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Bible Commentaries
Acts 11

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-18

Peter Explains His Actions

News of the events in Cornelius' house reached Jerusalem and the apostles, even, apparently, before Peter made his way back to the city. Prior to the baptism of Cornelius and his household, everyone who had been baptized had been subject to the law of Moses and circumcision, whether of fleshly Israel or proselytes. Luke told Theophilus of a dispute which arose from some of that number and Peter. They did not understand why he had gone into the house of a Gentile and actually eaten there.

Peter's answer teaches us a great deal about resolving controversy within the church. He defended his actions by saying they were authorized and approved by God. Specifically, he had seen a vision which indicated to him that he should no longer regard any other man as common and heard the Spirit tell him to go with the three men who had been sent from Caesarea. The apostle went, accompanied by six other brethren. Next, Peter related the story of the vision Cornelius had directing him to send for Peter so that he could hear words that would save him and his household. It is clear that salvation was to be theirs only after they had heard and obeyed the words spoken.

Then, Peter reported that "the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning." No doubt this is a reference to the day of Pentecost when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other languages. So, Peter did not feel he could oppose God by refusing to baptize, or in any other way place stiffer requirements on, these Gentiles. Peter's arguments convinced all assembled that the Gentiles had also been given the right to eternal life if they would submit to the Savior in penitent baptism ( Act_11:1-18 ).

Verses 19-26

Barnabas Goes to Antioch to Encourage Young Converts

Ash reports that Antioch was the world's third largest city at that time, trailing only Rome and Alexandria. Luke reported that those scattered by the persecution at the time of Stephen's death went over a large area preaching the word, but only to Jews. However, the men of Cyprus and Cyrene preached the gospel to Gentiles in Antioch as well. That the Lord was with them could not be denied by anyone since a large number "believed and turned to the Lord."

When word of the events in Antioch reached the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas. He encouraged all the young followers of the Lord to commit themselves to the Lord. The goodness of Barnabas, coupled with his faith and the workings of the Holy Spirit had the further effect of a great many more people being added to the church. He then went to Tarsus to bring Paul back to help in this rich work. Together, they worked with the church in Antioch for a year and were able to teach a large number of people. The disciples, or learners, in the city of Antioch were the first to wear the name Christian. This seems to be the fulfillment of God's promise to give his people a new name after Gentiles had seen God's righteousness and kings had seen his glory ( Act_11:19-26 ; Isa_62:2 ). How appropriate that they would now be designated as followers of the Christ, or anointed King (compare Act_26:28 ; 1Pe_4:16 ).

Verses 27-30

The Gentiles Help Starving Christians in Judea

Certain prophets, or men who had received a miraculous gift which allowed them to speak for God, came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Agabus, one of that number, stood up and told the church a great famine was coming. Luke reported that the prophecy was fulfilled in the days of Claudius, which would place the event around 44-48 A. D. Each Christian, as he was able, gave to send relief to the brethren still living in the area around Jerusalem. It was agreed that the collection would be taken to the elders in Jerusalem to be distributed to any Christian in need. It seems significant that the money was taken to the elders and not the apostles or the seven ( Act_11:27-30 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 11". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-11.html. 2014.
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