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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 them.” But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence.
When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was given the riot act! They couldn’t believe that he was associating with the Gentiles–the unclean–and that he would have given them the word of God in such a way that they received it. So, Peter shares with them the vision he was given where God made it clear, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” And, he also shared the message Cornelius was given by the Lord to seek Peter out. Then he says, “The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings these six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house.”
Cornelius was told that Peter would speak words by which he and all his household would find salvation. “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. “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.’ “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?” 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.”
PRINCIPLE #1: God will continually break down your boxes and burst your bubbles, while blowing your mind! When Jesus is acting, you’ll find things gloriously out of control.
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 news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. It’s like the home office was nervous again, fearful that some sort of movement might break out without their guidance and blessing, so they sent a very good man–Barnabas. 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;
NOTE two things here: 1. Barnabas witnessed the “grace of God”, not a new, highly organized program that was working in good ways, but the grace of God among these people.
2. Barnabas encouraged these new believers to keep on keeping on, keep doing what you’re doing–true to the Lord. He’s not soliciting submission to the home office (the leadership in Jerusalem). He’s not asking them to join a certain fellowship.
Luke goes on to say,for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.
Now NOTE what Barnabas did. 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.
ONE QUICK NOTE HERE: The name Saul is interesting at this point. I’ve heard all my life that “Saul was his Jewish name before he became a Christian and Paul was his Christian name.” BUNK! If that were true, then Paul ought to be called Paul here, since this is well after being apprehended by Jesus. I think this devilish little mis-truth is one of many little ways to keep us off message. Saul was the Jewish way of saying Paul and Paul was his Roman name. Paul (Saul) was still Jewish after bowing his heart to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t change your cultural background, when He enters your life. He transforms you inside out with all your cultural quirks and nooks and crannies.
PRINCIPLE #2: It’s not my fellowship; it’s the fellowship of Jesus. The leadership of believers in Jerusalem thought this movement around Jesus in Antioch was theirs to guide and control, but it wasn’t. By the grace of God, it was the fellowship of Jesus. NOTE, a few people gathered in Antioch around the NAME OF JESUS and a FELLOWSHIP BROKE OUT!
Then, NOTE Barnabas. He was obviously enthused by the excitement and new life of the fellowship in Antioch, so he sought out Saul to solicit his help in loving and teaching the considerable numbers who were gathering together in the name of Jesus. They stayed there for one year, but they didn’t feel the need to claim this fellowship as their own or to call themselves church planters at the next “pastors’ conference”, because it was clear to them that this was the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS. And, this was the case throughout the early church. There was no misconception as to who owned or who was the planter of the fellowship. It was always Jesus.
What a difference it is today! That’s my church. I planted this church in 1980. ME, MY, MINE, and I. And, you know what, I struggle with this same thing with the fellowship where we gather. It’s easy for me to be hurt when someone leaves or chooses not to be part of the things we are doing together, as if this is a personal affront to me–as if it is MY FELLOWSHIP. I have to remind myself over and over that this is the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS and wherever we go, we have the privilege of gathering with others from all of the flavors of ethnicity, religious affiliation and economic levels in this fellowship.
REMEMBER: 1. WE GATHER IN THE NAME OF JESUS. 2. WE BELONG TO THE FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS. 3. AND, IN THE FELLOWSHIP WE WORK FOR AN AUDIENCE OF ONE-HIS NAME IS JESUS!