James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.Acts 11:19-13:3
THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH
By connecting the first verse of this lesson with Acts 8:4, it will be seen that all intervening is a parenthesis, an important one indeed, but making it necessary now to return to the martyrdom of Stephen for a new start. Be sure to consult a map for the localities in Acts 11:19-20. Antioch, now coming into prominence as the headquarters of the Gentile church, was a beautiful and influential city, but luxurious and immoral. It was founded about 300 B.C. Saul’s great life work really begins here (Acts 11:25), and here also the name of Christianity takes its rise (Acts 11:26). Antioch is said to have been famous for its witty epigrams, and it is thought that such was the origin of the name “Christian.” The church there was richer in this world’s good than at Jerusalem, which enabled the Christians to show the beautiful spirit of Acts 11:29.
Another parenthesis meets us at chapter 12, the closing verse of which brings us back to Antioch. Chapter 12 is of events in Jerusalem, the martyrdom of James by Herod, the imprisonment and deliverance of Peter, and the fate of the wicked king.
To begin with the last-named. Four Herods are mentioned in the New Testament, Herod the Great who killed the innocents in Bethlehem, Herod who killed John the Baptist, this Herod, and him before whom Paul stood later on.
The story of this, the second persecution of the church is told in Acts 12:1-5. The James here mentioned was the one honored by our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, and in Gethsemane. See also the memorable circumstance in Matthew 20:23. Peter was now the only apostle remaining in Jerusalem. The four quaternions, sixteen soldiers, “to keep him” suggest that the enemies of the church in Jerusalem had not forgotten his earlier deliverance (chap. 4).
The story of the present deliverance is told in Acts 12:6-17, and is so plain we need not dwell upon it.
The judgment on Herod (Acts 12:18-23), suggests to some “the presumption and fate of the Antichrist,” who also will persecute the Jewish saints, claim divine honors and assume the place of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8).
In Acts 12:24-25 Barnabas and Saul have returned from their mission of bearing the alms of Antioch to Jerusalem and have brought John Mark with them.
It is now that Antioch comes to the front as the second great center of Christianity, and with it Paul, no longer called Saul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. The time is supposed to be toward the spring of A.O. 46. Acts 13:1-3 tell the story. Five names are given, one of them very prominent in social circles Manaen, a foster-brother of Herod. Note the phrase “they ministered to the Lord.” How? Just by quiet worship. And, oh! who can measure the results to the church and to the world that came of it! What a contrast with the present day “movements” of one kind and another, the banquets, conventions, newspaper advertisings, photos, and “whoop ‘em up” song services, to say nothing of meetings for the so-called deepening of the spiritual life. The simplicity of ministering to the Lord strikes us here, and the circumstance that He Himself is present to guide into large things through the voice of His Spirit, Who can be recognized by all who are holy enough and quiet enough to hear.
The laying on of hands in this case is hardly identical with modern “ordination,” but simply the testimony of the church to the genuineness of the call that had been received, and their outwardly expressed “fellowship and identification with the two” who had thus been set apart by the Holy Spirit. This is the way all true missionary work should begin, and the only way to insure a blessing.
1. With what earlier event is this lesson connected?
2. Have you located the cities on the map?
3. What do you know about Antioch?
4. To what locality do the events of chapter 12 belong?
5. Name these events.
6. Identify the different Herods.
7. Identify James, the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom.
8. Of Whom may this Herod be taken as a type, and in what particular?
9. At what date did the great work of missions to the Gentiles begin?
10. What is here meant by ministering to the Lord?