PETER AT TH E HOUSE OF CORNELIUS
I. His Journey Thither. Vss. 17-23.
A. In whose fellowship he travelled.
1. There were the three men sent by Cornelius from Ceasarea to Joppa,
a. Two were household servants, vs. 7.
b. The one is a Roman soldier who feared God.
2. There were also six brethren from Joppa who accompanied Peter to Cornelius and even to Jerusalem,
a. These men were “believers out of the circumcision”, vs. 45.
b. That there were “six” we read in 11:12.
B. Under whose direction?
1. Peter does nothing of his own initiative,
a. He was most reluctant in regards to the content of the vision, vss. 13-10.
b. He is told by the Spirit to go to Joppa with these men without hesitancy,
c. Not Cornelius, but I the Lord Jesus have sent them.
2. The knowledge of this vision and divine direction to Peter must have been sufficient reason for these “six men” to also go to Joppa.
C. The duration of this journey.
1. Of the three men from Ceasarea to Joppa,
a. The distance about 30 miles,
b. They travelled from the afternoon of the previous day till midday of the next, e.g. from Monday afternoon till Tuesday midday.
2. Of Peter and the nine men with him.
a, Left in the morning, e.g. Wednesday.
b. Arrived sometime the next day, e.g. Thursday. Compare vss. 3, 9, 23, 24, and also vs. 30 where Cornelius speaks of “four days”.
II. Peter and Cornelius “Compare notes” vss. 24-33.
A. Their acquaintance at the latter’s house.
1. Cornelius’ conduct, vs. 25.
a. Bows at Peter’s feet to worship (him).
b. Peter tells him to rise; he is “also a man”. Compare Rev. 19:10 and Acts 14:15.
2. Cornelius’ friends and relatives also present,
a. This man is a centurion. A man of influence and authority. As a Roman hated by the Jews and accounted unclean. Compare John 18:28.
b. Yet he is anxiously waiting for the Word of God to be spoken by Peter. In Peter he sees Christ’s ambassador, vss. 29-33.
3. Peter is very conscious of the “uncleanness of the house of a Gentile.” vs. 28.
a. But the “cross is not of none effect”. Gal. 5:11. 12.
b. God has shown it to him in the “vision”.
B. They “compare notes”.
1. Here was the directing hand of Christ—the Lord of heaven and earth,
a. He had sent an angel to Cornelius,
b. Had given revelation to Peter.
2. Was it not clearly to be seen.
a. All the pieces fit one pattern.
b. Sure this is what the Lord has wrought.
2. The lesson?
a. God is not a respecter of persons, of nationality, social standing, education etc.
b. He loves those who fear him, whosoever he may be! vss. 34, 35.
III. Peter’s Sermon, vss. 34-48.
A. Its Theme:
1. Christ is Lord of all! Judge of the living and the dead. vs. 36.
2. As the crucified one and the resurrected Lord He must be preached, the Prince of Peace!
3. Of this “peace” Peter is an eye-witness, having seen the resurrected Lord. vss. 38-43.
B. Its Infallible Confirmation.
1. The Holy Spirit descends upon this gentile audience and makes it His dwelling place, vs. 44.
a. While Peter was yet speaking,
b. And that in the same way that He descended upon the church at Pentecost in Jerusalem. Compare 11:15 Think of it: A recurranee of the outpouring of the Spirit here in Cornelius’ house!
c. They were baptized with, the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues, yea, the wonderful works of God. vs. 46.
2. Its impelling force for Peter? And those with him from Joppa?
a. They marvel, stand amazed,
b. But Peter grasps the full implication:
1) He remembers the Word of Jesus. Acts 1:4.
2) These who have been baptized out of heaven with the Holy Spirit shall water be denied them? They are baptized! vs. 48.
Questions: What was Cornelius praying for when the angel appeared to him? Do the following passages cast any light on this? Acts 10:33. 11:14. Is Cornelius’ praying a proof that all heathendom is thus praying? Did Common Grace prepare the heart of Cornelius for the gospel? Would John the Baptist have been satisfied with Cornelius’ baptism? Luke 3:14.
PETER’S APOLOGY BEFORE THE BRETHREN IN JERUSALEM
I. The Occasion, vss. 1-3.
A. Word of the Gentile reception of the Gospel reached the Jewish believers, vs. 1.
1. This must imply:
a. Not merely that the Word had been proclaimed there,
b. But that it had been received by faith.. This came into their ears.
2. It is not stated, but the subsequent apology of Peter shows, that they must also have heard of Peter’s tarrying with Cornelius,
a. They were not aware of all the facts,
b. Hence their O. T. ceremonial prejudice has full play.
B. Peter is called to give account of his conduct in Caesarea.
1. The bone of contention is.
a. Entering into the house of uncircumcised men. Notice this characterization and read Eph. 2:11.
b. And ate with them. This is far more than filling the stomach. It meant fellowship, the standing on each other’s level.
2. Peter evidently anticipated this.
a. How could he help but do so? Had not their prejudice against the gentiles been his?
b. And the Lord had provided all the necessary evidence and a sufficient number of eye-witnesses. There were six men with Peter!
II. His “Apology” Proper, vss. 4-16.
A. Testifies, witnesses of the “facts” in the case. vs. 4-14.
1. Of the vision of the clean and unclean beast in Joppa,
a. He tells it in great detail and very accurately and exact,
b. Tells that this happened three times. He had not been “seeing things”.
2. Relates of the subsequent direction of the Holy Spirit. He is directed to go with these three men.
3. Also tells the men in Jerusalem of the appearance of the angel to Cornelius while he was praying. And how Cornelius had related this to him, and how all the parts had thus been shown to be of divine origin.
4. Indeed he had preached here in this home: Jesus is Lord of all.
B. Relates the infallible confirmation, vs. 15.
1. While he was speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon Peter’s house,
a. This was indeed something extraordinary. Could it be ignored?
b. And it was just like the mighty rushing wind of Pentacost. Peter says: “Even as also upon us at the beginning.”
a. Man may still make a distinction between “clean” and “unclean”.
b. With God this distinction is not held. And who is it that decides?!
III. Its Decisiveness, vss. 17, 18.
A. For Peter, vs. 17. (Peter thus relates it).
1. Peter had been led step by step into the significance of the “vision”,
a. It was the Word and will of the Lord expressed by all the prophets,
b. It had brought to mind the word of Jesus recorded in Acts 1:4.
1) Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
2) They should do so with water.
2. He could therefore:
a. Only be obedient to God. God who had revealed His will to Moses, now speaks through His Son in these last days.
b. And therefore he may not resist God.
3. What weight this has for Peter and for the conduct of the church in the future can be seen in Acts 15:6-11.
B. For the brethren.
1. For the six brethren (at the house of Cornelius).
a. They had been amazed. Had agreed with Peter’s interpretation,
b. And here they are called in as witnesses to this effect.
2. To the brethren here in Jerusalem, vs. 18.
a. They are convinced by the testimony of Peter,
b. Then “also to the Gentiles God has given repentance to life” they say.
Questions: Had Christ not opened the minds of the Apostles that they might know the Scriptures? Luke 24:45. And did He not tell them that they should preach the gospel to all nations beginning at Jerusalem? And did not the prophets all-speak of the preaching of peace to them that are afar off? Ps. 107:20; 147:18; Isa. 52:7; Nah. 1:15. Why then did Jesus need to come to Peter in this vision and why does Peter only then begin to understand that the gospel is also for the Gentiles? Could John not have written John 3:16ff; 12: 20-33; I John 2:2 before this apology of Peter? Or did John feel no need of calling Peter to task? Or was the revelation of this mystery only for Paul? Eph. 3:1-4.
GOSPEL-PREACHING IN ANTIOCH OF SYRIA
I. Christ Preached to the Greeks, vss. 19-21.
A. No longer only to the Jews is the Gospel preached.
1. Indeed the gospel had been preached in these regions before. Since the persecution of the church by the Jewish leaders at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom men had preached Christ even as far as Phonecia, Cyrus and Antioch of Syria.
2. But they had preached only to the Jews!
a. Thus the apostles had done thus far.
b. And they could go no further than these men directly appointed by Christ.
B. But now (subsequently to Christ’s revelation to Peter) the gospel is preached also to the Gentiles—to the Greeks!
1. These preachers were men:
a. Not from Jerusalem, Judea.
b. But they were from Cyrus and from Cyrenea. (An island in the Mediterranean Sea and from the continent of Africa).
2. What they preached?
a. The text says: The Lord Jesus,
b. This implies the full, rich Christ.
1) In His suffering and death.
2) His resurrection, ascension and sitting at God’s right hand, Lord over all!
3. How they fared in this preaching:
a. The ‘‘hand of the Lord” i.e. God’s power was with them to salvation!
b. Result: Many believed and turned in heartfelt repentance to the Lord Jesus.
II. Barnabas Sent to Antioch by the Church in Jerusalem, vss. 22-24.
A. Who this Barnabas is.
1. Some particulars known from other parts of Scripture,
a. Earlier we meet him in the book of Acts.
1) As belonging to those who sold their goods for the sake of the poor.
2) He was a Cyprian. Acts 4:36.
3) Possibly the uncle of John Mark and the brother of that Mary of whom we read in Acts 12:12.
b. He it was who had intervened in Saul’s behalf in Jerusalem when the latter had come there to visit Peter prior to being directed by the Spirit to go to Tarsus.
2. In relation to the task at hand here in Antioch,
a. He is called a “good” man.
1) This does merely mean that he was pious.
2) It must refer to his usefulness in the work of the gospel,
b. This is evident from the fact that we read of him that he was full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.
1) He compares favorably with Stephen.
2) He is capable to handle the situation.
B. How Barnabas finds matters, vs. 23-26.
1. He finds here faith, repentance, and all the evidences of the “hand of the Lord’’,
a. He goes deeper than what he sees—deeper than the fruits,
b. In the fruits he sees the cause. And this latter is none other than: the grace of God. And this is reason for great joy!
2. Yet there is room for admonition also here.
a. The congregation must persevere in purpose of heart. A deep and abiding and sanctified resolution of purpose must be theirs,
b. And that in view of their new relationship to the Lord, and consequently in their new relationship to all things.
3. The congregation is great in numbers. Barnabas goes to Tarsus to get Saul.
a. Together they labor here.
b. For one whole year. The believers were here in this city of Antioch first called: Christians. What glorious title.
III. Christian Stewardship Practiced, vs. 27-30.
A. The Occasion, vss. 27. 28.
1. Certain prophets came down from Jerusalem among whom was a certain Agabas. Compare Acts 21:10. Prophets in the X. T. Dispensation,
a. Was not a part with the O. T. prophets,
b. It seemed to be an office of helpers to the apostles as long as these latter lived and the written record was not yet complete.
2. Agabas prophesied through the Holy Spirit,
a. That a great dearth was to come over the entire inhabited earth,
b. And it was going to strike very hard in the land of Judea. This would meanhardships for the church in Jerusalem. It seems that this mother church was very hard put financially apart from this famine which was to come. Think of the collection that Paul gathered in all the churches for the brethren in Jerusalem. II Cor. 9:1-15.
3. This famine actually came too. Not under the present emperor Caligula, but under the next emperor, Claudius.
B. The Stewardship in Christ practiced.
1. They gave from the liberality of their heart. Not a tenth, but as each had means to give. They were free from the law, but this freedom was freedom from greed and covetousness. They were gracious givers. II Cor. 9:8: givers who labored with their hands that they might have to give to the poor.
a. And it was handled in an orderly way. vs. 30.
b. It was placed in the hands of Saul and Barnabas,
2. These delivered it to the elders in Jerusalem.
Questions: Did God send this dearth to try the faith of this congregation in Antioch? Would this flock deserve so much thought and consideration? Is there a great lesson here as to the proper manner of giving?
HEROD AGRIPPA I PERSECUTING THE CHURCH
I. The Persecution, vss. 1-4.
A. The Persecution as Such.
1. Its time.
a. The sense of “at that time” vs. 1 seems to indicate that it was about at the time of the breaking forth of the gospel unto the Greeks in Antioch.
b. And it was more particularly the time of the Passover. (This feast was continued to be held).
2. Its form.
a. The word “to entreat evilly” is employed in Acts also for the ill-treatment that was afforded to Israel in Egypt. Acts 7:6, 19. It indicates ill-treatment from the motive of pure maliciousness.
b. Just which special forms were employed is rather difficult to say, but we can imagine the worst, for it culminated in the beheading of James the brother of John, the son of Zebedee.
c. And the prize victim was to be Peter whom they had imprisoned, and who was to be executed after the Passover, vs. 4.
B. Its Motive.
1. Herod wished to do something to please the Jewish leaders,
a. Certainly not because he loved these latter: how could this be the case. Was he not a grandson of Herod the Great: a true Edomite was he.
b. He does something to court their favor.
1) From this viewpoint he could have done no better. It was good politics!
2) The Christian church must serve as bait. Herod does not count the blood that he is shedding precious.
2. That Herod loved popularity is evident from vss. 22, 23.
a. He claims the blasphemous praise of the populace’s flattery,
b. Here is a little Nero! Beast of iniquity.
II. Peter’s Signal Deliverance, vss. 5-19.
A. The Deliverance as Such.
1. In the dead of night an angel comes to sleeping(!?) Peter,
a. Peter is as securely kept as is humanly possible. Four quarterions of soldiers watch him. He is chained to two soldiers with as many chains,
b. The angel rouses Peter, tells him to rise in haste. The chains fall from him. He is led out to the iron gate which opens automatically,
c. After he is out on the street the angel leaves him.
2. Peter soon becomes fully aware of the situation,
a. At first he thought that he saw a vision,
b. But now he understands. The Lord Jesus is with him. He has led him:
1) From the hand of Herod. (Is He not LORD of lords and KING of kings?)
2) And from the evil expectation of the Jews. Oh, but the “blood of this man was coming on them”!
c. Peter hastens to the house of Mary where many believers are praying. Their prayers have been heard. The humanly impossible comes true.
B. The Purpose.
1. Answering the prayer of the believers.
a. In this instance it was necessary. Has the Lord not work yet for Peter? Think of Acts 15. Is his testimony not going to be coupled by that of Paul? And then he must also write yet the epistles to the churches which later would be organized by Paul. His hour was not yet! It would come as well as that of James. John 21:19.
b. And God puts to naught the wisdom and power of man.
2. The triumph of God’s cause in Christ over every foe. Also this foe in Rome! Is this not the “stone” rolling down the mountain in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
III. God’s Speedy Judgment Upon Herod, vss. 20-24.
A. The Occasion.
1. The general occasion,
a. The Sidonians and Tyrian ambassadors were in Caesarea where Herod is staying. This was a Roman stronghold. Paul will later be imprisoned here for more than two years,
b. These countries had fallen into Herod’s disfavor and had now come to sue for peace. They were attempting to court his favor by bribes and intrigue and flattery. It was worldly diplomacy,
c. They succeeded in this with the king’s chamberlain, Blastus their friend.
2. It seems that in the great arena, the place of the Roman games, Herod was attending a great celebration of Roman success,
a. The one just completed on the “diplomatic front”,
b. The other possibly on the battle-field in far of Britain. At least so Josephus informs us.
B. At the height of the games Herod makes an oration.
1. He is robed in the royal, glittering apparel of the kings,
a. All the cymbals of earthly kingliness and greatness,
b. And all centers here in him.
2. When he speaks the populace (not Christian to be sure) applauds with cries:
a. The voice of God.
b. Not the voice of man.
C. Sudden Destruction falls upon Herod.
1. The form.
a. An angel of God smites him. There are more with the church than with the enemy,
b. He is eaten by the worms. He dies.
2. Reason for it:
a. God is jealous of His honor.
b. Vengeance belongeth to Him, also for the blood of His saints.
Questions: Which was the greater sin on the part of Herod, the one perpetrated upon the saints, or that of receiving the praise of the people? Was Satan also in the picture here? Can we see quite clearly that God is preparing a place of refuge for the church in the world? Compare Rev. 12:13ff. Has this any significance say for the teacher of “civics”? Does not Christ have the last word here? Notice: “But the Word of God grew and multiplied.”