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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 19:10.
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 submission!
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"
20. some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene--(see on
as Lucius, mentioned in
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.
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."
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.
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.