1 “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to
Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:” Amphipolis. This was the
ancient capital of that division of
It was situated on the Via Egnatia,
thirty-four miles southwest from
miles from the
Strymon, whence its name, Amphipolis; its modern name is Neokhoria, now a
village. Its original name was Ἐννέα ῾οδοί
- Ennea hodoi - The
Originally a Thracian city, it was conquered by the Athenians, then by the
Lacedaemonians, then fell under the dominion of Philip of Macedon, and finally,
with the rest of
probably Polina, thirty miles due west of Amphipolis, on the Via Egnatia. The
modern track from Amphipolis to Thessalonica does not pass through Polina,
but beneath it. Thessalonica; on the Via Egnatia, now the important seaport
and containing about sixty thousand inhabitants. Its ancient name was Therma
Macedonian kings. It continued to grow in importance under the Romans, and
was the most populous city of the whole of
Macedonia Secunda under the division by AEmilius Paulus (ch. 16:12, note),
and in the time of Theodosius the Younger, when
provinces, it was the capital of Macedonia Prima. But from its situation and great
commercial importance it was virtually the capital of
Jews from before the time of Paul, and through the Roman and Greek and
Turkish empires, down to the present day, when "one-half of the population
is said to be of Israelitish race "(Lewin). Thessalonica had a terrible celebrity
from the massacre of its inhabitants by order of the Emperor Theodosius,
in revenge for the murder of Botheric, his general, which led to the famous
penance imposed upon the emperor by St. Ambrose (Gibbon,' Decline and
Fall,' Acts 27.). It was also taken three times in the Middle Ages: by the Saracens,
with fearful slaughter, A.D. 904; by the
A.D. 1185; and by the Turks, in 1430. Its ecclesiastical history under its
archbishops is also of great interest (see 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog.').
Where was a synagogue. It is needless to point out the exact agreement of this
brief statement with historical fact as pointed out above. There is said to have
been twenty-two Jewish synagogues at Thessalonica after the expulsion of the
stated to be thirty-six. (circa 250 + or – years ago – CY – 2017) The existence
of a synagogue at this time was the reason of Paul's visit and sojourn there.
2 “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days
reasoned with them out of the scriptures,” Custom for manner, Authorized
Version; for three for three, Authorized Version; from for out of, Authorized
Version. Reasoned (see note on v. 17).
Paul’s Manner (v. 2)
“And Paul, as his manner was” (Revised Version, “custom”). Luke thinks it
necessary to record Paul’s habits in connection with his missionary
labors, and his point is, not that the apostle kept the sabbath day, but that
he consistently observed the injunction to the first preachers that they
should “begin at
Jews. Whenever Paul went to a fresh town, “his manner was” to find
out the Jews and join them at their meeting-place, whether that were
proseucha (a place of prayer) or synagogue. In either case he would have the
opportunity always offered to visitors to say a word of exhortation to the people.
Here at Thessalonica, the fact that Paul was allowed to preach for three
sabbaths in succession shows the respect commanded by his character as a
rabbi, and, it may be, by his earnest eloquence. We dwell on the fact that
Luke recognizes a fixed custom and settled habit of the apostle, and seems
to feel that anything so orderly and regular it was singular to find in so
impulsive a man. A great part of religious duty concerns the formation and
the preservation of godly habits, and the subject is one which may be
practically and usefully treated in a Christian congregation.
· SETTLED HABITS. It is singular that our most common association
with the word “habit” should be bad habits, and that a much stronger form
of teaching should go in the direction of warning against or curing bad
habits, than in that of culturing and nourishing good ones. Moralists have
given abundant counsel in respect of common habits of personal and social
life, but religious teachers, even of the young, have not worthily recognized
that habits may be formed in connection with the religious life, and that
direct instruction and guidance in relation to them is imperatively needed.
Our Lord had settled habits of prayer and worship, and no Christian life
can be hopefully maintained without them.
· HOW HABITS GET SETTLED. By simply doing things again and
again with regularity. The philosophical and the practical explanations of
the formation of habits may be given; and it may be well to show how the
very muscles, nerves, and senses get fixed by continuing to act in the same
direction. (as in athletic training – CY – 2018) But the point to dwell on is
that habits may be settled by intelligent intention and effort. They may be a
product of will, and the formation of good habits is a proper exercise of the
regenerate will. It may be further shown that relations of dependence bring
on all parents, masters, or teachers, the responsibility of inciting to the
formation of good habits and the due nourishment and strengthening of them.
· HOW FAR DOES THE SETTLING OF HABITS DEPEND ON
DISPOSITION? In all questions of moral culture or religious duty the
natural dispositions of men have to be taken into account. To some habits
come easily, and they can be as easily changed. Others only form habits
after much self-mastery and conflict. But these are the persons who are
best helped by habits when once they get them fixed. Such an impulsive
man as Paul might even find it necessary to restrain himself by forcing
himself into the orderliness of settled habits. Illustrate how differently
different persons stand related to the great Christian duties:
Ø reading God’s Word,
Ø almsgiving, etc.
· HOW MAY SETTLED HABITS HELP THE MAN WHO HAS
FORMED THEM? Illustrate, especially in relation to the religious life, two
Ø They help him to master his own varying feeling. A man is not always
disposed for private prayer or public worship, but the habit keeps him
related to these things, and it is often found that, while engaged in
them, the needed mood of feeling will come. Custom only may take
us to worship, but eye and heart may be opened when we are there.
Ø They help him to overcome adverse circumstances. Hindrances of
family or business life seriously affect the man who has no religious
habits. They fail to hurt the man who has his life well ordered, and
his regular times and ways. The habits soon get recognized, and the
incidents of life take shape so as to fit in with them.
3 “Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen
again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”
It behooved the Christ to suffer, and to rise for Christ must needs have suffered,
and risen, Authorized Version; whom, said he for whom, Authorized Version;
proclaim for preach. Authorized Version; the Christ for Christ, Authorized
Version. The line of reasoning adopted by Paul in his preaching to the Thessalonian
Jews was the same as that of our Lord to the disciples and apostles on the day of
Messiah in the person of Jesus is like the fitting of a key to the intricate wards of
the lock, which proves that it is the right key. The preacher of the gospel should
carefully study and expound to the people the word of prophecy, and then show
its counterpart in the sufferings and glory of Christ. This did Paul. Opening
(διανοίγων – dianoigon – opening up); as our Lord had done (διήνοιγεν ἡμῖν
τὰς γραφάς – diaenoigen haemin tas graphas – He opened up to us the
scriptures, Luke 24:32), the hidden meaning of the prophecies, and then
alleging (παρατιθέμενος - paratithemenos – placing before them), setting
before them the propositions which had thus been established. The process is
described in Luke 24:27 as interpreting ("expounded," Authorized Version).
In this verse:
· the opening was showing from the prophets that the Messiah was to die
and rise again;
· the alleging was that Jesus was that very Christ.
The Work of Three Sabbath Days (vs. 2-3)
It was a great idea, and much more than mere idea with Paul, to “redeem
the time.” He would not have stayed a continuous three weeks in one place
doing nothing at all, much less doing what was good for nothing, or for
very little. The time he gave, therefore, to a subject, and the stress he laid
upon it, may fairly measure to a certain degree his persuasion of the value
of it. There are subjects which depend upon their very mode of treatment,
not in the merely ordinary sense for producing greater or less impression,
but for apprising us of the estimate they purport to put on themselves. And
this thought may certainly help to guide us, even in these days. It may help
work conviction as to the reality of things long “believed among us,” but
perhaps never more attacked or less boldly grasped than at this present.
For we here may notice that:
· PAUL TAKES THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES AS HIS
Ø It would have been particularly like Paul to have dealt with his subject or
subjects through a period of upwards of three weeks, on their own merits,
and not have laden them with any unimportant connection with things that
had gone before. His method shows that the connection was not deemed
unimportant by him.
Ø If Paul does deal with great subjects, which might have been discussed
on their own merits, in very close connection with their associations with
the Old Testament, it were inevitable that those associations must cling to
them. They will in a sense bring with them the atmosphere, or the flagrance
of it, to which they have been accustomed.
Ø There can be no doubt, no contradiction, as to the connection of the
promised Messiah in the Old Testament with the sacrifices, which are really
its most unique feature; nor can there be any doubt of the great sacrifices
themselves, that they were in the main propitiatory.
· THE DEATH OF CHRIST IS THE OLD TESTAMENT TOPIC
SELECTED OUT OF ALL OTHERS BY PAUL. For what conceivable
purpose should the apostles have taken all the trouble and encountered all
the dangers they did in order to reconcile the minds of the Jews, to whom
they preached, to the identity of the foretold Messiah of the Scriptures with
crucified of late at
reason for this but one, that the suffering of Christ unto death was the
central requirement of the whole position. While the Jew from first to last
objected to the subject
Ø because the crucifixion of Christ lay at his door and on his conscience;
Ø and because the Jew had never consented to believe in such a King as
Christ, such a grandeur as the grandeur of the cross for him, or such a
method of recovering and exalting the distinction of his own nation, as the
method which went right down to the root of its decay, disorder, misery! It
would surely seem that nothing could be more valueless than to labor as
apostles labored, and to suffer as they suffered, and to be filled with zeal as
they were filled with zeal, if it were for mere persistence sake in the matter
of an unwelcome historical identification. Whether for Jew or Gentile, the
death of Christ was with the apostles the foundation theme. But with the
Jew it was argued as now, with all the light and necessarily with the
associations that his Scriptures must throw upon it.
· THE INVARIABLE SEQUEL-SUBJECT OF THE DEATH OF
CHRIST — THE RESURRECTION — IS PREACHED BY PAUL.
As much as all the deepest traceable significance of the death of Christ tends
to humble those to whom it is preached, as “the way of salvation,” so much
avails the significance of His resurrection to comfort and to raise them! The
glory of glories for Christ, it is, and it is ever scripturally exhibited as, the
joy of joys for the believer in Christ. These, then, were the great topics
upon which Paul and his companions and other apostles were constantly
insisting. Let it be explained as it may, these purport to be the message of
Heaven to earth; let it be objected to as it may, nothing else comes in their
place. The forces that lie hidden, yet scarcely hidden, in both of these are
now at least testified by an unsurpassed mass and variety of practical and
irrefutable evidence. Men’s hearts have been softened, humbled, and won
to the exercise of profoundest trust and firmest faith by the fact of the
sufferings and death of Christ. Their highest nature has answered to the
quickening influence of the clearly revealed and clearly exhibited fact of the
Resurrection, and so far forth its correlative, immortality. The pride of man
rarely finds its gain or its object in rejecting the latter, yet is it abundantly
doubtful whether any man come to it rightly, much less come to it to the
purest and truest advantage, except through that approach which Paul
found so often “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks
foolishness,” but to “some” others even at Thessalonica (v. 4) “the
power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:23-24)
The Three Points of Pauline Preaching (v. 3)
In v. 18 the point of Paul’s teaching to the Gentiles is briefly given,
and it is seen that he had but one message, which he endeavored to adapt
to his varying audiences. To the Gentiles he preached “Jesus and the
resurrection;” to the Jews he preached that “Christ must needs have
suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that Jesus is the Christ.” It
may be noticed that to a Jewish audience Paul could make a twofold appeal:
(1) to Old Testament Scripture; and
(2) to the established facts connected with the life, death, and resurrection
of our Lord.
To the Gentiles he could make no appeals to Scripture testimony, seeing
that they had no written revelation; but even to them Paul could make a
(1) to the natural sense of religion, of which their idolatries gave witness; and
(2) to the circle of recognized facts connected with the manifestation of
Christ in the flesh.
Still our appeal to men is based on:
(1) the religious nature;
(2) the older revelation;
(3) the historical facts of Christ’s life.
Paul preached the gospel as a herald. Yes, but he preached it also by long
arguments, intended and constructed to produce faith or persuasion concerning
Christ. Indeed, the Greek word originally means to carry on an argument by way
of dialogue; question by the hearer, answer by the preacher, according to his light.
That was the real apostolic method of serving Christ — a very eager, earnest,
inevitable method. To preach Christ is to reason:
(1) out of the Scriptures and, in a secondary degree,
(2) out of the great book of human life and experience, and also
(3) out of the great book of material nature;
but in any case it is to ‘reason,’
(1) to lay out, the matter as it seems to ourselves —
(2) to press it home upon all whom it concerns;
(3) to remonstrate, expostulate, entreat, and then
to leave the issue with God.”
Fix attention on Paul’s three points.
· MESSIAH MUST SUFFER. Compare our Lord’s teaching to the two
disciples on the way to Emmaus (“Ought not Christ to have suffered
these things, and to enter into His glory?” - Luke 24:26). This suffering
of their expected Messiah was the point of Old Testament teaching which the
Jews missed or RESISTED. It is in the old Scriptures, in psalm and prophecy,
plainly enough; but the conception of the Messiah as a national Deliverer
and conquering King had so possessed the minds of the people that the
prophetic figures of suffering were willingly turned aside, referred to some
other individual, or assumed to have been exhausted in the troubles of the
writers. Yet the first promise made to men after the Fall gives hint of
redemption by suffering (Genesis 3:15 - see especially Psalm 22.; Isaiah 53.;
and the Book of Lamentations). Explain the influence which the writings of
David and the conflicts of the Maccabean princes had upon the national
sentiment. And yet in this necessity for Messiah’s sufferings is declared the
distinction between a temporal and a spiritual Savior. Christ’s weapons are
not carnal. Of moral weapons none are mightier than suffering, and few
can be used without involving suffering. The necessity for Christ’s suffering
may be shown
Ø in His humiliation to man’s nature;
Ø in His sympathy with man’s disabilities;
Ø in His bearing of man’s burden. There was both suffering of feeling
and suffering of circumstances.
· MESSIAH MUST RISE. Of this the older Scriptures give witness. The
kind of passages which the apostles took to prove this position are found in
Peter’s first sermons; and the necessity may be shown
Ø in that the acceptance by God of His life and work on earth must in
some way be attested, and
Ø in that we must have good ground of persuasion that Christ is alive and
able to continue the good work which He has begun on earth. A Savior
for men who was held fast in the death-grip plainly could not deliver
man from death, the worst of his foes. Such a seeming Savior could
not win our confidence, for it would appear to us that He was defeated
at last. And, besides, we cannot trust a thing, a work; we must trust a
person who has worked and CAN WORK, and therefore Messiah
must rise from the dead and be alive for evermore.
MESSIAH IS JESUS OF
necessary are met in Him, and in Him alone. Show the correspondence
between the facts of the Christian teaching and the requirements of
Scripture prophecy, and impress the personal demand which Paul
makes to follow on his argument; then your loyalty, your trust, your love,
your life, are demanded for Jesus Messiah.
4 “And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the
devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”
Were persuaded for believed, Authorized Version. (ἐπείσθησαν – epeisthaesan –
are persuaded). Consorted with; προσεκληρώθησαν – proseklaerothaesan -
were alloted to - a word only found here in the New Testament, but, like so many
other words in Luke's vocabulary, found also in Plutarch, in the sense of being
"associated with," or "attached to" any one; literally, to be assigned to any one
by lot (compare the use of the simple verb ἐκληρώθημεν – eklaerothaemen –
our lot was cast, Ephesians 1:11). Of the devout Greeks. Observe the frequent
proofs of the influence the synagogues had in bringing heathen to the knowledge
(τῶν πρώτων – ton proton – the foremost ). So in ch. 13:50 τοὺς πρώτους τῆς
πολέως – tous protous taes poleos - means "the chief men of the city." And Luke
19:48, οἱ πρῶτοι τοῦ λαοῦ - hoi protoi tou laou - are "the chief of the people"
(" the principal men," Revised Version.) It has been already remarked that Luke
especially notices the instances of female piety. In v. 12 we have τῶν εὐσχημόνων –
ton euschaemonon – the respectable - in the same sense as the τῶν πρώτων
(the foremost) in this verse.
5 “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain
lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city
on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them
out to the people.” Jews for Jews which believed not, Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus; being moved for moved, Authorized Version; jealousy for envy,
Authorized Version (see ch. 13:45, note); vile fellows of the rabble for lewd fellows
of the baser sort, Authorized Version; gathering a crowd, set for gathered a
company and set, Authorized Version; the city for all the city, Authorized Version;
assaulting... they for assaulted... and, Authorized Version; forth for out, Authorized
Version. The house of Jason; where it appears from v. 7, as well as from this verse,
Paul and Silas were lodging. If, as is very probable, the Jason here mentioned is the
same person as the Jason of Romans 16:21, it would seem that he joined the apostle,
either at this time or on his visit to
συγγενής – suggenaes – relative - of Paul's, and doubtless a Jew. Jason was a
Romanized form of the name Jesus, or Joshua, as we see in the case of the high
priest, the brother of Onias (Josephus, ' Ant. Jud.,' 12. 5:1). It was borne also
by Jason of Cyrene, the Jewish historian (II Maccabees 2:23), and by another
mentioned in I Maccabees 8:17, etc. Luke seems to introduce Jason as a well-
6 “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto
the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down
are come hither also;” Dragged for drew, Authorized Version; before for unto,
Authorized Version. Certain brethren; some of the Thessalonian Christians who
happened to be in the house of Jason. The rulers of the city (τοὺς πολιτάρχας – tous
politarchas – the city magistrates, and v. 8). This is a remarkable instance of Luke's
accuracy. The word is unknown in Greek literature. But an inscription on an ancient
marble arch, still standing in Thessalonica, or Saloniki, records that Thessalonica
was governed by seven politarchs (see the inscription in Conybeare and Howson,
col. 1. p. 360). Thessalonica was a Greek city, governed by its own laws. Hence
the mention of the δῆμος – daemos – public; populace - in v. 5. The politarchs
also were Greek, not Roman, magistrates. Crying; βοῶντες – boontes - imploring,
often followed by μεγάλῃ φωνῇ - megalae phonae – loud voice (ch. 8:7; Mark
15:34, etc.), but whether so followed or not, always meaning "a loud cry" or
"shout" (ch. 21:34; Luke 3:4, etc.). Turned the world upside down;
– is used in the New Testament only by
people literally ἀναστάτους – anastatous - homeless, outcasts, from their former
settlements, or, metaphorically, unsettled in their allegiance to their civil or spiritual
rulers, is the meaning of the word. In the mouth of Paul's accusers it contains a
distinct charge of sedition and disobedience to the Roman law. The world
(τὴν οἰκουμένην – taen oikoumenaen
– the inhabited earth - the
(Luke 2:1), viewed as coextensive with the habitable globe (see v. 31;ch. 19:27;
The Power of God in the World (v. 6)
Ø To explain the Divine dealings with mankind, and reveal the purpose
running through both the Jewish and Gentile histories.
Ø To lift up the multitudes and deliver them from despotism and
Ø To proclaim a new world in place of the old, the coming of the
kingdom, which is not the exaltation of an imperial throne, but
the reign of God on the earth, in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ø To stir up in the hearts of men a desire for the better things. The world
within us must be turned upside down before the true peace is built up.
7 “Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of
Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” Act for do, Authorized
Version. Received; i.e. as the word – hupodedektai – has entertained,
the substantive ὑποδοχή - hupodochae - , an entertainment or reception. The
insinuation is that, by harboring these seditious men, Jason had made himself a
partner in their sedition. That there is another king, etc. (compare John 19:12,15).
8 “And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard
these things.” Multitude for people, Authorized Version. (
, not δῆμον – daemon - people).
9 “And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them
go.” From for of, Authorized Version; the rest for of the other, Authorized Version.
The rest, or others, are of course the "certain brethren" of v. 6.
A Fulfilled and an Unfulfilled Prophecy (vs. 1-9)
These verses would supply us with other material for thought. They present to us:
1. Christian workers patiently and conscientiously proceeding with their mission
2. Christian advocates employing the weapon which was prepared for their use (v. 3).
3. Christian laborers reaping a blessed spiritual harvest (v. 4).
4. Faithful followers of the Lord partaking of His sufferings (vs. 5-9). But
we rather find here:
· A GREAT PROPHECY FULFILLLED. “Alleging that Christ must
needs have suffered,” etc. (v. 3); i.e. must needs have so done in order
that the Scriptures (v. 2) might be fulfilled (see Luke 24:26, 46). The
death of the Messiah was the realization of:
Ø the predictions contained in the Jewish sacrifices (the sin offerings and
trespass offerings, and notably the offering of the goat on the great Day of
Atonement; the Passover lamb, etc.); and of
Ø such predictions in word as those contained in the fifty-third chapter of
Isaiah. The Law must have remained fatally incomplete and prophecy
unfulfilled if the Christ had not suffered as Jesus of Nazareth did suffer, if
He had not died the death which He underwent. In the crucified Nazarene
the greatest of all prophecies HAD BEEN FULFILLED!
· AN UNCONSCIOUS PROPHECY TO BE FULFILLED. The
language of the complainants (v. 6) was unintentionally prophetic. They
indeed stated, hyperbolically, as something already accomplished, that
which the ambassadors of Christ are engaged in doing. But they indicated,
truly and graphically, what the gospel of His grace is doing — it is turning
the world upside down. We may put the facts thus to our minds:
Ø When Christ came evil was everywhere uppermost. The reigning forces
of the world at the time of the Incarnation were “not of the Father, but of
the world.” Within the one favored and enlightened nation were:
o bigotry and unbrotherliness,
o spiritual delusion;
without that circle were:
o cruelty —
all the abominations into which a corrupt heathenism had sunk. Language
will not tell the enormity of the world’s condition. Nothing would be of any
avail but a radical revolution, the overturning of all existing thoughts, habits,
methods, institutions — turning the world upside down, bringing to the
dust of humiliation everything that was on the throne of honor.
Ø The gospel of Jesus Christ is destined to overturn it.
o It has adequate means for so doing — Divine truth, the aid of the
Divine Spirit, a Divine institution (the Christian Church).
o It has the true method, a spiritual one; its weapons of warfare are
not carnal, but spiritual, and therefore mighty to pull down
strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4). It wins by:
§ acting upon the life through:
ü the mind,
ü the heart,
ü the will — through the whole spiritual nature.
This is the one conquering course, the one method which really and
o It has the assurance of success; both in the promise of a Divine Lord,
and in the history of its own triumphs. It is turning the world upside
down. In many districts “the idols are utterly abolished” (Isaiah 2:18);
many “islands are waiting for his Law” (ibid. ch. 42:4); hoary
systems of idolatry and iniquity are pierced through and through
with the shafts of truth, and promise to fall prone as
Dagon before the ark of God (I Samuel 5:3); the vices of civilized
lands are being successfully assailed; the kingdom of error and of
is disappearing, and THE
Paul at Thessalonica (vs. 1-9)
· HIS WORK. The synagogue was here again the scene of labor; the
substance of the evangel again the theme of his discourse.
Ø This is in contents ever the same; founded on the Scriptures. His special
function as an apostle did not set him free from the authority of the past.
Religion at any epoch is the fulfillment of all that has gone before and the
prophecy of all that is to be. But let us beware of the slavery of the letter,
and seek the truth of the freely developing Spirit. Fresh light and truth are
to break forth at every epoch from the Scriptures. Preaching culminates in
Christ. The Messiah must suffer and rise. Paul had no other theme than the
crucified and risen One. The triumph of the spiritual element in mankind in
and through, in spite of and over, suffering, — this is the eternal message
of Christianity to mankind.
Ø The results the same. Some believe, others do not. The good ground for
the seed is there or it is not there. Vain to seek to penetrate below this
mystery. Women again are specially named as favorable to the gospel. It is
fair to argue that, when the feelings and the intuitions lead the judgment,
the verdict will be for Christ and His religion. Divine grace does not court
those in high station; certainly it does not repel them.
· THE BEARING OF THE ENEMIES OF THE GOSPEL.
Ø Instinctive perversion of the truth. As before, jealousy, whether
proceeding from self-interest or sectarian pride, attacks the apostles. Their
enemies would misrepresent the emissaries of peace, as public disturbers
Ø Glaring inconsistency. They commit the very offence of which they
accuse the apostles. They play on the feelings of the mob. It is a sign of
weakness or of insincerity when men must drag the fickle multitude into
such questions. The mob may be turned momentarily to any account. If
they favor the gospel, they are despised as stupid (John 7:47-49). If
they can be stirred up against it, their clamor is equally used as evidence.
· THE EPISODE OF HOSPITALITY. Good Jason shelters these
dangerous guests. The guest who is loved and cherished in spite of danger
to the host, will bring a blessing on the head of the latter. Be mindful of
hospitality — the true hospitality, which gives without asking in return
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have
entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2).
Thessalonica (vs. 1-9)
· THE CHRISTIANITY WHICH PAUL PREACHED.
Ø Founded on the Old Testament Scriptures, and therefore seeking a basis
in the synagogue.
Ø Setting forth the redeeming work of Jesus Christ as its substance.
Ø Adapted to all, Jews and Greeks alike, and calling the influence of
women to its service.
Ø Though itself peace, yet, by its contrast with the world, turning it upside
down. We must be quiet and orderly in our methods, but we must expect
that spiritual forces will stir up opposition. The end is with the truth.
10 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and
Silas by night unto
who coming thither
went into the synagogue of the Jews.” Beraea for
Authorized Version; when they were come for coming, Authorized Version. Beraea.
In the third division of
name is Verria. Went into the synagogue. No amount of ill usage from the Jews
could weaken Paul's love for "his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh"
(Romans 9:3); and no amount of danger or suffering could check his zeal in
preaching the gospel of Christ.
11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the
word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether
those things were so.” Now these for these, Authorized Version; examining for
and searched, Authorized Version; these for those, Authorized Version. Note the
immense advantage which the preachers and the hearers had in the previous
knowledge of the Scriptures gained by the Beraeans in the synagogue. Note also
the mutual light shed by the Old and New Testaments the one upon the other.
The Nobility of the Inquiring Spirit (v. 11)
The people of Beraea are commended for their disposition to inquire and
search into the truth of Christianity as it was taught to them by the
apostolic missionaries. They were not the slaves of prejudice. “With a
quick and clear intelligence they searched the Scriptures daily to see
whether they really did speak of a Christ who should suffer anti rise again.
The Berean converts have naturally been regarded, especially among those
who urge the duty or claim the right of private judgment, as a representative
instance of the right relations of reason and faith, occupying a middle position
between credulity and skepticism.” The attitudes of men towards truth, as freshly
revealed, or as revealed in fresh forms, are threefold:
(1) some are willfully antagonistic;
(2) some are weakly receptive;
(3) some are intelligently skeptical.
The word “skepticism” may be used in a good as well as in a bad sense. It
properly stands for that disposition to question and doubt which is one of
the features of the thoughtful and inquiring mind.
· SKEPTICISM AS DEPENDENT ON NATURAL DISPOSITION.
There are, in respect of this spirit, marked diversities in nations and in
races. And there are answering differences in families and in individuals.
Usually the skeptical spirit is found in men rather than in women, who are
as remarkable for their receptivity as men for their tendency to criticism.
The beginnings of what will afterwards appear as skepticism are found in
children. Some will question the why and wherefore of everything that is
told them, while others will open wide eyes, and take in as real, the
strangest fairy tales that can be told them. A great part of the responsibility
of parents and teachers lies in the need for culturing-cultivating or
restraining — the early signs of the skeptical spirit. Where the skeptical
spirit is unduly developed the corrective spirit of faith must be nourished;
and where credulity is excessive, the mind must he quickened to doubt.
Ministers need to remember that both classes are found in their
congregations, and that both classes have to be wisely led to intelligent
· SKEPTICISM AS FOSTERED BY INTELLECTUAL PRIDE. This is
one of the gravest difficulties of our age, in which remarkable advances, in
knowledge have been made. Those advances have chiefly borne relation to
the sphere of the physical sciences, and in that sphere pride is readily
nourished, because, apparently, all depends on men’s own observation and
research. It becomes easy for men to say — What we observe and know is
the truth; and there is no other truth than “truth of fact.” So we find all
around us much skepticism in relation to the moral, spiritual, revelational
spheres: a disposition to unreasonable doubt; to doubting for doubting’s
sake. This needs to be wisely but firmly rebuked, and its real source, in
mere pride of intellect, should be pointed out. The physical is not the only
sphere through which God has revealed Himself to His creatures; and it
never can be a sign of human wisdom that the best three parts of God’s
revelation are set aside as the dreams of dreamers.
· SKEPTICISM AS A RESULT OF ASSOCIATIONS. As a
disposition of mind, skepticism takes a place among infectious mental
diseases, communicated very readily by association. A skeptical workman
will infect his fellows. A skeptical student will change the tone of his
college. A skeptical member of a family will destroy the recipiency of a
whole family. So we, who have any kind of trust of others, need to be
watchful over the influence of such persons. A minister’s influence in a
congregation may be seriously resisted by the power among the people of
one unreasonably critical and skeptical member. He will look with high
hope on every sign of the Berean spirit, the spirit of intelligent inquiry and
research, but he has fewer things that call for his watchful care than the
infection of the skeptical spirit, which will at once impair his influence as a
Christian teacher. And the association of books of a prevailing critical and
unbelieving character will be found quite as dangerous as that of skeptical
· SKEPTICISM AS AN IMPULSE TO INQUIRY. This is its good
side; and in this the example of the Beraeans is commended to us. It is the
spirit that seeks for two things:
Ø comprehension, or the distinct, clear, and intelligent understanding of
any teachings; and
Ø verification, or adequate and reasonable grounds for belief.
But it is characteristic of intelligent inquiry that it seeks its proofs within
the spheres of its subjects. If it inquires concerning physical principles, it
seeks for proof and illustration in physical facts. If its sphere be moral or
spiritual, it asks for moral or spiritual reason and proof. So the Bereans did
not confuse the spheres and domains of inquiry. The matter was one of
prophetic revelation and of answering historical fact, and therefore their
o the actual contents of the revelation, and
o the credibility of the witnesses to the historical facts. Conclude by
showing the relations of skepticism to faith. The noble man, the
intelligent believer, must have won faith out of skepticism — in the
sense of humble and earnest inquiry. Those who are simply receptive
have their mission in the world, and we desire to institute no unworthy,
no discouraging comparisons; but for the active forms of Christian
work, and for the emergencies of the Christian conflict, those are
needed who have won faith out of fight. The Bereans are commended
because they doubted and inquired; and yet this is the very thing
which many nowadays would have feared. But one thing made their
inquiries so safe — they led them to the Scriptures, and to the
searching of God’s revealed Word. Jesus said, “Search the
scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they
are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)
12 “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which
were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” Many... therefore for therefore many,
Authorized Version; the Greek women of honorable estate for honorable women
which were Greeks, Authorized Version. Honorable; εὐσχημόνων – euschaemonon –
respectable, as ch. 13:50, where it is coupled with τοὺς πρώτους τῆς πόλεως (see v. 4;
compare Mark 15:43). Meyer thinks that it is meant that the men were Greeks too;
but this is uncertain. The only Beraean convert whose name we know is Sopater
apparently a Jew, whose Hebrew name may have been Abishua.
A Comparison Justly Unwarranted (11-12)
In harmony with the directions of Jesus Christ Himself, and with the
dictates of wisdom as against presumptuousness. Paul and Silas, when
endangered by their ministrations in one place, sped on in all fidelity and
zeal to another. It may also be not without its significant interest that, as
we are told, they were “sent away,” or “sent on,” by the brethren. Had they
gone away at any time and ceased from their work, they and their motives
and their love might well have been objects of suspicion. But the continuity
of their devotion, and the renewal again and again of work after
disappointment upon disappointment, protect them from suspicion, and
even add to their praise. It is one of the greater practical difficulties of life
to resist successfully the distressing and disintegrating natural operation of
perpetual disappointments, and it is one of the severer tests of an uplifted
faith and enduring purpose that “often foiled” is not accepted as failure,
and that “cast down” does not mean “destroyed.” (compare Paul’s words in
II Corinthians 4:8-9) On the other hand:
(1) had the apostles been enabled to hold their ground against every attack
of the spirit of persecution, this would have been equivalent to an
unceasing repetition of miracle; and the enmity of the human heart might
have been silenced indeed, but long before it was destroyed, or had proved
its own intrinsic collapse. And
(2) those apostles would not have covered anything like the same ground,
nor secured anything like the same experience of human nature. The
language of these verses is one result, simple enough and direct, of the
experience that came from the comparison of one people with another. The
contrast is brought sharply into prominence by the conduct of Beraea, in
quick succession upon that of
Thessalonica. The people of
pronounced “more noble than those of Thessalonica.” Let us consider the
· READINESS TO RECEIVE THE WORD.
Ø There is, indeed, a “readiness to receive” which marks greed.
Ø There is a readiness to receive which marks gullibility.
Ø There is a readiness to receive which marks the inertness of indifference.
Ø There is a readiness to receive which marks a nature conscious of need,
and responsive to the proper supply of that need, when proffered. The
readiness to receive which now distinguished the Bereans marked thus a
good and a healthy and a spiritual instinct. For their readiness was turned
toward receiving a “word” that was true and pure and not flattering, but
faithful to reprove and to teach, as well as to stimulate and uplift by
promises. Such readiness as this is noble and ennobling. It saves souls
pining. It saves wasted energies. It eliminates vagrant pursuits. And for all
such it substitutes a genuine education.
· DETERMINATION TO BE COMPETENT TO “GIVE A REASON
OF THE HOPE” (I Peter 3:15) WHICH THERE HAD BEEN
“READINESS TO RECEIVE.”
Ø The very attitude of the inquirer has something of the noble in it, when
compared with the custom of the decrier.
Ø The mastery of prejudice is in itself a sign of nobility, while the reign of
prejudice means an obstructiveness which infers to none greater loss than
to the subject of it.
Ø The searcher into truth does in the very act ingratiate himself with truth.
“Happy is the man” who seeks for it as for silver, and searches for it as for
hid treasure (Proverbs 2:2-5).
Ø Openness to evidence comes inevitably of inquiring honestly, as surely as
prejudice makes a shut heart and undiscerning mind. Many persons do not
see because they never set themselves to look. (I highly recommend
this website – CY – 2018).
They scarcely think it is given them to use their own natural powers.
Ø Inquiringness has it in it to infer advantage
o to individual happiness;
o to social kindliness;
o to public and general progress.
Ø Inquiringness, when it is turned to things of higher and deeper
significance, to things invisible and spiritual, to the great themes of the soul
and its need of a Savior, to the grand themes of God and His pitying love to
man — this inquiringness carries its own praise in it. It is bound to enrich
him who practices it and extorts conviction from the unwilling, while the
spontaneous tribute of commendation is laid at its feet by the just and
good. That kind of moral certainty that lies in strong conviction is the price
won by all those who will take the trouble, in matters of Divine import, to
“search” whether and how they agree and hold together.
13 “But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God
was preached of Paul at
preached, Authorized Version; Beraea also for
Version; likewise for also, Authorized Version; stirring up and troubling the
multitudes for and stirred up the people, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.
14 “And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea:
but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.”
as far as for as it were (ἕως – heos – as it were for ὡς – hos – as ), Authorized
Version and Textus Receptus; and for but, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;
Timothy for Timotheus, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. As far as to the
sea. If the reading of the Textus Receptus is right, ὡς merely indicates the direction.
Literally, ὡς ἐπὶ κ.τ.λ, - hos epi k.t.l. – as on, etc. - means "with the thought of going
to the sea," but thence, by a common usage, it describes the action without reference
to the thought. The English phrase, "they made for the sea," is nearly equivalent.
The object of going to the sea, seventeen miles from Beraea, was to take ship for
Whether Timothy left
joined him at Thessalonica, cannot be decided. Anyhow, Paul now left Silas and
Timothy to watch over the Thessalonian converts.
The Duty of Individual Research (vs. 10-14)
This interesting and cheering episode teaches us one lesson in particular;
but there are three suggestions we may gain preliminarily.
1. That the Christian pilgrim (and workman) may hope that shadow will
soon be succeeded by sunshine; that the tumult of Thessalonica will soon
be followed by the reverent inquiry of Beraea.
2. That he must expect sunshine to pass, before long, into shadow; the
fruit-gathering of Beraea
to yield to the flight to
3. That true nobility is in excellency of character: “These were more noble”
(v. 11). The word signifies (derivatively) those of noble birth, and it is
here applied to those who had chosen the honorable course and were doing
the estimable thing. This is the true, the real nobility. That which is
adventitious, dependent on birth and blood, is only circumstantial, is liable
to be dishonored by the chances and changes of time, is of no account with
God. That which is based on character and born of wise choice, pure
feeling, estimable action, is real, human, unalterable, of Divine origin, and
enjoying the Divine approval. But the particular lesson of our text is:
· THE DUTY OF INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH. The Beraeans are
commended in the sacred narrative as “more noble than those in
Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness,” etc.
(v. .11). Their excellency was in their readiness to receive and investigate,
to study and search for themselves whether the new teaching was or was
not in accordance with the will of God. Whence we infer:
Ø That blind opposition to all new doctrine is a sin as well as a mistake. It
may be that men who propound views different from those that we have
held come to us from God and offer us that which is in the Scriptures,
though we have not yet discovered it there. There are more things in that
living Word than the wisest man has ever seen yet. Unqualified resistance
of doctrine which is different from “that which we have received to hold”
may be the rejection of God’s own truth; in that case it is both injurious
Ø That it is the duty of every Christian man to test all new doctrine by the
teaching of the Divine Word. We are to search the Scriptures whether
these things are so or not. There is no excuse for declining to do this; for:
o God has placed His Word well within reach of us all:
§ it is in a small compass;
§ it is printed in our own language (no book so lends itself to
translation and is so widely translated);
§ it can be obtained for a small sum.
o He has so formed us and so written it that it is level to our
understanding; He has given us the necessary mental faculties to
comprehend it, and He has made the substance of it s:
that the wayfaring man (though a fool) may rejoice in it.
(Isaiah 35:8) It is not the:
§ recondite (little known),
§ abstruse (obscure),
mystical utterance which some disclosures are.
o He is ready to grant us His own Divine aid in mastering and
applying it. For what can we ask the help of His Holy Spirit more
confidently than for the study of His own Word? When is he more
certain to fulfill His promise (Luke 11:9-13) than when we ask for
His enlightening influence as we “search the Scriptures”
(John 5:39)? It is not only our right but our duty to listen to all
and to try all (I John 4:1); to “judge for ourselves what is right”
(Luke 12:57). It is GOD’S PLAIN WILL concerning us that we
should all bring what we hEar to the standard of His own revealed
will in His Word. To do this effectually, we must study that Word
15 “And they that conducted Paul brought him unto
commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed,
they departed.” But for and, Authorized Version; as far as for unto (ἕως),
Authorized Version; Timothy for Timotheus, Authorized Version; that they should
come for for to come, Authorized Version. They that conducted, etc. (οἱ καθιστῶντες –
oi kathistontes - conducting). The verb καθίστημι – kathistaemi - in its primary sense,
means to "place any one" in a given spot; and thence secondarily, to "conduct" or
“escort" any one to a place, to "set him down; appoint" at such a place. So Homer
('Odyssey,' 13:294) uses the word of transporting any one by ship to this or that
town (quoted by Meyer). There is the indication in the word of Paul's defect of
sight or infirmity. Receiving a commandment, etc. We learn here that Paul sent
a message to Silas and Timothy to join him at
at v. 16 that he waited at
that he sent Timothy from
3:6 we learn that Timothy came to Paul at
Thessalonians was written) from Thessalonica. We also learn from I Thessalonians
1:1 that Silas and Timothy were both with him at
and from ch. 18:5 that they had both come to
after Paul himself had been at
perfectly (as Paley has shown) on the supposition that Silas and Timothy did join
to return to Thessalonica himself, as he much wished, he sent Timothy back to
Thessalonica, and Silas probably to Beraea; and that Silas and Timothy came
be noted, as another undesigned coincidence, that whereas the First Epistle to the
Thessalonians implies that Silas did not go to Thessalonica (I Thessalonians 3:2),
ch. 18:5 does not say that Silas and Timothy came from Thessalonica, but from
does not say that Silas and Timothy "only joined Paul at
merely relates some change in Paul's procedure consequent upon their joining him
Among the hindrances to the progress of the gospel in the world we have
often to notice the combination of the most discordant elements for the
purpose of obstruction. Pilate and Herod were made friends together when
they united in crucifying the Lord of glory. When the chief priests and
Pharisees, in their blind hatred of the Lord Jesus Christ, sought His death,
they did not scruple to invoke the aid of the Roman power, the object of
their bitterest hatred and continual resistance, and to profess an entire
devotion to that detested rule. “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
So in politics, men of the most opposite principles often combine to crush the
object of their common dislike. In religion, too, we see extreme parties
joining hands to discomfit a third party to which they are equally opposed.
In all such combinations there is want of uprightness and truth. There is a
culpable indifference to the nature of the weapons which men use to
compass their own end. There is a clear evidence that it is not the cause of
righteousness and of God’s truth that men are seeking to promote, but
some end of their own. When these combinations take place to oppose the
progress of Christian truth, though they may be formidable for a time, they
carry with them the evidences that they are from beneath and will not
prevail. (John 8:44) The
Thessalonica combined with the heathen rabble of their town, under a
pretence of loyalty to Caesar, to silence Paul and Silas. When they fled they
pursued them to Beraea,
and drove them thence onwards to
blaze up from place to place. So will it be with every conspiracy to put out
the light of Christ. Philosophy and sensuality, science and lawlessness,
atheism and superstition, may join hands and combine to remove the
candlestick of God’s Church; it will but shed its light brighter and wider in
the places where God wills it to shine, until at last the whole earth shall be
filled with the knowledge of God’s glory, AS THE WATERS COVER THE SEA!
16 “Now while Paul waited for them at
when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” Provoked within for stirred in,
Authorized Version (παρωξύνετο – paroxuneto – was incited: see ch.15:29, note);
as he beheld for when he saw, Authorized Version; full of idols for wholly given to
idolatry, Authorized Version. The Greek κατείδωλον – kateidolon – idol ridden –
occurs only here, either in the New Testament or elsewhere. But the analogy of
other words similarly compounded fixes the meaning "full of idols" - a description
fully borne out by Pausanias and Xenophon and others (Steph., 'Thesaur.;' Meyer, etc.).
17 “Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout
persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” So he reasoned
for therefore disputed he, Authorized Version; and the devout for and with the devout,
Authorized Version; market-place every day for market daily, Authorized Version.
Reasoned (διελέγετο - dielegeto – he argued, as in v. 2; ch. 18:19 and 24:12).
"Disputed" gives the force of διαλέγεσθαι – dialegesthai - better than "reasoned,"
because the word in Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon, AElian, etc., is especially used
of discussions and arguments in which two persons or more take part. Διάλεκτος –
Dialektos - is "discussion;" ἡ διαλεκτίκη – hae dialektikae - is the art of drawing
answers from your opponent to prove your conclusion; διάλαγος – dialogos - is
a "dialogue" (see, however, ch. 20:7). The market-place. "The celebrated Ἀγορά -
Agora, ... not far from the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Amopagus,... rich in noble
statues, the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophic intercourse, as
well as of the busy idleness of the loungers" (Meyer, in loc.).
Nobility of Soul at Beraea (vs. 10-15)
Beraea stands out as a bright oasis in the dreary landscape of persecution.
When Paul and Silas enter the synagogue, they find themselves in a new
atmosphere. They find “men of nobler soul” than the dishonest cavilers and
nobility of soul?
· WILLING AND UNPREJUDICED RECEPTION OF NOVEL
VIEWS, This spontaneous receptiveness springs only from the rooted love
of truth. Let us not forget how startling and how shocking was the story of
a crucified Messiah to Jewish prejudice; it may help us to appreciate the
candor of these men.
· INDEPENDENT INQUIRY. They did not carry on a battle of notions
with notions; they went to the sources, they studied the documents and
facts. Let Protestants learn a lesson, and be true to themselves. In our time
people are only beginning to understand the Scriptures in the new light
thrown by history upon them. The study of the Bible is a right, a duty, and
a profound science. Hasty generalizations and fixed opinions must give
way before larger light.
· TRUE FAITH AND FREE INQUIRY GO HAND-IN-HAND. It is
only the profound believer who can afford to doubt. The faith which
condemns inquiry, or stops it at a certain point, or is afraid of “going too
far,” is a blind faith. On the other hand, the “free-thinking,” which owns no
religions impulse, is never deep nor sound thinking. The sincere spirit of
inquiry, as seen in the noblest scientific men, is closely allied to the true
evangelical temper. What we all need is a living love in all our studies, as
opposed to a dead and notional knowledge. The enthusiasm for truth is a
noble form of faith; and each who pursues it for himself will enjoy a
measure of its rewards. We must try the grounds of faith as we try the
metal of coins, and with the greater attention, in that more is at stake. No
resting upon the ipsi dixit (he himself said it) even of an apostle satisfied
the Beraeans, nor ought it to satisfy us.
A Saddening Spectacle: A Missionary Sermon (vs. 15-17)
The spirit of Paul was “stirred in him” (v. 16) by the statues which
crowded the city of
any modern traveler plunged the apostle into deep melancholy and gloom.
But there is a vast difference between then and now. Then idolatry was
regnant; now it is dethroned. Then the worship of the living God had but
one representative in that populous city; now there is not one idolater to be
discovered there. To Paul those statues, meeting him at every turn and
almost at every step, were abominable idols; to us they are interesting relics
of a distant age.
· THE SADNESS OF THIS SPECTACLE AS IT APPEARED TO
PAUL. The aspect which
sacred historian. It was a “city wholly given to idolatry,” or filled with
idols. He would have discovered on inquiry if he did not already know, that
these statues were not worshipped as gods themselves by their devotees.
Nevertheless, he would have called them “idols;” for they were distinctly
condemned by the commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20:4-5); they
were prohibited by the Law of God as idolatrous. Though the intelligence
identification of the image with the deity, it had not saved it from the
idolatry of an earlier stage, the association of the image with the deity it
represented. Against this form of sin, so severely denounced in Scripture,
so offensive to God, so dangerous and delusive to man, the spirit of Paul
rose in strong rebellion. The sight of its outward manifestation filled him
with inexpressible sadness; his “spirit was embittered.”
· THE ASPECT WHICH THIS ATHENIAN STATUARY WEARS TO
US. To us it is a sad proof that the world by wisdom does not know God.
wisdom can never hope to go further than it went in
ever, anywhere, human philosophy, human art, the human imagination
could have reached truth and found God, it would have triumphed at
The utmost exertion of human thought had ended in:
Ø the worship of many gods;
Ø the worship of gods to whom lust and cruelty were ascribed;
Ø the worship of these gods with debasing rites.
No city in the world gives surer or sadder proof that sin so injures and
disables us that our unaided manhood cannot rise to the sacred heights of
truth and purity.
THE SAD SPECTACLE IT SUGGESTS TO US NOW. If
needed the ministry of Paul so terribly then, how much must all heathen
cities require the gospel of Christ today! In the vast populations of the
Asiatic and African continents, and among the hundred “islands of the sea,”
where human intelligence has never attempted to scale the heights which
Grecian philosophers tried to reach, what awful degradations must exist
and do exist! If
condition of the barbarous towns and villages of an unevangelized world?
What sights are there to stir our spirits now!
Ø What idolatry!
Ø what superstition!
Ø what cruelty!
Ø what lasciviousness!
Ø what falsehood!
Ø what dishonesty!
Ø what utter absence of piety, holiness, and love!
Ø what an absolute reversal of God’s first thought of human nature
and human life!
What infinite reason to address ourselves to:
· THE SACRED DUTY TO WHICH IT CALLS US. “Therefore
disputed he… daily” (v. 17). The Christian Church must gird itself to the
work of meeting pagan error with Divine truth. It is a great task to
undertake. But as the lonely apostle went on, single-handed, with his
mission, trusting in Him “to whom all power is given in heaven and in
earth,” and knowing that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man,” and
that “the weak things of the world can confound the things which are
mighty” (I Corinthians 1:25, 27)even so must we. If only the Church
went forth to this its work with half the zeal with which the spirit-stirred
apostle wrought out his lifework, the time would not be counted by
centuries when the idols would be utterly abolished, and
the Lord Jesus Christ would alone be exalted.
18“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered
him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be
a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the
resurrection.” And certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers for then
certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, Authorized Version;
would for will, Authorized Version; preached for preached unto them, Authorized
Version. and Textus Receptus. The Epicureans (so called from Epicurus, their
founder) and the Stoics (so called from the στοά - stoa - , the colonnade or piazza
where Zeno their founder taught) were the most numerous
time; and their respective tenets were the most opposite to the doctrines of the
gospel. Encountered him; σύνεβαλλον – suneballon - parleyed. In ch. 4:15
it is followed by πρός – pros - toward, and is properly rendered "conferred;"
here it is followed by the dative, and may be understood to mean "disputed"
(συμβάλλειν λόγους – sumballein logous). It may, however, not less properly
be taken in the sense of a hostile encounter of words, as Luke 14:31, and frequently
in classical Greek. This babbler (σπερμολόγος – spermologos – rook; seed-picker);
literally, a picker-up of seeds, applied to a crow (Aristoph., 'Ayes,' 232, 579).
Plutarch too ('Demet.,' 28) has σπερμολόγοι ὅρνιθες – spermologoi horinthes –
birds picking up seeds. Hence it is used of idle hangers-on in the markets, who
get a livelihood by what they can pick up, and so generally of empty, worthless
fellows. Hence it is further applied to those who pick up scraps of knowledge
from one or another and "babble them indifferently in all companies" (Johnson's
'Dictionary,' under "Babble"). A setter forth of strange gods. There does not seem
to be the least ground for Chrysostom's suggestion that they took Anastasis
(the Resurrection) for the name of a goddess. But the preaching of Jesus the Son
of God, himself risen from the dead (v. 31), and hereafter to be the Judge of quick
and dead at the general resurrection, was naturally, to both Stoics and Epicureans,
a setting forth of strange gods. Χένα δαιμόνια – Xena daimonia - foreign deities,
or daemons, inferior gods. The word καταγγελεύς – kataggeleus - a setter forth,
does not occur elsewhere. But the nearly identical word κατάγγελος – kataggelos –
is used by Plutarch.
Paul’s preaching was not intended merely to change the forms, but the substance;
to place religion on its true foundation, not as man’s offering to propitiate
the Deity, but as his acceptance of God’s love — in fellowship. Jesus is in
the midst of us, therefore we worship no longer an unknown God.
Christianity and Epicureanism (v. 18)
Against the doctrine of Epicurus, the truth as it is in Jesus teaches us:
· THAT ALL THINGS PROCEED FROM THE INTELLIGENT
OPERATION OF THE LIVING GOD, and are by Him sustained. That all
our springs are not in any “it,” but “in Him” (Psalm 87:7); that “every
gift cometh down from the Father of lights, in whom is not variableness,
neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17); that He (a Divine One) made
the worlds, and upholds all things, etc. (Hebrews 1:2-3; Genesis 1:1;
v. 24, here).
· THAT THE HUMAN SPIRIT, AS DISTINCT FROM THE HUMAN’
BODY, IS THE ONE OBJECT OF INESTIMABLE VALUE.
· THAT THE CHIEF GOOD AND FINAL END IN HUMAN’ LIFE
IS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Not ἀταραζία – atarazia – (I have not been
able to translate this – CY – 2017) through φρόνησις – phronaesis –
wisdom; prudence - but righteousness by faith and love.
Ø The being counted right (or righteous) by God.
Ø The possession of inward, spiritual rectitude.
Ø The exhibition of integrity in word and deed. This
o by faith in Jesus Christ, and
o as the outgrowth of love to Him.
· THAT THE POSSESSION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ISSUES IN
PEACE AND JOY. We are not to regard a state of mental equability as
the great end to be diligently and persistently attained, as the one supreme
but to “seek first the
righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), in the assurance that, thus reeking,
we shall find a “peace which passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7),
and a joy which cannot be taken from us.
· THAT THERE IS AN ASSURED FUTURE FOR THE FAITHFUL,
WHICH WILL REALIZE THE LARGEST HUMAN HOPE: that the
mind does not perish with the body, but lives on in another world, entering
a brighter realm, moving in a broader sphere, living a fuller life, in the
home of God, in the abode of purity and blessedness.
Christianity and Stoicism (v. 18)
While there were points in Stoicism which harmonized with the doctrine of
the great Teacher, there was very much indeed in which it was wholly
dissimilar and even antagonistic. The fact that it conducted so freely and
frequently to suicide is a melancholy confession of its failure; something
more and something other was needed to meet the wants of the soul than
its proud, self-sufficient, but insufficient egoism. Christianity differs from it
in that it teaches:
· THAT A DIVINE FATHER, AND NOT AN INEXORABLE FATE, IS
THE RULING POWER IN THE UNIVERSE. It is not true that Deity is
subject to all-conquering fate; it is true that all circumstance is under
· THAT CONTROLLED AND CONSECRATED FEELING, NOT AN
INFLEXIBLE APATHY, IS THE HIGHEST ATTAINABLE
CONDITION. We are not to quench our feeling, or to impose on
ourselves or others by the appearance of apathy. We are to weep and to
Ø our sorrow and our joy are both to be regulated — we are to “let our
moderation appear unto all men” (Philippians 4:5), and
Ø our sorrow and our joy are both to be consecrated to God, — the one
is to be borne with a resignation which is not a sullen endurance of the
inevitable, but a filial acceptance of the decision of the wise and faithful
Father of spirits; the other is to be accepted with thankfulness, and
dedicated to the service of the Supreme One and the surrounding ones.
· THAT A TRUE SPIRITUAL CONDITION IS ATTAINABLE, NOT
BY UNAIDED INDIVIDUAL WILL, BUT BY HELP OF THE DIVINE
SPIRIT. (II Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:13.)
· THAT NEITHER ULTIMATE ABSORPTION, NOR UTTER
DESTRUCTION, BUT AN EVER-LIVING SPIRIT IN A GLORIFIED
BODY, IS THE HOPE OF THE WISE AND TRUE. “He preached unto
them Jesus, and the resurrection.”
19 “And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we
know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? Took hold of for took,
Authorized Version; the Areopagus for Areopagus, Authorized Version; teaching
is for doctrine... is, Authorized Version; which is spoken by thee for whereof thou
speakest, Authorized Version. Took hold of him. The word –
epilabomenoi - getting hold - means simply to "take hold of" the hand, the hair,
a garment, etc. The context alone decides whether this taking held is friendly or
21:30,33). Here the sense is well expressed by Grotius (quoted by Meyer):
"Taking him gently by the hand." The Areopagas. Mars' Hill, close to the Agora
("the market") on the north, was so called from the legend that Mars was tried
there before the gods for the murder of a son of
a bare, rugged rock, approached at the south-eastern corner by steps, of which
sixteen still remain perfect. Its area at the top measures sixty paces by twenty-four,
within which a quadrangle, sixteen paces square, is excavated and leveled for the
court. The judges seem to have sat on benches tier above tier on the rising rock
on the north side of the quadrangle. There were also seats on the east and west
sides, and on the south on either side of the stairs. The Areopagus (the upper court)
was the most august of all the courts at
before it for impiety. On the present occasion, there is no appearance of judicial
proceedings, but they seem to have adjourned to the Areopagus from the Agora,
as to a convenient place for quiet discussion.
20 “For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know
therefore what these things mean.” Strange things. – Xenixein –
things being strange, in this use of it, means to act or play the foreigner, to
imitate the manners and language and appearance of a foreigner (ξένος – xenos ),
just as Ἰουδαίζειν – Ioudaizein - means to Judaize, Ἐλληνίζειν - Hellaenizein –
to Hellenize, Αττικίζειν – Attikizein - Atticize, etc. Here, then, the Athenians
say that Paul's doctrines have a foreign air, do not look like native Athenian
21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in
nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Now for for,
Authorized Version; the strangers sojourning there for strangers which were there,
Authorized Version. Spent their time. This gives the general sense, but the margin
of the Received Text, had leisure for nothing else, is much more accurate. –
Eukairoun - which is not considered good Greek, is only used by Polybius, and in
the sense either of "being wealthy" or of "having leisure" or "opportunity." In the
So Cleon (Thucyd., 3:38) rates the Athenians upon their being entirely guided by
words, and constantly deceived by any novelty of speech (καινότητος λόγου –
kainotaetos logou – new words; new ideas – my translation – CY – 2017)). And
Demosthenes in his first 'Philippic' (p. 43, 7), inveighs against them because,
when they ought to be up and doing, they went about the Agora, asking one another,
"Is there any news? (Λέγεταί τι καινόν – Legetai ti kainon)." The comparative
καινότερον – kainoteron - is a little stronger than καινόν – kainon - "the very last
Curiosity at the Feet of Christ (vs. 18-21)
In the company which gathered on Mars’ Hill, to listen to the Christian
teacher, we have a picture of curiosity sitting at the feet of Christ. For it is
clear that this was not a court sitting to try a prisoner, but a chance
company of citizens, wishing to hear what new and strange doctrine this
visitor had brought them.
· THE CURIOSITY WHICH IS CONTEMPTUOUS. “What will this
babbler say?” said some using the language of haughtiness. They
evidently thought it was hardly worth while to pause in their gossip to
listen to this new speaker; nevertheless they condescended to hear him for
five minutes or a quarter of an hour! When men assume this attitude
toward Christ and His gospel, they may expect to gain nothing at all from
Him. “God resisteth the proud.” Except we be converted from the spirit of
contemptuousness, we shall not enter the kingdom of heavenly truth.
· THE CURIOSITY WHICH IS FRIVOLOUS. The audience on the
Acropolis included some who were not contemptuous, but simply curious;
they wanted to hear “some new thing” (v. 21), to learn what was to be
said of these “strange gods” which this Jew was “setting forth” (v. 18). If
there is nothing directly unfavorable, there is nothing actually favorable in
this spirit of undevout inquisitiveness. No one attending the sanctuary in
this temper has any right to expect a blessing. The disciple who brings
nothing better than this to the feet of the Master may expect to go away
unenlightened. But he may not depart unblessed.- Of the men who clave to
Paul and believed (v. 34), there were probably some who came on no
high purpose bent, and who found more than they sought. Better come and
listen, even from empty curiosity, than refuse to hear; better bring in the
multitude with this inducement, than leave them outside in ignorance and
· THE CURIOSITY WHICH IS EARNEST. Shall we not think that
among the “certain men” who did believe, there were found a few who
went up the steps of Mars’ Hill sincerely desirous of learning what was
true? Was not Dionysius or Damaris one whose heart had some “hunger
after righteousness”? Certainly it is they who come in order that they may
know the truth, who are curious to hear that they may be prompt to do the
will of God — it is they who are likely to “be filled with the knowledge of
His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)
“Of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14); and to such it is
that the Master says, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be
opened unto you.” (ibid. ch. 7:7) Those who earnestly desire to know:
Ø what is the character and the attitude of God,
Ø what are the real conditions of salvation and eternal life,
Ø how they may best live to please God and to benefit the world, —
these shall not return empty-minded; they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).
The Passion for Something New (vs. 19-21)
Demosthenes said, in one of his speeches, “Tell me, is it all you care for, to
go about up and down the market, asking each other, ‘Is there any news?’”
The restless inquisitiveness of the Athenian character had all along been
proverbial. It did not alone distinguish the Athenians, though it gained a
peculiar prominence in their case. It has returned upon man in such power,
now that telegraphs and newspapers (200 years ago – now we have radio,
television and social media – CY -0 2018) bind the nations together, that it may
profitably be made the subject of Christian meditation.
· IT SOMETIMES COMES TO BE A DISEASE, A mental disease. A
restlessness that we see illustrated in some children, who tire at once of
their toys and crave for something new. We see it in the world of fashion,
in which garments are speedily set aside, and the latest new color, or shape,
or material is eagerly sought. It is equally shown in the passion for the
newest books, the last newspaper, the freshest opinion, the present
excitement. It even afflicts Christian people, who in a crowd run after the
newest revivalist, and cry for the latest novelty in doctrine or in Church
method. It is a kind of feverish delirium, which palls the appetite, spoils
the taste, and makes patient continuance in well-doing impossible. It needs
to be treated as a disease, and its influence in a family, in social life, and in
the Church needs to be carefully checked. It is not progress that is usually
sought, because true progress ever goes slowly; it is mere novelty that is
sought. We may generally say that “the old is better.”
· IT IS ONE OF THE SIGNS OF OVERDONE CIVILIZATION. It is a
marked feature of a nation that is struggling up into civilization, that all its
members must be workers, and none can be kept in idleness. To such a
nation mere news is the amusement of its resting leisure hours; it cannot be
the sober business of its days. But when nations have long reached the high
levels of civilization, wealth has increased, multitudes can live in idleness,
and, having nothing better to do, they may run after the latest stranger in
art, or science, or music, or politics, or religion, and gathering round him
say, “May we know what this new doctrine is, whereof thou speakest?”
This is well illustrated in the case of the Athenians, who were surfeited
with art and philosophy and superstitious religion. A city full of wealthy
idlers, no doubt of good taste and cultured minds, who had nothing better
to do than to run after the last new thing. The antidote for this evil is the
preaching of the responsibility resting on every man to be a worker, and a
worker for the general welfare. Nobody has any right to food and life save
as they work, in some good way, for it. Workers soon get interest enough
to stop their yearning for “something new.” Illustrate how these things may
be applied to Church life. Church work is the great remedy for the
hindering passion for novelty.
· YET IT IS AN INDICATION OF THE UNIVERSAL ASPIRATION
FOR IMMORTALITY. There is good in it; the evil of it lies:
Ø in the forms it takes, and
Ø in the excessive degrees of its exercise.
That something in us all which cannot rest, which must seek for something
more; which rises up above all bondages and limitations; which is as
“An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light;”
is but the aspiration of souls made in the image of God, who cry for
permanence, for holiness, for rest, for God, and “can find no rest until they
find rest in Him.” We must seek after something new, on and on, until we
find God. And Scripture inspires us to such seeking; for it assures us that
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath the heart of man conceived,
the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians
2:9) And though, in measure, these have been revealed unto us by the Spirit,
yet again we are led on by the Word; for “it doth not yet appear what we shall
be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we
shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2)
22 “Then Paul stood
in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of
I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.” And for then, Authorized
Version; the Areopagus for Mars hill, Authorized Version; in all things I perceive
that for I perceive that in all things, Authorized Version; somewhat for too,
Authorized Version. In the midst is simply a local description. He stood in the midst
of the excavated quadrangle, while his hearers probably sat on the seats all round.
Ye men of
Ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι – Andres Athaenaioi – Men Athenians ( which the great orator
used in his stirring political speeches to the Athenian people. Somewhat superstitious.
There is a difference of opinion among commentators whether these words imply
praise or blame. Chrysostom, followed by many others, takes it as said in the way
of encomium (a speech of praise), and understands the word δεισιδαιμονεστέρους
– deisidaimonesterous – unusually religious as equivalent to εὐλαβεστέρους –
eulabesterous - very religious, more than commonly religious. And so Bishop
Jacobson ('Speaker's Commentary'), who observes that the substantive δεισδαιμονία
- deisdaimonia - is used five times by Josephus, and always in the sense of "religion,”
or "piety." On the other hand, the Vulgate (superstitiosiores), the English Versions,
Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, etc., take the word in its most common classical sense of
"superstitious;" and it weighs for something towards determining Luke's use of the
word that Plutarch uses δεισιδαιμονία always in a bad sense, of superstition, as in
his life of Alexander and elsewhere, and in his tract 'De Superstitione' (Δεισιδαιμονία).
Perhaps the conclusion is that Paul, having his spirit stirred by seeing the city full of
idols, determined to attack that spirit in the Athenian people which led to so much
idolatry; which he did in the speech which follows. But, acting with his usual
wisdom, he used an inoffensive term at the outset of his speech. He could not
mean to praise them for that δεισιδαιμονία which it was the whole object of his
sermon to condemn. Josephus ('Contr. Apion.,' 1:12) calls the Athenians
τοὺς εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν Ἐλλήνων – tous eusebestatous ton Hellaenon -
the most religious of all Greeks (Howson).
23 “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this
inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly
worship, Him declare I unto you.” Passed along for passed by, Authorized Version;
observed the objects of your worship for beheld your devotions, Authorized Version.
(τα σεβάσματα υμῶν – ta sebasmata humon – the objects of your veneration: see
II Thessalonians 2:4); also an altar for an altar, Authorized Version; an for the,
Authorized Version; what for whom, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;
worship in ignorance for ignorantly worship, Authorized Version; this for Him,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; set forth for declare, Authorized Version.
AN UNKNOWN GOD. There is no direct and explicit testimony in ancient writers
to the existence of any one such altar
of altars to "unknown gods,"
as to be seen in
understood of several such altars, each dedicated to an unknown god. One of
these was seen by Paul, and, with inimitable tact, made the text of his sermon.
He was not preaching a foreign god to them, but making known to them one
whom they had already included in their devotions without knowing Him.
The Unknown God. (v. 23)
For description of the statues and altars to various divinities with which
Paul,’ vol. 1. pp. 415-417. “Roman satirists say, ‘ It was easier to find a
amusement, and was entirely destitute of moral power. Taste and
excitement alone were gratified. A religion which addresses itself only to
the taste is as weak as one that appeals only to the intellect.” In illustration
of the altar to which Paul here alludes, Aulius Gellius says, “The ancient
Romans, when alarmed by an earthquake, were accustomed to pray, not to
a specified divinity, but to a god expressed in vague language, as avowedly
unknown.” For further illustration, see the Expository portion of this work;
and ‘Commentary for English Readers,’ in loc. We now fix attention on:
· THE CONFUSIONS OF POLYTHEISM. Its worshippers can never be
quite sure that they have propitiated the right god, seeing that gods are
supposed to be related to particular places, nations, events, sins, etc. This
confusion tends to create a more and more elaborate ritual, and a
wearisome round of ceremonies. All gods who may possibly be related to
the matter in hand must be propitiated, and then the right one may be
· THE RESTFULNESS OF MONOTHEISM. One God stands related
to all nature, to all events, to all ages, to all sins; and if we can know Him
and secure right relations with Him, there is no one else to fear, no one else
to come on us with claims. Behind God there is nobody and nothing. Rest
in Him is REST FOREVER!
· THE FULL SATISFACTION OR THE ONE GOD KNOWN IN
CHRIST. “Manifest in the flesh.” Show how men in seeking after God
want some form under which they may present Him to their minds. This
necessity is the secret cause of all idol-making. And God has graciously
met it, and fully satisfied it, by presenting to us Himself, apprehended as the
“Man Christ Jesus.” And this incarnation of the one and only God Paul
preached to the Athenians. The name of the “unknown God’ is JESUS
Athenian Religion (v. 23)
“Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” The
materials for an introduction are found in the following suggestive passage
from F.D. Maurice: — “This language assumed that the Athenians were in
search of God; that they were ignorantly worshipping Him; that they had a
sense of His being a Father; that they wanted some one living human image
of Him, to supplant those images of Him which they had made for
themselves This teaching was adapted to all that was true and sound in the
Greek mind. The Greek asked for one who should exhibit humanity in its
perfection; and he was told of the Son of man. He felt that whoever did so
exhibit humanity must be Divine. The Son of man was declared to be the
Son of God. He had dreamed of one from whom the highest glory man
could conceive must have proceeded. He was told of the Father. He had
thought of a Divine presence in every tree and flower. He heard of a
presence nearer still to himself.” We may learn from Paul’s speech how
we ought to think of the Gentile nations of the earth, and what it lies upon
us to do on their behalf. He shows us what “gospel” — what “good news
of God” — has to be taken to the nations; and, by his example, he indicates
in what spirit the message should be taken. Speaking amidst the
surroundings of idol altars, statues, and temples, Paul:
· RECOGNIZES THE RELIGIOUSNESS OF THE ATHENIANS. He
was placed in a position of exceeding difficulty. To have attacked those
pagan divinities in the very midst of their sanctuaries and altars, and before
the very court which guarded the national religion, would have closed the
ears of his audience to any message which he might deliver, and might have
put him in some personal danger. In his speech he heartily recognizes the
worshipping instinct; he sees the dissatisfaction with all existing forms of
worship which indicates an aching and yearning of soul to know the full
truth of God. To the unrest which the strangely inscribed altar revealed, he
made his appeal. He does not attempt to break down their confidence in
Zeus, Athene, or their companion divinities. He appeals to the want which
no mere deification of human attributes or powers of nature could possibly
satisfy. Paul admits a real worship in paganism. He admits that the
incompleteness and imperfectness of the worship followed from their
ignorance, He attempts to guide the worshipping faculty aright, by
instructing their understandings, and by declaring positive truths of Divine
· THE APOSTLE PLAINLY MARKS THE ERRORS OF THE
ATHENIANS. He does not hesitate to say, “ignorantly worship,” even to
those who prided themselves on their learning. He accepts their own
confession that they did not know the God to whom they raised their altar.
They were wrong in their cherished conceptions of God, and wrong in the
worship they offered to Him. They lowered the very idea of God, by
likening Him to mere man-made images of gold and silver. They offered
things to one who, being a Father, cared for hearts, and for things only as
they carried messages of love and trust. The sacrifices of the true God are
a “broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17), and they who “worship the
Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) Three
conceptions of God are essential as the foundations of true doctrine
and true worship.
Ø His unity. “There is no God but God.”
Ø His spirituality. “God is a Spirit.”
Ø His righteousness, He has been called, and the name has in it good
suggestion, “The Eternal who makes for righteousness.”
· THE APOSTLE DECLARES THE TRUTH WHICH THE
ATHENIANS MISSED. “Him declare I unto you.” We may briefly
summarize his presentation of the gospel revelation, as adapted to the
Ø He announces God to be a personal Being: no more force, like the
sunlight or the evening breeze. No mere quality or virtue, such as they
deified, raising altars to fame, to modesty, to energy, to persuasion, and to
pity. God is living. He is one. He is the Source of all life, all breath, all
being. You cannot imprison GOD in a statue, even though you may mold it
of priceless gold. You cannot enshrine GOD in a temple, however gorgeous
it may be.
Ø Then Paul explains God’s seeming indifference to men through the
long ages. It was a mystery, but only the mystery of patient, forbearing
love, which waited until the children put all their souls into the cry
Ø And, finally, he tells them that the waiting-time is quite past, and the
great Father has come to the children now, asking their trust and their love.
And the Father’s nearness is to be apprehended through the human
manifestation of His Son. “He preached unto them Jesus.”
24 “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of
heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;” The God for God,
Authorized Version (surely a change for the worse); He being Lord for seeing that
He is Lord, Authorized Version. Made with hands (χειροποιήτοις – cheiropoiaetois –
applies it, too, to the circumcision made with the knife, as distinguished from that
wrought by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:11). It is frequent in the Septuagint. It is
a striking instance of Paul's unflinching boldness and fidelity to the truth, that he
should expose the hollowness of heathen worship, standing within a stone's throw
of the Parthenon and the
gods and goddesses, which were the pride and glory of the Athenian people.
Note how he begins his catechetical instruction to the Athenians with the first
article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven
25 “Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing,
seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;” Is He served by for is
worshipped with, Authorized Version; He Himself for He, Authorized Version.
Served by men's hands. Θεραπεύεται – Therapeuetai – He is being attended;
is "waited upon," as a man is waited upon by his servant, who ministers to his
wants; θεράπων – therapon - and θεραπευτής – therapeutaes - are "an attendant."
So in Hebrew: , to serve God; , a servant of God; service as of
the Levites in the temple, etc. Anything; or as some take it, as if he needed
anybody's help or service. The argument, as Chrysostom suggests, is similar to
that in Psalm 50:8-12.
26 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the
face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the
bounds of their habitation;” He made for hath made, Authorized Version;
of one for of one blood, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; every nation
for all nations, Authorized Version; having determined their appointed seasons
for and hath determined the times before appointed, Authorized Version. From
the unity of God Paul deduces the unity of the human race, all created by God, all
sprung from one ancestor, or one blood (whichever reading we take), and so not
to have their several national gods, but all to be united in the worship of the one
true and living God, the Father of them all. It may be remarked by the way that
the languages of the earth (glottochronology is the use of statistical data to date the
divergence of languages from their common sources – CY – 2017), differing like
the skins and the features of the different races, and corresponding to those various
bounds assigned by God to their habitations, yet bear distinct and emphatic testimony
to this unity. They are variations, more or less extended, of the speech of man.
Bounds of their habitation; τὰς ὀροθεσίας κ.τ.λ. – tas horothesias – boundaries,
etc.: the word only occurs here.
27 “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find
Him, though He be not far from every one of us:” God for the Lord, Authorized
Version and Textus Receptus; is for be, Authorized Version; each for every, Authorized
Version. If haply they might feel after him. Ψηλαφήσειν - Psaelaphaesein – They may
But it is especially used of the action of the blind groping or feeling their way by their
hands in default of sight. So Homer describes Polyphemus as χερσὶ ψηλαφόων –
chersi psaelaphoon - , feeling his way to the mouth of the cave with his hands after
he was blinded by Ulysses ('Odyssey,' 9:416). And in the Septuagint of Deuteronomy
28:29 we read, Ἔση ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας ὠς εἴ τις ψηλαφήσαι τυφλὸς ἐν τῷ σκότει –
Esae psaelaphon mesaembrias os ei tis psaelaphaesai tuphlos en to skotei - "Thou
shall grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness." The teaching, therefore,
of the passage is that, though God was very near to every man, and had not left
Himself without abundant witness in His manifold gifts, yet, through the blindness
of the heathen, they had to feel their way uncertainly toward God. In this fact lies
the need of a revelation, as it follows v. 30, etc. And hence part at least of the
significance of such passages as:
· "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord"
· "Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"
(I Peter 2:9 );
· "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined
in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in
the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6),
and many more like passages.
28 “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your
own poets have said, For we are also His offspring.” Even for also, Authorized
Version. For in him, etc. This is the proof that we have not far to go to find God,
Our very life and being, every movement we make as living persons, is a proof
that God is near, nay, more than near, that He is with us and round about us,
quickening us with his own life, upholding us by His own power, sustaining the
being that we derive from Him (compare Psalm 139:7, etc.; 23:4). Certain even of
your own poets; viz. Aratus of Tarsus (270 B. C.), who has the exact words quoted
by Paul, and Cleanthes of Assos (300 B.C.), who has Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν –
Ek sou gar genos esmen. As he had just defended himself from the imputation
of introducing foreign gods by referring to an Athenian altar, so now, for the
same purpose, he quotes one of their own Greek poets. (For the statement that man
is the offspring of God, compare Luke 3:38.)
29 “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that
the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.”
Being then for forasmuch then as we are, Authorized Version; device of man for
man's device, Authorized Version. Graven by art, etc. In the Greek the substantive
χαράγματα – charagmatι - graven images, things engraven, is in apposition with
the gold, silver, and stone, and a further description of them. Art, τέχνη – technae –
is the manual skill, the device; ἐνθύμησις - enthumaesis - is the thought; genius and
mental power which plans the splendid temple, or exquisite sculpture, or the statue
which is to receive the adoration of the idolater. Compare the withering sarcasm of
Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9-17).
God Revealed: His Nature and Relation (vs. 22-29)
Paul’s spirit was “stirred” with holy indignation, and with pure and strong
compassion, as he witnessed the abounding signs of superstition in the
complimentary. He told them that he perceived they were abundantly
religious. He did not conclude this from witnessing their numerous
divinities, but from the inscription he had read on an altar, “To the
unknown God.” Adroitly seizing on this as proof positive that they were in
ignorance as to the true object of worship, he said that he could declare to
them the Deity whom they were ignorantly or unconsciously worshipping.
Then he spoke out the everlasting truth concerning the living God, which
he had learned, and in the knowledge of which he stood superior, not only
to those degenerate philosophers, but to the wisest man that had ever
spoken their language and immortalized their city.
· THE NATURE OF GOD.
Ø Paul taught the unity of the Godhead. “God that made the world,” etc.; a
very noticeable singular, He taught, concerning His nature, that this was:
o Spiritual; such that it is a vain and senseless thing to try to make any
likeness of Him. “God is a Spirit,” we ourselves being His children,
and it is not in gold or stone or silver to produce any sort of semblance
of Him (v. 29).
o Independent; so that He does not need the service of human hands.
Except as expressions of our feelings of penitence, or trust, or
gratitude, or homage, all offerings are an insult to His majesty and
His power (v. 25; and see Psalm 50:8-13).
o Omnipresent. We need repair to the interior of no temple walls to find
Him, for He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (v. 24), filling immensity
with His presence. He is not far from any one of us; He compasses our
path and our lying down; He besets us behind and before; we cannot
go where he is not (v. 27).
o Sovereign. He is Lord of heaven and earth; He is the Divine Ruler
· THE DIVINE RELATION TO MANKIND. We not only want to
know generally who and what God is; we also and equally want to know
what is the particular relation in which He stands to us. And what, we ask,
does He desire we should be to Him? Here is the answer:
Ø He is the Maker of the world in which we live: He “made the world and
all things therein” (v. 24).
Ø He is the Divine Benefactor from whom all blessings flow: “He giveth to
all life,” etc. (v. 25).
Ø He is the Divine Provider and Arranger of all human affairs (v. 26).
Ø His intelligence has foreseen, and His wisdom directed everything.
Ø He is the Father of all human spirits: “We are also his off spring”
(v. 28). And we are so in that:
o He is the Author (v. 26) of our common humanity;
o He is sustaining us all in constant existence: “In Him we live,
and move, and have our being.” (v. 28);
o he is deeply interested in us, and desires our approach to Him;
o He has so wrought that men should “seek Him, if haply they
might feel after Him and find Him.”
o He desires to be sought and found of us, that we may commune
with Him and rejoice in Him, that we may attain to His likeness
and prepare for His nearer presence. If such is the nature of God,
and such the relation in which He stands to us, then:
§ How pitiful a thing is
ü heathenism, the ignorance of God; and
ü atheism, the denial of God; and
ü indifference, the rejection of God!
§ How excellent and how wise a thing is
ü reverence for God;
ü obedience to God;
ü an earnest effort to obtain the Divine favor, and
to live in His love!
God’s Offspring (vs. 28-29)
“For we are also His offspring.” The source whence Paul derived this
quotation is given in the exegetical portion of this Commentary. It may be
well to point out how such a classical quotation would secure the sustained
attention of his audience. Dean Plumptre suggestively remarks, “The
method of Paul’s teaching is one from which modern preachers might
well learn a lesson. He does not begin by telling men that they have
thought too highly of themselves, that they are vile worms, creatures of the
dust, children of the devil. The fault which he finds in them is that they
have taken too low an estimate of their position. They too had forgotten
that they were God’s offspring, and had counted themselves, even as the
unbelieving Jews had done (ch. 13:46), ‘unworthy of eternal life.’”
The truth set before us in the text is that of the fatherly relation of God to
all men, and the answering child-relation of all men to God.
· THE FACT SEEN IN ITS UNIVERSALITY. It is commonly assumed
that Paul meant no more than to remind his audience that there was
only one Creator, and that all men were made in His image. But he must
have further designed:
Ø to reveal God to them;
Ø to give them the best of names for Him;
Ø and to awaken in them the sense of His universal claims to love and
· THE RELATIONS OF SON AND FATHER THUS INVOLVED.
These cannot be made by Christ; they belong to us, and are the very
conditions of our being.
Ø Christ does enable us to recognize the relation.
Ø He does restore it as a broken relation.
Ø He does show the glory of the relation in His own human life.
Ø He does help us, by His grace and Spirit, to meet and fulfill the claims
of the relation. “Because we are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit
of His Son into our hearts.” (Galatians 4:6)
· THE ARGUMENT FOR THE SPIRITUALITY OF GOD THUS
INDICATED. Work out and illustrate:
Ø That a thing can never be superior to its maker. If God made us, He
must be better than we are, and we are manifestly better than speechless
Ø Man, the son, is a spiritual being; then God, the Father, must be
· THE CLAIMS OF GOD ON MEN THUS ENFORCED. Fatherhood
means authority. What God commands we must heed. He commands two
Ø That we should REPENT!
Ø That we should receive His gift of eternal life IN CHRIST!
“God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
(I John 5:11-12)
30 “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth
all men every where to repent:” The times of ignorance therefore God
overlooked for and the times of this ignorance God winked at, Authorized Version;
He commandeth for commandeth, Authorized Version; men for all men, Authorized
Version; that they should all everywhere repent for everywhere to repent, Authorized
Version and Textus Receptus. The times of ignorance; perhaps with reference to v. 23,
and also implying that all the idolatry, of which he had spoken in v. 29, arose from
ignorance. God overlooked; or, as it is idiomatically expressed in the Authorized
Version, winked at; made as if he did not see it; "kept silence," as it is said in
Psalm 50:21; made no move to punish it. That they should all everywhere. The
gospel is for the whole world - "Their sound went into all the earth, and their
words unto the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18); "Preach the gospel to every
creature" (Mark 16:15). Repent. The key-note of the gospel (ch. 20:21;
God Revealed: His Attitude Toward the Sinner (v. 30)
It is worth while to note, preliminarily, that Paul speaks of the pre-Christian ages as
“times of ignorance.” We know that these included much human learning. The
words of the apostle were uttered on that spot where there was everything
to call this to remembrance. But he would have said, and would have had
us consider also, that any age in which God remained unknown was an age
of ignorance. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs
9:10) No art, no philosophy, no science, no literature, no intellectual attainments
or achievements of any kind whatever will compensate for ignorance of God;
the soul that knows not Him is an ignorant man; the time that knows not
Him is an ignorant age. But the text suggests and answers a very urgent
question — What is the attitude of the holy Father of spirits toward His
sinful children? His holiness would lead to impartial severity; His
fatherhood to exceeding tenderness and clemency. The answer is found in
the words of the apostle here.
· GOD’S ATTITUDE IN THE PRE-CHRISTIAN AGES. This was one
of magnanimous forbearance. God “winked at” (as the text unhappily
renders it), he overlooked, bore with all that was so painful in His sight, all
the unimaginable iniquity of forty centuries of human sin. Not, indeed,
without many proofs of His Divine displeasure; not without manifestations
of His holy wrath. He sent sickness, sorrow, calamity, death, as marks of
His meaning in regard to sin. But for long ages of evil, in which men were
everywhere sinning directly against Him by their idolatries and their
atheisms and their practical infidelities, and indirectly against Him by their
sins against one another and the wrongs they did themselves, God’s chief
attitude toward His rebellious subjects was that of Divine magnanimity.
Ø He did not punish them in proportion to their ill deserts. He “kept
silence” (Psalm 50:21). He “dealt not with them after their sins,” etc.
Ø He did confer on them great and continuous loving-kindness through
every age (ch. 14:16-17).
· HIS ATTITUDE SINCE THE COMING OF HIS SON. He “now
commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” The entrance of the “kingdom
of God” was attended with the utterance of this strong imperative,
“Repent” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 6:12). The last, solemn
commission of the ascending Lord was to sound this note of repentance
“among all nations” (Luke 24:47). The apostle of the Gentiles, divinely
taught, preached to Jew and Gentile “repentance toward God,” etc.
(ch. 20:21). And wherever this gospel is preached unto men, there is
announced the Divine mandate, “Repent.” We know:
Ø Its real significance. It is the turning of the heart, and therefore of the
life, from sin and folly to God and to His service.
Ø Its breadth of application. It is coextensive with the race; it reaches to
the remotest land and to the most distant age;
o none so pure of heart and life that they need not,
o none so base that they may not,
o none so old that they cannot repent.
Ø The consequences of impenitence. They are:
o God’s displeasure now, and
o His final condemnation and punishment.
31 “Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in
righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given
assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.”
Inasmuch as for because, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the man for
that man, Authorized Version. He hath appointed a day. Hitherto the Athenians
seem to have listened with interest while Paul was, with consummate skill, leading
them onwards from the doctrines of natural religion, and while he was laying down
speculative truths. But now they are brought to a stand. They might no longer
go on asking, Τι καινόν – Ti kainon (as in v. 19); A day fixed by God, they were
told, was at hand, in which God would judge the world in righteousness, and in
which they themselves would be judged also. And the certainty of this was made
apparent by the fact that He who was ordained to be Judge was raised from the
dead, and so ready to commence the judgment. The time for immediate action
was come; God's revelation had reached them. The man (ἀνδρί - andri). So
ch. 2:22, Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον ἄνδρα ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀποδεδειγμένον κ.τ.λ. –
Iaesoun ton Nazoraion andra apo tou Theou apodedeigmenon k.t.l. – Jesus
John 5:27 our Lord Himself says of Himself that the Father gave Him authority
to execute judgment "because He is the Son of man;" and in Matthew 26:64,
"Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power."
(For the connection of the judgment with Christ's resurrection, see especially
ch.10:40-42.) So too the Creeds.
God Revealed: His Holy Purpose (v. 31)
We ask not only — Who or what is He? what is His character and spirit?
what is His present attitude towards us? we ask also — What is his purpose
concerning us? That one infinite God, “in whom we live, and move, and
have our being,” who holds our destiny in His sovereign hand, — is it His
intention that the lamp of His lighting, the human spirit (Proverbs 20:27),
shall go out utterly at death, or that that spirit shall shine in another
sphere? And if so, what are to be the conditions of that life beyond the
river? The reply is:
· THAT GOD WILL CONTINUE TO US OUR EXISTENCE IN
ANOTHER STATE, AND WILL JUDGE
HERE. “He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world.”
We do not suppose that time hereafter will be measured as it is now, and
that the “day” of the other life will correspond with “a day” of our present
experience. But the time will come in the future life when “we shall appear
before the judgment-seat.” God has “appointed unto man once to die,” and
“after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) Clearly enough, in the thought
and purpose of God, this life is only the commencement of our existence,
the probation period on which the long results of the eternal world depend.
So far from this being the be-all and end-all of humanity, it is but the preface
to the large volume that succeeds; it is but the river which runs down to and
is lost in the sea.
· THAT GOD’S JUDGMENT OF US WILL BE ONE OF PERFECT
RIGHTEOUSNESS. “In righteousness.”
Ø There will be no trace of partiality, no smallest shade of favoritism; none
will fare the better, none the worse, for class, or sex, or parentage, or
Ø Regard will be had to all the particulars of human action. “God will
bring every work into judgment with every secret thing” (Ecclesiastes
o all thoughts — the “work” of the understanding;
o all feelings — the “work” of the heart;
o all choices — the “work” of the will;
o all words — the “work” of the tongue; and,
o all deeds — the “work” of the hand.
Ø Respect will be had to all that enhances or lessens responsibility; to all
special privilege and opportunity on the one hand, and to all privation and
disadvantage on the other.
· THAT GOD WILL JUDGE THE WORLD BY HIS SON, OUR
SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. “By that Man,” etc., even the Son of man, to
whom all judgment is committed (John 5:22), who will have authority
to execute judgment “because He is the Son of man” (ibid. v. 27).
Christ will be our Judge. His special relationship to us eminently fits Him
for that supreme position.
o He is the Lord of our nature.
o He knows our nature perfectly (Hebrews 4:15).
o He claims that we shall all come into living relation to Himself;
we must all be “found in Him” (Philippians 3:9; John 15:4, 6;
I John 2:28). We must be “born again” (John 3:3,7).
· THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US STRONG ASSURANCE OF HIS
DIVINE PURPOSE. “Whereof he hath given assurance to all men.”
We have an assurance of such intention in:
Ø Our own consciousness of ill desert and incomplete retribution. We
feel that sin demands condemnation and punishment, and that our own
individual guilt has not received its due penalty. For how much and how
many things do we deserve the reproval of the Divine voice, the
infliction of the Divine hand!
Ø Our observation of the course of abandoned and wicked men. How
many are they who go down to the grave with (as it assuredly appears)
unpunished sins on their soul! (I Timothy 5:24)
Ø The general apprehension of mankind.
Ø But the assurance of God’s purpose is in the language and the life of
Jesus Christ; more especially in the fact of His resurrection, preceding,
predicting, and ENSURING OUR OWN!
o How foolish to treat as if it were the whole of our career
that which is no more than the commencement!
o How wise to live in view of that great day of account!
o HOW NEEDFUL to be rightly related to the supreme Judge!
32 “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and
others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. Now for and, Authorized
Version; but for and, Authorized Version; concerning this yet again for again
of this matter, Authorized Version. Some mocked. Athenian skepticism could
not accept so spiritual a truth as the resurrection of the dead; and Athenian levity
of purpose deferred to another day (One less day to repent and one more day
to repent of! - copied – CY - 2017) the decisive step of accepting the salvation
of the risen Savior, just as it had deferred resistance to Philip of Macedon till
their liberties were gone and their country enslaved. (For "We will hear thee
again," compare ch. 24:25).
The Gospel’s Kindly Encounter with Novel Foes (vs. 23-32)
The opportunity now presented to Paul he must at once have recognized to
be one of the grandest and most critical of his career. He was for a while
separated from his two loved companions, and was permitted to face his
work alone in the long-time metropolis of the world’s learning, grace, and
art. We are perhaps to understand that Paul somewhat sensitively felt his
position to be one of a special kind of responsibility. It was certainly none
the less one of so much the more honor. He does not delay his work. He
appears in the synagogue (v. 17) with the Jews and the “devout.” In the
market-place also he is found ready to debate with those who may be
willing. The citizens of
remarkable a degree among them, promised ground upon which rapid and
easy impression, at all events, might be made, whether lasting or not. This,
however, was held in check to a considerable degree by the presence of not
a few who not only were naturally likely to fight hard for their pet
philosophies, but whose very philosophy it was in some cases to attempt to
“prove all things” at least in their own idea or proving. Paul is not long in
being brought into the place of chief notoriety. The kind of treatment
showed to him by that ancient center of refinement and of intellectual
inquiry is vastly different from the treatment to which he had become only
too accustomed at the hands of the Jews; and the kindly method and tone
of the address of Paul seem to be some reflection of it. Still the gospel is to
grapple, and in Athens it had its work before it. The incisiveness (impressively
decisive) of Paul’s style does not fall behind its courtesy. Let us notice what
Paul has to say when now brought fairly in contact with all most typical
of a heathen world.
· THE TRUE APOSTLE OF CHRISTIANITY PURPORTS TO
“DECLARE” WHAT THE WORLD SAYS IS “UNKNOWN,”
i.e. God. He “declares:
Ø A personal Creator-God, against Epicureans and all various others who
either held the world to have been ever or to have come of chance. Neither
Jesus Himself nor Scripture records generally from beginning to end
presuppose atheism, nor apply themselves to prove the existence of a
personal Deity. But when nature, with all her ten thousand voices, has
nevertheless let down men to a degraded unbelief, or when men have thus
let down nature, these do pronounce and “declare” in no faltering tone this
one starting-point of all upward progress, all knowledge, and all goodness
Ø A Creator-God, the opposite of depending for anything on man,
inasmuch as all men depend for all things on Him, including the initial
breath of life, and thereupon every breath they draw.
Ø A Creator-God who, so far as this world is concerned, knows one family
alone, but that family the universal one.
Ø A Creator-God who does not forsake men to their own inventions, but is
the present and ruling
administration of the wide empire on earth, and that administration in each
part, each greater or less distribution, is Divine, is that of God, the
Ø A Creator-God who admits of no proxy whatsoever of idol fashion.
· THE TRUE APOSTLE OF CHRISTIANITY UNDERTAKES TO
MAKE AN UNFALTERING AFFIRMATION OF THE THINGS MOST
DISTINCTIVE OF CHRISTIANITY. These shall be facts or truths, not
grown of reason, not even surmised of reason; very likely not, in all their
bearings and all the questions they suggest, such as can be accounted for
by reason. They occupy by intention a unique place. They come of the
pronouncement of One who brings all-sufficient credentials, and whom to
disbelieve rationally is a greater difficulty for reason by far THAN TO
BELIEVE! This grand, surpassing voice of Heaven is here given as
Ø It bids repentance on the part of man.
Ø It declares judgment to come by Jesus Christ.
Ø It declares hereunto the resurrection of Jesus Christ;
and certainly, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is here instanced as speaking
volumes for His likely judgeship, it will carry all that is necessary for showing
men present at His solemn judgment-bar. Evidently nothing so much arrested
men, when the world’s clock was then striking, as this announcement of
resurrection from the dead for Judge and judged.
· THE TRUE APOSTLE OF CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT HIDE
AWAY THE ELEMENT OF HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY AND THE
NECESSITY OF HUMAN CO-OPERATION WITH DIVINE WORK.
This is but one among many ways of asserting that man is himself a
creation of reason and of heart and of conscience; in brief, of just so much
as to constitute him justly responsible to HIS CREATOR. Beyond a doubt,
we cannot draw the line that says where the exertion of man’s will and the
interposition of God’s providence end or begin, nor, in all probability,
could we see the line if it were drawn. It is none the less certain that both
of these are facts in human life. Paul goes so far as to say that Divine
arrangements (v. 27) lead to Divine inquirings on the part of men, and
are directly adapted to suggest “seeking the Lord.” (The Bible always
counsels to do this “today” while He may be found. – CY – 2018)
Ø That it lies with men, part of their simplest, first, happiest duty, to “seek
the Lord,” in distinction from the vain theory or degrading wish that the
belief in the reality of the existence of God should be an absolutely
necessary outcome of our life or natural income of our conviction. It is a
remarkable fact that in all highest senses it is both one and the other of
these things, but that in lower and literal sense, if it were so, it would
bereave human knowledge of God of its noblest aspects, noblest tokens,
and noblest uses.
Ø That there is so much uncertainty about finding Him we seek, as might
well give zest and energy and trembling vigor to endeavor.
Ø That the uncertainty lies much in some moral direction of our nature. To
“find God” is not the quest of the intellect merely or chiefly. It will lie
nearer the heart, at all events, and it will be greatly dependent on, say, the
conscience, what it is in any man and how he heeds it. To “find God”
will depend on “feeling after” Him. The absence of a certain kind and
amount of sensibility will in many a case decide, and “that right early,”
our not finding some one or some thing. Some truth and some people
are coy. And very indisputable it is that sometimes it is of the highest
truth and the highest style of human character that this is most chiefly
Ø That to win the crown of “finding” finding really, finding blessedly,
finding for ever — is quite among the possibilities; ay, it is among the
sure promises exceeding precious to the true seeker.
Ø That the grand object “sought,” “felt after,” and “found” is all the time
“not far from” any one, i.e. really near to every one. He is so near us in
our breathing life itself. He is so near us in all those qualities which are
derived from His parentage. He is so near as in bountiful goodness and
in pitying, strong love.
33 “So Paul departed from among them.” Thus for so, Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; went out for departed, Authorized Version. The meaning is
that he left the assembly in the Areopagus. At v. 22 we were told that he stood
ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ Ἀρείου πάγου - en meso tou Areiou pagou – in center of the
Aeropagus (where see note); now he went out ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν – ek mesou auton –
out of midst of them, leaving them still sitting on their benches, while he walked
down the steps to the city again from the place where he stood.
34 “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which
was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others
with them.” But for howbeit, Authorized Version; whom also for the which,
Authorized Version. Dionysius the Areopagite. The earliest notice we have of
him in ecclesiastical writers is the well-known one of Eusebius, 'Eccl. Hist.,' 3. 4,
in which he says, "We are told by an ancient writer, Dionysius the pastor of the
Luke says in the Acts that he was the first who embraced the faith after Paul's
discourse in the Areopagus,
became the first bishop of the Church in
Eusebius repeats the statement in his long notice of Dionysius of Corinth, in 4. 23.
Other uncertain traditions speak of him (Suidas) as one who rose to the height
of Greek erudition, and as having suffered a cruel martyrdom (Niceph., 3:11).
"The works which go by his name are undoubtedly spurious" (Alford). Damaris;
"wholly unknown" (Meyer), but certainly not the wife of Dionysius, as
Chrysostom (' De Sacerd.,' 4:7) and others have thought ('Dictionary of the Bible').
And others with them. These would seem to be but few from Luke's way of
mentioning them, and from our hearing nothing more in the Acts about the
with the weakness of
the synagogue at
weak to make proselytes among the Greeks of
else had Paul won so few souls to Christ. And yet God's Word did not return to
Him wholly void. The seed fell on some good ground, to bring forth fruit unto
The Cross of Christ in the Metropolis of Art and Philosophy
There is a singular interest in this first encounter of the gospel with the art
and philosophy of
the great preacher in the encounter. Whether Paul had artistic taste we
have no means of knowing. But probably, as a devout Jew, seeing that
sculpture was so largely employed in the images of the gods and the deified
emperors, his eye would not have been trained to look with pleasure even
upon the masterpieces of Grecian art. In like manner Greek architecture
was mainly devoted to glorify the temples of the gods. The Parthenon at
Seleucidae, were indeed materially beautiful, but that material beauty was
eclipsed by the moral deformity of their consecration to idolatry, to
imposture, and to falsehood. The devout eye of the apostle would
therefore be more shocked by the dishonor done to God, and the injury to
the moral nature of man, than gratified by mere beauty of form, or
architectural grandeur and grace. Hence, as far as we learn from the
inspired narrative, the dominant effect upon his mind of the sight of the
unrivalled statues and temples of
homage to idolatry, rather than admiration of the artistic genius which
produced them. In like manner he found himself face to face with
philosophy. He was treading the courts of the academy where Plato had
taught; he was in the city where Socrates had lived and died; there
Aristotle had both learned and taught; there the successors both of Zeno and
Epicurus were still inculcating the tenets of their-respective schools. What
was to be the attitude of an evangelist in the presence of these august
representatives of human intellect? In what language was the apostle of
Jesus Christ to address himself to them? In that of apology? In that of
compromise? in that of conscious inferiority? or as if the possessors of so
much wisdom had nothing to learn from him? Or, on the other hand, was
he to speak the language of scorn and indignation — was he to shut his
eyes to all that might be true and noble in the sentiments of those men, and
to put them on a level with the vilest of mankind, because they were
ignorant of the great truths of revelation? The actual conduct of Paul
was as modest as it was wise, and as dauntless as it was modest. Looking
around him at the altars of the gods, he seized upon the one favorable
aspect of them — their witness to a worshipful spirit in the people towards
the Unseen. Gathering from Greek literature a true description of the
relation of man to the living God, he proceeded with wonderful simplicity
and force to enunciate those truths of natural religion which an untainted
reason perceives and approves. And then, rising to those higher truths
which are the domain of revelation, he preached, as he had done before in
the Agora, JESUS and THE RESURRECTION. He bid them repent of their sins
done in ignorance; he told them of the coming of the day of judgment; he
spoke to them of the awful Judge, and of His unerring righteousness. There
was no faltering in his speech, no watering down of the severity of the
gospel, no wincing at the subtle wits or the pretentious wisdom of those
who heard him. He spoke as a man who knew that he had the truth of God,
and that THAT TRUTH WILL PREVAIL! And such should ever be the attitude
of the Christian teacher before the powers of the world. Humble, charitable,
confident, and firm; owning all that is good and beautiful and true in the
world around him, but always feeling, and acting as if he felt, that the
gospel of Jesus Christ is better and truer and more beautiful than all;
valuing true wisdom, and prizing the great gift of reason as the brightest
jewel of our human nature; yet always remembering that in our fallen state
reason could bring no remedy for sin nor cast a light upon the world to
come; but that the only Name whereby we may be saved is the Name of
Jesus, and that HE ALONE has abolished death, and brought life and
immortality to light through the gospel. To Him be glory for ever and ever.
· The connection of the whole with THE HISTORY OF
CHRISTIANITY. The Greek mind was evangelized. The function of Greek
thought in the development of doctrine. The contrast between the gospel
and philosophy. The step towards the conquest of the world.
· The illustration of THE APOSTOLIC METHOD. Adaptation of the
truth to every class of mind. Difference of the preaching when the
foundation of the Jewish Scriptures was for the time forsaken. Important
difference of results, showing that there must be something intervening
between idolatry and Christian faith, besides natural religion. The
resurrection must stand on its true foundation, or it is mocked at. The
spiritual truth is mere “babbling” to those who look upon it from the
naturalistic point of view.
· The picture of HUMAN HELPLESSNESS presented. Intellectual
corruption. Times of ignorance. Idolatry, the more hideous in its
decorations of artistic beauty. Worship of the human body. Social miseries
of the Greek world. The one man among the multitude, type of the spiritual
force which, though a grain of mustard seed in apparent magnitude, was a
germ of life in the midst of the universal decay and death. So in the decline
and fall of
Ø the sufficiency and power of the gospel;
Ø the responsibility of man.
Paul stands in
memorials of Greek wisdom. It is not admiration or aesthetic delight which
is awakened in him, but moral indignation. Christianity is not opposed to
art; but Christianity does not approve the worship of sensuous or ideal
beauty apart from moral earnestness. In the true relation, religion absorbs
art into itself; when art is substituted for religion, there is moral decay. Nor
is Christianity hostile to philosophy. On the contrary, there was in Greek
philosophy a preparation for Christ. There were germs of truth in the
Epicurean and the Stoic schools which Christianity incorporated, while it
corrected the one-sidedness of these philosophies. The Epicurean built his
practical system on human weakness, the Stoic his on pride. The gospel
will not excuse sin on the ground of weakness; nor found a righteousness
of man’s own on pride (see the noted discussion of these schools, and the
relation of the gospel to them, in Pascal’s ‘Pensees’). Between these
extremes, as between those of Sadducecism and Phariseeism, the gospel
ever makes its way. These academicians
to know what the “ugly little Jew” had to say. Long had the mighty logos
or dialectic of Plato and Aristotle and their successors and rivals ruled the
world. What could the fanatical Jew have to say? An immortal discourse is
the reply to these questions of curiosity.
· GOD UNKNOWN, YET KNOWABLE. The speaker recognizes the
reverence of the Athenians. The heathen were prepared for the gospel, all
the more from the weariness and failure of their age-long “groping after
God.” In the inscription on the altar was the witness of the desire to
worship all forms of divinity, whether to them known or unknown. Both
Greeks and Romans recognized, above and beyond the definite gods and
goddesses of the Pantheon, the indefinable in Deity, the mystery of that
Essence, to us and to all, as to them, incomprehensible. So far we are all on
a level with the Athenians. But there are special senses in which God is
unknown to the worshipper.
Ø To the sensual and sin-loving heart. Many there are whose heart is like
the Agora of
pride, lust, avarice, treachery, ambition, — these are their gods. And again,
science, art, money, the husband, the wife, the goods of this world. And in
a neglected corner stands the altar with the inscription, “To the unknown
Ø To the wise in their own conceit. “For the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:19); “He resisteth the proud,
and giveth grace to the lowly.” (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5)
Ø To the formalists and externalists in religion. For the drama of an
external ritual is rather a screen between the soul and God, if the soul be
not bent on finding Him.
Ø To all who seek Him otherwise than with the pure and lowly heart,
coming by the Way, the Truth, and the Life to the Father. Though in one
sense” God is great; I know him not,” must be the confession of all hearts,
from the lowliest to the wisest, in another the good news of the gospel
proclaims — God may be known, is known; and every name by which He
is known resolves itself into love. He is concealed, yet revealed; unknown,
yet known; defined, yet indefinable. Tis a great yet a small part of His ways
that we can understand.
· GOD REVEALED IN THE CREATION. He has made the world and
all things therein. Animate and inanimate nature, body and spirit, all have
the stamp of omnipotence and of omniscience in the unity of a Mind.
(How foolish for modern pseudo-intellectuals to deny Intelligent Design!
CY – 2018) Every step in science makes more clear this unity; and in the
last resort this unity is not conceivable as “law” or “force” merely, but only
as the living and the loving God. In His infinite majesty, heaven is His throne,
footstool. He is in Himself both
of God bursts asunder the system of idolatry and superstition. The latter
denies that God can be found only in fixed places, by means of fixed rites
and mediations. The true temple is everywhere; “The walls of the world
are that.” In the Church, where the gospel of His Son is heard, and above
all in the heart, where He indwells in the power of His Spirit, is the
temple of the living God.
· GOD REVEALED IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD, As
love. Needing nothing from men’s hands; they incessantly feel the need of
Him. Life itself is sweet, and in that sweetness we have an instance of His
love. There is a joy in breathing, moving about, looking, learning,
experiencing manifold experiences in this “fair world of God.” And each
and every pleasure, lower and higher, leads up to God and His love. The tie
that binds us to our kind is an expression of the same love. Sympathy is
possible, is actual, between men of every color and clime. The mechanism
of thought and feeling is alike in all. All men suffer and rejoice from the
same causes. The unity of the human race reflects the unity of God’s mind
in wisdom and in love. Men form one people, one race: this is the great
thought the gospel throws upon the world, and teaches us to say, in deeper
senses than the heathen knew, “I am a man; nothing human is foreign to
me.” He has set bounds to man’s habitations. All the effects of climate, of
physical configuration of the earth, distribution of land and water, so
interesting to the student of man and his dwelling-place, are conditions
fixed by the same wise and loving hand. GOD IS IN HISTORY! His
alone are living.
whence proceeded the culture of
towards the “far-off goal” of an infinite love, we doubt not, the whole of
creation and of
history moves. THE END OF ALL IS THE
MAN WITH GOD! Though in one sense He “needeth not anything,”
in another he needs all — the whole love of His whole rational universe.
The process of thought in the world is a process of “groping after” and
of finding God. God wills that we should find Him, but only as the result
of our seeking. Therefore He “half reveals” and” half conceals” Himself.
He is far off, yet near; in each and all the spheres of our knowledge. Our
being rests ON HIS; ours are borrowed lives (Isaiah 54:6; I Corinthians 8:6).
“In the Father,” says Cyprian, “we are, from him all life comes; in the Son,
who lives, we have life; in the Spirit, who is the Breath of all flesh, we have
our being.” His offspring we are:
Ø by creation in His image,
Ø by redemption through His Son.
This truth we know from Scripture, from the human heart, from life;
and the effect of this knowledge may well be to produce holy humility,
mixed with confidence and joy.
· TRUE THEOLOGY AND WORSHIP.
Ø The heathen draw a wrong inference from the true saying on men
being the offspring of God. If we are of Divine origin, they seemed to
argue, then the gods are of human kind, and images of them may be made.
On the contrary, Paul argues, those who are of Divine origin despise
themselves if they render worship to any but the supreme Head and Lord.
When we say that God is in affinity with man, we do not affirm that man
can represent Him in thought, much less in images of plastic art. The
philosopher Xenophanes had said that if the animals had gods, they would
imagine them in their own likeness — the god of the horse would be a
horse, etc. The truth is that only our ideal or higher nature is the mirror of
Ø In conscience we find His clearest reflex. And ignorance of Him in this
nearest sphere of knowledge is not excusable, as Paul teaches in
Romans 1. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge. At the same
time, the conscience needs light from without. There are dark ages of the
world, when men have comparatively little light, and which may be viewed
as ages of God’s forbearance, wherein he “overlooks” much that men do,
“not knowing what they do.”
Ø But Christ is a Turning-point of history. Before Him, the period of
“ignorance;” with Him and after Him, the true light. Before Him,
forbearance; henceforward, the just judgment of the world. The description
of the person and functions of Christ.
o He is Man; a member of humanity, a partaker of human flesh and
blood, subject to death.
o As High Priest, He is one “touched with a feeling of our infirmities.”
o And as Judge, He is qualified on the same grounds. It is a common
feeling which requires that a man should be judged by his peers.
Knowledge and pity, severity and compassion, are united in Christ.
Ø The call to repentance. It is an urgent call. The more indifferent and
light-hearted the listeners, the more urgently it must sound. It is an
absolute call, admitting of no exceptions. No ignorance and no philosophy,
no dignity or rank, can exempt men from the immediate command of God
to repent. Amidst the depths of sin and the heights of virtue, in paganism
and in Christendom, the new heart and the new life are indispensable.
THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL AT
Ø Some scoffed, some procrastinated. These are ever the two main classes
of those who turn a deaf ear to the Divine Word. Some make light of the
truth, some put off attention to it until the “more convenient season.”
“Faith in to-morrow, instead of CHRIST, is Satan’s nurse for man’s
perdition.” Paul departed from among them, and came not back; the
“tender grace” of the day of salvation VANISHED not again to be found.
Ø But some believed. Of whom Dionysius among men alone is mentioned;
and of the women, Damaris, with some others. We need, however, to
remind ourselves that great numbers are no sign of the true Church. There
are many more of common stones than of jewels in its structure, according
to the ordinary valuation; but God’s measures are not ours. According to
ancient testimonies, a bright light went forth from the Church at
The splendid intellectual culture of
the gospel pours its common blessing on mankind. The relation of the
Christian to the art and science of the world.
o He is not to despise them. The master-works of genius are gifts of God;
and in their way they bear testimony to the universal striving of the
human spirit after the reconciliation of sense and spirit, the human
with the Divine. The aberrations of great spirits are more instructive
than the meaningless commonplaces of ordinary minds.
o At the same time, he is to apply to them the Christian scale of
judgment. Christianity cannot countenance immoral art or
godless science. If the heart of the artist and scientific man
be sanctified, their works and studies will tend to the glory
of God. (If not, and we have a lot of examples in our culture,
they tend to glorify man, which only degrades with a sort of
hellish aura – CY – 2018)
Three Kinds of Hearing (vs. 32-34)
It is not always given to the hardest and most conscientious laborer to reap
a large harvest. The day had been a day of hard work and faithful work for
Paul. Arrived at sunset, he counts more disappointment than gain. This
passage speaks of three kinds of hearers. And it is telling us of facts —
facts that were, facts that too often are. Notice:
· THERE ARE WHO HEAR AND MOCK.
Ø They mock when they hear something and fear something.
Ø They mock when they cannot confute what is spoken into their outer
ear, nor silence what speaks of itself in their inner ear.
Ø They mock when they don’t understand and don’t try to understand.
Ø They mock when they are ready to risk everything, rather than yield
anything of self and self-will.
· THERE ARE WHO HEAR AND PROCRASTINATE.
Ø They procrastinate when they are persuaded — almost.
Ø They procrastinate when it is no matter of “two opinions” but of active
duty or public declaration of themselves.
Ø They procrastinate when their mind is quite clear, but their heart neither
honest nor earnest.
Ø They procrastinate when they feel they must say something, but are not
prepared either to do or to say the right something.
· THERE ARE WHO HEAR AND BELIEVE.
Ø They believe when “the Lord has opened their heart to attend to the
Ø They believe when they feel that the things spoken are true to their need
and are for them.
Ø They believe when they are practically ready, if needs be, to “forsake”
all the rest in order to “cleave to” that one Being who has “the words
of eternal life.”
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