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havoc of the church" at Jerusalem, "went everywhere preaching the word." Their first resort was to their Jewish brethren. For a while they made the glad tidings known to none but to the Jews only. To them they would state, how while sojourning at Jerusalem, they had found the Messias: "found him of whom Moses and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth:" how God had raised him from the dead, and " now commanded all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel." This they had received themselves, and would exhort others to receive.
Meanwhile some of the same party took a bolder step.
20. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch,2 spake unto the Grecians,3 preaching the Lord Jesus.
21. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Here, then, that took place at Antioch, which had before taken place at Csesarea. The word was preached to the Grecians, or Gentiles. The same Holy Spirit which had appeared to Peter in a vision, and sent him to Cornelius, was now animating these men of Cyprus and Cyrene, in a manner more secret and imperceptible, but not less sure and effectual. The Spirit wrought with their natural feelings, yearning towards their Gentile neighbours, that they should have compassion on their darkness, and "guide their feet into the way of peace."
1 Here, as before, the word implies conversation rather than public preaching. XaXovvreg Tov Xoyov. See on ch. viii. v. 4.
2 Antioch would be not far out of the course of one intending to sail for Cyprus, from some port in the north of Syria.
3 A difficulty arises in the original from the word EKKrjvicrrai, Grecians, commonly used to signify those of Hebrew parentage, but speaking the Greek language. This, however, must have been the case with the Jews, who are before mentioned, and mentioned in contrast with these Grecians. So that we are forced to understand here, by Grecians, persons who were by birth Gentiles. In some approved manuscripts the word is
In the former case Peter might at first have doubted as to the reality of the revelation. He might have supposed himself mistaken; beguiled by the visions of the night. But when he learnt that a corresponding vision had been sent to another person in a distant place, when he found the men whom Cornelius had despatched to seek him, he could doubt no longer; these two things could not have occurred together, unless they had been of God.
In like manner those who now applied themselves to these Grecians, might doubt at first whether they were acting rightly; were at liberty to preach the word to any but unto the Jews only. But when a great number of the Grecians believed, and turned unto the Lord, an end would be put to their doubts; however marvellous in their eyes, it was the Lord's doing. They turned to him, towards whom no man can turn " except the Father draw him." And if the Father so drew these Grecians that they should turn unto the Lord, there was no further doubt as to the Father's will, whether they should speak unto the Grecians. It was only another mode of the Spirit's operation. The Spirit had said to Peter in plain words, Arise, and get thee down to Cornelius.4 The Spirit suggested to the minds of the Christians from Jerusalem, Preach the Lord Jesus to these "sinners of the Gentiles." The vision had said to Cornelius, "Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon." And now the Spirit moved the heart of these Grecians that they should attend to the word spoken, and turn to the Lord. Thus, "there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."5
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 Antioch.
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.
24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
What may be called the head quarters of the church was at Jerusalem. There the apostles resided; from thence they directed measures which seemed desirable: and when needful, sent out some of their body, to make inquiry and advise.6
* Ch. x. 20, &c.
* 1 Cor. xii. 6.
6 So, ch. ix. 32. It came to pass as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. Perhaps Barnabas was selected for the present mission, because being himself originally from Cyprus, (ch. iv. 36,) the neighbouring country where Antioch was situated, might not be strange to him.
Such a messenger was Barnabas. He was now considered as an apostle: and he came in the name of his brethren to Antioch, in consequence of the tidings which had reached their ears. Had it been laudable zeal, or had it been unwarranted rashness, which preached the word to the Grecians? This question was easily answered, the doubt speedily removed, when he came and saw the grace of God; saw undoubted signs of a work which belongs to the Spirit of God alone. He finds a great number who had gladly heard the word of those who spoke to them, preaching the Lord Jesus: and who having " received him and believed in his name," had been made heirs of the everlasting covenant, and added unto the Lord.
We may easily conceive that great effects would follow the arrival of a man like Barnabas among such a company of believers. The persons who had hitherto preached Jesus unto them, had spoken in the fulness of their hearts:—what they had believed, they had declared; what they had heard and known they told; and what they felt, they had communicated. But here was a man, instructed in knowledge; mighty in the scriptures; able to bring out of his store " things new and old." One too, full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith: who had for many years seen the progress of the word, and had experience of its effects upon the heart. He was also, we are informed, a good man:—some might have felt a lurking jealousy, when they saw that '' God had granted to the Gentiles also repentance unto life:" but it was not so with Barnabas: he, when he saw the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
And very important was the main subject of his instruction, as here recorded. Our Lord, in his wonderful parable of the Sower, has told us what in such cases to fear and guard against. He has told of those, who when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time; afterward, when persecution or affliction ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.3 We have too much reason to dread this. We see the blossoms of the spring: the trees are white with them: it would seem as if the husbandman must "pull down his barns, and build greater," so large will be the store. But how few at last are gathered in! Some are rudely plucked off by violence; and some are gradually withered by untimely blasts; and some are unable to withstand the daily influence of the summer sun: and so one and another and another drops and fails, and small is the number which remains, to reward the planter's labour.
Alas !. it is but too exact a picture of the effect of example, opposition, and temptation upon the frail and corrupt heart which has once received the truth with joy.
This then was the danger against which Barnabas warned the infant church at Antioch: They had turned to the Lord with sudden impulse: they 7 Mark iv. 17.