Acts 11:27-30 - The Famine Prophecy
Welcome to our Bible Study. We are studying Spiritual Application from Acts. The Book of Acts addresses many of our problems and concerns in today's world. In this session, we will talk about a prophecy concerning a famine, the fulfillment of the prophecy, how the church responded to this crisis. My title is "The Famine Prophecy," and my text is Acts 11:27-30. We will present several points from this story.
1. Prophets From Jerusalem Arrived In Antioch
Contained within the Book of Acts is a story that deals with the issue of the planting, spread, and growth of the church. One of the outstanding features of this story is the role of the Holy Spirit in leading and guiding the church. An interesting example of this came when prophets from Jerusalem went to Antioch. In this story, the prophecy was about a famine that would occur.
Before we consider the prophecy and the famine, let us think about prophecy in general. The word prophecy is very broad term and has a wide variety of meanings depending on the context. To begin with, prophecy is usually a message from God to man. Some prophecies tell of severe warnings to the people of God. Other prophecies are predictions of things to come. Many are words of edification, exhortation, and consolation. Another function of prophecy is to offer praise to God. Many times people are inspired of the Spirit in their praise to the Lord. This, too, is prophetic speech. The main point about prophecy is that the Holy Spirit inspires what the prophets say.
It is obvious that the founding church in Jerusalem viewed the church in Antioch with great respect and value. They sent Barnabas there to minister. Then, Barnabas enlisted Saul. Now, prophets from Jerusalem visit there. The Antioch church began to have an impact throughout the then known world.
2. Agabus Prophesied That A Famine Would Come
One of the prophets from Jerusalem was Agabus. At Antioch, he stood up and "began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world." He used the Greek preposition dia, which can mean either by the Spirit or through the Spirit. The important point is that Agabus was under the inspiration of the Spirit as he spoke. The Spirit was the source of the prophecy spoken by Agabus. This prophecy is a graphic example of the dynamic work of the Spirit at Antioch.
The prophecy of Agabus did not convey good news. On the contrary, our hearts yearn for good news. We want to hear about how God is going to bless us and use us in mighty ways. We are not so eager to hear about some coming disaster or hard times. However, Agabus was not in any way deterred from telling truthfully, what the Spirit had inspired him to say. He prophesied that there would be a worldwide famine. As servants of the Lord, we too must be equally faithful to present the truth that God gives to us.
3. The Truth Of The Prophecy Was Confirmed
The ultimate test of a prophetic prediction is whether it happens. As Luke tells the story, he confirms that the prophecy Agabus made was fulfilled. He simply states that a famine did occur during the reign of Claudius. Concerning this famine, history shows, as one scholar points out, that this emperor's reign (A.D. 41-54) was indeed marked by a succession of bad harvests and serious famines in various parts of the empire.
As we have previously stated, not all prophecy is prediction. Very often prophecy consists of worlds of encouragement and consolation. Prophecies may have different levels of authority. Sometimes human interpretation or even error enters in. No doubt, this is why the apostle Paul said (I Cor. 14:29): "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." This is an acknowledgement that prophecies are subject to the body of believers.
4. The Church In Antioch Generously Responded To The Need
Given the worldwide nature of the coming famine, the church at Antioch must have determined that there would be a great need in Judea. Luke does not tell us how they reached this conclusion. The prophets came from Jerusalem, so they perhaps knew that any famine would create problems in Judea.
Because of the prophecy, the disciples in Antioch decided to set up a special fund for the believers living in Judea. They had a high degree of confidence in the prophecy. Therefore, they started laying aside funds right away. It is significant that there seemed to be full participation in this offering. Each of the disciples gave in proportion to his resources. The Church can do a lot when they do it all together. Even on the mission field, newly formed churches were setting aside funds for the mother church back in Jerusalem.
We can learn much from this story as the church around the world does its work. At the right time, the funds were sent to aid the believers in Jerusalem. Barnabas and Saul were charged with the responsibility of delivering the funds to the elders in Jerusalem. In this way, the church at Antioch showed that it was fully accountable to the appropriate leaders. No doubt, Barnabas and Saul delivered the funds from the Antioch church with great joy in responded to this pressing need.
Sometimes the church looks upon supernatural moments with great skepticism. As a result, the church misses what God is doing. We can be happy that the Lord has given us safeguards. When prophecies are uttered in the local church, others should judge what is said. Having done that, we can confidently believe in the genuine results and enjoy the blessings of God. God may surprise us by what He will do. Let's be ready for the surprise and seize the moment with joy.
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