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THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM AND GENTILE CONVERTS—THE LIBERTY OF GRACE
1. Peter’s Report to the Church at Jerusalem; or, the Admission of the Gentiles vindicated (Acts 11:1-18).
2. The Origin of the Church at Antioch; or, the Preparation of a Centre for the Gentile Mission (Acts 11:19-30).
Acts 11:1. The apostles.—Peter and John (Acts 8:14), with James (Acts 12:2), and possibly the rest of the Twelve. The brethren.—The body of disciples.
Acts 11:2. They that were of the circumcision.—In the first instance all the Judæan disciples who were Jews, afterwards a party in the Church who contended for circumcision as a term of Christian communion (Philippians 3:3; Colossians 4:11; Titus 1:10).
Acts 11:3. Didst eat with them.—See on Acts 10:28.
Acts 11:4. Rehearsed the matter from the beginning and expounded it by order.—Better, having begun, expounded the matter unto them in order.
Acts 11:5-10.—Peter’s account differs from Luke’s in only minor details. (See “Homiletical Analysis.”)
Acts 11:11.—Mentions that Cornelius’s ambassadors were three in number (Acts 10:19), and Acts 11:12 that Peter’s companions were six (Acts 10:33).
Acts 11:13.—Represents Cornelius as calling his mysterious visitor an angel, whereas Luke’s account makes the centurion speak of him as a man (Acts 10:30). The word men, an insertion from Acts 10:5, should be omitted.
Acts 11:14.—Adds an item of the angel’s message not before mentioned.
Acts 11:15.—The clausule as I began to speak contradicts not that in Luke’s account “while Peter yet spake” (Acts 10:44), but draws attention to the shortness of the interval which passed before the Holy Ghost descended. In the beginning = on the day of Pentecost, about ten years before: see on Acts 11:26.
Acts 11:17. Whether the antecedent to who believed πιστεύσασιν is us (A. and R.V., Bengel, Meyer), or them and us (Alford, Hackett), or them only (Plumptre), cannot be decided; but in each case the sense is the same.
Acts 11:18. Glorified God.—Correct if the reading is ἐδόξασαν (Westcott and Hort, R.V.); if ἐδόξαζον be preferred (A.V., Alford, Hackett), then the rendering should be kept glorifying God, a continuous act.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 11:1-18
Peter’s Report to the Church at Jerusalem; or, the Admission of the Gentiles vindicated
I. The serious indictment preferred against Peter.—
1. The occasion.
(1) The tidings that had reached the apostles and brethren in Judæa that the Gentiles also had received the word of God (Acts 11:1). So remarkable a phenomenon was not likely to remain unknown to the Church leaders in Jerusalem. Nor is it readily conceivable that tidings so glorious should have given rise to dissatisfaction in any right-thinking bosom. Yet such actually appears to have been the case.
(2) The return of Peter to the metropolis, which was dictated not by any peremptory summons issued to him by his colleagues to defend before them the action he had taken—an assertion destitute of even the slightest evidence—but by a natural desire to explain what had taken place and his relation thereto (Acts 11:2).
2. The movers. “They that were of the circumcision”—i.e., the Jewish Christians as distinguished from the Gentile (see Acts 10:45)—the party in general and not an inner circle of them more zealous for the rite than their fellows (Lechler). Such a party afterwards arose (Colossians 4:11; Titus 1:10); here its first indications are observed. At this stage the whole Jerusalem Church, being composed of Jews, felt disposed to emphasise the importance and obligation of circumcision.
3. The gravamen. Not that the apostle had preached the gospel to the Gentiles—which, in face of Christ’s command, could hardly have been pronounced a fault (Matthew 27:19)—or that he had baptised them, and so received them into the Christian Church, but that he had done so without subjecting them to circumcision. As yet the apostles and brethren do not so express their thoughts, but merely charge Peter with having violated (traditional) Mosaism by entering into friendly intercourse, and holding house and table fellowship with the Gentiles (Acts 11:3).
II. The triumphant vindication offered by Peter.—
1. The frankness with which it was given. Not standing upon his dignity as chief among the apostles (primus inter pares), or resenting their interference with what was so unmistakably a work of God, but recognising their right to have their difficulties stated and, if possible, removed, doubtless also appreciating their perplexity concerning what conflicted so strangely with their traditional beliefs, Peter began and expounded the matter in order to them. A Christian of the right spirit—whether a public official or a private member in the Church—will not fail to exhibit the like anxiety, by means of a frank explanation, to remove any offence or stumbling block which his personal behaviour may have placed in the way of his weaker brethren (Romans 14:15).
2. The fulness with which it was given. The main particulars of the story were related.
(1) The vision he had himself beheld in Joppa (5–10), his own account differing from Luke’s only in minor details, such as the omission of all mention of the time when the vision occurred and of the hunger which preceded it, saying nothing about seeing heaven opened, and adding that the sheet appeared to come even unto him, and that it contained “wild beasts” (Acts 11:6) as well as other animals.
(2) The arrival of Cornelius’s messengers, though he did not at all mention the centurion’s name, or at that stage in his tale allude to the vision which had prompted the centurion to despatch his embassy (Acts 11:11).
(3) The inward whispering of the Spirit which had directed him to accompany the strange men from Cæsarea (Acts 11:12), which prompting he obeyed, taking with him six brethren who were then present, having apparently come up to Jerusalem along with him, and to whom he may be pictured as having pointed—“these six brethren also accompanied me.”
(4) The account Cornelius gave of the angel’s appearance in his house with instructions to send men to Joppa for him, Simon, whose surname was Peter, who, the angel said, should tell him words whereby he and all his house should be saved (Acts 11:13-14).
(5) The descent of the Holy Ghost upon Cornelius and his household almost immediately after he had commenced to speak (the interval between his beginning to preach and the Spirit’s coming down seemed so short), and in exactly the same fashion as it had done upon Jewish believers at Pentecost—i.e., with the same manifestations in the form of tongues (Acts 11:15).
(6) The impression the phenomenon had made upon himself. It caused him to remember the word of the Lord (see Acts 1:5) about the difference between John’s baptism with water and the Lord’s baptism with the Holy Ghost (Acts 11:16).
(7) The process of reasoning he then followed—which was that, if God had bestowed on them, the Gentiles, the same gift of the Holy Ghost as He had conferred on Jewish believers, it was manifest God had received them, the Gentiles, into His Church; and that being the case who was he, Peter, that he should withstand God and keep them out by withholding from them the rite of baptism, which was the sign of their being let in (Acts 11:17)?
3. The success with which it was given.
(1) The apostles and brethren held their peace. They could say nothing against it. It was as clearly the doing of God as the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple had been (Acts 4:14).
(2) They glorified God, saying, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” What a pity they did not ever after remain in this mind!
1. That misunderstandings will arise among Christian brethren.
2. That all Christian believers are not equally enlightened, or equally free from prejudice, narrow-mindedness and bigotry.
3. That the best way to remove misunderstandings and overcome prejudices among Christians is to come together in friendly conference.
4. That the same story is seldom twice told in the same way and without variation in details.
5. That whom God admits into the Church none have a right to exclude.
Note A.—The historical credibility of Cornelius’s conversion has been objected to principally on the following grounds:
1. That it had no practical effect on the settlement of the Gentile question.
2. That Paul did not cite it as an argument in the Jerusalem council.
3. That in spite of the silence and glorification of God which followed Peter’s explanation (Acts 11:18) the Jerusalem Christians were not long in reasserting their old demand for the circumcision of non-Jewish believers (Acts 15:5).
4. That the council felt itself wholly undecided as to the position it ought to maintain on this question of the terms of communion for Gentile members.
5. That Peter’s subsequent behaviour at Antioch showed he had never really known of such a conversion as is here reported. (See Baur’s Life and Work of Paul, 1:81–92; Zeller, Die Apostelgeschichte, pp. 183–190; Holtzmann, Hand Commentar zum Neuen Testament, Erster Band, p. 366). But—
1. Cornelius’s conversion was distinctly referred to by Peter, if not by Paul, in his speech at the apostolic council (Acts 15:7), so that it cannot be truthfully affirmed. Cornelius’s conversion was wholly without effect in determining the Gentile question.
2. If Paul did not cite that conversion when addressing the council, he may have deemed it unnecessary to do so after Peter’s reference to the same event. Along with this it should be noted that as Paul’s address has not been reported, one cannot be certain that he made no allusion to Peter’s action in receiving Cornelius.
3. If circumcision for the Gentiles was again mooted in Jerusalem, that was not surprising considering it was the Pharisees who mooted it (Acts 15:5).
4. The allegation that the council did not know how to act upon the question is incorrect, since they answered the question to Paul’s satisfaction.
5. The wavering of Peter at Antioch (Galatians 2:12) only showed that he, like many another good man before and since, was inconsistent—not that he had not baptised Cornelius. Lesser difficulties—such as the number of visions connected with the story, the uselessness of sending Cornelius to Peter to hear about the gospel, when he could have learnt all he wanted to know from Philip, and the obvious inaccuracy of the statement (Acts 10:28), since how otherwise could a Gentile be transformed into a Jewish proselyte—scarcely require an answer. The notion that the Cornelius history is a free composition intended to legitimate Paul’s Gentile mission by showing that Peter had opened the door to the heathen before him contains this element of truth, that Peter’s action in baptising Cornelius without circumcision because the Holy Ghost had, on the same terms, granted the gift of tongues, proved that Paul’s procedure in the Gentile Churches was not unauthorised and self-invented, but had the highest possible sanction, that of the Holy Ghost and of Peter. The remainder of the Tübingen theory is an exploded delusion.
Note B.—The Theology of Peter, as set forth in the various addresses given by him in the Acts:—
1. In the Upper Room (Acts 1:15-22);
2. On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36);
3. In Solomon’s Porch (Acts 3:12-26);
4. Before the Sanhedrim (Acts 4:8-12);
5. In the Christian Meeting (Acts 5:3-4; Acts 5:8-9);
6. Before the Sanhedrim (Acts 5:29-32);
7. In Samaria (Acts 8:20-23);
8. At Lydda (Acts 9:34);
9. At Joppa (Acts 9:40);
10. At Cæsarea (Acts 10:24-43).
I. Peter’s doctrine of God.—
1. The personality of God is everywhere assumed (Acts 1:24, Acts 2:29, Acts 3:13, etc.). His wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
2. The sovereignty of God, both in providence (Acts 2:23) and in grace (Acts 3:26), is fearlessly asserted.
3. The unity of the Godhead is everywhere clearly taught, as, for instance, when the term God is used absolutely (Acts 3:18, Acts 4:10, Acts 5:4, Acts 10:34, etc.).
4. The trinity of persons in the Godhead, if not distinctly expressed, is fairly implied in such passages as teach the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Ghost.
II. Peter’s doctrine of Christ.—
1. His person.
(1) That Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical personage, a true man, a genuine partaker of flesh and blood humanity, and not a mere semblance thereof, as the later Docetæ taught, Peter presupposes throughout—taking for granted all the details of His earthly history as these have been recorded in the gospel records, if not mentioning His Incarnation implying it when affirming His divinity (see below), alluding to His baptism (Acts 10:38), His philanthropic ministry (Acts 10:38), His sinless character calling Him God’s holy and righteous One (Acts 3:14), affirming His crucifixion (Acts 2:23, Acts 10:39), His resurrection (Acts 2:23; Acts 2:31; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:40-41), and His ascension (Acts 2:33; Acts 3:21; Acts 5:31), and predicting His future coming as the Judge of quick and dead (Acts 10:42).
(2) That Peter regarded Jesus of Nazareth as a pre-existent Divine being, who had been sent and who had come into the world, may be reasonably inferred from such statements as these—“He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36), “David saith concerning Him, I beheld the Lord always before my face” (Acts 2:25), and “The Lord saith unto my Lord” (Acts 2:34), since, even if they refer to the exalted Christ, it cannot be supposed that Christ could have been made a Divine being by the process of resurrection and exaltation if He had not been so before.
(3) That Peter considered this exalted Divine human personality as the Messiah of Israel (Acts 2:36) and the Saviour of the world (Acts 3:25), is expressly stated.
2. His work. That Peter regarded Christ as Jehovah’s servant (Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26, Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30) who had been commissioned to perform upon the earth a work through which men might receive remission of sins (Acts 3:19; Acts 10:43), is hardly less apparent than that Peter connected that work with His death upon the cross (Acts 2:32; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:26; Acts 4:10-12; Acts 9:43).
III. Peter’s doctrine of the Spirit.—
1. The personality (Acts 5:3), and
2. The divinity (Acts 5:4), are unambiguously asserted.
IV. Peter’s doctrine of Providence.—Includes the following points:
1. The sovereignty of God in foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass (Acts 4:28).
2. The freedom of man in accomplishing his own will while all the time he executes the purpose of God (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27).
3. The present and immediate knowledge of all that man thinks and does upon the earth (Acts 1:24; Acts 4:29).
4. The possibility of interposing, either naturally or supernaturally, in the course of mundane history (Acts 4:29).
V. Peter’s doctrine of sin.—On this momentous subject the Apostle taught:
1. That sin in its essence was disobedience to God (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29).
2. That thoughts of the heart as well as overt actions or words were included in the category of sin (Acts 5:3; Acts 8:27).
3. That sin until it was forgiven held men’s souls in spiritual bondage (Acts 8:23).
4. That the sins of men might work out the purposes of God (Acts 2:23).
5. That sins of the most heinous character were pardonable through Christ’s blood (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 10:43).
VI. Peter’s doctrine of salvation.—Contained these tenets:
1. That all men needed salvation, Jew and Gentile alike (Acts 2:39).
2. That this salvation was attainable only through Jesus Christ (Acts 3:12).
3. That the only condition of salvation was faith in Christ’s name (Acts 10:43).
VII. Peter’s doctrine of the last things.—This included—
1. A second advent of Jesus Christ to be preceded by times of refreshing, and ushering in the times of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21).
2. A future resurrection for all men (Acts 4:2).
3. A solemn assize for quick and dead (Acts 10:42).
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 11:2. Ecclesiastical Controversy.
I. Frequently arises concerning points of small moment.—About non essentials rather than about essentials, about external forms and ceremonies rather than about internal thoughts and dispositions, about the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin, rather than about the weightier matters of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). Such was the case here. The contention which arose between the circumcision party and Peter was not about spiritual religion but only about bodily ritual, was not whether Cornelius had been converted, but whether he had been circumcised, was not whether Peter had received him into the Church without the exercise of faith, but whether Peter had dispensed with the corporeal mark of Mosaism. A small affair to make a noise about.
II. Is seldom settled without strife and angry feeling.—To the credit of the brethren and of Peter in this instance it was. Peter, by his frank and unvarnished recital of what he had done, and how he had been led to do it, cleared away the misconceptions and disarmed the suspicions of his brethren; they, on the other hand, by their amiable tempers and ready disposition to have their difficulties removed, contributed to a speedy settlement of what might have developed into a prolonged and bitter agitation, A pattern which might be profitably studied by disputants of all sorts.
III. Would be easily disposed of were both parties always anxious to find out and follow the mind of God.—It was thus the threatened rupture in Jerusalem was averted. Peter did not oppose his own authority to that of his brethren, or lecture them on their narrow-mindedness in seeking to impose their antiquated ceremonial on the Gentiles, or plume himself on his superior enlightenment in dispensing with the Mosaic rite, but simply assisted his brethren to see how God in His providence and by His grace had already decided the controversy. His brethren when they perceived this could no longer maintain their favourite views, but humbly and submissively accepted the verdict of heaven, feeling that when God interposed with a decision there was, and ought to be, an end of all controversy.
Acts 11:4. Expository Preaching. Should be like Peter’s discourse to his brethren.
I. Regular and systematic.—Going over the contents of revelation in order, so as to present Divine truth in its inherent connection, logical succession, and due proportion.
II. Clear and emphatic.—Showing that the speaker has an adequate grasp of his theme, is master of his own thoughts, and can express both with perspicuity and power.
III. Comprehensive and detailed.—Neither fragmentary nor trivial. Not leaving great lacunæ, or condescending to over-minute particulars; but presenting a broad view of the truth in all its parts, and with such parts as are more important set forth in prominence.
IV. Experimental and emotional.—Not discoursing on the contents of revelation as if these were mere objective truths which had no bearing on either speaker or hearer; but talking of them as if conscious of their vast importance for the inner life of both.
V. Personal and practical.—Aimed at the conviction as well as enlightenment of them that hear, at converting their hearts as well as gaining over their judgments.
Acts 11:9. Divine Warnings; or, “What God hath cleansed make not thou common.”
I. To men in general.—In particular to philosophers, scientists, statesmen, rulers—not to introduce distinctions of class, rank, wealth, power, etc., between man and man, seeing that God hath made all men of one blood, and therefore equal. The brotherhood of man stands to day in need of emphasis and exposition.
II. To the Church of Jesus Christ.—In particular to its office-bearers and spiritual leaders—not to make the household of faith narrower than Christ has made it, not to erect around it fences which Christ has not commanded, not to excommunicate those whom Christ has admitted, not to impose burdens on the consciences of men which Christ has not directed.
III. To the individual believer.—In particular to him who is conscious of being a child of God—not to defile with sin and guilt the heart and conscience which Christ by His blood and word has cleansed, not to let down to low and common levels the life which should be lived in the high and pure atmosphere of fellowship with God and Christ.
Acts 11:14. Words of Salvation. Words setting forth—
I. The nature and necessity of salvation.—
1. Its nature. Deliverance from the curse, power, and pollution of sin.
2. Its necessity. All are under condemnation, on account of sin, enthralled by the power of sin, and tainted by the moral pollution of sin.
II. The source and the means of salvation.—
1. The source. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.
2. The means. Faith in His blood, which signifies reliance on His propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the world.
III. The recipients and subjects of salvation.—
1. Believers—i.e., such as by faith have put their trust in Him.
2. Their houses—i.e., on their complying with the same condition.
Acts 11:16. Remembering the Word of the Lord.
I. A much-neglected duty.—Not by the world alone, but also by the Lord’s people, who not only know and profess to believe that word, but who have themselves been saved by it, and have been commanded to keep it in remembrance (John 15:20; Colossians 3:16).
II. An exceedingly delightful exercise.—Not for the unbelieving and unspiritual, but for the religious and devout, to whom that word is more precious than thousands of silver and gold (Psalms 119:72), and who can truly say, “Thy testimonies also are my delight” (Psalms 119:24).
III. A highly profitable employment.—Were Christ’s words more frequently remembered, they would—
1. Save Christ’s people from falling into error and sin (Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; John 2:22).
2. Comfort them in seasons of despondency and trouble (Luke 24:8).
3. Stimulate them to works of faith and labours of love (Acts 20:35).
4. Secure for them answers to prayer (John 15:7).
5. Evidence the sincerity of their discipleship (John 8:31).
Acts 11:17. Who was I? or, the Impossibility of withstanding God.—Peter felt that he could not oppose the introduction of Cornelius on four grounds.
I. He was only a feeble creature, whereas God was the Almighty Creator, and therefore had a right to do according to the counsel of His own will (Daniel 4:35; Job 9:12; Isaiah 45:9; Romans 9:20; Ephesians 1:11).
II. He was only a commissioned servant, whereas God was the commissioning Sovereign, and was entitled to expect that His purpose should prevail over the wish of His ambassador.
III. He was only a recipient of grace, whereas God was the dispenser of grace, and possessed exclusively the right of saying on whom that grace should be bestowed.
IV. He was only a member of the Church, whereas God was the Church’s Head, and reserved to Himself alone the right of defining the terms on which admission to that Church might be secured.
Acts 11:18. Repentance unto Life.
I. Its nature.—A turning of the soul from self and sin towards Christ and holiness—implying a genuine heart renunciation of the soul’s old life of selfishness, worldliness, irreligion, immorality, and idolatry, and an equally sincere embracing of the new life of faith, godliness, obedience, and love, which is enjoined by Jesus Christ in the gospel.
II. Its origin.—Repentance unto life is a grace—i.e., a heavenly gift, such a quality and disposition of soul as can be inwrought by no natural process, but must be created by the action of the Holy Spirit.
III. Its necessity.—Required by all men equally, by Jews as well as Gentiles, and required in the same way as a free gift of grace. None exempt from its obligations.
IV. Its end.—Salvation and eternal life. Hence called a saving grace. Wherever it truly exists the soul is passed from condemnation and become an heir of glory.
Acts 11:19. Upon the persecution.—Or, tribulation, ἀπὸ πῆς θλίψεως: better, from (as an effect of) the persecution, that arose about Stephen, ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ—i.e., on account of, rather than in the time of Stephen, which would have required ἐπὶ Στεφάνου. Phenice.—“The region of palms,” a narrow strip of territory about two hundred miles in length, with a varying breadth, never more than thirty-five miles, looking out upon the Mediterranean, having Syria upon the north, the country of the Philistines upon the south, and the range of Lebanon in its rear on the East. Its chief cities were Tyre and Sidon. Cyprus.—See on Acts 4:3-6. Antioch.—The capital of the Seleucidæ, situated on the Orontes, sixteen miles from the sea and forty-one from the river’s mouth. “The queen of the East, the third metropolis of the world, the residence of the imperial legate of Syria, this vast city of perhaps 500,000 souls … was no mere Oriental town with low, flat roofs, and dingy, narrow streets, but a Greek capital, enriched and enlarged by Roman munificence, … situated at the point of junction between the chains of Lebanon and Taurus, and containing an immense colony of Jews” (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, p. 288). “In this splendid world-city, where all nationalities of the East and West flowed together, and every stranger instantly was received into citizenship, washed itself out more than anywhere else the strong exclusiveness of the Jewish character. If the synagogues as a whole adhered closely to the law, yet were there many Jews who held friendly intercourse with the heathen, and were even susceptible towards the preaching of Christianity” (Langhans’s Biblische Geschichte und Literatur, 2:726).
Acts 11:20. Cyrene.—See on Acts 2:10. Grecians.—I.e., Greek-speaking Jews; Greeks (R.V.).
1. The testimony of the best documents countenances the text, Grecians.
2. Internal harmony appears to favour Greeks.
3. Some of the oldest versions and a few MSS. support Greeks.
4. The majority of critics decide for Greeks (Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, De Wette, Holtzmann, Zöckler, Meyer, Alford).
5. On the other hand, scholars of ability incline to Grecians (Westcott and Hort, Wordsworth, Alexander, Spence).
6. The Sinaitic MSS. affords no certain light, since it reads εὐαγγελιστάς, which is clearly wrong, although it points in the direction of Ἑλληνιστάς, Grecians,
Acts 11:22. Barnabas.—See on Acts 4:36.
Acts 11:25. On Tarsus.—See Acts 9:30. To seek Saul They had met last in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27), where Saul had preached till compelled to flee for his life (Acts 9:30). How long an interval had passed cannot be exactly computed; but as Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem occurred a year after he had come to Antioch (Acts 11:26)—i.e., in A.D. 44—several (perhaps five; Ramsay thinks ten) years may have elapsed since they had beheld each other in the flesh. During these years the incidents connected with the evangelistic wanderings of Peter (Acts 9:31-43), the conversion of Cornelius (10, Acts 11:1-18), and the founding of the Church at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26), as well as in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:23), may have taken place.
Acts 11:26. Christians.—Χριστιανοί, the name given to the disciples first in Antioch about ten years after the Ascension. Hardly by the disciples themselves, for whom such titles as “the brethren,” “the saints,” were enough, or by the Jews, who would scarcely have admitted what the name seemed to imply that Jesus of Nazareth had been the Messiah; but most likely by the pagans, though whether by the Romans (compare Tacitus, Ann., xv. 44), or by the Greeks (Lepsius, Holtzmann), or by the Syrians cannot be ascertained. It may have been given by the populace or by the civic authorities (Renan), and intended as a nickname (Zöckler), since Antioch was fond of nicknames, or simply as a title of distinction, “derived from the watchword of their faith” (Weizsäcker). “In any case the name belongs to popular slang” (Ramsay).
Acts 11:27. Prophets.—Men endowed with the gift of prophecy (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10), who occupied a sort of teaching office in the Church, and were often associated with the regular teaching order (Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11).
Acts 11:28. Claudius Cæsar.—Succeeded Caligula from A.D. 41–54. Schürer (Jud. Volk., i. 474) regards Luke’s statement about the famine as unhistorical; but Claudius’s reign throughout was remarkable for the frequent famines which occurred in it (Suetonius, Claudius, 18; Tacitus, Ann., xii. 43). One of these Josephus (Ant., XX. Acts 11:2) mentions as specially affecting Judæa and Syria under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus, A.D. 45. This date important for arranging the chronology of the Acts. Ramsay dates the famine in A.D. 46.
Acts 11:29. Relief.—Lit. for ministry or service, in anticipation of the impending famine.
Acts 11:30. Elders.—The first mention of these office bearers in the New Testament. That these office bearers afterwards existed in Jerusalem is subsequently stated (Acts 14:23, Acts 15:2; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:6, Acts 21:18). That they existed already may be inferred (Acts 15:2; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:6). That Paul’s Epistles do not mention elders in Jerusalem (Weizsäcker) is no argument against the truthfulness of the narrative. The complete identity of elders and bishops in the apostolic time follows from such texts as Acts 20:17; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:1.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 11:19-26
The Origin of the Church at Antioch; or, the Preparation of a Centre for the approaching Gentile Mission
I. The first gospel preachers at Antioch.
1. Who they were. Jewish Christians who had been scattered abroad in consequence of the persecution (or tribulation) that arose on the death of Stephen, A.D. 38. Some of these were foreign Jews, men of Cyprus (see on Acts 4:36) and Cyrene (see on Acts 2:10). That Barnabas was among them is not favoured by the narrative (Acts 11:22), though his connection with Cyprus may have led him to direct the fugitives to carry the glad tidings to his native island. That Mnason of Cyprus (Acts 21:16), and Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1), formed two of these pioneer missionaries, though not certain, is by no means improbable.
2. How they came to Antioch.
(1) The road they pursued was most likely that which ran up the coast of Phœnicia (Acts 15:3; Acts 21:2), passing, doubtless, through its historic towns, Tyre and Sidon, where some years afterwards Christian communities were found by Paul (Acts 21:3; Acts 27:3).
(2) As to why they betook themselves to Antioch, the importance of that city as the largest in Asia Minor and the third in rank in the Roman Empire—Rome and Alexandria only being larger—would naturally have something to do with attracting them thither. Besides, as the capital of Syria and the residence of the Roman Governors of that province, it had gathered into it people of many nationalities, including a large colony of Jews. Nor is it unlikely that they were influenced by the number of Jewish proselytes who were attached to its synagogues, as well as by the circumstance that already “Antioch had furnished to the Church of Jerusalem one of its most influential members—viz., Nicolas, one of the deacons” (Renan).
3. When they arrived in the city. Whether before or after the conversion of Cornelius cannot be deduced from the narrative. The decision depends chiefly on whether Acts 15:7 teaches, as it appears to do, that Peter was the first to preach to the Gentiles. If so, then the missionaries must have heard before reaching Antioch of Peter’s reception of Cornelius into the Church, which would explain their subsequent procedure in that city.
4. The persons to whom they preached.
(1) On the way to Antioch, to none save only to Jews (Acts 11:19), whether Hebrew or Greek speaking. This was natural if either Cornelius’s conversion had not yet taken place or they had not yet heard of it.
(2) On reaching Antioch, to the Greeks or Grecians—it is uncertain which. The reading “Greeks” suggests that either an unauthorised Gentile mission had been undertaken by the missionaries before Cornelius’s conversion, if that had not yet taken place, or they had not yet heard of it, or, what is more probable, that having heard of, it on reaching Antioch they forthwith began to extend their mission, and that the more gladly since “in a city where pure Jews—Jews, who were proselytes, etc., people fearing God—or half-Jewish Pagans, and pure pagans, lived together, confined preachings, restricted to a group of houses, became impossible” (Renan). The reading “Grecians” leaves the time of the missionaries’ arrival in Antioch undecided, and harmonises with the idea that Peter was the opener of the Church’s door to the Gentiles—which however he still was on the preceding hypothesis (see Critical Remarks).
5. The burden of their preaching. The Lord Jesus—i.e., the facts and doctrines concerning His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future coming. As much as this seems implied in the use of the term “Lord” along with “Jesus” in defining the subject of their ministry. There can be no ground for thinking that they preached another gospel than that which was preached in Jerusalem and at Cæsarea by Peter, and afterwards at Antioch and throughout Asia Minor by Paul.
6. The success of their labours. Not through superior ability, eloquence, industry, or persuasiveness of their own, but solely through the power of the truth, accompanied by the power of Christ operating through His Spirit, “a great number believed and” or, having believed, “turned to the Lord”—i.e., avowed themselves to be His disciples. It is not necessary, in order to account for this remarkable awakening, to call in the aid of extraneous circumstances such as the excitement caused in the city by an earthquake which occurred on March 23rd, of the year 37, or the disposition to believe in supernatural matters which had been produced in the people’s minds by the pretensions of an impostor, Debborius, who claimed that by means of ridiculous talismans he could prevent the recurrence of such catastrophes (Renan, The Apostles, xii.). A faithfully preached gospel in the hands of the Holy Ghost is sufficient to explain the entire phenomenon which appeared at Antioch, the gospel’s acknowledged adaptation to the soul’s needs ensuring that it will sooner or later win its way to the hearts of some who hear.
II. The mission of Barnabas to Antioch. 1. The occasion of his mission. This was the report which had reached Jerusalem concerning the progress of the gospel in that heathen city. If this occurred before Cornelius’s conversion, it would doubtless startle the Church leaders, though the statements are quite unwarranted that “notwithstanding the kindly wishes of some of the principal members of the Church in Jerusalem, Peter in particular, the apostolic college continued to be influenced by the meanest ideas,” and that “on every occasion when they heard that the good news had been announced to the heathen some of the elders manifested signs of disappointment” (Renan, The Apostles, xiii.). If the tidings came to the Church leaders after Cornelius’s conversion, as may reasonably be inferred from the narrative, then they would not be taken unawares or at a loss how to act in the crisis that had arisen.
2. The object of the mission. It is not supposable that Barnabas was sent to frown upon, or even suspiciously regard, the new movement, but presumably
(1) to reconnoitre the situation, and observe the facts, as became prudent Church leaders whose duty it was to do nothing rashly;
(2) on ascertaining the genuineness of the awakening, to confirm with suitable counsels and exhortations the young converts, for which by his sincere piety and sympathetic nature he was eminently fitted; and
(3) if need were, to assist the evangelists in gathering in the fruits and widening the circuit of their labours, for which task again he was signally qualified, though it does seem going too far to say he was “the most enlightened member of the Church at Jerusalem,” and “the chief of the liberal party which desired progress and wished the Church to be open to all” (Renan).
3. The reason of his mission. That is, the reason of his selection by the apostles as their delegate; which was most likely:
(1) because of his being an eminent disciple of undoubted Christian character, and almost apostolic rank (Acts 4:36);
(2) because, as above stated, he was personally fitted for the work which required to be done at Antioch; and
(3) because he was a native of Cyprus, and in all probability known to some of the evangelists who were labouring in Antioch. 4. The execution of his mission. On reaching Antioch Barnabas did the business for which he had been commissioned.
(1) He investigated the work of grace that had been reported as going on in that city, found it to be genuine, and, like the good man that he was (Acts 11:24), was glad, though it was a work which he himself had no hand in bringing about.
(2) He exhorted the converts, that with full purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord—not unto their leaders merely, or to one another, but to the Lord, which would certainly prove the speediest and most efficacious way to secure their growth in grace, their perseverance in religion, and their final salvation.
(3) Though not stated, it may be assumed that he aided the brethren in preaching the gospel, it being barely conceivable that Barnabas, through jealousy, or indolence, or indifference, would stand aloof.
5. The success of his mission. “Much people was added unto the Lord,” by repentance, faith, and baptism. Though, perhaps, the numerous conversions that were effected cannot all be ascribed to him, it need not be doubted that he exercised a powerful influence for good upon those who listened to his preaching; and, without endorsing the verdict that “Christianity has always done injustice to that great man in not placing him in the front rank of her founders” (Renan), it may cheerfully be granted that his name will for ever remain associated with that Church, which, if he did not originate, he at least did much to consolidate and extend.
III. The appearance of Saul at Antioch.—
1. How it was brought about. By Barnabas, who conceived in his noble heart the magnificent idea (Renan) of fetching Saul from Tarsus, and for this purpose went forth to seek him. On escaping from Jerusalem Saul had betaken himself to his native city (see Acts 9:30), where he had been living, and without doubt labouring in the gospel ever since. It is to this period that the founding of the Syrian and Cilician Churches (Acts 15:41; Galatians 1:21) can with most plausibility be ascribed. For the notions that Saul at this time in Tarsus was fretting out his soul in enforced indolence, and that “his false position, his haughtiness, and his exaggerated pretensions were neutralising many of his other and better qualities” (Renan), there is absolutely no foundation.
2. How long it continued. “A whole year”—i.e., during A.D 44—the year immediately preceding that of Paul’s second journey to Jerusalem, at the time of the famine (Acts 11:30). “This was,” says Renan, “a most brilliant and without doubt the most happy year in the life of Paul,” adding that “the prolific originality of these two great men raised the Church of Antioch to a degree of grandeur to which no Christian Church had previously attained.” In any case, the spiritual results of that year’s evangelism were in some measure traceable in the vigorous missionary Church that was gathered in that city (Acts 13:1-3).
3. How it was used. As above stated, in helping on the Christian cause in Antioch, in evangelising along with Barnabas and the missionaries already there. No doubt the felt need of additional labourers constituted the motive which impelled Barnabas to think of the Great Tarser; and though once more the imaginative Frenchman’s statement is by no means to be hastily subscribed, that “most of the glory which has accrued to the latter is really due to the modest man who excelled him in everything, brought his merits to light, prevented more than once his faults from resulting deplorably to himself and his cause, and the illiberal views of others from exciting him to revolt, and also prevented mean personalities from interfering with the work of God” (Renan, The Apostles, xiii.), it may frankly be conceded that no more important service was ever done by Barnabas to the Church of Christ than when recalling the brilliant ability and fervid zeal of Saul he fetched that distinguished man to Antioch. It was one of those small and seemingly unimportant actions which bring large and far-reaching results in their train. Saul’s appearance in Antioch made Antioch a missionary centre, and himself the greatest missionary the world has ever seen.
IV. The coming of Jerusalem prophets to Antioch.—
1. The alarming prediction.
(1) What it was. That there should be great dearth throughout all the world—literally, over all the inhabited land, meaning Judæa and the surrounding countries, or perhaps the Roman empire. The communication would have been sufficiently distressing at any time and to any people, the horrors of famine, especially when long continued, being well nigh indescribable (compareDeuteronomy 28:53-57; Deuteronomy 28:53-57; Leviticus 26:19-29; 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 6:24-29). To the Church at Jerusalem, consisting as it did mostly of poor people, and impoverished as it had been by its communistic experiments, the contemplation of such a visitation was simply alarming; and the suggestion is not without likelihood that the apprehension of this appalling calamity was the cause of the prophetic embassy to the Church at Antioch—“the elders of Jerusalem” had “decided to seek succour from the members of the richer Churches of Syria” (Renan).
(2) By whom it was spoken. Agabus, of whom nothing is known beyond the fact here recorded that he was one of the prophetic or inspired teachers who were attached to the Church at Jerusalem, and the subsequent statement that in after years he went down to Cæsarea and foretold Paul’s impending imprisonment (Acts 21:10). Such prophets were also found in the Churches of Antioch (Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32) and Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 1 Corinthians 14:29). That Agabus was a comparatively obscure individual—like Ananias of Damascus (Acts 9:10)—shows that great services to the Church of God may be rendered by exceedingly humble instruments.
(3) On whose authority published. Not that of Agabus himself, but of the Holy Spirit who spoke through him. Not every word uttered by an inspired teacher was inspired (1 Corinthians 7:6; 1 Corinthians 7:12), though this was. Those who speak in God’s name should be careful not to mistake their own thoughts for God’s, and should never claim for their own pronouncements an authority which belongs only to God.
(4) When it came to pass. “In the days of Claudius.” No universal dearth is, though several local dearths are, reported as having prevailed during the reign of that Cæsar. Indeed, “the reign of Claudius was afflicted almost every year by partial famines” (Renan). According to Josephus (Ant., XX. ii. 5, Acts 11:2) many of the inhabitants of Judæa were about his time swept away by a famine, which Helena, Queen of Adiabene, a Jewish proselyte then at Jerusalem, relieved by importing corn from Egypt and Cyprus, distributing it among the starving population. If this was the famine referred to by Luke, it occurred in the year 44 A.D. (see “Critical Remarks”).
2. The generous resolution “To send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judæa.” Generous this proposal was—
(1) In the kindness it displayed toward the Mother Church, which was certain, for reasons already explained, to suffer more than Churches in other cities when the famine came (Romans 15:1).
(2) In the unselfishness it manifested, since, although they themselves would assuredly suffer from the dearth, they thought first of the wants of the poor disciples at Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 10:24).
(3) In the forethought it evinced—not waiting till the need arose, but taking time by the forelock, and providing beforehand for the coming pressure (2 Corinthians 8:11).
(4) In the unanimity with which it was adopted, every member of the Church agreeing with and entering heartily into the proposal (1 Peter 3:8).
(5) In the liberality which it contemplated, each man determining to contribute according to his ability (see 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:12).
3. The benevolent donation. When their generous gift had been collected they despatched it to Jerusalem.
(1) Without delay. Bis dat qui cito dat. Many acts of kindness lose their fragrance by being too late.
(2) By the hands of trusted messengers—Barnabas and Saul. This showed the importance the Church at Antioch attached to their gift and the confidence they reposed in these honoured brethren.
(3) To be placed in the hands of the elders of the Church at Jerusalem for judicious distribution among the poor saints.
1. The Church’s duty to travel abroad with the gospel, to confirm young converts, to evangelise the community in which she is placed, to listen to whatever teaching God may send her from time to time, and to relieve the wants of her poorer members.
2. The Church’s strength—the gospel she preaches, “the Lord Jesus,” the presence with her of the Lord’s hand, the devotion of talented and faithful ministers, the constancy and mutual love of her members.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 11:20-21. The Awakening at Antioch.
I. The clamant need which existed at Antioch for such an awakening. Antioch was a heathen city.
1. Large. Crowded with human beings, every one possessed of a nature which had been made for God and Immortality.
2. Wealthy. And, therefore, filled with temptations for its inhabitants to serve mammon rather than God. “Temples, aqueducts, baths, basilicas, nothing was wanting at Antioch in what constituted a grand Syrian city of the period.… Antioch not only possessed immense edifices of public utility; it had that also which few of the Syrian cities possessed—the noblest specimens of Grecian art, wonderfully beautiful statues, classical works of a delicacy of detail which the age was no longer capable of imitating” (Renan). Wealth seldom favourable to religion (Matthew 19:24).
3. Degraded. In spite of its picturesque site Antioch was little better than another Sodom. “The depravity of certain Levantine cities, dominated by the spirit of intrigue, delivered up entirely to low cunning, can scarcely give us a conception of the degree of corruption reached by the human race at Antioch.” “It was an inconceivable medley of mountebanks, quacks, buffoons, magicians, miracle mongers, sorcerers, false priests; a city of races, games, dances, processions, fêtes, revels of unbridled luxury, of all the follies of the East, of the most unhealthy superstitions, and of the fanaticism of the orgy” (Renan, The Apostles, 12.).
4. Benighted. Notwithstanding the Jewish element in its population, it was practically shrouded in spiritual darkness—“having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Devoted to debasing superstitions, “full of the worship of Apollo and the nymphs,” it possessed no true light. “Syrian levity, Babylonian charlatanism, and all the impostures of Asia had made it the capital of all lies and the sink of every description of infamy.” If ever city needed an awakening, Antioch did.
II. The simple instrumentality by which its awakening was brought about.
1. The arrival in the city of a few wandering preachers, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, foreign missionaries from the Mediterranean and the North of Africa. It was a momentous day for Antioch when these men presented themselves before its gates. Neither the civic authorities nor the pleasure-loving citizens had the smallest conception of the spiritual dynamite which these men had concealed about their, persons. Compare Paul’s landing on the shores of Europe and entering Philippi.
2. The proclamation of a strange doctrine to the people. For strange it must have been to Jew and Greek to learn that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified by the Romans, was risen from the dead and exalted to the highest seat of authority in heaven—was Israel’s Messiah and the world’s Saviour. Yet just this simple announcement was the force that awakened Antioch from its spiritual slumber. And just this today is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).
3. The invisible working of Divine power upon the people’s hearts. For this must be assumed as what is meant by the statement that the hand of the Lord was with the preachers. Without the Spirit’s help the most learned and eloquent, even the most scriptural preaching, must prove ineffective so far as the production of spiritual results is concerned.
III. The glorious result in which this awakening at Antioch issued.
1. In the salvation of many souls. Both Jews and Greeks became converts. This the immediate and grand end of all preaching. It may instruct the understanding, interest the fancy, gratify the taste, stir the emotions, if it does not lead to personal decision for Christ, it is useless. Modern preachers should remember that saved souls, besides being valuable to their individual possessors, constitute a Church’s and a city’s truest and best wealth.
2. In the establishment within its walls of a Christian Church. How much that Christian Church did for Antioch with its teeming population—what light streamed forth from its teachers, what gracious influences were exerted by its members—has not been tabulated in the form of statistics; but the day will declare. Conceive what present-day cities are where no churches have been planted; imagine what Christian cities would become were their churches to be extinguished. Such mental efforts will enable one to understand the power for good which the Church at Antioch exerted on the heathen populace amongst whom it was planted.
3. In the subsequent origination of a heathen mission. To assert that had the Church at Antioch not been founded Europe might not have been evangelised, would perhaps be going too far. But certainly if in Antioch a Church had not arisen, it might have been a considerable time longer before the thought of a heathen mission had occurred to the poor Christians at Jerusalem. Antioch had the fresh zeal, the liberal outlook, the enterprising spirit, and the pecuniary resources which were necessary for originating such a movement as that of attempting to evangelise the Gentile world; and one has reason to bless God that the gospel was preached and a Church planted in Antioch at so early a stage in the history of Christianity.
Acts 11:23. Barnabas at Antioch.
I. What he saw.—The grace of God manifested:
1. In the spiritual awakening which had taken place; and
2. In the number of conversions that had been registered.
II. How he felt.—He was glad. Because:
1. The gospel was spreading.
2. His countrymen were believing.
3. Souls were being saved.
4. Christ was being glorified.
III. What he said.—“He exhorted them all that with full purpose of heart,” etc. A counsel which was—
1. Timely, suited to their condition as young disciples.
2. Wise, since their onward progress in religion depended on this.
3. Necessary, since if they fell away they could not be saved.
Cleaving to the Lord, an Address for Present-Day Christians.
I. Cleave to the Lord’s work as the only and the all-sufficient ground of acceptance and salvation. The Lord’s work twofold: external, that accomplished by Himself in the days of His flesh and finished on the cross—a work for man; internal, that wrought in the heart by His Holy Spirit—a work in man. Both of these, the Atoning Blood and the Quickening Spirit, are much in danger of being sacrificed even by Christians under the fascinations of the new or anti-supernatural theology, while by the unbelieving world they are utterly rejected. But without these and a steadfast adherence to these both forgiveness and holiness are unattainable.
II. Cleave to the Lord’s person as the exclusive source of spiritual life and the supreme object of affection. For religion after all does not consist in adherence to any system of beliefs, even though these should be right, but in allowing these beliefs to influence the heart and life. In other words, conduct, rather than creed, is the ultimate test of piety, adherence to Christ’s person rather than to Christ’s truth (if this be all) is the surest token of discipleship. Only the Lord to whose person this adherence must be is not the historical Christ, as He is called, the man Jesus of Nazareth, but the crucified risen and exalted Lord of glory, who alone is the source of life and object of love for the believing soul.
III. Cleave to the Lord’s book as the best directory for faith and practice. Notwithstanding present-day controversies about the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, the divinity of the sacred volume has never been successfully assailed. After all that criticism, higher or lower, has said, or can say, it remains that the Bible stands out pre-eminent over all the writings of men as the loftiest compendium of truth and the safest guide for duty. No book like it can so satisfactorily reply to the questions—What should one believe? and What must one do? in order to properly fulfill his heaven-appointed mission on the earth.
IV. Cleave to the Lord’s people as the best companions for the heavenward journey. If not possessed of wisdom, or wealth, or power, or social prestige—though even these are not wanting among Christ’s followers—they have holiness which always carries about with it a contagion of goodness, and they have spiritual insight, an acquaintance with the secret of the Lord which is invaluable for such as would live well, and they know where they are going, which is more than the men of the world know.
V. Cleave to the Lord’s heaven as the future and final home. Of this also there are those who would fain deprive the Christian, saying there is no hereafter, nothing beyond the tomb, no resurrection, and no eternal life. But to him who believes that Jesus died and rose again, and that Jesus lives and reigns to-day upon the throne of the Universe, all these are guaranteed and made sure for evermore.
Acts 11:24. The Piety of Barnabas.
I. Its visible flower and fruit.—Goodness. “Barnabas was a good man.” A rare commodity in the world or even in the Church. In Barnabas it was conspicuous and recognised by all. The form it assumed in him was that it must take in all to be genuine—viz., love to the neighbour (Matthew 5:43; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14). Kindly consideration for and tender sympathy with others appear in all that is recorded of this distinguished man—in his cheerful surrender and sale of his property to relieve the necessities of his poorer brethren (Acts 4:36-37), in his fraternal mediation between Saul and the apostles (Acts 9:27), in his kindly counsels to the young converts at Antioch (Acts 11:23), in his journey to Tarsus to fetch Saul (Acts 11:25), in his modestly according the first place to his brilliant colleague (Acts 13:7; Acts 13:13; Acts 13:46), in desiring to cover up the failings of his sister’s son, John Mark (Acts 15:37). In all he appears as a man in whose eyes the claims of others stand first, and those of self second.
II. Its hidden source and root.—Faith. “Barnabas was full of faith”—i.e., faith in God and Jesus Christ, in things spiritual and Divine, in heaven and immortality. And without this no man can be good in the highest sense of that term. It is doubtful whether real love to man is possible to him who has not begun to love God, or rather it is not doubtful. Only he who regards man as God’s child can attain to that spiritual affection which constitutes true neighbour love (1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:1-2).
III. Its vital sap and nutriment.—The Spirit. “Barnabas was full of the Holy Ghost.” Such goodness as Barnabas displayed can only spring from a renewed heart (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9), in which the principle of faith has found a lodgment and room to operate (Galatians 5:6). Practical, self-forgetful, philanthropical love is at once the fruit of the Spirit and the work of faith, and the one because the other.
Acts 11:26. A Remarkable Year.—That of Barnabas and Saul at Antioch. A year of—
I. Brotherly communion with each other.—One would like to have overheard the talks those two eminent men of God and servants of Jesus Christ had with one another—the one all aglow with tender human sympathy, the other all ablaze with spiritual enthusiasm, the one with a presence that felt like a soft summer wind, the other with a soul that heaved and throbbed like a burning volcano.
II. Spiritual fellowship with the Church.—While appreciating the rare privilege of each other’s society, it is obvious these noble men did not disdain communion with ordinary saints. For a whole year they were gathered together with or in the Church. They forsook not the assembling of themselves with Christ’s people as the manner of many is. Social worship in the Christian sanctuary is an invaluable privilege which cannot be neglected without suffering spiritual loss.
III. Ministerial labour for Christ.—It was a year of unwearied evangelical activity. They taught much people. They relied, it is apparent, more upon the self-evidencing power of the gospel they proclaimed than upon their own eloquence or argument. Their addresses were more didactic than hortatory. They taught the people—imparted to them instruction rather than stirred them with moving appeals. A good model for modern evangelists.
Acts 11:26. The Name “Christian.”
I. Its origin.—
1. As to place—Antioch. 2. With whom—most likely the heathen population.
3. In what spirit. Probably a spirit of mockery. (See “Critical Remarks.”)
II. Its import.—
1. It was meant to pour contempt upon believers in the Saviour, by designating them Christians or followers of Christ who had been crucified.
2. It is meant to-day to distinguish believers in the Saviour as Christ’s people and friends.
III. Its distinction.—Originally given as a mark of dishonour, it is now a badge of glorious renown for all who wear it, the name of Christ being the highest either in heaven or on earth.
IV. Its obligations,—Now, as at first, it imposes on its bearers certain high responsibilities, which may all be summed up in this that they shall walk worthy of that name by—
1. Treading in Christ’s footsteps (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).
2. Breathing Christ’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 1:0 John ,
3. Maintaining and extending Christ’s cause (Matthew 28:18-20).
Acts 11:29-30. Concerning the Collection.
I. Its object was praiseworthy.—To assist the poor saints at Jerusalem. Kindness to the poor frequently enjoined upon Christ’s followers (Matthew 5:42; Luke 12:33; Luke 18:22; Ephesians 4:28) as an essential ingredient of Christianity (Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:10; James 1:27).
II. Its character was voluntary. As all charity and almsgiving should be (Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:12). En forced contributions have no religious value whatever. They may do good, but they are not Christian alms.
III. Its universality was undoubted. Every man determined to have a share in the collection. When will all Christ’s people be voluntary givers? How the Church’s exchequer would overflow!
IV. Its liberality was great.—Each man contributed according to his ability, as God had prospered him (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 11:7).
V. Its promptness was decided. They acted on their generous impulse at once, without delay or hesitation (2 Corinthians 8:11).
VI. Its despatch was quick.—It was no sooner collected than it was forwarded to its destination.
VII. Its application was sure.—Committed to the hands of the Jerusalem elders, it was certain to reach the persons for whom it was intended. All points worthy of imitation by Christian Churches.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent