Ac 11:1-18. Peter
Vindicates Himself before the Church in Jerusalem for His Procedure
towards the Gentiles.
1-11. the apostles and brethren … in
Judea—rather, "throughout Judea."
2. they … of the circumcision—not
the Jewish Christians generally, for here there were no other, but such
as, from their jealousy for "the middle wall of partition" which
circumcision raised between Jew and Gentile, were afterwards
known as "they of the circumcision." They doubtless embraced apostles
as well as others.
3, 4. Thou wentest in … But Peter rehearsed
the matter, &c.—These objectors scruple not to demand
from Peter, though the first among the apostles, an explanation of his
conduct; nor is there any insinuation on Peter's part of disrespect
towards his authority in that demand—a manifest proof that such
authority was unknown both to the complainers and to himself.
12-18. we entered the man's house—No
mention of Cornelius' name, much less of his high position, as if that
affected the question. To the charge, "Thou wentest in to men
uncircumcised," he simply speaks of the uncircumcised "man" to
whom he had been divinely sent.
13. seen an angel—literally, "the
angel," for the rumor took that definite shape.
14. Who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all
thy house shall be saved—The historian makes the angel
express this much more generally (Ac 10:6). So also the subsequent report of it by
the deputies and by Cornelius himself to Peter (Ac 10:22, 32). But as Peter tarried with
Cornelius certain days, and they doubtless talked over the wonderful
scene together, perhaps this fuller and richer form of what the angel
said was given to Peter; or the apostle himself may have
expressed what the angel certainly designed by directing
them to send for him. Observe, "salvation" is here made to hang upon
"words," that is, the Gospel message concerning Christ. But on
the "salvation" of Cornelius, see on Ac 10:34,
35. On that of his "house," see on Lu
16, 17. Then remembered I the word … John
… baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy
Ghost. Forasmuch then, &c.—that is, "Since God Himself
has put them on a level with ourselves, by bestowing on them what the
Lord Jesus pronounced the higher baptism of the Holy Ghost, would it
not have been to withstand God if I had withheld from them the lower
baptism of water, and kept aloof from them as still 'unclean?'"
18. held their peace and glorified
God—Well had it been if, when Paul afterwards adduced equally
resistless evidence in justification of the same line of procedure,
this Jewish party had shown the same reverential and glad
Then hath God also granted to the Gentiles,
&c.—rather, "granted to the Gentiles also." (See a similar
misplacement of "also" in Heb 12:1). To
"grant repentance unto life"—that is, "such as issues in
life" (compare 2Co 7:10,
"repentance unto salvation")—is more than to be willing to pardon
upon repentance [Grotius]. The case of
Cornelius is so manifestly one of grace reigning in every stage
of his religious history, that we can hardly doubt that this was just
the feature of it which they meant here to express. And this is the
grace that reigns in every conversion.
Ac 11:19-24. The Gospel
Being Preached to Gentiles at Antioch Also Barnabas Is Sent Thither
from Jerusalem, Who Hails Their
Accession and Labors among Them.
19. they which were scattered abroad upon the
persecution that arose about Stephen—and who "went everywhere
preaching the word" (Ac 8:4).
travelled as far as Phenice—that part
of the Mediterranean coast which, commencing a little north of
Cæsarea, stretches northwards for upwards of one hundred miles,
halfway to Antioch.
and Cyprus—(See on Ac 4:36). An active commercial intercourse subsisted
between Phenice and Cyprus.
and Antioch—near the head of the
northeast coast of the Mediterranean, on the river Orontes, and
containing a large colony of Jews, to whose religion there were there
numerous proselytes. "It was almost an Oriental Rome, in which all the
forms of the civilized life of the empire found some representative;
and through the two first centuries of the Christian era it was what
Constantinople became afterwards, 'the Gate of the East'" [Howson].
20. some of them were men of Cyprus and
Cyrene—(see on Lu 23:26); as Lucius,
mentioned in Ac 13:1.
spake unto the Grecians—rather, "the
Greeks," that is, uncircumcised Gentiles (as the true reading
beyond doubt is). The Gospel had, from the first, been preached to "the
Grecians" or Greek-speaking Jews, and these "men of Cyprus and
Cyrene" were themselves "Grecians." How, then, can we suppose that the
historian would note, as something new and singular (Ac 11:22), that some of the dispersed Christians
preached to them?
21. a great number believed—Thus the
accession of Cornelius and his party was not the first admission of
uncircumcised Gentiles into the Church. (See on Ac
10:1.) Nay, we read of no influence which the accession of
Cornelius and his house had on the further progress of the Gospel among
the Gentiles; whereas there here open upon us operations upon the
Gentiles from quite a different quarter, and attended with ever growing
success. The only great object served by the case of Cornelius was
the formal recognition of the principles which that case afterwards
secured. (See on Ac 15:19-29.)
22. sent … Barnabas … as far as
Antioch—implying that even on the way to Antioch he found
churches to visit [Olshausen]. It was in
the first instance, no doubt, a mission of inquiry; and no one could be
more suitable to inquire into the proceedings of those Cyprians and
Cyrenians than one who was himself a "Grecian" of Cyprus (Ac 4:36), and "a son of consolation."
23. when he … had seen the grace of
God—in the new converts.
was glad—owned and rejoiced in it at
once as divine, though they were uncircumcised.
exhorted them all that with purpose of
heart—as opposed to a hasty and fickle discipleship.
they would cleave unto the Lord—the
24. For he was a good man—The sense of
"good" here is plainly "large-hearted," "liberal-minded," rising above
narrow Jewish sectarianism, and that because, as the historian adds, he
was "full of the Holy Ghost and of faith."
and much people were added unto the
Lord—This proceeding of Barnabas, so full of wisdom, love,
and zeal, was blessed to the great increase of the Christian community
in that important city.
Ac 11:25, 26. Barnabas, Finding the Work
in Antioch Too Much for Him, Goes to
Tarsus for Saul—They Labor There
Together for a Whole Year with Much Success, and Antioch Becomes the
Honored Birthplace of the Term Christian.
25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek
Saul—Of course, this was after the hasty despatch of Saul to
Tarsus, no doubt by Barnabas himself among others, to escape the fury
of the Jews at Jerusalem. And as Barnabas was the first to take the
converted persecutor by the hand and procure his recognition as a
disciple by the brethren at Jerusalem (Ac 9:27), so he alone seems at that early period
to have discerned in him those peculiar endowments by virtue of which
he was afterwards to eclipse all others. Accordingly, instead of
returning to Jerusalem, to which, no doubt, he sent accounts of his
proceedings from time to time, finding that the mine in Antioch was
rich in promise and required an additional and powerful hand to work,
he leaves it for a time, takes a journey to Tarsus, "finds Saul"
(seemingly implying—not that he lay hid [Bengel], but that he was engaged at the time in some
preaching circuit—see on Ac 15:23), and
returns with him to Antioch. Nor were his hopes disappointed. As
co-pastors, for the time being, of the Church there, they so labored
that the Gospel, even in that great and many-sided community, achieved
for itself a name which will live and be gloried in as long as this
world lasts, as the symbol of all that is most precious to the fallen
family of man:—"The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." This name
originated not within, but without, the Church; not with their
Jewish enemies, by whom they were styled "Nazarenes" (Ac 24:5), but with the heathen in
Antioch, and (as the form of the word shows) with the Romans,
not the Greeks there [Olshausen].
It was not at first used in a good sense (as Ac 26:28; 1Pe
4:16 show), though hardly
framed out of contempt (as De Wette,
Baumgarten, &c.); but as it was a
noble testimony to the light in which the Church regarded
Christ—honoring Him as their only Lord and Saviour, dwelling
continually on His name, and glorying in it—so it was felt to be
too apposite and beautiful to be allowed to die.
Ac 11:27-30. By Occasion of
a Famine Barnabas and Saul Return to Jerusalem with a Contribution for
the Relief of Their Suffering Brethren.
27. came prophets from
Jerusalem—inspired teachers, a class we shall afterwards
frequently meet with, who sometimes, but not necessarily, foretold
future events. They are classed next to apostles (1Co 12:28,
29; Eph 4:11).
28. that there should be great dearth throughout
all the world—the whole Roman empire.
which came to pass in the days of Claudius
Cæsar—Four famines occurred during his reign. This one
in Judea and the adjacent countries took place, A.D. 41 [Josephus,
Antiquities, 20.2,5]. An important date for tracing out the
chronology of the Acts. (But this subject is too difficult and
extensive to admit of being handled here).
29. Then the disciples, every man according to his
ability, determined to send relief, &c.—This was the pure
prompting of Christian love, which shone so bright in those earliest
days of the Gospel.
30. sent it to the elders—an office well
known to be borrowed from the synagogue; after the model of which,
and not at all of the temple, the Christian Churches were constituted
by the apostles.
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul—This
was Saul's Second Visit to Jerusalem
after his conversion.