1 "Now there were in the church that was at
Barnabas, and Simeon that was called
and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul."
At Antioch., in the Church that was
there for in the Church that was at
Authorized Version; prophets, etc., for certain prophets, etc., Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus; Barnabas, etc., for as Barnabas, etc., Authorized Version; Symeon for
Simeon, Authorized Version; the foster-brother of for which had been brought up with,
Authorized Version At
Kata taen ousan ekklaesian – according to the being out-called - rather means
"the existing Church," just as at αἱ οϋσαι ἐξουσίαι - hai ousai exousiai - the ones
being authorities - means "the existing powers," "the powers that be," in
Romans 13:1, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. The then Church seems
more the meaning than the Church there. Luke writes from the standpoint of
many years later. Prophets were a regular part of the ministry of the then Church
22, 24, 31-32: Ephesians 4:11. See also note on Acts 4:26). Teachers
(διδάσκαλοι – didaskaloi) are coupled with prophets, as here, in I Corinthians
12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11. The teachers would appear to differ from the prophets in
that they were not under the ecstatic influence of the Holy Spirit, and did not utter
exhortations or prophecies in a poetic strain, but were expounders of Christian truth,
under the teaching of the Spirit. What they spoke was called a διδαχή - didachi –
teaching; doctrine (I Corinthians 14:26), and their function was διδασκαλία –
didaskalia - teaching, as Romans 12:7, where διδασκαλία is reckoned among the
χαρίσματα - charismata - gifts, the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It was forbidden to
women to teach (διδάσκειν - didaskein – to be teaching - I Timothy 2:12), though t
hey might prophesy (Acts 21:9). It is thought by Meyer, Alford, and others that the
position of the particles τε - te – besides - attaching the two following names to
Barnabas in the first place, and one name following to Manaen in the second,
indicates that Barnabas, Symeon, and Lucius were prophets, and Manaen and
Saul teachers. Lucius has by some been falsely identified with St. Luke. The foster-
brother; σύντροφος - suntrophos - may equally mean a foster-brother, one nursed
at the same time at the same breast, which would indicate that Manaen's mother
was wet-nurse to Herod the tetrarch; or a playmate, which would indicate that he
had been sodalis to Herod. It is only found here in the New Testament, but is used
by Xenophon, Plutarch, etc., and in I Maccabees 1:7; II Maccabees 9:29. In this
chapter and onwards the scene of the great drama of Christianity is transferred
Peter and John and James, is now taken up by Barnabas and Saul, soon, however,
to be classed as Paul and Barnabas.
2 "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me
Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And as for as,
Authorized Version. They ministered; i.e. not, as Meyer explains it, the whole Church,
but the prophets and teachers, doubtless at an assembly of the Church. The word
λειτουργούντων - leitourgounton - , here rendered "they ministered" (from which
the word "Liturgy" is derived), signifies any solemn ministration or holy service.
In the Old Testament the Septuagint use it as the rendering of שֵׁרֵת, to minister
(often with the addition "to God," or "to the Lord "), which is a general word
applying to the ministrations of priests and Levites (Exodus 28:35; Numbers 8:26).
is called Moses' minister (מְשָׁרֵת) in Joshua 1:1, etc., and the angels are called
λριτουργικὰ πνεύματα - lritourgika pneumata - "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14).
Just as the Church transferred from the Jewish congregation so many other words
and things, so also the use of the words, λειτουργία, λειτουργεῖν - leitourgia,
leitourgein - , to signify "Divine service," without specifying the particular office,
whether prayer, or preaching, or Holy Communion, or ordination, or any ether part
of the worship of God. Its classical use was to designate any office performed by an
individual for the public good. Hence in the New Testament its application to Church
to the office of magistrates (Romans 13:6), etc. The restricted application of the term
λειτουργία to the service used in the celebration of the Eucharist was of much later
growth, as is evident from Chrysostom explaining the word here of preaching.
"What means ministering? Preaching" (Homiletics 27.). It seems to have arisen
from the fact that the first forms of prayer were those come posed for the office of
the Holy Communion. This passage, therefore, does not give the slightest support to
fasting Communion. What was the exact occasion of the service and fast here spoken
of it is impossible to say. The Holy Ghost said, etc. This is the origin of the question
in the Ordination of Deacons, "Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the
Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?" Separate me (ἀφορίσατε - aphorisate –
sever ye). The act of separation, or ordination, would be by the laying on of the
hands of Symeon and Lucius and Manaen, as Chrysostom says (at least of the two
last named), in the presence of the whole Church, but the separation by the Holy Ghost,
at least as regards Saul (ὁ ἀφορίσας με - ho aphorisas me – the One severing me), had
been from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15). Observe, too, the καλέσας - kalesas -
calling - of Galatians 1:15, and the προσκέκλημαι - proskeklaemai – I have called to –
here. This is another instance of the very close resemblance between parts of the
Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians, which looks as if Paul was writing it about
the same time as he was giving to Luke the details of his own history (see ch. 8:19,
note). The ordination was to the apostolate (Chrysostom). Barnabas and Saul are
never called apostles till after their ordination or consecration (ch. 14:14).
3 "And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they
sent them away." Then for and, Authorized Version. It does not follow that the
laying on of hands was on the same day. On the contrary, the mention of the
fasting again in this verse makes it impossible so to understand it. Doubtless, on
receiving this intimation of the Spirit, they fixed a day for the ordination, and
prepared for it by fasting and prayer. The ember days of the Church before
ordinations are in accordance with this precedent of Holy Scripture. With this
departure of Barnabas and Saul commences the second and main part of the
Acts of the apostles.
An Illustrious Church (vs. 1-3)
Antecedently it might have been expected that the
would prove to be the most influential and illustrious of all Christian
communities, and that from all lands and ages men would look back to it as
the most potent factor in the early history of “our holy religion.” But in this
respect it must give place to “the Church that was at
community was remarkable for four things.
entered on the rolls of many Churches; but very few indeed, if any, could
compare with the list which included the names of Barnabas and Saul, as
well as that of a man (Manaen) who was the foster-brother of Herod
Antipas. A Church is influential, not only according to the number of souls
it can count in its communion, but according to the character of the men
who are included in its ranks. A Church which can win and can train and
send forth a most useful minister, or a most successful missionary, or a
most powerful writer, may do a work which, in the balances of Heaven,
weighs more than that of another which has five times its number on the
lists. Nowhere more than here does quality, character, spiritual worth, tell
in the estimate of truth and wisdom.
and teachers” (v. 1). This statement implies that there were those
amongst the brethren who received occasionally such Divine impulse that
they spoke under the consciousness of His inspiration. And to them, or to
one of them, the Spirit of God made known the Divine will that they
should set apart two of their number for special work (v. 2). Evidently
this Church was one in which, as in a temple, the Holy Ghost dwelt. The
fact of the indwelling of the Spirit is not, indeed, anything which is itself
remarkable; for no Church of which this cannot be said is worthy of its
name. But of “the Church that was at
eminently true, if we may take this short passage of its history as of a piece
with the rest.
“taught much people” (ch.11:26); the work of evangelization went
on actively at,
to the Lord, and fasted” — that the Church was diligent in its devotions;
not only worshipping when it was convenient and agreeable to the flesh,
but to the extent of self-denial: twice in two verses we read of the members
fasting (vs. 2-3). Fasting, for the sake of fasting or with a view of
pleasing Christ, is not enjoined, and both the words of our Lord and the
genius of His religion discourage rather than encourage it. But we shall
undoubtedly do well to pursue our work and to maintain our worship —
“ministering unto the Lord” — up to and within the line of self-control and
even self-denial; not only not giving the reins to our bodily cravings, but
checking these and restricting ourselves beyond that which is positively
demanded, if by so doing we can worship God more spiritually or work
more effectively for our fellows.
send two of its members on the errand of converting the Gentiles, “and…
they sent them away.” It was not its part to “reason why,” but to obey.
Had it reckoned the likelihood of the case, dwelt on the difficulties in the
way of success, measured the might and number of its adversaries, weighed
the strength of two Jews against the learning, the prejudice, the military
forces, the material interests, the social customs, the evil habits, the
inwrought unrighteousness of a bitterly and even passionately hostile
world, it would have hesitated, it would have refrained. But it did not
measure these things. It heard the sovereign sound of its Divine Leader’s
voice, and it proceeded unquestioningly to obey. It “sent them away.” And
they went forth — those two men — unpracticed in the wiles of the world;
poor; unarmed; unequipped with any forces which, on mere human lines,
could avail anything; determined to preach a doctrine which would be
received with the haughtiest contempt, which would clash with men’s
strongest interests and smite their most cherished sins; — they went forth,
with the confidence of the Church behind them (v. 3), with the hand of
the Lord upon them, with the hope of His welcome and His reward before
them. It was a splendid action of an illustrious Church, and the nearer we
can approach it in our own times and in our own communities, the dearer
shall we be to our Master and the greater service shall we render to our
Ordination of Barnabas and Saul (vs. 1-3)
· THE TRUE WEALTH OF A CHURCH. There were prophets and
its wealth in men. A religious community may possess splendid buildings,
wealthy members; may command amply all the external appliances of
worship and work; but unless it has men, it has not strength. Intelligence
and enthusiasm, piety and genius, constitute the true forces of the Church.
Without these, it is feeble with all its worldly resources; with these, it is
mighty in poverty.
· THE CONSECRATION OF THE FIRST MISSIONARIES.
Ø It was preceded by prayer and fasting. The moderation of the body
gives freedom and clearness to the judgment. There is nothing artificial
in the true proceedings of spiritual man. The bodily and the spiritual life
cannot be both affirmed at the same time. In denying the body we affirm
the Spirit. In casting off the weights of sense we rise into the purer air.
Ø It was accompanied by laying on of hands. “Order is Heaven’s first
law,” and in the Church “let all things be done decently and in order.”
(I Corinthians 14:40) The act marks peculiar selection out of the mass
of men, and for special and
peculiar ends of work. From
strength and spiritual prosperity went forth the first missionaries. This
is an example. When we are full of thought we long to speak or
otherwise give it to the world. When the fire burns within the soul the
tongue cannot be mute. In like manner, a vigorous Church will be a
missionary Church; the falling off of missionary interest is a symptom
that we have less hold upon the truth or have lost the fullness of love
from the heart.
Human Separation to Divine Missions (vs. 2-3)
The point to which attention may be directed is that the living Lord,
presiding in His Church, selects the persons to do His work, but requires the
Church to make outward and formal recognition of His selection. Christ
calls to work. The Church separates to work. This subject may be
introduced by illustrations of the ways in which God was pleased to
communicate His will under the older dispensations, as e.g.:
Ø by the vision and message of angels,
Ø by the mission of prophets,
Ø by inward impulses.
We may recognize a steady advance towards the more spiritual ways in which
God communicates His will to the New Testament Church; sometimes
directly inspiring the individual member; at other times revealing His will to
some that, through them, it might be communicated to all. The indwelling
Spirit is now the medium of Divine revelation to men. So indwelling, He
becomes the constant inspiration of thought, feeling, judgment, and action.
The Holy Ghost, conceived as the abiding Divine presence in the Church,
said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have
called them.” It has been suggested that the will of the Holy Ghost was
known “through the lips of the prophets, speaking as by a sudden burst of
· THE DIVINE ALLOTMENT OF WORK AND WORKERS.
Ø God has a work for each one of His creatures to do. This truth is
illustrated in the infinite variety of things which God has made on the earth.
Each minutest creature has his place, his work, and his fitness for doing it.
As we ascend in the scale of being, the work becomes more complex; and
it is difficult for us to realize that the same thing can be true of man, who is
endowed with self-will and is free to choose his own way. Yet we do hold
that, in the Divine omniscience and government, a work is appointed for
every man, and that, for the doing of that precise work, each man is
brought into being at a particular time and endowed with particular
abilities. (Remember that David served “his generation” – v. 36 – CY –
2017) A perfect order on earth could be attained if each individual fitted
precisely into the place and work to which he has been divinely assigned.
Ø But God not only has a variety of forms of work, He has a perfect
knowledge of the men who can best do it. Sometimes the Divine
sovereignty is spoken of in a way that cannot honor God. It is assumed that
He acts upon a bare exercise of will, and without the necessity for
consideration. But the case of our text rather shows that the Divine
selections are always made upon due estimate of the fitness of the
individuals. Barnabas and Saul were evidently just the men to undertake
this new mission to the Gentiles. It follows from this view of the Divine
calls to work that it can never be a true humility that refuses a Divine call;
Moses and Jeremiah were both in the wrong when they hesitated and
shrank back from a duty which God laid upon them. We may be quite sure
that we can do whatsoever God requires us to do. (“Faithful is He that
calleth you who also will do it.” - I Thessalonians 5:24)
Ø And it may further be shown that God has the full right to call forth any
one of His servants to serve Him in any way that He may please. Moses must
come from the deserts, Gideon from the winepress, David from the
sheepfolds, Elisha from his ploughing, and John from his fishing, if the
“Lord hath need of him.” (Luke 19:31)
· THE HUMAN RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE ALLOTMENT. It
may be said — Is not the Divine allotment of workers and their work
sufficient? and why should more than this be necessary? In reply, it may be
pointed out that God deals with us as communities, and recognizes our
mutual relations, and our influence one upon another. For the sake of the
blessing which one man’s call may be to many, He requires that it shall be
publicly and openly recognized. In this way His claims, His presence, and
His abiding relations to all work and workers may be freshly impressed
upon the Church. Ordination and dedication services are fruitful in blessing
to the Churches. It may be well to point out:
Ø The value of forms, services, and devout ceremonials.
Ø The most profitable and helpful forms such services may take, noting
and explaining that, in the ordination of Barnabas and Saul, there was
union in fasting and in prayer, with the solemn “laying on of hands.”
Ø The purposes that may be served by such public dedications:
o increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the persons
o assured interest of the congregation in their work;
o impulse to others to devote themselves to Christian work.
4 "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost,
from thence they
Version - (κατῆλθον
– came down).
It was a free city by a grant from Pompey. It is now in ruins, but "the masonry of the
cleared out "for about £31,000" (Colonel Chesney, quoted in Lewin, 1. p. 119).
They sailed to
to his native
day, visible from it. The number of Jews in the island, and the partial evangelization
of it which had already taken place (ch. 11:19-20), and which promised them
assistance and support, no doubt further influenced them. John Mark went with them,
as we learn from the fifth and thirteenth verses, and possibly other brethren as deacons
and ministers (see next note). They sailed straight to
capacious harbor," in the center of the eastern end of the island, and the principal or
one of the principal towns. It had a large population of Jews. It was destroyed in the
reign of Trajan, in consequence of a terrible insurrection of the Jews, in which they
massacred 240,000 of the Gentile population. No Jew was ever after allowed to land
5 "And when they were at
synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister."
Proclaimed for preached, Authorized Version ; as their attendant for to their
minister, Authorized Version (ὑπηρέτην - hupaeretaen - ). It is a word taken
from the synagogue, where it denotes an inferior minister (see Luke 4:20). In
ch. 5:22 the ὑπηρέται - hupaeretai – subservients, deputies - are the apparitors
of the high priest. Here it is synonymous with διάκονος - diakonos - a deacon.
John was to Barnabas and Saul what Joshua was to Moses, Elisha to Elijah, etc.
Peter, when he went to
An Ordination Service (vs. 1-5)
This chapter is very interesting, as finding for us the real starting-point of
Saul’s grand missionary labors; as recording the change of his name to Paul
(v. 9); as altering the order hitherto observed in mentioning it, from
“Barnabas and Saul” to “Paul and Barnabas” (vs. 2, 8; compare with
vs. 13, 43); and lastly, as forming the commencement of a long sketch of
history almost exclusively occupied with his acts and career alone. For
reasons which doubtless came of the Holy Spirit, of His purpose, His
motions, and His sanctifying guidance, Paul now takes the foreground and
henceforth is kept in it. His early character and career had been marked, his
“call” had been marked (ch. 9), his waiting and trial since had been marked,
and now marked for ever on the page of Scripture and upon the genius of
Christ’s Church was the stamp of his work and devotion. The preamble
alike of the chapter and of this long sketch of history is filled in with the
very brief recital of the ordination of Barnabas and Saul to missionary
labor. Let us observe what is distinctly recorded as the condition of things
at this juncture, and what thereupon the course of things.
· THE CHURCH APPEARS AS THE UNIT ECCLESIASTICAL. This
is worth observing, if only for the honor thereby done the Church. But yet
more for the suggestions that arise from it, as indicating that it is the point
of departure condescendingly recognized by Heaven itself, by Christ and
the Spirit — of duty, of work, of character, of privilege to men. Wherever
the Church, it is the living center, where dwells the Spirit, around which
warmest and most intelligent affection, devotion, and enthusiasm should
gather, even beyond those owned to by David and the most pious of the
center of officialism, it purports to be and is ordained to be a living
fountain head. This is the “rest of the Lord” (Psalm 132:8, 14). This is
where His people find rest. This the spot from which the heralds of
everlasting truth set out, and of which they say again and again, “All my
springs are in thee” (Psalm 87:7).
· EMPHATIC MENTION IS MADE OF FIVE MEN IN THE
CHURCH. They are prophets and teachers.
Ø Though every Christian man should be a spring of good to others and a
true minister in the Church, the New Testament, far from dishonoring the
idea of orders among those who compose it, here evidently enough
Ø The personnel of these five excites interest.
o Barnabas, who stands first, we know, and
o Saul, who stands last.
o Lucius is an African, and is mentioned again (Romans 16:21).
o The epithet attached to Symeon marks something interesting,
though we cannot say certainly what, and
o a volume of interest underlies what is added to the name of
Manaen! It is a signal case, indeed, of “one being taken and
the other left.”
Ø The holy engagements of these five men is emphasized. They are
warming the fire; they are keeping warm the Church; they are prevailing
in prayer with God; they are subduing the body and keeping it under
subjection. How often might five men bless a Church, and call
down richest blessing on it!
· EMPHATIC HONOR IS SET ON THESE FIVE MEN.
Ø The Spirit “speaketh expressly” to them, in the midst of their prayer and
fastings and devotion (ch. 10:3-4, 10, 19, 30). It is possible that this
occasion may have found the Church gathered together also, but it cannot
be affirmed that it was so. Any way, there were more than “two or three
gathered together in the Name” of Christ (Matthew 18:20).
Ø The Spirit speaks another “call” to them. The forces of the Church are
growing. Two of the five are “called” to go far away to the Gentiles. The
other three are “called” to “separate” the two designated for “the work.”
“Doubting nothing” and “without gainsaying,” they do this. Still does the
Spirit keep the choosing and the designating, and should be honored and
glorified for doing so. And still does the Spirit delegate the outer and
visible carrying out of His will to the ministers of the Church. Note:
o What a happy “separating” this compared with the many of which
the Church, and, alas! the world, has heard, through all the
o The method of “separating” Barnabas and Saul. It is:
§ after fasting;
§ by prayer; and
§ with the accompanying sign of laying on of hands.
o The probable object and advantages of this service. If there seem any
ceremony about it, it is not vain ceremony. It is full of meaning, and
may be full of use and advantage.
§ An object, high, holy, not self-serving, is very distinctly
placed before those thus ordained.
§ They are reminded that the eyes of witnesses are upon them.
§ They are reminded that He who calls them to be “separated”
will hear their call to Him:
ü when perils abound,
ü when flesh is weary,
ü when the heart is sore and weary,
ü when enemies press in, and
ü when all things seem against them.
§ They are taught that in this “one thing” they now do, their
Master and their Judge, the one Being to whom they are
responsible, is above, the great invisible but EVER
SYMPATHIZING ONE! How blessed and how useful
have the memories of self-consecration often been in the
subsequent periods of life! The heart has dwelt with them
and been refreshed and enriched by them. And what added
impression, stimulus, and sustained energy have often come
to us in the memory of those, if only of earth, who once
heard our vows and witnessed our consecration! But
these have most possessed the heart and ruled it and
governed it entirely, when to the rest has been added the
unswerving conviction that the Spirit called, and that it
was His call and nothing less than His, that WE ONCE
HEARD and NEVER COULD FORGET!
The Presidency of the Holy Ghost (vs. 2,4)
“The Holy Ghost said;” “Being sent forth by the Holy Ghost.” Seriously
erroneous views of the presidency of the Holy Ghost in the Christian
Church or Churches make it necessary that the true and scriptural teaching
on the subject should be explained. It is assumed, by some sections, that
this presidency secures the absolute truth of whatever may be said at such a
meeting, and the infallibility of every decision to which such a meeting may
be led. But the Holy Spirit is not present to secure results, only to guide
deliberations. God is present with man in no such sense as involves the
mastery of man’s free thought and will, and changing him into a mere
created thing. The distinction is an essential one, though it may be difficult
to grasp. We may illustrate from the relations between the branch and the
vine. The life in the branch is the life of the vine; but the branch is free to
take its own shape under various external influences. At the same time,
it is still true that the vine-life controls and overrules the very shape of
the branch, in its own secret ways. Presidency, inspiration, guidance, and
control we may have in the abiding and indwelling Holy Ghost; but
infallibility for the individual, the community, or the Church, it is no part of
His work to ensure. Considering what may be learned concerning the
presidency of the Holy Spirit from the Scriptures, we notice:
communications were made, in the earlier days of the world, to individuals
upon due occasion, and oracular responses were made by the high priest,
through Urim and Thummim. But in the times of the prophets we meet
with a most important advance in the Divine relations. More or less
constantly God dwells with and abides in those prophets, and their relation
to the Divine was the foreshadowing and preparation for the abiding
relations of the Holy Ghost with the believer and the Church. The “Word
of the Lord” came to the prophets, but, besides this, there was an openness
and sensitiveness to Divine leadings which could be thus expressed: “The
Spirit of the Lord God is upon me.” Other points will come out upon a
study of the nature of prophetic inspiration, and especially this one, as
bearing on the point now before us, that the Holy Ghost used the
individuality of the prophet, and became only the life and force behind it,
and so prepared for the Christian times when, in this way, all the Lord’s
people are prophets. The progression of Divine truth is well illustrated in
the history of the relations of the Spirit of God with men.
essence of the idea of the theocracy was the invisible presence and rule of
God with men. God was with them — always with them. Yet they never
saw Him. Somehow He was in them. He knew all their concerns. He was
appropriately affected by all their doings. He could be:
Ø “resisted,” and even
Ø “driven away.”
Present with them, He inspired and guided all the national life; He toned and
sanctified all the family and social life. The sublimest sentiment of Mosaism
was that of the indwelling presence of Jehovah. Then, when the fullness of
times came, the Jehovah-figure could pass aside, with its kingliness and
mystery, giving place to the Father (holy Father, righteous Father); and the
sense of God’s near presence and close though invisible relations could be
realized in the conception of the abiding, indwelling Holy Ghost, who leads
us into all truth and righteousness.
· THE FEELING AS REALIZED IN A MOVING AND GUIDING
OF OUR JUDGMENT, WILL, AND RESOLVE. In seeking to avoid the
merely sentimental, we must take heed that we miss or undervalue no
truth. And Christian experience abundantly confirms the position that there
is a most real sense in which open hearts feel the inward moving of the
Holy Ghost, and may rely on the Divine inward guidance of judgment and
will. The Church, too, may plead that her experience confirms the
testimony of the individual Christian. This subject should be so treated as
to deal with men’s practical difficulty — How can we know we have
Divine guidance in our business and family affairs now? If God’s Spirit
dwells in us, we now have the actual inspiration and direction of our
judgment, will, purpose, and decision.
6 "And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain
sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:" The whole island
for the isle, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Paphos; on the south coast at
the further extremity of the island, now Baffa. It had once a convenient harbor, which
is now choked up from neglect. The chief temple of the Cyprian Venus was here. A
certain sorcerer. The Greek word μάγος - magos, whence magic and magician, is the
sense. It is a Persian word, and in its original use designated a Persian religious caste,
famous for their knowledge, wisdom, and purity of religious faith. They were attached
to the court of the Babylonian monarchs, and were deemed to have great skill in
39:3, 13, the name Rab-mag seems to mean "the chief of the magi." But in process of
time the word "magus" came to mean a sorcerer, a magician, a practicer of dark arts,
as e.g. Simon Magus (see the chapter on magic in Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,'lib. 30. cap. 1.).
7 "Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man;
who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God."
The proconsul for the deputy of the country, Authorized Version; a man of
understanding for a prudent man, Authorized Version; the same for who,
Authorized Version; unto him for for, Authorized Version; sought for desired,
Authorized Version. The proconsul (ἀνθύπατος - anthupatos - proconsul); here
and vs. 8,12. This is an instance of Luke's great accuracy.
a proconsular province in the reign of Claudius, having previously been one of
the emperor's provinces governed by a propraetor, or legatus. A man of
understanding (ἀνδρὶ συνετῷ - andri suneto – intelligent man). Συνετός –
sunetos - is a rare word in the New Testament, and is always translated in the
It is common in the Septuagint, where it represents the Hebrew words מַשְׂכִּיל נָבון מֵבִין,
and חָכָם, all signifying "intelligence," "skill," "knowledge," and the like. The substantive
etc.); ἀνὴρ συνετός - anaer sunetos - , therefore, means something more than
"a prudent man." It means a man of knowledge and superior intelligence and
understanding. And such was Sergius Paulus, a noble Roman, who is twice
named by Pliny in the list of authors placed at the commencement of his work
as the authorities from whom he derived the matter contained in the several books.
It is not a little remarkable that the two books, lib. it. and lib. 18, for which Sergius
Paulus is quoted are just those which contain accounts of the heavenly bodies, and
prognostications from the sun and moon and stars, from thunder, from the clouds,
and such like things, which doubtless formed the staple of Elymas's science; so that
there can be little doubt that Sergius Paulus had Elymas with him, that he might learn
from him such matters as might be useful for the book which he was writing. There
is also a curious passage in lib. 30. cap. 1. of the 'Hist. Nat.'(quoted by Lewin, vol. 1.
p. 128), in which Pliny, after enumerating the most famous teachers of magic,
Zoroaster, Orthanes, Pythagoras, and others, adds, "There is also another school
of magic which springs from Moses and Jannes, who were Jews, but many thousand
years later than Zoroaster; so much more recent is the
that he knew of a school of magic art at
infer that he had acquired this knowledge either from the pen or the mouth of Sergius
Paulus. Anyhow, a remarkable confirmation of Luke's narrative. Another Sergius Paulus,
who might be a son or grandson of the proconsul, is highly commended by Galen for
his eminent philosophical attainments (Lewin, vol. 1. p. 127). One L. Sergius Paulus
was consul suffectus in A.D. 194, another in A.D. 168. Renan thinks they may have
been descendants of the Sergius Paulus in the text.
Seekers after God (v. 7)
This passage introduces to us a Roman official, speaks of him in generally
good terms as a “prudent man,” but lets us know something of his secret
feelings and his unrest of heart, by adding that he “desired to hear the
Word of God.” The way in which heathen religions prepared the way for
the gospel is often pointed out, but we have not yet adequately
apprehended the fact that a Divine work of preparation was carried on in
many heathen souls; such instances as this of Sergius Paulus being properly
treated as prominent examples of a general fact. It is to the yearning of the
heathen heart for the true God and the eternal life that Paul makes his
appeals; and in later missionary work remarkable instances have been met
with of soul-seeking for God, before the missionaries brought the gospel
light. We ought, indeed, to expect to find men everywhere seeking after
God, seeing that “He hath made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the
earth” (ch. 17:26), and has never “left Himself without a witness;” (ch. 14:17),
but a conception of the exclusiveness of the revelation in Christ has so occupied
Christian thought that the noble conception of Christ’s revelation as the ultimate
issue and completion of all other revelations, is only now gaining
acceptance. Men have so strongly felt the antagonistic sides of the heathen
religions that they have failed to ask whether earnest souls within utterly
corrupt systems may not be
“Infants crying in the night;
Infants crying for the light;
And with no language but a cry.”
Dean Plumptre gives an interesting inscription — the date of which is,
however, uncertain, and may be of the second or third century after Christ
— found at Galgoi, in
higher than the polytheism of
the greatest, the most glorious Name, help us all, we beseech thee.” The
unrest and anxious inquiring of Sergius Paulus are farther indicated in the
fact that he had come into the power of Elymas the sorcerer, who evidently
persuaded him that he could settle all his doubts. The subject introduced by
this incident may be considered under the following divisions:
· THE NATURAL DISPOSITION OF MAN TO SEEK FOR GOD.
rest till he finds rest in Him.” Seeking God is necessary to the dependent
creature, who must lean, and must find some one on whom he may
perfectly lean. “A belief in some personal power, the arbiter of man’s
destiny, above and beyond himself, is a primary necessity of the human
mind. Mankind can never dispense with this belief, however superfluous in
certain cases and for a time it may seem to be to the individual” (Canon
Farrar). Much has been made of the fact that some tribes of men have been
found which had no name for God, and indeed no knowledge of Him or
concern to hear about Him; but it may fairly be urged, from the utterly
degraded condition of these tribes, that men have never lost their care for
God until they have virtually lost their manhood. Degraded to be like the
beasts, they cease to have uplooking eyes and yearning hearts. Humanity is
knit in brotherhood by its great united cry for its Father.
· THE THINGS THAT MAY TEMPORARILY SATISFY THE
SEEKING. These take one of three forms; either:
Ø The absorption of a man in purely material and selfish interests, which
may overlay and crush down the soul’s great needs; just as now the world
and its business and pleasure so often silence the soul’s cry in the Christian.
Ø The teachings of a philosophy which attempts to put “thoughts” and
“ideas” in the place of A LIVING BEING.
Ø So-called false religions, which give unworthy views of God, but, by
ceremonial, seek to satisfy the religious instinct. Such religions offer, what
man appears to need, a doctrine about God, and a cult or worship of Him.
It may be shown that, in subtle forms, men are enticed from their seeking,
even in these Christian days, by one or other of these evil influences.
· THE UNREST WHICH SOONER OR LATER RETURNS. For man
can only find permanent rest in that which is true. The false has no “staying
power.” It may seem to fit at one time, but life advances, new needs arise,
new thoughts stir within, and the false theory will no longer serve, — the
man finds himself looking out again, as anxiously as in the early days, and
with the feeling that life is passing and the time for the quest is brief, for
the truth and God wherein are final rest. Sooner or later a man wakes up
from his sleep of delusion, feels the darkness all about him, and puts out
his hand, feeling after God, if haply he may find Him. The unrest that
surely comes to men within the world’s care and pleasure, within skeptical
philosophies, and within merely ceremonial religions, is our constant plea
for the preaching of the gospel and the revelation to men of God, in Christ
· THE RESPONSE WHICH GOD SURELY MAKES WHEN A
WHOLE SOUL IS TURNED TO HIM. He waiteth to be gracious, stands
at the door ready for the opening, really wants every man to be saved, in
the mystery of His great Fatherhood has a real need of souls, desires their
love, finds his own joy in their trust, and so is sure to respond when men
turn and seek Him. (“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and
He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be
glad and rejoice in His salvation.” - Isaiah 25:9 – CY – 2017) And finding
God, and coming into personal relations with Him, IS THE END OF
MAN’S QUEST! (Until you find Him, you will NEVER BE FULFILLED!
- CY - 2017) If you are against God, everything in life is HARD and
DARK and WRONG! Apart from God, all life and relations lie
bathed in the lurid glow of steamy and stormy passion and SELF-WILL!
With God, and earth, life, duty, and fellowship catch the soft, sweet sunlight,
and everything takes on its beauty and perfection. If we have God WE
HAVE ALL and we have all IN GOD, in the God whom Paul preached,
of whose glory JESUS THE MAN is the express and blessed image.
(“.....being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His
person...” - Hebrews 1:3)
8 "But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood
them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith." Turn aside for turn
away, proconsul for deputy, Authorized Version. Elymas, from the Arabic elite,
plural oulema, a wise man, a wizard, a magician. But Renan thinks this derivation
doubtful. Elymas withstood Barnabas and Saul just as Jannes and Jambres
withstood Moses (II Timothy 3:8, ἀντέστησαν - antestaesan - withstand).
9 "Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his
eyes on him," But for then, Authorized Version; is also for also is, Authorized
Version; fastened for set, Authorized Version. (above, ch. 3:4, note). Who is also
called Paul. The explanation is that Saul took the name of Paul on the occasion of
this remarkable and important conversion of Sergius Paulus. Saul's future intercourse
with Gentiles made it desirable that, after the common custom of the Jews of his day –
as seen in Peter, Stephen, Mark, Lucius, Jason, Crispus,
Drusilla etc. - he should have a Gentile name, and so, in honor of his illustrious
convert, or in memory of his conversion, or at the special request of Sergius Paulus
(Baronius), he took the name of Paul, which in sound was not unlike his Hebrew
name. The fact of this change of name being recorded by Luke at this precise
moment makes this the most simple and natural explanation. Compare Gideon's
10 "And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou
enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the
Lord?" All guile and all villainy for all subtlety and all mischief, Authorized
Version; son for child, Authorized Version. The word ῤᾳδιουργία - radiourgia –
knavery, reckless conduct, villainy, wickedness, is only found here in the New
Testament. The kindred form (ῤᾳδιούργημα - radiourgaema – knavery; deft act
I John 3:10). Elymas showed himself a child of the devil in his endeavors to
resist the truth of the gospel, and substitute his own falsehoods and imposture.
Compare the severity of Peter's language in rebuking Simon Magas (ch. 8:20-23).
Probably, too, he accused (διέβαλεν - diebalen) Paul and Barnabas, and traduced
their motives before the proconsul, when he saw his own influence being
undermined, and his gains likely to be stopped.
11 "And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind,
not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a
darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand."
and v. 50 of this chapter). For a season. It has been well observed that this limitation
in time is an indication that there was place for repentance. It was a remedial
chastisement. A mist (ἀχλύς - achlus - fog); only here in the New Testament; but it is
a medical term, very common in Hippocrates, to express a darkening and dimming
of the eyes by cataract or other disease. As regards the reason why the particular
punishment of blindness was inflicted upon Elymas, it might be to put a forcible
interruption upon those observations of the stars and clouds by which the magician
pretended to foresee the future. It would exhibit, too, to Sergius, Paulus the utter
helplessness of the great necromancer. Some to lead him by the hand (χειραγωγούς –
cheiragogous – hand leaders), as Saul had needed χειραγωγοῦντας - cheiragogountgas –
leading by the hand - when he was struck blind by the vision of the Savior's glory
· THE FALSE PROPHET. Bar-jesus may stand as the type of one class
of foes with whom Christianity has to contend. He is described as a “mage”
and a “false prophet.” It appears that he gave himself the title of Elymas (to
which word the modern Turkish ulema corresponds) — “wise man” par
excellence. The essence of the magic calling is the pretension to override
the laws of nature and providence in obedience to the wishes and fantasies
and caprices of the individual. It would make imagination and feeling the
test of truth and right, rather than the fixed truth and Word of God. The
spirit of this false prophet is seen in his attaching himself to the proconsul,
as the parasite attaches itself to the sound life, and in the endeavor to divert
him from Christianity. Here is a test of the false spirit in the teacher. If we
really love the truth and possess it, we have no desire to divert the course
of argument from other minds. The more light and discussion, the better
for the truth. Suspect the man who tries to silence another by clamor or
prejudice the ear of the audience against him.
· THE TRUE APOSTLE. Paul had been “sent by the Holy Spirit,” and
now he is filled by the “Holy Spirit.” This gives him boldness and
directness in dealing with the impostor.
Ø There are times when denunciation may be used by the servant of Christ;
for there are times when evil, stripped of its disguises, is manifest, and no
terms can be held with it. And the denunciation of the apostle points to the
secret root of evil in the false prophet’s life, and which poisons all his
teaching. There is craft, guile, the design to deceive others for private
ends. Then there is a certain lightness and recklessness of conduct
connected with this, denoted by a peculiar Greek word (ῤᾳδιουργία –
radiourgia – knavery, reckless conduct, villainy, wickedness,). The
false teacher will respect no truth and no sanctity which stands in the way
of his objects and ends. Such a man may well be called a “child of the
devil.” The idea of the devil is that of an accuser or slanderer; and the false
prophet will stick at no lies to serve his ends. He is the foe of all that is
good, and must be; for the good and right, resting on the principle of truth,
is deadly opposed to him, the living lie. Jesus said “....there is no truth in
him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar,
and the father of it.” (John 8:44) He is the perverter of the Lord’s
straight ways. While the servants of God proclaim, in the words of the
ancient prophet, the leveling of inequalities and the making of the crooked
straight, the object of the deceiver is to twist the straight into crookedness,
and bring back old chaos and disorder. Such are the arrows of denunciation
launched at his head; such, in brief words, are the traits of the deceiver,
drawn by the firm hand of the apostle.
Ø The occasional revelation of Divine judgment against the ungodly. Such
acts as that of Paul, in virtue of a Divine authority, in their occasional
character, reveal a general principle of judgment. “The hand of the Lord is
upon thee,” not to strengthen and to illuminate, but to weaken and to
deprive of light. The unused or misused sense decays. “From him that hath
not shall be taken even that which he hath.” If we use not our intelligence
in the cause of truth, we cannot expect to retain it in its clearness. And if
our conscience is not guided by love, it will become darkened. And if the
light within becomes darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23)
At the same time, mercy mingles with judgment. It is for a season only, that the
opportunity for reformation and repentance may be given, and blessed the
suspensions of activities which we have misused, if, in the enforced silence
and privation, we are led to reflection and back to God.
· CONVERSION FOLLOWS THE MANIFESTATION OF THE
TRUTH. The fall of error means the establishment of a conviction in the
mind. The overthrow of a lie delights the spirit, which is made for TRUTH!
Falsehood tempts and enthralls when it appeals to our passions; let the
falsehood be exposed, and spiritual emancipation follows. Fear and
astonishment are often the means God employs to break up the fatal
slumbers of the soul. They are like volcanic forces, which prepare for the
working of the genial forces of nature. Every conversion implies in the
subject of it the knowledge of the superiority of truth over falsehood, the
presence of the soul at a moral victory. Truth in conquering us, sets us free.
“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
12 "Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished
at the doctrine of the Lord." The proconsul for the deputy, Authorized Version;
teaching for doctrine, Authorized Version. Believed. We cannot, perhaps, conclude
positively from this that Sergius was baptized and became an avowed Christian,
though the usual language of the Acts rather leads us to infer it (see v. 48; ch. 2:44;
fruits of heathenism." Being astonished at the teaching. For the connection of the
judgment concerning the doctrine with the miracle seen, compare Mark 1:27.
The Gospel in
There is a break in the narrative, the second portion, referring to the missionary
labors of Paul, reminding us that the chief purpose of the book is to describe the
growth of the Church, not directly its constitution or doctrines or discipline.
· THE TENTATIVE CHARACTER of this first missionary journey,
through Attalia to
report of the work brought back to it. This showed that the double aspect
of the work was remembered — its bearing on the world and its bearing on
the Church itself. All aggressive efforts should be thus held closely to the
vital center of fellowship. Paul and his companions did not aim at
preaching themselves, BUT CHRIST! So diffusion is strength, not weakness.
· The faithful observance of the Lord’s rule, TO THE JEW FIRST. Thus
the mission of God’s ancient people are still recognized. The unity of truth.
The continuity of grace. “Salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22)
THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF
OF THE WORLD. Corrupt synagogues, side by side with heathen
ignorance and superstition. Bar-jesus, or Elymas, between the Gentiles and
Christ; false prophecy hiding
the true. So in
Ages. The infidelity which broke out in the French Revolution was the
natural product of a monstrous travesty of Christianity. (The same can be
said of the Progressive Movement in the
Yet there is hope in “the men of understanding” to whom the gospel can
· MIRACULOUS MANIFESTATION brought in to break the spell of
falsehood. Paul’s first miracle. He wrought it when under the special
influence of the Holy Ghost. No vindictive feeling in the apostle, but a
simple obedience to the voice of the Spirit. The miracle was one of mercy,
both as regards Sergius Paulus and the heathen population generally.
Nothing would more open the way of the gospel. People that were
accustomed to magic could be easily impressed by such a sign, especially
as it fell on the sorcerer. May it not be that some such influences are to be
watched against in modern society? Those in high station often listen to
spiritualists, thinking to aid their own weakness by such means. Yet the
wonders of the gospel are far greater than all the deceits of false prophets.
We may safely employ the feeling of astonishment, if only we sanctify it
by the preaching of the Word.
13 "Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga
in Pamphylia: and
John departing from them returned to
Now for now when, Authorized Version; set sail for loosed, Authorized Version;
and came for they came, Authorized Version; departed…. and returned for
departing... returned, Authorized Version. A very marked change may here be
observed in the relations of Barnabas and Paul. Hitherto Barnabas has always
vs. 2, 7). But now the whole mission, including Barnabas, is described as
οἱ περὶ τὸν Παῦλον - hoi peri ton Paulon – the ones about Paul. Paul and his
company, and ever after it is usually "Paul and Barnabas" (vs. 43, 46, 50;
Renan dwells much on the beauty of Barnabas's character as seen in his cheerful
acquiescence in this change of relative position, and his single-minded devotion
to the success of the work. Came to Perga, the capital of Pamphylia, in that part
of the coast of
half miles inland, on the river Cestrus, which is navigable. There was a constant
intercourse between Paphos the capital of
Pamphylia, fostered probably by the two famous temples of Venus and Diana.
The word for set sail (ἀναχθέντες - anachthentes – setting out) is a nautical term,
cousin was less pleasant now that Paul took the first place; perhaps his courage failed
him now that they were fairly launched out into the heathen world, where, unlike
were great. Pamphylia was now governed by a propraetor, being an imperial
province. Its name denotes that it was inhabited by a mixed race - men of all tribes,
aborigines, Cilicians, Greeks, etc.
Forwardness and Frailty (vs. 4-13)
The two leading points in this passage are the forwardness of Barjesus and
the frailty of Mark. But there are other incidental lessons which spring up
by the way. We may learn as we pass:
1. That good work for others comes home with a blessing before long.
Some of the scattered Christians were men of
were come to
are men from the Church which the Cypriots helped to form coming to
2. That the success of any great work is not to be measured by the fruit of
endeavor. We read that “when they were at
preached the Word of God in the synagogues” (v. 5); but we do not read
of any conversion, to the faith. It is fair to infer that their earliest attempt
was, if not disappointing, far from a marked success; but they were not
3. That it is well worth while for youthful aspiration to attend on mature
and established piety. “They had also John to their minister” (v. 5). Mark
may have been little more than the courier of the apostles, but it was no mean
service he was rendering the Church and the world if he did his duty thus.
4. That when religion is cast out superstition is sure to enter. Where God
is unhonored the people will resort to the “sorcerer” (v. 6), the soothsayer,
the spiritualist, etc.
DELIBERATELY FALSIFY THE TRUTH OF GOD. (vs. 5-8.) “Wilt
thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” Here was a man
who, for the purpose of retaining a lucrative position, was determinately
opposing the truth. Many have been his predecessors and many his
successors, who have not scrupled to “fight against God,” to act in such a
way that they have made what they knew to be right seem to be wrong,
what they knew to be wholesome and helpful seem to be injurious; they
have twisted round and perverted the right line of heavenly wisdom; they
have not only “called good evil and evil good,” but striven, for some base
motive, to make it seem thus in the eyes of men, resolutely and wantonly
STRONG INVECTIVE, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child
of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness!” (v. 10). It is not often
allowable for men to speak thus to one another. As a rule, we must follow
the example of the archangel, and instead of “bringing a railing accusation,
say, The Lord rebuke thee.” But there are occasions when we do well to be
angry, when we should rather sin by not being righteously angry than by
even passionate indignation. When men are palpably ruining others in order
to fill their own treasury, undoubtedly keeping others out of the kingdom
in order to secure their own base objects, it is not only permissible but
laudable to let our holy indignation boil over in scathing condemnation and
ECONOMY. (v. 11.) It was, of course, only in virtue of the inspiration
under which he was acting (see v. 1) that Paul pronounced this judgment
on Elymas. It was a very unusual occurrence. Our Lord Himself never, so
far as we know, used His almighty power to punish a human being; with the
exception of the banning of the fig tree, all His works were those of
beneficence. Yet we need to remember that judgment is a part of His whole
system. He does condemn and smite. The storm uproots the tree; the
locusts lay bare the fruitful field; disease paralyzes the human form; death
does its closing work; spiritual blindness darkens the mind and spiritual
hardness encrusts the soul, at his holy and awful bidding. The pleasant
theories of the universe, which leave judgment out of the account, are fair
enough to look at, but they are not true; they arc false to the facts of the
case as these meet us in many forms and in every sphere of human life.
ENSURE SPIRITUAL STEADFASTNESS. (v. 13.) We might have
thought that the presence of such men as Barnabas and Saul would have
ensured the stability of John Mark; but it did not. Though under the
influence of one man whose unswerving devotedness to Christ has never
been surpassed, he yielded to his inclination to return home rather than
brave the hazards and endure the
privations of missionary work in
Minor. Nothing will secure our spiritual steadfastness but the indwelling of
DIVINE POWER. We must abide in Christ that He may abide in us by
His Spirit. It is only when we are “strengthened with all might by His Spirit
in the inner man,” when we are “strong in the Lord and in the power of His
might,” that we are really safe and secure. “When I am weak, then am I
Obstruction of The truth Summarily Visited:
The Blighter Blighted (vs. 12-13)
We can imagine something of the earnestness of Barnabas and Saul as they
set out on their new mission, feeling that they had “the fullness of the
blessing of the gospel of Christ” in their charge. Others felt this too, or, if
they did not feel it, feared it. And one, in his iniquitous attempt to
neutralize the force of it, courts his own discomfiture and strengthens the
cause he had designed to undermine. Notice:
· THE GUILT HERE PUNISHED. It has been already in trenchant
language denounced (vs. 9, 13), but deed is to follow word. The guilt
had certain aggravations.
Ø It is the guilt of a man averse himself to light and conviction.
Ø It is the guilt of a man who was thus averse chiefly because he saw true
light, would stop his dark ways and probably put an end “to his gains.”
Ø It is the guilt of a man who had loved it long, and long habituated
himself to a career of deception of others and taking Heaven’s Name in
Ø It is the guilt of one who, misled himself and sets himself to mislead others.
Ø It is the guilt of one who would mislead another in matter of deepest,
dearest, tenderest moment to him.
Ø It is the guilt of one who will do this in those sensitive, critical moments
when decision trembles in the balance, and his fellow man is looking to
the light and inclining to it.
Ø It is the guilt of a man who will lay himself out to crush with tenfold vigor
the events of the conversion of one whose good character, position, and
influence would count for much if he should turn to the light. So
correspondingly great would be the forfeiture and destruction of good,
the responsibility of which would lie at the door of the tempter.
· THE PUNISHMENT ITSELF.
Ø Elymas has pretended, probably for a long, long time, to work signs and
wonders among a deluded people. He shall now in punishment, incurred by
the filling up of the full measure of his iniquities, learn what a real sign and
wonder and miracle are, in his own painful experience. How much had he
taken out of others in money and in credulity. He shall be reminded of the
Ø He tried to keep another in the dark and amid the groping and the
wandering. He himself shall know the grievousness of darkness and the
humiliation of groping and the bitter dissatisfaction of the wanderer.
Ø He tried to take away from another the help of a good strong hand
divinely proffered him. He shall know what it is to have to beg the leading
of even a human hand himself.
Ø Yet hope and “room for repentance” are not pronounced for ever closed
for Elymas. And the punishment awarded him is less than the injury he had
sought to inflict — less by far.
· THE LEADING EFFECTS OF THE PUNISHMENT.
Ø It removes the transgressor off the ground.
Ø It effectually confounds his endeavors, and turns him into an impressive
witness to that truth which he had resisted for himself and tried to take the
comfort of from another.
Ø It produces strong faith and admiring astonishment and grateful
acceptance of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” on the part of the deputy
threatened in his highest interests.
Ø It leaves a long warning, in the stricken blindness of Elymas, though it
was but temporary, of the verdict that Christ passes on the heinousness of
that sin which consists in attempting to blight the opening religious growth
and knowledge of any.
Ø In the temporary character of the blindness of Elymas, provision was
secured for a certain resuscitation of the whole matter, in his own memory
and in that of many others, whensoever he might regain vision.
Ø An evident proof is given how God both rules and overrules, can
convert and does convert, all the efforts of His opponents against Him
“to the furtherance of the gospel.” For this was literally the issue of the
conduct of one whom not the bitterness of a prejudiced tongue, but the
sober truth of an inspired apostle, describes as “full of all subtilty and
mischief, a child of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness, and an
unceasing perverter of the right ways of the Lord.”
14 "But when they departed from Perga, they
went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down." They, passing
through from Perga, came for when they departed from Perga they came,
Authorized Version; of for in, Authorized Version; they went for went, Authorized
Version. Traveling due north into the interior for over a hundred miles, they would
road, infested with robbers (II Corinthians 11:26), mountainous, rugged, and passing
through an untamed and half-savage population. Pisidia was part of the province of
Jewish populations, which were always their first object, and their door of access to
the more pious heathen. Sat down; perhaps, as many think, on the seat of the rabbis –
those "chief seats in the synagogues," which our Lord rebukes the scribes for loving
(Mark 12:39), but which "Paul as a former Sanhe-drist, and Barnabas as a Levite,"
had a fair claim to occupy; but more probably on the seats of ordinary worshippers,
where, however, the presence of strangers would at once be noticed.
15 "And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue
sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation
for the people, say on." Brethren for ye men and brethren, Authorized Version.
The order of the synagogue service was first the prayers, read by the Sheliach, or angel
of the synagogue, the people standing. Then came the reading of the Law in Hebrew by
the reader, and the interpretation by the interpreter, who,
used the version of the Septuagint. This reading, or lesson, was called the Parashah.
Next came the reading and interpreting of the prophets, called the Haphtorah, either
by the regular reader or by any one invited by the ruler of the synagogue (Luke 4:16-17).
Then came the Midrash, the exposition or sermon, which Paul undertook at the invitation
of the ruler of the synagogue. Our Lord at
sitting (Luke 4:20); here Paul stands (v. 16).
The Invasion of Heathendom (vs. 1-15)
It has been well remarked that Antioch was the true center of direct
missions to the heathen world. An Ethiopian eunuch, and a Roman
centurion, had indeed been gathered into the fold of Christ. But they were
both closely connected with the
led to any further extension of the gospel of Christ. At
Christian truth first fell in abundance upon heathen soil;
went forth the preachers of the gospel with the express purpose of
disseminating it among the nations of mankind. It is a deeply interesting
study to mark the various steps by which the providence of God brought
about this great event. There was first the molding of the great soul of Saul
into a fitting instrument for this momentous ministry by the circumstances
of his conversion. The tenderness of heart caused by the memory of his
persecution of the
bound him to the Jews’ religion, through the bigotry, the distrust, and the
repulses of his Jewish countrymen, which drove him from
friendship of the kind and sympathetic Barnabas; his enforced retreat to his
preparatory steps by which God was bringing about His great purpose.
Then, as the work grew among the Gentiles, Barnabas was
and sought Saul and brought him to
ministry in that great heathen city. That year brought a rich experience of
things sad and of things joyful; experience of heathen darkness, experience
of God’s grace; widening knowledge of the thoughts, the wants, the misery
of heathenism; deepening knowledge of the power of a preached gospel; a
further loosening of the strait bands of Judaism as fettering Christian
liberty. And then, when the ground was thus prepared, came the direct call
of the Holy Ghost, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work
whereunto I have called them.” (v. 2) And what a work it was! It requires
some knowledge of the degradation of human nature as manifested in all the
vileness of the voluptuousness and impostures of the East, in the incredible
and growing flagitiousness of the once noble Roman character under the
shameful profligacy’s of the empire, and of the general spread of vice,
oppression, and cruelty in the Roman world, to take a just measure of the
work to which Barnabas and Saul were called. It was a work of hopeless
difficulty if measured by the strength of man; it was a work of incalculable
importance if measured by its world-wide influences and results — a work
than which no greater has ever been undertaken either by man or for man.
To revolutionize the whole relations of man with God; to upset and root
out all the old thoughts of the whole world concerning God and the service
of God; to give a new direction to man’s thoughts about himself, about his
duty, and about eternity; to transform human life from sin to holiness; and
to do all this by the power of words, — was the task given to Barnabas
and Saul. And they did it. That we know and love God; that we believe in
Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins; that we live righteous lives; that
we have a good hope of the resurrection to eternal life — is the fruit of the
mission of Barnabas and Saul. They invaded heathendom with the sword of
faith, and heathendom fell before their onslaught. O God, raise up in our
days such soldiers of the cross that all the kingdoms of the world may
become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ! (Revelation 11:15)
A Rapid Journey by Sea and Land (vs. 13-15)
Paphos to Perga. Perga through Pisidia to Antiochia, the northern
extremity of the province.
JOHN MARK separated
and returned to
spiritual courage. Yet notice the change which afterwards occurred. He is,
according to many, the evangelist; perhaps Jewish in feeling, and hence
attaching himself more to Peter. Sign of the Jewish prejudice still at work,
and the difficulties in store for the Church.
· THE PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION OF PAUL for his entire devotion
to the Gentiles.
Ø There was no self-assertion in it. He simply followed the leading of
events. We should watch the guidance of God in our work.
Ø The attitude of the Jews of Antioch showed that the Word was brought
to them in a respectful and reverent manner.
Ø Glimpse into the synagogue life shows what an opportunity the Jews had
among the heathen. The Law and the prophets still are read. On that
foundation -the gospel was placed. The Law was the schoolmaster to
bring the nations to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25), but the schooling was
16 "Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his
hand said, Men of
that fear God, give audience." And for then, Authorized Version; the for his,
Authorized Version; hearken for give audience, Authorized Version. Beckoning
with the hand (see ch. 12:17, note). Ye that fear God; addressed to the devout heathen
who attended the synagogue service (see ch.10:2, note, and 22; v. 43 of this chapter;
ch. 15:21; 16:14; 17:4, 17; 18:7).
17 “The God of this people of
when they dwelt as
strangers in the
He them out of it.”
strangers, Authorized Version; a for an, Authorized Version.; led He them forth for
brought He them out, Authorized Version. The word ὕψωσεν – huposen - exalted,
is thought by some to be borrowed from the Septuagint of Isaiah 1:2 (רוןממְתִי),
“I have brought up" (Authorized Version), but this is very doubtful, as ὑψόω –
hupsoo is frequently used in the New Testament in the sense of exalting from a low
see too Genesis 41:52 (Septuagint, Codex Vaticanus) and Gen 48:19). The resemblance
of this exordium to that of Stephen's speech in ch. 7 must strike every one. The natural
conclusion is that that speech made a deep impression upon Paul when he heard it at
Stephen's trial. The common purpose in the two speeches is to conciliate and gain
the attention of the Jewish hearers by dwelling upon the great events of the history
of their fathers, of which they were proud, and claiming for Christians an equal
heritage in that history. The speeches diverge in that Stephen sought to show in
that history instances of the same stubborn unbelief in their fathers which had led
the children to crucify THE LORD OF GLORY but Paul rather sought to show how
the promises made to their fathers had their fulfillment in that Jesus whom he preached
unto them, and how the crucifixion of Christ by the
fulfillment of the Law and the prophets which had just been read to them in the
synagogue. In both speeches it is a great point to exhibit Christianity as the true
development of Judaism (compare Hebrews 1:1 and throughout).
18 “And about the time of forty years suffered H e their manners in the wilderness.”
For about for about, Authorized Version. Suffered he their manners (ἐτροποφόρησεν
- etropophoraesen - ). This word τροποφορέω – tropophoreo – He carries as a nurse;
to bear or put up with any one's (perverse) manners, is found nowhere else in the New
Testament. But in the Codex Alexandrinus of the Septuagint it is the rendering of
Deuteronomy 1:31, instead of ἐτροφόρησεν - He bare or carried, as a nursing father
carries his child, which is the read of the Codex Vaticanus and of the margin of the
Received Text here. The Hebrew נָשָׂא is capable of either sense. From this quotation
from Deuteronomy it is conjectured that the Parashah (a section of a biblical book
in the Masoretic Text of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). on this occasion was from
read in the synagogues now on the same sabbath (but see note on v. 17). Forty years
is invariably the time assigned to the dwelling in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35;
19 “And when He had destroyed seven nations in the
their land to them by
that He gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years,
until Samuel the prophet.” He gave them their land for an inheritance, for about
four hundred and fifty years: and after these things he gave them judges, etc., for
He divided their land unto them by lot: and after that he gave unto them judges
about the space of four hundred and fifty years, etc., Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus. It is difficult to say what is the meaning of the Received Text in
regard to the four hundred and fifty years, what is the terminus a quo or ad quem
intended by it. The usual explanations of the reading of the Received Text (adopted
by Lachman, Bishop Wordsworth, and others) is that the years are dated from the
birth of Isaac, and that the meaning is that the promise to give the land to the seed
of Abraham was actually performed within four hundred and fifty years (ὡς ἔτεσι –
hos etesi – about years) (after the analogy of Galatians 3:17), which gives a good
sense and is not at all improbable. The reading of the Textus Receptus has grave
objections on the score of chronology as well as grammar. Duration of time is
expressed by the accusative case, as vs. 18 and 21; the measure of time in which
a thing is done by the dative. So that the natural rendering of the Textus Receptus
would be that He gave them judges four hundred and fifty years after the entrance
if the times of the judges from the final conquest of the land to the judgeship of
Samuel was four hundred and fifty years, the whole time from the Exodus to the
building of the temple must have been about six hundred and forty years (37 from
death of Moses to Othuiel + 450, + 30 for judgeship of Samuel, + 40 of Saul's reign,
+ 40 for David's reign, +3 years of Solomon, + and the 40 years in the wilderness),
whereas I Kings 6:1 gives the time as four hundred and eighty years; while the
genealogies suppose a much shorter time - about two hundred and eighty years.
It is an immense gain, therefore, to get rid of this four hundred and fifty years for
the time of the judges, and by the well-supported reading of the Received Text to
get a calculation in agreement with Galatians 3:17 and with the chronology of the
times. Gave them... for an inheritance. The Textus Receptus has κατεκληροδότησεν –
kateklaerodotaesen, the Received Text has κατεκληρονόμησεν – kateklaronomaesen,
which words are not infrequently interchanged in different codices of the Septuagint
identical meanings, "to give as an inheritance by lot." Neither word occurs elsewhere
in the New Testament.
21 “And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son
of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.” Asked for
for desired, Authorized Version;
Authorized Version. The forty years assigned to Saul may very probably include the
seven years and six months (II Samuel 5:5) which elapsed before David's kingdom
was established over all
twenty or thirty years of his reign after the rescue of Jabesh-gilead are passed over
in absolute silence. The narrative from I Samuel chapters 13 to 31 relates only to
about the last ten years of his life (for the correction of the Authorized Version
of I Samuel 13:1, see 'Speaker's Commentary').
22 “And when He had removed him, He raised up unto them David to be their
king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of
Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.” Raised up for
raised up unto them, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; bare witness for
gave testimony, Authorized Version; my for mine own, Authorized Version;
do for fulfill, Authorized Version; who for which, Authorized Version.
This is not an exact quotation, but the combined meaning of I Samuel 13:14 and
The Character of David (v. 22)
“......He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave
testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine
own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.” The Divine testimony to the character
of David as one of the most wonderful in scripture.
· ALL GREW OUT OF CONSECRATED GROUND. No evolution explains
such a man. The grace of God from a child. Converse with nature in his
shepherd life (see Wordsworth’s ‘Excursion’). Forgetfulness of self.
Patience. Courage and fortitude. But all led up to Divine anointing.
· FASHIONED BY PROVIDENTIAL DEALINGS. Sufferings in the
school of affliction. His discipline in conflict with Saul.
· A MINGLED CHARACTER. Great faults beside great virtues.
Tempted by luxury. Yet illustrating in his recovery that same grace which
had raised him to the height. Goodness and severity of God. Our David
(Jesus Christ) is perfect.
23 “Of this man's seed hath God according to His
promise raised unto
a Saviour, Jesus:” Promise for His promise, Authorized Version; brought for raised,
verse leads to the great announcement which Paul had to make of the next great step
in God's dealings with
Egyptian bondage, and the
coming of the Son of David, the Messiah, to save His people
24 “When John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance
to all the people of
His entrance upon His ministry, with reference to the ὁδὸς – odos - the way -
25 “And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am
not He. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of His feet I am
not worthy to loose.” Was fulfilling for fulfilled, Authorized Version;
what suppose ye for whom think ye, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;
the shoes of whose feet for whose shoes of His feet, Authorized Version;
unloose for loose, Authorized Version. Paul, as reported by Luke, follows very
closely the narrative in Luke 3:3, etc. Compare the words Προκηρύξαντος
Ἰωάννου ...βάπτισμα μετανοίας – Prokaeruxantos Ioannou.....baptisma metanoias –
When John had first preached; John proclaimed before with Luke 3:3,
Κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας – Kaerusson Baptizma metanoias – hearlding the
baptism of repentance. Compare Πρὸ προσώπου τῆς εἰσόδου – Pro prosopou taes
eisodou – before His coming - with τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου – Taen odou Kuriou – the way
the Lord, Luke 3:4. Compare παντὶ τῷ
λαῷ Ἰσραήλ – panti to lao
to all the people of
people, and the enumeration of the different classes of people. Compare the question,
"Whom [or, 'what'] think ye that I am?" with the statement in Luke 3:15, that all
men were musing in their hearts of John whether he were the Christ or not. Compare
the construction of the phrase, Ἔρχεται μετ ἐμὲ οϋ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος τὸ, ὑπόδημα τῶν
ποδῶν λῦσαι - Erchetai met eme ou ouk eimi axios to, hupodaema ton podon lusai –
is coming after me of whom I am not worthy the sandal of the feet to loose with
Luke 3:16; and in v. 26 compare the Υἱοὶ γένους Ἀβραὰμ – huioi genous Abraam –
sons of the breed of Abraham with the Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ – Patera
echomen ton Abraam – we have Abraham to our father -, and the τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ –
tekna to Abraam – children unto Abraham of Luke 3:8. There is also a strong
resemblance to John 1:19-28. Paul fortifies his own witness to Jesus as the Christ
by that of John the Baptist, probably from knowing that many of his hearers
Peter's address, ch. 10:37).
John Baptist’s Relations with Christ (vs. 24-25)
These verses are part of an address which should have peculiar interest for
us, seeing it is the first recorded speech of Paul the missionary, and
gives us intimation of the points which were prominently before his mind as
the themes of his ministry. It is singular to find Paul from this time more
prominent than the elder man, Barnabas. It may be an example of the
commonly observed fact that, sooner or later, the man of power and
adaptation comes to the front place. Paul’s power (This power is traced to
Christ’s words and the passage in ch. 26:14-18: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest
thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou,
Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon
thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister
and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in
the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the
Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from
darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive
forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith
that is in me.”) as a speaker is shown in this address. He was not a rhetorician,
and was only in the higher sense eloquent. He was too intense to be careful of
mere form, and his speech was always liable to sudden breaks and halts, through
the rapidity with which new thoughts were suggested and side issues forced into
consideration. His power lay in the intensity of his convictions, which gave
a dogmatic and convincing force to the expression of his views; and in his
strong sympathy with his audience, which made him quick to adapt himself
to them, and so to press home his thought. In this address we may notice:
1. His characteristic attitude, standing up and beckoning with the hand
ch. 17:22; 21:40; 23:1; 26:1).
2. His conciliatory introductions: he always strives first to be sure of a
common platform with his audience.
3. His skill in dealing with the early histories; which served his purposes in
always pleased with reviews of the national history; and
and fitting his gospel message to it as a completion.
4. His firm handling of the facts connected with the mission of Jesus of
5. His simple offer of pardon and life in the name of the glorified, living
Savior. It is not conceivable that the gospel, in its very essence, can be
more succinctly expressed than it has been by the Apostle Paul, in his
missionary speeches (see especially here vs. 26, 32, 38-39).
6. His force of passionate pleading and application of the truth to
individuals, as shown in vs. 40-41. It is to be noted that Paul always
makes his appeal to both the intelligence and the heart, and the verses now
before us for consideration show how he offered proofs of his statements
which were well within the comprehension of his audience. A sentiment
prevailed generally among the Jewish race concerning John the Baptist.
Paul takes advantage of it, and shows how John gave his indirect and direct
witness to the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. It may be true that John’s
testimony to Jesus was of more value to a Jewish than to a Christian
audience, but we question whether sufficient has ever yet been made of it
as one of our best evidences to the truth of Christianity. Three things
require careful study and efficient illustration.
· JOHN’S PROPHET-CHARACTER. In fixing attention on John the
Baptizer, men have lost sight of his more important relations as John the
Prophet. “All men counted John as a prophet,” the last of the line of men
whom God was pleased to raise up, for a time, as the expounders to men
of His will — the voices that spoke to men His message. It was the very
essence of the prophet that he had a message from God to deliver, and a
right to arrest men and compel them to listen to it. John’s message was his
mission, and his baptizing rite was but an accident or mode of expressing
and sealing his message. We should ask — What did John say to men in
the Name of God? not, What rite did John perform?
· JOHN’S PREPARATORY WORK. This Paul dwells on. John
never assumed that he had a message complete in itself, or that what he
demanded was all, or even, the greatest thing, men needed. He was a
herald, but his heralding assumed the close approach of the King. He was a
mender of ways, but only to get ready for the royal progress. He demanded
repentance, but only that men might be ready to receive the forgiveness
and life which THE KING WAS COMING TO BESTOW! To stop with
John is on the face of it absurd. There is no going on from John save
· JOHN’S DIRECT TESTIMONY. There should have been no need
for this. And yet it forms a most valuable link, especially to Jews. John
witnessed plainly that he had prepared the way for Jesus of Nazareth, that
He was the Lamb of God to take away sins, and that God had given to him
visible and audible testimony that Jesus was the expected Messiah and
Savior. Accept John as prophet, but we must accept Jesus as MESSIAH!
26 “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among
you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.” Brethren for men and
brethren, Authorized Version, as v. 15; those among you that fear for whosoever
among you feareth, Authorized Version; to us for to you, Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; sent forth for sent, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.
The same address in substance as that in v. 16, comprising the Jews and the devout
heathen. To us; see v. 33; but on the other hand (v. 38), "to you," seems preferable.
This salvation proceeding from the Savior, mentioned in v. 23 (compare ch.10:36,
"The word which God sent").
27 “For they that dwell at
not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they
have fulfilled them in condemning Him. In for at, Authorized Version; nor for
nor yet, Authorized Version; sabbath for sabbath day, Authorized Version;
fulfilled... by for they have fulfilled... in, Authorized Version. For they, etc.
It is not clear what is the force of the γὰρ – gar – for - in this verse. Meyer
(following Chrysostom), Alford, and others, make it mark the contrast between
the Jews addressed by Paul and the Jews at
to you [according
to Bengel, 'from
for the Jerusalem Jews have rejected Christ. And in consequence of their rejection,
you, who had no share in crucifying the Lord of glory, are invited to take their place.
But it maybe taken as expressing the cause why this salvation is complete and capable
of being offered to them. This salvation is preached to you because, through the
instrumentality of those that dwell at
concerning Christ has been fulfilled. Christ has been crucified and raised from the
dead, and so now remission of sins is proclaimed to you through Him (vs. 38-39;
compare ch. 3:13-20). Which are read every sabbath. Note the value of the
constant reading of Holy Scripture in the congregation.
28 “And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate
that He should be slain.” Asked they of for desired they, Authorized Version.
The narrative of this verse is exactly that of Luke 23:4, 5, 14-23.
29 “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down
from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre.” All things that were for all that was,
Authorized Version; tomb for sepulcher, Authorized Version. The reference is to His
being crucified between two thieves (Luke 23:32-33), to parting His raiment among
them (ibid. 34) to offering Him vinegar (ibid. 36), to the commendation of His spirit
to His Father (ibid. 46). The words καθελόντες – kathelontes – taking down Him and
ἔθηκαν εἰς μνημεῖον - ethaekan eis mnaemeion – they place Him in a tomb - are the
same as Luke 23:53, 55 (μνῆμα – mnaema – tomb and μνημεῖον - mnaemeion – tomb;
memorial vault - being interchanged).
31 “But God raised Him from the dead: 32 And He was seen many days of them
which came up with
Him from Galilee to
the people. For many days for many days, Authorized Version; that for which,
Authorized Version; who are now for who are, Authorized Version and Textus
is here intended? The answer to the first question is, the eleven apostles, whose
special office it was to bear witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (ch.1:22, note).
The answer to the second is, that the ascent from
appearances took place, to
and that this passage is a distinct recognition by Luke of the Galilaean appearances.
There is, as is well known, great obscurity, and apparent discrepancies in the accounts
of our Lord's appearances after the Resurrection.
to Mary Magdalene and to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, but
gives no clue as to where the appearance to the eleven took place.
a mention of
Matthew, he announced the Lord's appearance in
but describes at
length a third as having taken place in
once, which in
all probability took place in
were numbered at
satisfactory to have this confirmation of the residence of the apostles in
Paul's speech. Observe that Paul distinctly separates himself from these
witnesses by the emphatic ἡμεῖς – haemeis – we in v. 32.
32 “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made
unto the fathers,” Bring you good tidings of the promise made for declare unto you
glad tidings how that the promise which was made, Authorized Version.
33 “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised
up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son,
this day have I begotten thee.” How that God for God, Authorized Version
("how that" being in v. 32); our children for us their children, Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; raised up for hath raised up... again, Authorized Version;
as also it is for as it is also, Authorized Version. Our children. The reading of the
Received Text is not adopted by Meyer or Alford, and is scarcely an improvement
upon the Textus Receptus. There can be no reasonable doubt that ἀναστήσας –
anastaesas - raised up, means here, as in v. 44, raised from the dead. Observe with
what skill the apostle speaks of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment
of God's promise to their fathers, which it was to be presumed they were
ANXIOUSLY EXPECTING! The second psalm. Many manuscripts and editions
have, "the first," because the first psalm was often reckoned not numerically but as
an introduction to the whole book, so that the second psalm was numbered as the
first. This is probably the reason why the eighteen psalms as reckoned by the
Jews include Psalm 19, though Joshua ben Levi explains it by the rejection of
the second psalm, on account, no doubt, of its testimony to Messiah as God's
begotten Son. But the rabbins generally acknowledge the application of this
psalm to Messiah (Lightfoot, 'Exercit. on the Acts'). Thou art my Son, etc.
This application of the second psalm to the Resurrection is best explained by
Romans 1:4. The reference in both passages to David is remarkable (vs. 22-23).
Christ, who was begotten of the Father BEFORE ALL WORLDS, was declared
before men and angels to be the Son of God, when He was raised from the dead
in the power of an endless life.
34 “And as concerning that He raised him up from the dead, now no more to
return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of
David.” Hath spoken for said, Authorized Version; holy and sure blessings for
sure mercies, Authorized Version. No more to return to corruption. This is added
to show that Christ's resurrection was a final victory over death; not like that of
Lazarus, or the Shunammite's son, or Jairus's daughter, but, as Paul himself says
(Romans 6:9), "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath
no more dominion over Him." Here he tells us that this eternal exemption of
Christ from death was promised or signified in Isaiah 55:3, which he quotes
from the Septuagint, only abbreviating the διαθήσομαι κ.τ.λ. (an abbreviation
for etcetera) – diathaesomai – I will make, into δώσω – doso – I shall be giving.
I will give. What, then, is meant by the ὅσια Δαβὶδ τὰ πιστά - hosia David ta pista –
the sure mercies of David; benignities of faithful David)? The Hebrew has
חֻסְדֵי דָוְד הַנֶּךאמָנִים, which can mean nothing else but "the sure mercies of David,"
the favor and mercy promised to David in God's everlasting covenant, well ordered
in all things and sure. (II Chronicles 23:5) And in like manner, in (ibid 6:42),
ὅσια Δαβὶδ – hosia David - means "the mercies of God to David." And if we turn
to the account of this covenanted mercy in II Samuel 7, we shall see’ that it comprises
the setting of David's seed upon his throne for ever (see specially vs.12-16). In v. 15
it is said, חַסְדִי לאִ יָסוּר מִמֶּגוּ, "My mercy shall not depart from him." And in the
next verse his house and his kingdom are described as being נֶאְמַן לְעֹלָם, “sure," or
"established for ever," which, when applied to the personal Christ, the Son of
David, manifestly implies His eternal exemption from death and corruption
(see also Psalm 132:4). The sense of the Hebrew, therefore, is clever and certain,
and it is equally certain that the Septuagint, meant to represent this sense in the
version here quoted by Paul. Ὅσιος - hosios - though properly meaning "holy,
pious," and thence "mild" and "merciful" (εἰρηνικὸς – eiraenikos - peaceable)
as applied to man, came to be applied in the same senses to God (Revelation 15:4;
16:5; and here and in the Septuagint,). Beyond doubt, therefore, the passage before
us is rightly rendered in the Authorized Version, "the sure mercies of David;"
the plural, ὅσια, represents the חֲסָדִים of the Hebrew. Clemens Alex. (quoted by
Schleusner) uses it in the same way for "mercies or "benefits:" Πόσα αὐτῷ
ὀφείλομεν ὅσια: - Posa auto opheilomen hosia - For how many mercies are we
indebted to Christ!" In a similar way, the Latin pietas is used for God's "justice"
or "kindness" ('AEneid,' 2:536; 5:688). "Trini pulses pietatem" (on a sepulchral
monument, A.D. 1427): "Beat at the door of God's mercy." Gronovius, in his note
on 'AEian. V. H.,' 8:1, where he ascribes to ὅσιος the primitive sense of what is
"just" and "due," from man either to God or to his fellowman, adds, "Tribuunt
quidem Septuagint? interpetiam Deo τὸ ὅσιον: sod etiam tum significat quoddam
quasi offcium benignitatia in heroines pios, Deo decorum."
35 “Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine
Holy One to see corruption.” Because for wherefore, Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus; thou wilt not give for thou shalt not suffer, Authorized Version.
(see ch. 2:27, note); thy for thine, Authorized Version. It is remarkable that
Peter and Paul should both quote this sixteenth psalm, and use precisely the
36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell
on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:” In his own
generation served the counsel of God for served his own generation by the will
of God, Authorized Version. Many good commentators construe the words as the
Received Text does, only some, instead of in his own generation, render "for," i.e.
for the good of, "his own generation." But the Authorized Version is the most natural
division of the sentence, and gives the best sense, only the punctuation should connect
the words "by the will of God" with "fell on sleep." There is an allusion to II Samuel
7:12 and and I Kings 2:l,10, and it is intimated that God was still caring for David in
his death. But there was this vast difference between David and Christ. David had a
work to do limited to his own generation, and when that work was done he died and
saw corruption. (Like you and me and all others – CY – 2017) But Christ had a work
to carry on for eternal generations, and so He rose and saw no corruption.
Present Service, Promised Sleep (v. 36)
This allusion to the known devotion of David during his life, and to his
“rest from his labors” in the “sleep” that hid him awhile from life, has been
introduced in connection with Paul’s vindication of the resurrection of “the
Man” Jesus — that cardinal fact of Christianity and conspicuous top stone
of the multiform Christian edifice. This, foretold in the shape of a shadowy
typical promise made to David, to lie like seed long buried, had of late
sprung up and shown surprising blossom, and indeed had already borne
glorious fruit, even in Him who “rose from the dead” and “became the first
fruits of them that slept in him.” The allusion in itself meanwhile is grateful
and instructive. And when the sun goes down brightly and purely then does
this lesser light sparkle. It covers five practical suggestions.
· THE PLAIN DUTY OF THE SERVANT OF CHRIST — THIS, TO
“SERVE.” This is a great word, a greater thing — to serve. Long time it
was not so considered, till Jesus rose on the world, and, with ever-illustrious
career of self-sacrifice, was among us as “he that served,” and
said it as well, “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your
servant.” (Matthew 20:27) He who bare our sins, who carried our sorrows,
who suffered our stripes, who murmured, not beneath our infirmities, who
staunched so many a bleeding wound of humanity, nor refused to stoop to
wash and to wipe its hot and dusty feet, — He grafted this heavenly shoot
on the wild, selfish, unpromising stock of human nature. And it is the
memory of Him, His obedience and His service and His devotion, that again
and again reproduces the like, the vital motive of the humblest service and
gladdest obedience of each true inmate of His Church. If any man would
know the real secret of real
position in the
Ø To serve.
Ø To serve Christ.
Ø To serve Him faithfully and closely and continuingly.
This man will find his way to serve his fellow men and “generation”
without fail — the poor, the humble, the untaught, the sinful, and those
who already with himself wait on one Lord.
· THE RULE ACCORDING TO WHICH OUR SERVING MUST BE
ORDERED — “BY THE WILL OF GOD.” If we do really serve our
generation, there can be no doubt that we are in the path of duty, and
accordingly in harmony with “the will of God.” At the same time, it is too
possible to spend a large amount of time, of energy, of property, thinking
you do God service, when you are doing no such thing. The safer way is to
begin by seeing to it that the work is according to the will of God. This
should be the very first thing in work, greater or less (I Corinthians 10:31).
So sang the quaint George Herbert, whose earthly song merged so
well in the heavenly song, these four centuries ago:
“Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for thee.
“All may of thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean
But with this tincture — for thy sake;
Will not grow bright and clean.
“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
“This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.”
It is most important to remember that very much in our serving depends
Ø Our purpose to serve God’s will. For God whose power to overrule is
so often and so strikingly seen all-coextensive with His power to rule, often
employs men to further His purposes, and to serve their generation, who
never consecrated a single intelligent purpose or energy consciously to
Him. Far from such unconscious, ungrateful, even unwilling doers of His
work should we be. The generation of such is indeed served, in one sense,
according to God’s will; but it is no thanks to them.
Ø Our care to do the thing best approved as God’s will. Right purpose and
good intention have too often been the cover of a certain non-performance
of the things that would be most true to the will of God. The will of God is
to be consulted, not merely in the spring of our work, but carefully,
humbly, all the way down the accomplishment of the purpose His grace
may have originated in the heart.
· THE HUMILITY WITH WHICH WE SHOULD SERVE. We are to
serve “our own generation.” A faithful memory of this will save:
Ø Waste aspirations. Pride is often at the root of great desires, personal
feeling the motive of great schemes, lack of humility the direct cause of idle
Ø Seeking the unattainable distant, instead of that which we may most
certainly touch because it is close by us. The present time, the present
place, the present task are the time, the sphere, the toil for the servant of
Christ. Between dreams of the past and visions of the future, the priceless
opportunity of practical duty has too often irrevocably slipped past.
Ø Sighing for more strength, or more knowledge, or more wealth, instead
of using at once our available strength, and improving soberly our given
talents, whether one, two, or ten. There are many who wait for a showy
opportunity of serving Christ and His Church, with ears shut to one of the
sweetest utterances that even He spoke, respecting the “cup of cold water;”
(Matthew 10:42) and with eyes closed to the widow woman of the mite by
the treasury, to whom the Lord did not close His eyes, and to whom He even
called the attention of others. (Mark 12:41-44)
Ø An actual lessening of moral strength and diminishment of that enlarged
opportunity which is the invariable sequel of faithfulness “in few things.”
The time is neither very slow in its coming nor at all doubtful when the
shoulders of those who have been faithful in few things and in very little
things bend beneath the weight of most honorable burdens of
responsibilities. Not a few of those who once did on the humblest scale the
work of their generation, and neither bargained for nor dreamt of
posthumous fame, stand now in niches or aisles of the Church, and being
“dead, yet speak” with a voice to edify and to thrill generations to come.
Of one such instance we know to a certainty, that of the woman who most
spontaneously and at her own individual expense thought to serve her
generation by richly anointing the body of her Lord so loved to the
burying, and received the promise, now for two thousand years fulfilled,
“Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world,
there also shall this, that this woman hath done, be spoken of for a
memorial of her.” (Matthew 26:13)
· THE AMPLE ROOM TO SERVE — A GENERATION. Just now to
serve only one’s generation seemed little. But is it so? A generation. For
what does the word stand?
Ø For what an important length of time!
Ø For what a multitude and variety of people!
Ø For what a weight of solemn, thrilling interests in human affairs!
Ø For what a trial of individual consistency and education of individual
character! Only the infinite mind can read that volume through — the
volume of one generation. Yes; there is no great distance to lend
enchantment to the view, and no so picturesque vista, and no vague,
flattering, indefinite scope; yet how full, how ample is the definite scope!
“Blessed are those servants,” who through a generation length, or from
youth even to old age, are found in this sense, “expecting their Lord.”
· THE COMFORTING DESIGNATION GIVEN TO THE END OF
SUCH A LIFE-SERVICE. “David fell on sleep.” It is sweet language
indeed. But how often we lose the sweetness of it! The servant of Christ
need not call that death which bounds the days of earth and shuts the
bodily eye to the light of an earthly sun. It is but night. Night, grateful
night, bounds the day of life, speedily merging in that grandest morning,
the morning of the resurrection. It is but sleep. Sleep in Jesus, equally
deep, soft, restful, closes the eyes of his wearied servant, surely renews his
youth, and soon wakes into life everlasting and THE LIGHT THAT IS
IN GOD’S PRESENCE! Let us learn the name Jesus Himself gave to death,
and learn it to love it. Now we work, we watch, we pray — soon we shall
sleep on and take our rest. And our awakening from it will be INEFFABLE
LIGHT and KNOWLEDGE and LOVE!
Serving One’s Generation (v. 36)
Literally, “ministered to his own generation.” The place of this text in
Paul’s address should be noticed. In it he reaches the height of his
argument. The passage is an endeavor to show that Old Testament
prophecy could not be exhausted in the persons whom its first reference
might seem to concern. It was not even true if its applications were thus
limited. Its references
were to Messiah; they all met in Jesus of
and therefore He must be acknowledged as Messiah. He presented to his
audience one crucial test. David says in one psalm, “Thou shalt not suffer
thine Holy One to see corruption.” Now, could that possibly be limited in
its application to David himself? Our text is the overwhelming answer:
“David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on
sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.” The words could
only be true of
Messiah. They were true of Jesus of
His Messiahship was His resurrection. We fix attention now on the
description given of David as a man who “served his own generation.”
Dean Plumptre says, “There is, perhaps, a suggested contrast between the
limits within which the work of service to mankind done by any mere man,
however great and powerful, is necessarily confined, and the wide, far-reaching,
endless ministry to the whole human family which belongs to the
Son of man.” If God is pleased to spare a man so long as to reach the
fullness of old age, that man really lives through nearly three generations;
and yet it is only upon one of them that even he can exert an active
influence. The first generation molds him, with its various educational
forces. The second generation he may distinctly impress with his own
individuality; of it he may become one of the potent forces. On the third he
can only exert a passive influence; he is, for the most part, out of sympathy
with it, and he presently finds that he had better step aside, and let the
current of life and thought pass on. No matter how long we may live, no
one of us can influence more than just our one generation of thirty years or
more. Some men serve their generation by being before it, and giving
expression in it to the thoughts and truths and sentiments which properly
belong to the age that is yet to be. Such men do a great work by
anticipating the coming time and preventing the transitions and changes
from becoming too abrupt. Such men must accept the peril of being
misunderstood, and called hard names until they die, and the new
generation recognizes in them its heroes, forerunners, and apostles. Some
men belong precisely to their own generation: they are exactly adapted to
it; they never get beyond it; they are born into its thought and feeling; they
live in it, work for it, worthily express it, and pass away with it; usually
leaving no name only the good fruitage and the silent seeding of their good
works. These are the thousands of the unknown ones, but they are the “salt
of the earth.” And some men seem to be always in the past generation.
Their thoughts and feelings all belong to times past and gone. A queer, old-
fashioned life they live amongst us, and their very talk sounds strange. And
yet these links we need, lest, in the pride of our present attainments, we
should try to break the bonds of the holy and the good that have gone on
before us. No generation dares forget the past out of which it has come.
But no generation can afford to keep only a downward and a backward
look; it must lift up its head, peer away yonder, and hail the “good time
coming.” We may all serve our generation in three ways.
· WE MAY WITNESS FOR GOD IN IT. Every generation wants men
and women who really believe in God, and make it plain to everybody that
they do believe in Him. In one form or in another, the belief in the living
God is put in peril in each succeeding generation. Sometimes the unbelief is
intellectual, and sometimes it is practical; but every generation produces its
“fools” and its “wicked,” who secretly or openly say, “There is no God.”
Then we may minister to our generation by a clear and constant witness to
the living God; not as by our word only, but by the impression we make on
men that we are actually living under the “great Taskmaster’s eye;” by the
signs we show that all our life is spent in His fear; and by the tone of all our
thought, relationship, and duty, which plainly indicates the abiding sense of
His presence. Thus David served his generation, bringing the sense of God
to men whenever he came into relations with them; and it is the honor of
Mohammed that he laid this down as the very foundation of Islamism,
“There is no God but God.”
· WE MAY SERVE OUR OWN GENERATION BY BEING OUR
BEST POSSIBLE IN IT. For every generation needs, in all its spheres,
such models and examples as may be to it a constant inspiration. (“In all
things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing
uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.” - Titus 2:7) And exactly what we all
may do, wherever our lot is cast, is this — keep the moral standard up,
and raise the moral standard higher. And this can only be done by lives,
by examples, by personal character. What we are may be the leavening
force of our generation in our sphere. But it would seem that,
in this respect, David sadly failed. We cannot say that he served his
generation by being the best possible in it. And yet, maybe, if we rightly
knew his age, we might come to feel that he did. Even taking into account
his grievous fall, the main current of his life was, to his people, a high and
inspiring example; a stream of influence that made for righteousness. And
certainly we may find the perfect example of the “best” in David’s greater
· WE MAY MINISTER TO OUR GENERATION BY MANFULLY
RESISTING THE EVILS THAT MAY AFFLICT IT. For every
generation has its conflicts, and wants its holy warriors, its brave soldiers,
as well as its noble leaders. Evil is active in every age. The enemy of God
and righteousness “goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may
devour.” (I Peter 5:8) It is true that we best oppose to evil the solid, steadfast,
quiet persistence of godly character; but we are not fully faithful to our God
or our generation if we let any phase of social, political, or moral evil grow up
in our midst unchallenged and unresisted. And in this our Lord has left us
His holy example. There is a sublime force in His fearless denunciations of
Pharisaic conceit and Sadducean laxity. He always called things by their
right names, and sought, with wholesome reproofs and warnings, to purify
a corrupt generation. (“in the midst of whom ye shine as lights in the
world.” - Philippians 2:15) And the man who faithfully serves his generation
may be sure of this — his influence will never fade out, will never die. And
God will show one day how he helped on His kingdom of righteousness and
37 “But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” Raised up for raised
again, Authorized Version. ἤγειρεν – aegeiren – rouses; raised from the death of
The two words (ἀνίστημι - anistaemi – [ἀνάστα - anasta] and ἐγείρω – egeiro –
[ἤγειρεν – egeiren) are combined in ch.12:7. Ἐγείρω is "to arouse," or "awaken;"
ἀνίστημι, to "make to get up." Or in the passive ἐγείρομαι – egeiromai - to be
"awakened," and in the neuter, ἀνέστην – anestaen - to “get up.”
38 “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is
preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:” Brethren for men and brethren,
Authorized Version, as before, vs. 26 and 15; proclaimed for preached, Authorized
Version; remission for the forgiveness, Authorized Version.
The Proclamation (v. 38)
“Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man
is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” The change in the world since
Paul was at
come to apostolic simplicity, the greater our success. Nothing but the gospel
can accomplish the work, and that because it changes the heart through the
forgiveness of sins.
· THE FREEDOM OF THE PROCLAMATION. Forgiveness, not
purchased or wrought out, but simply announced.
· THE INVITATION TO FAITH. Through this Man, whose Name can be
published, whose authority we testify. Religion is not a self-constructed
edifice of spiritual feelings to which the Name of Christ is attached to give
it a Christian sanction; it is the fruit of faith, and faith is surrender to the
authority of Christ.
· KNOWLEDGE IS THE ROOT OF RESPONSIBILITY. “Be it known
unto you;” therefore as made known, take heed that you incur not the
guilt of its rejection-. A very small amount of knowledge is enough to point
to the “Man Christ Jesus.” But if the light be darkness, by neglect, perversity,
prejudice, pride, how great that darkness!
Forgiveness of Sins (v. 38)
To illustrate how the gospel message has ever borne on this “forgiveness of sins,”
compare for the teaching of John the Baptist, Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3: of our Lord
Himself, Matthew 9:2, 6; Luke 7:47; 24:47: of Peter, ch. 2:38; 5:31; 10:43. See
another instance of Paul’s teaching on the subject (ch. 26:18). Taken with its
context, the passage is a striking one, as showing how deeply Paul was, from the
first, impressed by the fact that the Mosaic Law was inefficient as a guide
to true righteousness; and by the fact that forgiveness, as an act of grace,
and not bestowed on any form of human merit, was the very essence of the
gospel announcement to men. This subject is, however, so familiar, that
there seems little need for more than the suggestion of an order in which
thought may hopefully be guided.
· DISTINGUISH SINS FROM CEREMONIAL OFFENCES. Observe
the distinction so carefully made in Hebrews 9:9, 13-14, 23; and note:
Ø Ceremonial offences are limited by human regulations; sins are
indicated by Divine Law.
Ø Ceremonial offences concern only such persons as come under the
ceremonial rules; sins attach to all mankind, because related to God’s
moral law for all His creatures.
Ø Treatment of ceremonial offences may illustrate, but can only illustrate,
Divine methods of dealing with sin.
Ø Sins, and not ceremonial offences, are dealt with by the Heaven-sent
Savior. The heinousness, hatefulness, and evil influences of men’s sins
may be shown, and the greatness of a redemptive scheme that can meet
all the mischief caused by sin, should be explained.
· FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS MAN’S SUPREME WANT. Not man’s
only want, but the real root of all his wants, because other right relations
can only follow on his right relations with God. Sin is, in essence, self-will,
and finds expression in rebellious actions; therefore the way of the removal
of sin must be repentance, which is the humbling of the self-will, and
forgiveness, which removes the expressions and consequences of the self-
will. It may be that man’s sin was at first pressed home upon men by the
apostles in its greatest manifestation — the rejection and crucifixion of the
Son of God; but this supreme act of iniquity did but reveal the utter
baseness, badness, and corruption of the human heart and life. On this
point see the teachings of Paul in Romans 3:9-19.
· SUCH FORGIVENESS IS ADMINISTERED BY THE RISEN
CHRIST. Prospectively, He had power on earth to forgive sins, but in that
He did but declare his right, and illustrate the power He now has to “give
to the sinner’s own soul must now come the message of Divine forgiveness.
On the basis of his finished and accepted sacrifice, to our Lord
Jesus Christ is now entrusted the power to grant absolution and remission
of sins to all who “truly repent, and unfeignedly believe His holy gospel.”
And the declaration to men of a full and free forgiveness, actually now
ministered to them by the living Savior, as the beginning of His proposed
work of delivering them from all sin’s power and thraldom, is the very
point of the message which we must bear to men. Not men’s frailties only,
nor men’s mistakes, nor men’s intellectual errors, nor men’s hereditary
tendencies, nor men’s faults in the eye of “class” or “society;” but distinctly
men’s sins, men’s willfulnesses, and wickednesses, and defiances of God,
and breakings of law, and crucifying of God’s Son, — THESE, the infinite
love has found out how to reach; and it speaks from the lips of the “once
dead, but NOW RISEN, LIVING, AND GLORIFIED CHRIST,” free,
full FORGIVENESS OF ALL, even the blotting out for ever of scarlet
and crimson stains.
39 “And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye
could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Every one that believeth is for all that
believe are, Authorized Version. Here, then, is the great gospel message of grace,
"the gospel of the grace of God," as Paul speaks in ch. 20:24; the proclamation,
consequent upon the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, of a free and full
forgiveness of sins to all that repent and believe the gospel (ibid. v. 21); see
too, how adroitly the apostle points out the superiority of the gospel which he
was preaching to them over the Law, and the pre-eminence of Christ over Moses.
40 “Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;”
Spoken for spoken of, Authorized Version.
41 “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your
days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
If one for though a man, Authorized Version. "Though" best expresses the ἐὰν –
ean - and the כּי of the Hebrew. The passage is quoted nearly verbatim from the
Septuagint of Habakkuk 1:5. The difference from the Hebrew arises from the
Septuagint having read in their copy בֹּגדְיִם, proud, arrogant men (καταφρονητάι –
kataphronaetai – despisers), for בַגּוים, among the heathen, as is clear from
their rendering the Hebrew בוגֵד, in Habakkuk 1:13 and Habakkuk 2:5, by the
same word (καταφρονοῦντας – kataphronountas - and καταφρονητής –
kataphronaetaes - ). The rendering καὶ ἀφανίσθητε – kai aphanisthaete –
and be ye disappearing, and perish, for the Hebrew תְּמָהוּ (another form of the
preceding verb הִתַּמְהוּ, which in the Authorized Version is construed with it,
and the two together rendered "wonder marvelously"), is not so easily explained.
The two best explanations seem to be:
(1) that the Septuagint read תְּמָהוּ וְהתַּמְהוּ instead of the present order of the words,
and so rendered the first word θαυμάσατε – thaumasate - wonder, and, taking the
next word from another root, תָמַם,
rendered it ἀφανίσθητε
(2) that, reading the words in the same order in which they now stand in the Hebrew
text, they rendered the first θαυμάσατε, or, with the intensive addition, θαυμασίᾳ, and
took the second in the sense it has in Arabic, "to be altered" or "changed for the worse,"
and expressed it by ἀφανίσθητε, meaning" change countenance from fear and
astonishment." And in favor of this explanation the use of ἀφανίζουσι τὰ πρόσωπα –
aphanizousi ta prosopa - they disfigure their faces in Matthew 6:16 is quoted. Paul
took the Septuagint as he found it. Perhaps he saw signs in some of that unbelief and
perverse opposition which afterwards broke out (v. 45), and so was led to close his
sermon with words of awful warning.
Another Faithful Sermon to the Jew (vs. 14-41)
It is pleasant to observe the traces, in every possible place, of the grace still
held out to the Jew. It vindicates with emphasis “the long-suffering” of
God, and the continuing force of the dying prayer of Him whom those Jews
“slew and hanged on a tree.” And, though in a less degree, it is pleasant to
observe how messengers and apostles, when they reach a new town, pay
their first visit to the synagogue. This very thing the Apostle of the
Gentiles now does. It has been the order of the two companions since they
set out from the former
in Pisidia,” and Paul distinctly taking the lead, the same course is observed.
“Paul and his company” (v. 13) “went into the synagogue on the sabbath
day, and sat down.” They are strangers, and “after the reading of the Law
and the prophets,” they are invited by the rulers of the synagogue to speak.
Sergius Paulus (v. 7) sent for them when they were at Paphos, and
“desired to hear the Word of God.” And now again they spoke from all the
better vantage-ground, in that they were invited to speak. The occasion
proved a memorable one. And its memorableness turned on Paul’s “word
of exhortation” to a Jewish audience. Notice:
· THE ONE DETERMINED OBJECT OF THIS “WORD OF
EXHORTATION.” (vs. 38-39.) It is to fix sole, undivided attention on
the “Man” (v. 38) Jesus, as the Obtainer of forgiveness of sins for men,
though not Himself necessarily the actual Forgiver, and as the Justifier of
all men who believe in Him, from the demands of responsibilities of which
they would fain be free. This is the key-note of Paul’s preaching, and we
hear it distinctly sounded on this the first great occasion of his authoritative
pronouncements. It marks the standpoint of his practical theology. And it is
the burden of his apostolic mission. Nothing lies nearer his own heart,
nothing is spoken more plainly on his lip, whether he converses with
himself, a sinner, or would appeal to others, sinners. It is the core of the
truth; it is the bone and marrow of the gospel itself. Therefore:
Ø Paul preaches the “Man Christ Jesus.”
Ø Paul preaches Him as the only One who obtains forgiveness (let Him
obtain it as he may) for the burdened sinner.
Ø Paul preaches Him as the living, all-efficient Justifier of men before
Ø Paul preaches Him as the “real” (John 15:1), after all the typical and
figurative (v. 39).
· THE STRAIGHT, DIRECT ROAD ALONG WHICH PAUL
TRAVELS TO HIS ONE DETERMINED OBJECT. There is no touch of
“the Socratic argument” here. Paul takes, it is true, a little while to reach
his grand point. But he goes by no covert approach towards it. He paves
the way, and may be said to smooth the way, but it is all in full daylight.
The brief yet effective historical survey which Paul takes of Israel may be
compared, for object and matter and manner, with those of Peter (ch. 2.)
and (though in less degree) of Stephen (ch. 7.). Without invidiousness it
may be said, however, that Paul’s brevity, pointedness, trenchancy in this
address, could not be surpassed. He introduces Christ, from the moment of
God’s election of Abraham to “the raising up Jesus again” from a death
and grave which had set not one stigma of corruption on Him. And in a
moment or two he has confronted his whole audience in that Antioch
synagogue with two portraits like life and life-size — the one the portrait
of their “own nation and people, the Jews,” and the other the portrait of
the crucified, “dead, and buried,” but risen One. This introductory survey
of Paul owns to the greatest fidelity to fact and fidelity to the conscience of
those who listened. The evidences of promise sacred to every memory, of
genealogy that in point of fact had been as undisputed as it was
indisputable, of prophet of old, of that greatest “prophet born of women”
(Luke 7:28) — John the Baptist, of modern time, and of “sacred
psalm,” are all marshaled. And at present the effect seemed likely to be
irresistible. The “men of
association with them, and “the Gentiles,” or some chance representatives
of them, seem to be, not indeed chained to the spot (v. 42), not
entranced, not bewitched, but deeply impressed and thoughtful without
· THE FAITHFUL WARNING AND POWERFUL
REMONSTRANCE THAT CLOSED “THE WORD OF
EXHORTATION.” The word of trumpet-warning is Paul’s own. He
clenches it, albeit, with quotation from “the Scriptures,” which should add
the force that comes of sacred reverence’s claim. “Repent!” cried John the
Baptist. “Beware!” cries Paul, “lest you fail to repent;” as so many had
failed to do since John the Baptist’s cry. They heard the quotation, and
often as they had heard it before and knew it so well, or it would have lost
much of its significance and aptness on the lip of Paul, they had never
thought of it in this light, they had never dreamt it could have foretold of
them or be any description of them. Yet what a wonderful picture it had
been of a nation, for at all events some three years, and of their sons and
daughters some thirteen years more already! What a true picture of that
“highly favored” nation! They had beheld and despised; they had wondered
and had — perished, yes, already too many of them — perished. And that
from no convulsion of nature, or collapse of heaven, or irremediable
pestilence, or sword of conquering foe, but because, though they were
given to behold things that kings and prophets and righteous men of their
ancestors for centuries had desired in vain, they “despised” what they
beheld. So must perish all who will “in no wise believe a work which”
Heaven itself works in the very midst of them, and which is “declared” to
them with the voice of power, of love, of patient importunity, but is
“despised and rejected.” (v. 41)
The New Testament in the Old (vs. 16-41)
The expositions of the Scriptures of the Old Testament by the writers and
speakers of the New Testament are worthy of our deepest attention. Not
only do they draw out from those Scriptures particular instruction which of
ourselves we should never, perhaps, have found there, but they supply us
with irrefragable proofs of the unity of purpose which ordained the long
sequence of events themselves, through many centuries, and also ordained
that a faithful record of them should be preserved in the sacred archives of
the Jewish people. There is probably no evidence of more overwhelming
power of conviction, when once it is grasped, that the Scriptures are from
God, and that they are a revelation of the very mind of God, than that
which is supplied by the continuity of events whose historical truth rests
upon a solid basis, and whose meaning and purpose receive their only and
full explanation in another set of events whose basis of historical evidence
is no less firm and solid than the former. This double testimony to the truth
of the gospel, supplied by the direct evidence of those who went in and out
with the Lord Jesus, on the one hand, and by the prophetic preparation for
those events, and the significant types of them, exhibited centuries before,
on the other hand, together form a moral demonstration which, when
apprehended, is simply irresistible. It is this which gives such force to those
apostolic and other sermons which are recorded in this Book of the Acts.
In this sermon of Paul’s we have the election of Israel to be the people
of God, their redemption from Egyptian bondage, their planting in the land
one deny the truth of those events? Were not the Jewish people still in
actual possession of the
were they not, and were not they alone, worshippers of the true and living
God? Did they not possess the sacred oracles? And if they went back
century by century, did they not come to the time when the seven nations
it? If they went further back still, was there not the Egyptian bondage
described in their ancient records, living in their traditions and sacred
songs, engraved in the monuments and annals of
dealt with them as he had dealt with no other people. They were the
children of miracle, the heirs of Divine promises, the
depositaries of A
DIVINE PLAN, He ordained instruments of a great and ETERNAL
PURPOSE! Every page of their history proved it, as that history was
slowly unfolded in the course of successive ages. And the purpose itself
was partially revealed from time to time. Let them bethink themselves of
David and his throne; his humble origin, and his exalted power; the hand
which raised him, the promises which surrounded him, the expectations
which clung to his name. Did he not live in the hearts and hopes of the
people through ages of oppression and wrong? Did not his name still glow
on the page of prophecy, as the heir of mercy, as the
future prince of
as the founder of
the hidden truth that swelled and was ready to burst under all these images?
What was the womb of time so big with in the days which had come upon them?
There was an answer, and one only answer, to these questions. The history
of their fathers was explained by one and only one fact, and that was the
birth of Jesus Christ, of the seed of Abraham and of the lineage of David,
to be the
world. And he Paul was there to tell them of Jesus Christ: how He was born
in the city of
was fulfilled all that was written in the Law of Moses and in the prophets,
and in the Psalms, concerning the Christ that should come. Let them turn
to those prophets and to those Psalms, and see what was there written
concerning the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. It
had all been fulfilled! The Man of sorrows had been despised and rejected; His
hands and His feet had been pierced on the tree; they had parted His raiment
among them and cast lots upon His vesture; He had gone to the grave and
to hell; He had risen again and seen no corruption; His old companions had
seen Him many days after His resurrection; they had eaten and drunk with
Him, and in their sight He had gone up to heaven. What further proof could
they have that He was very Christ, the promised Savior, the Son of David,
of whose kingdom there should be no cud? Let them believe in Him, and He
would justify them from all their sins. Let them not by their unbelief bring
upon themselves the curse denounced by the prophet upon the despisers of
God’s Word. Thus it was that the fulfillment in the New Testament of all
the types and promises of the Old was as the seal of God
to THE TRUTH
OF BOTH. The testimony of nearly two thousand years, in which words, deeds,
persons, things, events, pointed with steady consistency to one Person that
should come, was ALL CONSETRATED UPON JESUS who did come in the
fullness of time. And the 2000 years which have elapsed since Jesus rose
again have added their testimony, too, to all that went before. So that our
age will be altogether without excuse if, shutting its eyes to the light of
truth, it rejects the Son of God and misses the great salvation which He has
brought to our sinful and fallen world.
The Christian Faith (vs. 14-41)
The Apostle of the Gentiles goes first to the synagogue of the Jews (v. 14). This
partly, perhaps, because he would be most at home there and find
a readier audience (v. 15); partly in accordance with the words of the
Lord (Luke 24:47). At liberty to speak by the courtesy of his
countrymen, Paul preached the discourse which we have in the text
concerning the faith of Christ. He shows:
of history. That history:
Ø commences with the call of Abraham and the redemption of Israel
from the bondage of
Ø includes the life in the wilderness (v. 18); and
Ø the early years in the land of promise (vs. 19-20);
Ø contains the choice of a monarchy (v. 21) and
Ø the elevation of David (v. 22).
From beginning to end, the faith of Christ rests on the solid ground of
established facts; it does not depend on dreams and visions, nor on
logical deductions or intuitions of the human reason; it is built on
well-attested facts; “That which we have heard, that which we have
seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you”
(I John 1:1-3). Not “cunningly devised fables,” but facts of which
truthful men were “eye-witnesses” (II Peter 1:16), are the material on
whichChristian doctrine rests.
Ø One of supreme rank and majesty, whose shoes the great Baptist
was “not worthy to loose” (v. 25);
Ø One slain by His own people, but raised from the dead by the
favor and the power of God (vs. 27-30);
One whose immortality is the fulfillment of the Divine word (vs. 32-37).
In Christianity everything gathers round, centers in, Jesus Christ Himself.
We are not compelled to subscribe to certain profound propositions, nor to
conform to a number of minute requirements either in domestic or social life
or devotional habit; we are desired to accept a once-crucified and now
risen One — “a Savior, Jesus” — as the almighty Savior, living Lord,
Divine Friend, he offers to be to us ALL!
preached unto you the forgiveness of sins;” “By him all that believe are
justified,” etc. There can be no real religious life without the conscious
enjoyment of God’s favor; and this cannot be attained until sin has been
forgiven. The initial step into the
remission of sins, the justification of the sinner before God. This is the
cardinal doctrine of the gospel of Christ; “This [He said] is my blood of the
new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”
(Matthew 26:28). There may come times when this doctrine will be
neglected, but to it mankind will continually return; for it is the sense of sin
and the consciousness of condemnation which stand between the soul of
man and its heritage in God, and it is the forgiveness of sin and the
justification of the sinner which open the gates of the kingdom:
Ø of peace,
Ø of joy, and
Ø of eternal life.
that fear God, give audience” (v. 16; “Children of the stock of Abraham,
and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation
sent” (v. 26); “By Him all that believe are justified” (v. 39). Already the
old and narrowing traditions had been broken; already the strong
prejudices had melted away; already the hearts of men had been enlarged,
and Gentiles and Jews were invited to believe and to be saved. As
missionary work proceeded, and as more light from heaven broke in, the
world-embracing thought of God became clearer and fuller to the minds
succession of steps:
but one that has been taken by thousands of the children of men. We cannot
oppose ourselves to a “great salvation” without being bruised and broken
by our folly (Matthew 21:44). The height of blessedness and dignity to
which we rise if we accept a Divine Savior marks the depth of shame and
woe to which we fall if we reject Him.
42 “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought
that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.” And as they
went out for when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; they for the Gentiles, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;
spoken for preached, Authorized Version. They besought. There is a difference of
opinion as to who is meant by they. The simplest explanation is that they means
Paul and Barnabas, who went out of the synagogue before the formal dismissal
of the congregation; and, as they were going out, received an invitation to repeat
their instruction on the next sabbath.
43 “Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious
proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them
to continue in the grace of God.” The synagogue broke up for the congregation
was broken up, Authorized Version; the devout for religious, Authorized Version;
urged for persuaded, Authorized Version. This verse manifestly describes something
subsequent to the event recorded in the preceding. The congregation had asked Paul
and Barnabas, perhaps through the ruler of the synagogue, to return next sabbath.
But when the congregation broke up, many Jews and devout proselytes followed
Paul and Barnabas to their own house and received further instructions and
exhortation to continue in the grace of God. No doubt Barnabas had his full
share in this more private ministry of exhortation (ch.4:36, note, and ch.11:23).
(For the meaning of "to continue in the grace of God," see Galatians 5:4.)
Paul’s Sermon in the Synagogue at
· THE MAIN PURPOSE OF IT — to prove the Messiahship of Jesus, and
therefore TO PROCLAIM THE GATE OF LIFE OPEN. The history of
Divine grace pointing to a day of salvation. The course of thought in Paul’s
own mind, which led him to faith.
· THE MAIN STRENGTH OF THE ARGUMENT — the facts of the
Savior’s death and resurrection. Paul could speak with special emphasis,
though prudently avoided bringing in at this point his own conversion.
· THE SPIRITUAL APPEAL WAS TWOFOLD.
1. You need this salvation; for the Law of Moses will not justify you.
2. How can you escape if you neglect it? Resist not the Holy Ghost.
· THE MARKED EFFECT OF SINCERITY AND EARNESTNESS.
1. Inquiry. It is much to break through stolid indifference.
2. Devout attention led to faith. Many followed them; that is, declared
themselves convinced. Fruit was gathered even among the Jews.
44 “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear
the word of God.” Sabbath for sabbath day, Authorized Version; almost the
whole city was gathered for came almost the whole city, Authorized Version.
We may suppose that as many as could crowded into the synagogue, and that a
multitude stood outside in the street.
45 “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake
against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”
Jealousy for envy, Authorized Version; contradicted the things for spake against those
things, Authorized Version; and blasphemed for contradicting and blaspheming,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Jealousy. Neither word exactly expresses
the ζῆλου – zaelou – of boiling; of jealousy.. The indignation of v. 17, Authorized
Version (where see note), is nearer the sense; though jealousy of the influence of
the two strangers may have entered into the fierce passion which was stirred up in
the Jewish mind, as well as jealousy for their own religion, which they saw was
being superseded by the doctrine of Paul.
46 "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the
word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you,
and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles."
And for then, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; spake out boldly for waxed
bold, Authorized Version; be for have been, Authorized Version; seeing for but
seeing, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; thrust for put, Authorized Version
eternal for everlasting, Authorized Version. Spake out boldly. Observe that Barnabas
as well as Paul resented the unseemly opposition of the Jews. It was necessary. The
accordance with this purpose of God that Paul says of the gospel that "it is the power
of God unto salvation... to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Compare, too, our Lord's saying (Matthew 15:24) and the woman's reply (ibid. 27).
In point of fact, this had been the practice of Paul and Barnabas no less than of
Peter, and was the very motive that had brought them to Antioch. Lo, we turn to the
Gentiles. These were, indeed, bold words to speak in a Jewish synagogue (remember
Christ's communication to Paul - ch. 26:17-18; the speakers had doubtless sought
courage from the Holy Ghost (see ch. 4:29).
47 "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light
of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
For a light for to be a light, Authorized Version; the uttermost part for the ends,
Authorized Version. The quotation is from the Septuagint (Codex Alexandrinus)
The additional words which appear in the Septuagint, εἰς διαθήκην γένους - eis
diathaekaen genous - have no counterpart in the Hebrew, and are probably corrupt.
The application of the passage is, God declared His purpose by Isaiah, that His
Servant Messiah should be the Light and Salvation of the Gentiles, and we are
commissioned to give effect to that purpose by our preaching. ("Known unto
God are all His works from the beginning of the world." ch. 15:18)
Unexpected Interpretations (vs. 46-47)
“Ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life.” The gentle, pitying
character of the immense preponderance of the language of Jesus to men
speaks and has ever spoken His condescending acquaintance with human
nature, and His sympathetic acquaintance with those of the springs of
human action that lie deep in feeling. His spirit in these respects was not
altogether unworthily caught by His apostles, and notably by the one time
disciple, now apostle, John. There came times and occasions, however,
both in the converse of the Master Himself with sinful men, and of His
servants with their fellow-men, when words of kindness to the ear would
be the very signal of unkindness to the soul and untruthfulness to its
highest interests. And the plain and “bold” language of Paul and Barnabas
now, needing no extenuation at our hands, and little enough of explanation,
offers a forcible and most striking suggestion, how often, through all the
coverings of gracious and forbearing language, the polished shaft of naked
truth must be threatening to pierce, let the crash be what it may. The
statement to which Paul now committed himself may be regarded as saying
very significantly that:
· MEN NEVER MORE EFFECTUALLY PRONOUNCE JUDGMENT
ON THEMSELVES THAN WHEN THEY ARE PRONOUNCING
JUDGMENT ON CHRIST. This is true in two leading cases.
Ø If men are pronouncing judgment unfavorable to Christ — as, for
instance, in supposed answer to such a question as His own, “What
think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42) They are pronouncing nothing
less than decisive condemnation of themselves.
Ø If they are humbly and in the genuine spirit of trying to feel their way,
giving out from time to time some testimony of their growing and
growingly grateful appreciation of Christ and of His truth, they then
are proving their own growth in likeness to Him. They are unconsciously
giving the measure of how far the “day dawns” with them, and how
high the “daystar arises in their hearts,” or even how far they have
got on that path which is like “the shining light, which shineth more
and more unto the perfect day.” (II Peter 1:19)
MEN’S PUTTING FROM THEM THE
GIVEN IN CHRIST IS DOING NOTHING LESS THAN PUTTING
FROM THEM THE PROSPECT OF EVERLASTING LIFE.
Ø The dogmatic tone of the apostle is to be noted. This is not the personal
prerogative of Paul or of any one else; it is the claimed, asserted,
demanded right of Christianity. Christianity gives its account of it, and
a good and competent account. If this be not so, Christianity must go.
But if it be so, he must go who will not have its reign over him.
Ø Momentous and awful as is the issue to which Paul leaves now the
refusing Jews, he lays the whole responsibility of it upon them. They
were “filled with envy,” they “spake against the things which were
spoken by Paul,” they “contradicted and blasphemed,” they
“put from” them the “Word of God;” and Paul rules that theirs is the
undivided folly of forfeiting “everlasting life,” as though they
seriously “judged themselves unworthy of it.”
· THE SIMPLEST FACTS OF SOME SORTS OF HUMAN
CONDUCT, WHEN TRANSLATED INTO WORDS, SOUND LIKE
THE PUREST, MOST UNDISGUISED SATIRE. Nothing could be
further from the pride and presumption of a Jew, of the type of those who
were now before Paul, than to think himself “unworthy of everlasting life,”
or indeed of any other thing whatsoever, either great or good, which could
be had. Yet nothing could be truer than that his conduct amounted to that,
ran a terrible risk of ending in it, and, unrepented, unaltered, could in fact
end in nothing else. For it may be stated thus — that”
(1) the message of Christ,
(2) the credentials of every kind of Christ, and
(3) the deep, incontestable, universal needs of the heart and life of man, are
such that, whether a man be Jew or Gentile, so only he be made fairly
acquainted with Jesus and “the Word of God” in him, he is “inexcusable”
if he “put these away from” him. The thing, it might be supposed, could
rationally (though then not rightly) explain the conduct except it were the
profoundest humility of a publican of the publicans. But this, we know,
would forget the prayer of the publican, though it might commemorate his
deepest humiliation of self-reproach and sense of “unworthiness.” Yet is
this too sadly often found the case with men in matters of religion. Without
humility, they pursue a line of conduct which only the extreme of self-
reproach could rationally and temporarily account for. Other reason,
indeed, in very truth there may be, must be — unutterable folly, blindest
infatuation, amazing recklessness, and uncalculating force of passion and
envy, and withal guilt’s own chosen particular type of hardness; these or
their like must at the last be found answerable. But when they are
summoned for their last answer, this will be the irony of their situation,
that, furthest removed of all from pure and modest and self-upbraiding
humility, they counterfeited it, and, in the name of that counterfeit, “would
not come to Jesus that they might have life” everlasting. (John 5:40)
An inspired apostle gave this unexpected interpretation of the state of things
in the instance before us; how many more such, ALAS, will “the day
48 "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word
of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
As for when, Authorized Version; God for the Lord, Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. This can
only refer to the predestination or election of God, viewed as the moving cause
I Peter 1:2. See the Seventeenth Article of Religion).
Article XVII: Of Predestination and Election
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the
foundations of the world were laid) He hath constantly decreed by His counsel
secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen
in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation,
as vessels made to honor. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent
a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working
in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely:
they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of His
only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and
at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is
full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such
as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works
of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and
heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their
faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth
fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons,
lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence
of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfal, whereby the Devil doth
thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean
living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally
set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be
followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.
(The Victorian Web)
49 "And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region."
Spread abroad for published, Authorized Version. As the persecution after the death
of Stephen led to the preaching of the Word in Judaea and
here the contradiction and opposition of the Jews led to the free preaching of the
gospel for the first time among the heathen population of Pisidia.
50 "But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men
of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them
out of their coasts." Urged on for stirred up, Authorized Version; the devout women
of honorable estate for the devout and honorable women, Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus; stirred up a for raised, Authorized Version; cast them out of their
borders for expelled them out of their coasts, Authorized Version. Urged on
(παρώτρυναν - parotrunan - spur on). The word only occurs here in the New
Testament, and is not common elsewhere. The devout women of honorable estate:
εὐσχήμων - euschaemon - respectable is, literally, well-formed; then decent,
becoming; and then honorable, well-to-do (compare Acts 17:4, γυναικῶν τῶν
πρώτων - gunaikon ton proton - of women besides the foremost). See Mark 15:43,
where Joseph of Arimathaea is described as εὐσχήμων βουλευτής - euschaemon
bouleutaes - an honorable counselor. The devout women (τῶντέ σεβόμεναι)
were the Gentile proselytes who worshipped God, as in v. 43. So of Lydia
(τοὺς πρώτους - tous protous - the foremost men), as in ch.17:4 (γυναικῶν τῶν
πρώτων - see above)
51 "But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto
Iconium." They shook off the dust, etc.; according to the Lord's injunction
miles south-east, a five days' journey (Renan). Iconium lay on the high road from
thirty thousand souls. (circa. 200 years ago - CY) Iconium is assigned by Xenophon
At this time it was the capital of a separate tetrarchy (Lewin, 'Saint Paul'), but Renan
calls it" the capital of Lycaonia."
52 "And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost."
Nothing can be more beautiful than this description. In spite of the persecution,
in spite of the danger, in spite of the banishment of their teachers, the disciples
were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost (see I Thessalonians 1:6;
Hebrews 10:34). With regard to this important incident at Antioch, Renan observes
on its powerful influence in turning Paul's mind more decisively to the conversion
of the Gentiles as the great object of his apostleship. He adds, "The character of
that great soul was to have a boundless power of expansion. I know none to be
compared with it in respect of its inexhaustible freshness, its unlimited resources
of will, and readiness to make the most of every opportunity, except that of
Alexander the Great?
Paul’s Missionary Discourse at
We are introduced to one of those synagogue scenes which are of so much
interest in connection with the early progress of Christianity. Here the
gospel fought its foes and triumphed by the logic of love; here the seeds
were sown which sprang up to cover the world with fruit. According to the
ordinary practice, the officers of the synagogue invite the strangers to
address the congregation. Paul rises. His address falls naturally into parts.
It resembles in general argument and tenor that of Stephen before the
Sanhedrim. (thus Stephen’s influence on Paul!?) We may gather from it
what were the great reasons which convinced and led to the conversion of
THE PROVIDENTIAL COURSE OF
Ø There was the Divine selection of a people, not to be for themselves
favorites of God, but to be His light and salvation to the ends of the
Ø There was the wondrous deliverance of this people out of the
oppressor’s hand — from the
surpassing Divine power joined with Divine goodness, the historic
Consciousness of the nation was based.
Ø There was the desert discipline: the giving of the Law, the enforcement
o education in obedience.
Ø The expulsion of the Canaanite tribes and the foundation of a settled
government. This, too, was a great
refer to it without the consciousness of her high mission as a nation —
called of God to supersede the weak, effete idolatrous nations (of which
the Progressive Movement in the
2017) of the land, and to diffuse holier manners, purer laws.
Ø The epoch of the kings. The brilliant but erring Saul; the hero David and
his glorious era. Every nation has some similar or analogous points in its
history on which its memory rests; landmarks of its way; prophetic
moments containing the future; sowing-times for future harvests;
endeavors towards an ideal. Think of our own Magna Charta, our Civil
War, our Revolution, our struggle for existence, our chastisements, and
view its own, and trace the hand of THE SAME WORLD-GUIDING
THE CONSUMMATION OF
to the flesh. There was an echo of glorious memories in Him. He came to
different way from that expected by His countrymen. The testimony of the
Baptist was mighty in favor of Jesus. No prophet in these latter days had
commanded greater reverence than John the Baptist, the great religious
reformer, a preacher of repentance. Now he had distinctly waived his
claims to be the Messiah, and had pointed to Jesus; had retired before Him
with the most lowly confession of inferiority. When we see a great man
sincerely willing to take a second place in the presence of a new-comer, it
is a witness of the greatest moment to the latter’s superiority. The highest
human elevation of character — such as John’s — can only bend before
the Divine. “To you, then,” may Paul well say to the Jews, “and that not on
the ground of my assertion, but the witness of the greatest man held in
honor by you, the second Elijah, is this salvation sent, this good news
· THE CONDUCT OF THE SANHEDRIM TO JESUS EXPLAINED.
Paul is aware that he has a great prejudice in the minds of his hearers to
overcome — the great “scandal of the cross.”
Ø The ignorance of the rulers. They did not understand the voices of the
prophets, nor the meaning of the Scriptures constantly read in their
synagogues. But their ignorance was little excuse for them. They ought
to have known better. If we choose to look at facts in one light only —
that of our wishes or prejudices — we suppress a part of the truth; and
when this suppressed truth rises up from an unexpected quarter to
confront us, the sense of self-condemnation cannot be overcome. The
Sanhedrim saw in Jesus the embodiment of suppressed truth, and they
hated Him. It was like the uprising of a ghost long thought to have
Ø What they could not meet with reason they tried to quell by violence.
Jesus was tried, with the result of establishing His innocence. No crime,
no fault, no disobedience to the Law, no rebellion against order, could
be proved. Yet He was handed to the Roman governor, and His death
was a judicial murder.
Ø Thus prophecy was unconsciously fulfilled. A suffering Messiah had
been foretold, and had now been revealed in a death of martyrdom.
Behind the innocence of the sufferer and the guilt of His murderers a
purpose of eternal wisdom and love had wrought and fulfilled itself.
It is this insight into Divine thoughts which can alone relieve the
dreadful tragedies of human passions and events. While in one point
of view the death of Jesus is a scene of horror and of darkness, and
the thought of it a scandal to the Jew and a folly to the Greek, in another
it is A REVELATION OF A DIVINE LOVE which conquers hate and
forgives even guilty ignorance, and converts a revelation of weakness
into a revelation of wisdom and of power.
· THE RESURRECTION. Without this crowning fact the rest had been
incomplete. A suffering Messiah would have been a witness of the peoples’
sin; a Messiah rising triumphant over death could alone bespeak the victory
of Divine love over human hate and sin. Here, then, comes the core of the
message. The apostles can never forget that they are “witnesses of the
Resurrection.” And this was good news — the fulfillment of a promise
made to the fathers in olden time. The apostles found in psalms and
prophecies of the past which referred in the first instance to events then
passing and persons then living, an ideal or prophetic element. “Thou art
my Son, this day have I begotten thee;” these words, perhaps referable in
the first instance to Solomon, can only in the apostolic thought be properly
satisfied in Christ. And so with the other citation. The promise to continue
the Divine covenant in the line of the kings is fulfilled above all in Jesus.
We must recollect that the
whole was ideal; that is, it pointed to meanings not at any time within the
visible field of experience. If we grasp this thought, it may help us to
understand how the apostles viewed Scripture, and how they quoted it; not
so much for its literal and primary as for its spiritual and prophetic
meaning. The Holy One of God was not to see corruption. But David
passed away and mixed with dust. It is, then, in David’s “greater Son” that
this prophecy must be fulfilled, of an incorruptible and IMMORTAL LIFE!
· THE REMISSION OF SINS. Through this risen One the blessed
boon is proclaimed. The life, the death, the resurrection, would be simply a
grand Divine drama, an object of contemplation, a piece of magnificent
poetry, were there no practical result like this flowing from it. But it means
victory and release from sin. Surrender to the Divine ideal, affiance in the
Anointed of God, means deliverance and peace, not to be obtained by
laborious obedience to the moral or ceremonial Law. Faith is wholehearted
surrender to the Divine Object. It is not a mere act of intelligence,
nor yielding of the affections, nor decision of the will; but the giving up
one’s self TO CHRIST! It is this which brings the full blessing of Divine
peace upon the heart, and nothing short of this CAN DO SO!
· FINAL WARNING. How shall men escape if they reject so great salvation?
(Hebrews 2:3) Refuse love, and wrath only can be expected. Similarly does
Stephen’s speech end with a sharp note of warning. Our heart is stirred by
contrasted motives. We move between two poles of emotion. To be drawn
by love is to be repelled by fear. The one motive or the other may have the
greater weight with different minds, or with the same mind in different
moods. Let us thankfully recognize that, whether the gospel touches the
chord of love or of fear, it aims at OUR SALVATION! “Save, Lord,
by love or fear!”
The Savor of Death and of Life (vs. 42-52)
We have here a memorable example of the same gospel being a savor of life to some
and of death to others, according to the reception given to it in the heart of the
hearers. (II Corinthians 2:14-1) Here was a mixed congregation of Jews and
proselytes and Gentiles. They had all the same advantages; they all heard
the same gospel at the mouth of the same preacher. Some, when they
heard, believed; a hunger sprang up in their souls to hear and to know
more of the salvation of God. They followed the preachers out of the
synagogue; they hung upon their words; they listened to their exhortations.
The next sabbath found them in the synagogue again. We can imagine that
the pressing thought in their hearts was, “What must I do to be saved?” We
can imagine how they struggled out of the darkness into the light of Christ;
how the new message of redeeming love and justifying grace kindled new
thoughts in their inmost souls; how they followed the words which led
them till they found peace and life in Jesus Christ. The gospel was to them
“a savor of life unto life.” But others heard and believed not. Their
conscience was not pricked with sin; their souls were not moved by the
love of God; they did not yearn after more light, more knowledge of the
glorious Lord; they were not humbled before the cross; but their self-love
was wounded, their pride was aroused, jealousy and hatred were kindled
within them at the success of the gospel. They spurned the truth which
would lower their importance; they scorned the light in which their own
glory would grow pale; they hated the goodness before which their own
goodness withered into sin. They knew Christ only to contradict Him; they
knew His Word only to blaspheme Him. The gospel of God’s grace had
come to them, but their last state was worse than the first. The gospel was
to them “a savor of death unto death.”
Ministerial Success (42-52)
· THAT IT IS A REAL MINISTERIAL GAIN TO EXCITE
RELIGIOUS INQUIRY. (vs. 42-44.) It was a considerable success to
have called forth the interest of the Gentile audience, so that they begged
to hear the same truths stated again (v. 42). It was the beginning of “the
grace of God” in their hearts (v. 43); it resulted in the excitement of still
more extensive inquiry, so that “the whole city” was agitated and solicitous
(v. 44). We may thank God for the commencement of religious life, for
the sprouting of the seed, for the first signs of spiritual awakening; we need
not hesitate to ascribe this to the hand of God on the heart of man.
· THAT SUCH AWAKENING MUST BE FAITHFULLY
FOLLOWED UP BY THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER. Paul and Barnabas
“persuaded them to continue,” etc. (v. 43). We must not only plant, but
water (I Corinthians 3:6). We should watch for the first signs of
religious earnestness, and promptly follow up what has been wrought by
wise, earnest, devout encouragement.
· THAT THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER SHOULD AVAIL HIMSELF
OF EVERY PROVIDENTIAL OPENING. (vs. 45-47.) The rejection of
the gospel by the Jews might have led some half-hearted missionaries to
abandon their work. But to those who were here to work it simply acted as
an incentive to go forth into a wider field. They took the shutting of one
gate to mean entrance through another; the blocking of one way to prove
that the finger of God was pointing in another direction, where more
ground was to be cultivated and larger harvests were to be reaped. So must
we strive to gain good from apparent evil, and look on every adverse event
as showing us what other and what better thing our Master would have us
· THAT GOD’S WORK WILL BE WROUGHT IN SPITE OF MAN’S
ENMITY, AND EVEN BY MEANS OF IT. The violent and determined
opposition of the Jews (v. 45) led the apostles to a conclusion in favor of
more extensive Christian labor earlier than they could otherwise have
reached it. The language of Paul (v. 46) indicates no little tension of
feeling. The enemies of the truth urged onward the chariot of the kingdom,
and it rolled forward at full speed. And the fervent words of the apostle
met with a prompt and earnest response (v. 48); the Gentiles “glorified
God,” and many of them yielded an intelligent, saving faith to the truths
presented. So much of centrifugal force was there in the enmity of the Jews
that the gospel was carried far and wide, and “the Word of the Lord was
published throughout all the region” (v. 49). A happy thing it is for us
that often “vaulting ambition o’er leaps itself and comes down on the other
side,” that the wrath of man does occasionally and incidentally work the
righteousness and grace of God, that the industry of evil builds up the walls
it is seeking to undermine. (Psalm 76:10)
· THAT MINISTERIAL SUCCESS IS CERTAIN TO BE DASHED
WITH SOME DISAPPOINTMENT, and that the Christian teacher must
mingle reproach with invitation (vs. 50-51).
· THAT FAITHFUL WORK MAY FILL THE MINISTER OF
CHRIST WITH HOLY JOY. (v. 52.) There is a gladness, an exultation,
which may find a home in the teacher’s heart which is not holy, and when it
cannot be said that he is “filled with joy and the holy Ghost;” that is, when
he is congratulating himself with a satisfaction that is selfish, earthly,
unspiritual. But when his joy is pure, disinterested, Christian; when he
rejoices because Christ is being honored and men are being raised and
blessed, then is his heart happy with a joy with which the Holy Spirit is
closely associated, and which “sanctifies and satisfies the soul.”
Jewish Jealousy (vs. 42-52)
The result of the preaching of Paul at
Jews and Gentile proselytes to the Christian faith. To these the exhortation,
appropriate to all new converts, was given: “Abide in the grace of God.”
· THE GATHERING OF THE MULTITUDE. There is always some
reason for the gathering of the crowd. Its fancy is easily excited. It is
attracted by the wonderful and the novel. Here it was no mere
sensationalism; it was the desire to hear the Word of God which drew them
together. At its heart the multitude loves truth. Well it may; for it craves
salvation from misery, and knows that this is to be found in truth alone.
Often is the multitude deceived in thought, and mistakes sound for sense;
but not for long.
· THE RISE OF JEWISH ENVY. The causes of which are not difficult
to explain. The new-comer has laid hold upon the people and gained their
ear. It is at last the multitude to whom the teacher and the ruler must
appeal, and from whom he must derive his influence. Popularity invites
jealousy and attracts hate from the unsuccessful. Rare indeed is the
magnanimity shown by John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must
decrease.” (John 3:30) To be willing that monopoly of privileges should
pass away and that all should equally share the light and the love of God,
is the spirit of the gospel, which opposes Jewish exclusiveness and jealousy.
· THE DESTINATION OF THE GOSPEL.
Ø First to the Jews. Not for their own merits’ sake, but because of the
promises of God, who cannot deny Himself, and, despite our unfaithfulness,
remains faithful. But the blessings of the gospel are freely offered to free
men. They may, therefore, be rejected. In the freedom of choice lies
boundless possibility of good and boundless responsibility for evil.
Ø Those who reject it are self-cast away. “Ye cast away yourselves, and do
not think yourselves worthy of eternal life.” It is never that God thinks us
unworthy of the best, but that we do not rise to seek it. SELF-NEGLECTING
as the great poet teaches, is a viler sin than self- love. We prefer:
o our prejudices to the truth,
o our passions and pleasures to God’s will,
o the material to the spiritual and ideal good;
and thus turn against ourselves in acts that are suicidal. Men shut themselves
out of heaven while they shut themselves in with narrowness and contempt
of truth. (I find it intriguing that the secular hypocritically considers
fundamental Christianity to be narrow-minded! CY – 2017)
known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the
Gentiles, and that THEY WILL HEAR IT.” The Gentiles in their
sorrow and depression, needed comfort, and greeted the... good news of
the love of God. The
were for ALL WHO NEEDED ITS BLESSINGS! (Do you have need
today? THEN THIS GOSPEL IS FOR YOU! IT IS FOR SINNERS
AND THE NEEDY! – CY – 2017) The gospel is a light and a saving
power in mankind. Those who are satisfied with their own
state, outward or inward, will turn away from it; they cannot relish
a message which implies the inward misery of those to whom it is
addressed. But the sad and the sick hail it with joy, and find in it
THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION! And the Word of God
spreads over the whole land.
Ø The influence of women in the diffusion of Christianity. Women can
powerfully help or hinder the course of any movement in the world,
especially any religious movement. Here certain feelings in their minds are
appealed to, antagonistic to the gospel. It would be easy to misrepresent it.
These proselyte women might say that they had learned to be religious
without the gospel, and what could it do more for them? Or it might be
represented that it subverted sound piety, whereas it really fulfils every
noble ideal learned elsewhere. Among the proselytes to Judaism we see
elsewhere that it received a warm welcome. The lesson from such incidents
is the practical one — that we should test any new teaching for ourselves,
not accept reports at second hand. The seeming new is often not true; the
new and the true are ever the fulfillment of the old. (Mr. Spurgeon said,
There is nothing new, but that is FALSE!” - CY – 2017)
Jewish Opposition Overruled to the World’s Good (vs. 42-52)
· THE TEST OF SINCERITY applied to the professedly zealous. The
city stirred by those who “followed not with them.” The true zeal is that
which is actuated by the true charity, which “rejoices not in iniquity, but
rejoices in truth.” (I Corinthians 13:6)
· The best success is that which is obtained by simply FOLLOWING
DIVINE DIRECTION. “It was necessary” to encounter the prejudice of
the Jews, but the work of the world’s evangelization was promoted by the
causes which seemed to thwart it.
· THOSE THAT EXALT THEMSELVES ARE ABASED. To thrust
opportunity away is to judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life. The facts
will be condemnation, without human accusation.
· THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL is its original charter of
right to possession of all nations. The light was created before the sun,
and the grace of God preceded the call of the Jews. The patriarchal religion
testifies to the breadth of the message.
· PERSECUTION is the last resort of defeated opponents OF TRUTH!
When arguments fail, try abuse. (To often this is a ploy, even today!
CY – 2017) The old priestly spirit at work, “urging on devout women.”
MOVEMENT IS THE LAW OF LIFE. If
opens a new sphere. The messengers must think first of the work — last of
themselves. Ohne Hast, ohne Rast (without haste, but without rest).
The Clash of Two Worlds in Christ (vs. 42-52)
It may certainly be said that the Jews had long been a world by themselves.
In one fashion this had been the ordaining of Heaven itself, though they
had wrested the true idea of things to a false. And in matter of fact, the
whole of the rest of the earth had been another world. It was but too true
now that places were to change, and, while the lofty fell, the lowly were
exalted. The climax was scarcely reached as yet chronologically, but the
passage of the history before us may most justly be looked at as setting
forth very strikingly the climax in its nature. Notice:
· THE OPENING SIGNS. The place is the synagogue, the place of the
Jew. The service is on the sabbath, the service and the sabbath both of the
Jew. The congregation is in the first place almost exclusively the
congregation of the Jew and of those who had now some time been allied
to him as proselytes. These had heard read the Law and the prophets, and
had, in addition, heard thereupon exposition and exhortation, the freshest
in style, from two of their own race. The service is over, and they leave,
Ø in some form or another, by deputation or by the importunate
acclamation of many together, the Gentiles beg that next sabbath
they may be given to hear the same Word preached. It seems
that their application was at all events not refused. But:
Ø Paul and Barnabas turn not their back upon those who had been
listening to them, nor give them any sign of the cold shoulder, but
the contrary. They speak to them, and beg them to value and
“to continue in the grace of God.”
· THE GREAT DISCLOSURE. The next sabbath day has come round.
There is still a standing synagogue; there are still “Law and prophets and
blest psalm;” there are still an ample number of Jews and of proselytes to
make a congregation, and a good one. But the synagogue has come to look
like an antiquated, useless, and quite disproportionate building. It is not
equal to the needs of the day, nor anything like it.
Ø “Almost the whole city is come together to hear the Word of God.”
Ø The second part of the great disclosure is that the Jews cannot take it
with any equanimity even, that they are to be thus swamped by the
outsiders. “Envy” rules them.
Ø The third act in the disclosure is that they will try to resist the tide of a
greater force than the ocean. They “speak against” what last sabbath
they did not speak against. They commit themselves to speak against
the word spoken by Paul, and they add contradiction and blasphemy.
Ø And the fourth act in the disclosure is that Paul and Barnabas both close
with them, no longer in argument — argument is waste when
“contradiction and blasphemy” are begun — but in an authoritative
and bold declaration of their own mission. The very hour has come
to say that the privileges, long neglected and now refused, shall not
waste nor be “drawn up again into heaven,” but shall be fully, freely,
publicly offered to ALL THE WORLD! “For the mouth of the Lord
hath spoken it” (v. 47).
· THE DAY’S ISSUE. It is threefold.
Ø The strangers and outsiders are filled with gladness and gratitude. They
do not refuse to take the “leavings” of haughty and exclusive Jews. Nor
do they think them, call them, or find them “crumbs from the Master’s
table.” (Matthew 15:27) No; they see their day, their opportunity,
their feast, and hungry, sit down to it as a banquet indeed:
o they are “glad;”
o they “glorify the Word of the Lord;”
o they “believe;”
o they are “filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.”
For they felt that that “day salvation had come to their house.”
Ø The disconcerted Jew, most disconcerted of all because he inwardly
knew he had forfeited, of his own surrender, his chiefest blessing and
distinction, will not let things lie. He will raise the “respectable,” the
“orthodox,” part of the city, and even women of the devout and
honorable,and chief men of the city, who “cared for none of these
things” probably in their heart. And all these join to persecute the
two men, Paul and Barnabas. And they expel them.
Ø These two servants of Christ hear the echoes of a voice which perhaps
they had not heard itself (Luke 10:11). And they hear the call of duty
(Matthew 10:23) elsewhere, and do not forget that the time is precious,
that daylight will soon have gone, and that it is theirs to “work while
it is day, the night cometh when no man can work.” (John 9:4)
Spiritual Joy (v. 52)
“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.” At the
conclusion of a narrative descriptive of varied experiences both of the
messengers and of the Church.
· THE JOY OF TRUE DISCIPLES IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLES.
Ø Joy of personal faith, which is promoted by discipline. If all went
smoothly with us we should lose strength by the ease and self-
indulgence which we should be apt to cherish.
Ø Joy in the spread of the Gospel! The world opposes, false religion
opposes, but THE TRUTH MAKES THE WAY!
· THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE CHURCH,
independent of human guidance, Paul and Barnabas were expelled, but the
disciples taught and were led by the Spirit. We must not glory in men. The
great resource of the Church is fellowship. Even the spread of truth is largely
independent of particular agencies. The Word speaks for itself. (Like the
little girl at the circus was impressed with the men who took care of the
lion, her father said, Let the lion out of the cage and he will take care of
himself! - Our job is to let the Word out! - CY – 2017) The Spirit
works often without apparent use of human instrumentality.
· THE UPLIFTED HEART AND THE UPLIFTED TESTIMONY.
Joy and the Holy Ghost. We should show the world that religious joy is
above all other. Victories, if given, should be recounted. We should often
meet together to tell of Divine wonders! The bold and joyful spirit is
especially needful, as the present day is full of growing UNBELIEF and
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