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Bible Gemz 1574 - Investigating Some New Ways of Looking at this Passage (Acts 11:19-30, 12:20-25, 13:1-4)

February 17, 2019

 

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen's death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 

However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 

The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. 

When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 

When he arrived and saw this evidence of God's blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 

Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. 

Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 

When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) 

During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. 

One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) 

So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. 

This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19-30)

 

[About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 

He had the apostle James (John's brother) killed with a sword. 

When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.)

Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 

But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. 

The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. 

Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, "Quick! Get up!" And the chains fell off his wrists. 

Then the angel told him, "Get dressed and put on your sandals." And he did. "Now put on your coat and follow me," the angel ordered. 

So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn't realize it was actually happening. 

They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. 

Peter finally came to his senses. "It's really true!" he said. "The Lord has sent His angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!" 

When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 

He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 

When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, "Peter is standing at the door!" 

"You're out of your mind!" they said. When she insisted, they decided, "It must be his angel." 

Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 

He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. "Tell James and the other brothers what happened," he said. And then he went to another place. 

At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 

Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn't be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.]

(Acts 12:1-19)

 

Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod's country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod's personal assistant, 

and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. 

The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, "It's the voice of a god, not of a man!" 

Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people's worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. 

Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. 

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them. (Acts 12:20-25)

 

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called "the black man"), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. 

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them." 

So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. 

So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-4)

 

 

Did you notice how the story of Peter in prison is sandwiched into the middle of the rest which seems to go together more so than the Peter story put into the middle. I am want to deal with the section of Peter separately and work with what we have around it as a unit first and then come back and look at how the story of Peter in prison fits into it. There are some curious things about the way all of this is structured. So what you see below is how I plan to work through these sections we have before us.  I will work through the setting first and then come back and look at Peter - bear with me. There are some curious elements in the surrounding passages. 

 

 

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen's death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 

However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 

The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. 

When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 

When he arrived and saw this evidence of God's blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 

Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. 

Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 

When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) 

During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. 

One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) 

So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. 

This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19-30)

 

Peter's Story > 

 

Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod's country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod's personal assistant, 

and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. 

The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, "It's the voice of a god, not of a man!" 

Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people's worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. 

Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. 

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them. (Acts 12:20-25)

 

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called "the black man"), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. 

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them." 

So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. 

So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-4)

 

[About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 

He had the apostle James (John's brother) killed with a sword. 

When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.)

Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 

But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. 

The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. 

Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, "Quick! Get up!" And the chains fell off his wrists. 

Then the angel told him, "Get dressed and put on your sandals." And he did. "Now put on your coat and follow me," the angel ordered. 

So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn't realize it was actually happening. 

They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. 

Peter finally came to his senses. "It's really true!" he said. "The Lord has sent His angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!" 

When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 

He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 

When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, "Peter is standing at the door!" 

"You're out of your mind!" they said. When she insisted, they decided, "It must be his angel." 

Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 

He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. "Tell James and the other brothers what happened," he said. And then he went to another place. 

At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 

Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn't be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.

(Acts 12:1-19)

 

 

I have made the point already that from this point on we see centre of operations move to Antioch. There appears to be significance in both the focus turning to the Gentiles with Peter’s role in being sent to Cornelius and the move away from Jerusalem. I have just seen something in the structure of all of this for the first time. Luke tells us of three phases in the spread of the gospel here. We have the evangelization of Antioch (11:19-26), the issue of famine relief for Judea (11:27-30) and the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas from Antioch (from Acts 13:1 ff) sent from the church in Antioch no less. What has struck me for the first time is that there is something wrong with the timing. It all happens too quick. Evangelisation one day then suddenly the church is sending off Paul and Barnabas. In reading over this passage a number of times I then noticed the curious placement of the story of Peter in prison. It fascinates me how I can read something for years and then suddenly realise that there is something there I have never seen before. This is all happening in real time, a live revelation in my quiet time going out to you via the internet as it happens. 

 

The other thing that struck me in this is Luke use of  the statement which introduces this segment. “Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen's death . . .” These are precisely the same words that Luke uses in 8:4. Acts 11:19 matches Acts 8:4. And I suppose I noticed the strength of the “meanwhile” in the NLT for the first time.

 

Act 8:4      Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες διῆλθον εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν λόγον. 

 

Act 11:19  Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες ἀπὸ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς γενομένης ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ διῆλθον 

 

Above in the Greek sentence we have exactly the same construction in each case in verse 8:4 and in 11:19.

 

In noticing the “meanwhile" of the NLT translation and seeing that the Greek beginning in each case is exactly the same made me stand up and take notice. I believe Luke is drawing our attention by using the exact same words to the fact that these events are linked. But how? I have always seen them as sequential but I am wondering now if they are in parallel. Is Luke wanting us to see that he has followed one strand of dispersion following Stephen’s persecution and now he has gone back to pick up the other one. What I once saw to be the first phase of activity following the persecution of Stephen, I now wonder if these two dispersions happened simultaneously. Is Luke drawing our attention to the fact that these two dispersions paralleled each other.  Thus the “meanwhile’ of the NLT and the AMP is indicating that after the persecution and martyrdom of Stephen they were all scattered, some to here and some to there. 

There is something going on here, between this feature of the possible parallelism and also the curious way Peter’s prison story is slipped in here, that I would like to explore.  

 

 

Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional. Roger Crawford

 

If you hold back for fear of being wrong you will never step out and explore new things. Ian

 

If you don't take risks you will always work for someone who does. Ian

 

Take a risk and step away from the pack, follow your gut feeling. Ian

 

As a leader you carry the burden of transparency. Transparency is invasive. But it makes us better leaders by revealing our humanity. Rick Godwin

 

 

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