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Bible Commentaries
Acts 11

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-13


1-13. Immediately after Peter’s glorious revival at Caesarea he goes straight to Jerusalem, accompanied by the six Joppa brethren who had witnessed the new departure and the mighty work of God at the house of Cornelius. The news is already flown on the wings of the wind to Jerusalem, stirring apostles, prophets, elders and brethren with the momentum of an earthquake. This departure from the time-honored institutions of their fathers, so sudden, radical, decisive and significant, must receive summary attention at headquarters and be settled at once and forever. So bold Peter faces the grave council in the mother church at Jerusalem, rehearses to them his vision at Joppa, and testifies to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Gentiles at Caesarea, proving it all by those six faithful witnesses who had accompanied him throughout and now stand by his side in presence of all the apostles. Of course no trouble whatever arises from this radical, downright and outright revolution, though undreamed of hitherto; and why? Simply because all of the apostles and primitive saints fully recognized the leadership of the Holy Ghost. They are acquainted with Him. He dwelt in them, and they knew His voice and His works. For this reason there never was a schism in the Apostolic church, so long as they were true to Pentecostal experience and the Holy Ghost. When former generations went up to heaven and others succeeded who knew not God, then they founded human ecclesiasticisms and established church government to suit themselves, ignoring the sole right of the Holy Ghost to rule the church, and relegating Him back to the Apostolic age, and congratulating themselves that the days of miracles were past and they can make laws and manage the church to suit themselves. Right here is where human and Satanic usurpation of the divine right to rule the church came in, with the roll of ages developing into all the complicated machinery of priestcraft, prelacy and popery.

Verses 14-18


14-18. “Who shall speak words unto you by which you and all your house shall be saved.” Does not this look like they were yet to be saved? Justification is primary salvation; sanctification, full salvation; and glorification, final salvation. Hence, so long as we are in this world, we are in the kingdom of grace, subject to the saving power and operation of the Holy Spirit, liable to temptation, defection, defeat and ruin. Never is the problem of salvation settled beyond defalcation till we reach glorification, pass the pearly portal and take our place among the redeemed. A very specious and exceedingly dangerous heresy is now extensively preached from popular pulpits, audaciously restricting the baptism of the Holy Ghost to the apostles alone, and utterly abnegating the possibility of its reception by any one else, however true and saintly.

Verse 17

17. “If therefore God gave unto them the like gift as even unto us. . .” This declaration of Peter, with many other parallels, settles the question beyond the possibility of cavil that the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius received precisely what the apostles did on the day of Pentecost. They were Gentiles, representative of the whole Gentile world down to the end of time. Hence you see that the above mentioned heresy flatly contradicts Peter and the Holy Ghost. It is a subtle trick of the devil to keep people from receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost, so he will get them.

Verse 18

18. “And hearing these things they glorified God saying, Then has God granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life.” The reason why there is much spurious repentance is because it is man’s work, the true repentance being the fruit of the Holy Spirit; He alone can give it. When God gives repentance, salvation invariably supervenes.

Verses 19-24


19-24. While the above is true, yet it was necessary for Peter, responsive to his heavenly vision and the call of the Holy Ghost, to go to Caesarea and there, in the home of a prominent Roman officer, to actually unfurl the banner and throw wide open the door of free gospel grace to the Roman Empire, then embracing the known world, and represented by Cornelius, thus positively and finally ignoring the restrictions of Jewish exclusiveness as well as the circuitous route of Israelitish proselytism, thus authenticating, in the very action of the same senior apostle, who had inaugurated the Pentecostal dispensation to the Jews, also the equal rights and privileges of the Gentiles. However, we see that these Cyprian and Cyrenean men had, some years previously, been preaching the gospel to the Greeks, i. e., the Gentiles in these north countries.

Verse 21

21. “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number, believing, turned to the Lord.” These were Gentiles in the Syrian Empire, some time before Peter, by his apostolical ipse dixit, had unfurled the Gentile banner at Caesarea.

Verse 22

22. Here we see that the apostles at Jerusalem, having heard of the progress of the gospel among the Syrian Gentiles, sent away that good preacher Barnabas, beloved by the apostles and saints, to go even to Antioch, the Syrian metropolis, and investigate the strange phenomenon.

Verse 23

23. “Who, arriving and seeing the grace of God, rejoiced, and continued to exhort them all with steadfastness of heart to abide with the Lord,

Verse 24

24. “Because he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and faith.” Here we see confirmed the significant fact that the apostles and primitive saints all recognized the Holy Ghost as the sovereign Arbiter in every matter of doubt and controversy, and that they dared not put their hand on the ark of God. Here we see that Barnabas unhesitatingly acquiesces in a downright innovation. While the grace of God, in Judaism, had always been free to the Gentiles, yet they must receive it by way of proselytism into the Mosaic church. Now Barnabas sees an institution which had stood fifteen hundred years unimpeached, literally ignored and relegated to oblivion. That looked like smashing up all the honored and sacred institutions of his fathers, yet we hear Barnabas shouting an uproarious “Amen!” and pronouncing his blessings on the whole procedure, importunately exhorting them to abide in the way they had started out. Why was this? Simply because “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith”; consequently he had the inward light of the Spirit to discriminate the hand of God and recognize His work wherever he saw it. Knowing well that all the apostles submitted to the Holy Ghost in everything great and small, he felt perfectly free to give his endorsement to the Gentile innovation in the name of the Apostolic church.

Verse 25

25. Not only did Barnabas heartily endorse the procedure, but of his own accord he went away to Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, hunted up his old friend and schoolmate, Saul, and brought him to Antioch to help push the evangelistic work among the Gentiles. You see plainly from this transaction the decisive contrast between the Apostolic church and modern ecclesiasticisms, ruled by men pursuant to laws of their Own manufacture, not only independently but even defiantly of the Holy Ghost, whose work is as manifest this day as ever; but blind men do not see anything. Preachers who fail to see the work of the Holy Ghost in the present holiness movement are no kin to Barnabas. If they were only like him, “full of the Holy Ghost and faith,” they would all see the work of God, give it their endorsement and lend a helping hand to push the battle for souls wherever they saw the work of the Holy Ghost among the people, even though it capsize some of their man-made rules and regulations. God has provided that valuable gift, “discernment of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10) for all of His Spirit-filled people, which in every case enables them to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in contradistinction to that of other spirits, human and diabolical. Good Lord, revive again the Apostolic church in its New Testament simplicity, ruled by the Holy Ghost alone; of course, not without human instrumentality, cognizant of the Spirit and His work, and gladly acquiescent in the same.

Verse 26


26. “And it came to pass unto them indeed that they were assembled a whole year in the church and taught a great crowd, and that they first called the disciples Christians in Antioch.” The followers of our Savior were denominated by Himself and others “disciples,” i. e., pupils, learners. After the incarnation of the Holy Ghost in the Pentecostal experience we find the cognomen “Christian” applied to them, thus eventually superseding the former and familiar epithet “disciple.” The Holy Ghost is the Author of every word in the original Scriptures. Each one of His words is inspired, i. e., “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). The verbal inspiration is only in the original language, the transactions only retaining the substantial inspiration. Hence we learn a valuable fundamental lesson in these contrastive words “disciple,” a convert, and “Christian,” a noun derived from Christus, which means “the anointed,” and applied to Jesus after His anointing by the Holy Ghost descending on Him like a dove at the Jordan, having always hitherto been called Jesus, his birth-name, which means “Savior.” The disciple is saved in conversion, but not anointed by the Holy Ghost till he is sanctified in a second work of grace, thus progressing out of mere discipleship into Christianity properly so called. The word “Christian,” which literally means a person anointed with the Holy Ghost, is applicable to none but the sanctified, this being its New Testament meaning. Oh, how woefully has Satan perverted the use of that word! In Palestine, where the natives are Mohammedans and not allowed to get drunk, and the Jews are also abstinent, and all foreigners are denominated Christians, the most indubitable evidence that a man is a Christian and not a Jew or a Mohammedan is to find him so drunk he can not stand on his feet. Good Lord, save us from the popular and blasphemous application of the word “Christian.” It means a person anointed with the Holy Ghost, i. e., sanctified, in contradistinction to a mere disciple in his rudimentary experience. How horrifically and blasphemously inconsistent for people who reject and even preach against sanctification and all the work of the Holy Ghost, not only to claim to be Christians, but even stickleristic in the appropriation of the name. How Satan is delighted when people thus verify his delusions and falsifications!

Verses 27-30


27-30. The great drought during the reign of the Emperor Claudius was already on them. The Jerusalem saints had found it necessary to sell their estates in order to support that wonderful Pentecost revival which converted thousands of foreigners and detained them unexpectedly, dependent on the local church for temporal support. Not only on this occasion, bul during subsequent years, we find generous responses from Gentile cities to the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem. We see here a verification of God’s simple law regulating all Christian benefaction, i. e., “as any one of the disciples prospered,” they sent their contributions to the elders at Jerusalem by Barnabas and Saul, for judicious distribution among the needy saints.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 11". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/acts-11.html.
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