Luke takes us to one of the new groups of believers. The message came to these new believers because of the disbursement of the church following the stoning of Stephen. Good things came out of bad events.
I am going to confess a bit of confusion here. We have run into the term Hellenists before; in Acts 6:1 and Acts 9:29. In my bible helps on the first two occasions their footnote says “Greek-speaking Jews.” In today’s text the footnote says “Greek-speaking non-Jews.” I have gone to the Strong’s Concordance through Biblehub.com and they list all three instances under “Greek-speaking Jews.” When I look specifically at today’s verse it tells me:
Ἑλληνιστής, ἑλληνιστου, ὁ (from ἑλληνίζω to copy the manners and worship of the Greeks or to use the Greek language (Winers Grammar, 94 (89f), cf. 28)), a Hellenist, i. e. one who imitates the manners and customs or the worship of the Greeks, and uses the Greek tongue; employed in the N. T. of Jews born in foreign lands and speaking Greek (Grecian Jews): Acts 11:20
So are we talking about Gentiles being given the gospel or are we looking at Jews who were initially behaving in the same manner as Greeks turning to Jesus? I honestly don’t know. I would welcome any input in this area.
Regardless of which definition is correct, the church in Antioch was growing so well that the brothers in Jerusalem took notice. In another commentary I learned that Antioch was one of the three largest cities in the Roman world and was very pagan in its behaviors. But this is also where the first church to include Gentiles arose. The message spreading in Antioch didn’t remain with the Jews but spread to their fellow countrymen who became Gentile brothers and sisters.
I’m curious about which came first. The events with Peter and Cornelius or the Antioch church. I have a feeling that Peter’s events happened first, otherwise the Jerusalem council wouldn’t have been so eager to send a representative. They didn’t send Barnabas to squash it but to encourage it and report on it.
Barnabas was so excited by what he found that he went in search of Saul. I wonder why Barnabas thought Saul would be such a good fit for this group. Was it because Saul had argued successfully with the Hellenists while in Jerusalem? Was it because Saul understood being a Jew in a foreign land? Did the Holy Spirit direct him to bring Saul? Did he know the prophecy, which was given to Ananias, that Saul was to be the apostle to the Gentiles and he brought him to the place it was all beginning at?
Saul and Barnabas were a great help to the church in Antioch and they stayed there for over a year meeting with them and teaching many people. This is where the disciples were first called Christians.
I wanted to see if the name Christian carried the same meaning then as it does now; “Christ like.” I went to Biblehub.com and searched Strong’s Concordance again. I found that the Gentiles gave this name to those who worshiped Jesus Christ. This name stuck with the new believers and became a badge of honor. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. I accept that moniker gladly!
There was something so unique about this group’s behavior that those around them took notice. True to their new name, when opportunity presented itself, the new believers acted in a manner reminiscent of Jesus’ attitudes. The Holy Spirit spoke through a prophet and foretold of a coming famine. This famine was to be “over all the world” (verse 28). These new believers decided to send help to their brothers in Judea. They would be enduring the famine too, according to the prophecy, but apparently they had more resources than their brothers and sisters in Judea. Was it because of the size of city they were living in?
“So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea” (verse 29). The heart of a true Christian shown forth. No one forced them to give. They each acted on what God put on their heart. Saul and Barnabas were honored with carrying their gifts to the elders back in Jerusalem to distribute as the needs arose.
Father God, in our society today being labeled a Christian is often equated as being judgmental and narrow minded. It has almost become a “dirty word” in society. That is NOT because of Christ but because of many of those who use that name and don’t actually reflect Jesus’ attitudes. There are others who subscribe to the name but don’t hold Jesus’ standards. I pray I don’t fall on either of these two extremes. I want to show Jesus’ love to all but also hold His standards as my life model. 1. No other way to Heaven but through Jesus. 2. All have sinned and we NEED His redemptive work. 3. Love the sinner, not the sin. 4. Share His love with all those around me. 5. Forgive as I have been forgiven. 6. There is such a thing as sin/wrong; don’t engage in it! 7. In all things acknowledge You and walk in Your ways.
Actually, You gave us the two greatest commandments: 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. If my actions and attitudes don’t fall under the umbrella of these two commandments then I am not being Christ like. Help me Lord to stay HERE with You always!