Peter's Defence Before the Church at Jerusalem.
SUMMARY.--Peter's Course at Cæsarea Called in Question.
He Defends Himself by Relating His Vision.
And the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles.
The Church, Convinced, Glorify God.
The Missionary Work of Those Scattered Abroad.
The Conversion of Gentiles at Antioch.
Barnabas Sent to Antioch by the Church.
Saul Brought from Tarsus.
Collections for the Relief of Jerusalem.
1, 2. They of the circumcision contended with him. The Jewish
Christians, of whom the church at Jerusalem was entirely composed. The
Gentiles of Cæsarea were the first uncircumcised persons
admitted, the Samaritans being a circumcised people. The apostles and
church generally seemed to understand that Jesus was the world's
Savior, but thought that all who came to him must accept Judaism also
and be circumcised before baptism. How deep-rooted their ideas were is
shown by Peter's own case. It took (1) a vision, (2) the command of the
Lord, (3) the call of Cornelius, and (4) the descent of the Holy Spirit
on the Gentiles, to remove his and his brethren's scruples about
baptizing the Gentiles. It is, therefore, no wonder that his course was
called in question.
3. Thou . . . didst eat with them. This was a positive
violation, not of the laws of Moses, but of the rules of the orthodox
Jews. Though Peter laid aside his Jewish exclusiveness at
Cæsarea, he at least once afterwards relapsed
4-17. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning. Thus
showing that he acted under the Divine orders. See notes in
These six brethren accompanied me. These were brethren of
Joppa, but Peter had taken them to Jerusalem to confirm his words. He
knew his course would be called into question.
Whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. Note the
import of these words of the angel to Cornelius: (1) Notwithstanding
his prayers, alms, devotion, and justice, he
was not yet saved. Only the gospel could save him. God's mercy was
shown in bringing him the gospel. (2) This is the first instance named
in Acts of a household baptism. Were there any infants? Who are meant
is seen by reference to
"his kinsmen and near friends." These "heard"
were baptized with the Holy Spirit,
and baptized in water
As on us at the beginning. Note that Peter compares the
outpouring on the Gentiles with that of the day of Pentecost. He calls
both instances "baptisms of the Holy Spirit." Miraculous signs
accompanied each instance. Have we a right to speak of a baptism of the
Holy Spirit without such signs? The gift of the Holy Spirit with its
(Gal. 5:22, 23)
is promised to every obedient believer, but the baptism of the Holy
Spirit seems to have been extraordinary and special. Note also that
Peter calls the Day of Pentecost the Beginning. The Beginning of
what? Of the preaching of the New Covenant, of the Great Commission, of
the conditions of the gospel under the reign of the exalted King and
Savior, of the church of Christ on earth.
What was I, that I could withstand God? All these
extraordinary signs were then given in order to show Peter and the
Jewish Christians that the Gentiles were also accepted.
18. They held their peace. Gave up the controversy. They were
convinced by the account, and assured that
"God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life;"
i. e., had removed the barriers in the way of the Gentiles
repenting and finding life through Christ.
19. Now they which were scattered abroad. See
Travelled as far as Phenice.
Phoenicia. A long, fertile plain between the Lebanon mountains and the
sea containing the famous cities of Tyre and Sidon. These preachers,
perhaps, founded churches here, as we find them existing later
(Acts 21:4; 27:3).
Cyprus. The famous island in the Mediterranean.
Antioch. The capital of the whole province of Syria, including
Palestine, situated on the Orontes a short distance from the sea, at
this time next after Rome and Alexandria of the cities of the world in
greatness, commerce and wealth. It was cultured, luxurious and corrupt,
a Greek civilization corrupted by the wealth and luxury of Asia; a sort
of oriental Rome.
Preaching . . . unto the Jews only. They departed before the
Gentiles at Cæsarea were called to Christ.
20, 21. Cyrene. A great Grecian city of North Africa, with a
large Jewish population. These preachers were Jews from Cyprus and
Cyrene who had been converted at Jerusalem.
Spake unto the Grecians. Greeks in the Revision. The preachers
were "Grecians," i. e., Hellenistic Jews (foreign Jews),
but those to whom they spoke were Greeks, Gentiles, not of
Jewish blood at all, I suppose "devout Greeks"
who had turned from idols to seek the purer worship of Jehovah These
preachers, without knowledge of the call of the Gentiles, led by the
spirit of Christ, preached the gospel to these Gentile seekers for
light, with the result that "a great multitude believed and turned to
22-24. Sent forth Barnabas. Barnabas was himself a Grecian Jew
also the friend of Saul, another Grecian Jew
He was chosen as a suitable man to go to Antioch and see whether there
had been a real work of the Lord. When he had seen that it was
the grace of the Lord,
he rejoiced and gave it Godspeed, and the work grew more and more in
this great metropolis. Note that this is the first church named outside
the bounds of Palestine. It was to become the great missionary center
for the conversion of the Gentile world.
25, 26. Departed to seek Saul. Seeing the great opening, he knew
that Saul was the best man to aid him. His trip to Tarsus is supposed
to have been in A. D. 43; Saul to have departed from Jerusalem in A. D.
39; hence to have spent about four years in missionary work in "Syria
See notes on
A whole year. A. D. 44; they continued the work with great
The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The Jews
called them "Nazarenes,"
called themselves "disciples,"
The new term was probably bestowed by the Gentiles in the great city,
in default of any other name that seemed appropriate. Here was the
first great Gentile church. Outsiders could see that they were not
Jews nor pagans, hence they called them after their Lord, just as the
first disciples of Plato were called Platonists, and those of Epicurus,
Epicureans. The designation Christians occurs only twice
elsewhere in the New Testament
(Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16),
and in both places its use is ascribed to those out of the church; yet
it was accepted as honoring the Lord.
27, 28. In these days. While Saul was at Antioch.
Came prophets. See note on
One of them named Agabus. Also named in
He had the prophetic gift.
Should be a great dearth. A famine.
Throughout all the world. This expression in the Scriptures
often means the Jewish world.
In the days of Claudius Cesar. Josephus (Antiquities, 20: 2, 6)
describes a great famine that prevailed in Palestine in the reign of
Claudius Cæsar, beginning about the close of A. D. 44, and lasting
three or four years. Food had to be imported by the benevolent persons
from Egypt and Cyprus, yet many perished.
29, 30. Then the disciples. Those at Antioch. They were informed
that the famine would be very severe in Judea. Hence they contributed,
each as he could, for the relief of their Jewish brethren, and sent it
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. The love of Christ was in their
hearts. We see here the dawn of that new spirit that was to
revolutionize the Gentile world. The Gentiles of Antioch extend their
hands to relieve the distress of the Jews of Palestine.