July 21, 2014

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #III: The Church Scattered into Palestine and Syria (8:4-12:25)        

                                        

                                                                            

Lesson: III.G: A Summary Report of the Church (12:24, 25)                  

              

 

Scripture (Acts 12:24-25; KJV)

 

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

 

 

Commentary

 

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

 

“But the word of God grew and multiplied,” that is, the number of those who were converted by it, and embraced and professed it, increased; otherwise the word is the same, whether the professors of it are more or less. The church grew even though Herod, while he was living persecuted it; and after his death, it gained even more ground, met with less opposition, and was more freely professed.Not only was the corrupt king humiliatingly swept from the stage, while Peter, his intended victim was spared to become one of the leaders of the Church, but the cause which Herod and his Jewish instigators sought to crush was only furthered and glorified. The blood of the martyr James was the seed of the Church, and the speedy vengeance taken by God upon the persecutor no doubt gave fresh courage to His people to confess the Name of Jesus Christ. How full of encouragement and consolation is all this to the Christian Church in every age! The death of the chief persecutor left plenty of space for the activity of the preachers of the gospel, and they were not slow to avail themselves of the opportunities this presented. The liberation of Peter and the death of Herod would contribute to its growth. It was new evidence of divine intervention in behalf of the church; it would augment the zeal of Christians; it would humble their enemies, and would fill those with fear who had attempted to oppose and crush the church of God.

 

The word of God is compared here to seed, as it was in our Savior’s parable—“When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and immediately with joy receives it; Yet has he not root in himself, but endures for a while: for when tribulation or persecution rises because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that hears the word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundred times, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:19-23). The number of believers multiplied through the word, which was sown like seed that is scattered over the prepared field. It is so true that persecutors, by their pulling down the church, only succeed in building it up. Compare:

  • Acts 6:7: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” That is, the gospel was more and more successful, or became more mighty and extensive in its influence. “And a great company of the priests” is recorded as a remarkable example of the power of the gospel.
  • Acts 19:20: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Many were converted; which is what is meant by “mightily grew,” and were delivered from the power of darkness, out of the hands of Satan, and translated into the kingdom of Christ.

 

 

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

 

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem

 Barnabas and Saul had gone to Jerusalem to give the Christians there the collection taken up among the churches at Antioch, and now they have returned to Antioch. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1).

 

When they had fulfilled their ministry

“Their ministry” was the carrying the relief, or the money collected by the Christians at Antioch, for the brethren in Judea, on account of the famine that was there. When they had fulfilled their ministry”—when they had accomplished the purpose for which they had been sent there; that is, to deposit the alms of the church at Antioch in the hands of the elders of the churches. “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers which dwelled in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:30). While Barnabas and Saul were on the road to Jerusalem a lot happened; the execution of James, the imprisonment and deliverance of Peter (Acts 12:2-18), and then the death of Herod at Caesarea  (Acts 12:20-23). According to Acts, the two missionaries visited the other churches of Judaea first and went to Jerusalem last; so the episode recorded in Acts 12:1-23 is to be assigned to that time which Barnabas and Saul spent on their journey through Judaea, with the different churches, before they came to Jerusalem; from there they returned to Antioch, as soon as they delivered the collection. Perhaps what Barnabas had heard on his journey among the country-churches of Judaea relating to the persecution of the Christians by Agrippa, and to what happened to James and Peter, induced him to avoid the capital, until he had heard of the departure and perhaps also of the death of the king.

 

and took with them John, whose surname was Mark

When Barnabas and Paul left Jerusalem, they “took with them John, whose surname was Mark,” the son of Mary, at whose house the disciples met together and prayed; and the first place where Peter went, after he was miraculously delivered from prison—“And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). They brought Mark with them from Jerusalem to Antioch, for he was a kinsman of Barnabas; and a man of promising gifts and usefulness, and judged to be a fit companion with them in their travels, for the spread of the Gospel.

 

From this period the historian records chiefly the labors of Paul. The labors of the other apostles are, after this, seldom referred to in this book, and the attention is fixed almost entirely on the trials and travels of the great apostle of the Gentiles. His important services, his untiring efforts, his eminent success, and the fact that Luke was his companion, may be the reasons why his labors are made so prominent in the history. Through the previous chapters we have seen the church rise from small beginnings, until it was even now spreading into surrounding regions. We have seen it survive two persecutions, which began and was conducted with all the power and malice of the Jewish rulers. We have seen the most zealous of the persecutors converted to the faith which he once destroyed, and the royal persecutor put to death by the divine judgment. And we have thus seen that God was the protector of the church; that no weapon formed against it could prosper; that, according to the promise of the Redeemer, the gates of hell could not prevail against it. We may be confident that God and the Saviour who then defended the church then, may still be confided in, and we may be assured that he who was its friend has it still "engraved on the palms of his hands," and plans for it to extend until it fills the earth with light and salvation.

 

This incidental notice of John Mark may well emphasize the fact that he was taken with Paul and Barnabas as a supernumerary (one who is unnecessary), and to mark his secondary character as compared with them. In view of subsequent events, it would be important to make this clear by introducing him in a way which showed that he was not essential to the expedition—“And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37).

 

 

 

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