Acts 11 is a great transitional chapter in God’s Word, and it promises a future of outreach ministry to those who don’t deserve it – including you and me.
The Gentiles had always been reviled by the Jews as detestable and beneath their dignity or even any sort of common courtesy. If a Jew encountered a Gentile in any sort of social situation, they would turn away and do everything they could to avoid making any contact whatsoever with the Gentile, including eye contact.
This is why the believers of Jewish background, (which all believers were in the first days of the church,) were so stirred up by the news Peter had gone into a Gentile’s home and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were further stirred by the incredible news God had poured out His Spirit upon them in the same manner He had poured out His Spirit on themselves. There had been a Gentile ‘Pentecost.’ God was bringing Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ without making them first become Jews.
How could this be? How could it be practicing Judaism was not the minimum entry point for becoming a follower of ‘The Way?’ (As the early church was known.)
Setting aside all the arguments for the moment, this explains why the Gospel was so slow to trickle out of its home base at Jerusalem. Almost 15 years had passed since Jesus’ great commission, and the Gospel in meaningful numbers had spread only as far as the outskirts of Jerusalem proper, and barely into Judea.
But since what happened with Peter at the house of Cornelius, (the Lord making His opinion known about how the Gospel would be spread by pouring out His affirming Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his entire household,) the floodgates opened.
Without any sort of official recognition or anointing, a revival broke out at Antioch of Syria, which was a major Roman city in the ancient world. This happened as a result of the persecution of the church at Jerusalem, which caused disciples of Christ to run for their lives to far-flung places. Once they got where they were going they began to share with those around them what they knew of Christ.
Once this news came to the official seat of the church at Jerusalem, Barnabas was dispatched to view this revival and witness what was taking place. This would in turn become the inception of Paul’s calling to one of the greatest ministry lives known to man.