Day 17

The Church in Antioch

from the Acts reading plan

Acts 11:1-30, Romans 15:25-28, 1 Peter 4:16-19

BY Claire Gibson

There’s a famous experiment from the 1960s called the “blue eyes/brown eyes exercise.” After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., educator Jane Elliott wanted to help her third-grade class understand the arbitrary nature of discrimination. She divided her all-white classroom into two groups based on eye color but didn’t tell them the purpose behind the experiment. She said that people with blue eyes were smarter and more civilized than brown-eyed people, and gave the blue-eyed students special privileges. The second day, the roles were reversed. On both days, the behavior of the “superior” group of students soured toward their “inferior” classmates. It’s amazing how quickly humans will form our identities around something arbitrary—how fast we embrace the idea of our own superiority. 

The early church was not immune to these sins. In Acts 11, we see that while Jewish men and women who had become Christians loved Jesus, they still emphasized their identity as primarily Jews. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit led the apostles to other cities—cities like Antioch, which was full of people who were devoted to their Greek culture and heritage. As more and more Jewish people and more and more non-Jewish people became Christians, the two groups were bound to collide. Concerned that their identity and culture would be watered down, lost, or changed, the Jewish believers began creating litmus tests for new believers, focusing on certain Jewish rites like circumcision and clean eating. You can be a Christian, they said. But first, you have to be Jewish. 

With love and gentleness, in today’s reading Peter explains how he came to understand that this was a culturally limited view of what God was doing in the world. He tells them how the Holy Spirit showed him, step by step, that God’s grace is for everyone. New believers do not first have to become Jewish to be followers of Jesus. 

Miracles abound in this passage: Peter’s dream, the visitation he had by Conelius, the vast number of people who came to believe in the Lord. But the greatest miracle of all, in my view, was the beautiful response that occurred in the hearts of both Jewish Christians and the non-Jewish Christians in Antioch. The world would have them as enemies. But rather than double-down on their tribal differences, they were called to embrace one another fully. 

After hearing Peter’s explanation, Jewish Christians didn’t double down on their beliefs. They became silent, and then “glorified God” (Acts 11:18) Christians in Antioch, when told of the financial and material distress of fellow believers, didn’t sit back idly and let them suffer. They didn’t say “not my people, not my problem.” They moved to action, sending money and food to their Christian brothers and sisters in Judea.

The Lord loves us all, and calls us to love one another without reservation. Praise be to God!

Post Comments (46)

46 thoughts on "The Church in Antioch"

  1. Whitney Autumn says:

    I love this bright light of women here. It’s not much, but it makes me feel connected to a group of women when I often feel isolated. Thank you all for sharing in Christ together- and including us all. ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Maria Baer says:

    I am so glad I joined this Bible study. I never read Acts until this and I feel like a big gap I had in my Bible knowledges is being filled. So much makes sense now. Continued prayers and blessings to the SRT team for providing us opportunities to become more familiar with the Bible, but more importantly, understand it. Be blessed!

  3. Maria Baer says:

    Oh my goodness— what a bittersweet situation to be in. Will definitely add your mom to our prayers. That she finds joy in your father’s salvation. Much love.

  4. Christie Beyeler says:

    Amen and Amen!

  5. Jodi RiddickHollingsworth says:

    I needed to read your comment today. Thank you.

  6. Melissa says:

    This passage reminds me of my family right now. My father was recently baptized and is going to church for the fiest time in his life. I have bene praying for him to know the Lord for a decade, since I became Christian. Praise be to God! However, my mother has taken this news with such judgment. My parents are divorced and she is deeply saddened my dad didn’t ever go to church with her. She said “it’s like I wasn’t worth it.” There is a lot of hurt going on, but I am so sad to see my mother only had judgment for something so good – that my father is saved. Please pray for my mother that she would repent of her self centered views and realize that God’s timing is absolutely perfect. I hope one day she can be joyous that my father did come to Christ at all, even if it was not within their marriage.

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