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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 11

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-18


The closing of chapter 9 shows Peter on a tour of visitation, and the instrument of two great miracles, it being significant that the greater of the two was in answer to prayer (Acts 9:40 ). Almost all the commentators regard these miracles as having a bearing on the crisis of the church recorded in the next chapter. In that chapter Peter is again to use the “keys,” this time in opening the door of the gospel to the Gentiles. Indeed, since the occupation of a tanner was unclean in the eyes of a Jew because of the handling of the skins of dead animals, it is seen that Peter in Joppa is already breaking with the customs of his nation.

As an introduction to chapter 10, carefully read Ephesians 2:11-18 . Note, in passing, that the Caesarea in this case was not that of Matthew 16:0 , but another city of the same name located near Joppa, which the Emperor Augustus gave to Herod, and which the latter greatly beautified.

The description of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8 ), shows this Gentile Roman soldier very near the kingdom of God, and an example of how God will reveal more light to any man who lives up to the light he has. But the need of this “more light” in the sense of the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as a Savior, is also revealed with equal clearness.

Passing to the vision of Peter (Acts 10:9-23 ), the “vessel” represents the Christian church; the “four corners,” the four corners of the earth; the clean animals, the Jews; the unclean, the Gentiles. In the church however, all are cleansed (read here 2 Corinthians 6:11 and Ephesians 3:6 ). The Lord providentially interprets the vision in Acts 10:17-20 . Note the proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit found in Acts 10:19-20 : “the Spirit said... I have sent them.”

We are now in the centurion’s house and listening to Peter’s sermon (Acts 10:24-43 ). He has had his eyes opened to the great truth expressed in Acts 10:34 . This does not mean that any man merits God’s acceptance by his natural morality, for the true fear of God and the working of righteousness are always the result of His grace. It means that God vouchsafes this grace to men of every nation, whether Gentile or Jew. Acts 10:43 emphasizes this, being the first echo of John 3:16 in the history of the church.

That the household of Cornelius acted on this promise by faith is seen in the result (Acts 10:44-48 ), which demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is given to men without either water baptism or the laying on of hands, but simply by believing (Galatians 2:2 ). Water baptism followed, but not as an act of Peter himself as is worth noticing (Acts 10:48 ).

The next chapter indicates that party spirit showed itself early in the church. “They that were of the circumcision” (Acts 11:2 ), means the Palestinian Jews as distinguished from the Grecian Jews or “Hellenists” as they were sometimes called, and who were born in Greece. The priests and the Pharisees belonged to the former who were more zealous for the letter of the mosaic law than the others (Acts 21:20 ). As we shall see later (chap. 15), they thought it necessary for a Gentile to become a Jew before he could be saved i.e., he must submit to be circumcised at least. But Peter rehearses all the circumstances in the case of Cornelius, and at this junction they appear to be more than satisfied (Acts 11:18 ).


1. Name the two miracles of Peter at the close of chapter 9.

2. What is Peter about to do in chapter 10?

3. Have you read Ephesians 2:11-18 ?

4. Give a brief history of Caesarea.

5. What does the history of Cornelius teach?

6. Explain the housetop vision.

7. What proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit is here found?

8. How is Acts 10:34 to be interpreted?

9. How is the gift of the Holy Spirit received?

10. What distinguished the Palestinian Jews from the Hellenists?

Verses 19-30


By connecting the first verse of this lesson with Acts 8:4 , it will be seen that all intervening is a parenthesis, an important one indeed, but making it necessary now to return to the martyrdom of Stephen for a new start. Be sure to consult a map for the localities in Acts 11:19-20 . Antioch, now coming into prominence as the headquarters of the Gentile church, was a beautiful and influential city, but luxurious and immoral. It was founded about 300 B.C. Saul’s great life work really begins here (Acts 11:25 ), and here also the name of Christianity takes its rise (Acts 11:26 ). Antioch is said to have been famous for its witty epigrams, and it is thought that such was the origin of the name “Christian.” The church there was richer in this world’s good than at Jerusalem, which enabled the Christians to show the beautiful spirit of Acts 11:29 .

Another parenthesis meets us at chapter 12, the closing verse of which brings us back to Antioch. Chapter 12 is of events in Jerusalem, the martyrdom of James by Herod, the imprisonment and deliverance of Peter, and the fate of the wicked king.

To begin with the last-named. Four Herods are mentioned in the New Testament, Herod the Great who killed the innocents in Bethlehem, Herod who killed John the Baptist, this Herod, and him before whom Paul stood later on.

The story of this, the second persecution of the church is told in Acts 12:1-5 . The James here mentioned was the one honored by our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, and in Gethsemane. See also the memorable circumstance in Matthew 20:23 . Peter was now the only apostle remaining in Jerusalem. The four quaternions, sixteen soldiers, “to keep him” suggest that the enemies of the church in Jerusalem had not forgotten his earlier deliverance (chap. 4).

The story of the present deliverance is told in Acts 12:6-17 , and is so plain we need not dwell upon it.

The judgment on Herod (Acts 12:18-23 ), suggests to some “the presumption and fate of the Antichrist,” who also will persecute the Jewish saints, claim divine honors and assume the place of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 ).

In Acts 12:24-25 Barnabas and Saul have returned from their mission of bearing the alms of Antioch to Jerusalem and have brought John Mark with them.

It is now that Antioch comes to the front as the second great center of Christianity, and with it Paul, no longer called Saul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. The time is supposed to be toward the spring of A.O. 46. Acts 13:1-3 tell the story. Five names are given, one of them very prominent in social circles Manaen, a foster-brother of Herod. Note the phrase “they ministered to the Lord.” How? Just by quiet worship. And, oh! who can measure the results to the church and to the world that came of it! What a contrast with the present day “movements” of one kind and another, the banquets, conventions, newspaper advertisings, photos, and “whoop ‘em up” song services, to say nothing of meetings for the so-called deepening of the spiritual life. The simplicity of ministering to the Lord strikes us here, and the circumstance that He Himself is present to guide into large things through the voice of His Spirit, Who can be recognized by all who are holy enough and quiet enough to hear.

The laying on of hands in this case is hardly identical with modern “ordination,” but simply the testimony of the church to the genuineness of the call that had been received, and their outwardly expressed “fellowship and identification with the two” who had thus been set apart by the Holy Spirit. This is the way all true missionary work should begin, and the only way to insure a blessing.


1. With what earlier event is this lesson connected?

2. Have you located the cities on the map?

3. What do you know about Antioch?

4. To what locality do the events of chapter 12 belong?

5. Name these events.

6. Identify the different Herods.

7. Identify James, the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom.

8. Of Whom may this Herod be taken as a type, and in what particular?

9. At what date did the great work of missions to the Gentiles begin?

10. What is here meant by ministering to the Lord?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Acts 11". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/acts-11.html. 1897-1910.
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