Acts 11:22-30

Sunday Morning Bible Study

February 8, 1998


The most incredible thing in the world has been going on in the Jewish-minded Christian church. Pagan, heathen, Gentiles have actually been getting saved.

It started in Acts 10, in Cornelius’ house, and last we read, there was a revival breaking out all the way to the north in Antioch.

:22 Then tidings of these things

As we read several weeks ago, a revival had been breaking out in the city of Antioch, and lots of Gentiles were getting saved.

This would be the birth of the first Gentile church.

:22 Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch

Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman empire, and was a capital of the province of Syria. It is a huge, important, Gentile city.

Ancient church historians (Jerome, Eusebius) have told us that Luke, the writer of Acts, came from Antioch as well, and perhaps it’s here that he is first introduced to the Lord and raised up as a Christian.

:23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad

God had been at work in these people, and it was so obvious, that Barnabas could see it.

:23 and exhorted them all

exhortedparakaleo – to call to one's side, to admonish, exhort, to encourage and strengthen by consolation. Remember that the name the early church gave this man (his original name wasn’t Barnabas, but Joseph) meant "son of encouragement" (Acts 4:36)

Note: This is what’s known as an "imperfect" tense, meaning that Barnabas was continually exhorting them. It wasn’t just a once time statement "now just cling to the Lord", but it was a constant reminding and urging them to cling to the Lord.


Keep encouraging one another.

We should never stop encouraging one another to cling to the Lord.

(Heb 3:12-14 NLT) Be careful then, dear friends. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. {13} You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. {14} For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Notice that we are to "warn" (exhort, encourage) each other, for the purpose of being faithful to the end (clinging to the Lord!).

Our hearts are so deceitful that if we stop receiving encouragement, we can easily fool ourselves into walking right back into the old life.


Encouragement to Christians is like swimming to sharks.

For some species of shark, if they stop swimming, they die, because they have to keep swimming to force the water through their gills to breathe. In addition, a shark doesn’t have a "swim bladder", and if it doesn’t keep swimming, it will sink to the bottom of the ocean floor.

It’s sink or swim. If we want to stay spiritually alive, we need encouragement.


A wealthy businessman hosted a spectacular party in which he had filled his swimming pool with sharks, barracuda, and other assorted dangerous fish. He announced to his guests that he would like to challenge any of them to try swimming across the pool, and he would offer a first prize of either a new home in the mountains, a trip around the world for two, or a piece of his business. No sooner had he made the announcement than there was a splash and a man swam rapidly across the infested waters and bounded up out on the other side. The millionaire said to the dripping man, "That was a stunning performance. What prize do you want?" He answered tersely, "Right now I really don't care about the prize. I just want to get the name of the turkey who pushed me in."

:23 that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord

This is what Barnabas was encouraging the people about, to keep an active, living purpose in their heart to cling to the Lord.

cleaveprosmeno – to remain with, to continue with one; to hold fast to

This is a form of the word that's often translated "abide" (meno), but a little more intensive form, "to abide towards". Jesus said,

John 15:4-7 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. {5} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. {6} If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.


Continuing in the Lord is a choice.

We often see this as one of the key elements to the Christian life, "abiding" in Christ.

Yet it’s not some mystical thing that happens to you. It’s not that some people have this kind of "fairy dust" sprinkled on them from heaven, and they are the ones that abide. It’s because you choose to abide.

It’s not enough to just start the Christian life. You must determine to continue with Jesus. It must be the purpose of your heart.


One of the important elements of continuing in the Lord is staying in the Word. Daily spending time reading, studying, meditating on God’s Word. But it doesn’t just "happen". You have to choose to do it.

:24 For he was a good man

goodagathos – good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy. This isn’t the kind of "goodness" that’s cold and unfeeling, but the kind that is good and kind towards others.

:24 and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith

We have at times what we might call an inner "emptiness", an inner hunger.

It seems that one of man’s great needs is to fill this sense of "emptiness", this sense of purposelessness. We like to eat until we’re full.

I see in the Scriptures two contrasting ways to be filled, to be filled with the wrong things, or to be filled with the right things.

You can be filled with the wrong things, just as we’ve seen right here in the book of Acts –

Ananias and Sapphira people in the church pretending to be something they weren’t:

Ac 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land?

Later on, as God is blessing Paul and Barnabas’ travelling evangelism ministry –

Ac 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

We know that today, people can fill their lives will all sorts of things, whether it be the pursuit of wealth, sex, pleasure in drugs or alcohol, or just filling their lives with friends so they aren’t "left out".

God’s desire is that you choose fill your life with His good things, just as we’ve seen in Acts –

Ac 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Ac 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Ac 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.


Being full of the right things.

1. Recognize that you’re hungry for the wrong things

(Luke 15:16-18 NKJV) "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. {17} "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,

It’s when the prodigal son realized how low he had fallen, coming to his senses, that his life started to turn around.

When we realize we’re trying to fill the emptiness with the wrong things, we need to get them out of our lives, in a way to make room for more of the things of the Lord.


If I take a pitcher filled with mud and yucky stuff, how useful is it going to be until I first empty it of the dirt? In fact, it helps not just to empty it, but to wash it as well! The less of us on the inside, the more there will be of the Holy Spirit!

2. Turn your hunger towards the things that God wants you hungry for.

Eph 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Mt 5:6 Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

3. Pray to be filled with the right things.

Paul seemed to see the concern to be filled with the right things. Look at how many of his prayers for others are about being filled.

(Eph 3:17-19 NKJV) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, {18} may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; {19} to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

See also Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9

4. Fill yourself with something useful, like God’s Word.

Jesus had been invited to a wedding, where the wine had run out. Jesus took care of the problem by starting with the empty water pots ...

Joh 2:7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

It was then that Jesus turned simple water into the best wine.

If you fill your heart and mind with God’s Word, just wait and see what God will do with it!

:24 and much people was added unto the Lord.

Under Barnabas’ good, kind, encouraging, faithful, Holy Ghost filled ministry, the church in Antioch was growing.

In fact, it was growing too large for Barnabas to handle by himself.

:25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

After Saul was converted on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), he went to Arabia for three years (Gal. 1:17), then back to Damascus. After stirring up some trouble, he fled from Damascus and came to Jerusalem briefly (Gal. 1:18) before being sent back home to Tarsus (Acts 9:30). He’s now been in Tarsus for about 4-5 years, preaching in the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21).

It was while he was in Jerusalem that Saul met Barnabas. While the other disciples and apostles were afraid of Saul, it was Barnabas who risked getting close to Saul, and ended up defending Saul, making him welcome in the church.

Perhaps Barnabas has been thinking back on this old acquaintance, Saul, and remembered that he wasn’t that far from Antioch. It was 100 miles to Tarsus, 300 miles to Jerusalem. Perhaps he was remembering the call God had on Saul’s life to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).


Raise up the next generation.

We often talk about the pair of Paul and Barnabas, but in reality, Barnabas was the older, more experienced believer. In fact, when they were ministering to the pagans in Lystra, they were mistaken for gods, and called Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:12), Zeus being the head of the gods, and Hermes simply his messenger. Barnabas was the one they were calling Zeus.

And so here we see the older, mature believer going out and pulling in the younger brother to help him with the work.

I think we all need to be working to replace ourselves. Train up the next generation to take over when we get too old!


A young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring and old-fashioned, with tiresome words that meant little to his generation. His father challenged him with these words: "If you think you can write better hymns, why don't you?" The boy accepted the challenge, went to his room, and wrote his first song. He would write 350 hymns in his lifetime. The year was 1690, and the young man was Isaac Watts. Among his hymns are "Joy to the World," "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," "I Sing the Almighty Power of God," and many other classics.

:26 a whole year they assembled themselves with the church

Somewhere around the year AD 44, the year before the famine.

assembled themselvessunago – ("synagogue") to gather together, to gather; to bring together, assemble

It looks as if Barnabas and Saul are only going to spend a year here, but they’ll be back. In actuality, Antioch will be their "home" church, a kind of base of operations from which they begin all their missionary journeys.

:26 and taught much people

Many people were coming to the Lord, the church was growing, so what do Barnabas and Saul do?

They teach.


The church is built up through the teaching of the Word.

I think there’s a lot of things that go into having a healthy, well-balanced church.

But I believe the foundation must be good strong teaching in the Word of God.

The church in Antioch will become one of the great "sending churches" of the first century, a church with vision to send people out to reach the world for Jesus.

I think it started with having a good foundation of teaching.

:26 the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch

Christianschristianos – Christian, a follower of Christ

The Jews had been calling the Christians "Galileans" or "Nazarenes".

The Christians themselves had up to this point been calling themselves "disciples" (learners), "believers", "brethren", "saints", "those of the Way".

:28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus

Church tradition has it that Agabus was one of the "seventy" disciples that Jesus sent out in Luke 10.

We’ll see Agabus again, many years later in Caesarea, when Paul is on his last trip to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-15)

:28 that there should be great dearth throughout all the world

Lit., "that there was about to be a great famine". The famine was right at the doorstep.

:28 which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar

The different ancient historians record that there were at least four famines throughout the Roman empire during Claudius’ reign (AD 41-54). Two were in Rome, one in Greece, and one in Judea. The famine in Judea was especially severe, and the Jewish historian Josephus records that many people died for lack of money to buy what little food was available.

:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability

This seems to be a general principle of Christian giving, that those who are more prosperous give more, those struggling financially give less. (1Cor. 16:1-3)

:29 determined to send relief

I find it interesting that they respond to the need ahead of time! It doesn’t seem that they waited until the famine hit to respond, but responded to the prophecy about it.

:30 sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul

Some years later, Paul would take up another offering for the church in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17), an offering he would receive from the Gentiles churches (1Cor.16; 2Cor. 8-9)