The Orthodox Pages

email: pater@christopherklitou.com 

 

TALK ON THE ACTS OF

THE APOSTLES
PART 5
20th November 2014

 Homepage

 

   Back                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At our last meeting we finished with the first of two miracles by Peter mentioned in chapter nine. The first was the healing of a paralytic in the town of Lydda. Today we begin with the second of these miracles in the town of Joppa.
Joppa, known today as Jaffa, was a coastal town of Palestine and one of the most ancient and well known ports of the eastern Mediterranean. It is mentioned many times in the Old Testament. Originally it belonged to the Philistines and later during the reign of King David, it came under the control of the Israelites. From Joppa we see the transportation of the great cedars of Lebanon which were used for the building of the Temple. From here, the Prophet Jonah set sail for Tarshish. And from Joppa the Apostle Peter saw the vision where God told him that he must preach the Gospel also to the Gentiles.
At Joppa was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did. Luke begins his narration of the miracle, by giving us the name of the woman as Tabitha. As is usual for him, he mentions her Hebrew name first and then immediately gives us the equivalent of what her name would be in Greek - Dorcus which actually means a deer. St. John Chrysostom, says of the name Tabitha that her name is not mentioned by chance, but so that we may learn that she lived up to her named because she was as watchful and careful as a deer. Tabitha is characterized as a disciple, in other words a disciple of Christ. In all the New Testament, this is the only occasion where this characterization is given to a Christian woman. Luke also tells us that Tabitha was full of good works and alms deeds which she did. A characterization which defines the charitable activity that Tabitha developed among the faithful of Joppa.
At the time that Peter was still in Lydda Tabitha became ill and died and they washed her and laid her in an upper chamber. The washing of the body means that they prepared everything that was necessary to be done for the dead. The washing of the body as a preparation for the dead was a Greek custom and nowhere is it mentioned in the Old Testament so that we might assume that the Jews had a similar custom. Having washed and prepared the body, Tabitha’s relatives and friends laid her body in an upper room. The upper room should be understood as the attic of Tabitha’s home. The attic was not a room for general use, but was used for putting up visitor’s and also for private prayer and reading. The weather conditions and the Jew’s views for the dead body determine that the burial of the dead must be carried out immediately after their death. So the preparation of Tabitha’s body and placing her in the attic has nothing to do with her burial, but rather with the presence of Peter in the neighbouring town of Lydda as is made clear in the next verse.
And forasmuch as Lydda was near to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.”
J
oppa was very near to Lydda and so it was very easy for the Christians of Joppa to be informed that Peter was there. Two men were sent to beseech Peter to not delay and come to them because it was impossible to leave the dead body for too long a period without burial. Luke doesn’t tell us the reason why Peter was called to rush to Joppa, but we can assume that he was called either to be present at the funeral or because the people of Joppa didn’t believe that Tabitha was completely lost to them. In other words they believed with certainty that as Peter would have been able to cure her of her illness, then even now that she was dead, that he could raise her from the dead.
Peter responds to their supplication and immediately rushes with them to Joppa. On reaching Joppa he is led to the upper room where Tabitha’s body had been laid. While there, all the widows came weeping and showing him all the coats and garments that Tabitha had made for them. At the beginning of the story, Luke mentions that Tabitha was full of good works and almsgiving. Here, among the tears of the widows who had received Tabitha’s love, her charity work is pointed out. The widows, while crying and beseeching for Peter’s compassion, present him with tangible examples of Tabitha’s gook works.
Peter asks for everyone to leave the room. His action reminds us of a similar occasion of the Lord when he raised Jairus’ daughter, a miracle that Peter had knowledge of because he was present. St. John Chrysostom asks: “Why did he put everyone out of the room?” And he answers: “So that he would not be confused or upset by all the crying and noise.” The fervent prayer by which he was to beseech God to raise Tabitha required complete silence and dedication. The living communication of Man with God through prayer always presupposes solitude and undisturbed silence. But also another reason for wishing to be left alone was to avoid a vain exhibition.
Peter kneeled down, and prayed and then turned to the dead body and said: “Tabitha, arise”. His word brings Tabitha back to life. Tabitha first opens her eyes and sees Peter then she sits up and then being given the hand by Peter, stands upright. Old interpreters say that by calling Tabitha, Peter gave her life and then by giving her his hand he gave her the strength to stand. After Peter raised Tabitha, he called the saints and widows, and presented her alive. But, why the two categories of Saints and widows? He showed her off to the saints, in other words to the Christians so that they would rejoice that they once again had their sister in Christ alive and also because they were found worthy to be witnesses of a great miracle of faith, and he showed her off to the widows so that they would continue to receive the protection and care which Tabitha gave them before she died.
No matter how big the town of Joppa was, such a miraculous event could not remain confined to just the witnesses who saw it. In just a short time, the news of Tabitha’s resurrection spread rapidly and became the common knowledge of everyone living in Joppa. And just as Aeneas’ cure in Lydda was reason for many to come to the Lord, so also with Tabitha’s resurrection, many believed and turned to the Lord. The miracles of the Apostles which were done in the name and power of Jesus, were indisputable proof of who Christ was: that he was truly the Messiah of God. All those people who, with good intention, saw or heard of these miracles, believed in the person of Christ whom the Apostles preached, recognizing him as Lord and God.
After the miracle, Peter did not depart immediately, but remained in Joppa for many days. The newly established Church and the many who came to believe in Jesus because of the miracle had need of his help and his teaching so Peter stayed with them to teach them the Gospel and to give them support in the new faith.
Chapter ten continues with Peter still in Joppa and an account of how God instructed him to spread the word of salvation to the gentiles. Going north from Joppa along the Mediterranean coast is the town of Caesarea. There was an officer of the Roman army called Cornelius who was a centurion of the band called Italian. Probably the band was called Italian because the majority of the soldiers were originally from Italy. This Cornelius was a gentile yet he is described as a devout man that feared God with all his house, who gave a lot of alms to the people and prayed to God always. It seems extraordinary that a pagan soldier would disown his pantheon of gods and goddesses to accept the one true God of Israel: probably in his search for the truth, he had studied the scriptures and the Jewish faith came and filled a void he found in the false gods of his own country. Some have tried to identify him as the centurion mentioned in Matthew and Luke who sent for Jesus to heal his servant, but if this was the same centurion he would have already known of Jesus and believed in him which would make no sense for Luke to now explain how Peter was called to instruct him in the Christian faith.
On this particular day at about 3 in the afternoon, Cornelius sees a vision of an angel. The angel tells him that his prayers and alms have not gone unnoticed before God. Now send men to Joppa to find a man called Simon known as Peter: he is staying with a man called Simon who by occupation is a tanner whose house is by the sea side; he shall yell you what you need to do. A tanner was a craftsman who tanned leather skins. When the angel had given the message, he departed and Cornelius called two of his servants and a faithful soldier in his command and having explained to them what the angel had told him sent them to Joppa to find Peter and bring him back with them.
The next day, at noon, as the three drew near to Joppa, Peter went up to the roof top of the house to pray. While praying he became very hungry and would have eaten, but the food was still being prepared. Waiting to be called for lunch, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and a certain vessel descending towards him, like a very large sheet with the four corners knotted together which was coming down to earth. Held within the sheet were every kind of animal found on the earth and all the various flying creatures. Then a voice told him to rise and kill and eat. Peter probably thinking this was a test of his obedience to the law, declined saying No Lord because I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. The voice replied: What God has cleansed, that do not call common. This was repeated three times and then the sheet was lifted up again to heaven where there is nothing unclean. What was the meaning of this vision? We could say that God is doing away with the distinction of clean and unclean animals of the old law, but this is not the main message God wants Peter to understand. The sheet is the world, the clean animals are the Jews and the unclean are the idol-worshipping gentiles waiting to receive the message of salvation and enter into the one church of both Jews and Gentiles.
But Peter didn't immediately understand what the vision meant and while he contemplated on what he saw, the men which were sent from Cornelius had found Simon's house, and stood before the gate. The men called and asked if Peter was lodging there, but Peter was told by the Spirit that three men were asking for him and to go with them doubting nothing because he had sent them. So Peter trusting in the Spirit went down to the men and was told of how their master Cornelius was a just man that feared God and was told by an angel to send for him so that he could preach the word of God to them. Peter called them into the house to stay the night and in the morning went with them accompanied with other brethren from Joppa.
They reached Caesarea the next day and Cornelius was waiting for them together with his family and close friends. Cornelius met Peter and fell down at his feet, but Peter took him up saying: Stand up I myself also am a man. Peter began talking with Cornelius and entered the house where he found many that were come together to hear him. He begins by telling them that it is unlawful for a man that is a Jew to keep company with someone from another nation, but God had showed him that he should not call any man common or unclean. Without this understanding he would not have come in to them. He then asks why he was sent for. Cornelius explains to him how while he was fasting four days ago he had a vision of an angel in bright clothing and told him that his prayer and almsgiving had come before God and that the angel told him to send men to Joppa to find him and bring him so that they might hear what God has commanded.
Peter replies: that he now understands that God is no respecter of persons, but that every man from every nation who fears God and works righteousness is accepted by him. He then begins to tell them about Jesus, how he is God's anointed and how he and the other apostles were witnesses to the miracles that he did, how he was crucified and how he was raised from the dead on the third day and did eat and drink with them after his resurrection. Peter continues saying that Jesus commanded them to preach to the people and to testify that he was ordained of God to be the Judge of both the living and the dead. That all the prophets testify to him and that through his name, whosever believes on him, shall receive remission of sins. While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon all them that heard his words and they began to speak with tongues and magnified God. This was to give proof to the Jews that accompanied Peter from Joppa that God accepts the gentiles also. The Jews were astonished that the Gentiles also received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like Peter and the other apostles, they thought that for a gentile to become a Christian he first had to become a Jew by being circumcised and then be baptized a Christian. For them this was the difference between clean and unclean, but God had shown them that circumcision may have been an essential requirement for the Jewish faith but not essential for the New Christian faith. This was the main subject for the gathering of the first Apostolic Council which we will see when we get to chapter 15 of the Acts.
So with the Gentiles receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter asks the Jews present: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? Seeing that no one objected he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Peter stayed with them for a few more days teaching them about Christ.
Cornelius was the first pagan to receive Baptism and according to tradition after being baptized he retired from the Roman army and went preaching together with the Apostle Peter who ordained him a bishop. Peter sent him to the idol-worshipping city of Skepsis in Asia Minor to convert the people there. In the city lived a prince by the name of Demetrius. Learning about the arrival of Cornelius in the city, he immediately summoned him and asked him the reason for his coming. Cornelius answered that he came to free him from the darkness of ignorance and lead him to knowledge of the True Light. The prince, not comprehending the meaning of what was said, became angry and demanded that he answer each of his questions. When Cornelius explained that he served the Lord and that the reason for his coming was to announce the Truth, the prince became enraged and demanded that Cornelius offer sacrifice to the idols. The saint asked to be shown the gods. When he entered the pagan temple, Cornelius turned towards the east and uttered a prayer to the Lord. There was an earthquake, and the temple of Zeus and the idols situated in it were destroyed. All the people, seeing what had happened, were terrified. The prince had the saint bound and cast him in the prison for the night. At this point, one of his servants informed the prince that his wife and child had perished beneath the rubble of the destroyed temple. After a certain while, one of the pagan priests, by the name of Barbates, reported that he heard the voice of the wife and son somewhere in the ruins and that they were praising the God of the Christians. The Prince recognized that Cornelius had saved his wife and son and declared that he believed in Christ and asked the saint to bring his family out of the ruins safely. After this the prince Demetrius, and all his relatives and comrades accepted holy Baptism. St Cornelius lived for a long time in this city, converted all the pagan inhabitants to Christ, and made Eunomios a presbyter in service to the Lord. St Cornelius died in old age and was buried not far from the pagan temple he destroyed. His feastday is celebrated on the 13th September.
Chapter eleven continues with Peter after baptizing Cornelius. Before returning to Jerusalem, word had reached the other apostles and Jewish Christians that the Gentiles had also received the word of God and had been baptized. Although this was a good thing the Jewish Christians were scandalized with Peter because he had entered the house of a gentile and not only spoke with non-circumcised men, but had eaten with them and kept company with them which was forbidden by the law. When Peter finally returned to Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians were waiting for him and accused him saying: "You went in to men uncircumcised, and did eat with them." Peter knew beforehand what kind of reception he would receive on his return and had rehearsed how he would justify his actions. He begins telling them how he was in Joppa praying and saw the vision with the great sheet full of all the animals and flying creatures and how God told him to kill and eat. Peter relates the whole story of how the men came from Cornelius, how he went with them and how as he was preaching to them they received the Holy Spirit. After giving them in detail of all the events he tells then: Seeing then that God gave them the gift as he had given us, who was I that I should go against God's will. When they heard these things they held their peace and glorified God saying that God has granted repentance unto eternal life also to the gentiles.
Luke now turns his attention to the Christian mission outside Judea and Jerusalem. Luke is a son of Antioch and he wants to give us the history of the founding of the Church of Antioch. He returns to the persecution that arose after Stephen's stoning which forced the Christians to travel as far as Phenice, Cyprus and Antioch. He attempts to chronologically link together the beginnings of the Christian preaching in the Syrian Capital with what had just recently taken place in the Church of Jerusalem. In other words the martyrdom and death of Stephen, the persecution of the Church that immediately followed, the preaching and conversion of Samaria, the journeys of St. Peter to Lydda and Joppa, which we heard of in last weeks reading, and his journey into Caesarea, which resulted in the conversion of the first gentiles to the Christian faith. The Persecuted disciples, in spite of the trials they underwent and their departure from Jerusalem, continued their work of preaching the Gospel, but still only to the Jews of those regions. We can then only assume that the departure of the disciples from Palestine happened before Peter visited Cornelius and so before God made it clear to him that the Gospel was to be preached freely also to the Gentiles.
Among the persecuted Christians who reached Antioch were some who were originally from Cyprus and Cyrene. Cyrene was the Capital of an ancient Greek colony off the African country known today as Libya. From the names mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, we know that Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Mnason (Acts 21:16) came from Cyprus, Lucius from Cyrene (Acts 13:1) and Nicholas, (Acts 6:5) one of the Seven Deacons came from Antioch.
On reaching Antioch, the Cypriot and Cyrenian men began to preach the Lord Jesus to the Greek speaking Jews. When speaking of the ministry of preaching, Luke mentions in other places that they preached the Gospel or they preached the word, but here he says that they preached the Lord Jesus. In other words, the content of their preaching was the Person of Jesus, the cross and his Resurrection. The Christian preaching is not some abstract idea or an ethical concept of what is right and wrong, but the person of Christ and the sacred historical events which brought about the salvation of the world and which rendered man once again a partaker of eternal life and an heir of the kingdom.
In the work of preaching the Gospel, the Cypriot and Cyrenian men had with them the power and blessing of the Lord. This power and strength of the Lord was made manifest with miracles so that their listeners would believe their word. Now these men were not of the Apostolic circle, and from what we can assume they were just ordinary, but fervent and passionate Christians. Even so the grace of God guided their missionary work and richly blessed their efforts. Through their preaching of the divine word, strengthened by the hand of the Lord, many of the Antiochians believed and returned to the Lord.
The news of the success the preaching of the Gospel had in Antioch reaches the members of the Church of Jerusalem. In fact the first Christian community watched very carefully the conversion of the gentiles (Acts 11:1) and as on other occasions once again expresses her interest in maintaining a relationship with the other Churches. They decide therefore to send Barnabas to Antioch. On these other occasions the ties were established personally by the Apostles, (Acts 8:14, 9:32) but here, for reasons not mentioned by Luke, the first Church only sends a representative who is not even an Apostle. St. John Chrysostom asks: “Why, when such a great city as Antioch was receiving the word, did not the Apostles come, but instead sent Barnabas”? And he answer: “Because of the Jews”. It seems the Apostles thought that the time had not yet come for them to expand the area of their mission beyond the borders of Judea. Yet at the same time they thought it appropriate and their obligation to be concerned for all Christians, even those who came from the ranks of the gentiles. Barnabas was deemed as the most suitable to be sent to Antioch. Without a doubt, by choosing Barnabas, they took into account his spiritual gifts and capability, but also his nationality. He was Cypriot, a Greek speaking Jew, thus he was the most suitable to understand and watch the missionary efforts in Antioch which his fellow countrymen began.
Barnabas reaches Antioch and immediately he is verified of the wonderful results from the efforts of the Cypriot and Cyrenian men. Luke says that he saw the grace of God and was glad. By the expression he “had seen the grace of God” Luke means the great number of the Antiochians who believed and the zeal that discerned them. If the grace of God is not working within a man, then he can neither believe nor live the new life in Christ. But when the energy of God’s grace is there then others can perceive it just as a tree is recognizable by its fruit. So taking part in the Christian gatherings in Antioch, by talking with them, by observing their personal and family life, Barnabas could see the progress made and was glad and encouraged and urged the new disciples to remain faithful to the Lord with their whole heart and soul.
Encouragement as a way of teaching is a method which finds particular response from people: it respects the divine gift of man’s freedom and at the same time commends them to continue with their praiseworthy efforts which serves in strengthening the Church. Barnabas had the special gift of knowing how to encourage; in fact his name was a Jewish name meaning the Son of Consolation or the Son of Encouragement. (Acts 4:36)
It says of Barnabas that he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. The present verse consists of a short but concise laudation for Barnabas. Over and above his natural qualities and capabilities that he had, he stood out for the goodness of his character. His goodness is verified by his action to sell his land and give the money to be distributed to the poor as we saw in previous weeks. (Acts 4:37)
Barnabas was not only a good man, but also full of the Holy Spirit and faith: a combination of true and sincere piety and genuine kind-heartedness. Goodness and love are only genuine and steadfast when they are the fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our heart. As also any other natural virtues a man might have, they are not enough and are ineffectual on the road for holiness and salvation, if at the same time the person does not partake of the life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit. Barnabas’ virtues, the graces of the Holy Spirit of which he was full and his fervent faith are all those things which contributed to his successful mission in Antioch. How successful and fruit bearing his stay in Antioch was is made clear in the second half of the verse “and much people was added to the Lord”. His personality, his authority and his presence in the renowned city increased dramatically the numbers of the members of the Antiochian Church.
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:”
The growth of the Church in Antioch brought with it an increase of missionary workload for Barnabas. Foreseeing that he would not be able to competently carry out the work of the Gospel on his own, he remembers Paul who he had personally met in Jerusalem and was convinced of his sincere return to Christ and also of his great capabilities. Barnabas therefore sets off for Tarsus to seek out Paul and bring him back with him to Antioch to help him with the growing church.
Paul had withdrawn and lived in isolation and as he himself says he: “was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ” (Gal. 1:22). Barnabas eventually finds him and invites him to go with him to Antioch which Paul accepts. The stay and collaboration of these two men in Antioch lasted for one complete year. They took part in the assemblies of the faithful of the Church, in other words the gatherings for the common worship and prayer and taught the Gospel of salvation without resting. The rich results of Barnabas’ and Paul’s joint missionary efforts are testified by the fact that the disciples of the new faith now included a great many of the Gentiles and had to be discerned from the Jews and so for the first time received a separate name and were called Christians.
It stands to reason that the name was given to the disciples of Christ from the Greeks, in other words the gentile inhabitants of Antioch and not from the Jews who called the followers of Christ Nazarenes or Disciples. Just as today so also then, it was usual for followers of a certain man to be called with a name that derives from their leaders Name. Thus it was natural for the faithful of Antioch to be called Christians and thereby declaring their faith, love and devotion to Christ. The way in which Luke mentions the name does not allow us to think that it was originally used condescendingly, but it is not impossible. Whatever the intentions of the people who first thought up the name, the members of the Church of Christ accepted it and since then until today bear the name with pride and joy. With the name of Christian, the faithful manifest their faith and love towards their saviour Jesus Christ and their will to live according to the Gospel and their hope in his promises.
Luke then mentions that in those days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. The life of the first church is marked with various extraordinary and wonderful events which were the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit with the aim of strengthening the faith and the expansion of the Church. One of these events is now mentioned here by Luke during the time of Barnabas’ and Paul’s stay in Antioch. It is the arrival from Jerusalem of certain Christian prophets to the church of Antioch. From what we can assume from the text, they came to Antioch through their own initiative. As we are told in other places in the Acts of the Apostles, there were prophets in Jerusalem as there was later in Antioch, in Ephesus and in Caesarea who were Christians that prophesized by being inspired by the Holy Spirit. This can only be the fulfilment of the prophecy by Joel mentioned in chapter 2 of the Acts: “And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:18) Just like the Prophets of the Old Testament so too the Christian prophets announced the future, that is, mainly events that concerned the life of the Church. At the same time they also exercised other roles e.g. encouraging and giving support to the disciples.(Acts 15:32)
As Priests, we are often asked if there are prophets in the Church today and if there are, then is this not in contradiction to what Jesus said: “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” (Matthew 11:13) In other words John the Baptist was the last of the prophets so how can there now be mention of Christian prophets in the New Testament? The presence of prophets in the New Testament does not contradict what Christ said, because what he meant was that John the Baptist was the last of the prophets who foretold of his coming into the world.
Among the prophets who came to Antioch was a certain man named Agabus. As a prophet, Agabus is mentioned one more time in the Acts of the Apostles. (21: 10-11) During one of the assemblies of the Antioch Christians, Agabus stands up and announces by the Holy Spirit that there was to be a great famine in all the world. The term world or universe in the New Testament often has different meanings. Here it should be understood as meaning Judaea and the bordering countries or the Roman Empire which was the civilized world of that time. Agabus’ prophecy came to pass during the reign of Claudius Caesar. Claudius was the fourth Roman emperor and ruled from 41-54AD. His full name was Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. During his reign there were four famines in various places of the empire. The famine mentioned by Agabus was the second and happened in the fourth year of Claudius’ reign and extended mostly in Syria and Judaea.
The famine which mainly struck Judaea gave cause to the Antiochians to express their brotherly support to the Christians of Judaea. They decided that each person should contribute according to his ability and send whatever was collected thus with this help they would bring some relief to their Judean brothers. This testimony by Luke tells us that the Christian community of Antioch did not introduce the common ownership of goods which was adopted by the Church in Jerusalem “where no one said that the things he possessed was his own but had everything in common.” (Acts 4: 32) In Antioch everyone held on to whatever possessions he had and according to his ability contributed to the common efforts of the Church.
The concern and care of the Antiochians was not directed only to their brothers in Jerusalem but also to all those scattered throughout Judaea. It is reasonable to say that the first and foremost duty of every local Church is to take care of her own members in need. Even so, the spirit of Christ’s love requires that this care is extended beyond her borders when the need arises for we are all members of the one body of Christ and we are obliged to become partakers of the joys and hardships of our other brethren. St. John Chrysostom say: “Look at how the famine became for them a cause for salvation, a cause for them to show charity, an occasion for many good things. They had only just come to believe and immediately they bore fruit: and not only for their own people, but also for those who were distant.
The famine relief, the product of love is loaded to be transported to Jerusalem by Barnabas and Paul. This event, in other words the choice of the two most important persons to carry out the mission for the famine relief, verifies the understanding the Antiochians had for the value of the load and the seriousness of the mission in aid of their poor brethren.
This journey to Jerusalem will be Paul’s second after his conversion, but neither Luke nor Paul in his letters make mention of the actual visit. Paul possibly keeps silent because he didn’t meet up with Peter but only with the Elders and also possibly because the purpose of the journey was to deliver with Barnabas the famine relief sent by the Church of Antioch.
But why was the mission made to the elders and not to the Apostles? Two explanations can be given, the first that none of the Apostles were in Jerusalem because of the persecution of the church mentioned in the following chapter which seems rather unlikely, or second because the Apostles were no longer involved with the serving of tables which was now the responsibility of the elders.
But who were these elders? In the Greek they are called Πρεσβύτεροι which properly translated does indeed mean elders, but it is also the official title of Priests which in English has also retained the Greek form of Presbyter. The Presbyters which are mentioned here for the first time had ecclesiastical - liturgical duties. Now because the Acts of the Apostles is silent concerning the introduction of this new ecclesiastical order, the opinion was formulated that it came about in imitation of the council of elders who were at the head of the Jewish synagogue and were mentioned in order after the high priests and so in a similar way the Christian Presbyters were mentioned after the Apostles.
After this first mention of the Presbyters, we come across them many times. We see them together with the Apostles, playing an important role in the first Apostolic Synod held in Jerusalem. We see them again in Jerusalem together with James who was the first bishop of Jerusalem, we see also many that were ordained by Paul and Barnabas in the Churches of Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, Pisidia and Ephesus (Acts 14: 23) which means that there were also Presbyters in the other newly formed churches.