Acts 11:17
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
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(17) Forasmuch then . . .—More accurately, If then.

Unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.—The Greek construction gives a somewhat different meaning: If then God gave to them an equal gift as to us, upon their believing . . . That condition was sufficient in their case for the greater gifts, and their admissibility to baptism and to general fellowship followed naturally as a thing of course.

What was I, that I could withstand God?—The Greek gives a complex question, Who was I? Able to withstand God?i.e., How was I, being such a one as I am, able to withstand?

11:1-18 The imperfect state of human nature strongly appears, when godly persons are displeased even to hear that the word of God has been received, because their own system has not been attended to. And we are too apt to despair of doing good to those who yet, when tried, prove very teachable. It is the bane and damage of the church, to shut out those from it, and from the benefit of the means of grace, who are not in every thing as we are. Peter stated the whole affair. We should at all times bear with the infirmities of our brethren; and instead of taking offence, or answering with warmth, we should explain our motives, and show the nature of our proceedings. That preaching is certainly right, with which the Holy Ghost is given. While men are very zealous for their own regulations, they should take care that they do not withstand God; and those who love the Lord will glorify him, when made sure that he has given repentance to life to any fellow-sinners. Repentance is God's gift; not only his free grace accepts it, but his mighty grace works it in us, grace takes away the heart of stone, and gives us a heart of flesh. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.What was I-- What power or right had I to oppose the manifest will of God that the Gentiles should be received into the Christian church.

Withstand God - Oppose or resist God. He had indicated his will; he had showed his intention to save the Gentiles; and the prejudices of Peter were all overcome. One of the best means of destroying prejudice and false opinions is a powerful revival of religion. More erroneous doctrines and unholy feelings are overcome in such scenes than in all the bigoted and fierce contentions that have ever taken place. If people wish to root error out of the church, they should strive by all means to promote everywhere revivals of pure and undefiled religion. The Holy Spirit more easily and effectually silences false doctrine, and destroys heresy, than all the denunciations of fierce theologians; all the alarms of heated zealots for orthodoxy; and all the anathemas which professed love for the purity of the church ever utters from the icebergs on which such champions usually seek their repose and their home.

16, 17. Then remembered I the word … John … baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then, &c.—that is, "Since God Himself has put them on a level with ourselves, by bestowing on them what the Lord Jesus pronounced the higher baptism of the Holy Ghost, would it not have been to withstand God if I had withheld from them the lower baptism of water, and kept aloof from them as still 'unclean?'" The apostle’s argument is cogent: They who have the grace signified by baptism, ought to have the seal of that grace; but the Gentiles had the grace signified by baptism. Or, they who have the inward baptism, may not be denied the outward. As he that hath a right to an inheritance, cannot without injustice be denied the writings and seals thereunto belonging. To deny baptism unto any unto whom it doth belong, is to

withstand God, and to keep back the token of God’s love from such unto whom it is sent.

Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift,.... Of the Spirit, of speaking with divers tongues:

as he did unto us; the apostles: who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ: which clause stands either connected with "us" the apostles, and so is descriptive of them who first believed in Christ, and became followers of him; or with "them" the Gentiles, as the Syriac version renders it, "if therefore God gave that gift equally to these Gentiles which believed on our Lord Jesus Christ, as unto us"; for it seems most likely, that faith in Christ came by hearing Peter's discourse, before the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit fell upon them:

what was I that I could withstand God? or hinder the baptism of these persons in water, whom God baptized with the Holy Ghost, and who believed in Christ Jesus: from whence it appears that the Spirit of God is a gift, which he bestows on whomsoever he pleases, without any desert of man's, and that both in his extraordinary operations, and in the common influences of his grace; for it is equally the gift of God to believe in Christ, which is a grace of the Spirit, as it was to speak with divers tongues; and these, though they did not always go together, yet here they did, as on the apostles, so on Cornelius and his house: and hence they became qualified for the ordinance of baptism; not by the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, but by his special grace; the extraordinary gifts were partly to confirm the Gospel preached unto them by Peter; and partly to assure him that he was right in going in to the Gentiles, and preaching to them; and to encourage him to baptize these persons who appeared to have also the grace of the Spirit, and to have believed in Christ; as well as to fit them, at least some of them, for public work and service: and now faith in Christ being a pre-requisite to baptism, and it being the will of Christ, and what he gave in commission to his disciples to baptize such as believed in him, and these being apparently such; to have refused to administer baptism to them, would have been acting contrary to the commission of Christ, a withstanding the will of God, and opposing the grace of the Spirit of God.

Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
Acts 11:17. πιστεύσασιν, see R.V., best to take participle as referring both to αὐτοῖς and to ἡμῖν; in each case the Holy Spirit was bestowed, and in each case as a result of the preceding belief, not as a result of circumcision, or of uncircumcision; sometimes referred to ἡμῖν, so Bengel, Nösgen, Wendt, sometimes to αὐτοῖς, so Weiss, Blass.—τίς ἤμην δ., cf. Exodus 3:11, 2 Kings 8:13, Blass, Gram., p. 173; in reality two questions: Who was I? Was I able to withstand God? Winer-Moulton, lxvi., 5.—ἐγὼ, emphatic, “merum organon,” Bengel.

17. who believed] The words refer alike to “them” and to “us,” and so the two cases are made parallel, as in Acts 11:15. For just as in the case of Peter and the Apostles, their faith was existing before the gift of the Spirit, so in Cornelius and in his companions there existed a degree of faith, or there could have been no sincere prayer offered by them.

Acts 11:17. Τὴν ἴσην, the like) So 2 Peter 1:1. They are alike blessed, who have received the Holy Spirit immediately (without the mediation of ordinances) or mediately.—ἡμῖν, πιστεύσασιν, unto us who believed, i.e. when we believed) It was not, saith he, because we had circumcision, but because we had faith, that the Holy Spirit was given to us.—ἐγὼ, I) I, a mere instrument. The brethren had asked only concerning his having taken food with the Gentiles: Peter gives them also a satisfactory account concerning his having conferred baptism on them; and establishes the certainty that he had acted rightly, not only from the Divine command, but also from the event, which had been crowned by the Divine blessing.

Verse 17. - If for forasmuch... as, A.V.; unto them for them, A.V.; did also for did, A.V.; when we for who, A.V.; who for what, A.V. The saying, Who was I, that I could withstand (κωλῦσαι)? corresponds to Acts 10:47, "Can any man forbid (κωλῦσαι) water?" Acts 11:17Forasmuch as (εἰ)

Better, as Rev., if.

The like (ἴσην)

Lit., equal; making them, equally with us, recipients of the Holy Spirit.

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