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Studies in ACTS

"Acts 11:1-26 Traditions and the Expanding Gospel"

From: "Pastor Buddy Martin" <>
Date sent: Fri, 20 Sep 2002 15:16:59 CDT
Subject: [HF] Acts025 - Acts 11:1-26 Traditions and the Expanding Gospel


We completed our last study in Acts with Peter staying at the house of
Cornelius for a few days. In the meantime word gets back to the
church in Jerusalem that Peter has transgressed the traditions of the
elders by entering the house of a Gentile, and by eating with Gentiles.
It is causing quite a stir.

The case in view is that the early Jewish church had to work through
traditions that did not belong to the new covenant. In fact many of
these traditions weren't even part of the covenant of Moses. (More in
this in a moment.)

Are you following the studies well? Keep in mind that the best way to
study Acts, is to become a participant in the happenings. Try to set
aside 21st Century theological thinking, and see yourself as a close
observer of the happenings. Ready?

This is Acts025 - Acts 11:1-26 Traditions and the Expanding Gospel.

Vss1-3: "Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout
Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And
when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took
issue with him, saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with

.... "The apostles and the brethren throughout Judea heard..." Keep in
view that Peter is the only apostle involved in the matter of Cornelius.
But the word spreads rapidly. The act of the eating with Gentiles was a
grave offence in the Jewish religion of that time. Emotions are running
high. Could it be true? Of course this is the norm for Acts.

.... "Those who were circumcised took issue with him..." This phrase
may seem odd since all Jewish men were circumcised, but it is a
reference to the party of the Pharisees. The ESV version reads, "The
circumcision party criticized him."

.... "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." This
accusation made by the party of Pharisees is quite similar to what the
Pharisees had accused Jesus of doing. It says, "Both the Pharisees
and of the scribes began to grumble, saying, 'This man receives
sinners and eats with them.'" (Luke 15:2)

Note: There were many God-fearing Pharisees who came into the true
knowledge of salvation by grace through faith. The danger area zone
had to do with 'traditions' that had undermined the writings of Moses.
These traditions often set aside what had been taught by Moses.
Jesus referred to them as 'leaven.' (The Talmud was written by
descendants of the Pharisees.)

Listen to the Lord's warning to the disciples -- "'How is it that you do
not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But
beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they
understood that He [Jesus] did not say to beware of the leaven of
bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Vss4-14: Peter recounts the story of Cornelius.

Vs15: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as
He did upon us at the beginning."

.... "Just as He did upon us." Peter equates what happened at the
house of Cornelius as exactly what happened with the Jewish
believers on the day of Pentecost. Therefore the speaking in other
languages with Cornelius was not some esoteric speech. It was
identifiable languages.

.... "At the beginning." Peter indicates that this is the second time this
experience of speaking in other languages has taken place. From this
we can see that speaking in other languages was the exception and
not the rule for those experiencing the new covenant. Had it been the
rule, Peter would not have gone back to the day of Pentecost as a
reference point.

We may wonder why speaking in other languages was made part of
the Cornelius experience, but we will see why in a moment.

Vs16: "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say,
'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"

.... Peter is recalling what Jesus said just before His ascension. It was
at the the house of Cornelius, that Peter began to realize that all
believers, regardless of race or culture, were to have their hearts
baptized in the Holy Spirit, or what can be termed, the Spirit of the
covenant. The speaking in other languages served a different purpose.

Vs17: "Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us
also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could
stand in God's way?"

.... Peter silences all arguments. The issue is that God made no
distinction between the Jewish and the Gentile believers entrance into
the Church. It was as if the Lord reached forward in time, and then
brought the Gentiles back to the day of Pentecost, thus making them
full participants.

As for the speaking in other languages, the Spirit of the Lord gives
whatever gift He wills, to whoever He wills, whenever He wills, and for
whatever purpose He wills. No where in the Scriptures are we told to
look for speaking in other languages as a sign that a person has
entered the covenant of Christ.

Vs18: "When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God,
saying, 'Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the
repentance that leads to life.'"

.... It appears everything is settled at this point, but what to do with
Gentile believers is going to surface many times in the future. The
Pharisee party may have thought that all Cornelius needed now was to
be circumcised. The problem with this view is that the Lord had
already accepted Cornelius fully without benefit of circumcision.

Vs19-21: "So then those who were scattered because of the
persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way
to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one
except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus
and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks
also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with
them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord."

.... The scattered disciples did not know about the events with
Cornelius, so they shared the gospel with Jews only. At some point in
time certain disciples were moved by the Holy Spirit to begin speaking
to the Greeks. Perhaps the word had gotten to them concerning
Cornelius. The 'Greeks' in this case would be both Greek speaking
Jews as well as Gentiles. In any event the door was wide open for the

.... "The hand of the Lord was with them." The Lord was directing their
work, and bearing witness with large numbers of conversions.

Vss22-24: "The news about them reached the ears of the church at
Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he
arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to
encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for
he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And
considerable numbers were brought to the Lord."

.... "They sent Barnabas off to Antioch." Barnabas was a Hellenist Jew
from the country of Cyprus. He was an obvious choice to serve as an
emissary from the apostles to Antioch.

.... "When he witnessed the grace of God he rejoiced." What was
happening at Antioch was amazing. Barnabas simply rejoiced, and
then encouraged them in the Lord.

.... "Considerable numbers were brought to the Lord." In addition to the
great number of those who now believed in Jesus, Barnabas himself
was responsible to bringing in many more. The Arabic translation says,
"And he drew a large multitude to the Lord."

Vss25,26: "And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had
found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met
with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples
were first called Christians in Antioch."

.... "To look for Saul." The Holy Spirit no doubt placed on the heart of
Barnabas to bring Saul to Antioch. Barnabas was well aware of Saul's
calling in that he was to be a minister to both Jews and Gentiles. The
time had come for Saul's next assignment.

.... "For an entire year they ... taught considerable numbers." The
church at Antioch grew by leaps and bounds. Over time it became the
major center for evangelism to the world. The Antiochene Church
became Saul's home church, and its members early on consisted of
both Jews and Gentiles.

.... "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." This
statement has received mixed reviews over the years. Some say it
was a term of derision or mockery given to the believers by outsiders.
But according to the prophets, God's people of the new covenant were
to be given a new name "which the mouth of the Lord will designate."
(Isaiah 62:2)

On the name Christian --- The book of Isaiah is often referred to as the
fifth gospel. The reason is because it so clearly sets forth God's
Messiah, the new covenant, and the Church, and Israel's history. Here
is the portion that speaks of a new name to be given to God's people:

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will
not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and
her salvation like a torch that is burning. The nations will see your
righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new
name which the mouth of the LORD will designate." (Isaiah 62:1,2)

(1) Early believers were called by various names. Sometimes they
were called Galileans, or, Nazarenes. The early church historian,
Epiphanius says that the disciples were actually called 'Jessaeans'
before they took the name of Christians. This name had regard to
David's father. The prophecy goes; "Then a shoot will spring from the
stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." (Isa11:1 - A
Messianic prophecy.) But the name that became the identifying name
for new covenant believers, was Christian.

(2) The term "mouth of the Lord" is a prophetic expression. It speaks
of a prophet speaking from the Spirit of the Lord. That believers were
first "called" Christians at Antioch, suggests that this name came by
way of the prophet, or prophets. In any event it became the historical
name for peoples of the new covenant. Peter himself says that we are
to glorify God in this name. (1Pet4:16)

(3) The name Christian comes from Christ. It signifies 'anointed ones.'
What more appropriate name would there be for new covenant
believers. Christians belong to Christ and share in His anointing. Jesus
Himself described a new covenant believer in the terms of a prophet.
And John says that all believers have the anointing dwelling in them.
(Cf. John 7:38; 1 John 2:20,27)

In the new covenant the prophetic anointing has passed into all
believers. This is why you don't find the same stress on prophets as
you do in the Old Testament. Its not that there are no new covenant
prophets, it is simply that their role differs considerable from the
prophet of the former testament. In the new covenant no believer has
to depend on a prophet in order to hear from the Lord.

Let's stop the study at this point. Feel free to make observations and
ask questions.

The Lord bless you,

Lawrence E. (Buddy) Martin, HF Host

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace
of God; that no root of bitterness springing up
causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." (Heb12:15)

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