Acts 11 – By the Spirit We Are Restoring
What did you learn about the Holy Spirit?
- The Holy Spirit gave orders through Jesus to the apostles (1:2).
- The Holy Spirit comes to the disciples through a baptism of the Holy Spirit (1:5).
What did you learn about the Spirit-filled community?
- The purpose of the community being filled with the Holy Spirit is in order to tell the world about Jesus (1:8).
Notes from Pastor Mark
Want to know how we can tell something is important in the Bible? There was no such thing as italics; no hi-liter. No, it’s repetition. When the Holy Spirit repeats Himself in the scriptures, it is His way of saying, “Pay attention to this; this is really important.” When we read the first sentences of Acts 11, we might be tempted to skip over them. “I already read this! I know this story!” But don’t do it! When Peter retells much of his story, two things are happening. We are seeing that Peter himself is continuing to be converted to a wholly trusting disciple of Jesus…and we are being reminded that this inclusive, diverse work of the Spirit who is drawing ALL people into the grace of God in Jesus, is not a fad. It’s the real thing. And it matters deeply to God!
If Cornelius is the godfather of Gentile Christianity (and I think Acts portrays him as such), then Antioch is our Vatican City. Antioch sits in modern-day Turkey, just north of the Syrian border. I have stood in an ancient cave church there which is believed to be the place of gathering for early Christians. As much as I enjoy visiting Jerusalem, when I stand in Antioch I realize that THIS place is my spiritual headwaters…me and every one of you who does not come from Jewish background.
Following the persecution we read about in Acts 8, believers were scattered to the winds. Some of them came to Antioch. Either they didn’t know or just ignored the fact that Gentiles weren’t supposed to be “save-able.” So, these scattered witnesses shared the story of the resurrected Jesus and a ‘great number of people” heard, believed and “turned to the Lord.”
Inevitably, word reached Jerusalem and the Church leaders. It is one thing to hear that the Holy Spirit has fallen on a house full of people in Caesarea. But the news that this phenomenon was spreading…as far away as Syria…might have been unnerving to the apostles. I’m sure they felt like they were losing control of the situation…as if they ever HAD control. It was the Holy Spirit who was in charge and He was going to save the people He wanted to save.
So, once again, playing catch-up ball, the apostles dispatch to Antioch what might be the purest and truest man we meet in the New Testament, Barnabas. How I wish I knew more about him. When one receives the nickname, “Son of Encouragement,” you know this is someone very special. When Barnabas arrived, he realized he had walked into a revival and that he needed help, and he knew just whom to fetch. Saul, in his passion for his newfound Lord, had been so vocal in his proclamation of the gospel that he was at risk of assassination. The disciples sent him away, to his hometown of Tarsus. For his safety. And for his seasoning, it seems. He was there for more than ten years. I wonder if he felt forgotten. But when the time was right…God used Barnabas to seek Saul and return him to ministry.
It is easy for us to skip over what must have been one of the epochal moments in Saul’s life: when Barnabas showed up in Tarsus and said, “Saul…Jesus has need of you. You might have felt you were forgotten. You might have felt shunned and dismissed. But God is not even CLOSE to being finished with you. Are you ready to fulfill your destiny?”
The same Holy Spirit who restored Saul to a ministry that would change all of eternity is STILL in the restoration business! Our church is full of those who thought they had been forgotten or discarded…but the Holy Spirit had something else in mind. Maybe you are the Saul whom God is calling to some new exciting ministry. Maybe you are the Barnabas whom God is using to restore cast-asides. May our study of the Acts of the Holy Spirit restore in us our sense of call, purpose, power and destiny. Amen!