Acts 11: 1 - 30
1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Good thing that Peter took those extra witnesses with him. Because there was a lot of explaining that had to be done back in Jerusalem. Word of what had happened probably got to Jerusalem before Peter did. Hearing that the Gentiles had accepted the Gospel and responded accordingly was new. you see up to this point and time the Jews were simply adding their faith in Christ to the Judaism that they were already practicing. This news was probably not good news for some.
When Peter arrives there were these who criticized Peter for going into the house of the "uncircumcised". (Remember, that was a no, no.) This term "uncircumcised" wasn't a compliment. How easy is it for us to forget whose church this is? Here we see people treating the church like it was their own. It wasn't and has never been. The Church belongs to Jesus and what is the church? The church is people, equipped by the Holy Spirit, meeting needs everywhere in Jesus name. Jesus loves EVERYONE! Even the ones you don't like. But just because you don't like them doesn't mean that He doesn't expect you to attend church with them.
Peter now recalled the whole story. The vision, the Holy Spirit direction, an angel visiting a Gentile. His preaching, their repentance and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in other tongues. All I can say here, I wish I could see the faces of those who were criticizing Peter!
Peter then adds to his testimony by saying that he remembers what Jesus said. "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Then he connects the dots. If God does the same thing for them as He did for us - who am I to question Him? (Drop mic here) They agreed.
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Verse 21 says that "And the hand of the Lord was with them". This was a popular phrase that indicated that the power of the Lord was with them. Think of it this way. What you've read so far was happening everywhere because of these evangelists from the early church of Jerusalem. So successful were they, that many turned to the Lord. This means that these Gentiles turned away from their false idols and ways. Here is something to consider. The followers of Jesus knew that these Gentiles were sick and tired of their idols. They knew that if someone would offer them something better they would take it. How simply can it be?
22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Barnabas did his job. He encouraged them and taught them. He knew what these new believers would be facing. He was the perfect man for the job. But the church grew and he needed help. The only reason I can think of why he retrieved Saul was that the Holy Spirit told him too. It would seem acceptable to ask Jerusalem for assistance, but he didn't do that. Nonetheless, he and Saul worked together for a year.
Also, we discover that this is where the name Christian come from. Because up to this time, the followers of Jesus were Jewish they had received a name that reflected that fact. They were seen as a sect of Judaism that followed Jesus. But these followers in Antioch were Gentiles, they were not Jewish, therefore they needed a new name.
It was popular in those days to take the name of the General or political party that you were affiliated with and add the suffix "ian" to the end of it. Soldiers who followed Ceaser were Caesarian, for example. So the followers or soldiers of Christ were called "Christian"
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
English Standard Version (ESV)