Verse 30. "And sent it to the elders" - These probably mean those who first believed on Christ crucified, either of the seventy disciples mentioned Luke, Luke x. 1, or the one hundred and twenty mentioned, chap. i. 15, or the seven deacons, chap. vi. 5. Some have divided the primitive disciples into three classes:
1. The autoptai, those who were eye witnesses. 2. The aparcai, those who were the first fruits, or converts of the apostles' preaching. The diadocoi, those who were the successors of the preceding from whom they had received the doctrines of the Gospel. It is likely the deacons are meant, whose office it was to take care of the poor. See chap. vi. 1, &c.
1. AMONG many highly interesting subjects which have come under review in the preceding chapter, we must have particularly noticed, 1. The care the Church of Christ took to have young converts confirmed in the truths they had received, and built up on their most holy faith, ver. 22. It was indispensably necessary that a foundation should be laid; and it was not less so that a proper superstructure should be raised. For this work, it was requisite that different gifts and talents should be employed, and Barnabas and Saul must be sent to confirm in the faith those whom the disciples, who had been scattered by the persecution raised about Stephen, had converted to Christ, ver. 19-22. It is a great thing to have souls converted to the Lord; it is greater to have them built up on their most holy faith; and few persons, even among the ministers of Christ, have talents for both. Even when PAUL planted, it required APOLLOS to water.
A frequent interchange of godly ministers in the Church of Christ is of the utmost consequence to its stability and increase.
2. It appears that CHRISTIANS was the first general appellative of the followers of our blessed Lord; and there is presumptive evidence, as we have seen, that this appellative came by Divine appointment. How very few of those who profess this religion are satisfied with this title! That very Church that arrogates all to itself has totally abandoned this title, and its members call themselves Roman Catholics, which is absurd; because the adjective and substantive include opposite ideas: catholic signifies universal; and Roman signifies of or belonging to Rome. If it be merely Roman, it cannot be catholic; if it be catholic, it cannot be confined to Rome; but it is not catholic nor universal, in any sense of the word, for it contains but a small part of the people who profess Christianity. The term Protestant has more common sense in it; but not much more piety. Almost all sects and parties proceed in the same line; but Christian is a title seldom heard of, and the spirit and practice of Christianity but rarely occur. When all return to the spirit of the Gospel, they will probably resume the appellative of Christians.
3. An early fruit of Christianity was mercy to the poor; and especially to the poor followers of Christ. He has left the poor ever with us, as his representatives, to exercise our bowels of commiseration, and thus teach us to feel and practice mercy. To every man professing Christianity, the religion of Jesus Christ says most authoritatively, With every man who is pinched by poverty, share what the providence of God has not made absolutely necessary for thy own support. What God has given us more than we need is entrusted to us for the benefit of those that are in poverty and affliction. He who can, and does not, help the poor, is a disgrace to Christianity; and he who does not lend his hand for the support of the cause of God is a worthless member of the Church of Christ. He who shows no mercy shall have judgment without mercy. And he who spends in pampering the flesh what should be given to the poor shall have a fearful account to give in the day of the Lord.