#ChurchOnMission Series
  • At His ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach his gospel. That same mission continues today, unbroken and unhindered for almost 2,000 years since. The book of Acts is an encouragement for the church today as Christians contend for the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. How did the disciples begin executing the biggest mission in the history of the world? The Bible says that while waiting for the Holy Spirit, they devoted themselves to prayer—they talked to God. The apostles led by following Scripture—through it, God responded. Consequently, the early church experienced success—but not without undergoing failure first. What can we learn from what they did? Join us Sunday ACTS #churchonmission.
10. The Multiplication of the Mission - Antioch Acts 11
  • The news of Jesus Christ began to spread. God expands His Church in many ways.Christ followers should commit to getting involved when they see God at work.
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Describe the issue the Jewish believers had with Peter meeting with Cornelius. What was in error concerning their criticism? Do we tend to exclude anyone from the proclamation of the gospel in our day because of their differences from us? 
    • How did Peter choose to respond and why did his response carry the day with the “circumcision party?” 
    • Why did God bring about Cornelius’s conversion the way He did? 
    • It seems that no one told the believers from Cyprus and Cyrene about the issue with Gentiles (Hellenists), so they spoke to them about Jesus without hesitation. What were the results of their proclamation? Who brought about the conversions? 
    • What do you think was behind the Jerusalem church leadership sending Barnabas to Antioch? How did Barnabas handle his responsibility, and why was it a good choice to send Barnabas? 
    • What was behind Barnabas’s traveling to Tarsus to get Saul?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • When the prophet Agabus foretold of the famine to come (Acts 11:27 & 28), how did the church at Antioch respond? 
    • What does their response say about their understanding of the gospel and their responsibility to other believers? 
    • What are the key lessons in this chapter? State them in one sentence each. 
    • How do these lessons apply to you? To our church?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
In Acts 10, we saw through the story of Cornelius that the gospel is for everyone, not just the Jewish people. The Apostle Peter had shared the gospel with Cornelius and his family, all of whom were Gentiles, and they had accepted Jesus whereupon the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues. Peter ordered that they be baptized then stayed with them for a some days. Peter returned to Jerusalem from his stay with Cornelius. By the time he arrived there, the other Apostles and believers in Judea had heard about the gospel being received by Gentiles. Once in Jerusalem, certain of the Jewish believers criticized him for eating and drinking with Gentiles, a practice which violated the Jewish food laws.

This was a difficult issue for Jewish believers in general, and those of the “circumcision party” in particular; and it is an issue for which we should not be too quick to find fault. We must remember that Jewish people were taught from their youngest days about the Jewish food laws, about being “clean” so they could approach God and be acceptable with their worship and offerings. Gentiles were ritually “unclean” as was the food they ate. Consequently, Jewish people avoided contact with Gentiles, and certainly would not eat with them. Thus, the argument went, Peter had violated these Jewish laws in what he did. But the further argument was that a Gentile must embrace Judaism first before becoming a believer.

In short, a Gentile had to be acceptable to God to receive the gospel. While the latter aspect of this issue did not appear to come up in the discussion with Peter, it was nevertheless lurking beneath the surface. In verses 4-15, Peter responded to the criticism by explaining in detail what had happened. Presumably, by doing so, Peter was filling in gaps in the information the brothers in Jerusalem had or even misinformation. Peter’s explanation was just as what was set out in Acts 10, with the additional piece of information that God’s angel had told Cornelius that Peter was to declare the gospel message to him and his family.

Through this recitation of the facts, Peter was saying that he learned from God that the gospel was for everyone, with no distinction, that a Gentile need not follow the Jewish food laws to receive the gospel, and that the exact same thing happened to Cornelius and his family as had happened to those in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 11:17). The message was the same, the response was the same, and the result was the same. Thus, who was Peter to stand in God’s way! Those who Peter addressed got it; they understood, they gave glory to God for His grace, and they reiterated that “to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

So, the Church was spreading, and it was spreading to Gentiles. God’s grace indeed is for all who believe, without distinction. Luke then goes on to describe how the scattering of the Jewish believers following the martyrdom of Stephen began to extend beyond Judea and Samaria. Specifically, it was spread to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. And Luke notes that the message was preached only to Jews at first (Acts 11:19b), but that some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene began to preach the gospel to non-Jews in Antioch (Acts 11:20) as a result of which many Gentiles (or, Hellenists) responded and became believers. Antioch was the capital city of the Roman province of Syria, and was the third largest city in the Roman Empire with a population of some 500.000+/-.

A large number of Jewish people also lived there. Clearly it was an important city. The church at Jerusalem (in effect, the “mother” church) heard what was happening and responded in an uplifting way by sending Barnabas there. We had seen Barnabas in Acts 4:36 & 37, and Acts 9:27. He was well-respected by the leadership of the Jerusalem church, and described by Luke as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” (Acts 11:24). Barnabas recognized that what was happening in Antioch was God’s work, and worthy of thanks to God. He stayed on to encourage and teach the new believers, and then went to Tarsus to bring Saul back to Antioch to help with the ministry of evangelizing and teaching there.

They did this for an entire year. Interestingly, Luke adds that believers were first called “Christians” (meaning “Christ followers”) in Antioch, though it is not clear from the text whether this was a term of respect or ridicule (the latter as in “Oh those nutty people, they follow that man Christ.). So, as Barnabas and Saul saw God at work in Antioch, they joined right in. And Antioch became the center of missionary activity as we shall see shortly in the book of Acts. A principle for us to follow is to observe where God is at work and then go there to join in what He is doing. That’s what Barnabas and Saul did, as God was at work bringing many into His kingdom, including Gentiles as well as Jews.