Read Acts 11
Peter Explains His Actions
1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The Church in Antioch
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 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. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 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 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.28 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.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
What we see in Acts 11 is a continuation of the previous chapter. Peter just had his world rocked as he came to understand that the gospel is for everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, and he leaves Cornelius’ house to head back to Jerusalem. Once there, he’s immediately hit with opposition–from people who believe just as he had–and decides to use it as a teaching moment for the rest of the Jews who are upset that he would dare take the gospel to a Gentile. As Peter explains his actions and motivations, he’s not met with rejection–the people get it. Towards the end of the chapter, we get a glimpse of church at Antioch. Barnabas and Saul devote a year to teaching the Christ-followers there, and, in part because of their faithfulness to do so, the church is growing and developing.
The lesson the church at Jerusalem learned is one that we need to always keep reminding ourselves of: the gospel is for everyone. Regardless of your background, the household you grew up in, the sins you have committed–the gospel is for you. It’s easy for us to remember that when it’s more personal, but when it comes to others, we often place ourselves in a position of superiority. We need to never forget our own need for the gospel (because we, too, were dead in our own sin) and that no one is ever too far gone for the gospel to change their life. Peter says it best in Acts 11:17: “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Let’s all take that same attitude. Stay prayerful for the people in your life who are far from Jesus. Keep having Christ-centered conversations. Continue planting seeds with every opportunity you get, because no one is ever too far from the grace of God.
Why were the Jewish Christians frustrated with Peter when he arrived back in Jerusalem?
The longer you are a follower of Jesus, the easier it is to drift into forgetting your need for a savior. Have you ever found yourself forgetting your own need for the gospel?
Is there anyone in your life you have written off as “too far off” from God’s grace? How can you be praying for them this week? How can you engage them in a gospel conversation this week?
Did You Know?
Scholars believe the year Saul and Barnabas spent ministering to the church at Antioch was around 43 AD, ten years after Jesus’ resurrection and nine years after Saul’s conversion.