During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
When Jewish believers from Cyprus (Europe) and Cyrene (Libya in Africa) started to tell the good news to non-Jews, God brought revival to Antioch. Until this point the church was comprised of people from a Jewish background.
Verse 25 says:
“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord”.
Do you have personal experience of the Lord’s hand moving like this? Shouldn’t we be having these experiences too in our generation? What is stopping us? Are we just doing stuff that is not a priority of God? Many of us may be doing “good enough” things but maybe not the burning priority on God’s heart. Sometimes doing “good” can be the enemy of God’s best! We need to pray for wisdom to find God’s priority in our generation. We need to pay attention to the prophetic word of God in our generation!
“During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.” (see verse 27).
Luke gives prominence to the office of prophet, (see Acts 11:27-30). Luke considers Agabus’s prophesy important and has recorded it in this passage. In this passage God used prophesy to speak to His church, and the church was fully obedient.
Luke tells of this group of prophets in a very matter of fact manner- like it was not that unusual. It seems to have been a common experience for him to know the supernatural, prophetic anointing of God and to see the church respond obediently! Notice, there is no indication that the Antioch church were richer than the Jerusalem church. They just gave in obedience and gratitude for their salvation. Notice also that the prophesy highlighted is not about the imminent death of James the brother of John by Herod’s hand, or the forthcoming persecution, but rather to provide for their brothers and sisters in Christ at the Jerusalem church. God doesn’t spare the Jerusalem church, he doesn’t give them a way to dodge the persecution. Rather, God ensures the Antioch church provides for their physical needs during and after this tribulation.
Do we behave with obedience to the prophesy of God over our lives today? Do we hear what God is saying to our church? What has God spoken recently into our lives? How has the church obeyed? Do we feel challenged by the prophetic word of God? Do we change our behaviour when the Holy Spirit convicts us? Or do we just shrug it off, and continue without changing? Do we provide for our brothers and sisters in need in obedience to Jesus command to love one another? Use these questions to guide a time of prayer, where we ask for the conviction of the Holy Spirit after reading this devotion.
At the same time as the church were fully obedient, with many people coming to Christ, very heavy persecution broke out. King Herod murdered James the brother of John (see verse 12 above). Bad things were happening to godly believers. The Holy Spirit was powerfully moving and the devil fought against this with murder and persecution. Peter was arrested and imprisoned without charge (see Acts 12:4). This situation probably appeared bleak to the church. They did the right thing by earnestly praying to God for him. The gifts from the church at Antioch would have been seemed supernaturally timely to these persecuted believers!
Conclusion: The church obeying the prophetic word of God was crucial to aiding believers to make it through this period of persecution, and later to survive the famine in the reign of Claudius. We need to respect prophesy and the office of the prophet in the life of the church and “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” as John says in his letter to the churches in Revelation chapter 3 verse 22.
Suggested prayer: Dear Loving Heavenly Father. We look to you and your word to make it through our lives today and every day. We pray Your prophetic word spoken by those You have raised up as prophets shall strengthen, encourage and rebuke Your church as is Your will. May Your church be ready to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches and be fully obedient as the Antioch church was with the prophesy of Agabus. Holy Spirit, help us to search our hearts and ask these questions raised by this reading. May we hear what You are saying to Your church in 2022 and take the necessary action to be obedient. In Jesus Name. Amen.