The First Christians
June 12, 2022
Pastor Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland
I. Introduction and Review of Acts 10
A. We are studying the Book of Acts, verse by verse…
B. Last Week the Apostle Peter met up with a Gentile man named Cornelius and did what had never been done before… he led him to faith in Jesus Christ!
C. Cornelius and his family got saved that day, just by the straight up preaching of Peter
D. And then they all got baptized to show the world they were following the life and teaching of Jesus now!
E. It was a fantastic day up in Caesarea!
A. News Travels Fast (11:1-3)
1. Acts 11:1-3 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
2. The believers in the church in Jerusalem heard about Peter and Cornelius meeting up
3. It upset them!
a. There was contention about what they heard – they learned this attitude from the Pharisees
b. To them Peter had crossed a line – he had EATEN with Gentiles! Horrors! Stop the bus!
c. They were twisted in their concerns – that a Jew had eaten with Gentiles! “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.”
d. They ignored Cornelius’ and his family’s souls, and the fact they had gotten saved!
e. It always amazes me at what upsets people
1) The Pharisees got very upset when Jesus healed crippled people on the Sabbath – never mind they were healed, they were upset He did it on the Sabbath of all days!
2) Somebody says, He’s eating with his fork in his right hand, and his knife in his left!
3) When somebody doesn’t clean their plate! “You left bits of food on it!” as if that is a deep, dark sin!
4) And when someone gets saved and is excited about Jesus more than You! Well, THAT can’t be allowed!
B. Peter Reviews What Happened (11:4-18)
1. Peter enjoyed telling the story – of winning a soul (no matter what race they are)
a. Like a fisherman talking about his catch – fishermen love to talk about fishing
1) Not the one that got away – but the one he caught.
2) Remember that Jesus said Peter would no longer catch fish, but would catch MEN!
b. Peter described what all happened…
1) Acts 11:4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
2) Acts 11:5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
3) Acts 11:6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
4) Acts 11:7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
5) Acts 11:8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
6) Acts 11:9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
7) Acts 11:10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
8) “God showed me that some things have CHANGED now in His Law”
9) “God did some things on the cross that we never knew happened”
a) He took away the sinfulness of eating unclean foods
b) And He removed the wall that was between us Jews and the Gentiles
10) “I argued over and over with God about all this”
11) “I did not understand what all it meant”
c. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul explains it in Ephesians 2:12-17
1) Ephesians 2:12 That at that time [BEFORE THE CRUCIFIXION] ye [GENTILES] were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
2) Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye [GENTILES] who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
3) Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both [JEWS AND GENTILES] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
4) Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
5) Ephesians 2:16 And that he might reconcile both [JEWS AND GENTILES] unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
6) Ephesians 2:17 And came and preached peace to you [GENTILES] which were afar off, and to them [JEWS] that were nigh.
7) Ephesians 2:18 For through him [JESUS] we [JEWS AND GENTILES] both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
8) NO DIFFERENCE anymore between Jew and Gentile – BOTH can be saved!
d. Peter continues…
1) Acts 11:11,12 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade [COMMANDED] me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
2) “Suddenly 3 men arrive to get me and bring me to Cornelius’ house
3) “The Holy Spirit told me He had sent them and that I should go with them
4) “All 10 of us went to meet Cornelius – 10 is the number of the Gentiles to the Jews
2. At that same time Cornelius had heard from God as well
a. Acts 11:13,14 And he [CORNELIUS] shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
b. He was very aware that God was warning him
c. God told him to send for me particularly – a Bible preacher
d. So that he and his family could get SAVED!
3. “What was I supposed to do? I preached to them about Jesus…”
4. And they believed, and received the Holy Ghost
a. “Before I finished preaching… The Holy Ghost fell upon them all, just like He did on US Jewish believers in Acts 2”
b. Acts 11:15,16 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
c. They were all filled with the gift of God’s holy Spirit – what a gift!
d. I watched it happen to every one there
e. It proved they were saved
f. And it proved they were equal to us Jews!
1) It PROVED they were just as saved, and equal to us Jews in their salvation
2) They proved it by miraculously speaking in tongues – using other known languages – Cornelius, an Italian, began speaking in Hebrew!
g. John the Baptist prophesied about this baptism of the Spirit… we just never thought it could work in Gentile hearts and lives! But it did! Hallelujah!
5. So, we Jewish believers need to accept the believing Gentiles (the Germans, the French, the Nigerians, the Iranians, the Afganis, the Jappanese, the Chinese, the Afrikaans, the Congolese, the Canadians, the Irish, the English, the Americans, the Texans, the Ukranians, and the Russians) are just as SAVED as we Jews are (Acts 11:17) Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
6. And that was when those arrogant, smug, narrow-minded Jewish believers changed their minds! (Acts 11:18) When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
7. And folks, WE need to also believe that Impossible people, people that we have given up on, people who shouldn’t get saved, CAN get saved, and DO get saved and live for God!
C. Scattered Evangelism (11:19-21)
1. Acts 11:19-21 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them [WHO WERE PREACHING] were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them [NOT AGAINST THOSE PREACHERS PREACHING]: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
2. Jewish believers were scattered to far away places
a. Like Phenice / Phoenix on the isle of Crete (500 miles to the West across the Med sea
b. Cyprus (250 miles away)
c. Antioch (also 250 miles, due north)
d. Those are some serious distances when travelling by foot
3. Because of persecution – physical punishment and abuse for preaching the Gospel
a. Scattered but not silent – they preached, and witnessed, and warned of the wrath of God
b. Unlike most modern 21st century westerners are SO conservative in our methods
c. We are SO timid, so stationary
d. We quietly leave a Gospel tract somewhere – that’s okay – that’s a start
e. We wait for perfect moments, where the other person brings up church
f. But we don’t engage our culture and expose the sins that are bringing the judgment of God soon!
g. I have to ask you ladies and gentlemen, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
1) For persecution to affect YOU? Your job? Career? Sanity?
2) Or are you waiting for someone you love to die without Christ?
3) What are you waiting for to motivate you to GO and tell them Jesus saves?
4. They were only talking to the Jewish people – still had a narrow view of the grace of God. They thought only Jews could get saved
5. A few “accidently” talked to Grecians / Greeks / to some Gentile people – pagans, tree worshippers, idol worshippers, nature worshippers
6. And they PREACHED Jesus to them
a. Not Moses, or David, or Claudius Caesar (politics)
b. Preached that Jesus is LORD, the Messiah, the Answer, the Saviour of the world
7. And the Lord was with them as they preached
a. Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them…
b. They were not on their own
c. They had GOD’S help preaching the Gospel to everybody, no matter the language, the culture, the sin
d. We need the Lord to bless OUR labours!
8. An Explosion of Conversions – kind of like Pentecost again
a. Acts 11:21 …and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
b. Turning to the Lord means…
c. Turning away FROM their dumb idols, and from their sinful lives, and turning by faith to trust and follow and believe in Jesus!
d. 1Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
D. A Suspicious Church in Jerusalem (11:22,24)
1. Acts 11:22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
2. The Church heard about LOADS of Gentiles getting saved up in Antioch and starting a church there
a. A “Gentile” Church? Without OUR oversight? Whoever heard of such a thing?
b. Whoever heard of a bunch of pagan Gentiles following the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Preposterous!
c. Are you telling me that just preaching Jesus from the Bible could actually start a church anywhere?
d. This needs to be verified! This is getting out of control! AMEN!
3. Being cautious and suspicious of things is not bad
a. It is what makes much of science so trustworthy – because science is all about questioning, and asking for proof
b. The fact that people have to prove what they think, and what they say happens is good
c. There are WAY too many religious and theological wackos
1) Promising miraculous healings – that are never proven
2) Promises great wealth and happiness and success
3) Prophesying about future events – yet never admitting they are 90% wrong
4. The church sent Barnabas to Antioch to observe and verify their claim of being saved
5. Who was this Barnabas? (Acts 11:24)
a. Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
b. Not hyper critical like the Pharisees were
c. But an ENCOURAGER (9:26,27) a supporter of the underdog, the hurt, the struggling…
1) Act 9:26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he [SAUL] assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
2) Act 9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
d. A GIVER (Act 4:36,37) And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
e. A SOUL-WINNER “and much people was added unto the Lord”
f. He was just a huge helper of other believers and churches
6. There was no better person to send to Antioch
E. What Did Barnabas Find in Antioch? (11:23)
1. Acts 11:23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
2. He actually SAW the grace of God at work
a. Saved Gentiles – ungodly pagans had been added to the Lord! (Romans 5:6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
b. Changed people – Christ-like now, not world-like
c. A grace that doesn’t change you, didn’t save you! God’s grace always affects sinners - Doesn’t make us perfect yet, but does make us different / peculiar / out of step with the world
d. Bible loving – hungry for every word
e. Jesus worshipping – not worshipping climate, politics, religiousness, self; only Jesus!
f. The SIMPLICITY of it all – not building; no hierachy; no rock band; no light show. Just people gathered around a BOOK called the Bible!
3. Told them to keep doing what they were doing with purpose of heart! Cling to Jesus, not to the Law, or to all their good works, but to JESUS
F. Saul Needed to See Antioch (11:25,26)
1. Barnabas was so encouraged seeing the grace of God at work
2. He thought of Saul – he knew Saul was discouraged by
a. The rejection of the Jews
b. The fear of the believers in Jerusalem
c. He knew Saul would be encouraged seeing the joy of the ministry amongst the Gentiles
d. Saul had tried to start his ministry way at the top of the Jewish system – he failed
e. Now Saul could start at the bottom
3. So Barnabas travelled to Tarsus to find Saul there and basically dragged him to Antioch
4. Acts 11:25,26 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
5. They spent an entire year teaching and preaching from genesis to the resurrection
6. And a second church was now birthed by the power of preaching, and the stability of Bible teaching!
G. The Disciples Were First Called Christians in Antioch (11:26)
1. Acts 11:26 …And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
2. This is marvelous!
3. These Gentile believers earned a great honour when people called them, CHRISTIAN
It was a derogatory name at first
– an insult, offensive word.
“You are LIKE THAT CHRIST GUY – Christian, who was executed like a crimnal”
5. They wore that name proudly, gladly
6. Because it means “LIKE CHRIST!” In life, words, attitude, joy, compassion, faithfulness…
a. The Jews tried so hard to be like Moses, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
b. But here were Gentiles striving and suceeding at being LIKE JESUS
7. Notice the four levels of Life that people are at (you are at one of these levels):
a. Lost Saved Disciple/Student Christ-like
b. Most are here Most believers are only here Some get here Fewest arrive here
H. Warning: Famine Was Coming (11:27-30)
1. Acts 11:27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
2. Acts 11:28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
3. Acts 11:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
4. Acts 11:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
5. When the believers in Antioch heard of the hardships that the believers were headed into in Jerusalem, they determined to send money and food and help
a. They naturally cared for their “brethren” – their family in Jerusalem
b. Even though everyone in Jerusalem were NOT Gentiles, but Jews
c. The Gentile believers had more grace than the Jewish believers
By the way, famine is
coming to the whole world now!
Forget about oil prices - watch the price of food!
A. Have you ever led anyone to faith in Jesus? Won a soul?
1. Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
2. It is not easy, but is so worth it! And when you do “catch a soul”, you won’t be able to stop talking about it for weeks and weeks!
B. What will you do when you are persecuted? Will you stay faithful, or disappear? Don’t wait until THEN to start evangelising this lost world! The main reson why persecution is coming is because we have NOT been evangelising the lost!
C. Is the grace of God visible HERE, in our church?
1. Is this just a building with some people in it? Or are there people here whose lives have been saved from the grip of sin, and the stench of hell?
2. Is there joy, and hunger for the word of God?
3. Do we have grace with each other, and actually LOVE one another?
4. God’s grace makes us different / peculiar / out of step with the world, if you have received it
5. Oh how the world, and our children need to SEE the grace of God in each of us!
6. What about in our homes? Is there FIGHTING, battling over who is in control, or GRACE, with God’s grace being in control?
D. Are there any Barnabas’ here? Who will go after the discouraged believer and get them fired up and encouraged again?
E. Does anyone else yearn to help birth another church somewhere, that will be like Antioch?
F. Finally, at what level of Life are YOU? Still lost? just saved? Follower? Christ-like?