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Bible Commentaries
Acts 12

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-16

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!

Verses 17-25

17 The death of James and the escape of Peter mark a crisis in the history of the kingdom proclamation. The power in Jerusalem passes out of the hands of the apostles into the hands of James, the Lord's brother. Note that Peter does not ask them to report to the rest of the apostles, but to James and the brethren. Henceforth these have the controlling voice in Jerusalem. The death of James broke the ranks of the apostles. Now there were only eleven. Peter was compelled to flee and John does not seem to have taken an active part.

It is most significant that the leadership now falls upon one who was never commissioned by the Lord, but held his place and wielded his influence on the ground of a close physical relationship to the Lord. While He was yet on earth none of his brothers or sisters believed in

Him. Our Lord made light of such physical ties. To those who told Him that His mother and brothers wished to speak to Him He said "My mother and My brethren are these who are hearing the word of God and doing it" ( Luk_8:21 ). But the believers in Jerusalem have drifted away from spiritual realities and give the Lord's own brother the place which He gave to the apostles. James early had a high place among the Jerusalem saints. Paul makes special mention of him when he went up to Jerusalem ( Gal_1:19 ). This is in marked contrast to the course of Paul, which is characterized by the gradual elimination of the physical and a strong tendency toward the spiritual.

20 Josephus' account of Herod's death agrees with this in all its main features, though he does not seem to know of the reason for the flattery, nor does he ascribe the disease to a messenger of the Lord. In accepting divine honors Herod becomes a type of the great dictator of the end time, who will set himself up, saying that he is God, and will be slain by the Lord Himself.

24 The death of Herod seems to have stopped the persecution of the apostles.

25 Barnabas and Saul were commissioned to bring succor to the poor ( Act_11:30 ). The manuscripts vary greatly as to whether they return out of , or from , or into Jerusalem, or into


2 The severance of Barnabas and Saul by the spirit is the prelude to an entirely new departure in the book of Acts. The commission entrusted to the twelve apostles has been attempted and their testimony rejected. They went to the limits of the land of Israel. Beyond this they dld not venture. Jerusalem, in Judea, now gives place to Antioch, outside the land. The message now goes to the dispersion among the nations and to the proselytes and even to the nations themselves, and continues until it becomes manifest that the Jews outside the land refuse the Messiah, even as those in the land have done. This ministry is carried on by an entirely new set of apostles. The twelve have no part in it. Saul, or Paul, as he is now called, takes the place of Peter in this new apostolic group.

2 The choice of Barnabas and Saul by the spirit is in marked contrast with the choice of James, the brother of our Lord, by the flesh . He leads the apostasy of the pentecostal believers, who insisted on circumcision and law keeping. He was the author of decrees, which were concerned only with the flesh. This new departure takes us in the opposite direction. Saul was chosen by the spirit and led by the spirit until, at length, in his epistles, he gives the flesh no place at all.

6 Sergius Paul was the first individual among the nations who heard the evangel, without first becoming a proselyte of Judaism. Hence his case is typical. Bar-Jesus stands for the Jewish dispersion, who always resisted every attempt to proclaim the evangel to the nations. Seldom, indeed, do we find Paul performing any judgment miracle, but here he blinds the sorcerer for a season. This is the judgment which has befallen Israel during the present administration of God's grace. Israel, in part, has become calloused until the full complement of the nations may be entering ( Rom_11:25 ). Throughout Paul's missionary journeys, when he turned from the unbelieving Jews to the nations, the Jews became jealous and sought to turn the gentiles against him. They became blind spiritually, as Bar-Jesus became physically.

The spiritual tendency we have observed is emphasized by the change of Saul's name to Paul. The name Saul suggested the first king in Israel, who was chosen by the people because of his physical superiority, well suited to Paul before he was called by Christ, and in accord with the trend of affairs in Jerusalem, but not at all in harmony with his present ministry. It is usually derived from the Latin, meaning little , but it may also be derived from the root pau , in Greek, which means an interval , the ending, of course taking the masculine form rather than the feminine of the ordinary Greek term. Saul is Hebrew; Paul is Greek.. This change of name coincides with his new commission. This signification is most appropriate to his special ministries, which fill in the interval during which Israel is thrust aside. It is brought in for the first time at the precise point when this doom is pronounced on Bar-Jesus. It marks the beginning of God's new departure, which brings blessing to the nations through Israel's apostasy. It was given when the first real gentile believed, for all before Sergius Paul were proselytes of Judaism, like Cornelius. And it is the more remarkable that the first convert under these new conditions was also named Paul, because he inaugurates that new form of God's activities which is well pictured there by the blessed believing gentile and a blinded unbelieving Jew. Before Saul's severance, blessing could not flow except through a Jew. Samaria could not receive the spirit except through Peter and John ( Act_8:14 ), and the proselyte Cornelius needed the mediacy of the chief of the apostles ere he was blessed with this gift. But now an alien, having no connection with Judaism, believes and is blessed, while a Jew, a son of the covenant, is blinded. This new principle now governs God's dealings, introducing a new dispensation, and gathers force until it is fulfilled at the close of the book.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 12". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/acts-12.html. 1968.
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