Acts 11

Acts 11  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 10
THIS CHAPTER OPENS with the stir which was created in Jerusalem by these happenings in Cæsarea. Those who had strong Jewish prejudices contended with Peter over his actions. This led Peter to rehearse the matter from the beginning and set it forth in order, so that all might see that the thing was distinctly of God. It is remarkable that the Spirit of God has thought it well to put on record Peter’s own account, as well as that given us by Luke as an historian, in the previous chapter. This emphasizes the importance of what happened so obscurely in the house of the Roman officer. It was in truth an epoch-making event.
In Peter’s account we naturally have his side of the story rather than that of Cornelius. Yet he does furnish us with one detail as to the angel’s message to Cornelius, which is not mentioned in the previous chapter. Peter was to tell him “words,” whereby he and all his house should be “saved.” The law demands works from men: the Gospel brings words to men, and those words lead them to salvation, if believed. Note also that they were not “saved” until they had heard the Gospel, and believed it; although without a doubt there had been a work of God in the hearts of these people, which led them to seek after God.
In verses 15 and 16 we see that Peter recognized in the gift of the Spirit to Cornelius a baptism of the Spirit, supplementary to that which had been realized in Jerusalem at the beginning. It was God doing for believing Gentiles what He had previously done for believing Jews. God put both on the same footing, and who was Peter or anyone else to withstand God?
This plain and straightforward account given by Peter silenced all opposition: indeed grace so wrought in the hearts of those who had objected, that they not only recognized that God had granted to the Gentiles “repentance unto life,” (ch. 11:18) but they glorified God for doing it. They attributed repentance to the gift of God, just as faith is attributed to His gift in Eph. 2:88For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8).
With verse 19, we leave Peter and pick up the thread from verse 1 of chapter 8. In between, we have had Philip’s evangelistic labors, the conversion of Saul, who is to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, and Peter’s activities, culminating in his opening in a formal way the door of faith to the Gentiles. We now discover that while the mass of believers scattered by persecution carried the Gospel with them, but preached it only to the Jews, there were some from Cyprus and Cyrene who, arrived at Antioch, began to preach to Greeks, declaring Jesus as Lord, for indeed He is Lord of ALL. These men, then, began to evangelize Gentiles, which was exactly the special business which the Holy Ghost now had on hand. As a consequence surprising results followed. God’s hand worked with them, though they were men of no particular note, and a great multitude believed and turned to the Lord.
Thus the first Gentile church was formed, and the work speedily reached such dimensions as to attract attention from the church in Jerusalem, and lead them to depute Barnabas to visit them. Barnabas came and instantly recognized a true work of the grace of God. Instead of being jealous that others than himself or the leaders in Jerusalem had been used of God for this, he was glad and he furthered the work by his exhortations. But then he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, and so he cared not for his own reputation but for the glory of Christ. His exhortation was that as they had begun with faith in the Lord so they should continue to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. The working of God’s grace was the great thing with Barnabas, no matter through whom it was effected. How good it would have been had the spirit of Barnabas prevailed all through the church’s history.
Another thing characterized this good man, Barnabas. He evidently recognized his own limitations. He felt that another than himself was the one to be specially used to instruct these Gentile converts, and so he went off to fetch Saul. Barnabas appears to have been the exhorter and Saul the teacher, and for a whole year they gave themselves to this work. And at Antioch, significantly enough, the name “Christian” first sprang up. It is to be noted how the Lordship of Christ is stressed in this account of the work at Antioch; and where Christ is heartily and consistently owned as Lord, there believers so behave themselves as to provoke the onlookers to name them Christians. By the time chapter 26 is reached we find that Agrippa knows the name. In 1 Peter 4:1616Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (1 Peter 4:16) we find the Spirit of God accepting the name as a satisfactory one.
At the end of this chapter we are permitted to see how freely servants of God, such as prophets, moved about between the various churches. Gifts, granted in the church, are to be used in a universal and not merely a local way. So it came to pass that through Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem, the church at Antioch was apprized of a coining famine, and took steps in advance to meet the anticipated need of the saints in Judæa. Thus early did the Gentile believers have opportunity to express love towards their Jewish brethren.
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