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Bible Commentaries
Acts 11

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

1. The word spread rapidly. News got to Jerusalem that Gentiles were now being baptized.

2. The phrase "received the word" is used in Acts to indicate acceptance and obedience. See 2:41; 8:14; 11:1; and 17:11.

3. Jewish Christians were still not ready to let go of the Law of Moses.

4. Was this prejudice? No, it was a desire to maintain the rules of the old law.

5. Mentally, they knew that that law was "nailed to the cross." Emotionally, they were deeply ingrained with the regulations that separated Jews from Gentiles.

Verses 1-30


17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? "

1. What was similar to Pentecost?

1. Cornelius was given the SAME GIFT - tongues - as the Apostles were given in Act_2:1-47 .

2. The second similarity was in the manner of how it was sent. It came directly from God with no human intervention.

2. With those similarities, how could Peter resist, refuse, withstand God?

Verse 2

2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,

1. When Peter got back to Jerusalem - they were ready for him.

2. Those of the circumcision - Jewish Christians

3. The word "contended" means " to separate one's self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend." (Thayer)

Verse 3

3 saying, " You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them! "

1. It is interesting that they did not mention their baptism. "You ate with them."

2. They were more offended that Peter had fellowship with a Gentile.

Verses 4-8

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying:

5 " I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me .

6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.

7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat. ' 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth. '

1. Peter told all that had happened to him in Joppa. The vision. The unclean animals. God declaring them clean.

2. Peter even admitted that he "argued" with God. He wanted to refuse the command of the Lord.

3. Peter assures his Jewish brethren that he has ALWAYS avoided unclean food.

Verse 9

9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common. '

1. God is clear. If God calls it "CLEAN" don't put it in the "unclean" category.

2. When God cleanses someone, they are declared to be clean.

Verse 10

10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

1. The fact that it was done three times is proof that this was not a mistake.

2. God repeated the vision three times to be sure the message was delivered.

Verse 11

11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea.

1. The timing - Is it coincidence or providence?

2. How did these men manage to arrive - just at the moment the vision ended?

Verse 12

12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man ' s house.

1. Peter places the "blame" on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit told me to go with these men.

2. Then Peter takes a second precaution. He takes 6 men with him as witnesses.

Verses 13-14

13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter,

14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved. '

1. Peter learned that an angel had also spoken to Cornelius and told him to send for Peter.

2. Here is something to ponder: Why send for Peter?

1. If there is predestination - Why send for Peter?

2. If salvation is by prayer, praying through, mourners bench - Why send for Peter?

3. If salvation is by faith alone - Why send for Peter?

4. If salvation is by doing good works - Why send for Peter?

3. ANSWER : None of these common teachings are correct. Peter was needed to tell him what he must do to be saved.

4. This statement also shows that Cornelius was not already saved. His salvation was dependent upon hearing what Peter would tell them, and doing it.

Verse 15

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.

1. It is commonly taught that Cornelius received "Holy Spirit Baptism." The same baptism as the apostles received on Pentecost in Act_2:1-47 .

2. I reject this idea.

1. If Cornelius received Holy Spirit baptism - then we have a problem with the statement of Jesus that the world (lost, sinners) can not receive the Spirit. ( Joh_14:17 )

2. If Cornelius received Holy Spirit baptism - then it was not just for the apostles.

3. If Cornelius could receive it - Why not men today?

4. Below is an outline on the measures of the Spirit.

5. I believe Act_11:1-30 teaches the Cornelius received the "spiritual gifts" measure of the Holy Spirit. The only difference was the means of transmission. Most early Christians received this gift by the laying on of an apostle's hands. Cornelius received it by the "laying on" of God's hands.

Measures of the Holy Spirit

1. Jesus ( Joh_3:34 ; Col_2:9 ) - beyond measure - fullness - entire - all power

2. Baptism ( Act_1:4-8 )- promised (not commanded) to apostles - power to work all kinds of miracles, inspiration, revelation

3. Spiritual Gifts ( Rom_1:11 ; Act_8:18-19 )- by laying on of hands, power to work one kind of gift

1. Cornelius - special case - by "laying on from God" rather than from men

2. NOT Holy Spirit Baptism - promised to apostles

3. Same gift (vs. 17) = tongues, speaking a language not studied by the speaker

4. AS - (vs. 15) describes the manner of its arrival - from God not from man

4. Non-miraculous ( Act_2:38 ; Act_19:1-2 ) - at baptism - lead, guide, overcome, protect

Verse 16

16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. '

1. These events reminded Peter of Pentecost when he and the other apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There were two similarities.

1. The "same gift" was given - the ability to speak in a language not learned by the speaker.

2. The power came in the same manner - direct from God - with no human intervention.

Verse 18

18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, " Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life. "

1. They became silent. What could you say? Any objection was not against Peter, but it would be an objection against God.

2. All they could do was worship and glorify God.

3. CONCLUSION : God has accepted the gentiles and granted them salvation.

Verse 19

19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.

1. Many disciples were scattered during the persecution led by Saul.

2. Act_8:4 tells us they went everywhere preaching the word.

3. Now we are told - But to Jews only.

Verse 20

20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

1. Yes, they did convert some who were not Hebrew speaking Jews. There were those Jews who spoke Greek (Hellenists) and others who spoke their native language.

2. But all the converts to this point were Jewish in their religion and background.

Verse 21

21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

1. A great number:

1. Believed - more than just mental assent. Faith is more than just accepting some teaching or thought. It includes acting on that idea.

2. Turned to the Lord - They left the Jewish religion and became Christians.

Verse 22

22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

1. The news of these converts spread to Jerusalem.

2. The brethren in Jerusalem decided to send Barnabas on a "missionary journey" as far as Antioch. Barnabas is the encourager. He could help these small, struggling, remote congregations to grow. He could edify the saints.

Verse 23

23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.

1. Barnabas saw the grace of God. He saw many obey the gospel. He saw many dedicated New Testament Christians.

2. If was an exciting time. He was glad. He encouraged them to remain faithful.

Verse 24

24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

1. Many more were added to the Lord - They were saved ( Act_2:47 ) and as they were being washed from their sins in the blood of Jesus, they were being added to the church.

2. Barnabas did much good on his short trip.

Verse 25

25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

1. Barnabas saw opportunity. He saw a work for Saul to do.

2. He headed for Tarsus where Saul was now living.

Verse 26

26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

1. Saul was brought to Antioch to meet with the church there. To support a missionary there must be some trust that he is doing the work you sent him to do.

2. Saul was one year with the church to build and deepen that trust.

3. Disciples - learners, students, pupils - This was the most common term used to describe the followers of Jesus. This term was used during the earthly ministry of Christ and to those converts following Pentecost.

4. Called - The Greek word here has to do with a divine command or instruction. The fact is they were not called Christians by men. This was a divine instruction. God called them Christians. Isa_62:2 is the prophecy about the "new name" which the mouth of the Lord would name. In the OT many were called - disciples, saints, brethren, followers, etc. This is a NEW term. It did not come from men. It came from God.

5. Christians - The word simply means "a follower of Christ." We are disciples (learners); we are saints (separate from the world); we are brethren (in the family of God). But these terms could also be used of members of any other club or organization. Christian is a special name to wear.

Verse 27

27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.

1. While Saul was at Antioch, prophets came from Jerusalem.

2. They came with a message and warning.

Verse 28

28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

1. God was sending out a warning to the Christians that a famine would happen. They had advance warning of this event. They would have time to prepare for it.

2. Just as it was predicted - it happened during the reign of Claudius Caesar.

Verse 29

29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

1. The church family extends beyond the borders of the city or town of a local congregation.

2. If brethren in Judea are hurting, we need to help them. The same is true with Malawi, India or any other place where some disaster strikes.

Verse 30

30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

1. All funds were sent to the elders of the Jerusalem church.

2. Barnabas and Saul were the "mailmen" who delivered the funds.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 11". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-11.html. 2021.
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