William Kelly Major Works Commentary
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.Acts Chapter 11
Never had there been so important a step taken by man on the earth; never one demanding faith so urgently and evidently as now. Hence, though the assembly was then in its pristine order and beauty with the twelve acting together, notwithstanding the dispersion after Stephen's death which had scattered the saints generally, the Lord acted by a single servant of His whose own Jewish prejudices were notoriously of the strongest. The assembly is responsible to act together in all ordinary questions of godliness and discipline; it is bound to guard practically the foundations of truth and righteousness according to the written word. But a new departure needed and found a suited instrument, chosen and filled of God to initiate His will, and to take the step in advance, assuredly gathering it to be the will of the Lord.
Peter's faith was severely tried. For the first time since Pentecost he had to encounter doubts on the part of those who stood first in the church, and the fierce opposition of such as knew least of God and His ways. It was now not mere fleshly feeling of the Hellenists against the Hebrews, but the very serious question whether the foremost of the twelve had not compromised the testimony of Christ by the formal reception of Gentiles at Caesarea.
'But the apostles and the brethren which were in Judea heard that the Gentiles also received the word of God. And when Peter went up unto Jerusalem, they of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in unto men uncircumcized, and didst eat with them. But Peter began and set forth to them in order, saying, I was in the city of Joppa, praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, a certain vessel descending like a great sheet, let down by four corners out of heaven, and it came as far as me. On which having fixed mine eyes, I considered and saw the quadrupeds of the earth and the wild beasts and the reptiles and the birds of the heaven. And I heard also a voice saying to me, Arise, Peter, slay and eat. But I said, In no wise, Lord, because common or unclean never entered into my mouth. But a voice answered a second time out of heaven, What God cleansed make not thou common. And this was done thrice, and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately three men stood at the house in which I was, sent from Caesarea unto me; and the Spirit bade me go with them, doubting nothing. And there went with me also these six brethren, and we entered into the house of the man; and he reported to us how he saw the angel in his house, standing and saying Send to Joppa, and fetch Simon that is surnamed Peter, who shall speak words unto thee, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house. And on my beginning to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as upon us also at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord how He said, John baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with [the] Holy Spirit. If then God gave to them the same gift as also to us when we1 believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could forbid God? And when they heard these things, they were still, and glorified God, saying, Then indeed also to the Gentiles did God give repentance unto life' (vers. 1-18).
1 Alford takes πιστέυσασιν as belonging to both 'them' and 'us', and expressive of the communion of the faith in the two parties, but though both of course did alike believe, this is to misconceive the reasoning which turns on the plain evidence of the Spirit given 'on our believing'.
It was undeniable on the face of things that Peter had openly traversed the distinction so long set up by God between Jew and Gentile. This he had to Justify by God's authority; and so he does by the simple recital of the vision already before us in the preceding chapter, which he repeats for the conviction of the brethren in Jerusalem. The moment was come for the seeds which the Lord Jesus Himself had sown to germinate and bear fruit visibly. Had He, Who in Matthew 10:5, forbade the twelve to go to any way of the Gentiles not also when risen told them expressly to go and make disciples of all the Gentiles? The vision of Peter was merely the reduction to practice of this great commission, or at least a kindred one. For in Luke 24:47 the Lord about to ascend had declared that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the Gentiles, beginning from Jerusalem. And so it was. With Jerusalem they had begun. But now the tide was turning. From Jerusalem the saints had been scattered abroad. Samaria had already received the word of God, not by the church agreeing to it, nor even by the action of the apostles. And now God had left nothing ambiguous as to His will about the Gentiles. The gospel henceforth must go out indiscriminately. The holiness of Israel had come to naught in the cross of Christ. By virtue of the blood of the cross God could and would wash even the Gentiles clean Ritual had come to its end. Henceforth there must be reality by faith And as the cross of Christ pronounced all alike ruined, so now salvation was going forth to any that believed, Jew or Gentile alike. Such was the purport of the vision; and grace reasoned with Peter when he in the ecstasy ventured to controvert the Lord Himself. Who then so proper as he to convince the obstinate men of the circumcision? If they were contending with him, could he not tell them truly that he had himself dared to contend even with the Lord, Who had repeatedly and emphatically reproved his prejudices and had forbidden him to deem common what God had cleansed?
Peter told them also how the three men from the Gentile Cornelius appeared in person at that very moment before the house in Joppa, and how the Spirit bade him go with them without a question. Such a threefold cord could not be broken, each part was independent of the other, and all of them from God. For Cornelius in Caesarea had a vision no less than Peter in Joppa. But Peter had in addition, while he thought on the vision the Spirit directing him to go with the messengers of Cornelius before he knew that the three men were making inquiry at the gate.
Nay, there was more than this. God had manifestly used His word as only He could: 'As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell upon them, as also upon us at the beginning.' It was the gospel of their salvation. To them also the Spirit was supplied, Who wrought powers among them beyond possibility of cavil or question. The promise of the Father was therefore fulfilled in the Gentiles, as much as in the Jews who believed, according to the word of the Lord in Acts 1:4-5.
Again, let us remark how clearly this discourse of Peter distinguishes new birth from salvation.1 Cornelius was assuredly born of God before Peter visited him at Caesarea. Nevertheless Peter was to speak unto him words whereby he should be saved. It is a gross mistake to suppose that the salvation which he now found is not far beyond new birth. Present salvation is the first foundation privilege of the gospel. To be born again was always true from Abel downwards. But those who are merely born again do not enter Christian ground until they have received at least the first and most needful blessing, to which the accomplishment of Christ's work entitles all who believe.
1 Another remark must be made here, though it is grievous that it should be needed. When Cornelius was assured that he was to be saved by hearing the words spoken by Peter, how groundless and evil to infer that 'all his house' were to be saved irrespective of faith! Such heterodoxy is the result of the hot furnace and continual hammering on the anvil, of party. The terms of salvation are alike for Jew or Gentile, of grace but by faith. Here it is the more momentous because it is no question of baptism (as in Acts 16) but of salvation: only the sounder view of Acts 11 goes far to disprove theories built on Acts 16. But one error leads to another; and those who divorce the outward sign from the individual place assigned it in scripture, however blessed the number of individuals in a family, are in danger of advancing to a degree of error which would appal even the old and moderate holders of the prevalent tradition in the world-church whence this judaizing notion originated. Nobody is entitled to assume that one in all Cornelius' house was contemplated for salvation, till he too heard the gospel of salvation, unless salvation be by an ordinance.
The remarkable care with which God introduced the new standing-point [of salvation] to the Gentiles makes this confusion inexcusable. Now, while faith never was without suited mercy from God, it is one of the most marked signs of unbelief to ignore the peculiar privilege which God is now giving, and to go back to that mode or means which may have been at a former time. Here, as has been already and often pointed out, the Evangelicals are as dark as the Sacramentarians. For, if the latter party attach exorbitant efficacy to the mere sign of the blessing, the former are as ignorant of what is signified. Both agree in making the initiatory institution of the gospel to be the sign of life or the new birth; whereas it is really of the remission or washing away of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16), and of death with Christ (Romans 6:2-3; Colossians 2:12), i.e., of salvation (1 Peter 3:21). Cornelius learnt from the apostle that for a Gentile it was no question any longer of God's uncovenanted mercy. He himself, already born of God and acquainted with the Messiah come for the deliverance of His ancient people by faith, had now to learn of salvation's door open to the Gentile believer as truly as to the Jewish. It is not promise, as hitherto even to an Israelite, it is the work accomplished, and soul-salvation henceforth given to all believers without distinction. As the seal of it, the Holy Ghost was manifestly imparted as on the day of Pentecost.
This was conclusive for the objections of the circumcision then. Who was Peter, as he triumphantly closed his argument, who they, to resist God? None but He could give that gift, which He had granted alike to Jews and Gentiles by faith of the gospel.
But the principle is of immense importance permanently, and as much now as ever. The true ground of reception is not the acceptance of certain articles of faith, expressed or understood; still less is it a certain measure of intelligence about the one body and one Spirit, which it is improbable that a single soul in Jerusalem then possessed definitely. It is a far weightier fact, the possession of 'the like gift'. If not so baptized of the Holy Spirit one is not really a member of Christ's body. To be born again never did suffice. One must have, through faith of Christ as the gospel proclaims Him and His work, the Spirit given to one as a believer. Without known remission of sins one may be quickened, but there cannot be what scripture calls 'salvation', any more than the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father. There may be conversion, a divinely-given hatred of evil and love of good, God's word prized, and prayer; there may be conscience toward God, yet a real but imperfect looking to Christ. But till one knows by faith of the gospel, that all is clear between the soul and God through the sacrifice of Christ, the Holy Spirit does not seal the person, when there is submission to the righteousness of God, He does: then the believer is actually made a member of the one body of Christ. Of course such a one is, or ought to be, baptized with water, but in scripture this is never connected with that corporate and everlasting relationship. It is individual and bound up with the simple confession of Christ; so much so, that whatever God may do in sovereign grace, no intelligent saint would think of presenting a soul for fellowship of the church, unless he had previously taken the ground of a baptized person. But baptism of the Holy Ghost is wholly distinct from water baptism; and this is not even a sign of that, but of salvation by Christ or burial unto His death.
Even the stoutest defenders of Jewish exclusiveness were overwhelmed by the accumulated and crowning proof that God gave to the Gentiles also repentance unto life. It was now an incontestable and blessed fact. They were more than silenced, they 'were still'. Grace had triumphed, as it ought to do, over law, in Jerusalem, and among none but Jews that believed. It was not yet a day of ruin, when the least right are apt to tee the most self-confident and jubilant. It was grace made them glorify God in reversing their previous judgment.
But God works variously to accomplish His purpose, and so we see at this point of the inspired history. The action of Peter was of the utmost moment, and its acceptance in Jerusalem by those whom God had set in the highest place in the assembly. A fresh apostle had been expressly chosen outside the twelve, called by the glorified Christ in heaven where all for man is and must be of sovereign grace, given to be apostle of Gentiles in formal and acknowledged contradistinction from those of the circumcision. Nor was this all. The free action of the Holy Spirit receives a full and rich expression in the labours of brethren, who, when driven by persecution from Jerusalem, began to preach, but were bold enough to preach, without trance or vision or personal direction, outside the ancient people of God and even proselytes.
'They therefore that were scattered abroad through the tribulation that took place on the occasion of Stephen passed through as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none but Jews only. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming' unto Antioch spoke unto the Greeks1 also,1 preaching the Lord Jesus. And [the] Lord's hand was with them and a great number believed and turned2 unto the Lord. And the report concerning them came unto the ears of the assembly that was in Jerusalem; and they dispatched Barnabas3 as far as Antioch: who, on arriving and seeing the grace of God, rejoiced and exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide by the Lord. For he was a good man and full of [the] Holy Spirit and faith; and a large crowd was added to the Lord. And he3 went forth unto Tarsus to seek for Saul, and on finding brought him' unto Antioch. And it came to pass that even4 for a whole year they were gathered together in the assembly and taught a large crowd, and that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch' (vers. 19-26).
1 The simple participle is right, not the compounded as in Text. Rec. which drops 'also' and reads Ἑλληνιστάς after BDcorr. EHLP and most, the Sinaitic giving the strange blunder of 'evangelists' as its primary reading.
2 AB and three cursives give 'that believed turned'.
3 High authorities omit 'to go through', and 'Barnabas' in ver. 25, also the word 'him'. (one or both) in ver. 26.
4 'Even' is omitted in Text. Rec.
It will be observed that the account of this early and free evangelizing, first to Jews, but after a little while to Greeks, is reserved for the introduction of Saul's first connection with Antioch, the earthly starting-point of the great apostle's labours. This is quite in Luke's manner. His order (and none more orderly) is not one of simple sequence, such as we may see in the Gospel of Mark, still less does it linger on giving evidences of the change of dispensation, as in that of Matthew. He was led to deal with moral associations, which, if less patent, present a deeper arrangement, and fuller of instruction in God's ways, than a mere chronological series.
Whatever the value (and it was immense) of the episode we have lately had before us in Acts 9: 32 - 11: 18 (Acts 9:31 being a sort of transitional link that closes what goes before and introduces it), God took care that the gospel should reach the Gentiles first in a way altogether informal, even while the highest ecclesiastical authorities were there to commence and sanction its inauguration with the seal of the whole apostolic college in Jerusalem. It pleased the Lord that all should be ordered otherwise; and the work among the Gentiles began with not even distinct purpose nor definite intelligence on the part of its promoters, with nothing apparent save the loving zeal that knew the desperate need of the Gentiles as well as the immeasurable efficacy of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. It was therefore according to the deepest wisdom as well as divine goodness that the real beginning of the gospel outside Israel should be simply of love flowing out from God only, as far as understanding went, in the circumstances that ensued on Stephen's martyrdom. Then, as we know, the saints generally were scattered through the persecution that set in. In the course. of their passage here and there, Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch profited by their testimony. At first, however, the word was spoken to none but Jews only. Some of them, however, and these foreign Jews, Cyprians and Cyrenians, ventured farther, and in the last of the places named, at Antioch addressed the Greeks also with the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus.
Was not this very bold? Certainly it was of God Who made use of the providential circumstances for His glory. It was love, it was spiritual instinct, in the heart of those who evangelized, whose very names are unknown. God has taken particular care not to name them perhaps lest we should attribute to them a deeper perception of His mini than was really due. The momentous fact was there, and simple-hearted labourers were those to whom God gave this mighty and profound impulse by His Spirit. Let us admire these ways of God, which are higher than those even of His people, as the heavens are higher than the earth.
Man, even the wisest of His servants, would have expected otherwise. But the same God was now at work, Who, if He brought Moses by providence into the house of Pharaoh's daughter, brought him out of it by faith, Who even then did not use him, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, to the deliverance of His people, till he had unlearned man as well as himself, and realized alone what God is, in the wilderness for forty long years: then and then only was he fitted of God to be a ruler and a deliverer. So now did it to God seem meet to begin Gentile Christianity through men of comparatively small account in either the world or the church, before there was the smallest intercourse between Peter and Cornelius. The highest order that ever was established in the assembly on earth could not therefore boast. The Lord is above that or any other grade; to Him none can dictate. Nor has He abdicated His rights over the earth into the hands of a vicegerent any more than of the twelve. This having been vindicated by His sovereign employment of the Cyprians and Cyrenians who first planted the gospel among the nations, He does take care to send Peter to Caesarea and to have Peter's action on according to His direct command formally sanctioned by the twelve in Jerusalem. His own call of Saul to be apostle of the Gentiles was independent of both the free action at Antioch and the formal recognition of Caesarea at Jerusalem; as it was evidently also prior in time, and in many respects superior in claim and power, one may add to both, though this was not yet fully disclosed.
Of such weight it was in God's eyes to found, confirm, and authenticate this work among the Gentiles, so supremely interesting and indispensable to us, who without it were mere sinners, 'without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.' But if to us of such moment, what was it to the glory of His own grace? What to the praise of His Son, the Lord Jesus?
And if these brethren of Cyprus and Cyrene kept speaking to the Greeks also, announcing the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus, the Lord's hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. If ever men dared to draw indefinitely on grace without waiting for outward sign or open commission, if any servants of the Lord ever exposed themselves to a seemingly just taunt of going beyond all bounds, more especially as 'the twelve' were not only alive but together not so far off, surely it was these pioneers of grace to the Greeks.
Antioch in Syria was no doubt a suitable place in God's mind. The city was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucus Nicator; and there, as the Jews possessed equal privileges with the Greeks politically, great numbers lived under the government of an ethnarch of their own. God never forgets kindness shown to His poor people even in their fallen estate, and knows how to repay with an interest unmistakably divine. Here first the Greeks heard, believed, and turned to the Lord.
It is well known that large and good MS. authority supports the reading of the common text, Hellenists, Grecians, or Greek-speaking Jews. But the sense afforded by corr. A Dpm, and, if not all the ancient versions, by the Armenian, is made decisive by the requirements of the truth stated. For in Jerusalem itself before the scattering not only were 'Grecians' objects of testimony as well as other Jews, but notoriously the murmuring was of that portion against the Hebrews, or native Jews who spoke Aramaic. Nay more, all 'the seven' chosen to allay the unworthy outbreak, and to relieve the apostles from a work that hindered for an incomparably better, bore Hellenistic names, and one of them was expressly from Antioch. Again, it is recorded in Acts 9:29 how Saul of Tarsus spoke and disputed against these Hellenists in Jerusalem. Thus there would be nothing new or peculiar in similar speech at Antioch; whereas it is declared here that at first none but Jews were addressed, and afterwards 'the Greeks also', and this effectively under the good hand of the Lord. Now 'Hebrew' stands over against 'Hellenist', but not 'Jew', which includes both. So that 'Jew' can only be confronted by 'Greek', not by 'Hellenists', which falls under that category. The point therefore is so far from immaterial, that 'Greeks'1 can alone bear rigid or intelligent investigation, and at once conveys a new and important fact. Further, we must on no account suppose their conversion to the Lord by the gospel to have taken place after the disciples had heard of the call of Cornelius. It has been already stated that it occurred before Peter's visit to Caesarea. Evidently all that our chapter implies is, that the report about their conversion only then came to the ears of the assembly that was in Jerusalem. The fact of the conversion itself had of course taken place considerably before; and we have seen how beautifully its priority contributes its quota to the full scheme of God's grace, which called apostolic authority into action no less appropriately.
1 No wonder that with his usual tact Abp. Ussher (Works, xi. 24) accepted the reading, even though the Vatican supports that which prevails among the more modern copies, and the Fathers seem to vacillate with their too frequent lack of discernment. The effort of Wetstein, et al., fails to make out that Ἐλληνισταί means Gentiles, instead of Greek-speaking or foreign Jews, its real import. Equally vain (as founded on the common mix-reading), is the reasoning of Saumaise, Wolf, et al., that they were Gentiles but proselytes of Judaism. It may be well to note that while in the New Testament the Authorized Version distinguishes 'Grecian' (= Hellenist) from 'Greek', in the Old Testament (Joel 3:6) the former is used for the latter where the LXX. properly have τῶν Ἑλλήνων. KÂ?hnol is quite mistaken in referring ἐξ αὐτῶν (ver. 20) not to the scattered preachers but to the Jews just named.
Barnabas then, who was of Cyprus, though a Levite, comes to Antioch on his mission of inquiry. Nor can we conceive one more admirably chosen, if a genial heart devoted to Christ were wanted to judge fairly of the work in Antioch and to reassure those in Jerusalem adequately. For he, when he came and saw the grace of God, 'rejoiced and exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide by the Lord' (ver. 23). And striking is the comment of the inspired historian, who in no way grudges his true meed any more than Paul would because Barnabas subsequently was betrayed into unbecoming heat for his kinsman's sake: 'For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith.' Grace sealed his visit also, 'and a large crowd was added to the Lord.' Can we doubt that the work had still its mixed character, with Barnabas a fellow-workman in what drew out his joy?
Again, there is another trait very characteristic of this 'good man', and not only so but of the real working of the Holy Spirit, both in sending him to Antioch and now in his going off to Cilicia. 'And he went forth unto Tarsus to seek for Saul; and on finding [him] brought him unto Antioch' (vers. 25-26). Is it thus that we feel and act in presence of a large field of service where we are honoured by the Master's use? Do we in the midst of it remind ourselves of another who might be yet more efficient? Or does jealousy still hinder - still play its dark and deadly part to the dishonour of Christ and the loss of souls within and without? It was not so with Barnabas, who had already done a brother's office when all were alas! afraid of Saul (Acts 9:26-27). Now having learnt his value as a bold preacher when going in and out of Jerusalem, he bethinks him of the help Saul might render at Antioch, and, acting on it, he is enabled to execute his desire. 'And it came to pass that even for a whole year they were gathered together in1 the assembly, and taught a large crowd, and that the disciples were first called2 Christians in Antioch' (ver. 26). It was Christ's flock, not that of either; and His love animated them both, as others also no doubt, to care for it. In those days not one said that the assembly was his own, but served in it the more lovingly and holily because they always remembered that it is God's, and not man's.
1 'In' seems not more literal than exact and full. 'With' does not convey the intimacy of their relation, themselves a part of the assembly: it might rather imply a place less close. It will be noticed that here first do we read of 'the assembly', or church, in a Gentile city, whence in due time the Spirit sends Barnabas and Saul separated for their work of grace among the nations. Yet God so ordered that Antioch could not, more than Rome, boast of an apostolically founded assembly for, in the simple way we have seen, it began by men who in love preached to all alike the good news of Christ.
2 It is rather bold of Mr. Myers (Norrisian Prize Essay, 1832, p. 16, note) to say as an ascertained fact that 'the apostles gave the heathen converts this name'. The form of the Greek verb is active, no doubt; but what of its real force? The N.T. usage in the sense here required is limited to the occurrence of the future in Romans 7:3, which is beyond controversy opposed directly to the assumption. There it means 'shall be called' or 'get the name of' and so it is here. How much more sober is Abp. Ussher on the fact: 'Quod nomen, Latina non Graeca a Christo deflexum, a Romanis Antiochiae tum agentibus impositum illis fuisse videatur'. Where a divine communication is intended, the form is different. The classic use for managing, and hence speaking of, business, does not occur in the New Testament, though one can see how from this people would get a name, and at length a name irrespective of their business.
It is not without interest that the Spirit of God here adds that Antioch, notoriously famous of old for witty or scurrilous nicknames, first gave the designation of 'Christians' to the disciples, who within were styled 'faithful', 'brethren', 'saints', and otherwise 'Christians' was a name which Gentiles gave in reproach, as Jews called them 'Nazarenes', and Julian the apostate at a later day, 'Galileans'. Jews would never think of 'Christ' as the ground of a contemptuous term: what they scorned was that Jesus is the Christ.
'Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem unto Antioch; and there stood up one from among them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that a great famine was about to be over all the habitable [earth]; which came to pass under Claudius.2 And according as any one of the disciples had means, they determined each of them to send help [lit., for service] to the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did dispatching [it] unto the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul' (vers. 27-30).
2 'Caesar' is added in Text. Rec.
It is a joy to see that the free activity of the Spirit which began the work and founded the assembly in Antioch was no more restive at the special gifts that ministered in their midst than it distrusted what the Lord had wrought by simple believers evangelizing as they could. It was not Barnabas and Saul only who laboured there, but prophets came down from Jerusalem, and one of them, Agabus, predicts a great dearth (as we know there was more than once) in the time of Claudius. Is it not of deep interest, the faith and love which responded to this though it was no charity sermon, without waiting for a call from saints already impoverished by their generous love after the great Pentecost which first saw the assembly here below? They believed in the coming scarcity, and thought of the saints in Jerusalem as truly 'one body'; and perhaps we may apply 1 Corinthians 12:26 here, if one suffer, so do all, and as they sympathize, they succour also. So even the Jews in Ezra's day were roused by the prophets to build, before the renewed intervention of their foes drew out the great king's decree that cancelled the usurper's prohibition. It is blessed to act on heavenly motives in earthly duties; and that what we do should be in the faith that ever honours God's word. So the links of love are maintained on both sides between Jerusalem and Antioch; and this, in things spiritual yet more than in the carnal, which it was their duty to repay, as Paul afterwards did not fail to remind others.
The task was entrusted to Barnabas and Saul through 'the elders', of whom we hear for the first time in the associations of the assembly. How they were installed in Judea we know not from the New Testament, but we have definite instruction in the sphere of the Gentile assemblies, as we may see in Acts 14:23. The term as the office seems indeed to have been derived from Israel, as anyone can observe how it runs through the O.T. even from the earliest times. It was in force fully in the synagogue, as we may see in the N.T. Vitringa (de Synag. Vet.) discusses this at length. 'Bishop' is now everywhere acknowledged as synonymous, but is apparently derived rather from a Gentile source, though frequently found in the LXX., and pointing to oversight or inspection; as 'elder' did to a man of years, and hence apart from age to a senator. In or out of Palestine each synagogue had its 'elderhood'; and the same order reappears in the assembly. It is absurd to confound this fact with 'the minister' of a church so-called in modern times. Their place was to preside, though some might teach. An exclusive title to preach or teach is unknown to the N.T., nay more, it contradicts the fundamental constitution of the assembly in which God sets all variety of gifts for exercise within and without.
And 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.
But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
And the spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
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?
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
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.
And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and 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 of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
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.
And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.