SUMMARY.--Peter's Course at Cæsarea Called in Question. He Defends Himself by Relating His Vision. And the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles. The Church, Convinced, Glorify God. The Missionary Work of Those Scattered Abroad. The Conversion of Gentiles at Antioch. Barnabas Sent to Antioch by the Church. Saul Brought from Tarsus. Famine Predicted. Collections for the Relief of Jerusalem.
20, 21. Cyrene. A great Grecian city of North Africa, with a large Jewish population. These preachers were Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene who had been converted at Jerusalem. Spake unto the Grecians. Greeks in the Revision. The preachers were "Grecians," i. e., Hellenistic Jews (foreign Jews), but those to whom they spoke were Greeks, Gentiles, not of Jewish blood at all, I suppose "devout Greeks" who had turned from idols to seek the purer worship of Jehovah These preachers, without knowledge of the call of the Gentiles, led by the spirit of Christ, preached the gospel to these Gentile seekers for light, with the result that "a great multitude believed and turned to the Lord."
22-24. Sent forth Barnabas. Barnabas was himself a Grecian Jew ( Acts 4:36 ), also the friend of Saul, another Grecian Jew ( Acts 9:27 ). He was chosen as a suitable man to go to Antioch and see whether there had been a real work of the Lord. When he had seen that it was the grace of the Lord, he rejoiced and gave it Godspeed, and the work grew more and more in this great metropolis. Note that this is the first church named outside the bounds of Palestine. It was to become the great missionary center for the conversion of the Gentile world.
25, 26. Departed to seek Saul. Seeing the great opening, he knew that Saul was the best man to aid him. His trip to Tarsus is supposed to have been in A. D. 43; Saul to have departed from Jerusalem in A. D. 39; hence to have spent about four years in missionary work in "Syria and Cilicia." See notes on 9:30.] A whole year. A. D. 44; they continued the work with great success. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The Jews called them "Nazarenes," or "Galileans." They called themselves "disciples," "brethren," "saints." The new term was probably bestowed by the Gentiles in the great city, in default of any other name that seemed appropriate. Here was the first great Gentile church. Outsiders could see that they were not Jews nor pagans, hence they called them after their Lord, just as the first disciples of Plato were called Platonists, and those of Epicurus, Epicureans. The designation Christians occurs only twice elsewhere in the New Testament ( Acts 26:28 Acts 26:1 1 Pet. 4:16 ), and in both places its use is ascribed to those out of the church; yet it was accepted as honoring the Lord.
27, 28. In these days. While Saul was at Antioch. Came prophets. See note on 2:17. One of them named Agabus. Also named in 21:10 . He had the prophetic gift. Should be a great dearth. A famine. Throughout all the world. This expression in the Scriptures often means the Jewish world. In the days of Claudius Cesar. Josephus (Antiquities, 20: 2, 6) describes a great famine that prevailed in Palestine in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, beginning about the close of A. D. 44, and lasting three or four years. Food had to be imported by the benevolent persons from Egypt and Cyprus, yet many perished.
29, 30. Then the disciples. Those at Antioch. They were informed that the famine would be very severe in Judea. Hence they contributed, each as he could, for the relief of their Jewish brethren, and sent it by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. The love of Christ was in their hearts. We see here the dawn of that new spirit that was to revolutionize the Gentile world. The Gentiles of Antioch extend their hands to relieve the distress of the Jews of Palestine.