Understanding How to Be Led By the Spirit of God! How the Holy Spirit Led the Early Church in Acts 11! Part 13
(ver 1.1) This is now Part 13 in a series of very important basic Christian Bible lessons on the subject of Being Led by the Spirit of God. My foundational scripture verse for the entire series is “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14). We have covered a tremendous amount of new information that will not be repeated so if you have not read this series from the beginning I would suggest that you go and start with “Part 1” first. The last two lessons have been focused on what God reveals about the early church’s growth and expansion in Acts 10 to include the Gentile people of the earth. Chapter 10 of Acts was an awesome chapter of spiritual information, divine guidance and church growth and I believe that we have learned a lot from it. I view the early church to be in the group called “the children of God” and therefore according to Romans 8:14 they are being led by God in everything that they are observed to be doing. Today’s lesson will be more about the events in chapter 10 because chapter 11 is a further overview and explanation of what happened in chapter 10. This will be the third time that God describes the same events. Any time God repeats Himself twice it is critical that you fully understand the importance of what is being spoken. However, any time God says the same thing three times then it has just exponentially grown to a factor that is way beyond critical to know. So today I’m going to go through chapter 11 and see what God is doing and saying to us in the modern church.
One of the key realizations to what I have observed in studying Acts 10 and 11 is God’s focused purpose and plan to increase the church’s spirituality level. God of course began this process by raining down His Spirit upon the Jewish church in Acts 2 and then we saw this continue as God’s Spirit fell on the Gentiles in Acts 10. But that was only the beginning of a longer spiritual process. I equate this beginning act of God to be similar to a garden planting analogy where God has planted His seed in us His church garden. God then expects this seed in us to grow and to increase and eventually to produce real spiritual fruit. Therefore the God seed planting was only the beginning of the process for the expected final outcome. We are God’s plants today that are created to produce God’s fruits of righteousness in the world. Jesus taught us that we can only do this if we become the branches that remain in Him our Vine source of life (John 15:5).
As we continue to go through chapter 11 I pray that this spiritual plant and garden growth process will become clearer to your understanding also. I have become totally convinced from this study that in order to be led by the Spirit of God that it requires God’s people to grow to understand what spiritual things are and how they work. The more you know the more you grow. People today want to be led by God, yet many do not want to make the effort to grow or increase spiritually. The Bible says that God is clearly a Spirit (John 4:24). Furthermore, God reveals to us in His Word that His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts, but they are higher than ours as the heavens are above the earth (Isa 55:9). Since God’s intelligence is on a level that is so far above ours what is it going to take for Him to communicate intelligently with you? God can only come down to your human level of ignorance and lack of spiritual understanding so far. Let me show you a statement that Jesus said to a teacher of Israel:
Joh 3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
Jesus is unscrambling and differentiating between two dimensional realms of reality within this statement. This God statement clearly causes new revelation to come to us, illuminating spiritual things to be higher and much more complex than the natural things of the earth. Jesus said I cannot tell you about heavenly things because you do not yet still understand these basic natural earthly things that I tell you. There is an implied necessary Christian growth process hidden in this statement. Jesus said you are basically incapable of hearing about any real complex spiritual things at this point in time. This would imply the need for something to occur in the man that was hearing in order for Jesus to be able to communicate the higher heavenly things to him. Is this too complicated for you? The thing that is required is called spiritual maturity or spiritual growth and this is combined with new increased spiritual knowledge and understanding of the God kind of things. All of these are contributing factors to being successfully led by the Spirit of God.
What Jesus was teaching us in John 3:12, is that we all need to develop spiritually in order to see something above our current natural capacity level to understand. You are going to have to rise up or grow closer to His spiritual level if you expect Him to give you something really useful. Think of it like this, what if a three or four year old human child wanted to talk to a great intellectual man like Albert Einstein and ask him for help to understand the theory of relativity. First the child would not even know what to ask of him and then there is the root of the child’s challenge called immaturity and ignorance that causes every complex statement revealed by Albert to be missed completely. What exactly do you think the child and Albert have to talk about? Sure Albert could come down to communicate on a certain elementary level about many things with the child. But, the deep things that Albert knew could never be transferred to the child no matter how much Albert would have loved to give them his vast knowledge because of the child’s inability to communicate on the Albert level. This is exactly the way it is with most Christians today and them asking God to help guide them. God will do the best at speaking to you on your level, but He would prefer that you came up higher to know Him better so that He can speak to you of the deeper complex things that He holds inside of Himself. Let me show you something else that Jesus said to us:
Mat 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
You can clearly see that God says there are hidden things that come only from Him. These hidden things were given to us the “babes” in this statement. The people in the church are these “babes”. The wise ones that the things were hidden from are those like Satan, the angels of Satan and the people of the earth that follow him in darkness. Look up the definition of the word “babe” in this verse in the Strong’s dictionary. The Greek word translated as “babes” literally means an infant as in a non-speaking baby. That definition of “babes” has spiritual meaning hidden in it that goes very deep. This kind of a natural child is unable to communicate intelligently other than simple crying or laughing. These types of infants can only drink milk to grow. This natural reality corresponds to a spiritual reality that is on a very elementary level of spiritual knowledge, understanding and ability. This non-speaking spiritual baby level is where all Christians begin their life in Christ. In the eyes of God we in the church are just spiritual non-speaking children and God desires us to grow into speaking mature children. Spiritual growth is one of the greatest desired expectations of the heart of God for His children. However, the only way this is possible is if we continue to abide in Him and to listen. It goes back to what I said earlier about being a branch that is connected to Jesus the Vine.
Being a baby is exactly where we all start out naturally in this world, but this is also how we all start out spiritually when we are born again (John 3:3). To be born again is a “spiritual birth” process that replicates the natural birth process but in the unseen spiritual realm. This spiritual birth process results in a new spiritual baby being born into the spiritual family of God. This stated new spiritual baby can exist in the body of a fully grown mature natural man or woman. The external age of the human body is always independent from the internal age of the spiritual child (2 Cor 4:16). The body that is visible never reflects the condition or the age of the hidden internal spirit. Being a spiritual baby is exactly like being a natural baby. Like natural babies, spiritual babies need help to survive and to grow or they will die. Read this statement that Paul makes to the church at Corinth about the spiritual growth process:
1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
Paul tells the church in Corinth I cannot speak to you yet about spiritual things because you are still spiritual babies in Christ. This word for “babes” is the exact same Greek word that Jesus spoke in Matthew 11:25. This was clearly written to church people that were fully grown enough that could read and write, but yet they knew nothing about the spiritual things of God. God says you need to grow spiritually to be able to see the real complex spiritual subjects found in the Bible and in God. The complex subjects are only available to be understood after personal spiritual growth has occurred. Paul was telling the church I cannot communicate to you closer to God’s level because you are still non-speaking children in Christ. Those are pretty strong words aren’t they? Let’s read the next verse in 1 Corinthians:
1Co 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
God teaches us how spiritual growth occurs by using the very simple human concepts found in the natural baby growth cycle. If you do not understand natural baby things then you will never understand spiritual baby things as we have already seen by what Jesus was teaching us in John 3:12. If you read Romans 1:20 you will begin to see God telling us that His invisible spiritual qualities are clearly understood by the things that were created by Him in this world. You should be able to read 1 Corinthians 3:1 and 2 and see that God expects His spiritual babies to grow to eat meat. Meat symbolically represents the complex higher spiritual subjects of God. But in order to eat meat you must first drink the milk of the Word of God basics to grow. These concepts are critical and I pray that you are grasping them or you will never be led by the Spirit of God fully. Let’s read another witness of the truth in the Word of God:
Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Heb 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
God reveals to us in these two verses that there are both simplistic milk subjects found in the Bible for spiritual babies and then there are also advanced meat subjects found in the Bible for the mature spiritual Christians. Clearly babies cannot take the really deep complex subjects because they do not understand even the simple milk subjects. That is what God is saying to the reader. Every complex meat truth found in the Bible is built upon several dependent layers of simpler milk truths that are necessary first to be understood. Hebrews 5:12 informs us that this understanding only comes from being taught. It is very much like learning to add and subtract as a school child using simple math concepts before you ever try to learn the algebra and calculus more complex math concepts. If you do not yet understand the simple it is impossible to grasp the complex. My Bible studies are normally intended for meat eating mature spiritual Christians. I recently had one person unsubscribe to my Bible study and I can only guess that it was because they did not like or could not take the meat that I was trying to feed them. That is OK, with me I’m not sent to teach everyone, if you cannot handle what I write you probably just need to go drink some more milk for a while and then come back later and try to eat the more complex topics from God. Don’t choke as a baby Christian trying to swallow spiritual meat when you have not yet developed any spiritual teeth to chew it. So while I lost one subscriber recently God blessed me and replaced them with 5 new subscribers. Praise God!
What I have just tried to describe to you is the spiritual growth process in a concise nutshell. God uses these things to teach each of us in the same way. This is exactly what I see happening to the church in the first 10 chapters of Acts. God was teaching the early church babies new spiritual things that were so much deeper than anything that they had ever seen or understood before. God is guiding them and giving them limited steps containing new ways to view the old scriptures to help them see God’s Word more through the spiritual eyes of God. Now with this new spiritual knowledge growing in them God can increasingly guide them by His Spirit to do even greater things with this new knowledge. That was my introduction so let’s get into the reality of chapter 11:
Act 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
This is an awesome verse. It helps to clarify many things we saw in Acts 10 by explaining to us that it was the Word of God that made everything else that happened possible. When the angel told Cornelius in the beginning of Acts 10 to go and get Peter it was for the sole purpose of Peter bringing the Word of God to Cornelius. This is the designed process from God and it is described to us in Romans 10:14. Peter came and Peter preached the Word of God and because Cornelius and his house received and believed the Word of God, the Spirit of God fell on them and they spoke with other tongues and praised God. Being saved, being filled with the Spirit of God or whatever you receive from God begins with you first receiving the Word of God that is spoken to you by a preacher sent from God. The Word of God is the foundational basis for everything else that you need, spiritual, mental, emotional or physical. After hearing the Word of God, you must believe it and then you must receive what was spoken to you. This is called receiving the Grace of God by your faith. I’m not going to teach you about faith and what it is and how it works, so if you do not understand this subject I have an in-depth lesson series called “Understanding Bible Faith” that you should go and check out.
Notice however what is happening here in verse 1, the brethren that are mentioned here are the saved Jews of the natural circumcision in Jerusalem. These are the men that were circumcised in their flesh by the hands of other men according the Law of Moses but they were also now circumcised by the hands of God in their spirits and they have not yet fully comprehended which one is the most important. They do not yet understand that the first natural was only given to teach them about the greater spiritual circumcision that occurred by the Hand of God. The fact is that the circumcision of the heart was just being revealed to the church and this means that they had not fully embraced the truth nor did they completely understand it. This was simply because they were all still babes in Christ growing up in the Lord.
Act 11:2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
Here we have a potential firestorm division occurring in the church. This is a golden opportunity for the new baby believers of Jerusalem to depart the unity of the church body to create a new independent branch of believers called the Southern Jewish Church. Ok, that was a really bad joke on my part, but you understand what I meant. It is always man’s solution to create a new denomination when differences arise and it is always God’s proposed solution to resolve the conflict with new knowledge. The saved Jews in Jerusalem had heard about the Gentiles and they were not very happy Christians. In fact they were being very carnal, very jealous, very arrogant and very prideful types of Christians. It sounds a lot like some that I know of in the world today. It is very much like they felt themselves to be better or superior than those Gentiles because of something they had in their flesh that they could see. This is a dangerous approach to take before your fall and you will fall unless you change and release this attitude. Pride is always followed by the destruction of the individual (Prov 16:18). Any introduction of new Godly revelation to the people of God brings the opportunity to grow spiritually. It is also a potential opportunity to fail by rejecting it and remaining ignorant. Therefore, do not ever put yourself into a strict religious box of not being able to change, learn or grow from God’s new revelations. The Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 11 are about to reach a decision point as we continue to read through the chapter. They are going to be faced with some radical new spiritual information that is over their current spiritual level to understand it fully and they will have to make a choice to accept it or reject it. They will eventually learn that spiritual things will always take precedence over the natural external things but this is just a part of the normal growth process. We are about to explore the root of the problem being revealed to the early church:
Act 11:3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
Why is it important for a Jew not to eat with a Gentile? Why does this natural external action of Peter so concern the Jewish men at Jerusalem? That is an incredible thoughtful valid question that people today do not even consider or try to understand how to answer. People in the modern world eat with anybody, anytime, in anyplace without giving it considerable thought to the consequences of their actions. What did I just say? Are there really consequences for eating with people? You see because of your ignorance you do not know where I am probably going next but we are going to explore briefly some Old Testament Law that these Jews in Jerusalem understood better than you did:
Exo 12:43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
Exo 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
Exo 29:33 And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy.
To an informed Old Covenant person, eating a meal with a Gentile was them making a covenant with a people that were not currently in covenant with their God. The Jews learned that the Passover meal was a covenant meal that was given to them while they were still in bondage in Egypt. Eating the Passover meal and placing the blood of the lamb on the doorpost allowed everyone in their house to live while the death angel took the firstborn of all that did not eat of the lamb and where the blood was not found on the doorway. God gives us these natural symbolic types to reveal the spiritual truths that have occurred in us in the church. In Exodus, God was telling the natural Jews that in order for a Gentile to participate with them in eating the meal, they must first be circumcised in their flesh. Did you not just read this? This was the Law of God that was being misapplied to the church in the minds of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem based upon their spiritual ignorance.
What I am saying is that eating with a Gentile was in effect the people of God joining themselves with their enemies. The sign of the circumcision was an external confirmation that they were in covenant with the same God you were in covenant with. However, that external sign of the covenant is now foolishness no matter who you are. The principle that was being taught to us is that you do not make covenant with anyone that is not in covenant with your God. That was the natural principle being taught to the Jewish people and that principle is still in effect in the spiritual realm today with the church (1 Cor 6:15). When you make covenant with a person not saved, the only advantage gained was given to the enemy that you covenanted with. Once you let your enemies into your house where you live you have just opened up your life to them for your complete destruction. What I just described to you has more spiritual relevance than what you probably understand right now, but I do not have the time to go there today. However, this was probably the driving reason behind the Jewish concern in Jerusalem extended to Peter. They were just in a state of shock that Peter had gone into a Gentile’s house and made covenant with them without them being circumcised in their flesh. They were in effect thinking very naturally and saying to Peter “What were you thinking?” “Why are you eating with these uncircumcised godless men?”
The natural Jewish believers were obviously not seeing things correctly through the eyes of God yet. They did not understand that Peter was being led by the Spirit of God in what he did and they for sure did not believe that the uncircumcised Gentiles were able to hear from God to do what they did. This is a grave mistake of people today that call themselves Christians. I saw a comment recently on Facebook from a Christian lady that is usually very sound in what she says. However she obviously got into the flesh with this statement and showed her spiritual immaturity. She was basically putting down people today that say they hear from God. I personally have more concern for people who do not hear from God than I do for those that say they heard from God. My Facebook friend even tried to justify her statement by using unfounded statements about Moses. She believed that even Moses never heard from God that much. I found her logic more than a little amusing. Moses after all wrote the first 5 books of the Bible and many of the Psalms so Moses obviously heard from God a lot. Do not get me wrong, there are people on the internet that say they hear from God and clearly they do not based upon what they say. If what is spoken contradicts the Written Word of God, then it is not from God. This is always an example of the real being counterfeited with the false. The presence of the false however proves that there is a real by implied antithesis. People in the world never counterfeit anything that does not already exist and is valuable or the counterfeit would have no value to anyone to deceive them. Satan will always introduce the fakes to discredit or distract form the genuine. God is speaking today in the world to His people and do not believe that He is not.
Act 11:5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
Act 11:6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Act 11:7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
Act 11:8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
Act 11:9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
Act 11:10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
Act 11:11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
Act 11:12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:
Act 11:13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
Act 11:14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
Act 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
Act 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Starting in Verse 5 and continuing through verse 16 in Acts 11 is now Peter’s account of what just happened in Acts 10 as it is replayed for the saved Jewish believers in Jerusalem. You might recall we got Cornelius’ account of the events at the end of chapter 10 telling Peter and now we are seeing Peter tell his side of the story to the other natural circumcised believers. You did notice that I said the “other” natural circumcised believers, yes? What is happening here? Why didn’t God speak to these believers directly like He did with Peter? Recall that Peter was dealt with on a personal spiritual level by God directly in Chapter 10. These Jewish men in chapter 11 were not. Why that was and what we can learn from it will now become more apparent. Revelation is never given to everyone in the church. Visions from God are never given to everyone in the church. Angels are never sent to everyone in the church. On and on I could go. These are all examples of divine sovereign choices of God and they are designed to help the whole body by allowing the one given the message to go and tell the others. That is exactly what is happening here in Acts 11. Peter was sent by God with the message from God to the natural Jewish believers in Jerusalem so they could hear what God has done.
Peter’s vision from God was not just for Peter’s personal benefit; it was for everyone else’s benefit in the church also that will hear it. Do you understand what I am saying? If Peter did not spread the message, the message would have died with Peter. God never gives one man any kind of revelation that is not intended for him to share with everyone else. I already tried to cover the difference between natural circumcision and God’s spiritual circumcision and I hope that you understand the differences. You can clearly see that this new spiritual way of thinking was causing a great division to occur in the church and if God does not deal with it then we would have the beginning of a new church denomination like I said before. Uh oh? God is actually working very hard to reverse the cause for the division by doing spectacular things like sending angels and giving visions, but the people in the church are still going to have to cooperate, believe and accept.
Act 11:17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God.
I love this verse! It is so awesome! What did Peter just tell these Jewish believers? This is the best advice that people today can still get a hold of if they humbled themselves and tried. Peter just said “I’m not stupid, it is not my place to tell God what to do”. Do you ever try to tell God what to do? I see it on the internet every day. I’ve seen it in churches repeatedly. People speaking against what they do not agree with and they call the others not in their group false teachers and liars. They do not understand that God could have given someone else a new revelation and this was also for them but they have rejected it because it was new. I’m not going to go through everything that Peter said to the Jews verse by verse, but I do want to point out the key factors again for emphasis:
- Peter says “I was praying” in verse 5.
- Peter says “I was in a trance and I saw a vision” in verse 5.
- Peter described the vision and says he then heard a voice say “arise slay and eat” in verse 7.
- Peter says back to the Lord “No Lord nothing unclean has entered into my mouth” in verse 8.
- Peter then says that God answers back to him “Do not call unclean that which I have cleansed” in verse 9.
- Peter then says that all of this happened three times in verse 10.
- Peter then says the Spirit of God spoke to him again and said “These men that I have sent, go with them doubting nothing” in verse 12.
Let’s just stop right here and analyze the facts given to us. How many times did God speak and how many times did Peter speak to God in this conversation? Peter prayed so that is the first time where the spiritual conversation begins with God. The vision then begins, so God is now speaking back to Peter in a trance. We have one for Peter and one for God. Now the voice of God tells Peter “Kill and eat” and Peter says “no”. That gives me a count of two for God and two for Peter. God then answered back “Do not call unclean what I have cleaned”. My count is now three for God and two for Peter because Peter had no reply. What God was pointing out to Peter was “you don’t know what I have done or what I can do”. God was in effect teaching the man Peter during this whole vision. Peter then tell us that this happens three times. According to my calculation that would give us a subtotal of God speaking seven times and Peter speaking back to God four times. However, Peter then says God told Him to go with the men and that makes the count, God speaking 8 times and Peter speaking 4 times. Did this not say that God just spoke to Peter 8 times in one conversation? I mean can you count? How many people today is there that do not understand that God still does this for everyone since He is no respecter of persons? Does God still speak? You bet He does! Does God speak a lot? You bet He does, if you are listening. Let’s talk briefly about verses 15 and 16:
Act 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
Act 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Here is further confirmation for what I was teaching you in the last lesson. God is revealing how things work in the spiritual realm by revealing to us little clues found within the natural realm. While Peter was preaching at Cornelius’ house the Word of God, the Holy Spirit was poured out exactly like He was in Acts 2 on the Jewish believers. We learned in chapter 10 this taught Peter that God was no respecter of persons. But, Peter also tells us when this was happening that he suddenly remembered something that Jesus had said to him. Do you think this was a coincidence or do you think this was also God speaking to him? I personally know it was the Spirit of God speaking to Peter. This is simply one way that God communicates with people and people do not understand it is God unless you learn to see what is said. The Spirit of God inside of Peter was giving Peter the thoughts to preach the message to Cornelius all along. God just revealed one thought of the many others that were implied. What was this thought that Peter just had? The thought was a memory recall of some of the words that Jesus spoke to him in the past. I have called this concept God drawing water out from a well. The thought was the water, God was the drawing out Spirit, and the well where the water was found is Peter’s spirit. The only reason water existed in the well was because it was placed there by Jesus’ teachings. This is not really rocket science kind of technical stuff here, but yet it is very profound if you get a hold of it. Jesus taught us “From the abundance of your heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34). Therefore put God’s Words into your heart if you want to get any of God’s Words to come out from your heart.
Do you understand what Jesus was teaching Peter and the other disciples from this thought in Acts 11:16 and how it applies to what is happening now with Cornelius? In other words why is God causing Peter to remember these words at this exact moment? Why is it relevant? Notice what Jesus was contrasting in the thought. Jesus was speaking of natural things like John and his water baptism to teach them of new coming spiritual things. Also understand that Jesus’ statement was a future prophetical reference to an event that had not yet occurred when it was spoken. If you research your Bible you will find that this statement was made by Jesus in Acts 1:5 right as He was about to ascend back to heaven. The Spirit of God was now revealing to Peter that this is the time of fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus told them that John had used water to baptize, but now God will use the Holy Spirit to do the exact same thing in the spiritual realm. It is again an example of how external things are being represented to reveal internal invisible things. If you learn nothing else from me today I pray that you begin to understand the differences between natural things and spiritual things. Learn today that spiritual things are always greater than the parallel natural things. Learn how natural things are nothing but physical pointers to the hidden spiritual things from God. So we have had Peter describe the intimate workings of the Holy Spirit during the process to the Jews in Jerusalem and we are now at the time for their decision. Do they accept it or do they reject it?
Act 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Here is the model example of the appropriate Christian reactive response to any new revelation. These Jewish men in Jerusalem just showed you what you should be doing today. Peter has just preached to the natural Jewish believers in Jerusalem a message that came from God and they believed it and accepted it. There are literally too many other possible human reactions for me to list what could have happened. Instead of focusing on what did not happen, just notice that they kept their mouths shut except to praise their God. That is probably one of the greatest lessons to learn from what is happening in these two chapters. When and if you do not fully agree, fully understand, or fully embrace what is happening it is wisest to hold your peace and just praise God. Don’t fight against God, observe what He is doing and go with it. How could these men at Jerusalem do this? It is because they knew their God and they knew Peter. They had to have a certain level of trust for this man of God that he was not misleading them. They also knew that he was the one that got them saved in the first place by preaching in Acts 2. So we have many factors contributing to trust and their spiritual growth.
Act 11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
You can clearly see the problem that God was addressing in the church in this verse. Those that were being scattered from Jerusalem’s persecution were only going to other cities preaching to the natural Jews. God was revealing to the early church that it’s much bigger than that, guys! You people are missing the largest harvest fields and only focusing on the select ones that you think are good. It goes back to a truth that God revealed in the O.T. that says “God does not see as men see, for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). If people would only see things in the Bible like God sees them, there would be no divisions, debates or arguments in the church today and we could all reach a lot more people to get them saved.
This lesson is already long enough. Let’s just recap what else is revealed in this chapter to bring it to a close.
- Verse 20 says the Gentiles are now being actively preached to and converted.
- Verse 21 says the number of the Gentiles being added to the church is very significant.
- God also says in verse 21 that these Gentiles did two things to be saved. They believed the message and they turned to God for their salvation.
- Verse 21 also says the hand of the Lord was with them, proving God was leading them in what was happening.
- Verse 22 says the news of the church growth was spreading through the church and reached back to the church in Jerusalem.
- Verse 22 then says the brethren in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to preach and teach them. This was God again sending a man with a message to help them grow spiritually. I told you a mature Christian was always necessary to keep a new born spiritual baby alive.
- Verse 23 says Barnabas saw the Grace of God and was glad and he began to exhort them. Exhortation is a comforting and an encouraging word sent from God telling them to continue in the Lord. Meaning they have the opportunity to turn back or walk away.
- Verse 24 describes God’s messenger Barnabas as being a good man that was full of the Holy Ghost. Two things I learn from this. To be a good teacher of God you need to be full of the Spirit of God. Finally a mature teacher needs to be sent by God.
- Verse 24 says many people were added to the church as a result of sending Barnabas.
- Verse 25 does not give us a time frame of how long Barnabas was present in Antioch but it says he left there for Tarsus to seek for Saul. I take this as God guiding him because of Romans 8:14. Galatians 2:9 teaches us that Barnabas becomes an apostle to the Gentiles with Paul.
- Verse 26 is one of my favorites. It gives us the reason for seeking Paul. Paul is brought back to Antioch to help and this verse says they stayed there for a year and taught many people. Verse 26 also reveals this is where people in the church were first called “Christians”.
- Verse 27 says Jerusalem sent prophets to Antioch. This proves God is still working to bring messages through men to other men.
- Verse 28 is a warning from the Spirit of God spoken by the prophet sent to Antioch. He tells them of a great famine that would come upon the world.
- Verse 29 the church at Antioch gathers supplies to give to help those in Judea.
- Verse 30 says Barnabas and Paul leave Antioch to take the relief to the church elders.
We could literally write a book about all of the things revealed in these few verses. If you meditate on the verses long enough you will see what I mean. There are many lessons that can be transferred to the days that we live in. There is God leading the church individually and corporately to grow and increase in significant numbers. There is God leading and teaching individuals to grow up spiritually. There is God bringing warnings of coming events and helping to prepare them through a prophet. There are times of famine now in many parts of our world. People have physical needs and these should be taken to the elders in the church to be distributed to those in need. I believe that the church’s number one goal is to add to the number of believers to help the body grow. But, then the number two goal is to help those that are new in the church to grow spiritually so they do not fall away and they can become teachers also. I finally see the last goal of the church as being to help the physical needs of the people. This was God’s stated order of mention in chapter 11. I see God’s emphasis in Acts 11 being spiritual first and then physical. However, the famine did occur after a year from when Paul was sent into Antioch so the emphasis might have changed if the circumstances were different. Nevertheless, I want to say that I can see God was working in Acts 11 to supply both their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. Both are necessary components to continued growth. We saw great examples f God sending teachers to the new church members. We can easily confirm that God wants to save you first, but then He wants you to grow spiritually so that He can continue to lead you in the process to help others get into the same process and the spiritual life cycles continues and repeats. The spiritual cycles of spiritual church population growth duplicates the natural human cycles of population growth. The spiritual cycle of development and maturity parallels the natural human cycle of development and maturity. Just as math students in the natural can become math teachers to others as they grow, so it is with Bible students in the spiritual dimension. Non-speaking baby Christians after spiritual development and maturity should all become speaking Christians (AKA Bible teachers) for others.
While you may not fully understand how much you have learned today or how it applies to you being led by the Spirit of God, I will tell you that what you have learned has gone much further than you realize. Someday soon you will become a teacher and then these lessons will be in you to help others. God will draw them out when it is time and you will speak the oracles of God with wisdom. God Bless you until next time and I greatly appreciate your effort to study the Word of God with me.
Posted on February 26, 2012, in Bible Basics, Bible Study, Understanding and tagged Being Led, Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Religion, Truth, understanding. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.