Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
HIMSELF BEFORE THE
PROCEDURE TOWARDS THE
1-11. the apostles and brethren . . . in Judea--rather, "throughout
2. they . . . of the circumcision--not the Jewish Christians generally,
for here there were no other, but such as, from their jealousy for "the
middle wall of partition" which circumcision raised between Jew and
Gentile, were afterwards known as "they of the circumcision." They
doubtless embraced apostles as well as others.
3, 4. Thou wentest in . . . But Peter rehearsed the matter,
&c.--These objectors scruple not to demand from Peter, though the first
among the apostles, an explanation of his conduct; nor is there any
insinuation on Peter's part of disrespect towards his authority in that
demand--a manifest proof that such authority was unknown both to the
complainers and to himself.
12-18. we entered the man's house--No mention of Cornelius' name, much
less of his high position, as if that affected the question. To the
charge, "Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised," he simply speaks of
the uncircumcised "man" to whom he had been divinely sent.
13. seen an angel--literally, "the angel," for the rumor took that
14. Who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be
saved--The historian makes the angel express this much more generally
So also the subsequent report of it by the deputies and by Cornelius
himself to Peter
(Ac 10:22, 32).
But as Peter tarried with Cornelius certain days, and they doubtless
talked over the wonderful scene together, perhaps this fuller and
richer form of what the angel said was given to Peter; or the apostle
himself may have expressed what the angel certainly
designed by directing them to send for him. Observe, "salvation"
is here made to hang upon "words," that is, the Gospel message
concerning Christ. But on the "salvation" of Cornelius, see on
Ac 10:34, 35.
On that of his "house," see on
16, 17. Then remembered I the word . . . John . . . baptized with
water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then,
&c.--that is, "Since God Himself has put them on a level with
ourselves, by bestowing on them what the Lord Jesus pronounced the
higher baptism of the Holy Ghost, would it not have been to withstand
God if I had withheld from them the lower baptism of water, and kept
aloof from them as still 'unclean?'"
18. held their peace and glorified God--Well had it been if, when
Paul afterwards adduced equally resistless evidence in justification of
the same line of procedure, this Jewish party had shown the same
reverential and glad submission!
Then hath God also granted to the Gentiles, &c.--rather, "granted
to the Gentiles also." (See a similar misplacement of "also" in
To "grant repentance unto life"--that is, "such as issues in
"repentance unto salvation")--is more than to be willing to pardon upon
repentance [GROTIUS]. The case of Cornelius is so
manifestly one of grace reigning in every stage of his religious
history, that we can hardly doubt that this was just the feature of it
which they meant here to express. And this is the grace that reigns
in every conversion.
19. they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose
about Stephen--and who "went everywhere preaching the word"
travelled as far as Phenice--that part of the Mediterranean coast
which, commencing a little north of Cæsarea, stretches northwards for
upwards of one hundred miles, halfway to Antioch.
and Cyprus--(See on
An active commercial intercourse subsisted between Phenice and Cyprus.
and Antioch--near the head of the northeast coast of the Mediterranean,
on the river Orontes, and containing a large colony of Jews, to whose
religion there were there numerous proselytes. "It was almost an
Oriental Rome, in which all the forms of the civilized life of the
empire found some representative; and through the two first centuries of
the Christian era it was what Constantinople became afterwards, 'the
Gate of the East'" [HOWSON].
20. some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene--(see on
as Lucius, mentioned in
spake unto the Grecians--rather, "the Greeks," that is,
uncircumcised Gentiles (as the true reading beyond doubt is). The Gospel
had, from the first, been preached to "the Grecians" or
Greek-speaking Jews, and these "men of Cyprus and Cyrene" were
themselves "Grecians." How, then, can we suppose that the historian
would note, as something new and singular
that some of the dispersed Christians preached to them?
21. a great number believed--Thus the accession of Cornelius and
his party was not the first admission of uncircumcised Gentiles into
the Church. (See on
Nay, we read of no influence which the accession of Cornelius and his
house had on the further progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles;
whereas there here open upon us operations upon the Gentiles from quite
a different quarter, and attended with ever growing success. The only
great object served by the case of Cornelius was the formal
recognition of the principles which that case afterwards secured.
22. sent . . . Barnabas . . . as far as Antioch--implying that even
on the way to Antioch he found churches to visit [OLSHAUSEN].
It was in
the first instance, no doubt, a mission of inquiry; and no one could be
more suitable to inquire into the proceedings of those Cyprians and
Cyrenians than one who was himself a "Grecian" of Cyprus
and "a son of consolation."
23. when he . . . had seen the grace of God--in the new converts.
was glad--owned and rejoiced in it at once as divine, though they
exhorted them all that with purpose of heart--as opposed to a hasty
and fickle discipleship.
they would cleave unto the Lord--the Lord Jesus.
24. For he was a good man--The sense of "good" here is plainly
"large-hearted," "liberal-minded," rising above narrow Jewish
sectarianism, and that because, as the historian adds, he was "full of
the Holy Ghost and of faith."
and much people were added unto the Lord--This proceeding of Barnabas,
so full of wisdom, love, and zeal, was blessed to the great increase of
the Christian community in that important city.
Ac 11:25, 26.
TOGETHER FOR A
BIRTHPLACE OF THE
25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul--Of course,
this was after the hasty despatch of Saul to Tarsus, no doubt by
Barnabas himself among others, to escape the fury of the Jews at
Jerusalem. And as Barnabas was the first to take the converted
persecutor by the hand and procure his recognition as a disciple by the
brethren at Jerusalem
so he alone seems at that early period to have discerned in him those
peculiar endowments by virtue of which he was afterwards to eclipse all
others. Accordingly, instead of returning to Jerusalem, to which, no
doubt, he sent accounts of his proceedings from time to time, finding
that the mine in Antioch was rich in promise and required an additional
and powerful hand to work, he leaves it for a time, takes a journey to
Tarsus, "finds Saul" (seemingly implying--not that he lay hid [BENGEL], but that he was engaged at the time in some
preaching circuit--see on
and returns with him to Antioch. Nor were his hopes disappointed. As
co-pastors, for the time being, of the Church there, they so labored
that the Gospel, even in that great and many-sided community, achieved
for itself a name which will live and be gloried in as long as this
world lasts, as the symbol of all that is most precious to the fallen
family of man:--"The disciples were called CHRISTIANS first in Antioch." This name originated
not within, but without, the Church; not with their Jewish
enemies, by whom they were styled "Nazarenes"
but with the heathen in Antioch, and (as the form of the word
shows) with the Romans, not the Greeks there [OLSHAUSEN]. It was not at first used in a good sense (as
show), though hardly framed out of contempt (as
BAUMGARTEN, &c.); but as it was a noble testimony
to the light in which the Church regarded Christ--honoring Him as their
only Lord and Saviour, dwelling continually on His name, and glorying
in it--so it was felt to be too apposite and beautiful to be allowed to
OCCASION OF A
JERUSALEM WITH A
CONTRIBUTION FOR THE
27. came prophets from Jerusalem--inspired teachers, a class we shall
afterwards frequently meet with, who sometimes, but not necessarily,
foretold future events. They are classed next to apostles
(1Co 12:28, 29;
28. that there should be great dearth throughout all the world--the
whole Roman empire.
which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar--Four famines
occurred during his reign. This one in Judea and the adjacent countries
took place, A.D. 41 [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 20.2,5].
An important date for tracing out the chronology of the Acts. (But
this subject is too difficult and extensive to admit of being handled
29. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined
to send relief, &c.--This was the pure prompting of Christian love,
which shone so bright in those earliest days of the Gospel.
30. sent it to the elders--an office well known to be borrowed
from the synagogue; after the model of which, and not at all of the
temple, the Christian Churches were constituted by the apostles.
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul--This was Saul's
JERUSALEM after his conversion.