Pastors BLOG
August 17, 2017, 12:00 AM

The Adventure Begins 30: Lessons From the Early Church - Acts 11:19-30


In Acts 10-11 we see how God reveals the fulfillment His plan in the prophetic words of Joel that Peter preached about on Pentecost Sunday to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.  God speaks to Peter in a trance about His acceptance of the Gentiles and how that Peter was to go and preach revival among the Gentiles beginning with a man named Cornelius.  Cornelius is saved along with his whole household, and a shift takes place in this book written by Luke as he begins to focus on how this message began to spread beyond the Jews out to the whole world.  This transition was slow and difficult for many of the Jewish believers to accept at first, but the criteria by which acceptance would be established is very instructive to us in the church today.

Acts 11:19-30 (NIV)
19 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.
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 ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 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.
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, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.
30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

First of all this passage takes us back in the time line to before Chapter 9 where Paul converts, back to the Persecution that started with Stephen.

 

These Jewish believers are scattered by the persecutions and they begin to share with other Jews around the world.

But God was working on them even as He was working on Peter with Cornelius and the other disciples in Jerusalem to accept that God loves all people.  Some of these Jewish Believers began teaching the Gentile’s too and they were getting saved.  God loves everyone, and He can use anyone.

Then in verse 22 and 23 it says:

22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 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.
24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
 

Barnabas is sent by the church in Jerusalem to investigate and to validate what God was doing specifically in Antioch.  Antioch was a pretty key place.  It was a hub in the Roman empire, in fact it was considered one of the top three cities in all of the empire.  It was a strategic place for the gospel to spread through and God was moving there.

Barnabas finds that they were exhibiting The Evidence of the Grace of God:

What is that evidence?

Peter’s evidentiary proof of the Judean conversions was that 1. They spoke in tongues

Acts 11:15-18 (NIV)
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 as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"
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."

This is proof enough for Peter and it is proof enough for the disciples in Jerusalem and because it falls within the same narrative of Luke’s teaching here I believe this is what Barnabas saw as evidence as well.

What other evidences did he see?

Well, it tells us that there was in operation, in this church, the gifts of the Spirit – specifically prophetic gifts.

Acts 11:28 (NIV)

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.)

2. They operated in the gifts of the Spirit. Which ultimately are extensions of Christ’s love.

Finally their response to this prophecy of compassion alludes to the third evidence that they exhibited.

Acts 11:29-30 (NIV)
29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.
30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Their compassion stems from the fact that 3. They had the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Over the next couple weeks we are going to look at these evidences more closely – today I want us to focus on the first one - 1. They spoke in tongues

What is this gift?

After the events at Pentecost when the HS came and baptized the believers they all spoke in tongues and in Acts 2 the apostle Peter stood up and preached to the crowds about what had just happened.  He told the audience

Acts 2:38-39 (NIV)
38 … "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Of course at the conclusion of Peter’s message it tells us that 3,000 people were added to the church movement in Jerusalem that day. 

Here is the process described to us.  It is a process that the Holy Spirit does in us: First, you repent and be baptized.  This represents and is accompanied with receiving Jesus Christ as your savior and the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit to blot out the sins of your past and to transform your life for the higher purpose of living a life free of sin (Romans 8:9-11).

But there is a second work of the Holy Spirit

You’ll remember that in Acts 8:1-40 there is the story of Phillip who had been displaced from Jerusalem due to persecution by the Jews.  Phillip goes to Samaria and begins preaching the good news there.  A great number of people there received his message, repented of sins and were baptized.  These people had given their lives to God and in that step of faith the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit began as He came to live in them (with exception of Simon the magician who would be exposed by Peter as a fraud further in the chapter).  But later in this passage it says that Peter and John arrived to encourage these new Samaritan believers.  It says…

Acts 8:15-17 (NIV)

15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
 

Does this mean that you can be saved and not have the Spirit of God at work in you? No. 

Romans 8:9-11 (NIV)
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Romans 8:9-11 clearly tells us that you cannot be saved without having the presence of the Spirit in your life.  But of the Holy Spirit in your life, which is an enduement of power to do the will of God and His ministry.  This is what it means here where it talks about these Samaritan converts not yet receiving the Holy Spirit.  It was a second distinctive event beyond the salvation experience.  This second Holy Spirit event for all believers as listed in Peter’s testimony in Acts 2:38-39 is the baptism of the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). 

 

Consider the first disciples all 120 of them were saved, baptized in water before Pentecost, but then on Pentecost Sunday the Spirit of God came to rest upon them and filled them with power, power for what?  Jesus told the disciples what the power was for in…

Acts 1:4-5, 8 (NIV)
4 …but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…"
8 …But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

This in no way means that God does all of this in a specific order every time.  Someone may accept Christ and experience the baptism at the point of conversion prior to ever having been baptized in water.  Others may never experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit, although it is my conviction that this gift clearly in scripture is for everyone

Acts 2:38-39 (NIV)
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Acts 10:44-46 (NIV)
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God…

The point is that they are two distinct experiences one of regeneration and the second of equipping for Christian life and ministry.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by tongues – a spiritual language given to us by God.  It has many functions, but its primary function for every Spirit-filled believer is as a personal prayer language.

The gift of tongues, specifically in its use as a personal spiritual prayer language, becomes a gateway tool for deeper fellowship with the Holy Spirit.  The baptism in the Holy Spirit is an ongoing experience that the believer lives in. 

I want us to talk more about tongues in our next installment, but for now I want to encourage you to begin to seek a greater move of the HS in all your life.  We should always want more, to be baptized, to be consumed by Him.

By Pastor Carl Friedel

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