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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 11

 

 

Verses 1-30

News of Peter's carrying the gospel to Gentiles had preceded him to Jerusalem. When he arrived there, therefore, he was faced by those who were specially zealous of the law, and who spoke accusingly of his entering the home of uncircumcised Gentiles and eating with them. This would not surprise him, for his attitude was just the same a short time before. Peter then rehearsed the entire experience to them, and the Spirit of God has seen fit to record this repetition of the matter from beginning to end. This certainly emphasizes the great importance of this means the Lord used of breaking down the barrier between Jewish and Gentile believers.

In Peter's report he mentions that it was six brethren who accompanied him, and these were present as he gave his report (v.12). Another thing not mentioned in Chapter 10 is that the angel who spoke to Cornelius told him that Peter would speak words to him whereby he and all his house would be saved (v.14). Cornelius, at the time, was certainly born again, for his prayers and alms had come up for a memorial before God (Chapter 10:4); but salvation is known only by the knowledge of Christ having died and risen again (Romans 10:9). This shows that new birth and salvation are distinct truths.

Peter then quickly reaches the climax of the evidence of God's working, telling them that as he began to speak the Spirit of God fell on those who heard the word, just as He had on the Jewish disciples at Pentecost. He quotes the Lord's words then as regards the baptism of the Spirit, and there can be no mistaking the manifest power and grace of God as controlling this entire matter. This being the case, how could he dare to withstand God by refusing to accept the Gentiles whom God had accepted?

With such evidence before them the Jewish disciples had no choice but to acquiesce in this display of the great grace of God: they made no more objections, but instead glorified God, acknowledging that He Himself had wrought in this, granting to Gentiles repentance unto life. This was a matter of tremendous consequence in the history of the Church.

Though Peter (apostle to the circumcision) had been chosen by God to first open the door to Gentiles in a public way, the Spirit of God worked remarkably in the dispersing of believers from Judea by persecution, who preached as they traveled. At first these preached only to Jews, traveling northward to Phenice, Cyprus and Antioch. Some of them, however, were from Cyprus and Cyrene, therefore Hellenists, Jews who resided outside their own their land. These did not have the same reserve as did Jews from Judea, and they spoke to Gentiles in Antioch, preaching the Lord Jesus. This word for preaching evidently does not imply any public proclamation, but simply conversing of Him to others.

The results were astonishing: the hand of the Lord was With them, and a great number were turned to the Lord. This was certainly the sovereign power of the Spirit of God at work. No doubt these workers realized intuitively that the gospel was of such a character as to include Gentiles, though they had not yet been given such instruction; and the Spirit of God fully justified their faith in this matter. At Antioch then a work began larger than that at Caesarea, an assembly formed largely of Gentiles, though with Jewish believers included Here therefore is illustrated for the first time the unity of both Jewish and Gentile believers in the church of God.

News of this great work came to the ears of the assembly at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas, a man of gracious character, whom they evidently considered to be one who could particularly help them. It was a good choice, for in seeing the grace of God to Gentiles he was glad (not with the cool reservations some Jews would have), exhorting them that with purpose of heart they should cleave to the Lord, not that they should keep the law. His character was that of goodness, not of stern legality, and he was full of the Holy Spirit. This expression indicates what was normally characteristic of him, a precious commendation indeed. His presence and ministry resulted in many more conversions to the Lord.

Evidently, however, he felt himself inadequate in the face of so great a work, and went to Tarsus to find Saul. This leading of the Spirit of God is full of interest; for God had decreed that Saul was to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and Barnabas apparently realized that Paul's attitude toward Gentiles would be a valuable asset, as well as his capable teaching. For a whole year they gathered with the assembly there, teaching many people. At Antioch we are told the disciples were first called Christians.

The unity between Jerusalem and Antioch was encouraged by the coming of prophets from Jerusalem. One of them, Agabus, prophesied by the Spirit of a great famine coming on the habitable earth, which in due time came to pass. Of course, this would be some time later, but the fact is mentioned here of the disciples' willing desire to send help to their Jewish brethren in Judea, and later Barnabas and Saul delivered this. This is mentioned here to show us the genuine work of grace in Gentiles that moved their hearts toward Jewish believers.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 11:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-11.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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