Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.C.—THE OBJECTIONS OF PREJUDICED JUDÆO-CHRISTIANS TO THE FELLOWSHIP WITH GENTILES, WHICH HAD BEEN COMMENCED, ARE SUCCESSFULLY ANSWERED BY PETER, WHO APPEALS TO THE OBVIOUS INTERPOSITION OF THE LORD IN THE WHOLE TRANSACTION; HENCE, THOSE WHO HAD OBJECTED, ARE NOT ONLY SATISFIED, BUT ALSO OFFER THANKS TO GOD FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES.
1And [But] the apostles and [the] brethren that were in [throughout] Judea heard that the Gentiles had also [also had] received the word of God. 2And when [But when]1 Peter was come [went] up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [disputed] with him, 3Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised [men having the foreskin], and didst eat with them. 4But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning [But Peter began], and expounded it by [set forth in] order unto them, saying, 5I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been [as] a great sheet [large linen cloth], let down from heaven by four corners [at four ends]; and it came even to me: 6Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes [And when I gazed into it], I considered [observed], and saw [the] fourfooted beasts of the earth, and [the] wild beasts, and [the] creeping things, and fowls [the birds] of the air [of heaven]. 7And [But] I heard2 a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8But I said, Not so, [By no means, O] Lord; for nothing common or unclean hath at any time [for that which is common or unclean hath never yet]3 entered into my mouth. 9 But the [a] voice answered me [om. me]4 again [a second time] from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common. 10And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto [three men stood before] the house where I was, sent from Cesarea unto me. 12And [But] the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting [om. nothing doubting]5 . Moreover these six brethren accompanied me [But there went with me these six brethren], and we entered into the man’s house: 13And he shewed [announced to] us how he had seen an [the, τὸυ] angel [standing] in his house, which stood and [who] said unto him, Send men [om. men]6 to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14Who shall tell [will say unto] thee words, whereby [through which] thou and all thy house shall [will] be saved. 15And as I began [But when I had begun] to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16Then remembered I the word of the7 Lord, how that he said, John indeed [om. indeed] baptized with water; but ye shall [will] be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17Forasmuch then as [If, then, εὶ οῦ̓ν] God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who [when we] believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could [how, then, was I able to]8 withstand God? 18When they heard these things, they held their peace [were quieted], and glorified9 God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance [change of mind] unto life.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 11:1, 2. And the apostles … heard.—The conversion and baptism of Cornelius created a sensation in the church of Christ. Even before Peter returned to Jerusalem (Acts 11:2), the apostles and the Christians in Judea, (κατὰ τὴν ʼΙονδαίαν, throughout Judea, residing in different parts of the province), obtained information that the Gentiles also had accepted the word of God. The manner in which the fact itself is stated, shows, in the first place, that it had made a favorable impression on the apostles and the great majority of Christians in Judea, and had gratified them; for it unquestionably promoted the honor of God when Gentiles also, and, therefore, not Israelites exclusively, received the Gospel. In the second place, the expression τὰ ἔθνη implies that the event was regarded as involving an important principle, and as being decisive in its nature; for these believers considered the act of individual Gentiles as bearing a representative character, since it showed that Paganism, viewed as a whole, was capable of receiving the word of God.
ACTS 11:3. Thou wentest … didst eat with them.—All the believers, however, did not receive such impressions, or else doubts may have gradually arisen in the minds of many, which altered their original favorable view of the case. This circumstance manifested itself when Peter returned to Jerusalem; those who were ἐκ περιτομῆς, Acts 11:2, censured him.—Who are these persons? The expression resembles the one which occurs in Acts 10:45: οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς πιστοί, except that the latter is less likely to attract attention, since Peter and his Judæo-Christian attendants from Joppa are there surrounded by heathens, i.e., by uncircumcised men. But here in Jerusalem, on the contrary, there was certainly at that time, not one man among all the Christians, who was not an Israelite, and, consequently, circumcised. If, therefore, in the midst of the Judæo-Christian congregation, οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς are specially brought forward, this term cannot be intended to state the objective, religious and national fact that they were circumcised Jews, but can refer only to subjective [personal] views and sentiments. Those only of the Judæo-Christians are, accordingly, described by it, who assigned a peculiar value to circumcision, and, without doubt, to the observance of the Mosaic law in general. With this explanation the statement in the present verse agrees. These persons διεκρίνοντο πρὸς αὐτόν, that is, they disputed, contended with Peter (διακρίνομαι, secernor, pugna decerno, dimico); they declared it to be a ground of reproach to him, that he had entered the house of uncircumcised men, and eaten at the same table with them. Here ἀκροβυστία and περιτομή are, accordingly, antithetical terms. These strict men of the circumcision did not reproach Peter for having preached the Gospel to heathens and baptized them; such a course, indeed, they could not easily pronounce to be wrong, especially in view of the command of Jesus to preach the Gospel to all nations. But they could not reconcile it with their lofty conceptions of a strictly legal course of action, and of the dignity of an Israelite, that Peter should have commenced such a familiar intercourse, and such a close fellowship with pagans, entered a pagan house, and sat as a guest at the table of an uncircumcised man. If these opponents of Peter reflected further, they must have at last arrived at the conclusion that those pagans who hear the word of Christ and believe it, should necessarily be first circumcised and fully incorporated with the people of Israel, before a Christian, that is, a Judæo-Christian, could hold intercourse with them without restraint, and maintain a fraternal fellowship with them. And this was undoubtedly the Judaizing principle, in the proper sense of the term.
ACTS 11:4–11. But Peter … from the beginning [But Peter began.].—The word ἀρξάμενος is not intended merely to describe the general fact that Peter began to speak, but also implies that his narrative took a wide range, and embraced the earliest circumstances connected with the event. The term καθεξῆς denotes that the apostle furnished a detailed and regular statement of all the facts, in the order in which they successively occurred. It is precisely the intimate manner in which the several incidents in the narrative are here interwoven with each other, that produces conviction, and silences every doubt. The true purport and meaning of the revelation which God granted to Peter in the vision (Acts 11:5–10), are unfolded by the arrival of the messengers from Cesarea (Acts 11:11), which coincided in time with the vision, as well as by the simultaneous command of the Spirit (Acts 11:12) that he should accompany them. And when the apostle enters the house of Cornelius, he learns that the latter had also received a divine command, and had been directed to send to Joppa, in order to hear the saving word from Peter’s own mouth. As soon, moreover, as the Gospel is proclaimed to Cornelius and his friends, (Acts 11:15), the outpouring of the Holy Ghost occurs, and thus the several circumstances are all intimately connected with one another—each particular illustrates, explains, and confirms the rest, and the whole not only produces an harmonious impression on the mind, but also testifies incontrovertibly; “It is the will of God!” And, as the event exercised such great influence on the enlargement and regular development of the church of Christ, Luke here repeats, in the words of the apostle, the principal features of the narrative which he had himself given in the previous chapter.
ACTS 11:12–14. And the Spirit bade me go, etc.—The word οῦ̓τοι which is appended to οἱ ἓξ ἀδελφοί, Acts 11:12, shows that the Christians of Joppa, who had accompanied Peter to Cesarea, subsequently went with him to Jerusalem; this could have the more easily occurred, if, as it is probable, Peter at once proceeded to that city, without returning to Joppa. It is, besides, quite possible that Peter anticipated that some individuals in Jerusalem would remonstrate against the course of action which he had pursued, and hence desired the presence of these brethren as witnesses of the divine guidance in the whole transaction.
ACTS 11:15. And as I began.—The language: ἐν τῷ ἄρξασδαί με λαλεῖν, implies that Peter had not yet concluded, but intended to continue his discourse, when he was interrupted by the unexpected occurrence to which he here refers. [ʼΑξα. is not pleonastic, as some have supposed, but is equivalent to: ‘I had scarcely spoken a few words, when, etc.’ WINER: Gr. N. T. § 65. 7. d.—TR.]. When he mentions here the communication of the Spirit, he purposely lays a stress specially on its identity with the original communication of the Spirit to the Christians: ὥσπερ καὶ ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν ἀρχῇ, namely, in the beginning of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost [“on the day of Pentecost.” (Meyer).—TR.].—When he afterwards says, Acts 11:17: τὴν ἵσην δωρεὰν—ὡς καὶ ἡμῖν πιστεύσασιν, etc., the participle πιστ. refers to ἡμῖν, which stands nearest to it, and neither to the more remote αὐτοῖς (Kuinoel), nor to both pronouns at the same time. For, as Bengel has ingeniously observed, this clause is intended to set forth that faith in Jesus was the condition on which alone the Christians had, at the beginning, received the gift of the Holy Ghost. The sense is: ‘Not because we were Israelites, nor because we had obtained, circumcision, but because we believed in Jesus as the Lord and Messiah, God has granted to us the gift of the Spirit, and indeed as a δωρεά, as a free gift of grace, to which we had no rightful claim, and which God did not owe to us.’
ACTS 11:16. Then remembered I … he said.—When Peter refers to the words of Jesus, which are recorded both in Luke 3:16 [Luke 24:49], and in Acts 1:5, the sense is not merely, that Peter had lived to witness the extension to pagans also of the gift which had been promised more immediately to the apostles (Meyer); the apostle rather speaks emphatically of the relation existing between baptism with water and baptism with the Spirit in the following sense: ‘When the Lord promised us His baptism, it was the baptism with the Spirit;’ now if He has granted to pagans the same baptism with the Holy Ghost, which we ourselves had previously received, baptism with water could not, in that case, be denied to them, for such a denial would have, very erroneously, represented the latter as being more important and more holy than the baptism with the Spirit.
ACTS 11:17, 18. a. As God gave them, etc. [the like gift … us, who believed; see above, on Acts 11:15.—TR.].—The question in the apodosis (Acts 11:17): ἐγὼ δὲ τίς ἤμην δυνατός κωλῦσαι τὸυ θεόν, contains an inference corresponding to the foregoing [εἰ οῦ̓ν etc. is the protasis.—TR.]. The particle δέ [see note 8 above, appended to the text.—TR.] in the conditional clause, gives prominence to a certain antithesis, which is a double one in the present case, in which two interrogative clauses are combined. [WINER: Gr. N. T. § 66. 5. (3).—TR.]. Peter asks: ‘Who, on the other hand, was I?’ and, ‘Was I, then, able to hinder God?’ The former question contrasts God with man, the latter, God’s almighty will and action with man’s feeble powers. In each respect it was impossible to hinder God, that is, when he decreed to save these pagans, and to incorporate them with the kingdom of Christ, as well as those who were Jews by birth. [“κωλ. τ. θ. i.e., to hinder God, by hindering the baptism (10:47), which his will contemplated, when he communicated the Spirit.” (de Wette).—TR.]
b. It hence appears that Peter did not restrict himself to the special objection which was made to his course in accepting the hospitality of pagans, and sitting at the table with them; he also took, as the basis of his vindication of himself, the gracious purpose of God respecting the Gentiles, in so far as that purpose was unmistakably revealed in the acts of God. If he could exhibit the subject distinctly and convincingly, from this point of view, his defence of himself for entering into social relations with pagans, would be perfectly successful. And such was really the case, according to Acts 11:18. For, those who had entertained scruples, were not only satisfied (ἡσύχασαν), after hearing this address, and tacitly withdrew all that they had said in reproach of Peter, but also enthusiastically proclaimed the praises of God (ἐδόξαζον etc.), who had granted so great a gift as a change of mind to heathens also, with a view to life or to salvation. The change of tense in ἡσύχασαν and ἐδόξαζον [see note 9 above, appended to the text.—TR.], informs us that Peter’s opponents were at once satisfied, but that the thanks and praises which they gave to God, were enduring.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The circumstance is not concealed from us, that a difference of opinion existed among the members of the primitive church respecting the procedure of Peter in the case of Cornelius, insomuch that even reproaches were addressed to the apostle on account of his conduct. A feeling of dissatisfaction manifested itself, like that which is mentioned in Acts 6:1; in the latter case, it was entertained by one part of the church against the other, but it is here an apostle with whom a part of the church is dissatisfied. Sacred History does not purpose to exhibit the believers in an ideal light, which would require that such facts should be veiled, but presents the whole case in accordance with the truth. Even the apostolic church was not distinguished by such unity of sentiment, that no difference of opinion could arise and cloud it. And even if this dissatisfaction with Peter’s course, and these complaints originally proceeded from a “zeal of God” [Rom. 10:2], it is, at the same time, perfectly clear that this zeal was “not according to knowledge,” and that moral defects also exercised an influence. Nevertheless, all is reported with the utmost candor, not merely for the sake of historical truth, but also in order that we might derive a warning from it, and understand that he that thinketh he standeth, should take heed lest he fall! (1 Cor. 10:12).
2. The deportment of the apostle Peter, when he heard these reproaches, was truly evangelical, and in accordance with the mind of Jesus, and was not hierarchical in its character. Far from retiring behind the protection of his apostolical authority and power, or leaning for support on any alleged primacy—far from claiming to be infallible in deciding a question of principle, or declining to furnish explanations and to justify himself, he allowed his opponents to express themselves unreservedly and fully. His defence, which was made with the utmost calmness and gentleness, was so constructed that the facts themselves spoke aloud, insomuch that even his opponents voluntarily confessed that they were vanquished. It was only in this way that the discussion could really result in majorem Dei gloriam (ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεόν, Acts 11:18); and it produced this result far more successfully than if the principle had been tenaciously held, that the apostle was a priori necessarily right, or, that, in view of the contracted judgment of the laity, he was by no means bound to explain his conduct.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 11:1. The apostles and brethren … heard.—The sweet savour of Christ [2 Cor. 2:15] is sometimes widely diffused by a single family. (Quesn.).—It will ever be an honor to this upright man (Peter), that he dared to be the first who, in company with others, guided poor heathens to Christ by means of the Gospel. If, then, it should even be the case that nothing at all is said about any one of us, except that we had not labored in vain to save sinners through the Gospel—that here a sinner had been awakened, or there a thirsting soul sought the grace of God—that here a soul had found peace, or there another obeyed the Gospel—and, that we had faithfully guided all,—this would be an abiding praise before God. (Ap. Past.).—Cesarea and Antioch, the joy of Jerusalem. This is the theme of the present chapter. The Lord subdued the carnal thoughts of the believers who were of the circumcision, so that they were quieted; they now not only praised God for all that had occurred in Cesarea, but also stretched forth fraternal hands to Antioch, so that all might be accomplished in that city, which the tokens in Cesarea had indicated. Before Luke exhibits to us the progress of the Gospel from Antioch even to the end of the earth, he directs our attention to the unity of the Spirit, which marked the relations between Antioch and Jerusalem; but Cesarea was the bond of peace which the Lord had, in a wonderful manner, established between these two cities. (Besser).
ACTS 11:2, 3. But when Peter was come up … they … contended with him, etc.—How often wisdom still has to justify herself on account both of her children, and of her manner of gathering them, in answer to many a censure and many an objection which men pronounce! Who can perform any work so skilfully, as to be liable to no objection? But it is often well that such opposition counterbalances the joy with which success might inspire us, as we thus the more surely remain in that humble and calm frame of mind, which Peter here exhibits. (Rieger).—The church in Jerusalem did not recognize Peter as a pope, since she here calls him to account. (Starke).—The discussion of religious subjects, it is true, can seldom take place, without being, to a certain extent, a source of offence; still, it is often attended with the advantage that the truth is thus more fully brought to light, (id.).—We learn from this contention, 1. That even among God’s saints no one has been free from blemishes and folly; and although we cannot compare the large rents in the walls of our modern Zion with the inconsiderable crevices that may be discovered in the primitive church, nevertheless, the church has at all times been, and always will continue to be, a lazar-house, in which the sick and the infirm are restored by Jesus, the faithful Physician. Let no one, then, despond, who is required to fulfil the duties of his office among the dead and the living, the healthy and the sick. 2. But, on the other hand, we ought not to ascribe the faults of the saints to a malicious spirit. There are some, who, when they speak of the devout, strain at gnats, while, at other times, they can even swallow camels. There are others who look at the failings of the apostles through a magnifying glass, and charge them with having misunderstood the mind of their Master, with having caused his plan to fail, etc., because they cannot establish their own system of faith, except on the ruins of the apostolic doctrine. There are even individuals who attempt to palliate their own transgressions, by appealing to the faults and sins of believers in the primitive church. It is necessary to explain to all such persons the distinction between faults and weaknesses, on the one hand, and unfaithfulness and unholiness of feeling, on the other—to show them that the faults of believers are not presented as models, but recorded as warnings—and to exhort them to repent, and do the first works [Rev. 2:5]. Pastors, especially, are bound to guard against indulging a contentious spirit, and to remember the word of Paul: “If any man seem to be contentious, [let him know that (Germ. version)] we have no such custom.” [1 Cor. 11:16]. 3. When we have truly known and experienced the universal love of God, we can form a more correct judgment respecting many occurrences which are connected with the kingdom of God, although they may take place beyond the pale of our own creed, and we will be preserved from yielding to an undue zeal against other religions. It will give us pleasure when, here or there, another soul is won, even if we might object in part to the manner in which that soul was approached. 4. They were of the circumcision, or believers among the Jews, who took offence at the baptism of the Gentiles [see EXEG. note on Acts 11:3.—TR.]. Their attachment to the traditions of the fathers, and their erroneous views of certain passages of the Scriptures, led them to regard the observance of the Mosaic law as necessary. A remnant of the Jewish leaven still fermented in them, and, through them, in the primitive church. We here find a striking illustration of the force of old and deep-rooted prejudices, even in the case of converted men. The tendency to rely on works, as if they were meritorious, is not entirely extirpated, even when its gross forms cease to appear after conversion. (Ap. Past.).—The infirmities of believers: they are to be regarded, I. Not as facts which bear witness against the faith, but as evidences of human imperfection, over which faith has not yet fully prevailed; II. Not as palliations of our own sins, but as facts which warn him who stands, to take heed lest he fall.—The divisions in the primitive Church—exhibited to Christendom, for the purpose of, I. Humbling men, by exposing the power of the enemy, who never fails to sow tares among the wheat; II. Comforting men, by demonstrating that nothing new or strange occurs in the experience of the church, when rents and divisions take place in our day; III. Instructing men, by showing how such divisions may be healed, through the power of evangelical truth and love.
ACTS 11:4–17. [See above, HOM. etc. on Acts 10:9–23.]. Observe here a beautiful illustration of humility, as furnished by a religious teacher. Peter gives an account of his conduct with modesty, in full accordance with his own exhortation (1 Pet. 3:15, 16), in a very different manner from the bishops of Rome, who will not consent to be judged by any one. Ps. 12:4. (Starke).—Here he was truly Peter; like a rock that cannot be moved, he retained all his firmness when the brethren assailed him, and neither permitted himself to doubt the truth of his convictions, nor lost his calmness and gentleness. How would we have sustained ourselves in such a trial—we, who are often so sensitive and impatient when sincere friends kindly admonish us, or, after we have ascertained the will of God, begin to waver, when we hear the opinions of men? (From Ap. Past.).—The testimony of the six brethren of Joppa, who had accompanied Peter, was now of great advantage to him. Hence, it is well, if we desire to obviate all doubts, to act with openness, and to secure the testimony of men of acknowledged veracity. (Rieger).—The defence of the apostle is, in its whole character, calm, natural and convincing. He relates all the circumstances of the case with precision, and specially dwells on those which justified his conduct, e. g., his own prejudice at the beginning, the heavenly vision, etc. This mode of demonstrating his innocence, by a plain statement of the facts themselves, corresponds precisely to the spirit of Christianity, which demands that truth and uprightness should constitute the basis of all our actions. (From Ap. Past.).—The apostle Peter’s vindication, in the presence of the Christians, of his conduct in baptizing heathens: I. That he vindicates himself; II. The manner in which he does it. (Schleiermacher).
ACTS 11:18. When they heard these things, they held their peace.—The strong should bear with the infirmities of the weak, but the latter should also be willing to receive the admonitions of the former. (Starke).—To err is human, but to adhere resolutely to an error of which we are convinced is devilish. How much injury has been inflicted on the church of God by that obstinacy which continues to defend erroneous views, because they have been once adopted! (Ap. Past.)—The objections of human short-sightedness against the wonderful ways of divine wisdom: they must end, I. In self-abasement and silence, II. In joyful praise of God.
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.—Peter’s defence of his conduct before the brethren, a model of a fraternal vindication: I. By its evangelical gentleness and humility; II. By its apostolical firmness and candor.
The best witnesses of a servant of God, when he is assailed and misjudged: I. The commission of God, of which he is conscious; II. The eyes of men, in whose presence he labored; III. The peace of mind with which he can justify himself; IV. The fruits of his labors, to which he may point.
Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life: let us here observe, I. The greatness of divine mercy; II. The blessings which follow man’s repentance.
The reception of the first heathen family into the Christian brotherhood: I. A glorious triumph of divine wisdom and mercy; II. A noble proof of Christian humility and charity; III. A. powerful impulse to that love which seeks the salvation of men.
Acts 11:2. ὅτε δέ is better sustained by manuscripts [A. B. E. Cod. Sin., followed by Lach. Tisch. and Alt.], and ancient versions [Vulg. etc.] than καὶ ὅτε [of text. rec. with G. H.—TR.]
Acts 11:7. [καὶ omitted before φωνῆς in text. rec. with G. H., is found in A. B. E. Cod. Sin., Vulg. etc. and adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.; D. reads καὶ ἥκουσα.—TR.]
Acts 11:8. πᾶν before κοινόν [of text. rec.] is very feebly supported [by G. H.]; it was doubtless introduced into some MSS. from Acts 10:14. [Omitted in A. B. D. E, Cod. Sin. Vulg. etc. and by later editors.—TR.]
Acts 11:9. μοι [of text. rec.] before φωνή is wanting in good authorities [A. B. Cod. Sin. vulg. etc., but is found in E. G. H.; πρὸς μέ in D.]; it was probably interpolated in order to correspond to Acts 11:7 [or to Acts 10:15, (Alf.); omitted by Lach. Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 11:12. The words μηδὲν διακρινόμενον [of text. rec. with E. G. H. Vulg. etc.], are cancelled by Tischendorf as spurious, because they are wanting even in that MS. which has, in this section, inserted the largest number of glosses in the text, viz. Cantabrig. (D); other manuscripts read διακρίνοντα or σιακρίναντα [the latter is the reading of A. B., and is adopted by Lach., and favored by de Wette], or διακρινόμενος [minuscules]. Cod. Sin. and one uncial MS. of the second rank, i. e. Cod. Basileensis (E) read διακρίνοντα [but a later hand altered the reading of Cod. Sin. to—ναντα.—TR.]. The great diversity in the readings makes it probable that both words were a later addition derived from Acts 10:20. [The words are omitted in D. Syr. etc. and by Alf.—TR.]
Acts 11:13. ἅνδρος [of text. rec. with E. G. H.] after Ἰόππην, is wanting in important manuscripts [A. B. D. Cod. Sin.], and in most of the ancient versions [Syr. Vulg.]; it was interpolated here from Acts 10:5. [Omitted by recent editors.—For τε after ἀπήγ. of text. rec. with E. G. H., and retained by Alf., δὲ is substituted from A. B. D. (also Cod. Sin.) by Lach. Tisch. and Bornem. with whom Meyer concurs.—TR.]
Acts 11:16. [Some editors (Griesb.; Knapp, Lach.) who are now sustained by Cod. Sin., insert τοῦ before κυρίου, from A. D. E.—Tisch. and Alf., with text. rec., in accordance with G. H., fathers, etc. omit the word; comp. 1 Pet. 1:25, and see WINER: Gram. N. T. § 19 1, under κύριος.—TR.]
Acts 11:17. δέ [of text. rec.] after ἐγώ is indeed wanting in A. B. D [and Cod. Sin.], and some minuscules, as well as in several versions [Syr. Vulg. and some fathers]; hence Lachmann has cancelled it. But it is attested by E. G. H., as well as some versions, and would scarcely have been inserted, if it had been originally omitted, as it seemed to be superfluous, [“δε was simply dropped, because it was not understood; here it occurs, as it often does in the apodosis after ἐπεί (in the classics), in order to give prominence to the antithesis (εἰ οὖγ ὁ θεος–ἐγὼ δὲ). Herm. Viger. p. 783, annot. 401. Lipsiæ. 1834.” (de Wette).—Retained by Alf. and Meyer.—TR.]
Acts 11:18. ἐδόξαζον [text. rec. with A. E., and retained by Tischend. and Alf.] is far better supported than εδόξασαν, which Lachmann has preferred [and which is found in B. and Cod. Sin.], but which was adopted only for the sake of uniformity [to correspond to the aor. ἡσύχασαν; de Wette, who refers to Lu. 8:23 prefers the imperfect tense, as that of continued action; see above, EXEG. on 8:15–17 ult.—́Αραγε, of text. rec. and E. G. H. is preferred by Alf. to ἄρα of A. B. D. and Cod. Sin.; the latter form is adopted by Lachm. and Tisch.—TR.]
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.SECTION IV
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A GENTILE-CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION IN ANTIOCH. ITS COMMUNION IN FAITH AND LOVE WITH JERUSALEM. SAUL AND THE ANTIOCHIAN CONGREGATION.
A.—THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH IN ANTIOCH, THROUGH THE AGENCY OF HELLENISTS
19Now they which [who] were scattered abroad upon [since] the persecution [affliction] that arose [had arisen] about Stephen10 travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20And [But] some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to11 Antioch, [who came to Antioch, and] spake unto the Grecians [Greeks]12 , preaching [the Gospel concerning] the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number [that]13 believed, and [om. and] turned unto the Lord.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 11:19. a. Now they which were scattered abroad.—Luke here resumes his account of the Christians who had become fugitives in consequence of the hostility of which Stephen, and, immediately afterwards, the Church in general, had been the objects. ʼΑπὸ τῆς θλίψεως, away from the affliction, or, since that event [on account of, (de Wette); in consequence of (Winer, § 47. b. ult.)—TR.]. This θλιψις is, as Luke specially states, the one γενομένη ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ, which occurred on account of Stephen, or, with the origin of which he was connected. (ʼΕπί, indicating the motive.)
b. The question here arises: What is the connection between this narrative, Acts 11:19–21, and the foregoing? That a certain pragmatic connection [that of cause and effect.—TR.] does exist, is indicated by οῦ̓ν, and the point to be determined is: What is that connection? Now, at first view, the obvious answer would seem to be, that the preaching of the Gospel to the Antiochian Gentiles, Acts 11:20, is intended to be described as a result of the conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius. This is the opinion of Kuinoel, and a similar view is entertained by Schneckenburger (Zweck. d. Apgsch. p. 176), and Lange (Gesch. d. Kirche. II. 143.). The interpretation is sustained by assuming that the example of Peter authorized and encouraged similar efforts and attempts to preach the Gospel to heathens. But, on the one hand, the narrative which now follows, stands in no connection whatever with the conversion of Cornelius; it would, indeed, be necessary, in order to establish such a connection, to assume by a forced interpretation, that the contents of Acts 11:19 constitute a parenthesis, and to connect ἐλάλουν πρὀς τ. "Ελλ. in Acts 11:20, immediately with οῦ̓ν [at the beginning of Acts 11:19.]. And, on the other hand, it distinctly appears from Acts 11:19, that Luke intends to connect the statements in that verse and in those which succeed, with his account of the persecution of which Stephen was the victim. Luke, in fact, here resumes the thread of discourse which he had dropped at Acts 8:4 [see above], and employs precisely the same words which occurred in that passage: οἱ μὲν οῦ̓ν διασπαρέντες διῆλθον. The historian, no doubt, connects this event—the original founding of the church at Antioch—with the conversion of Cornelius, since it is, in its essential features, of the same nature; it is, namely, an extension of the church of Christ beyond the boundaries of Judaism. But, at the same time, he by no means places the two events in an immediate causal or pragmatical connection. Hence, the position which the following narrative of the founding of the church in Antioch occupies, furnishes no grounds for assigning the first conversion of pagans in Antioch to a later period than that of Cornelius. The pragmatic connection of the conversion of pagans in Antioch with the persecution described in Acts 8:1 ff., implies, on the contrary, that the former may have occurred even previously to the occurrence at Cesarea. For those who were scattered after the death of Stephen, probably continued their journey without delay, until they severally found places in which they could abide in security, and labor without hinderance—some of them, in particular, arriving at Antioch. And here it cannot reasonably be supposed that a period, embracing even several years, elapsed before any one of their number proclaimed the word concerning Jesus Christ to individual heathens. But it is known with certainty, on the other hand, from the history of the life of the apostle Paul, that a period of at least three years intervened between the death of Stephen (which was followed afterwards by the conversion of Saul), and Paul’s residence in Tarsus [9:30; 11:25, 26], during which the Antiochian congregation already existed.
c. Travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch.—[Φοινίκη, Lat. Phoenice, (a more correct form than the usual Phoenicia) is the ancient Græco-Roman name of a narrow strip of land on the Syro-Palestinian coast of the Mediterranean, more than 130 miles in length, extending from Cape Carmel on the south to the island of Aradus near the coast, or the mouth of the river Eleutherus, and including the cities of Tyre, Sidon, Berytus, etc. (HERZOG: Real-Encyk. XI. 610.—For Antioch, see below, on Acts 11:20, 21.—TR.]. We are informed in this verse, that the Christians who fled from Jerusalem after the death of Stephen, and who, according to Acts 8:1, were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, had, in some instances, passed beyond the northern and north-western boundaries of Palestine, and entered the territory of Phenice; others proceeded to the neighboring island of Cyprus, or retired to Antioch, the capital of Syria. They labored as missionaries wherever they came, and probably prepared the way for the establishment of the Christian congregation in Tyre, which is mentioned below, Acts 21:7. However, they were accustomed to address none but Jews, which fact indeed is implied in Acts 8:4; the only exception was that of Philip, who preached in Samaria [8:5], and was afterwards specially directed by God to approach the officer of the court, who belonged to Meroë [see above, Acts 8:27, 28. b.—TR.]
ACTS 11:20, 21. And some of them, etc.—New and important statements are here made. Some of these Christians whom the persecution had dispersed, and whose flight converted them into missionaries, were natives of the island of Cyprus; others of the number originally came from the African province of Cyrene. They were, consequently, Judæo-Christians who were natives of Hellenic regions, that is, they were Hellenists. When these men arrived at the large city of Antioch (in which, undoubtedly many Jews also resided), and proclaimed Jesus as the Lord, they addressed themselves also to the Hellenes, that is, to heathens. See note 3 above, appended to the text, (on Acts 11:20. b.).—Antioch, situated on the river Orontes, and somewhat less than 20 miles distant from the Mediterranean [and its port, Seleucia], had been built by Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the kingdom of the Seleucidæ, and received its name from that of his father Antiochus. It was one of the many Hellenic [Greek] colonies, which owed their existence to the Macedonian conquests in the East. The Greek language and culture consequently predominated in Antioch, which rapidly rose to the rank of the first city of the East, although the mass of the original inhabitants consisted of natives of Syria.—Thus it occurred that Israelites who found homes in heathen countries in which Greek culture prevailed (Hellenists), were the agents through whom the Gospel was proclaimed to heathens of Greek culture. They labored, moreover, with great success, for we are told, in Acts 11:21, that a great number of heathens received the word in faith, and were converted to Christ. This was the work of the Lord, for His hand—his mighty, spiritual influence—accompanied the labors of these zealous Christians. [Comp. Lu. 1:66; Acts 4:30; “potentia spiritualis, per evangelium se exserens.” (Bengel).—TR.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The kingly power of Christ, to whom indeed all power in heaven and in earth is given, and the wonderful and adorable wisdom of his government, are gloriously revealed in the fact that the persecution which led to the death of Stephen, and compelled many Christians to flee from Jerusalem, was converted into the means for extending His kingdom. When men thought evil, God meant it unto good [Gen. 50:20]; an occurrence which seemed even to the disciples of Jesus to be dangerous and pernicious, was ultimately demonstrated to be truly beneficial, through the guidance of the Lord. When the Christians were compelled to flee from one city, they retired, according to the Redeemer’s directions, to another, and found, at length, a quiet and secure place of abode. If the primitive church, which had previously occupied such an isolated and exclusive position, was scattered, it was precisely that event which caused the Gospel to be carried to other places. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is the kingdom of the Crucified One, and the cross is its peculiar mark. No believer can advance in the path of holiness without bearing the cross, and not only the internal, but also the external growth of the church of Christ, often proceeds with most success, precisely under the cross. On this occasion, the cross, or persecution, promoted the extension of the Gospel not merely beyond the city of Jerusalem, namely in Judea and Samaria, but also beyond the limits of the Holy Land, and, indeed, far beyond the boundaries which separated Israel from the heathen world.
2. Those whom the persecution had dispersed, spake the word, preaching the Gospel concerning Jesus, wherever they came. They proclaimed that Gospel even though they were not apostles, nor held any other office in the church.—They knew in whom they believed; they were anointed with the Holy Ghost, and “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” [Matth. 12:34]. Thus they involuntarily became travelling preachers, and even missionaries among heathens, since some of them preached Jesus to the Greeks in Antioch. And that they did not act presumptuously in adopting this course, was demonstrated by the blessed results: the hand of the Lord was with them Acts 11:21, and many heathens were converted through their word. The Lord of the Church Himself, accordingly, sanctioned and legitimized these extra-official labors. The great principle itself, which was involved in the conversion of Gentiles, was sanctified by God in the case of Cornelius and the apostle Peter; but the first successful movement in this work of converting heathens—the first establishment of the congregation of Antioch, the metropolis of Gentile-Christianity,—was effected, not by Peter, nor by any other apostle, but by ordinary Christians and church-members.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See below, Acts 11:27–30.
Acts 11:19. The reading ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ [of text. rec.], is better attested, as well by MSS. [B [e sil]. G. H.], as by ancient versions and fathers, than ἐπὶ Στεφάνου [of A. E., and adopted by Lachm.]; this latter was undoubtedly introduced by those who viewed ἐπί [here] as a preposition of time [as the Vulg. which represents the Greek genitive in the version sub Stephano. (See WINER: Gram. N. T. § 48. c: “έπί is here equivalent to on account of, or, against, with the dative.”) D. reads ἀπὸ τοῦ Στεφανοῦ. The dative is adopted by Tisch. and Lach. and is sanctioned by Cod. Sin.—TR.]
Acts 11:20. a. ἐλθόντες is decisively sustained [by A. B. D. E. G. Cod. Sin., and adopted by Lach., Tisch. and Alf.], rather than the compound εἰςελθ. of text. rec., which is supported by only one manuscript. [H.].—[After ἐλάλουν Lach. and Alf. insert καὶ from A. B. and Vulg. et; it is also found in Cod. Sin. But it is omitted in text. rec., and by Tisch. in accordance with D. E. G. H., and is regarded by de Wette as an interpolation.—TR.]
Acts 11:20. b. The two conflicting readings are ̔́Ελληνας and Ἑλληνιστάς. The latter [of text. rec.] is still sustained numerically by the authorities, rather than the former, viz., by B [e sil]. E. G. H., and nearly all the minuscules, and by several fathers. But, on the other hand, ̔́Ελληνας is found in A. and D. (in the original text of the latter [but altered by a later hand to—νιστας (Tisch.)]). It also occurs, as it has recently appeared, in Cod. Sin., and is adopted by Eusebius, and by Chrysostom, Theophylact and Oecumenius, in their commentaries. [But the text of the original writer of Cod. Sin. reads thus: ελαλ. και πρ. τ. εὐαγγελιστας, and a later hand altered the last word to ἑλληνας. Tisch. and Alf. add that Chrys. Theop. and Oec., in their text, as distinguised from their comm. read—νιστάς.—TR.]. Internal reasons decide unconditionally in favor of ̔́Ελληνας, for this reading alone constitutes an antithesis to Ἰουδαίοις of Acts 11:19, inasmuch as the preaching of the Gospel to the Hellenists [who were also Jews by birth; see above, Acts 6:1 b.] would not in the least degree, have been a novel and remarkable event. Hence, the reading ̔́Ελληνας was preferred already by Grotius, Usher, and Bengel, and was inserted in the text by Griesbach, Lachmann and Teschendorf [and by Alf., with whom de Wette and Meyer fully concur. Tischendorf says that the Vulg, does not seem to distinguish between the two words. The Engl. version renders ἑλληνιστής in the three passages in which it occurs in the text. rec. by Grecians (Acts 6:1; 9:29; 11:20). ̔́Ελλην (sing. and plur.) occurs in the text. rec. twenty-six times; it is rendered, in the Engl. vers. of the N. T. six times Gentile, Gentiles, and twenty times, Greek, Greeks.—TR.]
Acts 11:21. The article ὁ is wanting before πιστεύσας, it is true, in most of the uncial MSS. [D. E. G. H. and text. rec.], and is found only in A. and B. [and also in Cod. Sin.]; but as it would scarcely have been inserted, if it had not been originally employed, it may be regarded as genuine. It has, hence, been inserted in the text by Lach. and Tisch. [and by Alf.]
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.B.—THE CHURCH IN JERUSALEM SENDS BARNABAS TO ANTIOCH; HE ENCOURAGES THE MEMBERS OF THE RECENTLY FORMED CONGREGATION; AND CONDUCTS SAUL TO THEM
22Then [But] tidings of these things [concerning them (see EXEG. note)] came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go [travel]14 as far as Antioch. 23Who, when he came [arrived], and had seen [and saw] the grace15 of God, was glad [rejoiced], and exhorted them [om. them] all, that with purpose [determination] of [the] heart they would cleave [should adhere] unto the Lord. 24For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people [a considerable multitude] was added unto the Lord. 25Then departed Barnabas [But he went forth]16 to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they17 assembled themselves [came together] with the church [in the congregation]18 , and taught much people. And [taught a considerable multitude, and (τε) that (χργμ. also depending on ἐγένετο)] the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 11:22. Then tidings of these things [concerning them].—The tidings referred to the men [not “things” Engl. vers.], who voluntarily labored in Antioch as missionaries among the Gentiles; for αὐτῶν in Acts 11:22, like αὐτῶν in Acts 11:21, must necessarily be understood as referring to the Hellenists who are described in Acts 11:20, as performing the part of evangelists. Public report [ὁ λόγος, fama, as in Mark 1:45 (Meyer).—TR.] brought the information concerning their operations among the pagans, and the results of their preaching in Antioch, to the congregation in Jerusalem. The members of the latter gave evidence of their interest in this matter, and in the congregation in Antioch, (which had been but recently formed, and which consisted mainly of converted heathens), by sending Barnabas to them. This mission was the more appropriate and kind, as Barnabas himself was also a native of the island of Cyprus (4:36), from which some of those Christians came, who had spread the Gospel in Antioch. A certain connection between these men and Barnabas, accordingly, already existed, inasmuch as he was not only a Hellenist, but, in particular, a native of Cyprus.
ACTS 11:23–26. a. Barnabas was commissioned by the primitive congregation to examine the state of affairs in Antioch, and then to adopt such active measures as the circumstances should require. When he arrived, he saw such decisive evidences of the grace of God, which had attended the labors of the evangelists, and controlled the newly converted heathens, that he could only heartily rejoice. He found no occasion to censure any thing whatever, or even to remedy any defect, and therefore all that remained for him to do, was, solely, to exhort all the members of the congregation to persevere, and to remain faithful to the Redeemer. He urged them to adhere τῆ προθέσει τῆς καπδιας, with the determination of the heart, to the Lord, i.e., to adopt it as an established principle, and carry it into effect, that they would adhere to Christ. This παρακαλεῖν of Barnabas reminds us of the circumstance mentioned by Luke, Acts, Acts 4:36, that he had been surnamed: “Son of prophetic discourse, or exhortation” [see EXEG. note on 4:36, 37.—TR.], on account of the special gift which he had received. We may hence assume, that the exhortations which he addressed to the Antiochian Christians, were discourses preëminently marked by depth and power of thought, and by earnestness of manner. There is another allusion to the same general point, in Luke’s remark that Barnabas had a kind heart and disposition, and was full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. The predicate ἀγαθιός designated not only moral worth in general, but also, in a special sense, kindness, or, affectionate sentiments. All this most fully agrees with the statement that he rejoiced so heartily (ἐχάρη, Acts 11:23), when he ascertained the spiritual state of the recent converts.
b. Who, when he came, etc.—The mission of Barnabas produced a twofold result: on the one hand, the number of converts was considerably increased (Acts 11:24) through his labors in the congregation of Antioch; on the other, it was of the highest importance, and exerted a widely extended influence, in reference not only to this congregation, but also to the entire church of Christ, that Barnabas brought Saul in connection with the congregation of Antioch, Acts 11:25 f. Saul did not himself originally conceive the thought, independently of others, of proceeding to Antioch, but it was Barnabas who induced him to adopt this course. It was, according to Acts 9:27, Barnabas himself, who had, at an earlier period, introduced Saul to the apostles in Jerusalem, and placed him in connection with the primitive congregation of that city. The same man now brought Saul to Antioch, and established an organic communication between him and this congregation of Gentile-Christians, the future history of which promised to be so rich in events, and which converted Antioch into the metropolis of Gentile-Christianity. Barnabas was acquainted with all the circumstances connected with the conversion of Paul, and hence he had, doubtless, also been informed of the declaration of the exalted Redeemer that He had chosen Saul to bear His name before Gentile nations and kings, Acts 9:15; comp. 22:21; 26:16 ff. It is therefore possible that while Barnabas was laboring in this Gentile congregation, which had been so recently called into existence, and yet had already become so large, the image of that man who was chosen for such lofty purposes, and, specially, for the conversion of heathens, may have, not without the illumination of the Holy Ghost (“full of the Holy Ghost,” Acts 11:24), presented itself to his mind. It was soon clear to him that Saul was precisely suited for that field of labor, even as the latter was suited for him, so that he would be the right man in the right place. He accordingly proceeded at once to Tarsus in Cilicia, which was not far distant, for the purpose of seeking Saul in his native city, to which he had retired in order to escape the hostile movements of the Hellenists at Jerusalem, (Acts 9:30). Here he had disappeared for a season from the view, not only of his enemies, but also of his Christian brethren, like one who had left no trace behind; it became necessary to seek him out (ἀναζητῆσαι), and, as it were, to discover him anew (εὑρὼν). Barnabas induced him by his earnest requests and representations to accompany him when he himself returned to Antioch. And now Saul enters upon that field of action on which his peculiar labors were destined to unfold themselves in their whole breadth and depth. He labored at first in connection with Barnabas during an entire year, within the limits of the Antiochian congregation: they assembled “in the congregation,” that is, they labored in the assemblies for public worship; [ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησία, they attended at the meetings of the congregation, (de Wette); they came together in the church, the public assembly, i.e., for the purpose of worship. (Hackett).—TR.].—To understand the word συναχθῆναι, with Meyer (2d ed.) as denoting the hospitable reception with which the two men met, is not in harmony with the context, as the language of Luke refers alike to Paul and Barnabas, whereas the latter already had his home, as it were, in Antioch; συςάειν, moreover, occurs in such a sense only when the words εἰς οἰκίαν are connected with it, or when the connection indicates it unequivocally in some other manner. [In the last (3d ed. 1861) edition of his commentary, Meyer abandons the interpretation mentioned above, and now says: “συνχθῆαι does not denote a hospitable reception (Matth. 25:35), which does not suit the case of Barnabas; the sense is: they were brought together, that is, united in the congregation, after having previously lived and labored apart from each other.”—TR.].—The two men taught much people, which fact indicates the wide extent of their operations; their labors, however, are not to be viewed precisely as those of missionaries, but rather as those of teachers (διδάσκειν), who guided the converts in acquiring a knowledge of the truth, and conducted them onward in the Christian life and walk. It should, besides, be noticed that this διδάσκειν, in the proper sense of the word, is here, for the first time, mentioned in connection with Paul, (although Barnabas is also undoubtedly included), whereas in 4:2, 18; 5:25, 28, 42; comp. 2:42, it is represented as exclusively the act of the apostles.
c. That the name of “Christians” originated in Antioch, is a fact, for the knowledge of which we are indebted to Luke. It may seem to be one of very little importance, and is, indeed, mentioned incidentally, and in quite an unpretending manner. Still, it is a fact of some weight, and is so regarded by Luke, however unpretending his manner of stating it may be. For the connection in which it occurs, shows that he viewed it as an evidence of the blessing which attended the labors of Saul and Barnabas in Antioch. [The Christians styled themselves οἱ μαθηταί, οἱ ἅγιοι, οἱ πιστοί, or οἱ πιστεύοντες, οί ἀδελφοί οἱ τῆς ὁδοῦ, (Alf.) while the names Γαλιλαῖοι (Acts 2:7), Ναζωραῖοι (Acts 24:5), etc., were applied to them by the Jews. (Kuin.)—TR.] The original introduction of the name of Christians, constitutes, indeed, in a certain sense, an era. It has long since, and with great truth, been said, that the Christians did not originally apply this name to themselves; for throughout the whole New Testament it is employed by those who were not Christians. (Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16). Neither could the Jews have introduced it, since they would never have applied the Messianic name, which they held to be sacred, to a hated sect; it would have, according to their views, been desecrated by such a use. No other explanation is possible, except that the name proceeded from the pagans, and this view is sustained by the form of the word, which, in every respect, resembles the names of political parties, such as Herodians [Mt. 22:16], Cæsarians, Pompeians. [“That it has a Latin form (like Mariani, Vitelliani, etc.), is no decided proof of a Latin origin: Latin forms had become naturalized among the Greeks, etc”. (Alf.).—TR.]. To pagans, who were not acquainted with the historical and dogmatical or religious signification of ὁ χριστός as an appellative, it seemed to be a proper name, and thus they formed a party name from it. Ewald, who goes still further, conjectures that the name proceeded from the Roman government in Antioch, the residence of the proconsul of Syria; but it is not probable that the Roman authorities, at this early period, already noticed the Christians officially, as a body of men distinct from the Jews. [Xρηματίισαι, 1. aor. inf. act., “nominati sunt; χρηματίζειν Atticis erat res agere, apud recentiores, res ita agere, it nomen inde adipiscaris, hinc significatione intransitiva, dici, nominari, audire, id. quod ὀνομάξεσθαι, καλεῖσθαι, etc”. (Kuinoel). Comp. Rom. 7:3.—TR.].—Now if the name was furnished by pagans, this circumstance itself demonstrates that the development of the church of Christ had advanced to another grade, which was new in its essential features. Although the pagans often came in contact with Christians, they had not hitherto distinguished them from the Jews, nor recognized them as a separate and independent class of men. But they now made this distinction, and, first of all, in Antioch, and thus two points are established:—first, large numbers of pagans must have been converted in this city; for as Antioch contained a large Jewish population also, it is apparent, that if the great mass of the Christian congregation had consisted of converted Israelites, the Christians, as a whole, would have continued to be identified with the Jews. Secondly, the specific or peculiar features of Christianity, now came prominently into view, in so far as Christ was the centre of the faith, the love, and the hope of the Church (Xριστιανοί). The introduction of this name is, therefore, historically important, as an evidence that, at this point, the church of Christ is entering the sphere of General History, and that the Judæo-Christians are becoming commingled with Gentile-Christians as one body. See my [the author’s] work, entitled: Apostol. u. nachapost. Zeitalter, 2d ed. p. 372 f. [Lechler there remarks, in addition to the thoughts expressed above, that the name Christians embraced all the members, irrespectively of their Jewish or Gentile birth, since Luke here says τοὺς μαθητὰς, and that it appears from Gal. 2:12, 13, that previously to the arrival of certain men at Antioch, the Judæo-Christians had not been deterred by any Levitical laws from associating with their Gentile-Christian brethren on equal terms, etc., etc.—TR.].—The supposition that the name of Christians had been originally employed as a term of ridicule, which, after the example of Wetstein, Baumgarten still entertains, has nothing to sustain it, except the circumstance that the people of Antioch were notorious for their wit and satirical language. [For the authorities by which this fact is proved, see Kuinoel, ad loc., and Conyb. and Howson: Life, etc. of St. Paul, I. 130, and n. 4. London. 1354.—TR.]
DΟCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The apostles here recede in a remarkable manner from our view. When Philip had labored among the Samaritans, the apostles who were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had received the word of God, Acts 8:14, and they sent thither Peter and John, two of their own number. But in the present passage the tidings of the conversion of Gentiles in Antioch, “came unto the ears of the church,” and it is the church that sends Barnabas to this city. Hence, it is not the college of the apostles, but the church, that grants the commission, and the messenger himself is not an apostle, but a member of the church. It cannot, indeed, be doubted in the least degree, that the church at Jerusalem, including, and not excluding the apostles, is meant, so that the apostles coöperate when Barnabas was commissioned. Nevertheless, even according to this view, it is a striking circumstance that the apostles, whose position was so prominent in Acts 8:14, here retire, as it were, among the congregation, and act only in conjunction with the latter. Even when it is fairly taken into account, that at the former period the great majority of the members of the church in Jerusalem had been scattered abroad, in consequence of the persecution mentioned in 8:1, and that those who remained in the city were principally the apostles, (whereas, at the present time, a numerous congregation may have again gathered around them), it is still a very significant circumstance that the messenger was a man who did not belong to the circle of the apostles. This course of the apostles in thus retiring from their former prominent position, must, necessarily, have a certain reference to the specific nature of the event that is here brought to view. Baumgarten (I. 267) very correctly here recognizes an instance of the self-control of the apostles. It was not egotism nor sensitiveness which caused them to retire; the church rather acted with an intelligent understanding of the Lord’s plan of salvation, and was governed have by a spirit of love, which, with great delicacy and wisdom, anticipated and provided for the wants of the newly formed Gentile congregation, by sending to Antioch precisely Barnabas, the Hellenist who came from the island of Cyprus.
2. The choice of Barnabas as the representative sent by the primitive congregation to the Gentile-Christians in Antioch, was a very happy one, and fully in accordance with the mind of the Lord, who guides his church. Barnabas at once perceived the grace of God which had here manifested itself, and rejoiced; his part consisted simply in exhorting all to persevere and remain faithful to Christ. As God is, according, to Acts 10:34, οὐ προςωπολήπτης, so, too, this disciple, who was enlightened by the Holy Ghost, did not regard the person either in the case of those who had preached here, or in that of the recent converts, who were pagans, but he directed his, attention to the grace of God, the power and operation of which he most plainly saw. Now where the grace of God in Christ is distinctly revealed, a child of God will always rejoice and feel at home, even if any thing unusual or strange should be found in the persons, and in their manners and ways.
3. That Jesus Christ is the personal centre of Christianity, is strikingly manifested in this history of the planting of the church in Antioch. The Hellenistic travelling preachers “preached the Lord Jesus,” Acts 11:20; a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord, Acts 11:21; Barnabas exhorted the new converts to cleave unto the Lord with purpose of heart, Acts 11:23; and much people was added unto the Lord, Acts 11:24. A vital Christianity is a vital and personal relation of the individual to the living and personal Christ. Without faith in the living Christ, with out a vital union with Him in spirit and character, Christianity becomes a mere form and mask. The circumstance, moreover, that the Christians received this distinctive name first of all in Antioch, shows that the believers in this city were devoted to Christ personally in a preëminent degree; for otherwise this name would not occurred to the pagans who introduced it, so naturally and vividly, as to be currently applied by them to the members of the church. It is striking that the believers derived their name, not from “Jesus,” but from “Christ.” That Jesus of Nazareth is THE Christ [Mt. 26:63; John 1:20], the Anointed of God, the King and Lord of His redeemed, was the article of faith which so abundantly filled the heart, that the mouth emphatically proclaimed it, insomuch that strangers bestowed on them, not the name “Jesuits,” but that of “Christians.”
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See below, (Acts 11:27–30.)
Acts 11:22. It is true that διελθεῖν is wanting in A. B. [and also Cod. Sin.], as well as in several versions [Syr. Vulg. etc.], and it is cancelled by Lachmann. It is, however, sufficiently attested [by D. E. G. H., and retained by AIf.] and could have more easily been omitted as superfluous, than have been interpolated, if it had originally been wanting. [See WINER: Gr. N. T. §65. 4. ult. where the presence of the word is justified and explained.—TR.]
Acts 11:23. [τὴν after τὴν Χάριν omitted in the text. rec., with D. E., but Lachm. and Alf. insert it from A. B. It is found also in Cod. Sin. Alford takes it emphatically in the following sense: “the grace which (evidently) was that of God.”—TR.]
Acts 11:25, The readings ὁ Βαρνάβας and αὐτόν [the latter both before and after ἤγαγεν], are alike spurious; the former [is found in E. G. H., Vulg. etc., but is omitted in Cod. Sin., and by Alf., and, besides,] is wanting in A. B. and D., even though the latter MS. (Cantabrig.) has inserted in the text an unnecessary amplification of this verse. [It is adopted by Bornemann, and is as follows: ἀκούσας δὲ, ὅτι Σαῦλός ἐστίν εἰς Θαρσόν. (corrected by a later hand to Ταρσόν) ἐξῆλθεν ἀναζητῶν—καἱ ὡς συντυχὼν παρεκάλεσεν αὐον ἐλθεῖν εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν.—αὐτὸν before ἤγαγεν, is found in G. H., but is omitted in A. B. E. Cod. Sin., and by Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—αὐτὸν after ἤγαηεν is found in E. G. H., but is omitted in A. B. Cod. Sin., and by Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 11:26. a. The word αὐτοῖς [after Ἐγένετο δὲ], which in reference to the last member of the verse [χρηματίσαι, like the preceding infinitives, depending on ἐγένετο; WINER: Gr. N. T. §44. 3], is obviously the more difficult reading, is, nevertheless, sustained by three important MSS. [A. B. E., and now also Cod. Sin.], and a number of minuscules. Hence, Tisch. and Lach. [as also Born, and Alf.] have very properly preferred it to the reading αὐτούς [of text. rec. from G. H. Meyer says, in opposition to these editors: “The accus. is necessary, as χρημ. which follows afterwards, does not suit this dative.” But Luke may have chosen the dat. on account of εγένετο which immediately precedes, (comp. 20:16; 22:17) and retained this construction, although he appended the last member of the verse. See WIN. Gr. Gr. § § 60–67.—TR.].—It is more doubtful whether καί before ἐνιαυτὸν [omitted in text. rec., and by E. G. H.] and which Lach. and Tisch. [and Alf.] have inserted from A. B. etc., is genuine; it rather appears to be a later addition, designed to be emphatic. [It is found in Cod. Sin. Meyer regards it as genuine, and as corresponding to καὶ before διδ., equivalent to both—and also.—TR.]
Acts 11:26. b. [The Engl. version offers in the margin the strictly literal rendering (Wiclif; Rheims): in the church (ἐντ. ἐ), instead of with the church (Geneva) in its text. See EXEG. notes below, Acts 11:23–26. b.—TR.]
And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.C.—THE ANTIOCHIAN CONGREGATION GIVES PROOF OF ITS FRATERNAL UNION WITH THE CHRISTIANS IN JUDEA, BY AFFORDING RELIEF TO THE LATTER DURING A FAMINE.
27And [But] in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. 28And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should [would] be [a] great19 dearth [famine] throughout all the [over the whole inhabited] world: which [also]20 came to pass in the days of [under] Claudius Cesar. [om. Cesar]21 . 29Then [But among] the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief [send somewhat for aid] unto the brethren which [who] dwelt in Judea: 30Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands [hand, χειρὸς] of Barnabas and Saul.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 11:27, 28.—And in these days, that is, during the protracted visit of Barnabas and Saul to the congregation in Antioch, as teachers of the Christian religion, certain prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of these arose (ἀναστάς), on a certain occasion, at a meeting held for public worship, and foretold, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, that a severe famine would soon afflict the whole known world. [Prophets, here equivalent to inspired teachers, to whom frequent reference is made in THE ACTS and in the Epistles of Paul. The usual form of their inspiration was not so much that of foretelling future events, as that of an exalted and superhuman teaching, or the utterance of their own conscious intelligence, informed by the Holy Spirit. (See below, DOCTR. etc. No. 1.) This inspiration was, however, occasionally, as here, and Acts 21:10 (the only two passages in which Agabus is mentioned), made the vehicle of prophecy, properly so called, (de Wette; Meyer; Alf.)—TR.]. That an actual prediction of an event strictly belonging to the future, is here meant, appears both from the clause: διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, and also from the terms ἐσήμανε … μέλλει ἔσεσθαι. [In classic Greek μέλλειν is usually combined with the inf. fut., and but seldom with the inf. pres., and still more rarely with the inf. aor.; in the N. T., it is usually combined with the inf. pres., (always in the Gospels), sometimes with the inf. aor., and not so often with the inf. fut., as here. (WINER: Gram. N. T. § 44. 7. ult.).TR.]. The latter terms [ἐσήμανε, etc.] imply a mode of expression by means of signs and images, and lead to the conjecture, (as on a later occasion, Acts 21:10, 11), that Agabus indicated the approach of the famine by some symbolical action. It is inconsistent with the text to imagine that the famine had actually commenced (Eichhorn), or, that, at least, some tokens of its approach were already perceptible. Besides, the concluding words of Acts 11:28, ἥτις καὶ ἐμένετο etc., plainly show that the declaration of Agabus had preceded it in the order of time, and had been fully verified by events which occurred at a subsequent period. We have here the first determination of time, with reference to another well known historical date, which occurs in THE ACTS. Claudius, the successor of Caligula, occupied the throne thirteen entire years, A. D. 41–54, and, during his reign, the Roman empire was more than once visited by famine. Such was, specially, the case in Palestine, when Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander (Jos. Antiq. xx. 2. 5; 5. 2) were procurators, about A. D. 45, and 46; it was then that king Izates of Adiabene, and his mother Helena, furnished the inhabitants of Jerusalem with grain, which, by their orders, had been purchased in Egypt. Now, as the famine here mentioned by Luke, certainly occurred during the reign of Claudius, it cannot have been earlier than the year 41; and as it is probably identical with the one mentioned by Josephus, it can scarcely have preceded the year 45. [It is usually assigned to the year 44, the fourth of the reign of Claudius. “As Lardner suggests, it may have begun about the close of A. D. 44, and lasted three or four years.” (Hackett).—TR.]. Although, therefore, we are not acquainted with the details of the event to which the prophecy of Agabus refers, we may regard the latter as having been strictly fulfilled, since not only Palestine, but even Italy and other provinces of the Roman empire were afflicted at that period by failures of the crops, and by famine.—(TAC. Ann. 12. 43).
ACTS 11:29, 30, a. Then the disciples.—It does not distinctly appear from Acts 11:29, whether the Christians of Antioch sent relief to the congregations in Judea immediately after Agabus had uttered the prophecy, or whether they waited till tidings subsequently reached them that the famine had actually occurred in that country. The latter is by far the more probable supposition, first, because that prophecy referred to the whole world, and it was only the actual fulfilment which demonstrated that a severe famine afflicted precisely the province of Judea (comp. Jos. Antiq. xx. 5. 2, τὸν μέγαν λιμὸν κατὰ τὴν ʼΙουδαίαν γενέσθαι); and, secondly, because Luke distinctly implies in the following chapter, Acts 11:1 and 25, that Barnabas and Saul did not carry these contributions to Jerusalem, until Herod had already made that city his royal residence, or towards the close of his reign, about A. D. 44. The disciples in Antioch now resolved to render an office of love, and to send aid (εἰς διακονίαν), according to the means which they individually possessed (ηὐπορεῖτο), to the Christians who resided in Judea, and with whom, as brethren (ἀδελφοῖς), they were conscious of being united in the most intimate manner. The resolution which they had adopted, they carried into effect, by sending Barnabas and Saul to the elders, as the bearers of their kind gifts. Even as the synagogues in pagan lands, and also proselytes like king Izates (see the forgoing note), aided the Palestinian Jews by their gifts in seasons of distress, so too the Gentile-Christians regarded it as a duty to afford relief to their brethren, the Judæo-Christians, who could not expect to receive any portion of those contributions which were furnished by the diaspora of Israel [Jews residing in Gentile countries].
b. The elders are abruptly mentioned in Acts 11:30, without any statement of the mode in which they came into office. We may, however, conjecture that a procedure was adopted in this respect which resembled the one described in Acts 6:1–6, when the Seven were chosen in Jerusalem. The congregations which were formed beyond the limits of the city of Jerusalem, undoubtedly needed, at the earliest period, a certain organization and rules of government, as distinct societies; and even in the Holy City itself, the Christians may have become conscious of the need of rulers and guides, in order that the apostles might be at liberty to devote themselves entirely to their special vocation. It cannot here be necessary to furnish the evidence in detail, that in the apostolic age, no essential distinction existed between πρεσβύτεποι and ἐπίσκοποι. [The omission by Luke of an account of the institution of the “Presbyterate or Eldership” while that of the “Apostleship and the Diaconate” is given in the history, is thus explained by J. A. Alexander:—“The office of Presbyter or Elder was the only permanent, essential office of the Jewish church, and as such was retained under the new organization, without any formal institution, and therefore without any distinct mention in the history, such as we find afterwards in reference to the organization of the Gentile churches, where the office had no previous existence, and must therefore be created by the act of ordination; see below, Acts 14:23.” (Com. on Acts, ad loc.).—Alford here combines the following from de Wette and Meyer: “The πρεσβύτεροι are in the N. T. identical with ἐπί σκοποι; see Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2. So Theodoret on Phil. 1:1: ἐπισκόπους τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους καλεῖ· ἀμφότερα γὰρ εῖ̓χον κατʼ ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρὸν τὰ ὀνόματα. The title ἐπίσκόπους, as applied to one person superior to the πρεσβύτεροι, and answering to our “bishop,” appears to have been unknown in the apostolic times.” Hackett (Com. Acts 14:23) remarks:—“The elders, or presbyters, in the official sense, of the term, were those appointed in the first churches to watch over their general discipline and welfare. With reference to that duty, they were called, also, ἐπίσκοποι, i.e., superintendents or bishops. The first was their Jewish appellation, transferred to them perhaps from the similar class of officers in the synagogues; the second was their foreign appellation, since the Greeks employed it to designate such relations among themselves. In accordance with this distinction, we find the general rule to be this: those who are called elders in speaking of Jewish communities, are called bishops in speaking of Gentile communities. Hence the latter term is the prevailing one in Paul’s Epistles.” See also EXEG. note on Acts 20:28.—TR]. Luke does not here state that Barnabas and Saul were sent to the elders in Jerusalem; it is, hence, possible that they were also commissioned to visit the elders of other Christian congregations in Judea. These elders received, in the name of their congregations, the gifts sent from Antioch, and then probably transferred them to the deacons, who distributed such donations to individuals.—A certain difficulty seems to occur here, occasioned by the circumstance that Paul himself not only never mentions this journey, which was undertaken for the relief of the Judæo-Christians who were afflicted by the famine, but also seems positively to exclude it in Gal. Acts 1 and 2, where he appears disposed to enumerate all the visits made by him to Jerusalem after his conversion (Meyer; Neander). De Wette conjectures, as an explanation of the apparent discrepancy, that Paul possibly reached Judea, without proceeding to Jerusalem, and that Barnabas alone, perhaps, travelled as far as the city; but, under all the circumstances, Jerusalem, where the mother church existed, would be the ultimate destination of those who travelled from Syria to the elders of the Jewish congregations. And the supposition that this Pauline journey to Jerusalem is irreconcilable with Gal. 2:1, cannot be entertained, unless we assume that in this epistolary passage the apostle intended to present a continuous and absolutely complete enumeration of all his journeys to Jerusalem; but the connection in which that passage occurs, by no means furnishes satisfactory evidence that he entertained such a purpose.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Christian prophets appear for the first time in this passage, Acts 11:27 f. The foretelling of future events was not the exclusive, nor even the predominating characteristic of the prophets of the Old Covenant; the same remark applies to those of the New. The former were heralds of God, whom He enlightened and inspired: such, too, were the latter. The peculiar service which these men of God performed, both under the Old and under the New Covenant, did not consist in furnishing detailed instructions, intended to guide men to a right understanding of the truth (διδάσκειν, διδάσκαλοι); it was, rather, their appropriate office so to unfold the counsel and will of God, as to influence and direct alike the conscience and the will. Indeed only one, according to Acts 11:28, of several prophets who came from Jerusalem to Antioch, pronounced a prediction, and yet they all, without doubt, labored as prophets; comp. Acts 13:1, προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι. The distinction between the prophets of the old and of the new economy, consisted simply in the circumstance, that, in the case of the former, the Law, and in that of the latter, the work of redemption and reconciliation wrought by Christ, constituted respectively the given basis on which they stood, with regard to their knowledge and their views, and formed the respective sources whence proceeded the special illumination of the Spirit of God, by whom they spake. But even as the rebuking, admonitory, warning, and consolatory addresses of the prophets of the Old Testament, very easily introduced views of the future, particularly when they spoke prophetically of Him who was to come, so, too, the Holy Spirit who illuminated and inspired the prophets of the church of Christ, cast rays of light on the future, especially in reference to the second coming of Him, who once came, but who will hereafter effect the consummation of his kingdom. And we do not doubt that the prediction of Agabus concerning the famine which should afflict all the world, was uttered in connection with remarks referring to the second coming of Christ and to the judgment of the world, as well as to the signs which would precede the latter.
2. The contribution of the church in Antioch, intended for the relief of the congregations in Judea, which were suffering from the famine, is one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden of the apostolical age. It reveals the intimate union in love which existed between the congregations that were founded on one and the same faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The true friend is recognized in seasons of distress; and thus the sincerity of the friendship and fraternal love (ἀδελφοῖς, Acts 11:29) of the Gentile-Christians, was demonstrated during a famine, when many persons died in Jerusalem for want of the necessaries of life (Jos. Antiq. xx. 2. 5). Their actions testified to their love, since each one contributed according to the extent of his means. The church in Jerusalem had manifested its interest in the converts in Syria, and had sent Barnabas to them, both as an associate in their joy (Acts 11:23), and as a teacher. It was to the latter, and through him, to the church in Jerusalem, that the Gentile-Christians owed the increase of their faith, their advancement in the Christian life, and, indeed, also the aid which they received from Saul; in short, the Antiochian Christians had been benefited by the active love of those of Jerusalem, primarily, in spiritual things. They now return love for love, but, primarily, by affording temporal aid to those whose lives were threatened by the severity of the famine. But amid this active interchange of kindly offices rendered by a disinterested and faithful love, there is revealed the power of Him, in whom alone the souls of men have become one; the Lord Jesus Christ, whose love prompted him to sacrifice himself in order to reconcile sinners, is the central principle of the life of the Church; by his own διακονῆσαι (Mt. 20:28), he founded a διακονία in the world, which could have no existence without him.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 11:19. Now they which were scattered … travelled as far, etc.—Persecution does not deprive a true Christian of courage; “troubled on every side, yet not distressed, etc”. 2 Cor. 4:8 ff. (Starke).—Jerusalem had hitherto been the nursery in which the Spirit of God prepared the trees that were to be transplanted to other places and to bear abundant fruit unto the Lord. (Ap. Past.).—These Christians who were driven from Jerusalem, with all their commendable zeal, were still influenced by the infirmity of “preaching unto the Jews only;” nevertheless, they inflicted no serious injury on the good cause. Their conduct deserves, indeed, praise rather than blame, for, I. They comply with the command of Jesus (Lu. 24:47); II. They exhibit the purity of their love to the brethren after the flesh, which was not affected even by the persecutions which they suffered from the latter. (ib.).
ACTS 11:20. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, etc.—God’s care of his church is truly wonderful. Men from Cyrene had been qualified, as early as the day of Pentecost, to be witnesses of the truth, and they were better fitted to carry the Gospel to their countrymen than natives of Judea. The Lord can always find suitable laborers, when the harvest is at hand. (Ap. Past.).—These judicious laborers are not even mentioned by name, in order that all the honor may be given to God alone. Consent with a willing mind that thine own name should remain in obscurity for a season, but make it publicly known that the name of the Lord Jesus, is the only one whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12.). (Rieger).—Be silent, ye people who seek after gifts, I beseech you, and who deny that the Church has received a call to engage in missionary labors, unless she can send forth men who possess apostolical gifts! (Besser).
ACTS 11:21. And the hand of the Lord was with them.—Hence they did not need an arm of flesh. It is easy to labor, when the hand of the Lord affords us aid. But how often we bind the hands of God, when we do not give ourselves to the ministry of the word with fidelity! (Ap. Past.).—A great number … turned unto the Lord.—It is the sole object of a faithful servant of Christ, to conduct souls to Him, so that they may belong to the Lord, and not to himself. (ibid.).
ACTS 11:22. And they sent forth Barnabas.—When this second report of the blessing which God had granted to the Gentiles, reached the believers in Jerusalem, the latter received it in a different spirit. On the former occasion (Acts 11:1 ff.), Peter encountered a storm of reproaches for having associated with pagans; but now, in place of censuring him, they commission Barnabas to promote the work of the conversion of the Gentiles, which had become very interesting and important in their eyes. Thus the ways of the Lord gradually become intelligible to men. (Ap. Past.).—It was the purpose of the embassy sent from Jerusalem to Antioch, not to subject the latter to the control of the former church, nor to impose the same external form or constitution upon it, but rather to express the common joy of the believers that God had wrought a gracious work in Antioch, to communicate spiritual gifts, and to obviate any possible temptations by appropriate exhortations. (Rieger).
ACTS 11:23. Who, when he … had seen the grace of God, was glad.—His judgment of the work was formed, not according to the persons who had labored here, but according to the grace which had been revealed. He deals as a father with these beginners in grace, and does not treat them as step-children, although he had not begotten them himself by the word of truth. There are always instructors to be found, but there are not many fathers [1 Cor. 4:15] who deal gently with beginners in religion; the latter render a service, the former may do an injury. (Ap. Past.).—Exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart, etc.—It is a good thing when the heart is set aright [Ps. 78:8].—On the blessing of steadfastness: I. It is good to become a Christian; II. It is still better to be a Christian; but, III. The Lord gives the highest praise on earth to him alone, who steadfastly remains a Christian, and continues the contest until it terminates in victory; IV. Christ will reward such on high with eternal crowns. (Adapted from the hymn of Schmolke: “Nicht der Anfang, nur das Ende, etc”.].
ACTS 11:24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.—Behold here the qualities of a sound teacher: he must be, I. A good man, upright and blameless, with respect to his walk: but this is not all, as even a pagan may gain such praise. He must be, II. Full of faith, rooted in Christ by faith: even this is not sufficient, as such should be the state of every Christian. The teacher must be, III. Full of the Holy Ghost; then only does he become a teacher in truth and reality, a shining light, a source of light and life.—And much people was added unto the Lord.—It is no wonder that such a blessing was imparted, for as the tree, so is the fruit. What a precious gift is a faithful bishop and teacher, a genuine Barnabas! Blessed is the church which possesses such shepherds, who are sound in the faith, holy in life, and endowed with the gifts of the Spirit. (Starke).
ACTS 11:25. Barnabas departed … for to seek Saul.—Barnabas found the net so full in Antioch, that he sought a partner in Saul who might help him. Lu. 5:7. (Rieger).—Thus he furnishes new evidence of the purity of his sentiments. If he had been governed by selfish considerations, and had desired to acquire influence and power in Antioch, he would not have associated Paul with himself, whose labors, as he clearly foresaw, would be even more successful than his own. How rarely such a spirit is manifested by teachers in our day!—But it was first necessary to seek Saul, the distinguished servant of the Lord. While hirelings are busy, and obtrude themselves without a call, the upright man, who is conscious of the importance and responsibility of a teacher’s office, withdraws from public view, and willingly abides in the wilderness, until he is called. (Ap. Past.).
ACTS 11:26. That a whole year they assembled themselves [came together] with the church [in the congregation]. The congregation is here represented as having enjoyed a special blessing in being permitted to retain these teachers during an entire year. In our day, when congregations are provided with permanent pastors, and every individual can listen to the Gospel from youth to old age, and even on the death-bed, this privilege is but lightly esteemed by many. And yet, such regular and uninterrupted religious instruction was described, under the Old Covenant, as one of the blessings of the New; Isai. 62:6, 7. (Ap. Past.).—And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.—It is remarkable that the believers received their name, not from Jesus, the Saviour, but from him as Christ, the Anointed One. They are, namely, associated with him, not in the work of salvation, as fellow-saviours, but in the anointing which he received, deriving from Christ, the Head, their share of the gifts of the Spirit, which are intended for the general good. Hence John describes this anointing as a mark by which believers may be known: “Ye have an unction, etc”. 1 John 2:20. (Ap. Past.).—This we ought to know, that Christ was born for us, and given to us, and that we Christians receive our name from him alone, as our only Ruler and Prince. For we have received all things from him, even as a man is called rich, on account of his riches, or as a woman, who possesses the goods of her husband, also retains his name. (Luther).—But if our name is a mere empty sound, we incur great guilt: nomen inane, crimen immane. (Ambrose).—O God, grant me grace that I may also be a true Christian, as well as bear the name; for he who merely receives the name, without the reality, can never enter into thy heavenly kingdom. (Hasslocher’s hymn: “Du sagst, ich bin ein Christ, etc.”).
ACTS 11:27, 28. And in these days came prophets, etc. The gift of prophecy was not intended to afford the congregation a trivial entertainment for the hour; it furnished, in many cases, wholesome exercise for the faith and love of the members. (Rieger).—One of them … signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth.—It is a great mercy of God that he does not suddenly, that is, unexpectedly, punish men, but forewarns them, so that they may escape. (Starke).
ACTS 11:29. Determined to send relief.—True faith always manifests its power and efficiency by works of love, Gal. 5:6. (Starke).—When indications of the approach of afflictions appear, our first thoughts and efforts should not be solely devoted to the work of adopting precautionary measures in our own behalf, but should also refer to others, whose situation may be more exposed than our own. Cases often occur like that of the widow of Sarepta [Lu. 4:26; Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:9 ff.], who was first of all directed to bestow her limited store on the prophet Elijah, but who was afterwards abundantly consoled by the provision which was made for her and her son. Such will be the experience of those in whose hearts faith and love abide. (Rieger).
ACTS 11:30. Which they also did.—We must strike while the iron is hot; the good resolution must be carried into effect, before it cools.—By the hands of Barnabas and Saul.—Such was the ancient Christian order; pastors should also exercise a certain supervision over hospitals and almshouses, and ascertain whether the inmates are seasonably and judiciously relieved. Gal. 2:10. (Starke).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.—Under what circumstances will the divine blessing accompany the efforts of men to extend the kingdom of God? When the laborers, I. Manifest undaunted courage, in opposition to the world, Acts 11:19; II. Are docile, and give heed to the intimations of divine Providence, Acts 11:22; III. Maintain a spirit of brotherly love, Acts 11:23–26.—The blessings which are connected with the afflictions of the Church of the Lord: the latter, I. Scatter abroad (Acts 11:19) those who are united, and thus lead to the extension of the kingdom (e. g. the Waldenses; the Salzburgers [see the article on the latter in HERZOG: Real-Encyk. XIII. 346–359, and Strobel’s “Salzburgers—who immigrated to Georgia, &c.”—TR.] etc.). II. They unite those who are scattered abroad, thus furnishing exercise both, for faith and for love, Acts 11:30; (e. g. the Gustavus Adolphus Union).
Acts 11:27–30. On that relief, afforded to the distressed, which proceeds from a consciousness of our Christian fellowship: I. Its distinction from that relief which mere citizens afford; II. The increased power which it conveys to that fellowship from which it proceeds (Schleiermacher).—The diversity of the gifts of Christians, the means of promoting the common welfare: I Those who are received as guests, impart the Gospel in return, Acts 11:19–21; II. Those who abundantly possess the word, share with those who are only partially acquainted with it, Acts 11:22–28; III. Those who are blessed with temporal wealth, assist those who have nothing, Acts 11:29, 30. (Lisco).—National afflictions, a source of blessings for the church, ver, 28–30: I. They awaken prophetic voices; II. They teach men to give heed to the word; III. They produce works of love.—Offices of love, and the blessings which attend them: I. In spiritual things, Acts 11:22–24; II. In temporal things, Acts 11:28–30.—Good deeds bear interest: I. The good deeds proceeding from Jerusalem; II. The interest which Antioch returned.—Barnabas in Antioch, or, The pattern of a true minister of the word: I. He joyfully follows the leadings the Lord, Acts 11:22; II. Examines the state of the church with sympathizing love, Acts 11:23; III. Leads a pure and holy life before men, Acts 11:24; IV. Coöperates, without envy, with his ministerial brethren, Acts 11:25, 26.—The conduct of Barnabas and Saul, a model of harmonious official action: I. The sacrifices which such action demands; II. The blessings which flow from it.—Barnabas and Saul in Antioch, or, A blessed year (Acts 11:26) of pastoral labor: I. The grateful soil; II. The agreeable labor; III. The abundant fruits.—The sacred name: “Christians”, Acts 11:26: I. Its high honor: it designates (a) those who belong to Christ, and (b) are anointed with the Holy Ghost; II. The serious task which it imposes: it demands (a) an entire devotion to the service of Christ, and (b) the patient endurance of shame before the world.—Is the Christian name a term of honor, or of reproach? I. It is a term of honor, notwithstanding all the ridicule of the world, if we are all that it really imports; II. It is a term of reproach, not-withstanding all the honor which it may seem to confer, if we possess nothing more than the name.—The Christian name of the primitive church, viewed in the light of history: it indicates, I. A fixed purpose to separate a certain people of the Lord from the world; II. A positive severance from the people of the old covenant, and the organization of a Church of the New Testament; III. An irrevocable union with the Lord, in his life, his sufferings, and his glory.—The little flock of Nazarenes becomes a Christian people, or, The grain of mustard-seed becomes a tree (Mt. 13:31, 32).—Christ, all in all in his Church: I. The great theme of preaching, Acts 11:20; II. The light and strength of believers, Acts 11:21, 23; III. The guide and master of all pastors, Acts 11:24, 25; IV. The name and watchword of the Church, Acts 11:26.—[Acts 11:29, 30. Contributions to benevolent purposes: I The duty to offer them; II. The spirit in which they are to be made; III. The principles which determine their amount (“every man … ability”); IV. The wide influence which they exert.—TR.]
Acts 11:28. a. The readings μεγάλην and ἥτις [of A. B. Cod. Sin. minuscules and fathers, and adopted by Lach. Tisch. and Born.—TR.] are sustained by a greater number of ancient MSS. than the masc. μέγαν—ὅστις. [The latter, in text. rec. from G. H., are retained by Alf.—D. originally had the masc., which a later hand changed into the feminine; E. reads μέγαν—ἥτις. Winer (Gr. § 8. 2. ult. and § 59. 4. b. ult.) regards the fem. of the Doric and later Greek usage, as unquestionably the correct reading in this passage.—TR.]
Acts 11:28. b. [Καὶ after ὅστις in text. rec., is found in E. G. H, and retained by Alf., but is omitted in A. B. D. Cod. Sin. Vulg., Engl, vers., and by Lach.—TR.]
Acts 11:28. c. Καίσαρος after Κλαυσίου [of text. rec., from E. G. H.] is wanting in important authorities [A. B. D. Cod. Sin. Vulg. etc.], and must be regarded as an interpolated explanation. [Omitted by Lach. Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]