2. The gospel spreads into Palestine, 6:1-12:25

xvi] Team ministry in Antioch


Luke continues his record of the spread of Christianity outward, now as far north as Antioch. The work of evangelism begins with Jewish believers witnessing to fellow Jews, but some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene join the evangelistic task and begin preaching to Gentiles. Conversions follow, "in great number." When the church in Jerusalem hears the news, they decide to send Barnabas, "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." Barnabas assesses the situation, and seeks out Saul in Tarsus to help build the new church in Antioch. During the first year of their ministry together, Agabus, a prophet from the Jerusalem church, prophesies that a famine is about to overtake the Roman empire. In response, the church in Antioch organised a relief package for the believers in Judea.


The advance of the gospel cannot be halted.


i] Context: See 6:1-7. Part two of The Jewish mission of the early church concludes with a record of the advance of the gospel in Antioch under the guiding hand of Paul and Barnabas, along with Peter's arrest and release. Peter's arrest and release closes off the Jewish mission, and ushers in the Gentile mission of the Christian church. The Gentile mission, like the Jewish mission, will conclude with the arrest and release of its leader, namely Paul the apostle. The advance of the gospel cannot be halted.


ii] Background:

iThe movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, 1:1-11;

iThe theological structure of the gospel; 3:11-26;

iGentile inclusion in the Christian church, 11:1-18.

iProphecy in the New Testament. The role of a New Testament prophet remains unclear. We know that there are predictive types of prophets in the New Testament, eg., Agabus, Acts 11:27-30. Such prophets are similar to Old Testament prophets in that they can predict the future, but are dissimilar in that they don't seem to be involved in primary revelation.

Luke, at times, describes Jesus and the apostles functioning as prophets, although he doesn't use the term "prophet" for them. He does use the title for John the Baptist, Lk.1:76. Luke often notes believers who are filled with the Spirit and who then speak. Luke doesn't use the title "prophet" for them, and given that there is no evidence that they were involved in primary revelation, they do not align with "the prophets of old." The primary role of a Biblical prophet is forthtelling, rather than foretelling, and this of divine revelation. For us today, this task was realised in the New Testament Canon, such that the authors of the various books can rightly be called prophets.

There is clear evidence of a secondary form of prophecy which Paul aligns with tongue-speaking; "inspired or gifted preachers", Fitzmyer. This presents as a word-ministry for edification, exhortation and consolation in the church, 1Cor.14:3. This form of prophecy is not like that of an Old Testament prophet entrusted with primary revelation; Paul's prophet is a minister of the Word. Such a prophet possesses gifts that enable them to upbuild, encourage and console within the frame of a Biblical Word ministry. Luke's references to profhtai, "prophets", in Acts 11:17, 13:1, 15:32, more than likely allude to this general form of prophecy. Obviously some of these prophets, like Agabus, were able to predict the future.

In passing, I well remember a colleague of mine arguing strongly for the cessation of prophecy in the first century. He argued this case in opposition to the ordination of women, given that the Scriptures speak of female prophets!

Syrian Antioch


iii] Structure: A good man:

The church of the Way comes to Antioch, v19-21;

The ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, v22-27;

The visit to Antioch of Agabus the prophet, v27-30.


iv] Interpretation:

Luke has already detailed the movement of the gospel into Samaria through the evangelistic work of Hellenist Jews - Greek speaking Jews of the dispersion. Luke now specifies other localities where they are at work, namely Phoenicia (the coastal region around the twin cities of Tyre and Sidon), as well as the island of Cyprus and the Syrian city of Antioch.

Luke tells us that some of the believers from Cyprus (Barnabas' birthplace), and Cyrene (modern day Libya), start to evangelise the eJllhnistaV, "Hellenists" in Antioch (according to Josephus, "third among the cities of the Roman world"). It is unclear how Luke is using the word here. Some commentators think he is referring to Greek-speaking Jews, as in 6:1 and 9:29. In that context, the Greek-speakers are indeed Jews, but here a general sense is surely intended, namely, "Greek-speaking inhabitants of Antioch", Barrett, or even more to the point, "Greeks" = unbelieving Gentiles, as per the variant eJllhnaV, so Peterson D.

Luke again gives us a short-hand version of the message, namely, they preached "the Lord Jesus", ie., they proclaimed / communicated the important news of peace now possible through Jesus, Lord over all powers, cf., 10:36. And again, Luke identifies the twin response of faith / belief and repentance - "a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."

When the church in Jerusalem hears of the revival in Antioch, they send their most suitable member to handle the situation. Barnabas is a Cypriot, a Greek-speaker, and so culturally aligned to the local population. And more, he is a person "full of the Holy Spirit and faith", Luke 4:1, Acts 7:55, and a anhr agaqoV, "a good man", a man like Joseph of Arimathea, Lk.23:50, cf., Acts 4:36-37 - an honourable and highly-regarded man. Barnabas takes on a pastoral role in the congregation, encouraging them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts, v23; he is all about perseverance / fortitude - being firm in faith through thick and thin. As Matthew Henry puts it in his commentary, Barnabas promotes a "deliberate resolution founded upon good grounds and fixed upon that foundation."

Given the way the church in Antioch is growing, Barnabas seeks out Saul in Tarsus to assist in the ministry of the church. Together, they work for over a year, "teaching a great number of people." In passing, Luke makes the point that it is in Antioch where believers are tagged with the name CristianouV (secular title, Cristianoi), "Christians", ie., followers of Christ - a title used in the same way as Herodians, followers / adherents of king Herod.

Luke goes on to mention an act of sharing which will soon become a hallmark of Paul's ministry, namely, the responsibility of Gentiles to respond to the generosity of the Jerusalem church, namely, their gift of the gospel to the world. In the context of Biblical theology, the responsive generosity of the Gentiles to the Jewish believers in Palestine aligns with the generosity of the Queen of Sheba toward Solomon - when Gentiles bear gifts to the New Israel, then know that the kingdom of God is upon you.

This act of sharing is prompted by the prophet Agabus who visited Antioch from Jerusalem. He predicted that a famine would soon engulf the Empire. Judea, being a poor province of the Empire, is bound to suffer. During the reign of Claudius, AD 41-54, the Empire faced a series of famines. Luke may be referring to one that hit Egypt, the Empire's main grain producer, in AD 45.

Text - 11:19

A good man, v19-30: i] The church of the Way comes to Antioch, v19-21. Luke picks up on his account in 8:1-4, namely, the dispersion and evangelistic work of Jewish Hellenists. Their work in Southern Syria now extends into Phoenicia, even as far as Cyprus and Syrian Antioch. Their mission is still primarily Jewish, evangelising Jews of the dispersion, but this is all about to change.

men oun ..... de "now" - therefore, on the one hand ......... but on the other hand. Transitional correlative construction which moves the narrative forward while connecting it with the previous events. The connecting de introduces v20. So, picking up on the scattering of the Hellenist Jews as far as Antioch and Cyprus, Luke tells us that "some of them, however, men from ......"; See men oun, 1:6.

oiJ .... diasparenteV (diaspeirw) aor. pas. part. "those who had been scattered" - the ones having been scattered. The participle serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "to pass through."

apo + gen. "by" - from = because of. Rather than separation, "away from", the sense here is more about source, and this with a causal sense, as NIV.

thV genomenhV (ginomai) "that broke out" - [the tribulation] having become. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the verb "to become"; "by the trouble which arose over Stephen", Moffatt.

epi + dat. "when [Stephen was killed]" - upon = against [stephen]. Spatial, possibly expressing opposition, "against", although both Culy and Kellum suggest a causal sense, "because of Stephen's actions." The NIV opts for an adverbial use, temporal.

eJwV "as far as" - [passed through] until [phoenicia and cyprus and antioch]. Used here to express extension, that of distance.

lalounteV (lalew) pres. part. "spreading [the word]" - speaking [the word]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their coming.

mhdeni dat. adj. "-" - to no one. Dative of indirect object.

ei mh "-" - except [only]. Introducing an exceptive clause which establishes a contrast by designating an exception; "they were proclaiming God's message, but, in so doing, addressed themselves only to Jews", Cassirer.

IoudaioiV (oV) dat. "Jews" - to jews. Dative of indirect object.


The implication is that the men from "Cyprus and Cyrene" are evangelising Gentiles (EllhnistaV, "Greeks", here with the sense "Gentiles"). This is supported by the shorthand version of the gospel, "important news about the Lord Jesus", a version which makes no mention of Jesus' messiahship ("the Christ"), a fact relevant to Jews, but not to Gentiles.

ex (ek) + gen. "[some] of [them]" - [there were certain] from = of [them]. The preposition is used here instead of a partitive genitive; "among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene", NRSV.

de "however" - but/and. See men oun, v19.

kuprioi (oV) "[men from] Cyprus" - [men] cypriot [and cyrenian]. Nominative standing in apposition to "men".

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "went" - [who] having come [into antioch]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "who, on coming to Antioch", ESV.

euaggelizomenoi (euaggelizw) pres. mid. part. "telling [them]" - [were speaking and = also toward the greeks] communicating, proclaiming, preaching [the lord jesus]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their "speaking". The imperfect verb "to speak" is probably inceptive, "they began to speak", as NIV.


The preaching prompts belief and repentance: "they believed and turned to the Lord." Yet, it is interesting to note that Luke does not mention the reception of the Holy Spirit. Some argue that Barnabas sorts this out when he is sent by the Jerusalem church to guide the new church in Antioch, but an argument from silence carries little weight. Luke describes what happens as an act of divine intervention; it occurred under "the hand of the Lord." This anthropomorphism from the LXX serves to express the exercise of divine power; "the power of the Lord was with them", REB, "the Lord was with them strongly", TH.

met (meta) acc. "with [them]" - [and hand of lord was] with [them]. Expressing association / accompaniment.

te "and" - and. Coordinating conjunction. Culy notes Levinsohn Gk. who argues that "when te introduces a response, the effect is to give prominence to the response, over against the event which produced it."

oJ pisteusaV (pisteuw) aor. part. "believed" - [a large number] having believed [turned upon = to the lord]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "a large number."


ii] Saul/Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, v22-27. A first century example of team ministry.

thV ellkhsiaV (a) gen. "[reached] the church" - [but/and the word was heard into the ears] of the church. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the ears belonging to the church - a euphemism "; "News of what was happening reached the church in Jerusalem", CEV.

thV oushV gen. pres. part. "-" - the one being [in jerusalem]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "church"; "the church which was in Jerusalem." A somewhat strange expression. Unlike Paul, it is unusual for Luke to use such a participial construction.

peri + gen. "-" - about [them]. Expressing reference / respect; "about, concerning."

dielqein (diercomai) "-" - [and they sent forth barnabas] to pass through = go. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to go."

e{wV "to [Antioch]" - until [antioch]. Here expressing extension in the terms of space; "up to Antioch"


When Barnabas arrives, he sees how God's divine favour / kind mercy (cariV) is being played out in Antioch, and so he sets about encouraging the new believers to persevere in faith.

paragenomenoV (paraginomai) aor. mid. part. "when he arrived" - [who] having come [and having seen]. As with "having seen", the participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal with a causal edge.

thv "what [the grace of God had done]" - [the grace] the [of god, rejoiced]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the genitive construction "of God", into an attributive modifier of the noun "grace"; "the grace which is of God." The genitive "of God" may be viewed as adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic, "the grace pertaining to God", or ablative, source / origin, "the grace from God."

prosmenein (prosmenw) "to remain" - [and was encouraging everyone] to remain with, continue toward [the lord]. Introducing an object clause, dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Barnabas was encouraging the new believers to do, namely, to abide with steadfast purpose in their commitment to the Lord; "to remain faithful to the Lord." "The Lord" serves as a dative of direct object after the proV prefix infinitive, "to continue toward."

th/ prosqesei (iV, ewV) dat. "with all their hearts" - in setting forth, in purpose = devotion [of heart]. The dative is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the action of the infinitive "to continue toward [the Lord]." For this "resolve of the heart", Johnson, Kellum suggests the sense "to steadfastly remain true", so, when it comes to the Christian walk, what is required is fortitude, perseverance in faith, sticking with our belief in the Lord Jesus through thick-n-thin.


Barnabas was a Spirit-filled man, reliable and firm in his faith, as was Stephen, 6:5, and also, like Joseph of Arimathea, he is "a good and upright man", Lk.23:50.

oJti "-" - because [he was a good man]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Barnabas encouraged the new believers to persevere in faith.

pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "of the [Holy] Spirit" - [and full] of [holy] spirit [and faith]. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / of content; "filled full of." For "filled with the Holy Spirit" see Excursus

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "[were brought] to the Lord" - [and a sufficient = great crowd was added] to the lord. Dative of indirect object.


Saul had been sent to his home town Tarsus by the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and it is there that Barnabas seeks him out, presumably because of his calling to be apostle to the Gentiles.

de "then" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

anazhthsai (anazhtew) aor. inf. "to look for [Saul]" - [he went out into tarsus] to seek [saul]. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to seek out Saul."


The Western text handles the verse somewhat differently: "When he found him, he exhorted him to come to Antioch. When they came, for the whole year, a considerable crowd was stirred up, and then for the first time the disciples were called Christians." As Johnson notes, the Western text makes Saul / Paul out to be more an agitator rather than a solidifier.

The sentence is made up of three infinitival constructions serving as the subject of the verb egeneto, "it happened, it became"; literally, "But/and, and = even a whole year, Barnabas and Saul/Paul to be brought together with = came together with them (the believers) in the church, and to teach a large crowd, and the disciples to title = were titled / called Christians first time in Antioch happened"

euJrwn (euJriskw) aor. part. "when he found him" - [and] having found him [he brought him into antioch]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

eniauton oJlon "for a whole year" - [but/and it happened and = even] a whole year. The accusative here is adverbial, temporal; "they were there for a whole year."

sunacqhnai (sunagw) aor. pas. inf. "-" - [barnabas and saul/paul] to be brought together with = came together with. This infinitive serves with the infinitives "to teach" and "to title" to form the combined subject of the verb egeneto, "it became, happened." The assumed accusative subject of the infinitive "to be brought together with" and "to teach" is "Barnabas and Saul/Paul."

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - them. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix infinitive "to be brought together with."

en + dat. "with [the church]" - in [the church]. The word is often used of the meeting / assembly itself, but here the preposition seems to be local, expressing place, so the place of the meeting is now being called "a church"; "they met with the congregation in the church and taught them."

CristianouV (oV) "Christians" - [and to teach a large crowd, and it happened the disciples to title = were titled, called] christians [first time in antioch]. Either serving as the accusative subject of the infinitive, or the accusative complement of the direct object "disciples"; "It was at Antioch that the disciples first got the name Christians", REB.


iii] The visit to Antioch of Agabus the prophet, v27-30. The visit of the prophets from the Jerusalem church and in particular, the role played by the prophet Agabus in encouraging the new church in Antioch to offer sustenance to the believers in Jerusalem, serves to firmly link the new church in Antioch with the mother church in Jerusalem, so Dunn.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; "Now in these days", ESV.

en + dat. "during [this time]" - in [these days, prophets came down from jerusalem into antioch]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal.


The Western text introduces the verse with "There was much rejoicing. When we were gathered together, one of them ......"

ex (ek) gen. "of [them]" - [but/and, one] from [them]. Possibly used here to express source / origin, but more likely used instead of a partitive genitive, as NIV.

onomati (a) dat. "named" - in name [agabus]. The dative is adverbial, reference / respect, "with respect to his name" = "by name."

anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "stood up" - having stood up. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to signify, indicate." Often used as a helper verb, but here probably making the point that Agabus actually stands up to deliver his prophecy.

dia + gen. "through [the Spirit]" - by [the spirit]. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of"; "prompted by the Spirit", Peterson.

mellein (mellw) pres. inf. "that" - [signified, indicated = declared] to be about. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Agabus "signified" = "prophesied"; "predicted that a terrible famine soon would spread over the whole known world during the (AD. 52-54) reign of Claudius Caesar", Junkins.

esesqai (eimi) fut. inf. "would" - to be [a great famine upon all the inhabited world (= the Roman Empire)]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the infinitive "to be about."

epi + gen. "during [the reign of Claudius]" - [which became] upon [claudius]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal; "in the days of Claudius", ESV.


The Greek sentence is somewhat complex: "Certain (tiV) of the disciples (maqhtwn), just as = in the measure that (kaqwV) each one of them (ekastoV autwn) could afford (euJporeito), determined (wJrisan) to send a sum of money (pemyai) as relief (eiV diakonian) to the brethren who were living in Jerusalem"; adapted from Zerwick.

twn ... maqhtwn (hV ou) gen. "the disciples" - [but/and certain = some] of the disciples. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, modifying tiV, "certain"; "Those disciples who were able, decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters living in Judea."

kaqwV "as" - just as = in the measure that. Cf., Zerwick. Used here of measurement, of one's financial means; "in proportion as", Barrett = "as they prospered", BDAG.

autwn gen. pro. "-" - [each one] of them [having financial ability = could afford]. Partitive genitive.

pemyai (pempw) aor. inf. "to provide" - [decided, resolved, determined] to send. Introducing an object clause, dependent statement of perception, expressing what they "decided" to do.

eiV + acc. "[help]" - to [service, ministry = relief]. This prepositional phrase, eiV + an accusative noun, serves to modify the assumed object of the infinitive "to send", something like "a sum of money" = "to send a sum of money as relief." Culy classifies it as a predicate modifier.

toiV .... adelfoiV (oV) dat. "for the brothers and sisters" - to the brothers [dwelling in judea]. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.


Barnabas and Saul/Paul (soon Paul will take the lead over Barnabas) send the collection to the presbuterouV,"elders", church leaders throughout Judea.

kai "[this]" - [which] and = also [they did]. Adverbial use of the conjunction, adjunctive; "also".

aposteilanteV (apostellw) "sending" - having sent [toward the elders]. The participle is adverbial, temporal / instrumental; "when they sent / by sending ....."

dia + gen. "by [Barnabas]" - by [hand of barnabas and saul]. Instrumental, expressing means. For the idiomatic use of "hand", see the introductory note v21; "with Paul and Barnabas in charge of the enterprise", Cassirer.


Acts Introduction

TekniaGreek font download

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]