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ACTS CHAPTER 11
Acts 11:1-44.11.18 Peter, being accused for conversing with the Gentiles, maketh his defence; the church is satisfied, and glorifieth God.
Acts 11:19-44.11.21 The gospel having spread as far as Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch.
Acts 11:22-44.11.26 Barnabas is sent thither, who fetcheth Saul from Tarsus: many people are taught at Antioch, where the disciples are first called Christians.
Acts 11:27-44.11.30 Agabus prophesieth a dearth: the disciples send relief from Antioch to the brethren in Judea by Barnabas and Saul.
And brethren; the rest of the believers, who had not only one God to their Father, but one church to their mother, and were born of the same Spirit, and were fed by the same milk of the word of God.
The Gentiles had also received the word of God; this was a most incredible thing unto them who were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, and were not acquainted with that mystery that Abraham should have a seed of his faith, upon whom all the promises were entailed. These looked upon the Gentiles as most execrable persons, such as the apostle describes, Ephesians 2:12, that had no hope, and were without God; and therefore no less than a miracle, and that well attested, as this was, could make them change their opinion.
They that were of the circumcision; they were such Jews as conversed with them of the church, and argued against them for taking in the Gentiles into any fellowship with them. But it may be that the believing Jews might for a time be very weak, and offended at it, until they were further satisfied by the following relation of St. Peter: till then they disputed, and brought what arguments they could against it.
This is the objection they make against Peter, that, contrary to the tradition of their elders, and precept of their wise men, its had familiarly conversed with the Gentiles: see Acts 10:28. This they look upon as piacular, although no conversation in order to the gaining of the Gentiles unto God was ever forbidden, but only such as might withdraw the Jews from God.
This great apostle condescends to the least and weakest amongst them, and gives an account of what he had done and the reasons that moved him unto it, if by any means he might gain some, and confirm others.
See this whole narration spoken to in the foregoing chapter.
It came even to me; to show that he was especially concerned in this vision, it being for his instruction and regulation.
Fastened mine eyes; it speaketh his great intention of mind upon it; God so ordering of it, that it might leave the greater impression upon him.
He might now use them without any distinction indifferently.
St. Peter here avoucheth that he had lived in this ceremonial righteousness, though he thought himself far from being institled thereby.
Hath at any time entered into mouth; he abstained from all the appearances of that evil.
This is twice spoken to St. Peter, that it might be the more unquestionable with him and others, it seeming otherwise very strange; and, it may be, therefore twice by St. Luke recorded.
This was done three times; for the same reason but now mentioned, that God might more abundantly manifest this mystery of the calling in of the Gentiles, which had been so long hid.
All were drawn up again into heaven; all this was from heaven; unto which also it tended, namely, to bring the Gentiles thither.
So many sent, and such a journey willingly undertaken, for to gain instruction in the way of life.
These six brethren accompanied me; whom they might hear testify the same thing, that in the mouths of so many it might be established.
We entered into the man’s house: the man meant is Cornelius, concerning the entry into whose house, and converse with him, the doubt or controversy was that he was now speaking to.
An angel, who, by reason of his appearing a man, is, in Acts 10:30, called a man.
God promises that upon his obedience to this oracle, in sending for Peter, he should tell him those things that were necessary to be known by him and his whole family unto their salvation. Whatsoever was formerly the case of such as obeyed the precepts of Noah, (as they were called), after Christ is come, and preached unto the world, there is no other way unto salvation but through him.
As I began to speak; whilst Peter was speaketh, as Acts 1:1.
The Holy Ghost fell on them, as in the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4, he had fallen on the apostles; either visibly, by fiery cloven tongues; or rather by extraordinarily enduing them with the gift of tongues; enabling the most illiterate amongst them to speak in any language needful for any to understand towards their salvation.
Of the Lord; of Christ, who is every where so called.
He said; but these words seem rather spoken by St. John himself. Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; which makes no difference; for, first, Whatsoever a disciple of Christ says in his name, it is as if it were spoken by himself:
He that heareth not, heareth me. But, secondly, Though this was spoken by the Baptist, it was spoken by our Saviour also, Acts 1:5.
John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; by which the great difference is implied between outward baptism (administered by whomsoever, though the Baptist himself) and the inward baptism of the Holy Ghost, which, as fire, separates powerfully the scum and dross of sin from us.
With the Holy Ghost; the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.
The apostle’s argument is cogent: They who have the grace signified by baptism, ought to have the seal of that grace; but the Gentiles had the grace signified by baptism. Or, they who have the inward baptism, may not be denied the outward. As he that hath a right to an inheritance, cannot without injustice be denied the writings and seals thereunto belonging. To deny baptism unto any unto whom it doth belong, is to
withstand God, and to keep back the token of God’s love from such unto whom it is sent.
They held their peace; they were fully satisfied with the reason St. Peter had given them of his admitting the Gentiles unto baptism, and fellowship with him; wisely inferring from what Peter had said, that what he had done was of God, who was to be acknowledged in it.
Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance: repentance is the gift of God, as well as faith, or any other grace, 2 Timothy 2:25; nor can the greatest guilt affect the heart with true godly sorrow, until God hath quickened it. It is called
repentance unto life, because God hath appointed that it should precede our entrance into life.
So true hath it been from the beginning of the gospel, that sanguis martyrum est semen eccesiae. St. Stephen’s death, and the persecution upon it, was a great means of disseminating the gospel. Thus all things work for good.
Phenice; the country about Tyre.
Cyprus; an island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Antioch; the metropolis of Syria. This explains what was briefly said, Acts 8:4, and showed what places the disciples were scattered into, and preached in.
They preached to
the Jews only, because they were not yet persuaded of the calling of the Gentiles; God suffering them to be enlightened by degrees.
Men of Cyprus and Cyrene; they were such as were born in Cyprus and Cyrene, but had their habitation in Jerusalem, and now upon the persecution there fled unto Antioch; which by this means in time became the Jerusalem of the Gentile Christians, whither their greatest resort was.
Spake unto the Grecians: here they of the dispersion taught not only such Hellenists as are spoken of, Acts 6:1, who were born of Hebrew parents, though living out of the country of Judea; but such also amongst the Gentiles, (who are generally called Greeks since Alexander’s time, who conquered all those nations round about, and brought in his own language amongst them), who, forsaking idolatry, and worshipping the true God, were called σεβομενοι, devout or religious persons, such as Cornelius is said to be, Acts 10:2. And thus God by degrees brought in the knowledge of himself, and his Son Jesus Christ.
Preaching the Lord Jesus; which knowledge only is that which is necessary unto salvation, and that only which Saul determined to know, 1 Corinthians 2:2.
The hand of the Lord; the power, assistance, and working of God, expressed by the hand, which is the organ or instrument men use in working. This hand or work of God was manifest, first, In the miracles which they wrought. Secondly, In the conversion of any by these miracles. For these alone cannot soften a heart; as appeared in Pharaoh, whose heart was hardened by them.
A great number believed, and turned unto the Lord; faith and conversion are wrought by the hand of the Lord, and are his work. But in vain is faith pretended unto, when there is no change in heart and life. What God hath put together, none may put asunder.
Came unto the ears of the church; this pleonasm seems emphatical, to show with what readiness and delight the church heard the news of the conversion of so many to Christ.
Of Barnabas we read, Acts 4:36, who had given such an earnest of love to God, and true faith in Christ, for whose sake he sold what he had.
The grace of God; which appeared in their conversion, being made manifest by their professions, and answered by their pious lives and conversations; for all which they might cry, Grace, grace.
By the grace of God, is also to be understood the increasing of the church, and adding to it such as should be saved.
Was glad; this is matter of joy in heaven, Luke 15:7, and of all such as are learning their lesson, and preparing for that blissful place.
With purpose of heart; firm and fixed resolution, that come what can come, tribulation or distress, life or death, they would keep close to the profession of the truth of Christ. This purpose of heart is the same with the whole heart elsewhere; which must cleave unto the Lord; be joined, or stick close, to God’s truth and ways.
Barnabas is here described to be beyond what the Jews called a righteous man, who would say to his neighbour, That which is yours is yours, and that which is mine is mine; meaning such as would do no wrong. But Barnabas, as the good man in their esteem, (such a one as the apostle speaks of, Romans 5:7, for whom one would dare to die), had actually made, and not called only, that which was his his poor neighbours’, selling what he had to bestow upon them, as Acts 4:37.
Much people was added unto the Lord; his good works, accompanying his good preaching, might be a great means of the conversion of so many.
Saul, or Paul, being Barnabas’s friend and acquaintance, whom Barnabas had brought to the knowledge of the apostles, Acts 9:27; he goes now to seek him, that they might advise and strengthen one another in the work of the Lord.
A whole year they assembled themselves: frequency of meeting to partake of the ordinances of God, is the great reason why the gospel was so prevalent in this place.
The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch; which will be renowned so long as the world lasts, because here the banner of Christ was first publicly set up, and men listed under him: and this by Divine authority, for the word imports no less. And that it was not a name they gave themselves, much less was it a name the enemies of Christianity gave unto the professors of it, for they called them Nazarenes, or Galileans, out of contempt. But God would have Christ’s disciples to be called Christians: not only as scholars were amongst the Greeks called from their masters, (viz. Platonists, Pythagoreans, &c.), to teach us whom we profess to learn of, and to be instructed by; but to mind us of our unction; for Christians are anointed ones, 1 John 2:27, and are made by Christ (in a spiritual sense) kings and priests unto God and his Father, Revelation 1:6.
These here meant were enabled to foretell things to come; a gift which God did furnish some of his church with on such an extraordinary occasion, Ephesians 4:11, whereby they did beforehand signify future things for the good for the church, as here.
By the Spirit; by a resolution from the Spirit, as one of his gifts, and not by judicial astrology, or any other means real or pretended; for it is a prerogative of God only to foretell things to come, as Isaiah 41:22,Isaiah 41:23.
Which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar: this famine Suetonius and other heathen writers make mention of, though some place it in one year, and some in another year, of Claudius’s reign. It may be there were divers famines, or one might continue divers years; but thus God, who provided for the patriarchs by means of Joseph’s foreseeing of the scarcity in Egypt and elsewhere, provides for his church now also by a like prediction. God’s omniscience is exerted for his church’s preservation.
Every man according to his ability; which is the measure whereby we must mete out unto others: we are to give alms of such things as we have, or according as we are able, Luke 11:41.
These brethren, or believers, in Judea, were very poor, by reason of the extraordinary malice and persecution of the Jews against them, and therefore recommended by St. Paul unto them of Achaia, (especially to the Corinthians), and to the believers in Macedonia.
To the elders; to the apostles; or if they (as it is probable) were gone out of Jerusalem, to the governors or chief of the churches; for the famine being to come over all Judea, it is most probable that the other churches, besides that in Jerusalem, did partake of this bounty.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Acts 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent