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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Acts 11


 
Verse 1
Now the apostles and the brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

PETER ON THE DEFENSIVE

The implication at the close of the preceding chapter that perhaps Peter remained a while at Caesarea leads to the supposition that the startling news of what had occurred in the house of Cornelius had outrun Peter, arriving in Jerusalem before he did. Boles thought that "The news came to Jerusalem before Peter left Caesarea." F1 In any case, an event of such vast implications was certainly one of supreme interest.


 
Verse 2
And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him.

They that were of the circumcision ...
included practically all of the entire discipleship in Jerusalem, and not merely "the circumcision party" which later developed. Peter's views before the conversion of Cornelius were those of practically the whole church at that time. Furthermore, as Benson noted, "Even afterward, on one occasion, Peter withdrew himself from the believing Gentiles, for fear of the Jews (Galatians 2:12). F2

Contended with him ...
Alexander Campbell translated this place, "Disputed with him," declaring that this "is more appropriate in questions of debate, and especially in such a category." F3 Goodspeed's translation is, "The advocates of circumcision took him to task with having visited and eaten with men who were not Jews." F4 As so many have not failed to point out, "Peter was not regarded as any kind of `pope' or overlord." F5 "It is evident that the Jewish Christians had no idea of the supremacy of Peter, much less his infallibility." F6

The complaint against Peter does not seem to have been that he had baptized a Gentile, but that he had baptized a Gentile without first requiring him to submit to circumcision and come under the law of Moses.


 
Verse 3
Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

Wentest in ...
is better translated "associated with." F7

To men uncircumcised ...
The literal Greek here is, "men with a foreskin"; and "is more expressive of scorn than the merely negative form of the English." F8


 
Verses 4, 5
But Peter began, and expounded the matter unto them in order, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even unto me.

The comment of Bruce is appreciated, who after noting the irresponsible speculations of Dibelius, declared the entire narrative here to be "perfectly coherent." F9 There are, of course, some slight variations in Peter's rehearsal of the episode here, when contrasted with the narrative of Acts 10. But, "the variations are few and of little importance." F10 For example, there is a touch of vividness in the personal remembrance of the great sheet coming "even unto me," as Peter said here, instead of its being "let down to the earth" (Acts 10:11).

Peter quite properly concluded that his best defense would be a straightforward narrative of the events and circumstances which had proved so convincing to himself.


 
Verses 6-10
Upon which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw the fourfooted beasts of the earth and wild beasts and creeping things and birds of the heaven. And I heard also a voice saying unto me, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath ever entered my mouth. But a voice answered the second time out of heaven, What God hath cleansed, make not thou common. And this was done thrice: and all were drawn up again into heaven.

For comments on this passage see the preceding chapter.


 
Verses 11, 12
And behold, forthwith three men stood before the house in which we were, having been sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, making no distinction. And these six brethren also accompanied me; and we entered into the man's house.

No distinction ...
This was the great word regarding Jews and Gentiles THEN; and so it still is. God has one plan of redemption for all men; and the Scriptures do not reveal any special plan for any race or condition of men. See Romans 3:22.

Six brethren ...
Only here is it revealed that six men were Peter's companions on the mission to Caesarea.


 
Verses 13, 14
And he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, Send to Joppa, and fetch Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house.

Words whereby thou shalt be saved ...
Implicit in this is the fact that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not in order to save Cornelius, nor were all of the alms-giving and prayers sufficient to save him. As Bruce expressed it, "Salvation did not enter Cornelius' house until Peter came there with the gospel." F11 A necessary deduction from this is that Cornelius' baptism was a prior condition of his being saved, the command that he should be baptized being, in fact, the only commandment Peter addressed to him.

Johnson declared that "This is the first instance of a household baptism named in Acts." F12 Who are meant by this "household" are "his kinsmen and near friends" (Acts 10:24), there being no mention of infants. It is declared that these who were baptized in the Holy Spirit and commanded to be baptized in water "heard" the gospel (Acts 10:45).


 
Verse 15
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning.

A number of the most important facts are revealed in this short sentence.

  1. As I began to speak ...
    The baptism of the Holy Spirit which occurred so early, before Peter could deliver his soul-saving message, shows that the purpose of this Spirit baptism was unrelated to the salvation of Cornelius, being intended rather as a sign to Peter and his companions that God had called the Gentiles through the gospel.

  2. As on us at the beginning ...
    These words clearly designate Pentecost as "the beginning," this being the prime authority for accepting that date as the beginning of the church of Christ. There were in fact many beginnings on that day in Jerusalem. See in my Commentary on Luke under Luke 24:46,47.

  3. Peter's linking the event in Cornelius' house with that of Pentecost also justifies the conclusion pointed out by Campbell:

    It is a logical inference from these words, that from the day of Pentecost to the calling of the Gentiles, no similar display of the Spirit had been given, else they would not have gone so far back. The interval between Pentecost and this event was (at least) seven or eight years. F13

Thus, the clearly miraculous event of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is restricted to these two occasions, when upon the Jews at Pentecost and upon the Gentiles here, the whole of mankind was symbolically included. Therefore, it is undoubtedly true that, in the public manifestations of supernatural gifts, the Holy Spirit "descended only twice." F14 These outpourings were visible and were followed by miraculous demonstrations; and these two instances of such a thing are the "only scenes called in the Holy Scriptures, the baptism, or immersion in the Holy Spirit." F15 No phenomenon like that has been observed since.


 
Verse 16
And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The fact that this remark about baptism was also made by John the Baptist (Mark 1:8; 1:8 and ) is no reason at all for denying that Jesus also made it as proved by this verse and Acts 1:5. Both John the Baptist who baptized in water and the Lord Jesus who baptized in the Holy Spirit found occasion to mention the contrast; and MacGregor's denial of this in his unsupported assertion that "The words are put on Jesus' lips" F16 (by Luke) is pedantry. Like many other so-called "liberal" comments on the New Testament, this one is extremely pedestrian. If Luke had recorded John the Baptist as saying this, the critic would have accused him of copying Mark; but, as Luke quoted Peter's remembrance of Jesus saying it, he insinuated that Luke invented this. This is exactly the type of criticism that has about succeeded in destroying the credibility of liberalism, as applied to Biblical exegesis. Bible students quickly learn to anticipate exactly the knee-jerk reactions which have come to take the place of thought in the study of the word of God.


 
Verse 17
If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?

As McGarvey said:

This remark, taken in its historical connection, means that Peter would have been withstanding God, if he had refused to baptize the persons, or had made a difference in other respects between them and Jews. F17


 
Verse 18
And when they heard these things, they held their peace and gorified God, saying, Then to the Gentiles hath God granted repentance unto life.

This should have been the end of the circumcision problem which disturbed the church at that time and for years afterward. The umbilical cord that bound the infant church to Judaism should have been accepted as cleanly cut by this decision approving Peter's actions; but Peter wavered, and the powerful Judaizing party in the Jerusalem church put up a prolonged struggle to drag circumcision and various other Jewish ceremonials into the church of Jesus Christ. "The Judaizers in opposing Paul were acting against the church from which they pretended to derive their authority." F18

Those who maintained the necessity for observing the older Covenant did so through misguided zeal ťor the Law; but some did so from national pride and bigotry (Galatians 6:13). F19

The problem was no doubt compounded by the large number of Pharisees who had accepted Christianity (Acts 6:7); and it would not finally be laid to rest until the apostle Paul would deliver the book of Galatians as the coup de grace for Judaism in the church. Indeed the problem, although diminished, has survived to modern times in such things as sabbatarianism, instruments of music in worship, the burning of holy incense, etc.

God hath granted repentance unto life ...
In one sense repentance is something that men must do; in another it is something that God gives. There is no merit pertaining to men in such a thing as repentance, or any other obedience; and therefore, when God consents to permit repentance on man's part as one of the prior conditions of forgiving him, it is in essence a gift of God

Unto life ...
Whereas the New Testament speaks of faith being "unto" righteousness (Romans 10:10), repentance being "unto" life (as here), and confession being "unto" salvation (Romans 10:10), it is of baptism alone that the word of God declares it to be "into Christ" (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), and "into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13).

III. THE CHURCH MOVES TOWARD THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH

The third and final great section of Acts begins here with Acts 11:19, where appears the first movement of the church to the ends of creation. Antioch, being the first way station, the scene of the first great Gentile congregation gathered out of paganism, where God gave the sacred name "Christian" to his people, where the erstwhile persecutor, known later as Paul, would begin those labors which would determine to a large extent the future character of Christianity. As Peter's name and personality had dominated that previous section of Acts, Paul's would dominate this.


 
Verse 19
They therefore that were scattered abroad upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to none save only Jews.

This is a retrogression in Luke's narrative, going back to Jerusalem and memorable events there: the death of the first martyr, the first historical emergence of Saul of Tarsus, the dispersion of the disciples who went everywhere preaching the word, and the tribulation that accompanied those events.

Save only Jews ...
Despite the fact of the great commission having been intended for "all nations," the first Christians, almost exclusively Jewish in a racial sense, understood this as "all Jewish nations"! It was this fundamental misunderstanding which lasted several years, and which precipitated the supernatural events leading to the inclusion of Gentiles. The whole purpose of Christianity would have been nullified and thwarted if the world-saving gospel should have been reduced to the status of another Jewish sect; and there was no way that Almighty God would have permitted such a thing. Acts 9, 10, and 11 detail the dramatic, God-ordered events which stripped Christianity of its Jewish character and made a world-wide religion out of it.

The formula now becomes a sort of technical term, indicative of the MESSAGE, the last message of God to the world. It is called "the word of the kingdom," or "the word of life"; but it is never called "the letter," but the WORD of gospel. F20


 
Verse 20
But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Unto the Greeks also ...
Despite the fact of the margin's giving "Grecian Jews" as an alternate reading here, it is clear that Gentiles are meant, the same being the only proper antithesis of "Jews only" in the preceding verse. As Hervey said:

Speaking the word ...
It has been noted that:

The statement that the men of Cyprus and Cyrene preached the gospel to them is contrasted with the action of others, who preached to the Jews only. Obviously, therefore, these Hellenes were not Jews. F21

Thus, as Dummelow said, "To these unnamed Cyprians and Cyrenians belongs the credit of first preaching the gospel systematically to Gentiles." F22 It is doubtless this fact that Luke intended to bring into focus here. One can hardly resist the thought that perhaps Barnabas might have been among them. Both DeWelt and McGarvey were sure, however, that this preaching to Gentiles did not take place until after news of Peter's baptism of Cornelius had been circulated. DeWelt said:

What prompted these Jews to do this, preach to the Gentiles? Could it not have been that the word of the works of Peter among the Gentiles reached these places; and, when this report came, they did not hesitate to take the gospel to the great Gentile center of Antioch? F23

The importance of Antioch as capital, in a sense, of Gentile Christianity, justifies a little further notice of it.

ANTIOCH

The modern city of Antioch with a mere 30,000 inhabitants is not to be taken as anything like the Queen City of the East with its half a million souls at the time of events in this chapter. Situated astride the Orontes river, some twenty miles from the sea, where the river emerges from between the Lebanon and Taurus mountain ranges, it was a city "of great extent and remarkable beauty." F24 It was distinguished by two great colonnaded streets intersecting at the center and dividing Antioch into quadrants. "Octavian, Tiberius, Trajan ... and Hadrian adorned and equipped it with temple, theater, colonnade, circus, bath aqueduct, and all the architectural features and embellishments of a Roman metropolis." F25

The Seleucidae founded Antioch prior to 300 B.C., no less than four kings having a part in it, the royal residence of their dynasty having been constructed on an island in an artificial channel, the city itself occupying a larger island in the Orontes, but extending far beyond both banks, embracing also the slopes of precipitous Mount Silpius. It was the "third metropolis" F26 of the Roman Empire, "one of the eyes of Asia," F27 and "one of the leading cities of the world." F28

Of particular interest to Christians is the quality of life which marked this mother city of Gentile Christianity. Just west of Antioch, Seleucus I had constructed the Groves of Daphne, wherein was the mighty temple of the Pythian Apollo. It was a center of vice, featuring the harlot-priestesses of Daphne and Apollo who on occasions engaged in public ceremonies "stripped of clothing." F29 Heathenism in its most vulgar and debasing forms dominated the life of the people.

It is a credit to the strength and glory of Christianity that in such a city there came to be at one time more than "a hundred thousand members" F30 of the body of Christ. Chrysostom lived there; and a number of Gentile heresies began there, notably that of Arius.

Such was the city where the Gentiles turned to the Lord and where the disciples were first called Christians. Mighty are the ways of the Lord.

Preaching the Lord Jesus ...
See under Acts 8:12,35. Preaching the Lord Jesus was the same as preaching Christ, or preaching the things concerning the kingdom.


 
Verse 21
And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned to the Lord.

The fact is as obvious to us, after nineteen hundred years, as it was to Luke, that "the hand of the Lord was with them." Indeed, upon what other premise may the triumph of Christianity in a city like Antioch be explained?

A great number that believed turned to the Lord ...
The KJV in this place has "A great number believed, and turned to the Lord"; but the English Revised Version (1885) is a superior translation because it brings into focus the fact that believing and turning to the Lord are two different things. It is a gross error to read this as if it said, "A great number believed (turned to the Lord)." In the Greek text, "believing" is a participle, and "turned" is a verb in the past tense. F31 Those who were already believers "turned to the Lord." As McGarvey so well said it:

Turning to the Lord is a different act from believing, and is subsequent to it. As in Acts 3:19, where turning to the Lord follows repentance, the specific reference is to baptism, which is the turning act. Equivalent to the expression here is: "The Corinthians believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8). F32


 
Verses 22, 23, 24
And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas as far as Antioch: who, when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad; and he exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord: for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

Barnabas ...
For comment on this remarkable man, see under Acts 4:36.

He exhorted them all ...
This should have been expected of that man whose very name meant "Son of Exhortation." His power in the exercise of such a talent must truly have been remarkable.

And they sent forth Barnabas ...
This had the character of a formal mission from the church in Jerusalem. That the church should have sent a man with the character and disposition of Barnabas indicates that there was already in Jerusalem a strong attitude favoring the inclusion of Gentiles in the church.

Regarding the chronogy of these events, Hervey noted that:

There is no clue to the length of time elapsed between the flight from persecution and the arrival in Antioch, except that Saul had had time to sojourn three years in Arabia, to come to Jerusalem, and from thence to go and settle in Tarsus, where Barnabas found him; thus leaving abundant time for Peter's operations in Judaea and Caesarea. F33


 
Verses 25, 26
And he went forth to Tarsus to seek for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came to pass, that even for a whole year they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people; and that the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

When he had found him ...
This seems to say that Barnabas might have had some difficulty in locating Saul; and, if the fact of Saul having been disinherited by his family (as supposed) had cut off his association with them, this could have complicated the problem of locating him. In any case, Barnabas succeeded in finding him and bringing him to Antioch.

Some have speculated on the reasons which might have prompted Barnabas to search out Saul and introduce him at Antioch. Probably it was because the word of the Lord had revealed to Ananias that Saul would bear the Lord's name before the "Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). The immediate mention of the "name" in the same context supports this view.

The disciples were called Christians ...
The importance of this makes it imperative to study more fully both the name "disciples" and the name "Christian," which replaced it.

CONCERNING DISCIPLES

"Disciples" occurs 72 times in Matthew, 44 times in Mark, 38 times in Luke, 77 times in John, and 30 times in Acts - 261 times in the first five books of the New Testament; but it is not used even once in the last 22 books of the New Testament. The significance of this is further emphasized by the fact that the apostle John, after using it 77 times in the gospel, never used it even once in the short epistles and Revelation. Following the book of Acts, no follower of the Lord was ever called a disciple. The conclusion is mandatory that "disciple" as a name for members of the body of Christ was countermanded and negated by the Holy Spirit. (It should be noted that this in no manner denies that all New Testament teaching regarding "disciples" and discipleship applies likewise to Christians. It was the name, not the doctrine, that was changed.)

Among the reasons behind the dramatic change of names evident in this passage is the primary fact that the word "disciple" means "learner"; and although true in a sense that Christians must always be "learners," there is a vital and necessary sense in which Christians are "taught persons," in all vital elements of the holy faith. See John 6:44,45; Jeremiah 31:31-35; 2 John 1:2; and Isaiah 54:13. The hurtful notion that Christians are merely "trying to learn the truth" is antithetical to the passages cited. An apostle said that Christians "know the truth" (1 John 2:21). Paul declared that Christians "believe and know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:3); and this concept of the Christian's being in possession of "all truth" through the revelation of God to the apostles is denied by such a name as "disciples" or "learners." This alone was sufficient reason for God's repudiation of the name "disciples."

As Kenneth Hoover, distinguished preacher of Benton, Kentucky, said:

From ancient times to the present, the finite mind of man has wrestled with the infinite concept of God, the concept of truth. The halls of learning reverberate with a monotonous combination of postulates and abstractions about truth which sound good but mean nothing. F34

Hoover stressed that the truth has been revealed from God, in Christ, by the Spirit, through the apostles, and that "The truth is the gospel of Christ, the word of God." F35

Christians are commanded to love the truth, hear the truth, walk in the truth, obey the truth, and to "teach the truth in love." If they should be named merely "learners" or disciples, it would be incongruous.

CONCERNING THE NAME "CHRISTIAN"

The near-unanimous chorus of scholars and wise men shouting that this name was given in derision of the new faith is as shameful as it is amazing. We shall not use the space to record the names and comments of those affirming that "Christians" was a name given in derision, belittling the members of Christ as "goody-goodies," etc., the tragedy being that even some brethren have fallen in with such an "accepted" explanation! Even the Encyclopedia Britannica chimes in with "It was at Antioch that the term `Christian' was first given to converts to the new faith, as some maintain, in derision." F36 But where, in God's holy name, is there any intimation of such a thing, either in the word of God or any dependable history? Hervey emphatically declared, and it is true, that "There is no evidence of its having been given in derision." F37 Furthermore, if the name "Christian" was given in derision of the faith by the enemies of the gospel, whatever became of that everlasting "new name" which the mouth of God named upon his children?

  1. God promised that he himself would give his people a new name. He promised that it would be given at a time when "the Gentiles and kings" had seen his "righteousness" (Isaiah 62:2). It was not to be a name which enemies would give, for God said, "I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 56:5). It was not to be a name which would arise beyond the fellowship of God's people; but, as the Lord said, "Even unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters" (Isaiah 56:5). If God made good on that promise, the name was given in his house and within his walls; and that cannot mean in the ranks of the despisers of his truth. Moreover, it was to be "a new name" (Isaiah 62:2), and a name "which the mouth of the Lord" would name.

  2. Significance of the name's being "new." If "disciples" had continued to be the name of God's followers, there would have been nothing new in such a designation, because the Pharisees and John the Baptist also had "disciples." Implicit in the new name was the teaching that Christianity was never to be confused with Judaism, or any of the sects of the Jews, all of which had their "disciples," the very name being indicative of the Jewish connection.

  3. This is the only name specifically commanded by an apostle as the one in which the Lord's people should "glorify God" (1 Peter 4:16). And how, it may be asked, does the name "Christian" worn by God's people glorify the Father in heaven? This is done by its emphasis upon the name of Christ, the name literally meaning "of Christ." Herein also appears the utter impossibility of such a name having been given by the instigation of Satan. It is contrary to the nature of Satan to suppose for even a moment that the evil one would have concocted a name with so much of Christ in it. People who can really believe that Satan invented and instigated this name might also very well believe that the devil invented the Lord's Supper.

  4. The contrast between the New Testament handling of the name "Christian," as distinguished from many designations applied to the followers of the Lamb in the New Testament, stresses the uniqueness of the term "Christian." For example, the Holy Spirit referred to the Lord's followers as (1) the called of God (Romans 1:6; 8:28), (2) sons of God (Romans 8:14), (3) children of God (Romans 8:16), (4) the sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2), (5) the faithful in Christ (Ephesians 1:1), (6) servants of Christ (Philippians 1:1), (7) the elect of God (1 Peter 1:1), (8) God's elect (Colossians 3:12; Titus 1:1), (9) saints in Christ, the term "saints" being used 50 times in the epistles (10) brethren, this designation being used 132 times in the epistles, and (11) simply "the church," as used 85 times.

    Nevertheless, it was the name "Christian" which above all others came to be the historical designation of the brethren. This was the only name an apostle commanded the saints to wear (1 Peter 4:16), the only name advocated before kings (Acts 26:28), and the only name consciously designated by an inspired author of a New Testament book as a replacement for "disciples," as in Acts 11:26.

  5. Finally, the events leading to the giving of this new name were ordered, not on earth, but from heaven. First, a "name bearer" was chosen of God and converted in Acts 9; next the Gentiles were made participants in the blessings of the faith, upon the same terms as Jews, this being accomplished by a whole series of supernatural occurrences leading to the conversion of Cornelius and his house in Acts 10; and then in Acts 11, as soon as the first great Gentile church had been assembled at Antioch, a man full of the Holy Spirit went and called the "name-bearer" from Tarsus, the same line recording the fact that the disciples were called "Christians" first at Antioch. From this, the conclusion may not be denied that Paul himself announced this name within the church at Antioch, the inspired apostle being God's spokesman.


 
Verses 27, 28
Now in these days there came down prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine over all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius.

Prophets ...
There were an undetermined number of prophets in the first age of the church, the same ranking next in authority to the apostles themselves (1 Corinthians 12:28), presumabily having come in possession of their gift through the laying on of apostolic hands. They are mentioned again by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:28, also in Ephesians 2:20 and 4:11.

Agabus ...
is again mentioned in Acts 21:10. The event of his prophesying the famine in the reign of Claudius is helpful in fixing the chronology of the events here narrated. "Claudius reigned from A.D. 41-54." F38 He is the only emperor to have been named twice in the New Testament, here and in Acts 18:2; the latter instance referring to his expulsion of the Jews from Rome. Lewis is of the opinion that he is also alluded to in Acts 17:7. F39

A man of great promise at first, Claudius degenerated in office, outraging his subjects by a marriage to his own niece, F40 the shameless Agrippina, whose son Nero succeeded Claudius when the latter was poisoned, according to Tacitus, by Agrippina. The famine mentioned here which was prophesied by Agabus is also mentioned by Josephus as occurring in 44-48 A.D., during which period he relates how "Queen Helena purchased and imported grain and figs to the distressed in Jerusalem. F41

Luke's respectful and even friendly mention of the emperor makes it certain that at the time Luke and Acts were written, there had not been any outbreak of persecution of the Christians by Rome, meaning that they were written in the early 60's, at the very latest; for the quinquennium of Nero lasted until A.D. 59.


 
Verses 29, 30
And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

To send relief ...
What a commendable thing it was that the Gentile converts to Christianity, so long hated and despised by Jews, should have responded so nobly to the distress of their fellow Christians in Jerusalem and environs. Every Christian participated "according to his ability" in making up the bounty for their relief. All over the world today, Christians still respond in the same manner to such disasters as that ancient famine. This writer remembers being at Skillman Avenue Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, once after Hurricane "Carla" had wrought such extensive destruction; and the mountain of supplies that had been gathered at that church overflowed the great edifice and was temporarily stored on the parking lot until a whole fleet of trucks was employed for its distribution.

The pseudocon "discovered" in these verses is this:

Gal. 2:1 speaks of Paul's second visit to Jerusalem as taking place fourteen years after his first, whereas this visit could not be above four or five years after. F42

The visit in Gal. 2:1, however, was by "revelation," as was also his first visit; and, when it is understood that Paul was there speaking of a certain class of visits, all difficulties disappear. Moreover, this visit was very brief, not a visit at all in the sense the others were; and besides, there is no mention of their seeing any of the apostles on this visit, that being the big thing in view on both other trips. For whatever reason, and we are certain there was a reason, Paul simply did not count this visit here as his "second" journey to Jerusalem.

The elders ...
This is the first mention of elders of the church in the New Testament. That these men were recognized as the duly appointed governors of the Lord's church is implicit in the fact that Barnabas and Saul gave the alms they brought, not to the apostles, but to the elders. The qualifications of elders are given by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, along with the commandment to "ordain elders in every city."


Footnotes for Acts 11
1: H. Leo Boles, Commentary on the Acts (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1953), p. 176.
2: Joseph Benson, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.
3: Alexander Campbell, Acts of Apostles (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House), p. 76. .
4: Edgar J. Goodspeed, The New Testament, An American Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1923), p. 250.
5: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 176.
6: Joseph Benson, op. cit., in loco.
7: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 76.
8: John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.
9: F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1954), p. 234.
10: E. H. Plumptre, Elliott's Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 72.
11: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 235.
12: B. W. Johnson, The New Testament with Explanatory Notes (Delight, Arkansas: Gospel Light Publishing Company), p. 464.
13: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 78.
14: Ibid.
15: Ibid.
16: G. H. C. MacGreggor, The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1954), Vol. IX, p. 144.
17: J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on Acts (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company), p. 220.
18: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 73.
19: Cambridge Bible, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.
20: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 78.
21: A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary, Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1950), p. 358.
22: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 833.
23: Don DeWelt, Acts Made Actual (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1958), p. 151.
24: F. N. Peloubet, Bible Dictionary (Chicago: The John C. Winston Company, 1925), p. 36.
25: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 70.
26: Farrar, as quoted by W. J. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 226.
27: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 73.
28: Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopaedia, Vol. 2, p. 149.
29: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 73.
30: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 149.
31: The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p. 516.
32: J. W. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 224.
33: A. S. Hervey, op. cit., p. 358.
34: Kenneth Hoover, Minister, Church of Christ, Benton, Kentucky, a private manuscript, 1975.
35: Ibid.
36: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 149.
37: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 359.
38: Jack P. Lewis, Historical Backgrounds of Bible History (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1971), p. 144.
39: Ibid.
40: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 5, p. 781.
41: Jack P. Lewis, op. cit., p. 144.
42: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 360.
43: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 53.
44: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 162.
45: John Peter Lange, op. cit., p. 101.
46: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 825.
47: John William Russell, op. cit. p. 295.
48: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 18.
49: As quoted by Campbell, ibid.
50: E. H. Plumptre, The Acts of Apostles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 15.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ac&chapter=011>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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