadership.
>What is its importance? (2b)
* Their work and sending was God's leading not man's. They were sanctified by God.
* They obeyed God.
* Everyone knew and consenting that this was from God.
>How did the church send the first missionaries? (3)
* "So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (3)
* "they placed their hands on them" -Not to receive the Holy Spirit because they already had that. Not to be chosen for the Holy Spirit already choose them. Only to be officially recognized.
* "sent them off" -A congregation should be ready to let anyone go if God calls them.
III. The Return to the Antioch Church (14:21-28)
* The rest of chapter 13 and the beginning of chapter 14 discuss the mission journey in detail. Study 15 covers these events. This study jumps ahead to concentrate on what happens next at Antioch.
>7. How did Paul and Barnabas strengthen the Christians? (21-25)
* "They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia." (21-25)
* "They preached the good news" -The main message, and perhaps the only message was the good news of the kingdom of God.
* "won" -We are prisoners of Satan and God wins out back through Jesus Christ.
* "strengthening the disciples" -A good mission report strengthens the congregation that sends it.
* "encourages them to remain true to the faith" -We should always encourage fellow believers.
* "we must go through hardships" -No exception.
* "to enter the kingdom of God" -Jesus is the king. His kingdom is where he rules. He currently rules in the hearts of believers and in heaven. He instructed us to pray, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When we leave this world we will be in the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus comes again his kingdom shall be on this earth. Our suffering to enter the kingdom of heaven is in this physical body on this earth.
* "prayer and fasting" -mentioned a lot in Acts.
>What did they do when they returned to Antioch? (26-28)
* "From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples." (26-28)
* "had been committed to the grace of God" -when we go out of the local body of believers we are committed, dedicated, and loyal to the grace of God.
* "God had done through them" -God works through his people to accomplish his plans for spreading the gospel. No angels are ever recorded in giving the gospel message in acts.
* "opened the door to the Gentiles" -The door was cracked open at Cornelius' house and in Antioch. Now it was wide open.
* "stayed there a long time" -Estimated to be two years.
* After the decree from Jerusalem in chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas stay for awhile in Antioch teaching the word of God. (15:35)
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