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Bible Commentaries
Acts 11

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-30

4 So important is this new departure that Peter's rehearsal before his indignant brethren is given in full, for it removes the great obstacle which lay in the way of the further spread of the evangel. The commission which was received by the eleven from the Lord (Luke 24:33; Luke 24:47) included the uncircumcised. They had made it known in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the whole land of Israel, but only to the Circumcision. None of the disciples had any thought of proclaiming it to those of another nation even if they, like Cornelius, were devout and Godfearing men. This conclusion proves that the Pentecostal ecclesia did not include a single one of the Gentiles, but absolutely excluded all except those of Jewish blood. They could not, of course, exclude the Hellenists, or Jews who leaned to Greek culture, for they were not Greeks, but circumcised Israelites. Neither may we take the case of Cornelius as the beginning of the evangel to the nations, as such. We do not find that this case was followed up by the evangelization of the Uncircumcision in the land. Indeed, it seems to have had no effect at all in this direction. After the death of Stephen and the following persecution, the disciples spoke to none but the Jews only (19). Other refugees from Jerusalem, however, being of Cyprian and Cyrenian origin, and having left some of the traditions of Judaism themselves, spoke to those Jews in Syrian Antioch who also had taken up Greek customs. The first time the evangel was proclaimed to the idolaters was probably the case of Sergius Paul, proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:7), or Paul's preaching to the people of Lystra (Acts 14:7). Throughout his early ministries, however, Paul not only went into the synagogues and preached to the Jews first, but he also spoke to the devout and God-fearing proselytes, like Cornelius, before going out to the Uncircumcision. Such converts from Judaism formed the nucleus of most of the ecclesias founded by him so far as their Gentile contents were concerned. See Acts 13:43; Acts 14:1, Lydia Acts 16:14; Acts 17:4; Acts 17:12; Acts 18:4 (contrast 6) and Justus 7. The gentiles were a distinct class.

16 Peter saw a new significance in the words of the Lord (Acts 1:5) that he had not seen at Pentecost. John's baptism never went beyond the Jews. Now as the gospel comes to this gentile proselyte the baptism of spirit takes precedence over that in water, and is Peter's justiftcation for giving Israel's rite to this gentile.

17 The constant tendency, in this scroll, from the physical to the spiritual, is well illustrated by the gifts given to Cornelius and his friends, as a sign of their acceptance by God. The sign of the covenant, circumcision, was in the flesh. The lack of this excluded them from the blessings of the kingdom. In Israel, the spirit followed the bathing of their physical frames in the rite of baptism. But the Lord Himself baptizes these uncircumcised aliens in spirit before they are baptized in water. The spirit supersedes and governs the physical rite. In the case of these proselytes the rite of baptism followed the reception of the spirit (Acts 16:15; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:14-16), because of their association with Judaism, but it does not seem to have been universally administered in the case of non-proselytes (1 Corinthians 1:17; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12).

19 Here the narrative goes back to the days of the great persecution in Jerusalem when all the believers were dispersed (Acts 8:1). Some of them came through Syrian Antioch, where they spoke to Hellinists. Later (Acts 14:27), when Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they informed the brethren that God opens to the nations (such as the Greeks) a door of faith. If the refugees from Jerusalem had ever spoken to Greeks in Antioch, this would not have been any news to them. In verse Acts 14:20, there is almost equal weight of manuscript evidence for either reading, Hellenists, or Greeks. Alexandrinus has the shorter form, Hellenas [accent excluded] (Greeks), while Vaticanus has the longer Helllenistas (Hellenists). The Sinaiticus scribe copied the longer form, but incorrectly: euaggelistas (evangelists). One of his correctors, however, indicated his preference for Hellenas by inserting lle [accent excluded], . . . . . . n between the lines.

22 The Jerusalem disciples were most of them full of zeal for the law and the ritual, but Barnabas was full of holy Spirit and faith, and thus was in line with God's purposes.

25 Barnabas knew that Saul's commission was to the nations, hence he discerned that Antioch was the very field suited to his call.

26 The name "Christian" is Latin in its termination, so seems to have been given by the Romans. It is mentioned only twice more (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), and was a term of contempt. It is never used by the saints of themselves, though there are hundreds of passages where we would use the term today. The name probably arose from the fact that here, for the first time, gentiles, Romans, left the worship of the synagogue for the faith of Christ. They would be continually speaking of one "Christ" and their countrymen gave them this new name in derision. Paul never uses this term. Peter alone uses it of his fellow saints of the Circumcision who believed.

27 "Antioch" (Antiocheia) seems to be a compound of anti (instead) and och (have, uphold). The prefix suggests that the two cities (Acts 11:27; Acts 13:14) take the place of Jerusalem in the spreading of the evangel. They are upheld as the base of Paul's evangel to the Gentiles, while the Jerusalem ecclesia is eventually dispersed. So this may well be the import of their name: They had a place instead of Jerusalem. In the Kingdom the evangel will flow again from the holy city.

29 It is not likely that Saul went as far as Jerusalem with the contribution, for, in his Galatian epistle, he intimates that he did not visit the holy city for fourteen years after his return from Damascus. The reason seems to be that there was a persecution on the part of Herod, as well as a famine in Jerusalem, so that it was not prudent to enter the city.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 11". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/acts-11.html. 1968.
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