In Acts 11, the more devout Jewish men who followed Jesus want to know why Peter would go into the home of a Gentile family to eat with them.
These men questioning Peter were referred to as “circumcised believers.” This meant they followed all of the Old Testament rituals and laws including male circumcision, a mark that symbolized the people of Israel were in a covenant with God – the ones who were circumcised and all the children they produced.
You see, in the Old Testament, there are very specific laws designed to help the people of Israel survive while they lived in the wilderness and some were designed to set the people of Israel apart from the rest of the world.
Peter explains all that happened. He had a vision from God that nothing was unclean and that the Spirit led him to spend time with a God-fearing Roman Centurion named Cornelius. Once these circumcised believers heard that the Gentiles chose to follow Jesus and that the Holy Spirit came upon them just as the Spirit came upon the Jewish believers at Pentecost, they were no longer resistant to what Peter had done.
Now there are two principles of biblical interpretation we can see happening here. Gordon Fee described them this way:
“All of the Old Testament is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us.”
“Only that which is explicitly renewed from the Old Testament law can be considered part of the New Testament law of Christ.”
According to Peter, what was unclean is now clean! In this instance the kosher food laws were no longer a command to those who follow Jesus. (Other passages indicate male circumcision is no longer a command as instead God wants a circumcision of our callused heart).
Persecution of the church led to the church spreading to a new part of the world and the message of Jesus spread among the Jews and Greeks.
The apostles in Jerusalem sent Barnabas down to Antioch to help this young multi-ethnic church. By the way, Jerusalem is always considered up regardless of whether you were traveling North or South, East or West. This was because it was the location of the Temple of God.
Barnabas goes to get Saul to help him in Antioch where they stayed for a year helping the church grow. It was in Antioch that the nickname “Christians” was first used. “Christians” means “little Christs”
A prophet came down from Jerusalem to Antioch (which is actually North of the Holy City) and prophesied a coming drought which took place. The believers took up money to help those struggling to survive.
When reading this passage what stood out to you?
How do you sense God may want you to apply what you discovered?