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
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
reception of the Word of God by Gentiles, and their admission into the
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.”
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.
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
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:
WHICH SEEMS HIGHLY CENSURABLE TO THE GODLY. We can
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
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.
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.
EXCULPATION OF MEN AND FOR OUR OWN SPIRITUAL
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
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
of the apostles and brethren at
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
They therefore that for now they which, Authorized Version; tribulation for
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
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
in sight of it, and was very early colonized by the Phoenicians. Philo and
Josephus both speak of the Jewish population in
reckons the population at above 5000,000 souls) the capital of the Greek
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
It was reckoned by Josephus to be the third city in importance of the
whole Roman empire,
20 "And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when
they were come to
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
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
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
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
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
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
sojourn three years in Arabia, to come to
and settle at
time for Peter’s operations in Judaea
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 pantas – entreated, 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 – prosmenein – cleave; 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
μένε – mene – be 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 – agathos – good; 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 δίκαιος – anaer 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 κἀγαθός – kalos 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
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
sight, and to find out for certain that it is not a vision and that they do
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
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
GRACE OF GOD!
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.”
BARNABAS AND HIS INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER WITH MUCH MORE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
departed Barnabas to
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
unexpectedly prepared for him at
A.D. 43, or just ten years after the Crucifixion, that Barnabas proceeded to
land, a journey of about eighty miles would bring him to
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
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 ekklaesia – in 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 – chraematisai – were 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
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
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).
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.”
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
SUBSERVE THE INTERESTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS! Mischief
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
be discovered — some men from
were come to
preaching, the Lord Jesus.” And this unpremeditated, irregular work
proved to be marvelously successful (see v. 21). When the Church at
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 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
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
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.
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
had been dispersed by the persecution. And thus there went a stream of
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
Another hold upon the Gentile world. More important than Caesarea. Next
the Church to enlarge its borders. The circumstances opening the door to
the Gentiles. Probably little success among Jews. The multitudes of Greeks
world well represented there.
them. The Spirit outpoured. Possibly not so much in miraculous signs, but
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
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
An Early Co-Pastorate (vs. 25-26)
The chronology of the period reaching from the martyrdom of Stephen to
the mission of Barnabas to
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
place, and it is of his employment during his stay at
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
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.
LABOR AT ANTIOCH.
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”
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
comparative retirement, and has borne the trial, would he wish to be
associated in besieging, with a view to take, this tempting citadel of
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
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.
YEAR TO BUILDING UP AND EDIFYING THE CHURCH AT
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
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
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
beginning alike of the
holiness and the happiness OF
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
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
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
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)
disciples were called Christians first in
cities are identified with Christian history in a special
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.
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
FOR THE WORLD'S PERMANENT GOOD!
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)
in these days came prophets from
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
naturally lead to such prophets being either sent by the
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; ἡ οἰκουμένη - - hae oikoumenae - the inhabited earth,
the common expression for the whole
taken here as hyperbolical, just as Josephus says that Ahab sent messengers to
search for Elijah, κατὰ πᾶσαν τὴν οικουμένην – kata pasan taen oikoumenaen –
over the whole earth - where, of course, only the neighboring
But there is no evidence to show that ἡ οικουμένη, is ever a technical
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
Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ lit. 15:3; 20. 2:5, 5:2), and was very severe there.
Ishmael was high priest at the time; and
fetched large supplies of corn from
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 Ιουδαίαν
– taen Ioudaian -
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
29 "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined
to send relief unto the brethren which
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
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
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
James 5:13, where, however, the elders of other Churches in
may possibly be included. A difficulty arises with regard to Saul’s mission
which speaks of Paul’s second visit to
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
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
the one alluded to in Galatians 2, yet the following circumstances make
be fourteen years after that recorded in ch. 9:26 (ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων
ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην – epeita dia dekatessaron eton palin anebaen – then
fourteen years after that I went up again).
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).
received by the chief apostles, and must have passed a considerable time at
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
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
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 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
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
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)
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
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
away from the
original center at
disregard those who had preceded him; but, while carefully
maintaining the connection, preserving independence.
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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