Acts 11





1 "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles

had also received the word of God."  Now for and, Authorized Version; the

brethren for brethren, Authorized Version; also had for had also, Authorized

Version, We can imagine how rapidly the news of the great revolution would

travel to the metropolis of Jewish Christianity, and what a stir it would make

in that community. It does not appear what view James and the other apostles took.


2 "And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision

contended with him," They that were of the circumcision. At first sight this phrase,

which was natural enough in ch.10:45, seems an unnatural one in the then condition

of the Church, when all the members of it were “of the circumcision,” and there

were no Gentile converts at all. But the explanation of it is to be found in the

circumstance of Luke himself being a Gentile; perhaps also, in his use of language

suited to the time when he wrote. It is an indication, too, of the purpose of

Luke in writing his history, viz. to chronicle the progress of Gentile Christianity.

Peter, having completed his rounds (ch. 9:32), returned to Jerusalem, which was

still the abode of the apostles. He was, no doubt, anxious to commune with his

brother apostles upon the momentous matter of the Gentile converts; but he was

at once attacked by the bigotry of the zealous Jews.


3 "Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with

them."  Thou wentest in, etc. The circumstance of his eating with

Cornelius and his friends is not expressly recorded in ch.10., but almost

necessarily follows from what is there stated. It had been seized upon as

the chief sting in their report by those who brought the news to Jerusalem.

Observe the total absence of anything like papal domination on the part of Peter.


4 "But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded

it by order unto them, saying,"  Began and expounded the matter unto them

in order for rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order

unto them, Authorized Version.


5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A

certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from

heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:"  Descending for descend,

Authorized Version; were for had been, Authorized Version; unto

for to, Authorized Version.


6 "Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and

saw four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping

things, and fowls of the air."  The four-footed for four-footed, Authorized

Version; heaven for air, Authorized Version.


7 "And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat."

Also a voice for a voice, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

rise for arise, Authorized Version; kill for day, Authorized Version.


8 "But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at

any time entered into my mouth." Ever for at any time, Authorized Version.



The Mystery (vs. 1-8)


The beginning and the close of this chapter refer to events of precisely

similar character, which took place almost simultaneously, at all events

without any concert or communication, in Palestine and in Syria; the

reception of the Word of God by Gentiles, and their admission into the

Church of God. It is difficult for us, after the lapse of twenty centuries

and a half, during which this has been the rule of the kingdom of heaven, to

realize the startling strangeness of such an event when first brought to the

knowledge of the then Church of Christ. That a wall of partition, which

seemed to be built upon immovable foundations, and which had defied

every effort to break it down through a period of between one and two

thousand years, should suddenly fall flat down at the blast of the gospel

trumpet, like the walls of Jericho of old; that a hidden purpose of God,

which had been veiled and concealed for so many ages, should suddenly

flash out and stand clearly revealed to the eyes of mankind at two remote

spots of the earth; must have struck with astonishment the minds of the

Jews of that age. Paul himself, after many years of successful work as

the Apostle of the Gentiles, cannot speak without emotion and wonder of

the great revolution in the religion of mankind. The admission of the

Gentiles to be partakers of God’s promise in Christ by the gospel, and to

be fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, was the

great mystery which in other ages had not been made known to the sons of

men, but was at length revealed to the apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

His heart swelled, and his utterance rose as he recited that “Unto me, who

am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach

among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men

see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the

world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the

intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might

be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the

eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:1-11).

And certainly we ought not to allow familiarity with this dispensation of the

Divine wisdom to breed in us any contempt or overlooking of its infinite

importance. The destinies of the human race, in its varieties of intellect, and

civilization, and creed, and morals, and social and political institutions, ought

ever to be a matter of the deepest concern to us. We have the certain knowledge

that the door of repentance and faith is thrown open to all mankind. We know that

God is no respecter of persons, and we know that Jesus Christ died for the sins of

the whole world. If the Word of God could win its way in a cohort of Italian

soldiers quartered in an Oriental city; if much people, in the dissolute city of

Antioch, overrun as it was with every kind of superstition and

extravagance of vice and luxury and pleasure, listened to the teaching of

Barnabas and Saul, and were added to the Lord; surely we ought not to be

fainthearted in communicating to the whole world, whether heathen, or

Mohammedan, or Buddhist, the Word of truth which we have received of

God. Oh for a simultaneous breathing of the Divine Spirit, which may

quicken dead souls in every nation under heaven, and make Churches of

Christ to spring up in vigor and beauty in all the dark places of the earth, to

the praise of the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ!


9 "But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath

cleansed, that call not thou common."  A voice answered the second time

out of for the voice answered me again from, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus; make for call, Authorized Version.


10 "And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into

heaven."Thrice for three times, Authorized Version.


11 "And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto

the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me."

Forthwith for immediately, Authorized Version; three men stood before the

house in which we were for there were three men already come unto the

house where I was, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; having been

sent for sent, Authorized Version.


12 "And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover

these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s

house:"  Making no distinction for nothing doubting, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus; and.., also for moreover, Authorized Version. Making no

distinction. The reading adopted here in the Received Text is διακρίναντα -

diakrinanta - instead of διακρινόμενον - diakrinomenon - doubting - in the

Textus Receptus.  The verb διακρίνειν - diakrinein - in the active voice means

to “make a distinction” or “difference” between one and another, as in ch.15:9.

But in the middle voice διακρίνεσθαι - diakrinesthai - means “to doubt” or

hesitate,” as in ch. 10:20. It seems highly improbable that the two passages,

which ought to be identical, should thus differ, while employing the very same

verb. Some manuscripts, omit the clause μηδὲν διακρινόμενον  - maeden

diakrinomenon - nothing doubting - altogether. These six brethren; showing

that Peter had brought the brethren from Joppa (now specified as six) with him

to Jerusalem to substantiate his account; a plain indication that he anticipated

some opposition.


13 "And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which

stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon,

whose surname is Peter;" Told for showed, Authorized Version; the angel

for an angel, Authorized Version; standing in his house and saying for in his

house which stood and said unto him, Authorized Version; send for send men,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus fetch for call for, Authorized Version.


14 "Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be

saved."  Speak unto for tell, Authorized Version; thou shalt be saved, thou,

 etc., for thou and all thy house shall be saved, Authorized Version.


15 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at

the beginning." Even as for as, Authorized Version.


16 "Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John

indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost."

And I remembered for then remembered I, Authorized Version. This is a new

incident not mentioned in ch. 10. The reference is to ch.1:5. This

saying of the Lord being thus referred to by Peter looks as if Peter might

have furnished many of the particulars in the first twelve chapters to Luke.



Well-Stored Memories (v. 16)


A topic suggested by the expression of  Peter, “Then remembered I the

word of the Lord.” Some explanation may be given of “memory” as a

distinct mental faculty, but the one on which the acquisition and increase of

knowledge greatly depend. A faculty capable of culture, but taking

different features in different individuals. Some have verbal memories,

others memory for principles. Some have trained memories in particular

subjects, but little power to retain general knowledge. Formal aids to

memory are suggested, but its true culture lies in its use. As a mental

faculty, it comes under Christian sanctifying, as well as into Christian use.

In ordinary education attention is paid to the training of this power, and in

the Divine culture attention to it is equally needed. It may even be said of

our Lord’s preparation of His apostles for their work, that He stored their

memories with His words and his works, so that there might be the material

on which the Holy Spirit could hereafter work, "bringing all things up into

remembrance” on fitting occasions. Consider:


  • STORING MEMORIES.  This is anxious work to the parent, the school

teacher, and the professor. Due effort is made to ensure:


Ø      adequate stores;

Ø      well-arranged stores;

Ø      clearly apprehended stores;

Ø      moral stores.


Two things are found necessary to the holding of things in memory:


Ø      they must be clearly apprehended;

Ø      they must be sufficiently repeated.  (Repetition is the way on learns)


It is found that we hold things in measures of safety dependent on the

amount of attention which we have given to them. Apply these principles

to the storing of our memories with religious facts and principles; dwelling

on the importance of requiring the young to learn the Scriptures, of

demanding from our Christian teachers clearness of statement and efficient

repetition; showing that, as in Peter’s case, a man only has the right

truth or principle at command, on occasions of need, if these have

previously been lodged in the memory. The psalmist said "Thy word have

I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee."  (Psalm 119:11)  The

skill with which our Lord, in His time of temptation, fetched the right weapons

from the Scripture armory with which to defeat and silence His foe, reveals to

us the fact that His memory had been well stored with Scripture during His

childhood and youth. The duty of seeing that our own mind is well furnished,

and that the minds of those directly under our influence are well furnished,

with Scripture facts and truths and principles, should be earnestly pressed.

We can do no better service to the young than to fill up their thoughts and

hearts with “thoughts of Christ and things Divine.”


  • KEEPING MEMORY-STORES. There is one great law which applies

to the efficient retention of any kind of knowledge we may have. It is that

we keep adding more stores of the same kind. We virtually lose out of

memory facts relating to botany or astronomy unless we keep on adding to

them new botanical or astronomical facts. And the same law applies to

religious things — they will fade down and seem to die out of memory

unless we constantly add to them. We retain by increasing. This

should be a powerful motive urging us to keep up our daily soul-culture:


Ø      our reading of the Word,

Ø      our meditations in the Divine truth, and

Ø      our attendance on the means of grace.


We cannot keep what we have unless we set ourselves in the way to get more.


  • USING MEMORY-STORES. Just this Peter does in connection

with our text. Something occurred which suggested a sentence his Lord

had once employed. He hardly knew that he had put it among his memory-

stores, but he had been attentive to every word that fell from his Master’s

lips, and they came up before him at the moment when he could use them

wisely. (This the work of the Holy Spirit)  We often think that there must be

much more in our memories than can ever be of service to us, and we even

think that it is useless to teach the young so much of Scripture and of

Catechism and of hymns. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon's grandmother used

to give him a penny for every hymn he memorized. [this served him well

until his grandfather gave him a nickel for every rat he killed] This came in

very handy later while preaching.  Almost every sermon of his has a line from

a hymn and his sermons are multitudinous - see Easy Access to Charles

Spurgeon - this web site - CY - 2016)  But no man can foretell what situations

unfolding life may make for him, or what moral demands it will present. Take

any life, and it will be found full of surprises, and it is a very great thing to

ensure that we are reasonably prepared for all possible situations. Peter

could not have imagined himself in the house of Cornelius and set upon

using that particular sentence. So we shall find, as life progresses, that:


Ø      occasions come for the use of our memory-stores;

Ø      circumstances help to recall them; and

Ø      God’s Spirit brings them up before us, and aids us in finding

their proper application and use.


The well-furnished godly memory is no accident. It is a part of the

Christian culture, and therefore, for ourselves and for those on whom we

are called to exert our influence, we come under solemn and weighty

responsibilities. An interesting illustration of the use of a godly memory in

time of pressure and need is found in Ezra 8:21-23, where Ezra’s

remembrance of God’s promises to and gracious ways with His people in

the olden time, gave him strength for an arduous and perilous undertaking.


17 "Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us,

who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could

withstand God?" If for forasmuch… as, Authorized Version; unto them for them,

Authorized Version; did also for did, Authorized Version; when we for who,

Authorized Version; who for what, Authorized Version. The saying,

Who was I, that I could withstand (κωλῦσαι - kolusai - to forbid )? corresponds

to ch.10:47, “Can any man forbid (κωλῦσαι) water?”



The Efficient Answer to Objectors (vs. 4-17)


A man always takes an individual line, in opinion or in conduct, in peril of

being misunderstood and called to account by his fellows. And yet the

intellectual and moral advance of the race is made only by the pressure

forward of individuals who, on some ground, refuse to keep in the old

lines, and persist in making their own way even in districts marked by

common sentiment as “dangerous.” It is often the precise mission of youth

to check the strongly conservative tendency around them, and utter fresh

truth, or at least truth in fresh forms. This is illustrated in the case of

Peter. He had come to grasp a truth which was a heresy from his own older

standpoint, and a heresy to those with whom he had been working; but he

knew it was truth, so, at the peril of being misunderstood, he acted upon

the truth. He now knew that Christ’s gospel was for Gentile as well as Jew,

so he fearlessly went into the Gentile’s house, and there preached the Word

of life, and baptized the believing household. And he was misunderstood

and called to account. The passage before us is his effective defense: to it

there could be no reply. He rehearses the whole matter, and says, “God led

me, and I followed. God taught me, and I believed. God sealed my work

with the witness of his Spirit, and I know I have his acceptance.” This is

the answer which the sincere man who acts out of the common line may

make to all who oppose or object. “I do but follow the Divine leadings and

teachings; God sets my witness, and the testimony I make must be at least

a portion of the truth of God.”



indeed, expect new revelations. There is a sense in which the revelation

in the Scriptures is complete: no man may add thereto or take therefrom

(Revelation 22:18-19); and no man’s testimony can be of any value save as it

can be tested by the revealed Word. And yet, though this may be fully

admitted, we may recognize the fact that, through spiritual insight or through

intellectual skill, men do bring to light missed and hidden things, or they do

set received truths in forms that are new, and by their newness arrest

thought and even arouse opposition. In this way every truth of the Divine

revelation is brought prominently before men’s thoughts every few years.

God sends among us great thought-leaders; stirs, by their preachings or

writings, the stagnancy of religious thought, and makes fresh and living to

us truths which had become mere dead formalities. Peter had but a

fresh hold of an ancient truth, one long revealed by psalmist and prophet:

still, he had such a new grip as made him a power; even the agent that

fulfilled Christ’s will, and “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.



OPPOSITION. It will surely come from:


Ø      His fellow-workers, who will feel a secret jealousy of his being made the

medium of Divine communications, and who will keenly feel how the new

truth interferes with their teachings.


Ø      Those of conservative tendency, who think the absolute and final truth is

in their charge.


Ø      The earnest but timid people who fear that everything fresh must put

God’s truth in peril.


Ø      The friends of theological or ecclesiastical systems, who consider their

systems complete and needing no changes, nor having any open places in

which new truth may fit. Peter found that an imperfect report of his

doings at Caesarea had gone before him to Jerusalem, and when he himself

reached the holy city, he was assailed from the very narrowest platform,

and accused of the very small sin from our point of view, but very large sin

from the Jewish point of view, of “eating with the uncircumcised.” He very

wisely refused a discussion on this mere feature of the matter, and

explained fully what had happened. Those who contend often take a mere

point of detail, and are best met and answered by putting the question in

dispute on the broadest, deepest grounds.



OPPOSITION. This is the great lesson of Peter’s conduct and

narrative. All through he pleads that he only recognized and followed the

Divine will as revealed both to him and to others. God spoke to him in

trance, and vision, and providence, and inward impulse. God spoke to

Cornelius by angel-form and angel-voice. God sealed the work of Peter

with the gift of His Spirit, and, as a faithful and true man, he could only go

where God led him, and speak as God bade him. To his audience it was the

best of all answers, the one that would disarm all opposition. A sincere Jew

must be loyal to God’s will, however it might be revealed, and however

strange to his feeling it might seem. And this is essentially the answer

which every thought-leader and every advanced teacher now must be

prepared to make and to prove. If he only speaks, as a man, some religious

fancies and feelings of his own, we are rightly skeptical; but if it is plain to

us that a man has been “taught of God,” and if we can see signs of

acceptance and Divine benediction on his work, then we too must hear his

testimony with open and unprejudiced minds, seeking grace to enable us to

express our old faith in the new form, or to add the new thought to our

received doctrines. God may, indeed, not speak to us now by dream, or

trance, or vision, or voice; but we need not therefore think that direct

communication with our soul is impossible. Still we may say, “Speak,

Lord; for thy servant heareth;” and still we have with us that Holy Ghost,

whose work it is "to lead us into all truth, and to show us things to come.”

(John 16:13)  And it should be our abiding conviction and inspiration that

the Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word.


18 "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God,

saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."

And when for when, Authorized Version; then to the Gentiles also hath God

granted for then hath God also to the Gentiles granted, Authorized Version.

The fitness of the method adopted by the Divine wisdom for effecting this first

reception of Gentiles into the Church upon an equal footing with the Jews

is apparent from its success in quieting the jealous prejudices of the Jews,

and preserving the peace of the Church. It was still, however, long before

the exclusive spirit of Judaism was quenched (see ch.15. and Galatians

1:6-7; 2:4,11-13; 5:2-12; Philippians 3:2, etc.).



Rectification and Enlargement (vs. 1-18)


It was not to be expected that so great an innovation as that of free

communion with a Gentile would pass unchallenged in Jerusalem. Nor did

it escape the criticism and condemnation of the “apostles and brethren”

there (vs. 1-2). From the interesting and animated scene described in the

text, we conclude:




hardly realize the intensity of the indignation which breathed and glowed in

the accusing words, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat

with them (v. 3). Peter had done an act which was wholly irregular and

positively unlawful. What did he mean by it? We know that he had simply

followed the instructions which he had received from Christ, and that he

could not possibly have acted otherwise without downright disobedience

How many times, in what various spheres, under what different conditions,

have good men found themselves placed by their very faithfulness in a

position of “contention” (v. 2) with their brethren, either respecting:


Ø      a point of doctrine (e.g. “the Reformation”), or

Ø      a matter of Church government (e.g. the way in which the Church

should be officered, or the relation in which it should stand to the civil

power), or

Ø      a method of evangelization, or

Ø      the position which should be taken toward other Christian



In these and similar matters the best and wisest of men have

occasionally found themselves compelled to confront the strong censures

of those with whom they were in communion. It is a most painful position

to have to excite the indignation of good men, but it may be our plain and

bounden duty so to do.



BEST POSSIBLE DEFENCE. “Peter rehearsed the matter from the

beginning, and expounded it by order” (v. 4). He told the whole story in

its simplicity (vs. 5-16). That was enough: it disarmed his accusers; they

had nothing to reply; they accepted his defense; “They held their peace”

(v. 18). If some of them went no further than ceasing to complain, others

acknowledged that a new step was taken, and that the Church was

warranted in “going forward.” It is often, if not always, the wisest of all

plans to let the simple facts speak for us. If our complaining brethren knew

as much as we know, they would not condemn. We have but to let in the

light, and we shall be acquitted and perhaps commended.


  • THAT GOD WILL VINDICATE HIS OWN. Peter’s one great

argument was that he had done everything under Divine direction (see

vs. 5, 9, 12, 15-16). He summed it all up in the strong, overwhelming

consideration, “What was I that I could withstand God?” (v. 17). By his

marked and manifest interposition, God had sustained His servant, and had

given him the means of justifying his conduct when it came before the

tribunal of his fellows. If wisdom is not always justified of her children at

once, it will be in time. Unto the upright there will arise light in the

darkness (Psalm 112:4). God may desire His servant to place himself in

an attitude of opposition to his friends, and to bear the pain of their blows;

but He will at length — later, if not sooner — vindicate that servant, and

give him the greater honor for the shame he bore at his bidding.




ENLARGEMENT. The apostles and brethren had to own that Peter was

right, and, at the same time, to receive into their mind a larger and nobler

view of Christian truth. Happily they were free to do so; otherwise there

would have been a bitter separation and an injurious rupture.


Ø      However wrong good men may seem to us to be, let us remember that it

is possible that it is we and not they who are mistaken. We may be very

confident we are right, but it is the most positive who are the most fallible

of men.


Ø      Let us be ready to enlarge our view as God gives us light.  He has yet

more light and truth to break forth from His Word.  Wisdom does not

dwell with us. Out of the heavenly treasury there are riches of truth still to

be dispensed. A docile Church will ever be learning and acquiring. There

are some men who, by their guilty stubbornness, will block the way of the

chariot of God; there are others who will take up the stones and prepare

the path that it may go swiftly on its benignant course. Let ours be the

spirit of the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem, who, when they had

listened and learned, said, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted

repentance unto life.”  (v. 18)



The Spirit of Sect and the Spirit of the Gospel (vs. 1-18)


  • SECTARIAN SUSPICIONS. In Judaea are the head-quarters of this

sectarian spirit. There it centers and rankles. The very tidings which fill the

generous spirit with joy fill the sectarian with jealousy. They hear that the

Gentiles have received the Word of God. Happy news! Alas that any

should regard them otherwise! But to the ideas of the sectarian any change

is appalling which threatens to break down the fence and wall of the sect,

and compel him to widen the extent of his fellowship. So the sectarians

quarrel with Peter. Their charge is that he has visited the uncircumcised

heathen and eaten with them.


  • THE TRUTH ELICITED BY OPPOSITION. God overrules all things

for good, makes the wrath of man to praise Him, brings the truth into

clearer manifestation by the very means of resistance to it. Let us not be

too severe on the sectarian, if he be honest in his opposition. Far more

pernicious the hypocritical friend than the sincere and downright foe. Were

every innovation tamely submitted to without inquiry, progress would not

be so sound. It is by overcoming objectors that truth triumphs, not by

silencing them. And again, facts are the best arguments. Once more Peter

relates the vision at Joppa. To overcome others’ objections, the best way is

to show how our own objections have been overcome. The great point of

opposition is the repugnance, inborn and strengthened by education, of the

Jew to certain objects viewed by him as common or unclean. The great

difficulty of overcoming the feeling lies in the fact that it is interwoven with

all the best associations of the mind. The man, having learned the idea of

holiness by means of a sharp physical distinction, fears that he shall lose the

idea itself if that distinction be obliterated. No mere arguments in words

will avail. But Peter can exhibit the argument of facts. Their fitting into one

another with an invincible Divine logic can neither be denied nor refuted.

The coincidence of the revelation to the centurion and to Peter has been

already dwelt upon in previous sections. The end is the falling of the Holy

Spirit upon the disciples at the very moment when the Jew and the Gentiles

are brought together and Peter opens his mouth to speak.



DECLARATIONS OF THE PAST. Words deep in meaning slumber in the

mind until the revealing event takes place. Then they are suddenly

quickened into life and start up in all their power. Peter remembers the

word of the Lord on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is in contrast to that

of John at the opening of the evangelical era. It surpassed that of John as

the positive surpasses the negative; the entrance into blessing, the denial of

and departure from evil. The conclusion, then, of the whole is that the facts

are irresistible. In these lie the clear intimations of providential will. Neither

apostle nor angel can contend against facts, whether they refer to the outer

world and are construed by scientific law, or to the inner world and are

known by the devout soul as revelations and inspirations. The Gentile is

placed on an equality with the Jew in reference to the blessings of the

gospel; one does not stand in the vestibule, the other in the interior of the

new temple, but both are gathered to the heart of God, who reconciles us

to Himself by Jesus Christ. A common faith in Him entitles us all to the

appellation “sons of God,” and therefore brethren amongst one another:

“Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Thus, when the hour strikes, does God

silence controversy, causes His voice alone to be heard, and presently

draws forth a burst of praise from human hearts. Yes; at bottom the heart

loves truth, and craves the revelation of love. “God then hath given the

nations repentance unto life!” The signs of the times point to a similar

revolution of the large and generous spirit of the gospel. May we be ready

to meet it, and not be found amongst those who contend against the light

and fight against God, but amongst those who herald with joy and

thankfulness the approach of the new dawn; for the Sun of Righteousness

shall arise to those that fear His Name with healing in His wings.

(Malachi 4:2)



              The Church of God set on the New Foundation of Liberty (vs. 1-18)


  • The only stable foundation of SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP. Mutual

confidence. Common dependence on the Spirit of God. Free speech. Entire

understanding of the rule of life. Peter himself cannot be allowed to violate

accepted principles without being called to account. He frankly explains

and justifies his conduct. The old leaven of Judaism was at work; but the

antidote was there — obedience to the Spirit.


  • The true conditions of SPIRITUAL ADVANCEMENT. The individual

not despotically silenced, but called to his true place as one of the

community, a member of the body, supplying his portion of new light. The

standard of reference, not Peter’s private Opinion, or the Church’s decision

after discussion, but the manifestation of the Spirit in facts and undoubted

testimony. There were seven trustworthy witnesses. Who was I, that I

could withstand God?”



PARTITION” between Jew and Gentile; glory to God. The old

circumcision superseded by the new baptism. Repentance granted to all.

The free gift of the Spirit.



A Model Church Meeting (v.18)


The worst hindrances to the spread of Christianity and to its hold upon the

world have always been found to be, not so much the native opposition of

the human heart, nor the direct conflict with Satan and with sin, but those

indirect conflicts which are entailed by:


1. The inconsistencies of Christians in their individual life.

2. The contentions” of Christians in their mutual or collective life. We

have before us a threatening instance of this latter kind, and an agreeable

example of the way in which it was averted. Notice:



BODY OF CHRISTIANS. We read that “when Peter was come up to

Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him.”

Though the more unfavorable turn of the word as now used by us need not

be pressed, yet it certainly implies, as it stands, dissatisfaction with what he

had done, and not the gentlest or suavest manner exhibited in calling him to

account for it.


Ø      Contentions within Christian communities are in their simplest principle

and beginning justifiable. It need not be said of them, as of offences, “Woe

to him by whom they come!” though it may, nay, almost must, be said of

them, that they “will come.” It is for this reason, because the Church on

earth is, as amongst its own members, its own guardian. It acknowledges

the headship of Christ. It acknowledges the rule of the Spirit. It does not

acknowledge any earthly lord, any vicar of Christ, any earthly sovereign

authority. Hence it is answerable for its own doctrine and for its own

discipline within its own pale. And investigation, debate, yea, all the

formality of judicial trial (so that neither motives, methods, nor weapons

are carnal), are within its province.


Ø      Contentions within Christian communities very generally arise on some

plausible ground, to say the least. It was certainly so now. It is highly

important to discriminate as far as possible between what is really

legitimate and what is merely plausible. Of the first are:


o        zeal of scriptural doctrine and revealed fact;

o        zeal of a holy and consistent life.


But of the second are


o        mere love of precedent;

o        ascription of motives;

o        generally scant charity.


Ø      Contentions within Christian communities fix stern responsibility on

those who stir them, only second to that of those who cause them, when

this is really done.


Ø      Contentions within Christian communities demand as much, as solemnly

as any position whatsoever in life, singleness of eye and a pure conscience.

Feeling, personal feeling, party feeling priestly feeling, and even the

perfection of ignorant prejudice, have, in probably the saddest

preponderance of history, profanely trampled on the ground and made it

mournfully all their own. Nor is there any more hollow hypocrisy, more

miserable mockery, more insulting blasphemy, than when these counterfeit

zeal for the Lord of hosts and a pure and sensitive conscience.



AVERTED. It takes two persons to make a bargain, and two to make a

quarrel; and, if a reconciliation is to be genuine and have in it the elements

of lasting, both parties must do their share. It was so now.


Ø      Peter did what lay in him to remove cause of offence and to explain



o        He seems to have been taxed in a somewhat point-blank style. Yet he

does not rein himself up, though he does rein temper in. He does not

stand on his dignity, and refuse any account of himself and doings till

he is addressed in a somewhat milder and more deferential style.


o        He does not assert simply that what he had done he had done under an

overpowering conviction “of duty” — a phrase among the worst

abused of moral phrases.


o        He does not assert positively, even though he had good right to know

it, that what he had done was right and all right, and no two opinions

about it with any man of understanding and principle.


o        Discarding all irritating and aggravating beginnings, he even waives

any expression of claim to the confidence of “the brethren,” and

instead, at once conciliating tells his tale. He tells it all from the

beginning to the end succinctly. He narrates the revelations made to

him (vs. 5-10). He states the facts, which could be easily disproved

if incorrect (v. 11). He instances his “six brethren” companions, who

were witnesses of all he had done, and were now in the position of

witnesses for him (v. 12). He tempts out their memory by just quoting

his own (v. 16). And in closing even he does not pronounce a dogmatic

verdict for self, but rather asks a verdict, and whether his hearers think

the case admits of any verdict different from what he had in his conduct

practically given. It is well worthy of notice how different the result

might have been if Peter had at all, in a hectoring tone, begun with

this question. But he did not begin with it; and when, with Christian

gentleness, he now closes with it, all are ready in their answer to

acquit him of blame. They see with his eye and are one with him.


Ø      On the other hand, those who had at first possibly rather peremptorily

challenged Peter’s conduct may be observed with some commendation

now. Presumably these were some of his fellow “apostles and brethren”

(vs. 1, 2). And of their disposition it is to be noted favorably that:


o        If they had begun by putting themselves a little in the wrong so far as

their tone was concerned, they do not therefore persist in it. The injurer

is often the last to give in and forgive. So frequent is the occurrence

and so fraught with mischief, that this may be called one of the

“devices of Satan,” that even Christian men will cleave to the thing

they have said, let alone quit the subject of it, because they have once

said it in a wrong manner.  Eye and mind and heart get sealed up in

deference to one humiliating fact, that they have uttered so much

sound in wrong tone. Well, this was not the case now with those

who called Peter to account.


o        They give Peter a patient, and no doubt what soon became a riveted,



o        They accept unquestioningly every statement that he makes, so far as it

purported to be a statement of fact. There is no quibbling nor attempt at

cross-questioning. This was Peter’s due under any circumstances. But

even fellow-Christians are reluctant sometimes in the matter of justice

to one another.


o        At the right yielding-point they do yield heartily. To “hold their peace”

was a very victory of goodness. Better than this, while they “hold their

peace” from blaming Peter, they open their mouth to “glorify God,”

Their mode of yielding bespeaks truth and honesty in them at the first,

if even these manifested themselves forth in a manner a trifle

unceremonious.  Doubt, perplexity, a little vexation, clouded brow,

all went in a moment.  Pent-up anxiety and distrust are relieved. They

are glad to hear and be persuaded by the things now rehearsed to

them” of Peter. They are not envious and still exclusive, but welcome

the admission of the large Gentile brotherhood to the family of God

and to “repentance unto life.” And the end of that meeting was peace

and joy — yes, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. We may give our

better feelings leave to flow and our higher imagination to play while

we think of the reconciliation, hearty and unfeigned, that those happy

moments witnessed between Peter and the brethren. Nor shall we

doubt that, for his fidelity and unflinching consistency in a moment’s

trying “ill report,” he is henceforth held in higher honor and surer

trust by those same brethren.



Repentance unto Life (v. 18)


This expression is not the one which we should expect the Christian

brethren to use in the circumstances. The sentence would seem clearer to

us if it read, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted admission into

the kingdom of Christ,” or “to share in the salvation of Christ.” The

prominence of the word “repentance,” and its place as the initial step to

“life,” are remarkable and suggestive. Repentance is not made of so much

importance in our presentations of the gospel as it was by the apostles, but

for their use of it we may find some adequate reasons.


1. The teaching of John the Baptist, and his requirement of repentance as

preparatory to the reception of Messiah, retained its influence upon them.


2. When their Master had sent them out on their trial mission, He had given

them this distinct message, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”


3. When their Lord had been shamefully crucified, by the schemes of the

leaders and representatives of the nation, and they had been confirmed in

their belief in His Messiahship by His resurrection and ascension, they felt

that the judicial murder of the Messiah was the greatest of national crimes,

and so they realized how essential was repentance as preceding a

profession of faith in Him. They had spoken to Jews who, as a nation,

through its representatives, had said, “His blood be on us and on our

children,” and therefore Peter, when answering their question, “What

shall we do?” on the day of Pentecost, said, “Repent, and be baptized every

one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (ch. 2:38).

And in his sermon following on the healing of the lame man, he said,

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted” (ch. 3:19). And when called

to plead before the great council, he further declared concerning Christ,

“Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for

to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (ch. 5:31).

Having this prominent to their minds as the very gist and essence of the

gospel message, the Jerusalem disciples spoke in accordance with it when

they accepted Peter’s explanations, and said, “Then hath God also to

the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. The force of the combination of

these terms, “repentance” and “life,” will be felt if we consider:



meaning of the term should be noticed, and the precise meaning of the two

Greek equivalents for our one word “repentance” may be pointed out. It is

in the higher sense that the term is used by the apostles, and it includes:


Ø      conviction of sin;

Ø      sorrow for sin;

Ø      desire to be delivered from sin;

Ø      serious purpose to put away and resist sin.


If the gospel were merely some educational or even some moral scheme for

elevating the race, it need make no demand for “repentance.” It is a Divine

scheme for the deliverance of men from the penalty and the power of sin, and

this it can never effect save as it can work along the line of man’s own will.

And the only sign and expression of a man’s sense of sin and desire to be freed

from it is this “repentance” which the gospel demands. It is the only

attitude which the gospel can meet, the only state of mind and feeling with

which it can deal. A man is closed in and buttressed against Divine

salvation, redemption by grace, until he “truly and unfeignedly repents,”

and so feels the need and value of Divine forgiveness, healing, and life.

This point may be fully illustrated and enforced, and it may be shown that

still the preaching of the gospel fails that does not make first demand for

repentance. Paul’s great address to the learned Athenians has this for its

point and application: “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but

now commandeth all men everywhere to repent (ch. 17:30).



our Lord made His disciples familiar with the term “life” should be pointed

out. Right relations with God are spoken of as “life,” “eternal life.” Those

relations into which we may come through the Lord Jesus Christ are

emphatically recognized as “life"; the only true, eternal, spiritual life. It is

this “life” into which the disciples recognize that the Gentiles are admitted.

When this is fully apprehended, the place of repentance in relation to the

life will be readily recognized. To feel sin and the need of a Savior is the

first sign of the life; it is its first breath; with it the life necessarily begins.

Men absorbed in self find a new life when self is crushed in the dust. Men

"dead in trespasses and sins” are raised up, to look and breathe and speak,

when sorrow for sin comes to them.



“repentance unto life. Repentance is a step up to something else.

Repentance is a temporary condition of mind and feeling, through which a

man passes to something better, something permanent. It passes:


Ø      into the joyous sense of forgiveness;

Ø      into the blessed life of trust in the Dying Savior; and

Ø      into the infinite happiness of setting our love upon Christ,

and finding ourselves sanctified by the responses and gracious

workings of His love to us.


In conclusion, repentance is still the one and only threshold of

life. “Humbled” we must be “under God’s gracious hand,” before we can

be “exalted in His due time.” We dare not hold back today our Lord’s

demand of “repentance unto life:”


19 "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that

arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and

Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only."

They therefore that for now they which, Authorized Version; tribulation for

persecution, Authorized Version; Phoenicia for Phenice, Authorized Version;

speaking for preaching, Authorized Version; save only to Jews for but unto

the Jews only, Authorized Version. Scattered abroad; as in ch. 8:1, to which

point of time the narrative now reverts. Tribulation. (θλίψεως - thlipseos - affliction).

The word in ch. 8:1 for "persecution" is διωγμός - diogmos.  Phoenicia. “The strip

of coast, one hundred and twenty miles long, and about twelve broad, from the river

Eleutherus” to a little south of Carmel, as far as Dora, including, therefore, Sidon

and Tyre, but excluding Ceasarea. The name was preserved in the great Tyrian

colony of Carthage, as appears in the ethnic forms, Paenus, Punicus, and Paeuicus,

applied to the Carthaginians. We are all familiar with the “Punic Wars,”

Punica fides, the ‘Paenulus’ of Plautus, etc. Cyprus lies off the coast of Phoenicia,

in sight of it, and was very early colonized by the Phoenicians. Philo and

Josephus both speak of the Jewish population in Cyprus. Antioch, (Renan

reckons the population at above 5000,000 souls) the capital of the Greek

kingdom of Syria, on the river Orontes, built by the first king, Seleueus Nicater,

in honor of his father Antiochus, who was one of Alexander the Great’s generals.

It lay about one hundred and eighty miles north of the northern frontier of

Phoenicia. There was a large population of Jews, whom Seleucus attracted

to his new city by giving them equal political privileges with the Greeks.

It was reckoned by Josephus to be the third city in importance of the

whole Roman empire, Rome and Alexandria being the two first.


20 "And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when

they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the

LORD Jesus." But there were some of them... who for and some of them were..,

which, Authorized Version; the Greeks also for the Grecians, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus. This last is a most important variation of reading —

Ἑλλῆνας - Hellaenas - Hellenists - Greeks for Ἑλληνίστας - Hellaenisteas -,

Grecians, i.e. Grecian Jews, or Hellenists. It is supported, however, by

strong authority of manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, and is accepted by

Grotius, Witsius, Griesbach, Lachman, Tischendorf, Meyer, Conybeare and

Howson, Alford, Westcott, Bishop Lightfoot, and the ‘Speaker’s

Commentary’ (apparently) and most modern critics. It is also strongly

argued that the internal evidence proves Ἑλλῆνας to be the right reading,

because the statement that the men of Cyprus and Cyrene preached the

gospel to them is contrasted with the action of the others, who preached to

the Jews only. Obviously, therefore, these Hellenes were not Jews.

Moreover, there was nothing novel in the conversion and admission into

the Church of Hellenistic Jews (see ch.2:5, etc.; 9:22, 29). And these

very preachers were in all probability Hellenists themselves. Bishop

Wordsworth, however, on the contrary, defends, though with doubt, the

reading Ἑλληνίστας; and argues that even if Ἑλλῆνας is the right reading,

it must mean the same as Ἑλληνίστας. He also hints that it might mean

“proselytes” (see ch.14:1, where the Hellenes attend the synagogue,

and ch.17:4). But there is no evidence that these were proselytes any

more than Cornelius was. The Hellenes, or Greeks, here were probably

uncircumcised Greeks who feared God, like Cornelius, and attended the

synagogue worship. It is very likely that in Antioch, where the Jews

occupied such a prominent position, some of the Greek inhabitants should

be attracted by their doctrines and worship, repelled, perhaps, by the prevalent

superstitions and profligate levity of the great city.


21 "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number

believed, and turned unto the Lord."  That believed turned for believed and

turned, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.  The hand of the Lord; i.e.

His power working with them and through them. Compare the frequent phrase

in the Old Testament, “with a mighty hand and a stretched out arm” (see too

ch. 4:30; Luke 1:66).


22 "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."

And the report concerning them for then tidings of these things, Authorized Version;

to for unto, Authorized Version; as far as for that he should go as far as,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. The news of this accession of Gentiles

to the Church was quickly carried to Jerusalem, with the same motive, probably,

that brought thither the account of the baptism of Cornelius and his household, as

we read in vs. 1-3 of this chapter. The conduct of the Church in sending so

excellent and temperate a person. as Barnabas (as we read in the next

verse), the friend of Saul (ch. 9:27) and a favorer of preaching the

gospel to Gentiles (ch. 13:1-2) to inspect the work at Antioch, is an

indication that they had already heard the account of the conversion of

Cornelius from the mouth of Peter, and were already led to the conclusion,

“Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life!” There is

no clue whatever to the length of time that elapsed between the flight from

persecution and the arrival at Antioch, except that Saul had had time to

sojourn three years in Arabia, to come to Jerusalem, and from thence to go

and settle at Tarsus, where Barnabas found him; thus leaving abundant

time for Peter’s operations in Judaea and Caesarea.


23 "Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted

them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."

Was come for came, Authorized Version; he exhorted for exhorted., Authorized

Version. Had seen the grace of God; i.e. had seen the number and the truth of the

conversions of Gentiles effected by God’s grace. He exhorted them all

(παρεκάλει πάντας parekalei pantasentreated, exhorted them all); thus

showing himself a true υἱὸς παρακλήσεως huios paraklaeseos -,

son of exhortation; consolation (see ch.4:36, note). Cleave unto the Lord;

προσμένειν prosmeneincleave; to be remainin in; to abide, continue,

persevere in (compare ch.13:43; I Timothy 5:5). In II Timothy 3:14 it is simply

μένεmenebe you remaining.  The frequent exhortations to perseverance and

steadfastness should warn us of the great danger of falling away from the faith,

under the pressure of temptation.




24 "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and

much people was added unto the Lord." A good man. The predominant idea

in ἀγαθός agathosgood; goodness, moral excellence. So in Matthew 19:16,

“Good Master.” To which our Lord answers, “There is none good but One.” In

Luke 23:50 Joseph of Arimathaea is ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ δίκαιοςanaer agathos kai

dikaios - a good man and a righteous.  In Matthew 5:45 πονηροὶ καὶ ἀγαθοί -

ponaeroi kai agathoi - the evil and the good, are contrasted. In classical Greek the

common phrase, καλὸς κἀγαθόςkalos kagathos -  describes an honorable and good

man. It is pleasing to read this testimony from Luke, Paul’s companion and friend,

Full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. So Stephen is described (ch.6:5) as “full of

faith and of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is spoken of in both places as

a Spirit of power and demonstration in preaching the Word. No reason is

apparent why the Received Text, having altered Ghost to Spirit ch. 6:5,

retains Ghost here. Much people, etc.; the direct consequence of the

energy of the Holy Ghost in Barnabas’s ministry.



The Surprises of the Grace of God (vs. 23-24)


Some six or seven years had passed since the martyrdom of Stephen, and

“the persecution that arose about Stephen.” The winds of persecution had

now borne far and wide the seeds of Christian truth and faith. In the

“ground” of Jewish hearts alone, however, for the greater part of this time

had the seed “fallen,” so far as men’s intentions and purposes had scattered

it. In individual cases, however, it had inevitably fallen elsewhere; and

besides, as carried by some “Grecians” of the number of the scattered, so

it was freely given, by these at least, to Grecians again, who were not of

the pure “Hebrews,” and not of “the circumcised.” Many “Grecians “thus

“believed, and turned to the Lord” (v. 21). The sacred history returns in

some degree upon its steps to speak of these things, and to record, after

the signal given of the fullness of the Gentiles being brought in, how it had

meantime been faring with these more nondescript Grecians. There is a

certain degree of the enigmatic in these two verses. To remove this will at

the same time unfold the truth which the Spirit may have intended to teach

in this place. We seem to see:



presumably were of the best kind, and could mean nothing but good, are

apparently not received as such, and are visited with some sort of scrutiny.

The facts are exactly so. But it is to be noted that the authority that moved

was one that moved itself, and is not an instance of an individual usurping

ecclesiastical authority. The authority is not either arbitrary or that of an

external hand. It is the Church itself. And it is the Church who delegates

one evidently held in high honor, though not an apostle, to go to a long

distance to inquire into the “tidings” that have reached itself at Jerusalem.



If the tidings were on the face of them good, credible in the nature of things,

or rather in the nature of what the Church now well knew to be the operation

of the Divine Spirit, why need the Church assume the attitude of caution and

do the action of apparent suspicion?


Ø      It is most grateful to note the first dawning exercise of infant powers and

discretion on the part of the Church. This it learned partly “from above,”

partly also from bitter and humbled experience of its own. It had already

had the faithless within it, and the attempts of the worst worldliness (as in

the instance of Simon Magus) to enter within its sacred fold.


Ø      The real gist of anxiety and of the inquiry proposed turned, no doubt,

upon this great new gospel that was now coming upon those who had

themselves received the gospel in very deed, and which only shook their

faith (if it did shake their faith) lest it be too great, too good, to be true.

The “mighty works” of God are being wrought upon and among all,

Gentiles and Grecians, as they had been on the day of Pentecost at

Jerusalem. Well may the Church stop and turn aside to see this great

sight, and to find out for certain that it is not a vision and that they do

not dream.


Ø      The Church, as results proved, did not act for the sake of mere caution

or for the mere sake of enlightenment, least of all from love of cold and

suspicious criticism, but, if things were real and true, also to give the right

hand of fellowship to those who, like its own present members, were “called.”



AND GUIDING HIM. No details lie on the page for us, no sealed

instructions are mentioned, no open instructions, no parting suggestions

even; and nothing is said of all the thoughts and feelings that chased one

another or amid which the very soul of Barnabas mused as he traveled afar.

No; but we are not left without the necessary clue. He reached his

destination, and apparently does not hold or offer to hold any court, and

call witnesses, and loftily and inquisitorially investigate the state of things.

With a large and open eye he surveys the scene. He looks and sees the

proofs of “the grace of God” given to them at Antioch, even “the

uncircumcised.” He listens, and hears the sounds that attest the grace of

God” given to them. He mingles with them, and he sees the works that

none could do unless the grace of God” were given to them. And he is

satisfied. The tree is known by its fruits, and there can be no mistake what

the fruits are now. Would that the same simplicity of method of judging

one another were the one method known and followed now and ever! For

this beautiful expression, “the grace of God,” does not stand for mere

feeling and experience or profession of the same, but rather for those

“works” and “fruits of the Spirit” which only could come of the imparted




It is emphatically said, “He was glad.”


Ø      It was a relief to an anxious, inquiring mind, on a subject of thrilling

interest. How it had weighed on the mind of Barnabas all his journey —

the question itself, and his responsibility as delegated to examine into it!


Ø      It was a relief to Barnabas to think he could speak with such thorough

confidence, and in no halting tone at all, to those who had sent him, when

he should render his account to them.


Ø      It was all joy to his heart to think how day dawned at last on the whole

world. What startling, ravishing prospects must have sometimes been

revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and the early disciples and brethren

in those days!





Ø      Barnabas was mindful of his own duty, to speak the word of exhortation

even in the midst of a scene full of present brightness, hope, confidence.


Ø      He was mindful of the ever-existing temptation to go back to the world,

to love the world, to yield in enthusiasm’s hour, but to relapse in the long

days of heat and toil and trial. And therefore the burden of his exhortation

was that they should “cleave to the Lord,” and that “with purpose of heart

they should cleave to the Lord.”




SERIOUS MATTER. Let it seem so; let it be so. Yet this is the condescension

of God. This is the sympathy of Jesus. This is the Spirit’s comforting aid and

honor shown to those who are true. However, as the sacred and abiding page

of Scripture inscribes these things to the honor and glory of Barnabas, in the

midst of matter which all redounded only to the honor and glory of God,

we may observe that the character here given to Barnabas:


Ø      Justified his selection for a new and delicate and important embassy.


Ø      Explains the very deep, full, genial joy of his heart, its openness to

conviction, and its freedom from the least and last taint of Jewish

envy and Jewish exclusiveness.


Ø      Proves withal that it was God’s Spirit who was in all, “working within”

him, when he came, when he saw, when he judged rightly, when he was

profoundly impressed, when he was glad to the bottom of his heart, and

also when he did not forget duty and solemn trying times to come amid

the sympathies and congratulations of bright hours. For he was full of

the Holy Ghost.”



Good Barnabas (v. 24)


We have had this man introduced to us before, but his character is most

fully described in this passage. It may reasonably be asked why Luke, in

writing the Book of the Acts, should take this opportunity of recording the

received opinion about Barnabas. The most simple answer is that he had

subsequently to record the dispute between Paul and Barnabas over

Mark, and he was therefore anxious to ensure that his readers did not get a

wrong impression, from that incident, of the temper and spirit of Mark’s

relative. Deeply as we may regret that sad misunderstanding between the

two earnest missionaries, we must not let it throw its dark shadows over

Barnabas, for “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of

faith.” The immediate occasion of sending Barnabas to Antioch has been

differently explained. It is remarked, in v. 19, that the scattered disciples

went “as far as to Antioch,” but they “preached the Word to none but unto

the Jews only.” Then it is noticed that some preachers came from Cyprus

and Cyrene to Antioch, and they preached unto the Grecians. Now this

term may mean either Hellenistic Jews or Gentiles. The best manuscripts

have the word Greeks, and this should be distinctly referred to the heathen,

or Gentile, population. If it were so that these disciples preached the gospel

to the heathen, and news of this came to the Church at Jerusalem soon

after Peter’s account of what had taken place at Caesarea, there was

good ground for sending Barnabas to inquire into matters at Antioch, to

explain the new view of the scope of the gospel as revealed to Peter,

and to ensure harmonious working between those who labored for the Jew

and those who labored for the Gentile. If this was the mission of Barnabas,

it is important for us to be told concerning his personal character; for upon

it the success of his mission would very largely depend. Only a man of

great goodness and generous feeling would be likely to meet aright the

difficulties that would be presented. There are many circumstances in life in

which “character" can do more and better than “talent,” and talent wins its

noblest triumphs when it is united with and sanctified by godly character.

Three things are specially noticed in relation to Barnabas.


  • HE WAS GOOD IN CHARACTER. “A good man.” Our attention is

directed by this term to his natural excellences of disposition. There was

amiability, kindness of purpose and manner, generosity of spirit,

considerateness for others, and readiness even to sacrifice his own things

for the good of others. He was just the kind of man to win the confidence

and esteem of all those among whom he worked; and it would seem that

his very failing, in the matter of his dispute with Paul, arose from the

warmth of his affection for his young relative Mark, and his too great

readiness to make excuses for him. “His very failing leaned to virtue’s

side.” His “goodness” may be seen and illustrated from each of the

incidents in which he is introduced to us.


Ø      He seems to have set the example of devoting his property to the needs

of the early Church (ch. 4:36).


Ø      He it was who overcame the apostolic suspicion of the newly converted

Saul, in the generosity of his trustful disposition. When they were all afraid

of Saul, “Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles,” etc.

(ch. 9:26-28).


Ø      His trustfulness is further shown in his making Saul, the new convert, his

companion in his missionary labors. It may be urged that, while Christianity

masters and corrects naturally bad dispositions, it wins its noblest and most

beautiful triumphs when it inspires and sanctifies the naturally amiable and

generous and trustful disposition. It is a thing to be ever devoutly thankful

to God for, if He has given us characters that may win the love and esteem

and confidence of our fellow men.


  • HE WAS FULL OF FAITH. This is something more than natural

trustfulness, though closely allied to it. Two things may be included:


Ø      He had a strong grip of the gospel truth, and was not troubled with

weakening and depressing doubts. He held, fast and firmly, the

Messiahship and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all that these

involved. And only men of faith can be men of real power as God’s

witnesses and preachers. Men do not want to hear from ministers about

their questionings and doubtings. The great cry is, “What do you know of

God and truth and duty? What do you believe?”


Ø      He had a clear vision of the broader aspects of the Christian system. He

was a follower of Stephen. He was prepared for the admission of the

Gentiles to Christian privileges. And so he was just the man to go down to

Antioch and deal with the difficulties that might arise from breaking down

the old Jewish bondages. And there is constant demand for such men of

faith, who can hopefully accept the passing changes of thought and feeling

within the Church, even when they cannot personally sympathize with

them. We need men of faith in the sense of broad out-looking and high

hope for the future.


  • HE WAS FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST. The Holy Ghost came as

the seal of all sincere believers, but it is here suggested that the measures

and degrees of His gracious inward workings directly depend on the moods

and attitudes and character of the man. And here lies the practical

application of our subject. Barnabas, because he was a good man and full

of faith, was also full of the Holy Ghost. And we shall find that anxious and

careful culture of Christian character will also open our hearts, lives, and

workings to the full energies of God the Holy Ghost.


25 "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:"  And he went forth

for then departed Barnabas, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; to seek for,

for for to seek, Authorized Version. Observe the remarkable providence which

had made use of the violence of the Hellenist Jews at Jerusalem to drive

Saul to Tarsus, where he would be close at hand to take up the work so

unexpectedly prepared for him at Antioch. “It was in the spring of the year

A.D. 43, or just ten years after the Crucifixion, that Barnabas proceeded to

Tarsus, found Saul, and brought him to Antioch” (Lewin, 1:96). From

Seleucia to the port of Tarsus would be about a twelve hours’ sail; or, by

land, a journey of about eighty miles would bring him to Tarsus from Antioch.


26 "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to

pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught

much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

Even for a whole year for a whole year, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

they were gathered together for they assembled themselves, Authorized Version;

and that the disciples for and the disciples, Authorized Version. The phrase

 ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ - en tae ekklaesiain the church, out-called - occurs again in

I Corinthians 11:18 (Textus Receptus), where it has, as here, very nearly

the sense of “in the church,” as a place of meeting. It should be “in,” not

“with.” The “Church” is the assembly of disciples gathered together in their

house of meeting. Were called; χρηματίσαι chraematisaiwere called, named -

bore the name of. It is a peculiar use of the word occurring in the New Testament

only in Romans 7:3 besides, but found also in Polybius, Strabo, Josephus, and

some other writers. Its common meaning is, in the passive voice, “to be

warned of God,” as in ch.10:22, where see note. Christians. It was a

memorable event in the history of the Church when the name of Christians,

which has distinguished them for nearly twenty centuries, was

given to the disciples of Christ. Hitherto they had been called among

themselves disciples, and brethren, and saints, and, by the Jews, men “of

the Way” (ch. 9:2), or “Nazarenes” (ch. 24:5), but now they

received the name of Christians, as followers of Christ, from the outside

world, and accepted it themselves (ch. 26:28; I Peter 4:16). From

the Latin form of the word Christians, i.e. followers of Christ (like

Herodians, followers of Herod; Marians, Pompeians, partisans of Marius

and Pompey; Caesariani, Ciceroniani, Vitelliani, Flaviani, etc.; Conybeare

and Howson, vol. 1:130; Lewin, vol. 1:97), the designation most have been

invented by the Gentiles, either by the Roman court or camp at Antioch, or

by the Greek population, influenced as they were by Roman forms of

speech current amongst them (compare the Greece-Oriental Nestorians,

Arians, etc.). We may be sure that Christians, i.e. followers of Messiah, is

not a name likely to have been given by Jews. There is no evidence either

of its having been given in derision. The well-known account of Tacitus is

Vulgus Christianos appella-bat. Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio

imperitante, per Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat” (‘Annal.,’ 15:44).

Suidas says that those who had been previously called Nazarenes and

Galileans, in the reign of Claudius Caesar, when Euodius had been made

Bishop of Antioch by Peter, had their name changed into that of

Christians. He seems to refer to the statement of Malalas (quoted by

Conybeare and Howson, 1:131), that they who had been before called

Nazarenes and Galileans received the name of Christians in the time of

Euodius, who succeeded Peter as Bishop of Antioch, and who himself

gave them this name.” Malalas is thought to have lived somewhere

between the sixth and ninth centuries, at Byzantium. A beautiful passage in

the Clementine Liturgy is also quoted at p. 130: “We give thee thanks that

we are called by the Name of thy Christ, and are thus reckoned as thine

own,” where the allusion is to James 2:7. The name Christian is

frequent in the epistles of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch; Polycarp’s dying

words were, “I am a Christian” (Bishop Wordsworth).



The Many Ways and the One Work of God  (vs. 19-26)


It is interesting to see how God works in many ways toward one end, and

how, from the first day of the Christian era, He has been acting on the world

and on the Church, making all things to move toward one glorious issue.

(“Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.”

ch. 15:18)


  • THE MANY WAYS OF GOD’S WORKING. We may be reminded:


Ø      How He defeats His enemies. “They which were scattered abroad upon

the persecution… traveled… preaching the Word, etc. (v. 19). If the

enemies of the truth had been its best friends, they could not possibly have

taken a course more favorable to its circulation and establishment than the

one they took. God overrules the designs of His foes, and turns their

attacks upon His kingdom into actual support. Again and again has the

enmity, the cruelty, the violence, the cunning of sin been compelled to


smites down the standing corn of truth, but, so doing, it sows living seed

from which a large harvest will rise.


Ø      How he teaches his friends. Those who were scattered abroad went

“preaching the Word to none but unto the Jews only” (v. 19). They did

not understand that the gospel was intended for mankind: this was an

enlargement of view which the Christian Church had then to gain. Its

Divine Master had to teach it this most necessary lesson. How should He

do this? He might have done so:


o        by the direct inspiration of His Holy Spirit; or

o        by manifesting Himself to some one of the apostles and conveying

through him His mind on the matter. But He chose to do this:

o        by the teaching of His providence.


“Some of them” — we do not know who, some whose names are lost and

will never be discovered — some men from Cyprus and Cyrene, “when

they were come to Antioch, spake, unto the Greeks [not ‘Grecians’],

preaching, the Lord Jesus.” And this unpremeditated, irregular work

proved to be marvelously successful (see v. 21). When the Church at

Jerusalem heard of these unauthorized proceedings, they dispatched

Barnabas to inquire into the matter (see v. 22). The nobility of his

character and excellency of his spirit triumphed over the narrowness of

his views, and, instead of disowning and discouraging the work, he

acknowledged its DIVINE ORIGIN and furthered it to the height

of his power. And thus the seal of apostolic sanction was set

to the broader aim and the larger hope. Thus God leads us into His

kingdom of truth. He places us in such circumstances that we take right

steps without realizing all the consequences therein involved, and then

our convictions rise to the height of our actions.


Ø      How God uses His servants. “Then departed Barnabas… to seek Saul”

(v. 25). Barnabas served God and his race in one way, Saul in another.

Barnabas was not the man to do what Paul afterwards did. He had not the

evangelizing, organizing, literary faculty in anything like the same degree in

which his illustrious colleague possessed it. But he served the Church and

the world in his own way. It was a valuable contribution to the cause of

Christ and of the kingdom of God to introduce the distrusted convert to

the confidence of the Church (ch. 9:27), and to give him such an

opening for the exercise and training of his varied powers as that he now

enjoyed at Antioch; it was an eminent and precious service thus to place on

a firm footing and to bring into the foreground the man who was to be the

means of doing such work as Paul accomplished for mankind. What

immeasurable service have the fathers and mothers and teachers of our

great reformers, evangelists, preachers, etc., rendered their race! Other

men have other spheres to fill; that of Paul was the sphere of abounding

activity. We may be sure that he had a great deal to do during those twelve

months at Antioch, in “teaching many people” (v. 26). Some in quieter,

others in more active scenes; some in virtue of intellectual, others by means

of moral and spiritual gifts; some by their influence on a few influential

men, others by their action on the multitude; some by impressing their

convictions on men by direct personal appeal, others by organizing and

arranging; all in the way chosen of God and pleasing to Him, play their part

and do their work in their hour of opportunity.


  • THE ONE WORK OF GOD. At Antioch it became convenient to

distinguish the converts to the new faith by some name which marked them

off from the Jews; they were called “Christians.” It is a mark which speaks

of the rising tide of truth. It reminds us that God was working out a grand

design, far, far beyond the elevation of a favored nation, viz. the

redemption of the whole race of man by faith in Jesus Christ; He was

and is engaged in “reconciling the world unto Himself in Christ.”

            (II Corinthians 5:19)



Founding of the Church at Antioch (vs. 19-26)



had been dispersed by the persecution. And thus there went a stream of

believers through Phoenicia, Cyprus, and the district of Antioch, charged

with the Divine message, living seminaries of the word of love.

Persecution, in breaking up communities, diffuses their spiritual contents,

as when the box of precious unguent is broken a sweet perfume is diffused

abroad. As a rule, these emissaries addressed themselves only to the Jews.

But some there were who had seized the larger truth of the gospel and the

time, and proclaimed the gospel to the Greeks also. On the day of

Pentecost men from Cyrene are named as present, witnesses of the power

of the Holy Spirit. Better fitted are they to carry back the gospel to their

countrymen than those born Jews. God knows where to find the proper

laborers for any harvest which He has ripening.


  • THE SUCCESS OF THE MISSION. The hand of the Lord, the Divine

power, was with them, and in large numbers converts and believers were

forthcoming. Is not the hand of the Lord ever stretched forth when His

blessing is sought, His commands obeyed? All through these profoundly

interesting details, do we not clearly see that God requires human cooperation?

We bind the hands of God — to use a bold figure — when we

do not faithfully deliver His truth, the truth which the time is bidding us to

utter. It was the generous and world-wide application of the gospel which

was followed by the Divine sanction and blessing. As it was then, so may

we expect it to be now and ever.




Ø      The Church at Jerusalem, bearing of the progress of the truth at

Antioch, dispatch Barnabas thither. They are quite otherwise disposed than

upon a former occasion (v. 1, sqq.). Peter had then to meet a storm of

objections to his holding intercourse with the heathen. But now the same

Church sends without hesitation Barnabas to further the good work. Thus

gradually does God unfold His ways, and opposition gives way before His

manifested counsels, as the frost-bound snows before the sun of the springtime.


Ø      And when Barnabas saw the grace of God, he was glad. The spiritual

eye discerns spiritual things. As God is no respecter of persons, neither is

he who lives in the fellowship of God’s mind. It is no question of the

human instrument, but of the Divine results; not of the channels of the

grace, but of that pure grace itself.


Ø      Barnabas proves himself true to his name and character, and proves his

fitness for the mission. Good and holy himself, his exhortations tend to

goodness and, holiness. Let them cleave to God with the full purpose of

the heart. Ever a salutary counsel — to walk by the same rule, to mind the

same thing, to stand in the old ways and inquire for the well-trodden paths.

Religion is an attitude of the soul, a habit of the will. The constant Divine

Object requires constancy in us; let us be true to Him as the magnet to the

pole. It is good to become a Christian, better to be a Christian, best of all

to endure as a Christian and inherit the promise of the crown, of life.

(Revelation 2:10) Here, too, we see the qualities of the true teacher —

to be good and upright in life-conversation, to be full of the holy confidence

which faith inspires, and of that contagious inspiration which God’s indwelling



  • THE RESULT OF BLESSING. A “considerable multitude added to

the Lord.” And this, it seems, in consequence of the visit of Barnabas. How

mighty the power of one energetic will, one faithful heart, of a man who

can say with all his heart, “I believe,” and whose life backs up his word! So

successful is the work, so full the net of the gospel fisher, that Barnabas

has to seek the aid of Saul. Another proof of the pure and humble temper

of Barnabas. Evidently he did not desire to make himself the great man at

Antioch. The greatness of the work and of his Master engrossed his

thoughts. Nor does Saul thrust himself forward, but comes when sought. It

is a picture of friendship and comradeship in the service of Christ. Plato

rhapsodized of the joint striving of two souls after knowledge and truth;

but nobler and sweeter is the joint striving of two souls to serve the Savior

of men and promote His kingdom of peace and love in souls. Memorable

year in the annals of Christianity! Here were the disciples first called

Christians — followers of the Christ, of the Anointed One; themselves

anointed by the same Spirit and to the same life-work. Let us go back to

the origin of our name, that we may understand its meaning. The notes of

the true Christian are and ever were, the anointing of the Holy Ghost and

with power, and the life seen to be busy, like that of the Master, in “doing

good.”  (ch. 10:38)



A New Center of Evangelistic Work. Antioch (vs. 19-26)


Another hold upon the Gentile world. More important than Caesarea. Next

to Alexandria. Intellectual culture; commercial. A sphere prepared for Saul.


  • THE MINISTRY EMPLOYED. Lay agency. Persecution compelling

the Church to enlarge its borders. The circumstances opening the door to

the Gentiles. Probably little success among Jews. The multitudes of Greeks

at Antioch. The Greek mind prepared for inquiry. The state of the heathen

world well represented there.


  • THE DIVINE TESTIMONY GIVEN. The hand of the Lord with

them. The Spirit outpoured. Possibly not so much in miraculous signs, but

in conversions.


  • THE MESSAGE PREACHED. The Lord Jesus. Not speculations

to catch philosophers, but facts to lay hold of hearts, Not preached in a

tone of ecclesiastical authority, but by laymen full of THE HOLY GHOST!



Apostolic ministry and lay agency. Barnabas, an intermediate

representative man. The kind of man required; not lax in his views of truth,

but “a good man,” full of kindly spirit, an inspired man, a firm believer.

Thus the expansion of the Church was no rending of the body of Christ,

but simple growth, spiritual life seeking its development.



catechetical center. Barnabas aimed at instruction and edification, that they

should cleave unto the Lord. He called in Saul, as more eminently adapted

than himself for work in such a sphere. The humility of both men

exemplified. Both fitted to be masters, because both simpleminded.

Teaching must accompany evangelization, or the work will fall to pieces. A

whole year they taught much people; hence their steadfastness at Antioch.



Christians.Antioch saw a distinct society arising; gave it a name,

separated it in thought both from Judaism and heathenism. Recognized that

the substance of it was Christ; that the members of it were like Christ and

lived for Christ. The providential appointment of the name signalized the

new start of the Church on its mission, with Saul at the head of it, TO

EVANGELIZE THE WORLD!  An interesting line of progress from

Jerusalem to Antioch. Divine guidance.



An Early Co-Pastorate (vs. 25-26)


The chronology of the period reaching from the martyrdom of Stephen to

the mission of Barnabas to Antioch is obscure, and has at present indeed

refused to yield up to us dates — as, for instance, leading dates affecting

Saul — of the utmost interest. It is, however, exceedingly probable that six

full years had now passed since the conversion of Saul. During the whole

of this time he has been — we may say it without a doubt, though perhaps

it were not easy to find actual chapter and verse for the statement —

“preaching Christ.” He has been removed from one station to another for

safety’s sake twice. He has latterly been for some time at Tarsus, his native

place, and it is of his employment during his stay at Tarsus that we know

least. While, as already said, there is scarcely room to doubt that there

emphatically he would be preaching Christ, it would seem a little

remarkable if he did so through a period of one or two years with impunity.

Hither, however, Barnabas now comes, to seek a colleague and efficient

help in his work at Antioch. Very brief are the touches of the pen which

convey to us the situation here. But they portray, nevertheless, something

so natural and almost homely, that it is not difficult, and is pleasant and

instructive, to fill in the detail of the picture.





Ø      He came on one errand; he stays on another, and that a great enterprise.

He came to inquire about the justifiableness of certain goings on. He is

forced to become part and parcel of them, and to embark in them heart

and hand and voice.


Ø      He observes “that a great door and effectual is opened before him”

(I Corinthians 16:9). Antioch, for its situation, its buildings, and its

very various and important people — for its Jewish population, for its

Greek fashion, and its Roman military, and its business and commercial

connections — cannot be surpassed as a place of importance for preaching

Christ from the first moment that it is apparent that not Jews only, but

Gentiles also, Greek and Roman, are to be embraced within the blessings

of the covenant.


Ø      When already much people was added unto the Lord,” and “a great

number had believed and turned unto the Lord,” his heart is “touched with

compassion” (as his Master’s once and often was) when He saw “the sheep

without a shepherd,” and “the fields white to harvest,” and the harvest one

of superlative promise, “but the laborers few.” And no doubt he “prayed

the Lord of the harvest,” and got his answer.  (John 4:35; Matthew 9:37-38)




Ø      He wishes, if it be possible, to compass the work.


Ø      He knows no grain of envy or jealousy or selfish ambition.


Ø      He will lose a few weeks of time if he may return armed better by far for

the work, for he bethinks himself (or otherwise in answer to his prayer has

been reminded divinely) of one of remarkable conversion and of surpassing

energy. He will be a likely helpmeet. Barnabas has already walked arm-in-arm

with him in Jerusalem, and has been surety for him with the Church in

Jerusalem. With this strong man, who has now been tried, been ripening in

comparative retirement, and has borne the trial, would he wish to be

associated in besieging, with a view to take, this tempting citadel of

Antioch. He is keeping up his character as given us in the preceding verses.

He is “full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” His eye is single, his best reason

and mental judgment are given to the question before him. His motives are

pure and his conscience sensitive.


Ø      He is going to have his man. He will not miss of Saul. He journeys after

him to seek him. He believes not in messages nor proxies. He finds him and

brings him to Antioch.




Ø      They believe in brotherly love. It was a somewhat new thing to believe

in, in some aspects of it. Not a few natural kinds of love unite us together.

But brotherly love came in largely with the followers of Jesus, viz. that

kind of love which brought two men to work together for religious ends.


Ø      They believe in the practical advantages of two working together.


o        One sustains the purpose of the other.

o        The weak side of one character is compensated by the forte of the


o        Many an enterprise must pine for want of sufficient support at the

hand of one alone, which may be easily compassed by two, and

leave them still spare energy.


Ø      They disbelieve in unworthy rivalry, in comparisons, in personal

ambition. Yet now, twenty centuries later, these very things are

occasionally heard as among the standard objections to two disciples of

Jesus Christ being linked together in equal service for Him.






Ø      The importance of Church life begins to be recognized, both for itself

and for its witness, in the midst of a great people outside.


Ø      Even nature itself is vindicating the need and the advantage of teachers

and pastors and examples. “They assembled themselves with the Church,

and taught much people.” It was not all evangelization, nor all missionary

journeys, even in earliest days of Christianity. And this is more remarkable

in the light of an example, when we remember that the good work at

Antioch had sprung up of what in brief might be called “self-sown seed.”

Those of the dispersion whose hearts burned within them had been, under

the Spirit, the beginning of the work. And it was on account of the

proportions to which their work had grown, and the fame of it that traveled

to Jerusalem, that Barnabas had been sent to visit Antioch. The flock only

need to be hungry to look for a shepherd, and the hungry flock do not fail

to look up to the shepherd that feeds it.


Ø      The love of Barnabas and Saul must have been met by much love on the

part of those “in and out among whom” they went, teaching them many

things. This is the Church love. This is the secret of Church harmony. This

the humble beginning alike of the holiness and the happiness OF THE



It is blessed in two directions.


Ø      It cannot be said to be a conclusion too remote or far-fetched when we

assert that there is evidence of the witness that ministry was to the outside

world. That “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch and at

this time means nothing less than these two things.


o        They take a status in the world; and this has been verified by history.

World-wide their name is known.


o        That status is given them, even if in partial ridicule, by the world. The

Church of disciples, of saints, of brethren, of followers of Jesus, of

Nazarenes, made its mark upon them of busy, prosperous, intelligent

Antioch. They are not a ragged regiment, nor a rope of sand, nor a

quarrelsome litigious clique. They have been doing work and have

been living consistently.


Ø      That ministry has prepared those among whom it was exercised both to

feel promptly compassion for their brethren who were to be visited by

famine and poverty in Judaea, showing it also promptly by a practical

charity and generosity, and also to convey that expression of love in a

becoming and grateful manner. Great was the goodness of Barnabas, and

great and good was the united ministry and work of him and his chosen,

sought colleague, Saul.



The Christian Name (v. 26)


“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Three great

cities are identified with Christian history in a special manner — Jerusalem,

Antioch, and Rome. The name was not given by Jews, as recognizing that Jesus

was Messiah, nor by the  disciples, as other names in use — “believers.... brethren,”

“saints,” “friends.” It was either a name of reproach or a convenient designation

of a rapidly enlarging society. Consider:




Ø      Personal, testifying to the pre-eminence of Christ.

Ø      A name of distinction. Separation from the world,baptism in

Christ’s Name, worshipping Christ in the Spirit of Christ.

“See how these Christians love one another.”

Ø      Prophetic. Christ is to return as Judge of all the earth.

Despondency was the main feature of heathenism. Christians

preached hope through the Resurrection and Ascension.


  • THE NAME HONORED. Called Christians.”


Ø      The life should be evident before it is named.

Ø      If the world looks upon the life, it will name it.  It should be the

sign of conversation, and the testimony to a spiritual work.

Ø      It is a privilege is to wear the name. Are we ashamed of it? Secret

disciples is an anomaly.

Ø      Let all who name His Name depart from iniquity and seek the

leadership of the Holy Spirity!



Antiochene Christians (v. 26)


“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Before this time

they seem to have had no recognized name. Others may have called them

“Nazarenes,” or perhaps “Galileans.” They spoke of their teaching as “the

Way,” but do not seem to have found any other name for themselves than

that of “disciples.” It was left to circumstances to provide a name which all

might accept, and, though the origin of the name Christian is very

strange, its appropriateness has been universally recognized. The very

essence of the gospel is the presentation of Christ to men, and the pressure

of His claims to men’s love and trust; and therefore those who receive

Christ as their Savior, and obey Him as their Lord, are properly

denominated “Christians.” It is usual to call disciples after the name of their

master or teacher, as may be seen in the terms “Mohammedan,”

“Buddhist,” “Wesleyan,” etc. Sometimes classes of men are named after

the central principle which they have adopted. This we cannot do, because

our central principle is CHRIST — not even some truth about Christ, but

Christ Himself. So we can have no name but that which the people of

Antioch found when they discovered how prominently CHRIST WAS

SET FORTH in the early preaching.



DISCIPLES “CHRISTIANS.” It has often been pointed out that the name

was started as a nickname. The idea of making so much of One who was

known to have been crucified as a malefactor and impostor may well have

excited the ridicule of humorous people, and we know how constantly the

disciples were taunted with worshipping the Crucified. A caricature of the

early times has been discovered, representing a person, with the head of an

ass, stretched upon a cross, and a figure kneeling before it. Underneath is

this inscription: “Alexamenos worshipping his God.” In this spirit the name

was first given, much as the term “Methodists” was applied to the

followers of Wesley.



Perhaps in their modesty they did not think themselves worthy to bear their

Master’s name; but when others gave it to them they felt that they could

accept it. And no name could be to them so honored. Their hesitation,

however, might have arisen from another cause. To accept a distinctive

title was to break away from Judaism, and take a position as a separate and

independent sect. We can well understand how the disciples would hesitate

to accept so defined a position. They thought of themselves as still Jews,

seeking, some would say, the reformation of Judaism; and others would

say, the spiritual fulfillment of Judaism; but anything savoring of

sectarianism or separation would be distressing to them. Yet many times in

Church history men have been compelled to take decided positions against

their own wills, but their distinctness and separateness have proved to be




so many persons its deeper significance has faded out. It is so universally

applied, and made so all-inclusive, as to have become a meaningless term.

And yet how full of force and inspiration it should be to us:


Ø      for the sake of the history which the term embodies — the long story of

Christian witness and struggle; and


Ø      for the depths of meaning which we may now find in it, for to us it may

mean not merely “followers or disciples of Christ,” but Christ-like men and

women, who are daily being “changed into His image from glory to glory;

and who want to be like Him in all things”!  (II Corinthians 3:18)


27 "And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch."

Now for and, Authorized Version; there came down for came, Authorized Version.

(see ch. 18:22). Prophets; a recognized order in the Church at that time

(ch. 2:17-18; 13:1; 20:23; 21:9-10; I Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11).

The news of the accession of the Gentiles to the Church of Antioch would

naturally lead to such prophets being either sent by the Church of Jerusalem

or coming of their own accord.


28 "And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by

the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the

world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar."

A great famine for great dearth, Authorized Version; over for throughout,

Authorized Version; Claudius for Claudius Caesar, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus. The world; οἰκουμένη -  - hae oikoumenae - the inhabited earth,

the common expression for the whole Roman empire. But the expression must be

taken here as hyperbolical, just as Josephus says that Ahab sent messengers to

search for Elijah, κατὰ πᾶσαν τὴν οικουμένηνkata pasan taen oikoumenaen

over the whole earth -  where, of course, only the neighboring

countries to Judaea can be meant, strictly speaking (‘Ant. Jud.,’8. 13:4).

But there is no evidence to show that οικουμένη, is ever a technical

term for Judaea. See the use of the word by Luke (Luke 2:1; 4:5;

21:26; here ch. 17:6, 31; 19:27; 24:5). In point of fact, the predicted

famine, which began in the fourth year of Claudius Caesar (A.D. 44) and

lasted till A.D. 48, fell upon Judea exclusively, as far as appears from

Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ lit. 15:3; 20. 2:5, 5:2), and was very severe there.

Ishmael was high priest at the time; and Helena, Queen of Adiahene,

fetched large supplies of corn from Egypt and of figs from Cyprus to

Jerusalem, to supply the wants of the people. Eusebius (‘Eccl. Hist.,’ 2:8)

speaks of this famine as having prevailed “over the world,” and as being

recorded by authors hostile to Christianity, but mentions no names and

gives no particulars (‘Eccl. Hist.,’ 2:8), but in the twelfth chapter of the

same book he limits it to τὴν Ιουδαίανtaen Ioudaian - Judaea. There

were several other historical famines in the reign of Claudius, but they can

hardly be included in the prophecy of Agabus. The prophet Agabus is

mentioned again in ch. 21:10, and again as coming from Judaea.


29 "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined

to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:"  And for then,

Authorized Version; that for which, Authorized Version. This is the first

example of the practice, so much encouraged by Paul, of the Gentile

Churches contributing to the wants of the poor Christians of the mother

Church of Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27; I Corinthians 16:1; II Corinthians 9.;

Galatians 2:10, etc.).


30 "Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of

Barnabas and Saul."  Sending for and sent, Authorized Version; hand

for hands, Authorized Version. Sending (ἀποστείλαντες᾿ - aposteilantes-

sending; dispatching). Those by whom they sent were ἀπόστολοι apostoloi

(II Corinthians 8:23), messengers, or apostles, To the elders. This is the first

mention of presbyters, or elders, in the Church at Jerusalem, which was

now fully organized. James the Less was the resident apostle (?) and

bishop; with him were the presbyters (ch. 21:18); and under them

again the seven deacons (ch. 6:5-6). The presbyters of the Church of

Jerusalem are mentioned again in ch. 15:2, 4, 6, 22-23; 16:4; 21:18;

James 5:13, where, however, the elders of other Churches in Judaea

may possibly be included. A difficulty arises with regard to Saul’s mission

to Jerusalem with Barnabas, as to how to reconcile it with Galatians 2:1,

which 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. But there are three hypotheses about the visit to Jerusalem

referred to in Galatians 2.


1. The first identifies it with the visit here recorded.

2. The second identifies it with that related in ch. 15:2, etc., which is

supported by most of the best authorities ancient and modern (see note on


3. The third, which is advocated by Lewin (‘Life of St. Paul,’ vol. 1:302,

etc.), identifies it with the visit recorded in ch.18:22. As regards the

first, with which we are now concerned, though at first sight you would

have expected Paul’s next visit to Jerusalem after his conversion to be

the one alluded to in Galatians 2, yet the following circumstances make

this impossible.


  1. The date of the visit named in Galatians it, which is distinctly stated to

be fourteen years after that recorded in ch. 9:26 (ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων

ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην epeita dia dekatessaron eton palin anebaenthen

fourteen years after that I went up again).

  1. When Paul went to Jerusalem on the occasion adverted to in

Galatians 2, “he laid before them the gospel which he preached among the

Gentiles.” But at the time of this visit he had not yet begun his labors

among the Gentiles (ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν – en tois ethnesiv – among the nations),

to which he was only called after his return (ch.13:2).

  1. On the occasion spoken of in Galatians 2, Paul and Barnabas were

received by the chief apostles, and must have passed a considerable time at

Jerusalem, with many consultations and meetings, public and private. But

on this occasion, as far as appears, their visit was a very hasty one, and

they saw no one but the presbyters, and returned as soon as they had

handed over the collection to them (ch.12:25).


The conclusion, therefore, seems quite certain that this is not the visit referred to

in Galatians 2. And the hasty nature of this visit explains at once why Paul

made no count of it in his statement to the Galatians. It had no bearing

upon the course of his argument. It was not a visit to Jerusalem in the

sense in which he was speaking, and he saw none of the apostles. The state

of the Church at the time, James the son of Zebedee killed, Peter in prison

or lately escaped “to another place” (ch.12:17), the other apostles

very likely dispersed, made it impossible. He therefore took no count of it

in his statement to the Galatians. This seems quite a sufficient explanation.



God’s Bounty and Our Well-Being (vs. 27-30)


The reference, in these verses, to “a great dearth throughout all the world”

(v. 28), and to the sending of relief by the disciples, according to their

several ability, to the brethren in Judaea (v. 29), may suggest to us

thoughts concerning the provision which God has made for us in His Divine

goodness and also in His Divine wisdom. We look at:



multitudes of mankind, the hundreds of thousands of millions are fed, year

after year, age after age; and many hundreds of millions more might be

sustained if all the use were made that might be of the opportunities open

to us. God, in His bounty, provides what we want in:


Ø      fruitful and extensive soil,

Ø      multiplying seed,

Ø      agricultural knowledge (Isaiah 28:25-26),

Ø      materials for implements of husbandry,

Ø      all nourishing and ripening agencies.


·         HIS CONSIDERATION OF OUR PIETY. God gives us our bread,

our maintenance, in such a way that we are almost compelled to

acknowledge His hand in the harvest.   (Psalm 104:27-29; 145:16)

Evidently we did not produce the soil nor make the seed; evidently we

cannot cause it to fertilize and grow; evidently it is his sun that shines and

His rain that falls on our fields. The ordinary processes as by which the seed

is multiplied are such as direct our eyes to heaven. And often, in His wisdom,

He holds His hand, He withdraws the sunshine or keeps back His clouds,

He sends dearth as “in the days of Claudius Caesar” (v. 28), and then men

are constrained to remember that there is work being done in the soil and in

the sky which they cannot control, and in regard to which they must look up

to God the Giver of all, whose is the earth with its fullness, and ask of Him,

and plead with Him, and, it may be, humble themselves before Him.




Ø      Intellectual. God teaches us (Isaiah 28.), but He leaves much to be

discovered by our own mental labor. (In the beginning God gave man

two things to do: 


o        replenish [fill it with people] and

o        subdue the earth [find out it’s secrets] - Genesis 1:28 – CY – 2016)


Agriculture provides a very wide and a very noble field for observation,

experiment and contrivance; it tasks and trains the mind.


Ø      Moral. We cannot secure our harvests without:


o        industry,

o        combination,

o        patience (James 5:7). The abundance, and indeed superabundance,

of the earth’s yield is such that:

o        there is enough for the supply of those engaged in other pursuits;

hence there is room for all kinds of labor beside that of agriculture —

for the pursuit of art (wholesome, not pornographic – CY – 2016),

and for the teaching of religious truth and training in the religious life.

Those who have received the bread of eternal life from the lips of

others can furnish, as Antioch now supplied Jerusalem, the bread of

this temporal life to those to whom they are under spiritual obligation.

The abundance which prevails in some districts — and famine is

never universal — gives the opportunity of:

o        showing practical kindness. On this occasion there was sufficient in

Syria for its own need and for the distress in Judea, and the Christians

of Antioch contributed to supply the wants of those at Jerusalem.


We should:


o        receive God’s temporal mercies with the gratitude which belongs to


o        distribute of our abundance to those who have a claim on us, either

on account of the spiritual favors they have conferred or in virtue of

their special necessity.



Practical Sympathy between Jew and Gentile (vs. 27-30)


  • The test of REAL UNION must be an appeal to self-sacrifice. Antioch

was wealthy; Judaea was poor. The prophets came from Jerusalem; the

return was relief sent to poor brethren, both as a sign of obedience to the

Spirit and as a pledge of future oneness. There could be no more decided

evidence that the Gentile converts were really incorporated into the

apostolic Church.


  • The prophetic element quite consistent with the maintenance of A

SETTLED ORDER in the spiritual life. The extraordinary manifestations

of the Spirit must be distinguished from the ordinary work of the Church.

The collected relief was sent to “the elders.” The hands of Barnabas and

Saul carried it. Thus the new Gentile community at Antioch did not break

away from the original center at Jerusalem. It was not Saul’s aim to

disregard those who had preceded him; but, while carefully

maintaining the connection, preserving independence.


  • WILLINGNESS the principle of the Church’s charity. “Every man

according to his ability.” “God loveth a cheerful giver.” No sign of

ecclesiastical rate-laying. Until the Church became corrupt, it had no

need of any other law than spiritual law.



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