When Christian Jews in Judea heard about the events relayed in chapter 10, they were astonished that Peter disobeyed the Mosaic Law about fraternizing with Gentiles (11:1-3). These Christian Jews were still living according to the Mosaic Law; they had not yet grasped that God had set aside the Law as a ruling force following Christ’s ascension and the Spirit’s work in forming the church, the body of Christ (see yesterday’s notes on chapter 10:44-46). Peter answered their concerns with a detailed account (11:1-17), and these Christian Jews rightly submitted to God’s work (v. 18).
The events of the last few chapters resulted in the gospel being spread to both Jews and Gentiles. As the Word spread God worked powerfully (“the hand of the Lord,” v. 21) so that many repented and trusted Christ (v. 22). The Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to help teach these new believers, and he and Saul ministered with them for a year.
Verses 27-30 tells of a prediction of famine in Jerusalem. Prophets were Christ’s gift to the church to build its foundation (Eph 2:20; 4:11). They received direct revelation from God for the church’s instruction. The church in Antioch responded by sending financial help to Christians in Jerusalem. The Antioch Christians’ giving was motivated by love, was voluntary, and was according to each one’s ability.
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- The church must help other Christians in their time of need. Verses 27-30 are often used to teach that the church must be involved in meeting various social needs of anyone, but that is not what happened here.
- Christ’s church is built through God’s Word (11:1, 14, 19-21, 26). God’s Word must be proclaimed to the lost, and Christ’s church is stabilized, built up, strengthened, and equipped through the ministry of the Word. Salvation/conversion is just the beginning; new saints who are baptized and added to the church must be taught and matured. An edified church is an evangelizing, growing church (v. 24b).