Acts 11:25-30

25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.

28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Barnabas knew Saul and had defended him on his first visit to Jerusalem (Acts 8:27).

It must not be overlooked that the reason the believers at Jerusalem had sent Barnabas to Antioch was that it had come to their ears that Gentiles — having neither circumcision nor the law — had come to trust Christ in that city. It is not strange, then, and a natural step in the unfolding of God’s program, that Barnabas simply exhorted these believing Gentiles “that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (a very general exhortation) while he went to Tarsus to find Saul. — Stam, page 117.

seek (v.25) = search thoroughly — Paul may have been away from home, ministering in Syria or Cilicia (Galatians 1:21)

called (v.26) — a received name. The name “Christian” perhaps intended derisively, was given by those outside the church.

Christian (v.26) — a Greek word with a Latin termination. The church members called themselves “disciples,” “brethren,” and “the Way.” Christian is used again only in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16, again, in both places, with a hint of derision.

prophet (v.27) — This is the first mention of [New Testament] prophets. The title is given to Barnabas and others in Acts 13:1. Cf. also 15:32; 21:10; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 14:32, 37; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 4:11. The word means “an interpreter of God’s message,” chiefly by forth-telling, but sometimes also by fore-telling, though the latter sense is subsidiary. The special function of the prophet was that of exhortation, instruction and edification by means of the declaration of God’s message to His people. In Ephesians 4:11, prophets are ranked next to apostles in the orders of the ministry. — Walker, page 260.

Agabus (v.28) — shows up again only in Acts 21:10-11. Here, his prophecy resulted in Saul traveling to Jerusalem to bring relief to the assembly there. In chapter 21, he warns Paul not to travel to Jerusalem with his relief because it would not be accepted.

showed by the Spirit (v.28) — probably with an outward sign

famine (v.28) — That is, “over all the civilized (or Roman) world.” We have evidence from Suetonius, Dion Cassius, Tacitus and Eusebius to the effect that, in the reign of Claudius Caesar, there was famine in various parts of the empire (Italy, Greece, etc.). As regards Palestine, the harvest seems to have failed largely in A.D. 45, and entirely in A.D. 46, with the result that, in the latter year, a severe famine set in. Josephus describes its severity and mentions the fact that Queen Helena (mother of Izates, king of Adiabene in Syria), who went to Jerusalem as a royal proselyte in A.D. 45, was there through the famine and distributed corn and figs which she imported for the purpose from Egypt and Cyprus. — Walker, page 261.

Claudius (v.28) — Emperor of Rome A.D. 41-54

relief (v.29) — the first mention of one assembly giving to another.

Why did the believers at Antioch determine to send relief to those of one particular country? The answer to this question is a dispensational one.

First it must be noted that the relief was to be provided, not for all the people of Judea, but for “the brethren which dwelt in Judea.” This was not only because it was proper for these Antioch Christians to care for their brethren first, but because the believers in Judea were to feel the effects of the famine and the accompanying high prices far more keenly than others, whether in Judea or anywhere else.

These Judean believers, it must be remembered, had sold their houses and lands and had brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution among the needy, in conformity with the standards of the kingdom which they had hoped soon to see established on earth.

Not one of the Pentecostal believers had lacked heretofore, [but] they were now bound to be the first to lack, having already disposed of their property. And this was only the beginning. Through the following years, not only the church at Antioch, but “the churches of Galatia” (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) “the churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4) “the churches at Achaia (2 Corinthians 9:2) and perhaps others, including even Rome, a long list of Gentile congregations, were to send material help to the “the poor saints … at Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26). Indeed, it was one of the specific agreements between the heads of the Jewish and Gentile churches at the great Jerusalem council, that the Gentile believers should “remember the poor” of the Judean churches (Galatians 2:10 — That the Jewish leaders referred to their poor is self-evident. They would have had no reason to ask for a promise that the Gentile church help its own poor or the poor in general.)

All this indicates that the kingdom program was being gradually set aside and that the new dispensation had already begun to dawn. The careful reader will note that the believers at Antioch did not have “all things common.” they contributed “every man according to his ability.” — Stam, pages. 118-121.

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