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Now displaying: May, 2016
May 24, 2016

Real Talk with Roderick
Beyond Our Boundaries with Bridge-Building Barnabas (Acts 11:22-26)

If Peter's preaching to people outside of the Jews was not enough to make the Judaizers of Jerusalem lose it... this may do it (Acts 11:1-3). Beyond the seemingly wayward work of the most eminent apostle we now have the work of a few radical disciples. The outcome of their efforts has begun to make the news (Acts 11:22). It all started when some of the Jews that were scattered with the persecution of Stephen went as far as Antioch (Acts 11:19). Initially they stayed with the practice of presenting the grace of God through the gospel to Jews. Only Jews.

But eventually some of them began to go off road and present the gospel to the Gentiles. And although that causes consternation for people who want to keep the faith - away from nations, the decision was confirmed by Christ Himself. Similar to what happened when Peter preached to the centurion's household, the hand of the Lord was with those roguish preachers; a great number of heathen believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).

But, lest this thing get out of hand and the faith become feral, the church in Jerusalem needs to get someone to Antioch to make sure that things are being done right going forward. To that end they selected Barnabas and sent him over 300 miles as far as Antioch to investigate (Acts 11:22). What happens next is a set of powerful lessons for anyone that is serious about supporting the work of God among the nations. A close examination of bridge-building ministry of Barnabas yields a bounty of truth on going beyond our borders.

(Acts 11:22-24)
Barnabas himself was a Cypriot Jew by birth, like some of those who had begun to preach the gospel to the Antiochene Gentiles, and his sympathies would in any case be wider than those of such Jerusalem believers as had never set foot outside Judaea.
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 226). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Principle 1 - Content with the Core
The gospel finds its best support and promotion in people who know it well. They are not deceived by dangerous deviations and will readily recognize and refute error. But when the gospel has been really received they are not distracted by cultural differences orthogonal to an unconditional commitment to Christ. Their deep understanding of God's grace gives them the ability to be genuinely glad when the critical part and core of salvation has been received: the Lord Jesus Christ. They do not need to hear in new believers their own music, agreement with their own political positions. They do not need to see conformity to their own preferences in the arranging of hair or adorning of the body. The gospel finds it best support and promotion in people who are content with the clear communication of the need to receive Christ - Christ alone.

Barnabas was a wise choice for several reasons. First, he, like some of these Christian ambassadors, was from Cyprus (4:36; 11:20). Second, he was a generous man (4:37) and therefore thoughtful of others. Third, he was a gracious gentleman as attested by his nickname (4:36) and Luke’s testimony about him (11:24).
Toussaint, S. D. (1985). Acts. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 383). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The presence of a man of such sterling character and faith, a man “full of the Holy Spirit,”29 gave them the stimulus they needed to prosecute their evangelism still more vigorously; the number of converts increased rapidly.
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Acts 11:25-26

Several years had gone by since Saul of Tarsus had been escorted to Caesarea by his new friends in Jerusalem and put on board a ship bound for his native city. Barnabas could think of no one more eminently suited for the responsibility of sharing his ministry in Antioch. He therefore went to Tarsus in person to seek him out30—a task of some difficulty, perhaps, since Saul appears to have been disinherited for his joining the followers of Jesus and could no longer be found at his ancestral home.
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

The text of Acts is compressed and selective, but the most likely reconstruction of Pauline chronology from Gal 1–2 would indicate that some ten years or so had elapsed from the time he first departed from Cilicia to when Barnabas set out to find him.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 272). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Principle 2 - Capable of Collaborations
The gospel finds its best support and promotion in people who are able to receive by faith the fruit of its transforming power. Looking at life through the lens of the gospel and their confidence in Christ, they see marvelous works of God where some can only see the mistakes of the past. They see an agent for good and apostle born out of time where others only see the adversary that once wreaked havoc in the church. They no longer see the persecutor of brethren but see by faith the eventual writer of powerful epistles. The gospel finds its best support and promotion in people willing to collaborate with the formerly violent and insolent man who has become in Christ a new creation.

Jesus’ disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. The ending “-ian” means “belonging to the party of”; thus “Christians” were those of Jesus’ party. The word “Christians” is used only two other times in the New Testament: in 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. The significance of the name, emphasized by the word order in the Greek text, is that people recognized Christians as a distinct group. The church was more and more being separated from Judaism.
Toussaint, S. D. (1985). Acts. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 383). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Second, it reflects that Christianity was beginning to have an identity of its own and no longer was viewed as a totally Jewish entity. Again, the success among Gentiles would have hastened this process in Antioch.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 273). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

But “would-be” Barnabases of today need to heed a further lesson from this outstanding biblical figure. Barnabases want everyone to be happy, but sometimes it simply is not possible to please everyone without serious compromise of one’s basic convictions. Barnabas found that out later at Antioch when, in order to placate the conservative Jewish Christians “from James” (Jerusalem), he withdrew from table fellowship with those very Gentile-Christian converts we see him here witnessing to so enthusiastically (Gal 2:11–13).
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 272). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

May 9, 2016

The Approachable Apostle
(Acts 11:1-18)

All of Jerusalem is in shock over the scandal. How could he have done it? Peter, changed by his time spent with Jesus and charged by the Spirit of Jesus, has become a legend. He spoke into the bewilderment of his brethren words of tremendous insight and hope and helped them to see the trustworthiness of God's word in the tragedy of Judas' treachery (Acts 1:15-26; 4:4). When he preached thousands made decisions to place their faith in Christ (Acts 2:40-41). When he extended the right hand of fellowship even people that could not walk were fully restored. Literally! E.g., there was a man that had been lame from birth. But when he was pulled to his feet by the big fisherman, the same man is later found walking, and leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:4-10).

When Peter was in trouble for his faith in Jesus he was indomitable. Incarceration did not break him (Acts 4:3). Threats from high ranking officials did not scare him away from preaching in the temple. When put on trial for the trespass of teaching the resurrection he in turn put his judge and jury on trial for the murder of the Messiah and told them to their face that they have no hope of salvation except in the name they won't say - Jesus (Acts 4:8-13). And when he was whipped for proclaiming the truth he would not wail saying "Woe is me!" Instead he sang for the joy of being allowed to suffer in Jesus' name (Acts 5:40-41). In the power of the Holy Spirit the man formerly driven by fear to deny the Lord is now fearless in his new identity as a witness for Jesus.

But legend or not... he has taken things too far. Even though he is the most well known and popular among the apostles he has crossed the line. Check out the headline in The Jerusalem Journal

Pete Meets and Eats with Gentiles

Peter's meeting and eating with Gentiles is altogether unacceptable. He seems to think that he is above the Law. Every self respecting Jew knows that God has in one breath both called Israel both away from Gentile fellowship and Gentile food.

24 But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26 And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:24-26)

Wait until he gets to Jerusalem. Apostle or not he is going to confronted and needs to answer for his actions.

People Perceive Problems in Peter (Acts 11:1-3)
1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
The news of what has happened in Caesarea traveled fast. It was such an astonishing thing that the Jewish News Network (JNN) was carrying the matter as breaking news: Gentiles had also received the word of God (Acts 11:1). But not everyone is happy about it. There are some who see a more disturbing issue: Peter's rebellion overshadows Gentile repentance. There are some in the fellowship who are so incensed about Peter's transgression of fellowship and food restrictions that they cannot rejoice in the faith revival. They are so fixed on his failure to keep the Law they are fundamentally incapable of seeing in his actions the leading of the Lord. Who are they? In the passage they are referred to as those of the circumcision. They are a group within the new fellowship holding up the importance of the Old Covenant.

Here, however, “those of the circumcision” has a narrower sense, namely those who contended for circumcision as being necessary for membership in the Christian Church, the circumcision party.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (p. 438). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.

What does Legalism do? It locks up the grace of God in man-made traditions, in religious rituals, and in the Law. According to the gospel of legalism you cannot see the Savior until you have seen the synagogue. You cannot meet Messiah until you have been properly introduced to Moses. And you cannot know Jesus as Lord until you have submitted to the Law (Acts 15:5).

But the relentless grace of God sends an evangelist into a deserted area to share His truth with one man who was physically disqualified from participating in the fullness of Judaism. The determined move of the Spirit sends Peter to preach salvation to the uncircumcised. And the uncanny counsel of the Godhead considered it wise to send a former Pharisee to make grace in Christ known among the nations.

The legalists take issue with Peter's behavior. But, lest we become their judges, we should bear in mind that their thinking is reasonable. Judaism and Christianity are still viewed by some as the same thing.

Evidently they represented a strongly Jewish Their perspective is understandable, given that at this point Christianity was still seen as a movement within Judaism.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 266). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Moveover, the facts had not yet been brought forward. The decision to confront Peter should be viewed as an attempt to get an explanation. It is actually a good thing and reveals that Peter was approachable, people did not regard him as infallible, and their issues were not reduced to slander and gossip.

With refreshing openness [Peter] was taken to task for his conduct.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (p. 439). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.

The Lord's Lesson on Being Loosed from the Law (Acts 11:4-10; Galatians 3:24-15; Romans 10:4; Leviticus 20:24-26)
4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

* 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ (Acts 11:9)
* 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25)
* 1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:1-4)


He did not argue in the least; he let the facts speak for others just as they had spoken for him. The imperfect ἐξετίθετο should receive more attention, “he proceeded to set out.” It continues the previous imperfect διεκρίνοντο. Both are descriptive, but both intend to hold the reader in suspense as to the final outcome which is recorded by the aorists in v. 18 after Peter has delivered his address. Here were these people contending with Peter, here was Peter telling his story. What was the result? Verse 18 tells us.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (p. 440). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.

The wording of Peter’s refusal in verse 8 is closer even than that of 10:14 to Ezekiel’s protest when he was directed to eat “unclean” food: “abominable flesh has never entered into my mouth” (Ezek. 4:14).
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (pp. 221–222). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Clean Meat Means Clean Man?
Some scholars feel that Peter’s vision dealt more with food laws than with interaction with Gentiles. This is to overlook the fact that the two are inextricably related. In Lev 20:24b–26 the laws of clean and unclean are linked precisely to Israel’s separation from the rest of the nations. The Jewish food laws presented a real problem for Jewish Christians in the outreach to the Gentiles. One simply could not dine in a Gentile’s home without inevitably transgressing those laws either by the consumption of unclean flesh or of flesh that had not been prepared in a kosher, i.e., ritually proper, fashion (cf. Acts 15:20). Jesus dealt with the problem of clean and unclean, insisting that external things like foods did not defile a person but the internals of heart and speech and thought render one truly unclean (Mark 7:14–23). In Mark 7:19b Mark added the parenthetical comment that Jesus’ saying ultimately declared all foods clean. This was precisely the point of Peter’s vision: God declared the unclean to be clean.86 In Mark 7 Jesus’ teaching on clean/unclean was immediately followed by his ministry to a Gentile woman (7:24–30), just as Peter’s vision regarding clean and unclean foods was followed by his witness to a Gentile. It is simply not possible to fully accept someone with whom you are unwilling to share in the intimacy of table fellowship. The early church had to solve the problem of kosher food laws in order to launch a mission to the Gentiles. Purity distinctions and human discrimination are of a single piece.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 255). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

The Prevenient Grace and Gospel of God Goes Beyond My Boundaries (Acts 11:11-14)
11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’

The most significant difference from the earlier account is the additional detail that there were six Christians from Joppa who accompanied Peter to Caesarea (v. 12). More than that—it was “these” six whom Peter brought to Jerusalem as witnesses to what transpired in Cornelius’s home (cf. 10:45).117
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 267). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


Barriers Broken Down in Baptism (Acts 11:15-18; Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3-4; John 1:26, 33)
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” 18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

The legalist would tell you it is necessary for you to help pay for your pardon and that you must garner God's grace through great effort. He will say that you must see the synagogue before you can see the Savior, that you must meet Moses before you can be properly introduced to Messiah, and that you must learned in the Law before you can know the Lord.

God evidently made no distinction between believing Gentiles and believing Jews; how could Peter maintain a barrier which God plainly ignored? To do so would be to oppose God. There is no express mention here (as there is in 10:47–48) of the baptism of the Gentiles, though it is perhaps implied in the language of verse 17.
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (pp. 222–223). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.