Intro. We are looking at the Gentile church in Antioch of Syria, where Paul and Barnabas are ministering.
I. "AND IN THOSE DAYS CAME PROPHETS FROM JERUSALEM."
A. In the early church a prophet was one of the gifted men that God had set in the church for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry.
B. In Ephesians 4
, Paul speaks about when Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave gifts unto men.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:
C. To the Corinthians Paul asked, "Are all apostles, are all prophets, are all teachers?
D. It was a recognized ministry in the early church.
1. It would appear that they would travel around to the various churches exercising their gifts.
2. Problems arose in the early church because many false prophets would travel around claiming special gifts from God so the apostles wrote a little guide book by which the churches could test whether a man was a true prophet or not. If he stayed for more than one day wanting to be supported and was unwilling to work, he was a false prophet. If he would order a meal prepared for the poor and would eat of it himself, he was a false prophet.
3. In His 2nd epistle, Peter gave some instructions concerning the discerning of false prophets.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make make merchandise of you whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
E. In chapter 13 we are told that there were certain prophets in the church in Antioch. Whether these are the same ones as here, we do not know.
II. THERE IS THE GIFT OF PROPHECY MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AS ONE OF THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT.
A. Paul in 1Cor. 11
. spoke of a lady praying or prophesying in church without a veil dishonored her husband.
1. Note he did not forbid her from prophesying.
2. The wearing of the veil was a local situation, as Paul points out that it was not a general church custom.
B. In 1Cor. 12
he speaks of the gift of prophecy, and at the end of the chapter asks if all are prophets.
C. In chapter 13 he says, "Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
D. In chapter 14 he teaches concerning this gift of prophecy.
1. He that prophesies speaks to the church for edification, exhortation, and comfort.
2. He that prophesies is greater that he that speaks with tongues.
3. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If [any thing] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
E. Paul told Timothy not to neglect the gift that was in him and given to him by prophecy and the laying upon of hands by the presbytery.
F. It would seem that for the most part the New Testament gift of prophecy was not so much foretelling, as it was forth telling the word of God.
1. Speaking forth to the church the words of God's love, comfort, encouragement, admonition.
2. If I am truly speaking forth the word of God, it can surely have a futuristic element to it.
III. THE PROPHET AGABUS.
A. He is spoken of twice in the book of Acts.
1. Here when he is predicting a great drought, and again in Acts 21
, when he came to Paul in Caesarea and bound himself with Paul's girdle and prophesied that the man who owned the girdle would be thus bound when he came to Jerusalem.
2. With the prophecies of Agabus there definitely was an element of foretelling.
B. Here he is prophesying a drought that would come on the world in the reign of Claudius. It is well known from history that there were several famines in the reign of Claudius. The historian Dion Cassius, mentions a severe famine in the first and second year of the reign of Claudius, which was sorely felt in Rome itself. This famine, it is supposed, induced Claudius to build a port at Ostia, for the more regular supply of Rome with provisions. A second famine happened about the fourth year of this reign, which continued for several years, and greatly afflicted the land of Judea. Several authors notice this, but particularly Josephus, in the Antiquities of the Jews book 20 chapter 2, section 5 where, having mentioned Tiberius Alexander as succeeding to the procuratorship in the place of Cuspius Fadus, he says that, "during the government of these procurators, a great famine afflicted Judea and many died for want of food. During this time queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with
money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others to Cyprus to bring dried figs which she distributed to the poor people. A third famine is mentioned by Eusebius, which commenced in October, A.D. 48, which was so powerful that it was reported "in Greece a modius (about half a bushel of grain) was sold for six drachmas," or about seven dollars. The same author mentions another famine in Rome, in the tenth year of Claudius, of which Orosius gives the details, a fourth famine, which took place in the eleventh year of Claudius, is mentioned by Tacitus, in which he relates that there was so great a dearth of provisions, and famine in consequence, that it was esteemed a divine judgment. At this time, the same author tells us, that in all the stores of Rome there were no more than fifteen days' provision; and, had not the winter been uncommonly mild, the utmost distress and misery must have prevailed.
C. This Claudius is the same one that expelled the Jews from Rome at which time Pricilla and Aquilla were expelled. Mentioned in Acts 18:2
, they are the couple that Paul met in Corinth, and after that time ministered with Paul both in Corinth and Ephesus.
III. THEN THE DISCIPLES, EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY DETERMINED TO SEND RELIEF TO THE BRETHREN THAT DWELT IN JUDEA.
A. This should always be the standard of our giving. "According to our ability.
They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments.
And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen;
1. When Paul was encouraging the church in Corinth to take up an offering for the poor church in Jerusalem, he said, "As each man hath purposed in his own heart, so let him give."
2. This is Christianity in action.
3. This is a good picture of what the Lord intended for the body of Christ.
a. When one member suffers, they all suffer.
b. When one is exalted they are all exalted.
For if there be first a willing mind, [it is] accepted according to that a man hath, [and] not according to that he hath not.
For [I mean] not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
But by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance [may be a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may be [a supply] for your want: that there may be equality:
As it is written, He that [had gathered] much had nothing over; and he that [had gathered] little had no lack.
IV. THE MONEY WAS GIVEN TO PAUL AND BARNABAS TO TAKE TO JERUSALEM.
A. Later in his ministry Paul solicited money from the Gentile churches to help the poor brethren in Jerusalem.
B. This is probably another indication of the financial failure of the early attempt of the church for communal living.