Acts 15

CHAPTER XV.

Certain teachers from Judea insist on the necessity of the

converted Gentiles being circumcised, 1.

Paul and Barnabas are sent to Jerusalem to consult the apostles

on this subject, 2.

They come to Jerusalem, and inform the apostles of the

conversion of the Gentiles; and of the trouble which certain

Pharisees had occasioned concerning circumcision, 3-5.

The apostles having assembled to consider the question, Peter

delivers his opinion, 6-11.

Barnabas and Paul relate their success among the Gentiles, 12.

James delivers his judgment, 13-21.

The apostles and elders agree to what he proposes, and send

Judas and Silas with Paul and Barnabas to the converted

Gentiles, 22;

and send an epistle containing their decree to the Churches of

Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, 23-29.

Paul and his company return, and read the epistle to the

brethren at Antioch, which produces great joy; and Judas and

Silas preach to them, 30-32.

Judas returns to Jerusalem, but Silas continues with Paul and

Barnabas, teaching and preaching, 33-35.

Paul proposes to Barnabas to visit the Churches where they had

preached; and, on the latter determining to take John Mark

with them, Paul refuses, 36-38.

They disagree; and Barnabas, taking John Mark, sails to Cyprus,

39.

And Paul, taking Silas, goes through Syria and Cilicia,

confirming the Churches, 40, 41.

NOTES ON CHAP. XV.

Verse 1. Except ye be circumcised, &c.] The persons who taught

this doctrine appear to have been converts to Christianity; but,

supposing that the Christian religion was intended to perfect the

Mosaic, and not to supersede it, they insisted on the necessity of

circumcision, because, by that, a man was made debtor to the whole

law, to observe all its rites and ceremonies. This question

produced great disturbance in the apostolic Church; and,

notwithstanding the decree mentioned in this chapter, the apostles

were frequently obliged to interpose their authority in order to

settle it; and we find a whole Church, that at Galatia, drawn

aside from the simplicity of the Christian faith by the subtilty

of Judaizing teachers among themselves, who insisted on the

necessity of the converted Gentiles being circumcised.

Ye cannot be saved.] Ye can neither enjoy God's blessing in

time, nor his glory in eternity. Such an assertion as this, from

any reputable authority, must necessarily shake the confidence of

young converts.

Verse 2. No small dissension and disputation] Paul and Barnabas

were fully satisfied that God did not design to bring the

converted Gentiles under the yoke of circumcision: they knew that

Jesus Christ was the end of the law for righteousness

(justification) to every one that believed, and therefore they

opposed the Judaizing teachers. This was one of the first

controversies in the Christian Church; but, though the difference

of sentiment was considerable, it led to no breach of Christian

charity nor fellowship among themselves.

They determined that Paul, &c.] This verse is read very

differently in the Codex Bezae: γενομενηςδεεκτασεωςκαιζητησεως

ουκιλιγηςτωπαυλωκαιτωβαρναβασυναυτοιςελεγενγαροπαυλος

μενεινουτωςκαθεςεπιστευσανδιισχυριζομενοςοιδεεληλυθοτες

αποιερουσαλημπαρηγγειλαναυτοιςτωπαυλωκαιβαρναβακαι

τισιναλλοιςαναβαινεινπροςτουςαποστολουςκαιπρεσβυτερουςεις

ιερουσαλημοπωςκριθωσινεπαυτοιςαυτωνπεριτουζητηματος

τουτου. But when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and

disputation with them, Paul said, with strong assurance, that they

should remain so as they had believed. But those who came from

Jerusalem charged Paul and Barnabas and certain others to go up to

the apostles and elders to Jerusalem, that a determination might

be made by them concerning this question.

And certain other of them] If this be the journey to which St.

Paul alludes, Ga 2:1-5, then he had

Titus with him; and how many elders went from the Church of

Antioch we cannot tell. This journey was 14 years after Paul's

conversion, and was undertaken by express revelation, as he

informs us, Ga 2:2, which revelation appears to have been given

to certain persons in the Church of Antioch, as we learn from this

verse, and not to Paul and Barnabas themselves.

Verse 3. Being brought on their way by the Church] That is; the

members of the Church provided them with all necessaries for their

journey; for it does not appear that they had any property of

their own.

Declaring the conversion of the Gentiles] Much stress is laid on

this: it was a miracle of God's mercy that the Gentiles should be

received into the Church of God; and they had now the fullest

proof that the thing was likely to become general, by the

conversion of Cornelius, the conversion of the people of Antioch,

of Cyprus, Pisidia, Pamphylia, Lycaonia, &c., &c.

Verse 4. They were received of the Church] The whole body of

Christian believers.

The apostles] Either the whole or part of the twelve; though we

read of none but John, Peter, and James. See Ga 2:9.

And elders] Those who were officers in the Church, under the

apostles.

They declared] To this council they gave a succinct account of

the great work which God had wrought by them among the Gentiles.

This was St. Paul's third journey to Jerusalem after his

conversion. See an account of his first journey, Ac 9:26, and of

his second in Ac 11:30.

Verse 5. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees]

This verse appears to be part of the declaration made by Paul and

Barnabas to this council: for, having stated how God blessed their

ministry among the Gentiles, they proceed to declare how all the

good work was likely to be destroyed by certain Pharisees, who,

having received the Christian faith, came down to Antioch, and

began to teach the necessity of circumcision, &c., and thus filled

the minds of the young converted Gentiles with doubtful

disputations. See the margin.

Verse 6. The apostles and elders came together] This was the

first council ever held in the Christian Church; and we find that

it was composed of the apostles and elders simply.

Verse 7. When there had been much disputing] By those of the

sect of the believing Pharisees; for they strongly contended for

circumcision, and at the head of these, tradition tells us, was

Cerinthus, a name famous in the primitive Church, as one who

laboured to unite the law and the Gospel, and to make the

salvation promised by the latter dependent on the performance of

the rites and ceremonies prescribed by the former. Though the

apostles and elders were under the inspiration of the Almighty,

and could by this inspiration have immediately determined the

question, yet it was highly necessary that the objecting party

should be permitted to come forward and allege their reasons for

the doctrines they preached, and that these reasons should be

fairly met by argument, and the thing proved to be useless in

itself, inexpedient in the present case, and unsupported by any

express authority from God, and serving no purpose to the

Gentiles, who in their uncircumcised state, by believing in Christ

Jesus, had been made partakers of the Holy Ghost.

Peter rose up, and said] This was after the matters in dispute

had been fully debated; and now the apostles, like judges, after

hearing counsel on both sides, proceed to give judgment on the

case.

A good while ago] αφημερωναρχαιων, From the days of old: a

phrase which simply signifies some years ago; and, if he here

refers to the conversion of Cornelius, (see Ac 10:1-48,) he must

mean about ten years before this time; but it is more likely that

he refers to that time when Christ gave him the keys of the

kingdom of heaven, that be might open the door of faith to the

Gentiles.

God made choice among us] That is, he chose me to be the first

apostle of the Gentiles.

Verse 8. And God which knoweth the hearts] οκαρδιογνωστηςθεος.

We had this epithet of the Divine Being once before; see Ac 1:24,

and the note there: it occurs no where else in the New Testament.

Bare them witness] Considered them as proper or fit to receive

the Gospel of Christ. It is properly remarked by learned men, that

μαρτυρειντινι, to bear witness to any person, signifies to

approve, to testify in behalf of. Here it signifies that, as God

evidently sent the Gospel to the Gentiles, and, by the preaching

of it, conveyed the Holy Spirit to them who believed, and as he

can make no improper judgment of any who knows all hearts and

their secrets, therefore what he had done was right: he saw that

it was time for them to receive the Gospel; and he saw that they

might be safely trusted with this heavenly deposit; and the

experience of eighteen hundred years has justified the conduct of

God.

Verse 9. Put no difference between us and them] Giving them the

Holy Spirit, though uncircumcised, just as he had given it to us

who were circumcised: an evident proof that, in the judgment of

God, circumcision was no preparation to receive the Gospel of

Christ. And as the purification of the heart by the Holy Spirit

was the grand object of the religion of God, and that alone by

which the soul could be prepared for a blessed immortality, and

the Gentiles had received that without circumcision, consequently,

the shadow could not be considered of any worth, now the substance

was communicated.

Verse 10. Now therefore why tempt ye God] A God, by giving the

Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, evidently shows he does not design

them to be circumcised, in order to become debtors to the law, to

fulfill all its precepts, &c., why will ye provoke him to

displeasure by doing what he evidently designs shall not be done?

A yoke-which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?] This

does not refer to the moral law-that was of eternal obligation-but

to the ritual law, which, through the multitude of its sacrifices,

ordinances, &c., was exceedingly burthensome to the Jewish people.

And had not God, by an especial providence, rendered both their

fields and their flocks very fruitful, they could not possibly

have borne so painful a ritual.

There is a curious story in Midrash Shochar, told in Yalkut

Simeoni, part i. fol. 229, where Korah is represented as showing

the oppressive nature of the law, and avarice of its priests, in

justification of his rebellion. "There was," said he, "a widow in

our neighbourbood who had two orphan children: she had one field;

and, when she began to plough it, one came and said, Thou shalt

not plough with an ox and an ass together. when she went to sow

it, he said, Thou shalt not sow thy field with divers seeds. When

she began to reap, and to gather the sheaves together, he said,

Leave a handful and the corners of the field for the poor. When

she prepared to thresh it, be said, Give me the wave-offering, and

the first and second tithes. She did as she was commanded, and

then went and sold her field, and bought two ewes, that she might

clothe herself and family with the wool, and get profit by the

lambs. When they brought forth their lambs, Aaron came and said,

Give me the firstlings, for the holy blessed God hath said, All

the first born, whatsoever openeth the womb, shall be thine. She

yielded to his demands, and gave him two lambs. When shearing time

came, he said, Give me the first fruits of the wool. When the

widow had done this, she said, I cannot stand before this man; I

will kill my sheep and eat them. When she had killed the sheep,

Aaron came and said, Give me the shoulder, and the jaws, and the

ventricle. The widow said, Though I have killed my sheep, I am not

delivered from this man; I therefore consecrate the whole to God.

Then Aaron said, ALL belongs to me, for the holy blessed God hath

said, Every thing that is consecrated in Israel shall be his, i.e.

the priest's. He therefore took the whole carcasses, and marched

off, leaving the widow and her orphan daughters over whelmed with

affliction." This is a terrible picture of the requisitions of the

Mosaic ritual; and, though exaggerated, it contains so many true

features that it may well be said, This is a yoke which neither we

nor our fathers were able to bear. See Schoettgen. In the same

vexatious way may the tithes of the national Church in this

country be exacted, and in this very way is the exaction

frequently exercised. It is high time that these abuses should be

corrected.

Verse 11. Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be

saved] This seems to be an answer to an objection, "Has not God

designed to save us, the Jews, by an observance of the law; and

them, the Gentiles, by the faith of the Gospel?" No: for we Jews

can be saved no other way than through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Christ; and this is the way in which the Gentiles in question have

been saved. There is but one way of salvation for Jews and

Gentiles, the grace, mercy, or favour coming by and through the

Lord Jesus, the Christ; this is now fully opened to the Gentiles;

and we believe we shall be saved in the same way.

Verse 12. All the multitude kept silence] The strong facts

stated by St. Peter could not be controverted. His speech may be

thus analyzed: 1. Circumcision is a sign of the purification of

the heart. 2. That purification can only be effected by the Holy

Ghost. 3. This Holy Spirit was hitherto supposed to be the portion

of those only who had received circumcision. 4. But the Gentiles,

who were never circumcised, nor kept any part of the law of Moses,

have had their hearts purified by faith in Christ Jesus. 5. As

God, therefore, has given them the thing signified, he evidently

does not intend that the sign should be administered. 6. Should we

impose this burthensome rite, we should most evidently be

provoking God, who plainly shows us that he intends no more to

save in this way. 7. Therefore it is evident that both Jews and

Gentiles are to be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Christ.

Gave audience to Barnabas and Paul] These apostles came forward

next, to corroborate what Peter had said, by showing the miracles

and wonders which God had by them wrought among the Gentiles.

Peter stated facts: Paul and Barnabas confirmed the statement.

Verse 13. James answered] He was evidently president of the

council, and is generally called bishop of Jerusalem. The rest

either argued on the subject, or gave their opinion; James alone

pronounced the definitive sentence. Had Peter been prince and head

of the apostles, and of the Church, he would have appeared here in

the character of judge, not of mere counsellor or disputant. Thy

popish writers say that "James presided because the council was

held in his own church." These men forget that there was not then

what they term a Church on the face of the earth. The Church, or

assembly of believers, then met in private houses; for there was

no building for the exclusive purpose of Christian worship then,

nor till long after. These writers also forget that the pope

pretends to be the head of the catholic or universal Church; and,

consequently, no man can preside where he is present, but himself.

Peter did not preside here; and this was the first ecclesiastical

council, and now, if ever, he should have assumed his character of

prince and chief; but he did not; nor did any of the other

apostles invite him to it, which they would have done had they

thought that Jesus Christ constituted him head of the Church. From

this very circumstance there is the most demonstrative evidence

that Peter was no pope, and that the right of his pretended

successor is a nonentity.

Verse 14. Simeon hath declared] It is remarkable that James does

not give him even the title which he received from our Lord at the

time in which he is supposed to have been made head of the Church,

and vicar of Christ upon earth; so that, it is evident, James did

not understand our Lord as giving Peter any such pre-eminence;

and, therefore, he does not even call him Peter, but simply

Simeon. It is truly surprising that such a vast number of

important pretensions should rest on such slight foundations! If

tradition, no matter how interrupted or precarious, did not lend

its support, feeble as that necessarily must be, the cause tried

by plain Scripture would fall to the ground.

To take out of them a people for his name.] To form among the

Gentiles, as he had among the Jews, a people called by his name

and devoted to his honour.

Verse 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets] Peter had

asserted the fact of the conversion of the Gentiles; and James

shows that that fact was the fulfilment of declarations made by

the prophets.

Verse 16. After this I will return, and will build again, &c.]

These two verses, 16th and 17th, are quoted from Am 9:11, 12,

nearly as they now stand in the best editions of the Septuagint,

and evidently taken from that version, which differs considerably

from the Hebrew text. As St. James quoted them as a prophecy of

the calling of the Gentiles into the Church of God, it is evident

the Jews must have understood them in that sense, otherwise they

would have immediately disputed his application of them to the

subject in question, and have rejected his conclusion by denying

the premises. But that the words were thus understood by the

ancient Jews, we have their own testimony. In Sanhedr. fol. 69, we

have these remarkable words: "Rabbi Nachman said to Rabbi Isaac,

'Whence art thou taught when Bar Naphli will come?' He saith unto

him, 'Who is this Bar Naphli?' The other replied, 'He is the

Messiah.' 'Dost thou then call the Messiah Bar Naphli?' 'Yes,'

said he, 'for it is written, In that day I will build again the

tabernacle of David, HANOPHELETH, which is falling down.'"

This is evidently a quotation from Am 9:11, and a proof that the

Jews understood it to be a prophecy concerning the Messiah. See

Lightfoot.

Verse 17. That the residue of men might seek] Instead of this,

the Hebrew has, That they may possess the remnant of Edom. Now it

is evident that, in the copy from which the Seventy translated,

they found yidreshu, they might seek, instead of

yireshu, they may possess, where the whole difference between

the two words is the change of the yod for a daleth,

which might be easily done; and they found adam, man, or men,

instead of Edom, the Idumeans, which differs from the other

only by the insertion of vau between the two last letters. None

of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi confirm these

readings, in which the Septuagint, Arabic, and St. James agree. It

shows, however, that even in Jerusalem, and in the early part of

the apostolic age, the Septuagint version was quoted in preference

to the Hebrew text; or, what is tantamount, was quoted in cases

where we would have thought the Hebrew text should have been

preferred, because better understood. But God was evidently

preparing the way of the Gospel by bringing this venerable version

into general credit and use; which was to be the means of

conveying the truths of Christianity to the whole Gentile world.

How precious should this august and most important version be to

every Christian, and especially to every Christian minister! A

version, without which no man ever did or ever can critically

understand the New Testament. And I may add that, without the

assistance afforded by this version, there never could have been a

correct translation of the Hebrew text, since that language ceased

to be vernacular, into any language. Without it, even St. Jerome

could have done little in translating the Old Testament into

Latin; and how much all the modern versions owe to St. Jerome's

Vulgate, which owes so much to the Septuagint, most Biblical

scholars know.

Verse 18. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning]

As if he had said, This is not a new counsel of God: he had

purposed, from the time he called the Israelites, to make the

Gentiles partakers of the same grace and mercy; and ultimately

to destroy those rites and ceremonies which separated them from

each other. He therefore has sent the Gospel of his Son,

proclaiming equally peace to him that is afar off, the Gentiles,

and to him that is nigh, the Jews.

The whole of this verse is very dubious: the principal part of

it is omitted by the most ancient MSS., and Griesbach has left

γνωστααπαιωνος doubtful, and has thrown εστιτωθεωπαντατα

εργααυτου out of the text. Of the former clause, Professor White,

in his Crisews, says, "forsitan delenda," "probably these words

should be blotted out." And of the latter clause he says,

"certissime delenda," "most assuredly these should be blotted

out." Supposing the whole to be genuine, critics have laboured to

find out the sense. Some very learned men, and particularly

Schleusner, contend that the word γνωστα, from γινωσκειν, to

know, should be understood here in the same sense in which

yada is in many parts of the Old Testament, which not only

signifies to know, but to approve, love, &c. They therefore would

translate the passage thus: All the works of God are ever dear

unto him. And, if so, consequently we might naturally expect him

to be merciful to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; and the

evidence now afforded of the conversion of the Gentiles is an

additional proof that all God's works are equally dear to him.

Verse 19. Wherefore my sentence is] διοεγωκρινω, Wherefore I

judge. There is an authority here that does not appear in the

speech of St. Peter; and this authority was felt and bowed to by

all the council; and the decree proposed by St. James adopted.

Verse 20. But that we write unto them] Four things are

prohibited in this decree: 1. Pollutions of idols; 2. fornication;

3. things strangled; 4. blood. By the first, POLLUTIONS of IDOLS,

or, as it is in Ac 15:25,

meats offered to idols, not only all idolatry was forbidden, but

eating things offered in sacrifice to idols, knowing that they

were thus offered, and joining with idolaters in their sacred

feasts, which were always an incentive either to idolatry itself,

or to the impure acts generally attendant on such festivals.

By the second, FORNICATION, all uncleanness of every kind was

prohibited; for πορνεια not only means fornication, but adultery,

incestuous mixtures, and especially the prostitution which was so

common at the idol temples, viz. in Cyprus, at the worship of

Venus; and the shocking disorders exhibited in the Bacchanalia,

Lupercalia, and several others.

By the third, THINGS STRANGLED, we are to understand the flesh

of those animals which were strangled for the purpose of keeping

the blood in the body, as such animals were esteemed a greater

delicacy.

By the fourth, BLOOD, we are to understand, not only the thing

itself, for the reasons which I have assigned in the note on

Ge 9:4, and for others detailed at the end of this chapter; but

also all cruelty, manslaughter, murder, &c., as some of the

ancient fathers have understood it.

Instead of τουαιμαρτος, blood, some have conjectured that we

should read χοιρειας, swine's flesh; for they cannot see,

first, that there can be any harm in eating of blood; and,

secondly, that, as the other three things neither have nor can

have any moral evil in them, it would seem strange that they

should be coupled with a thing which, on all hands, is confessed

to have much moral turpitude. Answers to such trifling objections

will be found at the end of the chapter. It is only necessary to

add that this χοιρειας, which is the critical emendation of Dr.

Bentley, is not supported by one MS. or version in existence.

At the close of this verse, the Codex Bezae, and several others,

add a fifth thing, And not to do to others what they would not

have done to themselves. Though this is a very ancient reading, it

does not appear to be genuine.

Verse 21. Moses of old time hath in every city] The sense of

this verse seems to be this: As it was necessary to write to the

Gentiles what was strictly necessary to be observed by them,

relative to these points, it was not so to the converted Jews; for

they had Moses, that is, the law, preached to them, καταπολιν,

in the city, that is, Antioch; and, by the reading of the law in

the synagogues every Sabbath day, they were kept in remembrance of

those institutions which the Gentiles, who had not the law, could

not know. Therefore, James thought that a letter to the converted

Gentiles would be sufficient, as the converted Jews had already

ample instruction on these points.

Verse 22. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the

whole Church] James determined what ought to be done; and the

whole assembly resolved how that should be done.

Chosen men of their own company] Paul and Barnabas were to

return: they could have witnessed to the Church at Antioch what

was done at the council at Jerusalem; but as it was possible that

their testimony might be suspected, from the part they had already

taken in this question at Antioch, it was necessary that a

deputation from the council should accompany them. Accordingly

Judas and Silas are sent to corroborate by their oral testimony

what was contained in the letters sent from the council.

Verse 23. Send greeting unto the brethren-of the Gentiles] There

was no occasion to send such a letter to the brethren which were

of the Jews, because that law which had been so long read in their

synagogues taught them all those things; and therefore the epistle

is sent exclusively to the Gentiles. The word greeting is in the

original χαιρειν, to be well, to be safe; a very usual form in

Greek epistles, the word ευχομαι being understood, I wish thee to

be well.

Verse 24. Certain which went out from us] So the persons who

produced these doubtful disputations at Antioch, &c., had gone out

from the apostles at Jerusalem, and were of that Church: persons

zealous for the law, and yet, strange to tell, so conscientiously

attached to the Gospel that they risked their personal safety by

professing it.

To whom we gave no such commandment] As, therefore, they went

out from that Church, they should have taught nothing which was

not owned and taught by it; much less should they have taught in

opposition to it.

Verse 26. Men that have hazarded their lives] This was a high

character of Paul and Barnabas: they had already suffered much in

the cause of Christ, and exposed their lives to the most imminent

danger, and were intent on the same work, notwithstanding the

increasing dangers in the way.

Verse 27. Judas and Silas-shall-tell you the same things] These

were proofs that the testimony of Paul and Barnabas was true; and

that the letter was not forged, as they could witness the same

things which the letter contained.

Verse 28. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us] The

whole council had met under his direction; had consulted under his

influence; and gave forth their decree from his especial

inspiration.

Necessary things] They were necessary, howsoever burthensome

they might appear; and necessary, not only for the time, place, or

occasion; but for all times, all places, and all occasions. See

this proved in the observations at the end of this chapter.

Verse 29. Ye shall do well.] But, if they did not keep

themselves from these things, they would do ill; that is, they

would sin against God, whose Spirit had commanded them to keep

from these things. And who can do any of these forbidden things,

and keep either a guiltless or a tender conscience?

Fare-well.] An old English form of expressing good wishes and

good will. It is compounded of [Anglo-Saxon] to go, and [A.S.],

much, well, very much. Go well, go prosperously!-tantamount with

good speed! may you succeed well! may God direct you! Like to that

other form of sound words, God be with you! corrupted now into

good by to ye! And of the same meaning with adieu! a Dieu, to

God; that is, I commend you to God. All these terms savour not

only of good will, or benevolence, but also of piety. Our pious

ancestors believed that nothing was safe, nothing protected,

nothing prosperous, over which the shield of God was not extended;

and, therefore, in their familiar good wishes, they gave each

other to God. The Greek word ερρωσθε, errhosthe, here used, from

ρωννυμι, to strengthen, make strong, has nearly the same

signification: be strong, courageous, active, be in health, and be

prosperous! What a pity that such benevolent and pious wishes

should degenerate into cool formalities, or unmeaning compliments!

Verse 31. They rejoiced for the consolation.] It was not a

matter of small moment to have a question on which such stress was

laid decided by an apostolic council, over which the Spirit of God

presided.

Verse 32. Judas and Silas, being prophets] That is, being

teachers in the Church. This signification of the word prophet

we have often already seen. See the notes on Ac 11:27; 13:1.

Exhorted the brethren] To abide steadily attached to God, and to

each other, in peace, love, and unity.

And confirmed them.] In the blessed truths they had already

received.

Verse 33. They were let go] That is, both had liberty to depart;

but Silas chose to stay a little longer with the brethren.

Verse 34. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas, &c.] This whole

verse is wanting in ABEG, a great number besides, with the Syriac,

Arabic, Coptic, Slavonic, Vulgate, and some of the fathers. It

does not appear to have been originally in the text.

Verse 36. Let us go-and visit our brethren in every city] This

heavenly man projected a journey to Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia,

Lycaonia, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Iconiam, Lystra, Derbe, Antioch

in Pisidia, and elsewhere; for in all these places he had preached

and founded Churches in the preceding year. He saw it was

necessary to water the seed he had planted; for these were young

converts, surrounded with impiety, opposition, and superstition,

and had few advantages among themselves.

Verse 37. Barnabas determined to take with them John] John Mark

was his sister's son; and natural affection might have led him to

the partiality here mentioned.

Verse 38. But Paul thought not good to take him with them] On

this subject, See Clarke on Ac 13:13.

Verse 39. The contention was so sharp between them] For all this

sentence, there is only in the Greek text εγενετοουνπαροξυσμος;

there was therefore a paroxysm, an incitement, a stirring up,

from παροξυνω, compounded of παρα, intensive, and οξυνω, to

whet, or sharpen: there was a sharp contention. But does this

imply anger or ill-will on either side? Certainly not. Here, these

two apostles differed, and were strenuous, each in support of the

part he had adopted. "Paul," as an ancient Greek commentator has

it, "being influenced only with the love of righteousness;

Barnabas being actuated by love to his relative." John Mark had

been tried in trying circumstances, and he failed; Paul,

therefore, would not trust him again. The affection of Barnabas

led him to hope the best, and was therefore desirous to give him

another trial. Barnabas would not give up: Paul would not agree.

They therefore agreed to depart from each other, and take

different parts of the work: each had an attendant and companion

at hand; so Barnabas took John Mark, and sailed to Cyprus: Paul

took Silas, and went into Syria. John Mark proved faithful to his

uncle Barnabas; and Silas proved faithful to his master Paul. To

all human appearance it was best that they separated; as the

Churches were more speedily visited, and the work of God more

widely and more rapidly spread. And why is it that most men attach

blame to this difference between Paul and Barnabas? And why is it

that this is brought in as a proof of the sinful imperfection of

these holy apostles? Because those who thus treat the subject can

never differ with another without feeling wrong tempers; and then,

as destitute of good breeding as they are of humility, they

attribute to others the angry, proud, and wrathful dispositions

which they feel in themselves; and, because they cannot be angry

and sin not, they suppose that even apostles themselves cannot.

Thus, in fact, we are always bringing our own moral or immoral

qualifications to be a standard, by which we are to judge of the

characters and moral feelings of men who were actuated by zeal for

God's glory, brotherly kindness, and charity. Should any man say

there was sin in this contention between Paul and Barnabas, I

answer, there is no evidence of this in the text. Should he say,

the word παροξυσμος, paroxysm, denotes this, I answer, it does

not. And the verb παροξυνομαι is often used in a good sense. So

Isocrates ad Demosth. cap. xx. μαλισταδανπαροξυνθειης

ορεχθηναιτωνκαλωνεργων. "But thou wilt be the more stirred up

to the love of good works." And such persons forget that this is

the very form used by the apostle himself, Heb 10:24: και

κατανοωμεναλληλουςειςπαροξυσμοναγαπηςκαικαλωνεργων. which,

these objectors would be highly displeased with me, were I to

translate, Let us consider one another to an angry contention of

love and good works. From these examples, it appears that the word

is used to signify incitement of any kind; and, if taken in a

medical sense, to express the burning fit of an ague: it is also

taken to express a strong excitement to the love of God and man,

and to the fruits by which such love can be best proved; and, in

the case before us, there was certainly nothing contrary to this

pure principle in either of those heavenly men. See also Kypke on

Heb 10:24.

Verse 40. Being recommended-unto the grace of God.] Much stress

has been laid upon this, to show that Barnabas was in the wrong,

and Paul in the right, because "the brethren recommended Paul and

Silas to the grace of God; but they did not recommend Barnabas and

John Mark: this proves that the Church condemned the conduct of

Barnabas, but approved that of Paul." Now, there is no proof that

the Church did not recommend Barnabas to the grace of God, as well

as Paul; but, as St. Luke had for the present dropped the story of

Barnabas, and was now going on with that of Paul and Silas, he

begins it at this point, viz. his being recommended by the

brethren to the grace of God; and then goes on to tell of his

progress in Syria, Derbe, Lystra, &c., &c. See the next chapter.

And with this verse should the following chapter begin; and this

is the division followed by the most correct copies of the Greek

text.

Verse 41. Confirming the Churches.] This was the object of his

journey: they were young converts, and had need of establishment;

and there is no doubt that, by showing them the decision made at

the late council of Jerusalem, their faith was greatly

strengthened, their hope confirmed, and their love increased. It

was this consideration, no doubt, that led some ancient MSS. and

some versions to add here, They delivered them the decrees of the

apostles and elders to keep; which clause certainly was not an

original part of the text, but seems to have been borrowed from

the fourth verse of the following chapter. Some have thought that

the fourth and fifth verses of the next chapter really belong to

this place; or that the first, second, and third verses of it

should be read in a parenthesis; but of this there does not appear

to be any particular necessity.

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