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

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Verses 1-18

Act 11:1-18

PETER JUSTIFIES HIS PREACHING TO GENTILES

Acts 11:1-18

1 Now the apostles and the brethren—The distance from Caesarea, the home of Cornelius, to Jerusalem was about seventy miles. We do not know how long after the conversion of Cornelius and his household until the news reached Jerusalem; Cornelius had invited Peter and the other brethren to “tarry certain days” with him, and the implication is that they did so. The news of the conversion of Cornelius, and especially the news of Peter’s going into the house of a Gentile, was startling to Jewish Christians; they had, as yet, not learned that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews; neither had they heard of the vision that Peter had and the command to go to the Gentiles. It seems that the news came to Jerusalem and the other Judean churches before Peter had left Caesarea.

2-3 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem,—Peter was accompanied by the six Jewish brethren who had gone with him from Joppa to Caesarea, and now came with him to Jerusalem. We may now see the purpose Peter had in taking these six Jewish brethren with him to Caesarea; they were to be witnesses with him, and it seems that Peter had gone to Jerusalem to defend himself and to impart to the church there the news of the reception of the Gentiles. “They that were of the circumcision,” or the Jewish Christians, “contended” with Peter, and brought the accusation against him that he went “in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” “Contended” is from the Greek “diekrinonto,” and here means “to separate oneself apart, to take sides against, to make a cleavage.” So Peter is at once put on the defense; it is clear here that Peter was not regarded as any kind of “pope” or overlord. The Jewish Christians must have contended that the distinction between Jew and Gentile should be maintained in the

church; hence, they should not mix socially with Gentiles, the un-circumcised, nor eat with them. “Uncircumcised” means men having not been circumcised; it is used here as a contemptuous expression; they did not object to Peter’s preaching to the Gentiles, but they did object to his going into the house and eating with them.

4-6 But Peter began, and expounded the matter—When Peter came before the other “apostles” and “brethren,” he explained in a very deliberate and detailed way that he had been convinced that God wanted the gospel preached to the Gentiles. He gave the facts that convinced him, thinking that the arguments that convinced him would convince others that the Gentiles should have the blessings of the gospel. A great work had been done in the name of Christ and Peter is called on to defend himself for his part in it. Peter’s mildness and patience in explaining the entire matter to them was put in contrast with the heat and excitement that his accusers manifested. Peter’s rehearsal was so simple and truthful that it carried conviction. He told exactly where he was, what he was doing, and all things connected with his trance.

7-10 And I heard also a voice saying unto me,—There was a clear issue between Peter with respect to his conduct and the other apostles and brethren; the charge was: “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” (Verse 3.) This issue involved the one of bringing Gentiles into the church without their becoming Jews. Luke, the writer, through the Holy Spirit, deemed it wise to give the two records of this set of events—the one in chapter 10 and the other here. This shows that great importance and significance was attached to the event. God himself, the God of the Jews, had directed Peter to do what he had done. (Verses 5-10.) God had convinced Peter with a vivid illustration while Peter was in a trance. (Verse 6.) God had directed Cornelius to send for Peter; to confirm the fact, an angel was sent to Cornelius bidding him send for Peter. These Gentiles had become Christians without becoming Jews; the Holy Spirit had come upon them as he had upon the Jews on Pentecost. While Jesus was on earth teaching the Jews had asked him for “a sign from heaven,” and now Peter gives these disciples a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1; Luke 11:16.)

11-14 And behold, forthwith three men stood—Peter rehearsed the matter in the detailed order that the events occurred, so that his report of them might impress the minds of his hearers, as the events themselves did to his own mind. Peter’s vision had scarcely ended when these three men from Caesarea called for him. “Forthwith three men stood before the house in which we were.” Further evidence was that the Holy Spirit commanded Peter to go with them, “making no distinction.” That is, Peter should go to the Gentiles with the gospel as freely as he would to the Jews; “these six brethren” accompanied Peter and were now present to bear witness that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit and to testify just what Peter had done. So Peter confessed to the charge that was brought against him, and the other six were guilty of the same charge. Peter has made it clear that he did not go to the Gentiles and eat with them of his own initiative; he went under the direct orders of God and the Holy Spirit; these six Jewish brethren could bear witness to this fact.

15 And as I began to speak,—Cornelius had been told by the angel that Peter, when brought from Joppa, would “speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house.” (Verse 14.) Now Peter began to speak these words unto this good, yet unsaved, man; he had not been speaking very long (Acts 10:34-44) when the Holy Spirit came upon the company assembled at Cornelius’ house as he had “on us at the beginning.” The “beginning” mentioned here was Pentecost. Peter recalls very vividly the events at Pentecost; this was the beginning of the church; it was the beginning of the preaching of the gospel in its fullness; it was the beginning of the work of the apostles under the Great Commission; it was the beginning of the Christian dispensation. The Holy Spirit came upon these Gentiles as it did upon the Jews “at the beginning.” According to the best chronologists, Pentecost occurred A.D. 30 to 33, and the conversion of Cornelius took place about A.D. 40; hence, it has been eight or ten years since Pentecost; the church was eight or ten years old at the conversion of Cornelius. The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the household of Cornelius was a baptism of the Holy Spirit. There had been nothing like this since Pentecost; hence, Peter says that the Holy Spirit came on the house of Cornelius as it did on the Jews “at the beginning.” Therefore, there had been no baptism of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost; if there had been Peter could have referred to the numerous other incidents and not have had to go back to Pentecost. This also shows that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not to convert people, for Peter would only have had to refer to any case of conversion to prove his point.

16 And I remembered the word of the Lord,—When the Holy Spirit came on the Gentiles, Peter remembered how Jesus had said: “John indeed baptized with water; but ye, shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5.) The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a mark of the divine acceptance of Gentiles as disciples. If God had conferred on the Gentiles the baptism of the Holy Spirit, how can man refuse to them all the blessings of the gospel ? How can Christian Jews call men common and unclean upon whom God has bestowed the baptism of the Holy Spirit ?

17 If then God gave unto them the like gift—Here Peter reached the climax of his argument; he and other Jewish Christians could not refuse those whom God had accepted; he could not withstand God. The argument is clear and forceful. To reject the Gentiles and refuse to let them enjoy all the blessings of the gospel would be to “withstand God.” If God gave to them the same gift which he gave to the Jews on believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter could not reject the Gentiles. The argument forces the other apostles and brethren to withdraw their charge against Peter, or commend him for what he had done, and rejoice with him in the conversion of the Gentiles.

18 And when they heard these things,—The accusation against Peter was withdrawn; the wrangling ceased; the critics even “glorified God.” They rejoiced that God had “granted repentance unto life” to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. Peter now sees in this incident the same principle for which Paul contended at a later date. (Acts 15:8.) The Jews were now satisfied that God had called Gentiles as well as Jews; it is clear here that the Jews could not live as Jews and be Christians, and that the Gentiles could not live as Gentiles and be Christians; that “there can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28.)

Verses 19-21

Act 11:19-21

CHURCH IN ANTIOCH FOUNDED

Acts 11:19-21

19 They therefore that were scattered abroad—Luke, the historian, here picks up the thread of events where he left it in Acts 8:1. All the thousands of disciples that had been converted at Jerusalem were scattered abroad except the apostles; the persecution of the church began with the martyrdom of Stephen, and some of those who were scattered abroad went “as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch.” These, however, preached the gospel “to none save only to Jews.” The persecution which followed the death of Stephen had a twofold effect: (1) the dispersed disciples preached Christ and established churches within Palestine; (2) churches were established beyond Palestine, “Phoenicia” was a district, about a hundred twenty miles long and fifteen miles broad, which lay to the north of Palestine on the shores of the Mediterranean, and on the slopes of Lebanon; its chief cities were Tyre, Sidon, and Tripolis; it formed a part of the Roman province of Syria. The gospel was preached and churches were established in Phoenicia. (Acts 21:1-4 Acts 27:3.) “Cyprus” was a large and fertile island nearly opposite Antioch, while Antioch was the capital of the Roman province of Syria; it was situated on the Orontes River, about sixteen miles from the sea, with Seleucia for its seaport.

20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene,—Here we have a contrast with those who preached the gospel “to none save only to Jews,” as there were “some of them” who were scattered abroad, “who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also.” The best authorities consider “the Greeks” here as meaning the Gentiles; however, some authorities understand it to mean “Grecian Jews.” (Acts 6:1.) These men from “Cyprus and Cyrene” were “Hellenists,” Greek-speaking Jews, who, having lived abroad, had learned to speak the Grecian language; however, they spoke “unto the Greeks.” “Hellenists” is used to mean those Jews who had been abroad and spoke the Grecian language; but “Hellenes” means the Gentiles who did not become Jewish proselytes. Hence, the contrast and the new departure lie in the fact that before this the disciples sought to convert to Jesus only the Jews, including the Grecians who were Jews, but now they began to preach to the Gentiles as such. This was after the conversion of Cornelius, and probably in the year A.D. 42.

21 And the hand of the Lord was with them:—“The hand of the Lord” is an Old Testament phrase (Exodus 9:3; Isaiah 59:1) and is used frequently by Luke (Luke 1:66; Acts 4:28 Acts 4:30 Acts 13:11). This was proof that the Lord was with them in preaching the gospel to Gentiles; it also confirmed the word which was preached to them. As a result of this “a great number that believed turned unto the Lord.” Turn to the Lord is a common expression for Gentiles who believed on Christ. (Acts 14:15 Acts 15:19 Acts 26:18 Acts 26:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:9.) “A great number” of Gentiles were converted ; we do not know how many, but we do know that a church was established in Antioch. Antioch now is to become the center from which the gospel is spread throughout the Gentile world, as Jerusalem was the center of preaching the gospel to the Jews.

Verses 19-30

Act 11:19-30

THE PROMISE IS FOR ALL:

LESSONS FROM THE BOOK OF ACTS

Notes For Lesson Eleven: Transition to a New Era

(Acts 11:19 to Acts 12:24)

With the gospel having now been proclaimed to the Gentiles for the first time, the church is almost ready to begin its ministry "to the ends of the earth". In this week’s passages, we see some final preparations for this, as well as some other important events that took place during this time.

The Church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30)

This passage tells us about the church in Antioch, which would soon become the base from which Barnabas and Saul would begin the first of the great missionary journeys. From its beginning, the congregation at Antioch was unique and was characterized by a commitment to truth and ministry. We can see in this passage the plans that God was already making through them.

The Antioch church had begun with the scattering that occurred when persecution broke out after Stephen’s death (Acts 11:19-21). We already saw in Acts 8 how the believers turned this persecution into a blessing, as they proclaimed the gospel wherever they wound up. Now we learn that even the great church in Antioch* owed its beginnings to this scattering. The attempt by the Jewish leaders to stamp out the church by force had indeed backfired completely. Here in Antioch, after a Jewish church was first established, some of the believers from Cyprus and Cyrene (areas where they would have been used to contact with Gentiles) began to speak to Gentiles, resulting in a new harvest that strengthened the Antioch church and also prepared it for what lay ahead.

Antioch was an important city, the third largest in the Roman Empire after Rome itself and Alexandria. It was the largest of the many towns that had been named for the Seleucid king Antiochus the Great, who had ruled over much of the area about two centuries earlier.

The church at Antioch continued to grow with the arrival of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:22-26). The church in Jerusalem sent the popular and compassionate Barnabas to Antioch when they learned how quickly the church there was growing, and his leadership and example helped the Antioch church to become even stronger numerically and spiritually. Barnabas also made a decision of great future significance, when he made a trip to Tarsus to find Saul, bringing him to Antioch where a new ministry awaited him. Hated and feared by the Jews, Saul would find vast new opportunities in the quickly developing ministry to the Gentiles. This passage also contains a note of historical importance. Up to this time, the word "Christian" did not exist. We know learn that the word was coined by observers at Antioch, who saw the life of Christ displayed in the young church there.

We also see an example of how the church in Antioch responded to a need (Acts 11:27-30). An opportunity to give arose from a prediction from Agabus, a member of the church at Jerusalem who had been blessed with prophetic abilities. When Agabus accurately predicted the famine that would occur in the reign of Emperor Claudius, the thoughts of the Christians in Antioch turned quickly to the believers in Judea, since they knew that the famine would take a more devastating toll there than it would in a Gentile city such as Antioch that had economic and strategic importance. The Antioch Christians accordingly raised a gift for the Judean churches, and had Barnabas and Saul take it there personally, as an added expression of concern.

For Discussion or Study: What features of the church at Antioch stand out from this passage? Consider how we can emulate their strengths. What opportunities might we have that could be roughly parallel to Barnabas sending for Saul, or to the gift sent to Judea?

Peter & Herod (Acts 12:1-24)

The Acts narrative now returns one more time to Peter, telling of his miraculous escape from Herod Agrippa I, who had intended to have Peter executed. The incident is a memorable example of the kind of power that God can exert when it is within his will, and it even has its humorous aspects. Not long afterwards, it is Herod himself who dies an ignoble death, forming an appropriate (if grim) contrast with Peter’s experience, and serving as a reminder of the temporary nature of fleshly power.

We first read of Herod sentencing Peter to death (Acts 12:1-5). The apostle James was in fact actually executed at this time by Herod* (in AD 44), as an act of random persecution. The soulless but clever Herod, always on the lookout for ways to increase his popularity at the expense of others, saw that the execution pleased the Jews, and this motivated him to look for further innocent targets. When Peter too was sentenced to execution, it no doubt caused fear and despair amongst many faithful Christians. But the church’s response was exactly what it should have been, as they realized that worldly weapons would be useless, and committed the entire situation to prayer.

There are several Herods in the Bible. Herod "the Great" was king when Jesus was born, and died shortly afterwards in 4 BC. His son Herod Antipas, who executed John the Baptist and whom Jesus called ’that fox’, was one of several heirs who divided up Herod the Great’s territory after his death. The king in Acts 12 is Herod Agrippa I, a grandson of Herod the Great and both a nephew and a brother-in-law of Herod Antipas. (This oddity occurred because Herod Antipas divorced his first wife to marry his niece Herodias.) Herod Agrippa I ruled over a kingdom that reunited most of the territories once ruled by Herod the Great. Note that the Agrippa whom Paul meets in Acts 26 is known to history as King Herod Agrippa II.

It does not take long for their prayers to be answered, as Peter escapes with the help of an angel (Acts 12:6-11). The account of his escape reveals that there were many obstacles on the way out, through which only an angel could have passed. Peter was only dimly aware of what was taking place, as first his chains fell off and then he was led past the guards and out of the prison. Only when he was outside did he ’come to himself’ and realize that God had miraculously rescued him.

The news of Peter’s escape elicited some interesting reactions (Acts 12:12-19). Upon realizing that he was free, Peter went to Mary’s home where, as it happened, many of the believers were praying for him, hoping against hope that God would deliverance him. The scene of Peter’s arrival is amusing, and also holds an instructive irony. First, the servant girl who answers the door is so excited to hear Peter’s voice that she runs back to tell everyone without letting him in, leaving Peter knocking frantically outside. Then, although she reports that God has done exactly what they were in the act of praying for, the Christians cannot believe that it has really come to pass. This is an interesting example of the limited confidence in prayer that even the most faithful believers sometimes have. Meanwhile, there was nothing humorous about Herod’s response when he heard the news. Holding the guards to the Roman standard of taking the punishment due to an escaped prisoner, he has them executed as soon as he finds that he can get no worthwhile information from them.

But Herod’s own time was not long in coming (Acts 12:20-23). Herod enjoyed a position of no little power in his corner of the world, and even his enemies sometimes found it necessary to seek his help. This passage tells us that emissaries from Tyre and Sidon came seeking Herod’s aid, and that in response Herod planned a public address. His audience, eager to flatter him, praised him in practically blasphemous terms, calling him a God. As Herod reveled in the glory, rather than making even a cursory attempt to decline this inappropriate adoration, he was suddenly struck with a severe illness. The historian Flavius Josephus verifies the essential details of this incident, detailing how Herod became seriously ill while speaking, and how he passed away several days later* of a terribly painful stomach ailment. This episode must have been quite thought-provoking to those who witnessed it, and it is still a memorable warning to all who, like Herod, would flaunt the pitiful amount of power that God in his grace has allowed them to possess for a short time.

See Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, book 19, chapter 8. Note that this is not inconsistent with Acts, which does not say that he died immediately, only that he was stricken immediately.

But the church continued to grow larger and stronger (12:24). The Herods of the world have their day when they can exercise their power over us, but the church of Jesus Christ will last forever.

For Discussion or Study: What do we learn from the account of Peter’s rescue? Was there a reason why God allowed Herod to execute James but not Peter? Is there any lesson for us in this? What message(s) should we take from the account of Herod’s death? How do these events fit in with the larger purpose of the book of Acts?

- Mark W. Garner, May 2002

Verses 22-24

Act 11:22-24

BARNABAS COMES TO ANTIOCH

Acts 11:22-24

22 And the report concerning them—The church had been established at Antioch and was composed largely of Gentile Christians. The conversion of Cornelius and the discussion which followed his conversion prepared the apostles and the church at Jerusalem for the good news of the young but fast-growing church at Antioch. News did not travel fast at that time, but the church in Jerusalem heard of the establishment of the church at Antioch, and “sent forth Barnabas as far as Antioch.” The first mention we have of Barnabas was a very favorable one. (Acts 4:36-37.) Here he sold his field and “brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” for distribution in helping those in need. The next mention that we have of him is when he introduced and commended the new convert Saul to the apostles at Jerusalem. (Acts 9:27.) Now we have the church at Jerusalem sending him to Antioch. Barnabas belonged to Cyprus; he was sent to Antioch as Peter and John had been sent to Samaria. (Acts 8:14.) Barnabas was a good man, judicious, broadminded, and generous. He was of the tribe of Levi, spoke Greek, and was well qualified to mix with the people of Antioch; they could trust him to give wise counsel and to bring an accurate report to Jerusalem.

23 who, when he was come,—Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit; he was possibly acquainted with those who had gone to Antioch and first preached the gospel there; as he was a Grecian Jew, he would be in sympathy with the Gentile converts, and would be welcomed by the Christians in Antioch of both Jews and Gentiles. When Barnabas saw “the grace of God” he was glad. He “exhorted them all.” His first name was Joseph, but the apostles surnamed him Barnabas, “which is, being interpreted, Son of exhortation.” (Acts 4:36.) Barnabas had a special gift for work of this kind; he exhorted these Christians with one purpose of heart to “cleave unto the Lord.” “Cleave” here is from the original “pros- menein,” and means “to keep on remaining loyal” to the Lord; he exhorted them to be persistent; this was needed in such a pagan city as Antioch.

24 for he was a good man,—Very few times in the Bible is one called “a good man”; Barnabas came in this class. He was good and full of the Holy Spirit. This explains his conduct. Besides being really good, he was full of the Holy Spirit and faith. As a result of his labors “much people was added unto the Lord.” These people were added to the Lord when they were added to the church; they were added to the church when they heard the gospel, believed it, repented of their sins, and were baptized into Christ. This is the way people were added to the Lord. It should be noticed how prominent “the Lord” is made here. Christ is called “the Lord Jesus” (verse 20); the “hand of the Lord” was with them (verse 21); and the believers turned “unto the Lord” (verse 21); Barnabas encouraged the people to cleave “unto the Lord” (verse 23); and much people was added “unto the Lord” (verse 24). The result of Barnabas’ visit to Antioch was that “much people was added unto the Lord”; that is, literally, a great multitude was added to the Lord. We now have a large congregation of disciples in Antioch.

Verses 25-26

Act 11:25-26

PAUL BROUGHT TO ANTIOCH

Acts 11:25-26

25 And he went forth to Tarsus to seek for Saul;—After Saul’s conversion he went into Arabia and returned to Damascus; next we find him in Jerusalem; he did but little work in Jerusalem ; Barnabas had commended him to the apostles and the church there, but it was thought best for Saul to go to another field; so when it was found that the Jews were seeking to kill him, the brethren “brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:30.) It seems that he did not remain idle in Cilicia (Galatians 1:21), but preached the gospel in Cilicia and Syria (Acts 15:41). The work was too heavy for Barnabas in Antioch, so he went to Tarsus, about eighty miles away, to find Saul. “Seek” is from the original “anazetesai,” and means “to seek or hunt up”; the word suggests that Barnabas had some difficulty in finding Saul. The Holy Spirit guided Barnabas in his search, and Barnabas had full confidence in Saul as being the right person to help in the great work at Antioch.

26 and when he had found him,—After finding Saul and reporting to him of the great work that had been done at Antioch, Saul accepted the invitation to join Barnabas in the work of the Lord in that field. They labored together “for a whole year” “with the church” at Antioch. This is the second time Barnabas introduces Saul; Barnabas here and for more than a year later appears as the leader, and not Saul. (Acts 13:1-2.) Barnabas leads in the first great work that is done with Saul. They not only preached the gospel to the unsaved, but they edified the church: they “taught much people.”

and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.—Up to this time believers in Christ had been called “believers,” “disciples,” “saints,” “brethren,” “those of the Way”; but now they receive a new name. Much discussion has been had as to who called them “Christians.” “Were called” shows that they not only called themselves by that name, but that others called them by that name. “Were called” is from the original “chrematisai,” and has the force of divine command. (Matthew 2:12 Matthew 2:22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22.) However, some claim that the word does not have that meaning here, but that it has the same meaning as Romans 7:3, and means to be called or named by someone else from one’s business. Some contend that the name was given by their enemies as a name of contempt. It matters but little as to who first coined the name and applied it to the disciples of Christ, since we have the name divinely approved by Peter in 1 Peter 4:16. Here Peter, speaking or writing by the Holy Spirit, says: “If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name.” The other instance in divine record where the name is used is in Acts 26:28, where Agrippa acknowledges that Paul is persuading him to be a Christian. “Christians” is from the Greek “Christianous”; this termination was frequent in Latin in the early days; whether this name was derived from the Latin or not, the termination became common enough in Greek, and therefore there is no necessity to ascribe the name “Christianos” to a Roman origin. Later “Christianos” was modified to “Chrestianos” (both words being pronounced alike). Each of the three languages has contributed to the formation of this word. The thought is Jewish, denoting the Anointed One; the root, Christ, is Greek; the termination, ianoi, is Latin. So in the provi-dence of God, the same three nations whose differing dialects proclaimed above the cross, “Jesus the King of the Jews,” now unite in forming a word which for all time shall be applied to those who follow Christ. Antioch, the center from which the gospel radiated among the Gentiles, has given us the common name, Christian.

Verses 27-30

Act 11:27-30

THE FAMINE AND RELIEF

Acts 11:27-30

27 Now in these days there came down prophets—“In these days” means the time while the church at Antioch was being increased with a great multitude of Gentile converts during the year’s residence there of Barnabas and Saul. “Prophets” came down “from Jerusalem unto Antioch.” Many think of a prophet as one who foretells future events; this is included in the term, but does not cover its meaning entirely. The word is a compound Greek word, “pro,” which means “before, in front of”; and “phemi,” which means “to speak”; hence, “prophet” means to speak before, in front of, or speak beforehand, in behalf of, instead of one; hence, it means one who speaks for God; hence, a teacher. Judas and Silas are called prophets. (Acts 15:32.) They were not just “foretellers,” but they were “forthtellers.” These teachers came from Jerusalem to Antioch to instruct further the disciples in Antioch.

28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus,—This Agabus is mentioned again in Acts 21:10; he was from Judea, and by a very simple object lesson he foretold the imprisonment of Paul at Jerusalem. At this time Agabus “signified by the spirit” that there should “be a great famine over all the world.” Luke, the historian, records that this took place during “the days of Claudius.” The date of this severe famine was A.D. 45. “Agabus” means “locust,” he predicted this great famine literally over all the inhabited earth which occurred during the reign of Claudius Caesar. His reign was from A.D. 41 to A.D. 54, and this famine in A.D. 45. Some authorities put it at other dates as A.D. 44, 46, and 48; some claim that this great famine continued from A.D. 44 to A.D. 48.

29 And the disciples, every man—The Gentile Christians volunteered to send help to the Christians in Judea; this was an act of Christian charity on their part to help their Jewish brethren. We are not told how much relief was sent, but “every man according to his ability” purposed to send relief. The prophecy of this famine was made in order to give the disciples time to collect money and food in advance of the need; the disciples believed Agabus and proceeded at once to prepare for the relief. The warning of Agabus stirred the Christians in Antioch so that they determined to do what they could for those in distress.

30 which also they did,—When the time came that the relief was needed, the church at Antioch selected Barnabas and Saul to take the relief to those who were suffering in Judea. After the famine began and after the persecution by Herod, and Herod’s death in A.D. 44, most of the Christians at Jerusalem were probably poor. Barnabas and Saul carried the relief “to the elders.” This is the first mention of “the elders” of the church. The word “elders” here comes from the Greek “presbuterous,” from which we get our word “presbyters.” In Acts 20:17 and Acts 20:28 “elders” and “bishops” are used interchangeably, as in Titus 1:5 Titus 1:7. It is probable that the visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem took place after the events recorded in Acts 12:1-23. This visit is omitted in Galatians 1:18 Galatians 2:1. Jerusalem is not mentioned here, but Judea is mentioned; this has caused some to think that the relief was not sent to the elders of the church at Jerusalem. Barnabas was especially suited to carry this relief to the suffering because he had come down from Jerusalem.

Questions on Acts

By E.M. Zerr

Acts Chapter 11

  • · State the report that came to brethren in Judea.

  • · Who are meant by they of the circumcision verse 2?

  • · Tell what they did with Peter when he arrived.

  • · What special accusation did they make?

  • · Did he deny it?

  • · How much of his experience did he relate?

  • · In what manner did he relate it?

  • · In what city had he been staying?

  • · What was he doing when called?

  • · Did he see a sheet let down?

  • · In what form was the object?

  • · To what fact do the "4 corners" here allude?

  • · What was seen in the vessel?

  • · Tell what the voice said?

  • · Whose voice was this?

  • · Why did Peter refuse to eat?

  • · At this what did the voice notify Peter?

  • · How often did this happen?

  • · Who were on the scene then?

  • · Who next spoke to Peter?

  • · State what he was assured of.

  • · How many men went with him?

  • · Of what nationality were they?

  • · What was Peter to tell Cornelius?

  • · For what purpose were they to be told?

  • · What happened as he began to speak?

  • · When had this happened before?

  • · Then what did Peter remember?

  • · Compare verse 16 with Matthew 3:11.

  • · What did Peter here call this Holy Ghost?

  • · How might he have withstood God?

  • · State the effect of this speech on the brethren.

  • · What scattered the brethren?

  • · Who was Stephen?

  • · To whom did the disciples preach the word?

  • · State the success of the preaching.

  • · What news came to the church at Jerusalem?

  • · Then whom did they send and where?

  • · State the exhortation he gave the brethren.

  • · What kind of man was he?

  • · State the influence he had on the people.

  • · To what place did Barnabas and Saul go?

  • · State the length of their protracted meeting held.

  • · What had its beginning at Antioch?

  • · Tell what special class of men now came to Jerusalem.

  • · Give the subject of their prophecy.

  • · In whose days was it fulfilled?

  • · This caused the disciples to do what?

  • · By whose hands did they send the money.

  • · To whom did they send it?

Acts Chapter Eleven

Ralph Starling

Back to Jerusalem Peter was confronted by the Jews,

Who went to the Gentiles according to the news.

Peter carefully, explicitly, in order he explained.

The vision, the voice, with orders so plain.

The animals shown him were unlawful to eat,

To kill and to eat he did not agree.

The voice said “what God has cleansed call not unclean.

Clearly my objections I had to redeem.

Peter said, “three men appeared looking for me,

Would I accompany them to Caesarea?

The Spirit told me that I should do so,

Six brethren accompanied me so I could go.”

Upon meeting the man he told me his vision.

The story of the angel was anything but boring.

Telling him to send to Joppa for one called Peter.

Who could explain how sins could be forever forgiven.

When the Holy Spirit fell upon them as upon us,

Who was I to withstand God and make fuss.

Hearing these things they held their peace,

And glorified God feeling great relief.

Then Barnabas to Antioch to exhort them all,

And on to Tarsus to seek and find Paul.

For a year they assembled together and taught,

And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

When the Prophet Agabus predicted a great famine,

They would give as their ability determined,

To give relief to Judea and to all,

And such funds were delivered by Barnabas and Saul.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 11". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/acts-11.html.
 
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