Script for the July 2nd episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the July 2nd episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is Job 22-24 and Acts 11, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.
If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at email@example.com. I may answer it on the next podcast.
The Jews throughout Judea heard reports of Gentiles being saved. It was wonderful that the Gentiles were embracing the Gospel, especially since I’m a Gentile, and you are probably a Gentile, too. But for first-century Jews, who were often extremely racist against Gentiles, this would have caused serious problems.
In many ways, I feel sorry for Peter. He experienced some wonderful “God moments” in Caesarea Maritima. He saw God’s hand at work in saving Cornelius and his family. And then he saw the Holy Spirit come down on him and those in his house. His heart had to be happy and full.
But then it was time to go home. I suspect that as Peter traveled that 55-or-so mile trip back to Jerusalem, he was excited about what he had experienced but anxious about what he was about to encounter at the end of his journey. I suspect that he knew there were racist Christians waiting on him. They were going to trample his happiness into the ground as they stuck their fingers in his face and demanded answers.
Acts 11:2-3 (CSB): “When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’”
There were legalists among them that focused more on measuring up to the law’s standard than on pursuing a love relationship with the Lord. They were Pharisaical Christians. And they wanted to know why Peter, a Jew, had stepped foot into the house of unclean Gentiles and even ate with them.
So Peter got to share the story of how the Gentiles were saved and received the Holy Spirit. He just didn’t get to do it in a time of praise to Almighty God. Instead, he was forced to give his account to defend his actions.
Peter begins by saying that he was in Joppa and had a vision of a sheet coming down with all sorts of animals. The implication is that some or even many of them were unclean according to the Old Testament dietary laws. In his vision on the rooftop, Peter heard the voice say, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
Peter then acknowledged that he responded as any serious Jew would have responded. He refused to eat the unclean animals and told the Lord so. He proclaimed that he had never eaten anything unclean and had no plans to change his eating habits. But then the Lord said something in his vision that was emphatic.
Acts 11:9 (CSB): “But a voice answered from heaven a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call impure.’”
Peter was making it clear that he didn’t overlook any Old Testament laws whimsically. Instead, he was showing that he was ultimately following the Lord.
Peter noted that while he was perplexed about what the vision might mean, the three men Cornelius sent from Caesarea Maritima knocked on the door downstairs.
So Peter was saying that he was under the Lord’s authority as he took every step. If he hadn’t heard the Lord’s instructions, he wouldn’t have dared to violate his conscience.
The Lord first spoke in a vision to Peter and Cornelius. Now, the Lord would speak to Peter in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 11:12 (CSB): “The Spirit told me to accompany them with no doubts at all. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we went into the man’s house.”
Then, Peter transitions to what Cornelius told him. He said that he saw an angel in a vision that told him to send for Peter and then to listen to whatever message he spoke. What would the message be? The Gospel!
Acts 11:13-14 (CSB): “He reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa, and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. He will speak a message to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’”
By this point in Peter’s recounting of the events, I suspect many were shaking their heads in affirmation. They had already concluded that this was clearly of the Lord. And then Peter shared something massive.
Acts 11:15 (CSB): “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning.”
Peter said that the Holy Spirit came down on the Gentiles as he started to speak. But it was significant because they spoke in other languages just like the Jewish disciples did in Acts 1-2. God had made it clear that the Gentiles were not to be seen as “unclean” anymore. They were responding to the Gospel just as some of the Jews were.
This conclusion was clear. It’s the point that Peter built up to.
Acts 11:17 (CSB): “If, then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?”
Peter’s conclusion was sound. The folks who had stuck their fingers in his face and asked how he could have stepped into the home of Gentiles, well, they needed to take their matter up with God. Peter was just doing what the Lord had led him to do.
Acts 11:18 (CSB): “When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.’”
Now that there were no enemies in their midst, they were still reminded that there were plenty of enemies outside. Persecution had set in, beginning with Stephen, and it had scattered the believers as far away as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. However, we are told in verse 19 that the dispersed Jewish Christians were only sharing the Gospel with other Jews.
Fortunately, a few Christians from other regions were sharing the Gospel with Gentiles. When the Jerusalem church heard that some Jewish believers had left Cyprus and Cyrene and were preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to investigate.
Barnabas traveled 300 miles north to Antioch and saw God’s fingerprints everywhere. So, he did what he did best. He encouraged all of them “to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts.” The church in Antioch would grow quickly and become incredibly influential.
While Barnabas was in Antioch, he thought he would go to Tarsus and find Saul. So he traveled 135 miles north and then west to get to Tarsus and brought Saul back to Antioch, where they taught large numbers for a whole year.
One very significant tidbit about the city of Antioch is found in verse 26.
Acts 11:26 (CSB): “… The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”
Then, in verses 27-28, we are told that “some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.” Even though traveling to Antioch would be a northerly trip, they “went down” to Antioch because Jerusalem was built on a higher altitude.
Further, we need to realize that prophets were a vital part of the first-century church. The New Testament had not yet been written, so the Lord spoke authoritatively through people. They would speak truth and sometimes tell of future events.
In verses 27-28, we read about a prophet named Agabus who went to Antioch. He prophesied that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman empire.
Consequently, this won’t be the last time that Paul meets Agabus. This prophet would later warn Paul in Acts 21:10-11 that imprisonment awaited him in Jerusalem and he would be turned over to the Gentiles.
Since Antioch was a bustling city, there were people in the church that were well-to-do. Others that might not have done so well financially were apparently generous because they all were determined to take up offerings to send the money to the believers in Jerusalem who were suffering persecution.
Acts 11:29-30 (CSB): “Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.”
I can only imagine the joy that filled Barnabas’ and Saul’s hearts as they took the relief funds to Jerusalem. They had to have known that this generous, free-will gift from Gentile believers to Jewish believers would be well-received and soften hearts. Racism between Jewish believers and Gentile believers was dying, as it should have.
This is the sort of thing that just naturally happens when the Gospel is embraced. People are forgiven and inhabited by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s job is essentially to help each believer live in conformity to the Word of God and develop a relationship with the Lord. As more and more people do this, God cultivates a sense of community that the world simply cannot mimic. Jews and Gentiles, who hated each other, were transformed by the Gospel and became part of a big loving family. And if the Gospel can eradicate the animosity and cultivate love between Jews and Gentiles, then the Gospel can heal any other forms of racism as well.
Lord Jesus, we don’t experientially understand the prejudice that existed between Jews and Gentiles. That’s a form of prejudice that we just can’t comprehend.
We do understand prejudice between Christians that is based upon the color of skin pigment. We understand prejudice that appears because someone doesn’t have the same education achievements, or the same socio-economic status, or who sins differently than we do.
Lord Jesus, please make us aware of wherever the root of prejudice might be hiding out in our hearts. Enable us to see it for what it is, despise it, and ask for Your forgiveness. Then, Holy Spirit, please cultivate within us biblical ways of seeing the people around us. We want to become more like Jesus, even in how He saw and loved others.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you next time!