Acts 11
Expositor's Bible Commentary
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Chapter 7


Acts 11:26THE eleventh chapter of the Acts is clearly divisible into two portions. There is first the narrative of St. Peter’s reception at Jerusalem after the conversion of Cornelius, and secondly the story of the origin of the Antiochene Church, the mother and metropolis of Gentile Christendom. They are distinct the one from the other, and yet they are closely connected together, for they both deal with the same great topic, the admission of the Gentiles to full and free communion in the Church of God. Let us then search out the line of thought which runs like a golden thread through this whole chapter, sure that in doing so we shall find light shed upon some. modern questions from this divinely written ecclesiastical history.

I. St. Peter tarried a certain time with Cornelius and the other new converts at Caesarea. There was doubtless much to be taught and much to be set in order. Baptism was in the early Church administered when the converts were yet immature in faith and knowledge. The Church was viewed as a hospital, where the sick and feeble were to be admitted and cured. It was not therefore demanded of candidates for admission that they should be perfectly instructed in all the articles and mysteries of the Christian faith. There were indeed some points in which they were not instructed at all till they had been "buried with Christ through baptism into death." Then when they had taken their stand upon the Christian platform, and were able to view the matter from the true vantage point, they were admitted into fuller and deeper mysteries. Peter too must have had his work cut out for him at Caesarea in striving to organise the Church. St. Philip may have here lent his aid, and may have been constituted the resident head of the local Church. After the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch he worked his way up to Caesarea, preaching in all the towns and villages of that populous district. There he seems to have fixed his residence, as fifteen years or so later we find him permanently located in that city with his "four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy." {Acts 21:8-9} We may be sure that some such Church organisation was immediately started at Caesarea. We have already traced the work of organisation in Jerusalem. The apostles originally embraced in themselves all ministerial offices, as in turn these offices were originally all summed up. in Jesus Christ. The apostles had taken an important step in the establishment of the order of deacons at Jerusalem, retaining in their own hands the supreme power to which appeal and reports could be made. At Damascus it is evident that at the time of St. Paul’s conversion there was an organised Church, Ananias being the head and chief of it, with whom communications were officially held; while the notices about Joppa and the six witnesses of his action whom St. Peter brought with him to Caesarea, indicate that an assembly or Church, organised after the model of the Jerusalem Church, existed in that town.

Having concluded his work in Caesarea St. Peter returned to Jerusalem, and there had to render an account of his action and was placed upon his defence. "When Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." This simple circumstance throws much light upon the character of the earliest Christianity. It was to a large extent a Christian democracy. The apostles exercised the supreme executive power, but the collective Christian assembly claimed the exercise of their private judgment, and, above all, knew not anything of the fancied privilege of St. Peter, as Prince of the Apostles, to lay down on his own authority the laws for the whole Christian Commonwealth. Here was St. Peter exercising his ministry and apostolic power among the earliest Christians. How were his ministry and authority received? Were they treated as if the personal authority and decision of St. Peter settled every question without any further appeal? This will be best seen if we tell a story well known in the annals of ecclesiastical history. The fable of Papal Supremacy began to be asserted about the year 500, when a series of forgeries were circulated concerning the bishops of Rome and their decisions during the ages of persecution. One of these forgeries dealt with a pope named Marcellinus, who presided over the See of Rome during the beginning of the great Diocletian persecution. The story goes on to tell that Marcellinus fell into idolatry in order to save his life. A council of three hundred bishops was summoned at Sinuessa, when the assembled bishops are reported to have refused to pass sentence on the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, saying that the Holy See may be judged by no man. They therefore called upon the Pope to condemn himself, as he alone was a judge competent to exercise such a function. This story, according to Dollinger, was forged about the year 500, and it clearly exhibits the different view taken of the position of St. Peter in the Church of Jerusalem and of his alleged successors in the Church of Rome five centuries later. In the latter case St. Peter’s successor cannot be judged or condemned by any mortal. According to the Acts of the Apostles the members of the stricter party in the Church of Jerusalem had no hesitation in challenging the actions and teaching of St. Peter himself, and it was only when he could prove the immediate and manifest approval of Heaven that they ceased their opposition, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life."

We can in this incident see how the Church was slowly but surely developing itself under the Divine guidance. The incident when the order of deacons was instituted was the primary step. There was then first manifested that combination of authority and freedom united with open discussion which, originating in the Christian Church, has been the source of all modern society, of modern governments, and modern methods of legislation. Now we see the same ideas applied to questions of doctrine and discipline, till we come in a short time to the perfection of this method in the celebrated Council of Jerusalem which framed the charter and traced out the main lines of development upon which the Church of the Gentiles and true gospel freedom were established.

II. The centre of Christian interest now shifts its position and fixes itself in the city of Antioch, where a further step in advance was taken. Our attention is first of all recalled to the results of St. Stephen’s death. "They therefore that were scattered abroad upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to none save only to Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus." This is clearly a case of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, and the question has been raised, Was the action of these men of Cyprus and Cyrene quite independent of the action of St. Peter or an immediate result of the same? Did the men of Cyprus and Cyrene preach the gospel to the Gentiles of Antioch of their own motion, or did they wait till tidings of St. Peter’s action had reached them, and then, yielding to the generous instincts which had been long beating in the hearts of these Hellenistic Jews, did they proclaim at Antioch the glad tidings of salvation which the Gentiles of that gay and brilliant but very wicked city so much needed? Our answer to these queries is very short and plain. We think that the preaching of the Hellenists of Cyprus to the Gentiles of Antioch must have been the result of St. Peter’s action at Caesarea, else why did they wait till Antioch was reached to open their mouths to the pagan world? Surely, if the sight of sin and wickedness and civilised depravity was necessary to stir them up to efforts for the spiritual welfare of the Gentile world, Phoenicia and Cyprus abounded with scenes quite sufficient to unseal their lips. But the force of national prejudice and of religious exclusiveness was too strong till they came to Antioch, where tidings must have reached them of the vision and action of St. Peter at Caesarea.

It is easy to see why this information reached the missionaries at Antioch. Caesarea was the Roman capital of Palestine, and was a seaport. Antioch was the Roman capital of the province of Syria, an immense extent of territory, which included not merely the country which we call Syria, but extended to the Euphates on the west and to the desert intervening between Palestine and Egypt on the south. The prefect of the East resided at Antioch, and he was one of the three or four greatest officials under the Roman emperor. Palestine was, in fact, a part of the province of Syria, and its ruler or president was dependent upon the governor of Syria. It is therefore in strictest accordance with the facts of Roman history when St. Luke tells in his Gospel {Luke 2:2} concerning the taxation of Augustus Caesar, "This was the first enrolment made when Quirinus was governor of Syria." Antioch being then the seat of the central government of the eastern division of the Roman Empire, and Caesarea being the headquarters of an important lieutenant of the Syrian proconsul, it is no wonder there should have been very constant intercourse between the two places. The great magazines of arms for the entire east were located at Antioch, and there too the money was coined necessary to pay the troops and to carry on commercial intercourse. It must have been very easy for an official like Cornelius, or even for any simple private soldier or for an ordinary Jew or Christian of Caesarea, to communicate with Antioch, and to send word concerning the proceedings of St. Peter and the blessings vouchsafed by God to any devout person who might be there seeking after light and truth. It is quite natural therefore that, while the Christians dispersed into various lands by the persecution at Jerusalem restrained themselves to the Jews alone throughout their previous labours, when the men of Cyprus and Cyrene heard tidings at Antioch of St. Peter and his doings and revelations at Caesarea, they at last allowed free scope to their longings which long ago had found place in their more liberalised hearts, and testified to the Gentiles of Antioch concerning the gladsome story of the gospel. Here again we behold another instance of the value of culture and travel and enlarged intelligence. The Hellenists of Cyprus and Cyrene were the first to realise and act out the principle which God had taught St. Peter. They saw that God’s mercies were not restrained to the particular case of Cornelius. They realised that his was a typical instance, and that his conversion was intended to carry with it and to decide the possibility of Gentile salvation and the formation of a Gentile Church all over the world, and they put the principle in operation at once in one of the places where it was most needed: "When the men of Cyprus and Cyrene were come to Antioch, they spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus." The method of the Divine development was in the primitive ages very similar to that we often still behold. Some improvement is required, some new principle has to be set in motion. If younger men begin the work, or if souls ‘notorious for their freer thought or less prejudiced understandings, attempt to introduce the novel principle, the vast mass of stolid conservative opposition and attachment to the past is at once quickened into lively action. But then some Peter or another, some man of known rectitude and worth, and yet of equally well-known narrow views and devoted adherence to the past, takes some hesitating step in advance. He may indeed strive to limit its application to the special case before him, and he may earnestly deprecate any wider application of the principle on which he has acted. But it is all in vain. He has served the Divine purposes. His narrowness and respectability and personal weight have done their work, and have sanctioned the introduction of the principle which then is applied upon a much wider scale by men whose minds have been liberalised and trained to seize a great broad principle and put it into practical operation.

III. "When they came to Antioch, they spake the word to the Greeks also." And verily the men of Cyprus and Cyrene chose a fitting spot to open the kingdom of heaven to the Greek world and to found the mother Church of Gentile Christendom, for no city in the whole world was more completely Satan’s seat, or more entirely devoted to those works which St. John describes as the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the vain-glory of life. Let us reflect a little on the history and state of Antioch, and we shall then see the Divine motive in selecting it as the site of the first great Gentile Church, and we shall see too the Divine guidance which led St. Luke in this typical ecclesiastical history to select the Church of Antioch for such frequent notice, exceeding, as it does, all other Churches save Jerusalem in the amount of attention bestowed upon it in the Acts of the Apostles.

Antioch and Alexandria were towns dating from the same epoch. They came into existence about the year 300 B.C., being the creation of Alexander the Great himself, or of the generals who divided his empire between them. The city of Antioch was originally built by Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the kingdom of Syria, but was subsequently enlarged, so that in St. Paul’s time it was divided into four independent districts or towns, each surrounded by its own walls, and all included within one vast wall some fifty feet high, which surmounted mountain tops and was carried at vast expense across valleys and ravines. Antioch was in the first century counted the third city in the world, Rome being first, Alexandria second, and Antioch third. It bad marvellous natural advantages. It was blessed with charming mountain scenery. The peaks rising up on all sides could be seen from every part of the city, imparting thus to life in Antioch that sense not merely of beauty and grandeur, but of the nearness of such beauty and grandeur combined with solitude and freedom from the madding crowd which seem so sweet to a man who passes his life amid the noise and hurry of a great city. What a change in the conditions of life in London would be at once brought about could the scenery surrounding Edinburgh or Lucerne be transferred to the world’s metropolis, and the toiler in Fleet Street and the Strand be enabled to look amid his daily labours upon cloud-piercing mountains or peaks clad in a robe of virgin white! Antioch was built upon the southern bank of the river Orontes, along which it extended about five miles. The main street of the city, otherwise called the Street of Herod after the celebrated Herod the Great who built it, was four and a half miles long. This street was unrivalled among the cities of the world, and was furnished with an arcade on both sides extending its whole length, beneath which the inhabitants could walk and transact business at all times, free from the heat and from the rain. The water supply of Antioch was its special feature. The great orator Libanius, a native of Antioch, who lived three hundred years later than St. Paul, while the city yet stood in all its grandeur and beauty, thus dwells on this feature of Antioch in a panegyric composed under the Emperor Constantius: "That wherein we beat all other is the water supply of our city; if in other respects any one may compete with us, all give way so soon as we come to speak of the water, its abundance and its excellence. In the public baths every stream has the proportions of a river, in the private baths several have the like, and the rest not much less. One measures the abundance of running water by the number of the dwelling-houses; for as many as are the dwelling-houses, so many are also the running waters. Therefore we have no fighting at the public wells as to who shall come first to draw-an evil under which so many considerable towns suffer, when there is a violent crowding round the wells and outcry over broken jars. With us the public fountains flow for ornament, since every one has water within his doors. And this water is so clear that the pail appears empty, and so pleasant that it invites us to drink." Such was the description of a pagan who saw Antioch even as St. Paul saw it, and testified concerning the natural gifts with which God had endowed it. But, alas! as with individuals, so is it with cities. God may lavish His best blessings, and yet instead of bringing forth the fruits of righteousness His choicest gifts of nature may be turned into fruitful seed plots of lust and sin. Sodom and Gomorrha were planted in a vale that was well watered and fair and fruitful, even as the Garden of the Lord; but the inhabitants thereof were wicked, and sinners before the. Lord exceedingly; and so it was with Antioch. This city so blessed in situation and in nature’s richest and most precious gifts was celebrated for its wicked preeminence amid the awful corruption which then overspread the cities of the world. When the Roman satirist Juvenal, writing about this period of which we treat, would fain account for the excessive dissolution of morals which then prevailed at Rome, his explanation of it was that the manners of Antioch had invaded Rome and corrupted its ancient purity:

"Jampridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes."

Amid the general wickedness of Antioch there was one element of life and hope and purity. The Jews of Antioch formed a large society in that city governed by their own laws and preserving themselves by their peculiar discipline free from the abounding vices of Oriental paganism. It was at Antioch as it was at Alexandria and Damascus. The Jews at Alexandria had their alabarch to whom they owed special allegiance and by whom alone they were ruled; the Jews of Damascus had their ethnarch who exercised peculiar jurisdiction over them; and so too had the Jews of Antioch a peculiar ruler of their own, forming thus an imperium in imperio, running counter to our Western notions which in many respects demand an iron uniformity very foreign to the Eastern mind, and show themselves eminently deficient in that flexibility and diversity which found an abundant play even among the arrangements of the Roman Empire. This Jewish quarter of Antioch had for centuries been growing and extending itself, and its chief synagogue had been glorified by the reception of some of the choicest temple spoils which the kings of Syria had at first carried captive from Jerusalem and then in a fit of repentance or of prudent policy had bestowed upon the Jewish colony in their capital city.

Such was the city to which the men of Cyprus and Cyrene were now carrying the news of the gospel, intending, doubtless, to tell merely their Jewish fellow-countrymen and religionists of the Messiah whose love and power they had themselves experienced. Here, however, they were met by the startling information from Caesarea. They were, however, prepared for it. They were Hellenistic Jews like St. Stephen. They had listened to his burning words, and had followed closely his epoch-making speeches whereby he confounded the Jews and clearly indicated the opening of a new era. But then God’s dispensations seemed to have terminated his teaching and put a fatal end to the hopes which he had raised. Men then misread God’s dealings with His servants, and interpreted His ways amiss. The death of Stephen seemed perhaps to some minds a visible condemnation of his views, when in reality it was the direct channel by which God would work out a wider propagation of them, as well as the conversion of the agent destined to diffuse them most powerfully. Apparent defeat is not always permanent disaster, whether in things temporal or things spiritual; nay, rather, the temporal check may be the necessary condition of the final and glorious victory. So it was in this case, as the men of Cyprus and Cyrene proved, when the news of St. Peter’s revelation and his decisive action arrived and they realised in action the principles of Catholic Christianity for which their loved teacher St. Stephen had died. And their brave action was soon followed by blessed success, by a rich harvest of souls: "The hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number that believed turned to the Lord." Thus were laid the foundations of the headquarters, the mother Church of Gentile Christianity.

IV. Now we come to another step in the development. Tidings of the action taken at Antioch came to Jerusalem. The news must have travelled much the same road as that by which, as we have indicated, the story of St. Peter’s action was carried to Antioch. The intercourse between Jerusalem and Antioch was frequent enough by land or by sea; and no synagogue and no Jewish society was more liberal in its gifts towards the support of the supreme council and hierarchy at Jerusalem than the Jewish colony and its synagogues at Damascus. And the old custom of communication with Jerusalem naturally led the Nazarenes of Antioch to send word of their proceedings up to the apostles and supreme council who ruled their parent society in the same city. We see a clear indication that the events at Antioch happened subsequently to those at Caesarea in the manner in which the news was received at Jerusalem. There seems to have been no strife, no discussion, no controversy. The question had been already raised and decided after St. Peter’s return. So the apostles simply select a fitting messenger to go forth with the authority of the apostles and to complete the work which, having been initiated in baptism, merely now demanded that imposition of hands which, as we have seen in the case of the Samaritan converts, was one of the special functions of the apostles and chiefs of the Church at Jerusalem. And in choosing Barnabas the apostles made a wise choice. They did not send one of the original Twelve, because not one of them was fitted for the peculiar work now demanded. They were all narrow, provincial, untravelled, devoid of that wide and generous training which God had given to Barnabas. It may be too that they felt restrained from going beyond the bounds of Canaan before the twelve years had elapsed of which ancient Christian tradition tells as the limit of their stay in Jerusalem fixed by our Lord Himself. He was a Hellenistic Jew, and he could sympathise with the wider feelings and ideas of the Hellenists. He was a man of Cyprus, a friend and perhaps connection of many, both Jews and Gentiles, among those whose new-born faith and hope were now in question. And above all he was a man of kindly heart and genial temper and loving thought and blessed charity, fitted to soothe jealousies and allay suspicions, and make the long alienated and despised Gentiles feel at home in the Church and family of Jesus Christ. Barnabas was a person peculiarly fitted to prove a mediator and uniting link in a society where divergent elements found a place and asserted themselves. He was not the man to take a new step or to have decided the question of the admission of the Gentiles if it had not been already settled. He must have come therefore fortified by the authority of the apostles, and then, knowing right well what they approved, he was just the man to carry out the details of an arrangement requiring tact and skill and temper; though he was by no means suited to decide a great question on its own merits or to initiate any great movement. In the Church of God then, as in the Church of God still, there are a place and a work for the strong man of keen logic and a Vigorous intellect and profound thought. And there are too a place and a work for the man of loving heart and a charity which evermore delights in compromise. "Barnabas, when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad; and he exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and faith; and much people was added unto the Lord." Barnabas had another virtue too. He knew his own weakness. He did not imagine like some men that he was specially strong where he was eminently weak. He felt his want of the active vigorous mind of his friend of boyhood, the new convert Saul. He knew where he was living in comparative obscurity and silence; so after a little experience of the atmosphere of Antioch he departed to Tarsus to seek for him and bring him back where a great work was awaiting his peculiar turn of mind. There is an ancient historian of Antioch who has preserved for us many stories about that city in these apostolic and even in much earlier ages. His name is John Malalas; he lived about six hundred years after Christ and had access to many ancient documents and writers that are no longer known to us. He tells us many things about the primitive Church of Antioch. He has his own version of the quarrel between St. Paul and St. Peter which happened in that city; and he fixes even the very spot where St. Paul first preached, telling us that its name was Singon Street, which stood neat "the Pantheon." This may seem to us a minuteness of detail too great to be believed. But then we must remember that John Malalas expressly cites ancient chronologers and historians as his authorities, and he himself lived while as yet Antioch retained all the ancient arrangements of streets and divisions. And surely Saul, as he travelled from Tarsus responding at once to the call of Barnabas, must have seen enough to stir his love to Christ and to souls into heartiest exertion. He came doubtless by sea and landed at Seleucia, the port of Antioch, some sixteen miles distant from the city. As he travelled up to Antioch he would get distant glimpses of the groves of Daphne, a park ten miles in circumference, dedicated indeed to the poetic worship of Apollo, but dedicated also to the vilest purposes of wickedness intimately associated with that poetic worship. Poetry, whether ancient or modern, can be very blessed, ennobling and elevating man’s whole nature. But the same poetry, as in ancient paganism and in some modern writers, can become a festering plague-spot, the abounding source to its votaries of moral corruption and spiritual death.

Daphne and its associations would rouse the whole soul, the healthy moral nature of Saul of Tarsus, inherited originally from his ancient Jewish training, and now quickened and deepened by the spiritual revelations made to him in Christ Jesus. It is no wonder then that here we read of St. Paul’s first long and continuous period of ministerial work: "It came to pass that even for a whole year they were gathered together with the Church, and taught much people." The results of the new force which Barnabas introduced into the spiritual life of Antioch soon became manifested. "The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." Saul of Tarsus possessed what Barnabas did not possess. He possessed a powerful, a logical, and a creative intellect. He realised from the beginning what his own principles meant and to what they were leading him. He taught not Judaism or the Law with an addition merely about Jesus of Nazareth. He troubled not himself about circumcision or the old covenant, but he taught from the very beginning Christ Jesus, Christ in His Divine and human nature, Christ in His various offices, Jesus Christ as the one hope for mankind. This was now at Antioch, as before at Damascus, the staple topic of St. Paul’s preaching, and therefore the Antiochenes, with their ready wit and proverbial power of giving nicknames, at once designated the new sect not Nazarenes or Galileans as the Jews of Jerusalem called them, but Christians or adherents of Christ. Here, however, I prefer to avail myself of the exposition which one of the great spiritual teachers of the last generation gave us of this expression. The well-known and learned Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Trench, in his "Study of Words" (21st Ed.: Lond. 1890), p. 189, thus draws out the lesson connected with this word and the time of its appearance: "‘The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.’ That we have here a notice which we would not willingly have missed all will acknowledge, even as nothing can be otherwise than curious which relates to the infancy of the Church. But there is here much more than a curious notice. Question it a little closer, and how much it will be found to contain, how much which it is waiting to yield up! What light it throws on the whole story of the Apostolic Church to know where and when this name of Christians was first imposed on the faithful; for imposed by adversaries it certainly was, not devised by themselves, however afterwards they may have learned to glory in it as the name of highest dignity and honour. They did not call themselves, but, as is expressly recorded, they ‘were called’ Christians first at Antioch; in agreement with which statement the name occurs nowhere in Scripture, except on the lips of those alien from or opposed to the faith. {Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16} And as it was a name imposed by adversaries, so among these adversaries it was plainly heathens, and not Jews, who were its authors; for Jews would never have called the followers of Jesus of Nazareth ‘Christians,’ or those of Christ, the very point of their opposition to Him being, that He was not the Christ, but a false pretender to the name. Starting then from this point that ‘Christians’ was a title given to the disciples by the heathen, what may we deduce from it further? At Antioch they first obtained this name-at the city, that is, which was the headquarters of the Church’s mission to the heathen, in the same sense as Jerusalem had been the headquarters of the mission to the seed of Abraham. It was there and among the faithful there that a conviction of the world-wide destination of the gospel arose; there it was first plainly seen as intended for all kindreds of the earth. Hitherto the faithful in Christ had been called by their adversaries, and indeed were often still called ‘Galileans’ or ‘Nazarenes’-both names which indicated the Jewish cradle wherein the Church had been nursed, and that the world saw in the new society no more than a Jewish sect. But it was plain that the Church had now, even in the world’s eyes, chipped its Jewish shell. The name Christians or those of Christ, while it told that Christ and the confession of Him were felt even by the heathen to be the sum and centre of this new faith, showed also that they comprehended now, not all which the Church would be, but something of this; saw this much, namely, that it was no mere sect and variety of Judaism, but a Society with a mission and a destiny of its own. Now will the thoughtful reader fail to observe that the coming up of this name is by closest juxtaposition connected in the sacred narrative, and still more closely in the Greek than in the English, with the arrival at Antioch, and with the preaching there, of that Apostle who was God’s appointed instrument for bringing the Church to a full sense that the message which it had was not for some men only, but for all. As so often happens with the rise of new names, the rise of this one marked a new epoch in the Church’s life, and that it was entering upon a new stage of development." This is a long extract, but it sets forth in dignified and aptly chosen words, such as Archbishop Trench always used, the important lessons which the thoughtful student of the Acts may gather from the time and place where the term "Christians" first sprang into existence.

Finally, we notice in connection with Antioch that the foundation of the great Gentile Church was marked by the same universal impulse which we trace wherever Christ was effectually preached. The faith of the Crucified evermore produced love to the brethren. Agabus, a prophet whom we shall again meet many years after in the course of St. Paul’s life, and who then predicted his approaching arrest and captivity at Jerusalem, made his earliest recorded appearance at Antioch, where he announced an impending famine. Agabus exercised the office of a prophet, which implied under the New Dispensation rather the office of preaching than of prediction. Prediction, indeed, whether under the Old or the New Dispensation, formed but a small portion of the prophetical office. The work of the prophet was pre-eminently that of telling forth God’s will and enforcing it upon a careless generation. Occasionally indeed, as in the case of Agabus, that telling forth involved prediction or announcement of God’s chastisements and visitations; but far oftener the prophet’s work was finished when he enforced the great principles of truth and righteousness as the Christian preacher does still. Agabus seems to have been specially gifted in the direction of prediction. He announced a famine as impending over the whole world, which came to pass in the age of Claudius, offering to the Gentile Church of Antioch an opportunity, of which they gladly availed themselves, to repay somewhat of the spiritual obligation which the Gentiles owed to the Jews according to St. Paul’s own rule: "If the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things." We can trace here the force and power of ancient Jewish customs. We can see how the mould and form and external shape of the Church was. gained from the Jew. The Jewish colony of Antioch had been of old famous for the liberality of its gifts to the mother community at Jerusalem. The predominant element in the Church of Antioch was now Gentile, but still the ancient customs prevailed. The Gentile Christian community acted towards the Jerusalem Church as the Jewish community had been used to treat their countrymen: "The disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul."

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