Acts 11:1
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
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(1) And the apostles and brethren that were in Judæa . . .—The context implies that the tidings travelled, while Peter remained at Cæsarea, first probably to Joppa and Lydda, and afterwards to Jerusalem.



Acts 11:1 - Acts 11:18

Peter’s action in regard to Cornelius precipitated a controversy which was bound to come if the Church was to be anything more than a Jewish sect. It brought to light the first tendency to form a party in the Church. ‘They. . . of the circumcision’ were probably ‘certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,’ and were especially zealous for all the separating prescriptions of the ceremonial law. They were scarcely a party as yet, but the little rift was destined to grow, and they became Paul’s bitterest opponents through all his life, dogging him with calumnies and counterworking his toil. It is a black day for a Church when differences of opinion lead to the formation of cliques. Zeal for truth is sadly apt to enlist spite, malice, and blindness to a manifest work of God, as its allies.

Poor Peter, no doubt, expected that the brethren would rejoice with him in the extension of the Gospel to ‘the Gentiles,’ but his reception in Jerusalem was very unlike his hopes. The critics did not venture to cavil at his preaching to Gentiles. Probably none of them had any objection to such being welcomed into the Church, for they can scarcely have wished to make the door into it narrower than that into the synagogue, but they insisted that there was no way in but through the synagogue. By all means, said they, let Gentiles come, but they must first become Jews, by submitting to circumcision and living as Jews do. Thus they did not attack Peter for preaching to the Roman centurion and his men, but for eating with them. That eating not only was a breach of the law, but it implied the reception of Cornelius and his company into the household of God, and so destroyed the whole fabric of Jewish exclusiveness. We condemn such narrowness, but do many of us not practise it in other forms? Wherever Christians demand adoption of external usages, over and above exercise of penitent faith, as a condition of brotherly recognition, they are walking in the steps of them ‘of the circumcision.’

Peter’s answer to the critics is the true answer to all similar hedging up of the Church, for he contents himself with showing that he was only following God’s action in every step of the way which he took, and that God, by the gift of the divine Spirit, had shown that He had taken these uncircumcised men into His fellowship, before Peter dared to ‘eat with them.’ He points to four facts which show God’s hand in the matter, and thinks that he has done enough to vindicate himself thereby. The first is his vision on the housetop. He tells that he was praying when it came, and what God shows to a praying spirit is not likely to mislead. He tells that he was ‘in a trance,’-a condition in which prophets had of old received their commands. That again was a guarantee for the divine origin of the vision in the eyes of every Jew, though nowadays it is taken by anti-supernaturalists as a demonstration of its morbidness and unreliableness. He tells of his reluctance to obey the command to ‘kill and eat.’ A flash of the old brusque spirit impelled his flat refusal, ‘Not so, Lord!’ and his daring to argue with his Lord still, as he had done with Him on earth. He tells of the interpreting and revolutionary word, evoked by his audacious objection, and then he tells how ‘this was done thrice,’ so that there could be no mistake in his remembrance of it, and then that the whole was drawn up into heaven,-a sign that the purpose of the vision was accomplished when that word was spoken. What, then, was the meaning of it?

Clearly it swept away at once the legal distinction of clean and unclean meats, and of it, too, may be spoken what Mark, Peter’s mouthpiece, writes of earthly words of Christ’s: ‘This He said, making all meats clean.’ But with the sweeping away of that distinction much else goes, for it necessarily involves the abrogation of the whole separating ordinances of the law, and of the distinction between clean and unclean persons. Its wider application was not seen at the moment, but it flashed on him, no doubt, when face to face with Cornelius. God had cleansed him, in that his prayers had ‘gone up for a memorial before God,’ and so Peter saw that ‘in every nation,’ and not among Jews only, there might be men cleansed by God. What was true of Cornelius must be true of many others. So the whole distinction between Jew and Gentile was cut up by the roots. Little did Peter know the width of the principle revealed to him then, as all of us know but little of the full application of many truths which we believe. But he obeyed so much of the command as he understood, and more of it gradually dawned on his mind, as will always be the case if we obey what we know.

The second fact was the coincident arrival of the messengers and the distinct command to accompany them. Peter could distinguish quite assuredly his own thoughts from divine instructions, as his account of the dialogue in the trance shows. How he distinguished is not told; that he distinguished is. The coincidence in time clearly pointed to one divine hand working at both ends of the line,- Caesarea and Joppa. It interpreted the vision which had ‘much perplexed’ Peter as to what it ‘might mean.’ But he was not left to interpret it by his own pondering. The Spirit spoke authoritatively, and the whole force of his justification of himself depends on the fact that he knew that the impulse which made him set out to Caesarea was not his own. If the reading of the Revised Version is adopted in Acts 11:12, ‘making no distinction,’ the command plainly referred to the vision, and showed Peter that he was to make no distinction of ‘clean and unclean’ in his intercourse with these Gentiles.

The third fact is the vision to Cornelius, of which he was told on arriving. The two visions fitted into each other, confirmed each other, interpreted each other. We may estimate the greatness of the step in the development of the Church which the admission of Cornelius into it made, and the obstacles on both sides, by the fact that both visions were needed to bring these two men together. Peter would never have dreamed of going with the messengers if he had not had his narrowness beaten out of him on the housetop, and Cornelius would never have dreamed of sending to Joppa if he had not seen the angel. The cleft between Jew and Gentile was so wide that God’s hand had to be applied on both sides to press the separated parts together. He had plainly done it, and that was Peter’s defence.

The fourth fact is the gift of the Spirit to these Gentiles. That is the crown of Peter’s vindication, and his question, ‘Who was I, that I could withstand God?’ might be profitably pondered and applied by those whose ecclesiastical theories oblige them to deny the ‘orders’ and the ‘validity of the sacraments’ and the very name of a Church, to bodies of Christians who do not conform to their polity. If God, by the gift of His Spirit manifest in its fruits, owns them, they have the true ‘notes of the Church,’ and ‘they of the circumcision’ who recoil from recognising them do themselves more harm thereby than they inflict on these. ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God,’ even though some brother may be ‘angry’ that the Father welcomes them.

Acts 11:1-3. The apostles and brethren heard — To their great surprise; that the Gentiles had also received the word of God — That not only the Jews who were dispersed in the Gentile countries, and the Gentiles who were proselyted to the Jewish religion, but that the uncircumcised Gentiles also themselves, with whom it had hitherto been thought unlawful to have any fellowship, had heard and received the gospel, and had even been baptized and received into church communion, without being required to submit to circumcision and the observances of the Mosaic law; intelligence this which alarmed them exceedingly, as they had not yet been made acquainted with the particular circumstances attending the affair. And when Peter was come to Jerusalem — From Cesarea; they that were of the circumcision — Those Jewish converts who still retained a veneration for the ceremony of circumcision, and thought it to be of perpetual obligation; contended with him — About what he had done. There seems to be no reason here to except any of the believing Jews (unless, perhaps, the apostles) from this contention; for they were all zealous of the law, and of their customs, and could not endure to hear that any Jew should act contrary to them, Acts 21:20-21; and Peter himself had been of that mind till he had received the vision, (see chap, Acts 10:28,) and even after the vision withdrew himself from the believing Gentiles for fear of the Jews, Galatians 2:12; and they of the dispersion preached to the Jews only, Acts 11:19. We may observe here, also, that these Jewish believers had no idea of the supremacy, and much less of the infallibility, of Peter; for otherwise they would not have dared thus to rise up against him, or to can his actions in question. See Whitby.

11:1-18 The imperfect state of human nature strongly appears, when godly persons are displeased even to hear that the word of God has been received, because their own system has not been attended to. And we are too apt to despair of doing good to those who yet, when tried, prove very teachable. It is the bane and damage of the church, to shut out those from it, and from the benefit of the means of grace, who are not in every thing as we are. Peter stated the whole affair. We should at all times bear with the infirmities of our brethren; and instead of taking offence, or answering with warmth, we should explain our motives, and show the nature of our proceedings. That preaching is certainly right, with which the Holy Ghost is given. While men are very zealous for their own regulations, they should take care that they do not withstand God; and those who love the Lord will glorify him, when made sure that he has given repentance to life to any fellow-sinners. Repentance is God's gift; not only his free grace accepts it, but his mighty grace works it in us, grace takes away the heart of stone, and gives us a heart of flesh. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.And the apostles and brethren - The Christians who Were in Judea.

Heard ... - So extraordinary an occurrence as that at Caesarea, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, and their reception into the church, would excite attention, and be likely to produce much sensitiveness in regard to the conduct of Peter and those with him. It was so contrary to all the ideas of the Jews, that it is not to be wondered at that it led to contention.


Ac 11:1-18. Peter Vindicates Himself before the Church in Jerusalem for His Procedure towards the Gentiles.

1-11. the apostles and brethren … in Judea—rather, "throughout Judea."Acts 11:1-18 Peter, being accused for conversing with the

Gentiles, maketh his defence; the

church is satisfied, and glorifieth God.

Acts 11:19-21 The gospel having spread as far as

Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch.

Acts 11:22-26 Barnabas is sent thither, who

fetcheth Saul from Tarsus: many people are taught at

Antioch, where the disciples are first called


Acts 11:27-30 Agabus prophesieth a dearth: the

disciples send relief from Antioch to the brethren

in Judea by Barnabas and Saul.

And brethren; the rest of the believers, who had not only one God to their Father, but one church to their mother, and were born of the same Spirit, and were fed by the same milk of the word of God.

The Gentiles had also received the word of God; this was a most incredible thing unto them who were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, and were not acquainted with that mystery that Abraham should have a seed of his faith, upon whom all the promises were entailed. These looked upon the Gentiles as most execrable persons, such as the apostle describes, Ephesians 2:12, that had no hope, and were without God; and therefore no less than a miracle, and that well attested, as this was, could make them change their opinion.

And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea,.... The rest of the twelve apostles, and the private members of the churches that were in Judea, for there were in it now more churches than that at Jerusalem, Acts 9:31

heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God; as well as Samaria, Acts 8:14 the news by some means or other were quickly brought to them, and no doubt but they also heard that they had received the Holy Ghost, his extraordinary gifts, as well as his special grace, though no mention is made of them.

And {1} the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

(1) Peter, being reprehended without reason by the unskilful and ignorant, does not object and say that he should not be judged by any, but openly gives an account of his actions.

Acts 11:1-18. The fellowship into which Peter entered with the Gentiles (chap. 10) offends the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, but their objection is allayed by the apostle through a simple representation of the facts as a whole, and is converted into the praise of God.

κατὰ τὴν Ἰουδαίαν is not = ἐν τῇ Ἰουδ. (Kuinoel, de Wette), but throughout Judaea, v. 15, and see Nägelsb. on the Iliad, p. 12, ed. 3.

Acts 11:2. διεκρίνοντο] they strove against him. Judges 1:9; Dem. 163. 15; Polyb. 2:22. 11; Athen. 12 :p. 544 C.

οἱ ἐκ περιτομ.] the circumcised Christians, as in Acts 10:45, opposed to the Gentiles (ἀκροβυστ. ἔχοντας) whose conversion is reported.

ὅτι is most simply taken as recitative, neither quare, Vulg. (comp. on Mark 9:11), nor because (Grotius supplying: hoc querimur).

πρὸς ἄνδρας κ.τ.λ.] Thus it was not the baptism of these men that they called in question, but the fellowship entered into by Peter with them, especially the fellowship at table (comp. Galatians 2:12). This was the stone of stumbling: for they had not come to Peter to be baptized, as a Gentile might present himself to become a proselyte; but Peter had gone in to them. Without ground (see, in opposition, Oertel, p. 211), Gfrörer and Zeller employ this passage against the historical character of the whole narrative of the baptism of Cornelius.

ἀκροβ. ἔχ.] An expression of indignation. Ephesians 2:11.

Acts 11:4. ἀρξάμ. ἐξετιθ.] he began and expounded, so that ἀρξάμ. is a graphic trait, corresponding to the conception of the importance of the speech in contradistinction to the complaint;[265] comp. Acts 2:4.

Acts 11:6. εἰς ἣν ἀτενίσας κατενόουν κ. εἶδον] on which I, having fixed my glance, observed (Acts 7:31) and saw, etc. This εἶδον τὰ τετράποδα κ.τ.λ. is the result of the κατενόουν.

κ. τὰ θηρία] and the beasts; specially to make mention of these from among the quadrupeds. In Acts 10:12 the wild beasts were not specially mentioned; but there πάντα stood before ΤᾺ ΤΕΤΡΑΠ.

Acts 11:11. ἮΜΕΝ] (see the critical remarks) is to be explained from the fact, that Peter already thinks of the ἈΔΕΛΦΟΊ, Acts 11:12, as included.

Acts 11:12. ΟὟΤΟΙ] the men of Joppa, who had gone with Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:23), had thus accompanied him also to Jerusalem. They were now present in this important matter as his witnesses.

Acts 11:13. ΤῸΝ ἌΓΓΕΛΟΝ] the angel already known from chap. 10,—a mode of expression, no doubt, put into the mouth of Peter by Luke from his own standpoint.

Acts 11:14. ἐν οἷς] by means of which.

Acts 11:15. ἐν δὲ τῷ ἄρξασθαί με λαλεῖν] This proves that Peter, after Acts 10:43, had intended to speak still considerably longer.

ΚΑῚ ἘΦ ̓ ἩΜᾶς and ΚΑῚ ἩΜῖΝ, Acts 11:17 (it is otherwise with ὙΜΕῖς, Acts 11:16), are to be taken as in Acts 10:47.

ἘΝ ἈΡΧῇ] namely, at Pentecost. The period of the apostolic church was then at its beginning.

Acts 11:16. Comp. Acts 1:5.

ὡς ἔλεγεν] A frequent circumstantiality. Luke 22:61; Thuc. i. 1. 1, and Krüger in loc.; also Bornemann, ad Cyrop. i. 2, 5. Peter had recollected this saying of Christ, because he had seen realized in the Gentiles filled with the Spirit what Jesus, Acts 1:5, had promised to the apostles for their own persons. Herein, as respects the divine bestowal of the Spirit, he had recognised a placing of the Gentiles concerned on the same level with the apostles. And from this baptisma flaminis he could not but infer it as willed by God, that the baptisma fluminis also was not to be refused.

Acts 11:17. πιστεύσασιν] refers not to ΑὐΤΟῖς, as is assumed by Beza, Heinrichs, and Kuinoel against the order of the words, but to ἩΜῖΝ: “as also to us as having become believers,” etc., that is, as He has given it also to us, because we had become believers, so that thus the same gift of God indicated as its basis the same faith in them as in us.

ἐγὼ δὲ τίς ἤμην δυνατὸς κ.τ.λ.] Two interrogative sentences are here blended into one (Winer, p. 583 [E. T. 784]): Who was I on the other hand? was I able to hinder God, namely, by refusal of baptism? Concerning δέ, in the apodosis, following after a hypothetical protasis, see Nägelsb. on the Iliad, p. 66, ed. 3; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 92 f.

Acts 11:18. ἡσύχασαν] they were silent, Luke 14:4, often in classical writers. Comp. Locella, ad Xen. Eph. p. 280. The following ἐδόξαζον (imperfect) thereupon denotes the continuous praising. Previously contention against Peter (Acts 11:2-3), now silence, followed by praise of God.

ἄραγε] thus, as results from this event. By τὴν μετάνοιαν, however, is meant the Christian change of disposition; comp. Acts 5:31.

εἰς ζωήν] unto (eternal Messianic) life; this is the aim of τὴν μετάνοιαν ἔδωκεν. Comp. ΣΩΘΉΣῌ, Acts 11:14.

[265] The importance of the matter is the reason why Luke makes Peter again recite in detail the vision narrated. This in opposition to Schleiermacher, who finds in the double narrative a support for his view concerning the composition of the book.—Observe how simply Peter makes his experience speak for itself, and then, ver. 16 ff., just as simply, calmly, and with persuasive brevity, subjoins the justification following from this experience.

Acts 11:1. For Western readings see critical notices.—κατὰ τὴν Ἰ.: not simply in but throughout Judæa, “all about Judæa,” Hort, Ecclesia, p. 57, cf. Acts 8:1.

Acts 11:1-18. The Judæo-Christians blame Peter. He makes his defence at Jerusalem

1. the apostles and brethren … heard] The news reached them before the return of St Peter to Jerusalem.

that the Gentiles had also received the word of God] At this news, had there been no additional information about Peter’s eating with Cornelius, the disciples would have rejoiced, and would have welcomed this further spread of the word, as they did (Acts 8:14) the conversion of the Samaritans, but to some, who were not only Christians, but strict observers of Jewish ritual, it was a cause of offence that Peter had consented to become the guest of a Gentile.

Verse 1. - Now for and, A.V.; the brethren for brethren, A.V.; also had for had also, A.V, 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 maim in that community. It does not appear what view James and the other apostles took. Acts 11:1In Judaea (κατὰ τὴν Ἰουδαίαν)

More correctly, "throughout Judaea."

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