Read This Week: Acts 11

Men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. – Acts 11:20-21 & 25-26 NIV

What’s in a name? The marker and power of a name and its value has long been significant in civilization, society, families, and social circles. Often the first piece of information we have about someone is their name because everyone (even groups of people) recognizes themselves by name. It is important in our identity and our understanding of who we are. It can even indicate our values, mission, and purpose.

Acts 11 is about a name. But, it is mostly about what that name represented to the first followers of Jesus and to all those who would come after them for generations. This chapter describes the coming together of the Jews and Gentiles under the banner of Christ and His gospel. The followers of The Way would come to be known as Christians. All believers now had a name. It would be inclusive to anyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord regardless of their heritage, background, race, or culture.

The name Christian would also be established as an indicator of the characteristics that God desires for His followers. Tradition said that the Gentiles had to become Jews to be accepted as God’s people, but now Jews and Gentiles were united through faith in Jesus. Verses 1 through 18 show us this acceptance that should be an earmark of Christians for all time:

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” 

Verses 19 through 26 tell us that encouragement was an early expression of the church as united people. There was rampant persecution and growing pains as the Jews and Gentiles began to do life and worship together. But when they heard that the gospel was being preached and spread among both people groups by God’s grace, they were greatly encouraged. This section communicates this:

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord.

Lastly, the newly named Christians helped each other out of love. The needs among all the people were great, and the foundation of generosity in the Christian community was laid by the apostles in the early days. It set the tone for the desired movement of the church and what it should always be about. Verses 27-30 says:

During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

This name change was not just a label or a syllabic representation of a group of people. It came with the explicit identity of those who walked with God and served Jesus. The Church at Antioch is an amazing example and establishment that being a Christian is more than evoking a name. It is indicative of what is in the heart; of life-change and of Christ Himself. The name means that we are a people who accept others, encourage and build up, serve Jesus and people out of love, and help those in need. That is what is in this name Christian.

6 Comments

  1. ken on January 3, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Happy New Year! 2021. I am so happy to be a Christian, to have a life with God, the Family of God, a life in and led by the Spirit. I want to encourage you to dive in and experience the good life in the Spirit with God.

    I hope this song helps you as it has me:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABWnLjXer10 (updated)

    • Jason on January 6, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Happy New Year, Ken! I love that song. My favorite part is:

      This is my worship
      This is my offering
      In every moment
      I withhold nothing
      I’m learning to trust You
      Even when I can’t see it
      And even in suffering
      I have to believe it

      I pray that will be true of all of us this year and beyond.

  2. Kathy on January 3, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    In reading Acts 11 this last week, this was what God was saying to me: “Receive your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are not superior to any of them. You are not to withhold your acceptance to others when I have given My acceptance. It is important for you to follow Me as I direct you, and do not try to persuade Me to go in your direction. It is a glorious thing when My people will allow their prejudices and traditions to be overcome by My word, and with My work.

    When I am with you, your ministry will be blessed, and others will come to know Jesus, and My kingdom will grow. Don’t grow weary; trust Me. Others will have faith and come to repentance. It is important when you gather together with others, it is important they see My grace, and it will make them glad.”

    What this said to me, is as we go into a new year, we may go through many trials and tribulations. Our focus should be to continue to help others to come to Christ. We need to put away any hatred and judgment and to remember God goes with us and we are not alone. We are to continue to show love and encouragement to everyone who crosses our path and show them God’s love.

    • Jason on January 6, 2021 at 10:10 am

      This is a wonderful word out of Acts 11, Kathy. I think this is an important insight now more than ever for God’s church. This part really stood out to me:

      You are not to withhold your acceptance to others when I have given My acceptance. It is important for you to follow Me as I direct you, and do not try to persuade Me to go in your direction.

      You pinpointed what we do so many times. We try to persuade God to go in our direction with our human frailty and thinking when we should be submissive and obedient to His perfect word and will for others. I pray we will be better in this and embrace the heart, compassion, love, and acceptance of God as we connect and express ourselves to other people.

  3. Heidi on January 6, 2021 at 10:06 am

    Today God drew my attention to Acts 11:17, “If then God gave to them the same Gift [equally] as He gave to us when we believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I and what power or authority had I to interfere or hinder or forbid or withstand God?”

    He shared with me like Peter realized that this gift He gave him of salvation sets us free from the past, forgiven, and now he gets to have a relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit forever and ever is for everyone. God was saying through this that no matter what you see people doing, living a life that is not good for them, that may not desire a life with us yet.

    Remember you have a mission with us to continue to share the good news, share your testimony, share as the Holy Spirit leads you. If it’s a little seed and you don’t see anything going on yet, keep sharing because you may not see the fruit till you come home to heaven. Your job is to keep sharing and trust God.

    • Jason on January 6, 2021 at 10:23 am

      I appreciate this wonderful commentary, Heidi. This was a hopeful truth and exhortation that you shared:

      If it’s a little seed and you don’t see anything going on yet, keep sharing because you may not see the fruit till you come home to heaven.

      It both frees us to trust God and His sovereignty and also gives us the liberty to share freely and openly with other people no matter who they are or how they receive us and the message. Our job is to keep sharing and trust God.

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