Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
FIRST-FRUITS OF THE
We here enter on an entirely new phase of the Christian Church, the
"opening of the door of faith to the Gentiles"; in other words, the
recognition of Gentile, on terms of perfect equality with Jewish,
discipleship without the necessity of circumcision. Some beginnings
appear to have been already made in this direction (see on
Ac 11:20, 21);
and Saul probably acted on this principle from the first, both in
Arabia and in Syria and Cilicia. But had he been the prime mover in the
admission of uncircumcised Gentiles into the Church, the Jewish party,
who were never friendly to him, would have acquired such strength as to
bring the Church to the verge of a disastrous schism. But on Peter,
"the apostle" specially "of the circumcision," was conferred the honor
of initiating this great movement, as before of the first admission of
Jewish believers. (See on
After this, however, one who had already come upon the stage was to
eclipse this "chiefest of the apostles."
1, 2. Cæsarea--(See on
the Italian band--a cohort of Italians, as distinguished from native
soldiers, quartered at Cæsarea, probably as a bodyguard to the Roman
procurator who resided there. An ancient coin makes express mention of
such a cohort in Syria.
[AKERMAN, Numismatic Illustrations of the New Testament.]
2. A devout man, &c.--an uncircumcised Gentile proselyte to the
Jewish faith, of whom there were a very great number at this time; a
distinguished proselyte, who had brought his whole household
establishment under the hallowing influence of the Jewish faith and the
regular observance of its principal seasons of worship.
gave much alms to the people--that is, the Jewish people,
on the same principle as another centurion before him
thinking it no "great thing," if they had "sown unto him spiritual
things, that they should reap his carnal things"
prayed to God alway--at the stated daily seasons. (See on
3-6. saw . . . evidently--"distinctly."
the ninth hour of the day--three o'clock, the hour of the evening
sacrifice. But he had been "fasting until that hour"
perhaps from the sixth hour
4. What is it, Lord?--language which, tremulously though it was
uttered, betokened childlike reverence and humility.
Thy prayers and thine alms--The way in which both are specified is
emphatic. The one denotes the spiritual outgoing of his soul to God, the
other its practical outgoing to men.
are come up for a memorial before God--that is, as a
sacrifice well-pleasing unto God, as an odor of a sweet smell
5. send to Joppa . . . for one Simon, &c.--(See on
7, 8. when the angel . . . was departed, he called--immediately doing
as directed, and thereby showing the simplicity of his faith.
a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually--of the
"soldiers under him," such as the centurion at Capernaum had
Who this "devout soldier" was, can only be matter of conjecture.
DA COSTA [Four
Witnesses] gives a number of ingenious reasons for thinking that,
having attached himself henceforth to Peter--whose influence in the
composition of the second Gospel is attested by the earliest tradition,
and is stamped on that Gospel itself--he is no other than the
9-16. upon the housetop--the flat roof, the chosen place in the East
for cool retirement.
the sixth hour--noon.
10. a trance--differing from the "vision" of Cornelius, in so far as
the things seen had not the same objective reality, though both were
12. all manner of four-footed beasts, &c.--that is, the clean and
the unclean (ceremonially) all mixed together.
14. Not so, Lord--See Marginal reference.
I have never eaten anything that is common--that is, not sanctified
by divine permission to eat of it, and so "unclean." "The distinction of
meats was a sacrament of national distinction, separation, and
consecration" [WEBSTER and
15. What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common--The ceremonial
distinctions are at an end, and Gentiles, ceremonially separated from
the chosen people
and debarred from that access to God in the visible ordinances of His
Church which they enjoyed, are now on a perfect equality with them.
16. done thrice--See
17-24. while Peter doubted . . . what this should mean, behold, the
three men . . . stood before the gate . . . and asked--"were
inquiring," that is, in the act of doing so. The preparations here
made--of Peter for his Gentile visitors, as of Cornelius for him--are
devoutly to be noted. But besides this, at the same moment, "the Spirit"
expressly informs him that three men were inquiring for him, and bids
him unhesitatingly go with them, as sent by Him.
21. I am he whom ye seek--This seems to have been said without any
communication being made to Peter regarding the men or their errand.
22. they said, Cornelius . . . a just man, &c.--fine testimony this
from his own servants.
of good report among all the nation of the Jews--specified, no doubt,
to conciliate the favorable regard of the Jewish apostle.
to hear words of thee--(See on
23. called them in and lodged them--thus partially anticipating this
fellowship with Gentiles.
Peter went . . . with them, and certain brethren--six
from Joppa--as witnesses of a transaction which Peter was prepared to
believe pregnant with great consequences.
24. Cornelius . . . called together his kinsmen and near
friends--implying that he had been long enough at Cæsarea to
there and that he had intimate friends there whose presence he was not
ashamed to invite to a religious meeting of the most solemn nature.
25-29. as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him--a mark of the
fell down at his feet, and worshipped him--In the East this way
of showing respect was customary not only to kings, but to others
occupying a superior station; but among the Greeks and Romans it was
reserved for the gods. Peter, therefore, declines it as due to no
mortal [GROTIUS]. "Those who claim to have
succeeded Peter, have not imitated this part of his conduct"
[ALFORD] (therein only verifying
Re 19:10; 22:9).
28. Ye know it is . . . unlawful . . . for . . . a Jew to keep company,
or come unto one of another nation, &c.--There was no express
prohibition to this effect, and to a Certain extent intercourse was
certainly kept up. (See the Gospel history, towards the end). But
intimate social fellowship was not practiced, as being adverse to the
spirit of the law.
29. I ask therefore, &c.--The whole speech is full of dignity, the
apostle seeing in the company before him a new brotherhood, into whose
devout and inquiring minds he was divinely directed to pour the light of
30-33. Four days ago--the messengers being despatched on the first;
on the second reaching Joppa
starting for Cæsarea on the third; and on the fourth
33. we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are
commanded thee of God--Beautiful expression of entire preparedness to
receive the expected divine teaching through the lips of this
heaven-commissioned teacher, and delightful encouragement to Peter to
give free utterance to what was doubtless already on his lips!
34, 35. Peter opened his mouth--(See on
Of a truth I perceive--that is, "I have it now demonstrated before
that God is no respecter of persons--Not, "I see there is no capricious
favoritism with God," for Peter would never imagine such a thing; but
(as the next clause shows), "I see that God has respect only to
personal character and state in the acceptance of men, national and
ecclesiastical distinctions being of no account."
35. But in every nation--not (observe), in every religion; according to a common distortion of these words.
he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness--This being the
well-known phraseology of the Old Testament in describing the truly
godly man, within the pale of revealed religion, it cannot be alleged
that Peter meant it to denote a merely virtuous character, in the
heathen sense; and as Peter had learned enough, from the messengers of
Cornelius and from his own lips, to convince him that the whole
religious character of this Roman officer had been moulded in the Jewish
faith, there can be no doubt that the apostle intended to describe
exactly such saintship--in its internal spirituality and external
fruitfulness--as God had already pronounced to be genuine and approved.
And since to such "He giveth more grace," according to the law of His
He sends Peter, not to be the instrument of his conversion, as
this is very frequently called, but simply to "show him the way of God
more perfectly," as before to the devout Ethiopian eunuch.
36-38. the word . . . sent unto the children of Israel--for to them
(he would have them distinctly know) the Gospel was first preached, even
as the facts of it took place on the special theater of the ancient
preaching peace by Jesus Christ--the glorious sum of all Gospel truth
he is Lord of all--exalted to embrace under the canopy of His peace,
Jew and Gentile alike, whom the blood of His Cross had cemented into one
reconciled and accepted family of God
37. That word . . . ye how--The facts, it seems, were too notorious
and extraordinary to be unknown to those who mixed so much with Jews,
and took so tender an interest in all Jewish matters as they did;
though, like the eunuch, they knew not the significance of them.
which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee--(See
Lu 4:14, 37, 44; 7:17; 9:6; 23:5).
after the baptism which John preached--(See on
38. Now God anointed Jesus of Nazareth--rather, "Jesus of Nazareth
(as the burden of that 'published word'), how God anointed Him."
with the Holy Ghost and with power--that is, at His baptism,
thus visibly proclaiming Him MESSIAH, "the Lord's
For it is not His unction for personal holiness at His incarnation that
is referred to--as many of the Fathers and some moderns take it--but His
investiture with the insignia of the Messianic office, in which He
presented Himself after His baptism to the acceptance of the people.
went about doing good--holding up the beneficent character of
all His miracles, which was their predicted character
(Isa 35:5, 6,
healing all that were oppressed of the devil--whether in the form of
demoniacal possessions, or more indirectly, as in her "whom Satan had
bound with a spirit of infirmity eighteen years"
thereby showing Himself the Redeemer from all evil.
for God was with him--Thus gently does the apostle rise to the supreme
dignity of Christ with which he closes, accommodating himself to his
39-43. we are witnesses of all . . . he did--not objects of
superstitious reverence, but simply witnesses to the great
historical facts on which the Gospel is founded.
slew and hanged--that is, slew by hanging.
on a tree--So
(and see on
40-41. showed him openly; Not to all the people--for it was not
fitting that He should subject Himself, in His risen condition, to a
second rejection in Person.
but unto witnesses chosen before of God . . . to us, who did eat and
drink with him after he rose, &c.--Not the less certain, therefore,
was the fact of His resurrection, though withholding Himself from
general gaze in His risen body.
he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead--He
had before proclaimed Him "Lord of all," for the dispensing of "peace"
to all alike; now he announces Him in the same supreme lordship, for the
exercise of judgment upon all alike. On this divine ordination, see
Joh 5:22, 23, 27;
Thus we have here all Gospel truth in brief. But, forgiveness
through this exalted One is the closing note of Peter's beautifully
43. To him give all the prophets witness--that is, This is the burden,
generally of the prophetic testimony. It was fitter thus to give the
spirit of their testimony, than to quote them in detail on such an
occasion. But let this apostolic statement of the evangelical import of
the Old Testament writings be devoutly weighed by those who are disposed
to rationalize away this element in the Old Testament.
whosoever believeth in him--This was evidently said with special
reference to the Gentile audience then before him, and formed a noble
practical conclusion to the whole discourse.
44, 45. While Peter yet spake . . . the Holy Ghost fell--by visible and
45. they of the circumcision . . . were astonished . . . because that
on the Gentiles also was poured out, &c.--without circumcision.
46. heard them speak with tongues and magnify God--As on the day
of Pentecost it was no empty miracle, no mere speaking of foreign
languages, but utterance of "the wonderful works of God" in tongues to
so here; but more remarkable in this case, as the speakers were perhaps
less familiar with the Old Testament songs of praise.
46-48. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water . . . which have
received the Holy Ghost, &c.--Mark, he does not say, They have
received the Spirit, what need have they for water? but, Having the
living discipleship imparted to them and visibly stamped upon them, what
objection can there be to admitting them, by the seal of baptism, into
the full fellowship of the Church?
47. which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we--and are thus, in
all that is essential to salvation, on a level with ourselves.
48. he commanded them to be baptized--not doing it with his own hands,
as neither did Paul, save on rare occasions
prayed . . . him to tarry certain days--"golden days"
doubtless, in refreshing Christian fellowship, and in imparting and
receiving fuller teaching on the several topics of the apostle's