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Bible Commentaries
Acts 11

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-3

31 The conversion of Cornelius is not in accord with the truth for today. Salvation is not offered to those who have access to God in prayer, for such are already saved. It is for sinners, and the ungodly and God's enemies ( Rom_5:1-11 ). It is not based on works ( Rom_11:6 ). Cornelius and his friends were acceptable to God because they feared Him and acted righteously and this before Simon was sent to them. They occupied the place of the godly Israelite before Christ came. They lacked the pardon and gifts which came with the proclamation of the kingdom. These are now made theirs through the chief of the twelve apostles. Their blessing is connected with and depends on the blessing of Israel in the kingdom. Our blessing depends on the opposite; It follows Israel's apostasy . Cornelius is blessed in accord with the prophetic prediction concerning the nations in the kingdom, as it will be during the millennial eon. We are blessed in accord with a secret administration, of which the prophets knew nothing, which could not be revealed until after the kingdom proclamation had been heralded to the people and the proselytes like Cornelius.

34-35 This statement teaches, not that the fear of God and righteous acts take the place of faith in Christ, but they take the place of Moses. Such as Cornelius who pant after the living God are candidates for the kingdom, but must hear the word of life in order to be saved ( Act_11:14 ). Such as Cornelius are they who will enter the kingdom when the nations are judged ( Mat_25:34-36 ).

35 Peter's proclamation to the nations is in contrast with Paul's. He details the life of our Lord and His beneficent deeds in the land, leading up to His resurrection. Paul begins with His death and resurrection and proclaims His ascension and His heavenly glories. In a word Peter proclaims "Jesus Christ," Paul preaches "Christ Jesus." The former lays stress on His rejection on earth, the latter on His acceptance in heaven.

39 Paul could have no place in this testimony, for he was not a witness of our Lord's earthly life. Besides being a specimen of the future blessing of the believing nations in the kingdom, who will be rewarded according to their treatment of Israel, the case of Cornelius was undoubtedly divinely intended to bridge the almost impassable gap between the ministries of Peter and

Paul, between the evangels of the Circumcision and of the Uncircumcision. Here we see the blessings of the Circumcision given by God to those who are uncircumcised, and in such a way that His hand could not be doubted. Hence Peter claims ( Act_15:7 ) that God chose him first to speak to the nations, and he was enabled to acknowledge Paul's commission to the Uncircumcision. Unless Peter had been so prepared, it would have been practically impossible for Paul to carry on his earlier ministries among the nations, for he would have had, not only the unbelieving Jews, but the disciples and the apostles themselves firmly set against his work. Paul did not confine himself to converts to Judaism, as Cornelius and his friends, but had a message of grace suited to idolaters who had never heard of the true God. Nevertheless the principle taught to Peter applied to them also, for God acknowledged them by spiritual gifts, which made it evident that He had cleansed them.

44 At Pentecost the call to repent came to a people who had already rejected Jesus Christ. Peter says nothing of repentance to Cornelius ( Act_11:18 ) .

48 By baptism they were united to the believing remnant in the nation of Israel, for the name used was the same ( Act_2:38 ). It is evident, however, that this was a loose union, for the fact of their uncircumcision would bar them from the temple and from everything which the disciples had in common with the Jewish nation. In practice, even the social communion was always on a most doubtful and hesitating basis. Many of the disciples never would have fellowship with the Uncircumcision, and even Peter himself, after boldly defending his course with Cornelius as well as the truth involved, was intimidated by the prevailing opposition, so that, at Antioch he first ate with the Uncircumcision and then withdrew and severed himself for fear of the party headed by James, the brother of the Lord ( Gal_2:11-12 ) .

Verses 4-25

4 So important is this new departure that Peter's rehearsal before his indignant brethren is given in full, for it removes the great obstacle which lay in the way of the further spread of the evangel. The commission which was received by the eleven from the Lord ( Luk_24:33 ; Luk_24:47 ) included the uncircumcised. They had made it known in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the whole land of Israel, but only to the Circumcision. None of the disciples had any thought of proclaiming it to those of another nation even if they, like Cornelius, were devout and Godfearing men. This conclusion proves that the Pentecostal ecclesia did not include a single one of the Gentiles, but absolutely excluded all except those of Jewish blood. They could not, of course, exclude the Hellenists, or Jews who leaned to Greek culture, for they were not Greeks, but circumcised Israelites. Neither may we take the case of Cornelius as the beginning of the evangel to the nations, as such. We do not find that this case was followed up by the evangelization of the Uncircumcision in the land. Indeed, it seems to have had no effect at all in this direction. After the death of Stephen and the following persecution, the disciples spoke to none but the Jews only (19). Other refugees from Jerusalem, however, being of Cyprian and Cyrenian origin, and having left some of the traditions of Judaism themselves, spoke to those Jews in Syrian Antioch who also had taken up Greek customs. The first time the evangel was proclaimed to the idolaters was probably the case of Sergius Paul, proconsul of Cyprus ( Act_13:7 ), or Paul's preaching to the people of Lystra ( Act_14:7 ). Throughout his early ministries, however, Paul not only went into the synagogues and preached to the Jews first, but he also spoke to the devout and God-fearing proselytes, like Cornelius, before going out to the Uncircumcision. Such converts from Judaism formed the nucleus of most of the ecclesias founded by him so far as their Gentile contents were concerned. See Act_13:43 ; Act_14:1 , Lydia Act_16:14 ; Act_17:4 ; Act_17:12 ; Act_18:4 (contrast 6) and Justus 7. The gentiles were a distinct class.

16 Peter saw a new significance in the words of the Lord ( Act_1:5 ) that he had not seen at Pentecost. John's baptism never went beyond the Jews. Now as the gospel comes to this gentile proselyte the baptism of spirit takes precedence over that in water, and is Peter's justiftcation for giving Israel's rite to this gentile.

17 The constant tendency, in this scroll, from the physical to the spiritual, is well illustrated by the gifts given to Cornelius and his friends, as a sign of their acceptance by God. The sign of the covenant, circumcision, was in the flesh. The lack of this excluded them from the blessings of the kingdom. In Israel, the spirit followed the bathing of their physical frames in the rite of baptism. But the Lord Himself baptizes these uncircumcised aliens in spirit before they are baptized in water. The spirit supersedes and governs the physical rite. In the case of these proselytes the rite of baptism followed the reception of the spirit ( Act_16:15 ; Rom_6:3 ; 1Co_1:14-16 ), because of their association with Judaism, but it does not seem to have been universally administered in the case of non-proselytes ( 1Co_1:17 ; Eph_4:5 ; Col_2:12 ).

19 Here the narrative goes back to the days of the great persecution in Jerusalem when all the believers were dispersed ( Act_8:1 ). Some of them came through Syrian Antioch, where they spoke to Hellinists . Later ( Act_14:27 ), when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they informed the brethren that God opens to the nations (such as the Greeks) a door of faith. If the refugees from Jerusalem had ever spoken to Greeks in Antioch, this would not have been any news to them. In verse Act_14:20 , there is almost equal weight of manuscript evidence for either reading, Hellenists , or Greeks . Alexandrinus has the shorter form, Hellenas [accent excluded] (Greeks), while Vaticanus has the longer Helllenistas (Hellenists). The Sinaiticus scribe copied the longer form, but incorrectly: euaggelistas (evangelists). One of his correctors, however, indicated his preference for Hellenas by inserting lle [accent excluded], . . . . . . n between the lines.

22 The Jerusalem disciples were most of them full of zeal for the law and the ritual, but Barnabas was full of holy Spirit and faith, and thus was in line with God's purposes.

25 Barnabas knew that Saul's commission was to the nations, hence he discerned that Antioch was the very field suited to his call.

Verses 26-30

26 The name "Christian" is Latin in its termination, so seems to have been given by the Romans. It is mentioned only twice more ( Act_26:28 ; 1Pe_4:16 ), and was a term of contempt. It is never used by the saints of themselves, though there are hundreds of passages where we would use the term today. The name probably arose from the fact that here, for the first time, gentiles, Romans, left the worship of the synagogue for the faith of Christ. They would be continually speaking of one "Christ" and their countrymen gave them this new name in derision. Paul never uses this term. Peter alone uses it of his fellow saints of the Circumcision who believed.

27 "Antioch" ( Antiocheia ) seems to be a compound of anti (instead) and och (have, uphold). The prefix suggests that the two cities ( Act_11:27 ; Act_13:14 ) take the place of Jerusalem in the spreading of the evangel. They are upheld as the base of Paul's evangel to the Gentiles, while the Jerusalem ecclesia is eventually dispersed. So this may well be the import of their name: They had a place instead of Jerusalem. In the Kingdom the evangel will flow again from the holy city.

29 It is not likely that Saul went as far as Jerusalem with the contribution, for, in his Galatian epistle, he intimates that he did not visit the holy city for fourteen years after his return from Damascus. The reason seems to be that there was a persecution on the part of Herod, as well as a famine in Jerusalem, so that it was not prudent to enter the city.

1 The failure of the nation to respond to the proclamation of the kingdom is fully manifest, and it is reflected in the events now chronicled. The twelve are no longer sustained by divine power in the city of the King. Herod puts James to death and there is no effort made to fill his place and maintain the due number of the apostles. That James, rather than Peter or John, was taken is significant, for they are typical men. James, or Jacob, brings before us the nation in flesh, and, as this aspect of the kingdom proclamation has failed and is finished, he is removed. Peter (not Simon) was a spiritual name ( Joh_1:42 ), representative of the remnant who believed. He is persecuted, but not slain. The apostasy of the Jewish nation was attested by the death of James. Instead of mourning the fact that one of the apostles of the Messiah was put to death, they are pleased. They prefer the yoke of their hereditary enemy, the Idumean Herod, to the Messiah God had sent them. So will the apostate nation in the time of the end rejoice at the murder of God's two witnesses (Rev.11).

It was contrary to Jewish custom to carry on a trial during the national festivals, so Herod was waiting until the passover week should be over. Then he would increase his popularity by making a public exhibition of Peter's trial and death. The Lord had told Peter that, when he should be old and decrepit he would glorify God by his death ( Joh_21:18 ). That time had not yet come. No power on earth can touch God's servants before the appointed time. The deliverance of Peter should be contrasted with that of Paul and Silas at Philippi. This will show the vast advance in Paul's ministry over that of the twelve. Peter's deliverance illustrates the power and stern righteousness associated with the kingdom. The grace and salvation revealed in Philippi is in closer accord with that which is ours in Christ Jesus. Peter slept. Paul and Silas, suffering from the Roman scourge and the stocks, sang praises and prayed. Peter was taken out by stealth unknown to the guards. Paul and Silas made no attempt to escape, even when the prison doors were open. The prisoners heard them, and the warden was saved by their testimony. Peter's escape did not bring salvation to his keepers. It brought death, for his guards had to pay with their lives for his. Peter flies from Jerusalem from the face of Herod. Paul and Silas are escorted out of the jail and through the city by the officers who had mistreated them. In every particular, the deliverance of Paul and Silas eclipses the escape of Peter. One figures Israel's deliverance by judgment on the nations, the other the salvation which comes through the temporary setting aside of Israel.

12 What a touching picture we have here of the disciples praying in the dead of night, and the extreme joy occasioned by Peter's escape!

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 11". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/acts-11.html. 1968.
 
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