God’s Word for You
Acts 11:27-28 Prophecy
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 22, 2020
27 During that time, some prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit foretold that there was going to be a severe famine all through the world. And that very thing happened, in the days of Claudius Caesar.
“That time” was the year Barnabas and Saul spent together preaching the gospel in Antioch. It was not a peaceful year. The Parthians were at war with kingdoms in Mesopotamia. News was beginning to arrive from the east of the Huns, whose northern and southern tribes were at war with each other. A Roman campaign in Asia Minor conquered Lycia and combined its territory with Pamphylia, making a large Roman territory on the coast (see Acts 27:5), and solidifying Roman control of the Mediterranean. At the same time, Roman legions were at war in Britain against the Iceni and the Brigantes. A new Roman outpost was erected in this year on the Thames river, called Londinium (London).
While all this was taking place, a handful of prophets traveled to Antioch to deliver a message to Barnabas and Saul and their congregations. There was going to be a famine all through the Roman world. An earlier famine in 26 AD had claimed up to 20,000 lives. Now another famine was on the way. Luke tells us “that very thing happened, in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Claudius was on the Roman throne at this very moment. The mark of a prophet is whether or not his predictions come true. Agabus was a true prophet.
An interesting textual variant here occurs in just a few witnesses. Between these two verses, some witnesses (including Codex D) have the clause, “There was much rejoicing, and when they were gathered together, one of them…” This doesn’t add anything to our understanding of the passage, and since its attestation is poor, I wouldn’t even have mentioned it, except that in some witnesses it isn’t “when they were gathered together,” but rather, “when we were gathered together.” This has led to some speculation that Luke might have been present when Paul first began his ministry work in Antioch. However, we will continue to assume that Paul first met Luke in Troas (Acts 16:8-10).
This prophecy about the approaching famine was a great blessing to the church. The famine itself was terrible, but the famine led to some important preaching and an outreach attitude that continues to help our ministry to this day. Paul’s letters, especially 2 Corinthians, are evidence of this. We rarely preach or teach about stewardship of any kind today without at least some mention of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and this famine. God works through many means, but when he is able to bless the church for all time with famine, virus, or illness, he truly shows his great and glorious power. May he accomplish magnificent things today just as he has in the past.
Pastor Timothy Smith