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Church Meetings in Acts – Acts 11:26

Posted by on Mar 1, 2010 in edification, gathering, scripture | Comments Off

The next usage of “gathering language” in the Book of Acts is found in Acts 11:26. Here is the verse in context:

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-26 ESV)

Once again, the “gathering language” in Acts 11:26 is found in the Greek verb συνάγω (sunagō) which generally means “I gather” or “I bring together.” The ESV translated the verb as “met.” Interestingly, the verb is passage, as in the previous passage (Acts 4:31), so a translation like this would be more precise: “For a whole year they were gathered together with the church.”

The context tells us that Gentiles began to be added to the church in numbers. The apostles and other brothers and sisters (Acts 11:1) had already agreed that God was extending his grace to the Gentiles just like he was to the Jews. But, there were still some questions about how this would all work. As we see in the following chapters, some followers of Jesus were still not satisfied that the Gentiles could be right with God without keeping the law.

Meanwhile, the church in Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch. We are not told exactly why he was sent, but we see what happened when he got there: he exhorted the believers (Jew and Gentile alike) to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus, and he recruited Paul to come help him. Together they served others in the church of Antioch, primarily by teaching.

If we see this passage as an indication that Barnabas is a leader among the church in Antioch, we also see that Barnabas recognizes the need for mutual leadership. At this point, the Holy Spirit had not sent either Paul or Barnabas as apostles (see Acts 13:1-2), so they are functioning as part of the church in Antioch, perhaps leader, but if so, then mutual leaders… leading the church together.

In fact, if Paul and Barnabas are highlighted here because they are leaders of the church in Antioch, then we see that by Acts 13:1, the number of leaders has grown to at least six. Also, while Paul and Barnabas are said to primarily teach, at least some of the people listed in Acts 13:1 are prophets. So, Luke does not limit the role of leaders to teaching and teachers only.

It is also interesting that in the next passage (Acts 11:27-30), Paul and Barnabas serve in the role of couriers by delivering relief that had been gathered by the church in Antioch to the church in Jerusalem. The image of Paul and Barnabas in this passage – in the context of the church gathering together – is an image of leaders who were willing serve in any capacity that was necessary. No type of service was too menial.