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1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
Ver. 1. Had also received the word ] Not only informed, but reformed: yea, so transformed the Churches were into the same image of the word from glory to glory, that they became at length conformed to Christ in holiness and righteoushess.
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
Ver. 2. Contended with him ] They should rather have commended him: so hard it is to part with a rooted error: so ordinary it is for faithful ministers to meet with such as will dare to reprehend what they do not comprehend, and precipitate a censure.
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
Ver. 3. Saying, Thou wentest in, &c. ] This was now no fault, but in their conceit only. Ignorance is the mother of many mistakes, and miscarriages thereupon. How exceedingly was Job miscensured by his friends; Gideon and Jephthah by the Ephraimites, Judges 8:1 ; Judges 12:1 ; the two tribes and half by their brethren, Joshua 22:11-12 . Athanasius passed for a sacrilegious person, a profane wretch, a bloody persecutor, a blasphemer of God, &c. Cyril and Theodoret excommunicated one another for heresy, Postea comperti idem sentire, upon a mere mistake. Basil complains that he was hardly dealt with by brethren that were of the same judgment with himself, but understood him not. Augustine had suffered so long in this kind, that at length he thus resolves, Non curo illos censores qui vel non intelligendo reprehendunt, vel reprehendendo non intelligunt: I care not for those blind censurers that speak evil of what they know not, and of those they understand not. a Charity would teach them to take everything the best way; and not, as logicians do, sequi partem deteriorem, to pick out the worst.
a Cont. Faust. xxii. 34.
4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
Ver. 4. But Peter rehearsed ] With singular modesty he seeks to satisfy them (if reason will do it), and to quench their wild fire by casting milk upon it. Zuinglius and Oecolampadius endeavoured to do the like by Luther and his disciples, but could never effect it. In the year 1533, he wrote a very bitter epistle to the Senate of Frankfort, Qua Zuinglianos Archi-diabolos appellat, e suggestu repellendos, ditione eieciendos, wherein he calleth the Zuinglians arch-devils; and judgeth that they ought to be kept out of the pulpit, driven out of the country. a In the year 1567, at Antwerp the Lutherans joined themselves to the Papists against the Calvinists. b Still Satan is thus busy, and Christians are thus malicious, that, as if they wanted enemies, they fly in one another’s faces; yea, cut one another’s throats: as the English and Scots do at this day, to the inconceivable grief of all the godly on both sides. Deus meliora.
a Scultet. Annal.
b Bucholcer, Chronol.
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
Ver. 5.-15 See the notes on that part of the former chapter whereof this is but a repetition.
6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:
13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Ver. 16. Then remembered I ] Very seasonably; the Holy Spirit suggesting, as a remembrancer; like as the evil spirit did to those cankered kill-Christs, Matthew 27:63 .
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
Ver. 17. What was I that I could withstand God? ] Whose power is irresistible, whose will is a law, yea, Voluntas Dei, necessitas rei: and God hath put a secret instinct (as into the bee, the stork, and other creatures to do their kind, so) into all his children to submit to his will, to say Amen to God’s Amen, and to put their fiat let it be done, and placet it is pleasing, to his, Acts 21:14 .
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Ver. 18. They held their peace ] And by their silence showed they were satisfied: as did Jonah, by shutting up his prophecy in silence, and giving God the last. It is easier to deal with 20 men’s reasons than with one man’s will. Convince a humble man of his error or passion, and he will yield presently; whereas a proud opinionist stands as a stake in the midst of a stream; lets all the good reason you can allege pass by him, but he stands where he was. "Nay, but we will have a king," &c. "The word that thou speakest unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hear."
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
Ver. 19. Now they which were scattered abroad ] See Trapp on " Act 8:1 "
20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
Ver. 20. Spake unto the Grecians ] Not the Grecizing Jews, as Act 6:1 but the Grecians which were Gentiles, to whom the light now began to break forth, and the partition wall to be broken down.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Ver. 21. And a great number believed ] God sealing his approval of what they did, by an extraordinary success. He hath a mighty hand, and can fetch in multitudes at his pleasure. We hope he is doing some such great work in New England. He can make a law to bring forth in one day, a "nation to be born at once,"Isaiah 66:8; Isaiah 66:8 .
22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
Ver. 22. And they sent forth Barnabas ] A very fit man; for he was a "son of consolation," and would handle those young plants with all tenderness. Wring not men’s consciences, saith Dr Sibbs, you may happen to break the wards of them if you do.
23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
Ver. 23. That with purpose of heart ] As it is recorded of Caleb, that he "fulfilled after God," Numbers 14:24 . Caleb implevit post me. It stands men upon to see that their work, though it be but mean, yet it may be clean; though not fine, yet not foul, soiled and slubbered with the slur of a rotten heart. Let them consent to take whole Christ in all his offices and efficacies, and that pro termino interminabili, never to part more.
24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
Ver. 24. For he was a good man ] Few exist today.
" Rari quippe boni-
Iam nec Brutus erit, Bruti nec avunculus usquam. "
Anthony de Guevara tells a merry story of the host at Nola, who when he was commanded by the Roman censor to go and call the good men of the city to appear before him, went to the churchyard, and there called at the graves of the dead, Oh ye good men of Nola, come away, for the Roman censor calleth for your appearance: for he knew not where to call for a good man alive. The Scripture complains that there is none that doeth good, that is, none in comparison, none to the mad multitude, that, like Jeremiah’s figs, are naught, stark naught. Phocion was surnamed Bonus; the Good, but the excellency of a godly man is (Barnabas-like) to be full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, to follow God fully as Caleb, Numbers 14:24 ; to have a heart full of goodness, as those Romans; a life full of good works, as Tabitha; shining full fair, as a right orient and illustrious star with a singularity of heavenly light, as good Noah did in his generation; and as holy Joseph whose life, saith Bucholcer, was a constellation, yea, a very heaven bespangled with brightest stars of glorious graces.
25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
Ver. 25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul ] Not fearing to be outshined by him, who was now grown an admirable preacher, and an insatiable worshipper of Christ, a but seeking the setting-up of Christ’s kingdom by all means possible. To rejoice in and to improve the good parts of others for a public benefit (though it eclipseth thy light), and that from the heart, this is indeed to get above others; this is more than to excel others in any excellence, if this be wanting.
a Insatiabilis Dei cultor. Chrysost.
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Ver. 26. Called Christians ] Called so by divine direction, as the word χρηματισαι signifieth. There were, saith a learned antiquary, certain heretics who (as the Samaritans joined Jewish ceremonies with heathenish rites, so they) joined Christ and Moses, law and gospel, baptism and circumcision. (Godwin’s Antiq. Heb.) Of their beginning readActs 15:2; Acts 15:2 . These were called Nazarites; either of malice by the Jews, to bring the greater disgrace upon Christian religion, or else because at first they were true though weak Nazarites, that is, Christians misled by Peter’s Judaizing at Antioch, Galatians 2:11-13 . Hence it is thought that the Church at Antioch, in detestation of this newly bred heresy, fastened upon them by the name of Nazarites, forsook that name, and called themselves Christians. But what a shameful thing is it, that the most honourable name of Christian is in this day in Italy and at Rome a name of reproach, and usually abused to signify a fool or a dolt. (Fulke Not. on Rhem. Test.)
First in Antioch ] Which had been the residence and bare the name of Antiochus, that bloody persecutor. Here then that prophecy was most sweetly fulfilled, Isaiah 60:14 ; "The sons of the afflicters shall come bending to thee," &c. And so it was, somewhat over a hundred years since, at Spira in Germany, where those of the reformed religion were first called Protestants. (Parei: Medul.) Howbeit some have observed that this name is not so new, but of an ancient standing; for they fetch it from 2 Chronicles 24:19 ; "Yet he sent prophets to them to bring them again unto the Lord, and they testified against them; but they would not give ear:" which latter clause the Vulgate interpreter (and the Douay doctors in their English translation of the Old Testament follow him) rendereth thus: Quos Protestantes illi audire nolebant. Dr Poyns also (a Popish writer) tells us, that it was foretold in the Old Testament that the Protestants were a malignant Church, and he allegeth for proof this place in the Chronicles, though little to his purpose. A better divine tells us Englishmen, that we were never Protestants indeed till we took the late protestation, that brought us into the band of the covenant, and is to us as circumcision once to the Israelites, a Gilgal, the rolling away of our reproach; there being nothing, as some could hit us in the teeth (but untruly and uncharitably), that made us differ from Rome but a bare proclamation.
27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
Ver. 27. From Jerusalem unto Antioch ] The Church whereof was now grown so famous by the pious labours of Paul and Barnabas, that many holy and learned men resorted thither, as to a common school or academy. a So did various, in our forefathers’ days, to Zurich, Basil, Geneva, but especially to Wittenberg, where Luther and Melancthon laboured in the Lord’s work, to the good of many:
" Divisae his operae, sed mens fuit unica; pavit
Ore Lutherus oves, flore Melancthon apes. "
a κοινον παιδευτηριον παντων ανθρωπων Sic de Athenis. Thucyd.
28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Ver. 28. And there stood up one ] So Bishop Hooper prophesied, long before, of his own death. For, taking Mr Bullinger by the hand, at his return from Zurich, There, said he, where I take most pains you shall hear of me to be burnt to ashes. And being made bishop, he took for his arms a lamb in a fiery bush, and the sunbeams descending down upon the lamb; rightly denoting, as it seemeth, the order of his suffering, which afterward followed. So father Latimer ever affirmed of himself, that the preaching of the gospel would cost him his life; to the which he no less cheerfully prepared himself, than certainly was persuaded that Winchester was kept in the Tower (in King Edward VI’s days) for the same purpose; and it proved so. In November, 1572, appeared a new star in Cassiopeia, and continued sixteen months. Theodore Beza wittily applied it to that star at Christ’s birth, and to the infanticide then, and warned Charles IX, author of the French massacre, to beware, in this verse:
" Tu vero Herodes sanguinolente time. "
The fifth month after the vanishing of this star the said Charles, after long and grievous pains, died of exceeding bleeding. Spotswood, Archbishop of St Andrews, a deep and subtle dissembler, who had discouraged, and by degrees rooted out, most of the faithful ministers of Scotland, thought it seasonable (A. D. 1639) to repair into England, where he died a martyr, to the design of bringing in Popery and slavery. And so was the prediction of Mr Walsh, a famous Scotch minister, fulfilled upon him, who in a letter to the bishop, written 1604, told him he should die an outcast.
Great dearth throughout the world ] Suetonius and Josephus make mention of this famine. It went hard when this voice was uttered in the marketplace at Rome, Pone pretium humanae carni. Let us set a price on human flesh. At Antioch in Syria, many of the Christians engaged in the holy war (as they called it) were glad, through famine, to eat the dead bodies of their recently slain enemies. This was that Antioch here mentioned in the text.
In the days of Claudius Caesar ] Who was an arrant slowbelly, counted for a fool by his own mother Antonia, judged unworthy of the empire by his own sister Livilla, poisoned at length by his own wife Agrippina, and her son Nero, qui dixit boletos Θεων βρωμα ειναι , quod Claudius bolero in numerum Deorum relatus esset. The times were then so bad when he ruled the empire, ut nihil amplius virtus esse putaretur quam το γενναιως επιθανειν , saith the historian. (Dio.) What marvel, then, though God scourged the world with extreme famine; wherein the Church also was inwrapped, but graciously provided for, as ever she is in a common calamity.
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
Ver. 29. Every man according ] For to stretch beyond the staple is to mar all. A good man showeth mercy, but yet ordereth his affairs with discretion, Psalms 112:5 .
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Ver. 30. Which also they did ] Nos non eloquimur magna, sed vivimus, said the primitive Christians. This age aboundeth with mouth mercy (Go, and be fed, warmed, &c., Jam 2:14-26 ), which is good cheap. But a little handful were better than a great many such mouthfuls.
By the hands of Barnabas and Saul ] Paul prays hard that this their service might be accepted by the saints, Romans 15:31 , though one would think they should be very welcome, coming on such an errand.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29