1 “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you.”
ch. 7:2, note); the for my, Authorizedfor , Authorized Version (
Version; The defense; ἀπολογία -for , Authorized Version.
apologia – defense. This is the technical word in classical Greek for a defense in
answer to an accusation. Thus e.g. the oration of Gorgias entitled, Υπὲρ Παλαμήδους
ἀπολογία, begins, Ἡ μὲν κατηγορία καὶ ἡ ἀπολογία κρίσις οὐ περὶ θανάτου γίγνεται.
And Demosthenes opposes κατηγρσεῖν to accuse, to ἀπολογεῖσθαι, to make one's
defense. And an ἀπολογία δικαία καὶ ἁπλῆ is to prove that τὰ κατηγορημένα,
"the things of which the person is accused," were never done. But it is probably
from Paul's use of the word here that it became common to call the defenses
of the Christian religion by the term ἀπολογία. Thus we have the 'Apologies'
of Justin Martyr, of Tertullian, of Minutius Felix, among the ancients;
me 'Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae,' by Bishop Jewel, and many others.
A Model Self-Defense (v. 1)
We enter in this chapter on matter which is to some degree repetition of chapter
9. The repetition is valuable for several reasons. It both adds and omits
some particulars. It gives us Paul’s own version in his own words, instead
of what must still have been essentially his own version, but which was
probably rehearsed in the historian’s words. It gives us the advantage also
of comparison in those parts which exhibit slight differences, and we gain a
fuller impression of Paul’s experience. We may imagine that Paul had been
almost tremblingly anxious the past hour or two for this opportunity; and
the moment that the lashed and angry waves were hushed was a proud
moment for him had he been merely the human orator, but much rather a
prized moment as he was the Christian orator. He has heard wild and
baseless accusations passionately hurled at him, and just so long as might
were right, he might be supposed to hold himself answerable to unjust
earthly judges, as well as to the one true Judge and one merciful Master.
But beyond a doubt something else than personal defense was in his heart,
and his eye spied a grand opportunity. For this “defense” it may be claimed
that it is:
Ø It must be held to be the outcome of, not craven fear, but the rising spirit
of a true man. Very certain it is that not one out of a hundred would have
risen to the occasion. Disheartenment, despair, perhaps disdain, would
have locked close the lips of most men. But Paul does not consent to “give
up,” or to show anything in the shape of temper answering to the intolerant
spirit of the multitude.
Ø It was the acknowledgment (however undeserved in the individual case)
of the respect naturally due in the society of human life from one man to
his fellows. Such respect is all the more to be honored in the observance by
the man who, whether Paul or Galileo, may be confessedly making a “new
departure” of wide significance. History shows that it has been the lot of
such men, not in religion only, to be made sufferers. The noblest examples
of martyrs have been of those who have done nothing to bring it upon
themselves by any manifestation of the defiant spirit.
Ø Every word of it was the utterance of conscious rectitude.
Ø It was a noble, typical example of the strength “in its glory” of the
individual conscience against the senseless strength and intolerance of a
Ø This defense was through the whole length of it a connected confession
to a change wrought by Christ. The change was a great one. The pride of
man offered every conceivable hindrance to it. The surrender was one that
meant the profoundest acknowledgment of the opponent’s victory. And
Christ was the victor’s Name. When Paul, therefore, defends his altered
self and his altered course of life, his altered faith and hopes and methods,
there is not an aspect of the defense which can be described as other than
Ø The defense of himself was forthwith transmuted by Paul into a
testimony for Christ. This was the mark and very stamp of both Christian
design and Christian method. With manifest fire of zeal, he seizes the
favorable and welcomed opportunity. He gives us the impression that this
is the thing that has been in his eye of late. Paul may have been answerable
in some degree for the commotion of the day. If so, now his task,
embraced with all the energy that the very spirit of fidelity can throw into
it, is to proclaim Christ. And when a man will so even vindicate himself as
yet more to testify Christ, his self-vindication merits at least the title of the
defense of a true Christian man.
Ø This defense was perfect in its temper, and free from all betrayal of
irritation; it makes its statement of facts with the utmost simplicity, but
with unwavering confidence.
Ø Lastly, at the point of supreme danger, it does not turn aside. The fact
which Paul well knew was intolerable to the ears of his hearers, but vital to
the truth, is steadily pursued, is arrived at, and then is distinctly announced,
without an attempt at qualifying it or softening its effect. This was “not
shunning to declare the whole counsel of God.” And it marked the quality
of the Christian hero; it spoke the firmness of the Christian martyr; perhaps
best of all it established conclusively the title of Paul to the name of the
true Christian man.
2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they
kept the more silence: and he saith,)
for, Authorized Version; were
for When they heard, etc. This, Authorized Version.
trait is wonderfully true to nature, and exhibits also Paul's admirable tact and
self-possession. It was strikingly in harmony with his addressing them as
"brethren" that he should speak to them in their own mother tongue. There
is a living reality in such touches which seems at once accounted for by the
fact that through this time Luke was with Paul, and heard the speeches.
The magic of the Hebrew tongue, that is, the Syriac or Aramaic Hebrew,
touched their national sympathies, and at once laid to rest any suspicions
that Paul was a foreigner desecrating the temple.
3 “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in
brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the
perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as
ye all are this day.” A for , Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; for , Authorized Version; for ,
Authorized Version;for , Authorized Version; for ,
Authorized Version;for the,. Authorized Version; for was, Authorized
Version;for , Authorized Version; for as, Authorized Version.
Born in Tarsus, etc. (see ch. 21:39). Paul was evidently proud of his native city,
"the famous capital of a Roman province," watered by the "swift stream of the
Cydnus," and looked down upon by the snowy summits of
"a center of busy commercial enterprise and political power;" "a free city,
Acts 2.). Paul's express(Farrar, 'Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1.
assertion that he was "born at
parents when Giscala was taken by the Romans (Farrar, ibid.). Brought up;
ἀνατεθραμμένος – anatethrammenos – having been reared, a classical word,
only found in the New Testament in the Acts (ch. 7:20-21, and here). It is found
also in Wisdom of Solomon 7:4. It implies early education. At the feet of. The
scholar sits or stands humbly beneath the raised seat of the teacher (compare
Luke 10:39). The stop is rightly placed after Γαμαλιὴλ – Gamaliael - Gamaliel.
Some, however, put the stop after ταύτῃ - tautae - this, and connect παρὰ τοὺς
πόδας Γαμαλιὴλ – para tous podas Gamaliael – beside the feet of Gamaliel
with πεπαιδευμένος – pepaideumenos – having been trained. Gamaliel
Instructed according to the strict manner of the Law of our fathers;
compare Galatians 1:14, "I profited in the Jews' religion above many my
equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions
of my fathers," where for τοῦ πατρῳου νόμου – tou patroou nomou – of the
hereditary law we read τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων – ton patrikon mou
paradoseon – of the traditions of my fathers. Under the πατρῴος νόμος –
patroos nomos – hereditary law - Paul probably included the traditions, as well
as the written Law, which the Pharisees so rigidly observed (compare ch. 26:5,
where the ἀκριβεστάτην αἵρεσιντῆς ἡμετέρας θρησκείας - akribestataen
hairesintaes haemeteras thraeskeias – strictest sect of our ritual corresponds
with the ἀκρίβειαν τοῦ πατρώου νόμου – akribeian tou patroou nomou –
exactitude of the hereditary law) ; κατὰ ἀκριβείαν –
kata akribeian – according to exactitude, found only here in the New Testament;
but a word of repeated use in this sense in Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom of Solomon
and also, with the adjective ἀκρίβης – akribaes – exactness and the adverb ἀκριβῶς –
akribos - exactly, used by medical writers. Ἀκριβέστερον – Akribesteron –
more accurately and ἀκριβεστάτην– akribestataen – strictest; most exact, are used
perfectly; accurately; carefully - six times to three in the rest of the New Testament.
Zealous for God (ζηλωτὴς τοῦ Θεοῦ - zaelotaes tou Theou – zealous for God);
see ch. 21:20, note.
The Sincerity of Paul’s Judaism (v. 3)
“I am verily a man which am a Jew.” This remarkable speech was
addressed to a particular audience, under particular circumstances, and it
was precisely adapted to that audience. It took careful account of their
knowledge and of their prejudices. It was conciliatory in tone, but firm to
the truth and manly in spirit. It is impossible for us to admire too highly the
calmness and the self-command of the apostle under such perilous
circumstances. Instances may be given from political life of the power of a
skillful orator to sway an excited mob, such as that of Lamartine in times of
the French Revolution. The introduction of this homily should deal with:
(1) the scene;
(2) the audience;
(3) the orator.
1. The scene. Dean Plumptre has the following suggestive note: — “The
position was one which raised him (Paul) above the people, and the
characteristic gesture commanded instant attention. And he spoke, not as
they expected, in the Greek, which belonged to one who fraternized with
the Gentiles, but in the Hebrew, or Aramaic, which he had studied at the
feet of Gamaliel. It was a strange scene for that Feast of Pentecost. The
face and form of the speaker may have been seen from time to time by
some during his passing visits to
who had not heard him take part in public action since the day when,
twenty-five years before, he had kept the garments of those who were
stoning Stephen. And now he was there, accused of the selfsame crimes,
making his defense before a crowd as wild and frenzied as that of which he
had then been the leader.”
2. The audience. Notice that it was largely composed of foreign Jews, who
were present at the feast; and that those foreign Jews were often more
intensely bigoted than the Jerusalem Jews, — they would certainly have
more knowledge of Paul, and more personally antagonistic feelings
against him. Some of them had recognized him, and raised the excitement
which nearly led to his death. Show how utterly unreasonable such a mob
becomes; no appeal can be made to their intelligence; usually they can only
be dispersed by force, or their excitement must be allowed to spend itself
and wear itself out.
3. The orator; a weak, frail man, with a personal presence which men
called contemptible, but with the natural gift for swaying an audience. As
soon as he spoke men were hushed to listen, as they always are when the
born orator stands before them. Perhaps Paul’s gifts as a writer have
filled our thought, so that we have not duly recognized what a splendid
“command of men” he had in his great gift of speech. The point which he
sought to impress on his audience on this occasion was the “sincerity of his
Judaism.” That was the thing impugned. He was declared to be such an
unworthy Jew that he had defiled the temple by bringing an Ephesian
Gentile into it. The proper answer was a full declaration of his honest and
complete loyalty to Judaism. This he made:
Gentile Greek. “It might be that he did this simply because they understood
it better, but it may have been also because, as the language showed him to
be a countryman of their own, they were disposed to think him less guilty
than the Asian Jews had represented him to be” (F. Bungener). “One who
spoke in Hebrew was not likely to blaspheme the sacred Hebrew books.”
HEBREW PRINCIPLES. His birth was unquestionably Jewish. His
education was most distinctly Jewish; for he was even educated at
and so intense that he had been the most active and energetic persecutor of
the Nazarenes. And Ananias, the well-known devout Jew, had brought
God’s commands to him (v. 12).
NEW LINE, HE HAD ONLY OBEYED JEHOVAH, THE GOD OF
THEIR HEBREW FATHERS. This is the point of Paul’s advance.
Jehovah had appeared to him, had given him special directions, and, as a
loyal Jew, he could only obey those directions. Jehovah had shown him
that Jesus was Messiah. Jehovah had sent him forth on his mission among
the Gentiles. He had never dishonored Judaism, never broken with it. He
was still the same “born Jew” as ever (v. 14).
4 “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into
prisons both men and women.” I persecuted (see I Corinthians 15:9;
5 “As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders:
from whom also I
received letters unto the brethren, and went to
to bring them which
were there bound unto
for , Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version;
The highfor , Authorized Version.
priest. Ananias, the present high priest, who may have been one of Paul's hearers
included among the "fathers," and who had probably been already a member of
understand "the high priest" to mean him who was high priest at the time of Paul's
(ἵνα τιμωρηθῶσιν – hina timoraethosin – that they may be being punished );
whether by rods or by death. The word occurs in the New Testament only here
and ch. 26:11, but is not infrequent in the Septuagint. and in classical writers;
τιμωρεῖν – timorein - is common in medical language in the sense of "to treat
medically," to "correct" by medical treatment.
6 “And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto
Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round
about me.” for , Authorized Version. The phraseology
of the following narrative is nearly identical with that of Acts 9:3-6 (where see notes).
7 “And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul,
why persecutest thou me? 8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He
said unto me, I am
were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the
voice of Him that spake to me.” for , Authorized Version. Beheld
indeed the light [and were afraid, Authorized Version]. This corresponds with
the statement in ch. 9:7, that the men who journeyed with Saul "stood speechless."
They were dazzled and amazed at the sudden brightness. But they heard not the
voice. This at first sight seems inconsistent with the statement in ibid., "hearing
the voice." But the apparent inconsistency disappears when we observe that here
Paul wished to impress upon his hearers that, though his companions had seen
the light, they had not heard the words which were addressed to him by the
Lord Jesus (see v. 14); whereas Luke, in the narrative in Acts 9, wished rather
to insist upon the fact that though the men had seen the light and heard the sound
of the voice, they had not seen Jesus. To see and hear the risen Christ was a
privilege given to Paul alone.
10 “And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise,
and go into
are appointed for thee to do. 11 And when I could not see for the glory
of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came
Them that were with me (τῶν συνόντων μοι – ton sunonton moi – the ones
being with me). Συνεῖναι occurs only here and Luke 9:18, but is used several
times by the Septuagint. It is very common in medical writers for the
symptoms of a disease.
The Claims of a Personal Divine Revelation (vs. 6-10)
The incidents here narrated have been previously considered in their
definite purpose. He is on his defense, and he is striving to show that
throughout his life he had been loyal to Judaism, and in the matters which
men misrepresented he had but followed and obeyed special Divine
directions given to him. He had visions and commands direct from God,
and, as a Jew, he “dared not be disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” Such
a defense was most effective for his audience, as no true Jew would deny
that Jehovah might choose any of his people for special service, and give
them immediate visions and directions. So we find the people heard the
apostle patiently until he referred to the “Gentiles,” and then national
jealousy and religious bigotry were aroused, and uncontrolled passion put
AGE. Distinguish between the ordinary inspirations which may direct a
man’s preaching and writing, and the special occasions on which God may
tell His mind and purpose, or give some trust and some work to an
individual. Such personal revelations do not necessarily affirm the
superiority in character, or in Divine favor, of the person communicated
with; but they always declare the Divine recognition of a special fitness and
adaptation for the work assigned; and our attention should be fixed on the
fitness and the work rather than on the privilege that may be involved in
having such a trust. Illustrations of personal revelations may be taken from
Ø the patriarchal age;
Ø the times of the judges;
Ø the prophets.
It should be shown how well the selection of individuals,
and direct communication with them, fits in with the idea of a theocracy.
God, as actual and ever-present Sovereign of the nation, has the right to
ask for any man’s service, and to address Himself directly to whomsoever
He pleases. And nothing is more reasonable than to expect He will do so.
Coming to later times, we get illustration:
Ø from John the Baptist;
Ø from the Lord Jesus Christ regarded as a man called to a special
Ø from the apostles, e.g. St. Peter in the matter of Cornelius.
What is called the conversion of Paul, but is more properly his call, is a case
in perfect harmony with all that had gone before in the history of the nation.
The God of the fathers, Jehovah, the theocratic King, had, by a gracious
manifestation of Himself and of His will, called the apostle to His service.
This was the sole and all-sufficient explanation of his life and conduct; and
this became his entire defense — “A revelation from God, the God of my
fathers, has come to me, and I must obey it.” Compare the main argument
of Stephen’s speech, which is this — God has not only spoken to our own
nation in the Mosaic system, he has spoken directly to individuals age after
age, but it has always been characteristic of the Jewish nation that they
have resisted these prophet-revealers of GOD'S WILL. Theoretically,
they would admit that God might send messages directly to individuals;
practically, they refused to recognize such messengers. This was proved
once again in the case of Paul.
truth it may be difficult for us to receive; and, indeed, it needs to be stated
with careful limitations and qualifications. Under the ministration of the
Spirit, and with the Spirit actually witnessing in our hearts, it would seem
that we can expect no direct Divine communications. Yet they do surely
come to open hearts. It may be shown that they are granted:
Ø In the spheres of truth. We cannot conceive of finality in the written
revelation we have, but we may be sure that all further revelations will be
in perfect harmony with that we have. We may, however, rather look for
new apprehensions of truth than new truth.
Ø In the spheres of duty. In the perplexing circumstances of life, hearts that
are really open to God, and dependent on Him, do receive direct Divine
Ø In the spheres of work. God still speaks directly to the souls of His
servants, calling some to the missionary field, some to the ministry, some
to service for the children, and some to philanthropic labors. And, still,
none of us may be “disobedient unto the heavenly vision.”
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good
report of all the Jews which dwelt there,” for
, Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version.
Well reported of (μαρτυρούμενος – marturoumenos – being witnessed;
being attested); see ch. 6:3, note.
13 “Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy
sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.” for
, Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version;
for , Authorized Version.
14 “And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest
know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth.
for , Authorized Version; for ,
Authorized Version;for , Authorized
Version;for , Authorized Version.
Hath appointed thee; προεχειρίσατό σε – proecheirisato se – fixes upon before
hand you, a word found in the New Testament only here and in ch. 26:16, and
in ch. 3:20 (Received Text). In classical Greek it means mostly "to get anything
ready beforehand;" to cause anything to be πρόχειρος – procheiros - ready to hand.
And in the Septuagint it means "to choose," or "Joshua 3:12;," as
Exodus 4:13, where it is not a translation of , but a paraphrase of the sentence,
"Appoint one by whom thou wilt send." Here it may be rendered indifferently either
"choose" or "appoint." The Righteous One. The designation of Messiah in such
though literal rendering. The Authorized Version expresses the sense much better.
That Just One (v. 14)
Paul here quotes from Ananias a term used to designate Jesus Christ. Its
Scripture history as applied to Christ, and its significance as touching some
of the deepest aspects of Christ’s relations to humanity, are very worthy of
some fixed attention. Notice:
ONE,” AS APPLIED TO CHRIST. Six occasions in the historical portions
of the New Testament illustrate its use, namely, when it comes from the
lips of Pilate’s wife and afterwards of Pilate (Matthew 27:19, 24); from
the lips of the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47); of Peter (ch. 3:14);
of Stephen (ch. 7:52); and of Ananias in the special quotation of Paul
now (v. 14, here). These testimonies are noticeable for the directness of their
language, for the special identification of Christ as “this just Man,” or “that
just Man,” or “the Just One,” and for the character in each case of those
who uttered them.
APPLIED TO CHRIST.
Ø Christ is the perfectly “righteous” One, and the only perfectly righteous
One. All others have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. No other has
kept the Law entirely — kept it in deed, in word, in thought, in affection,
Ø Christ’s perfect righteousness is the qualification of the Mediator, that
real, solemn, thrilling relationship which He sustained as between God and
Ø Christ’s perfect righteousness constituted the essential qualification of
the propitiatory sacrifice. He “suffered for sins, the just for the unjust”
(I Peter 3:18). The “Advocate with the Father, and the Propitiation for
out’ sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world, is Jesus
Christ the Righteous” (I John 2:2)
Ø Christ’s perfect righteousness constitutes the perfection of His fitness to
be Teacher and Exemplar to men on earth.
Ø Christ’s perfect righteousness is the stability of His throne of judgment,
to be ere very long beheld and approached by every man who is or ever has
been. He is “the Lord, the righteous Judge” (II Timothy 4:8).
15 “For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.”
A A witness. An essential attributefor , Authorized Version.
The Will of God in Christ Jesus Concerning Us. (vs. 14-15)
(v. 14). It will always be a difficulty to know what to think of the electing
grace of God. But we are on safe ground when we say:
Ø That God desires the well-being of every member of His human family.
We may surely argue that it must be so; we may boldly affirm that it is so.
Is it not written that God is one “who will have all men to be saved, and to
come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4; see Ezekiel 18:23;
33:11; II Peter 3:9).
Ø That He bestows special favors and privileges on some men; to some as
not to others He gives intellectual faculty, material resources, educational
advantages, domestic influences, providential guidance, knowledge of
Christian truth in its purity and integrity, etc. These He “elects,” or
“chooses;” on them He confers distinguishing goodness.
see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth” (v. 14). To
Saul there was vouchsafed a very special and peculiar manifestation of the
risen Lord. In such wise as we do not, he saw the Just One himself and
heard His voice. But Christ does present Himself now to the sons of men,
and He manifests Himself as the Just One, as the Lord of righteousness. By
a spiritual act we recognize Jesus Christ as:
Ø That Being who is in Himself the Holy and Righteous One, in whom is
no trace of sin.
Ø That Divine One who summons us to a new life of holiness and sacred
Ø That Just One who, by His atoning death, has made the way open to our
immediate justification, who has made it possible for us to attain to “the
righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). In the
presence of Him, the Just One, we are filled with shame; but by faith in His
finished work we have acceptance with God and are accounted righteous
(or, just) in His sight; and we yield ourselves to Him and His service that His
righteousness may be reproduced in us and in our human lives. Thus we
come to do:
to “know His will” (v. 14), and was to do that will by the accomplishment
of his life-work, viz. by “being His witness unto all men.” This, too, in our
way and measure is to be our lifework, even as it was our Lord’s (John
18:37). We are to bear witness of Christian truth by:
Ø exemplary behavior;
Ø a devout and generous spirit;
Ø the word of testimony and exhortation,
this latter is to be experimental, such as is suggested by our own actual
experience. Every Christian life is a failure if it be not an epistle read and
known of all who are there to read it.
The Calling and the Gifts of God (vs. 14-15)
The apostle himself elsewhere speaks (Romans 11:29) of "the gifts and
the calling of God;” and of them he says that they “are without
repentance.” The glorious occasion to which he gives prominence in the
words of these verses exhibits the “calling” first, and the “gifts” next. At
the same time, this same passage describes the calling of God (separate and
sovereign act though it be in itself) as introductory to responsibilities,
privileges, and gifts that followed upon it. There is not such a thing as a
calling of God, to lie dormant. There is not such a thing as a calling of
God, to terminate in the mere use or enjoyment of the person called. A
calling of God infers a commission consequent upon it — nay, nothing less
than involved in it under any circumstances. Here, however, it is not
implied only, it is expressed as well, and that in a very significant mode.
For immediate upon the mention of the calling or choosing comes that of:
Ø The Christian apostle, minister, teacher, must be one who “knows the
will” of God.
Ø He must be one who knows it very directly from the fountain-head.
Hearsay will not suffice, imagination will not suffice, reason will not
QUALIFICATION. Though Paul “was as one born out of due season”
(I Corinthians 15:8), these things are vouchsafed to him, namely, to “see” and
to “hear” the “Just One.” Some think Saul had seen Christ in the flesh. This
passage may contribute something confessedly inconclusive to the
disadvantage of the supposition. It is overwhelmingly improbable, in that
Paul never speaks of it, as surely he would have done if it had been the case,
even as he speaks of having seen Stephen and assisted at his martyrdom.
This great grace, however, is now vouchsafed to Saul, that with vision
of thousand-fold force he is given to see the very Jesus ascended, and that
with a keenness to hear beyond anything that he had experienced before
he is granted to hear the own voice of the glorified Man Jesus. It is not that
Saul had earned the gift — nay, it is not that to the end of a devoted life
of fullest self-surrender he will ever be able to earn the gift. Paul is the
disclaimer of merit. Nor is all the grace for Paul. How many lesser
successors to him have taken their share of benefit, and the whole
Church its share, when these have recalled that Jesus teaches:
Ø How near a connection is necessary between Himself and his servant-pioneers
of the truth and heralds of salvation.
Ø To this end how near He is willing to condescend to come to those
Ø And how He would embolden them to draw near to Him in most
believing faith and most loving trust of the heart, when the times
should be such that He would no longer come in vision to them.
archangel heart to set an estimate at all equal to the truth upon the work
committed into human hands when the ministry of Christ is accepted by
them. They are then “witnesses for Christ to men.” And three features of
their great responsibility are here shadowed forth.
Ø They are witnesses to a living One, a Personage, and not to a mere truth.
Ø They are witnesses to Him of the things that they know of “the Word of
life” (I John 1:1), through having seen Him, heard Him, looked upon
Him, and handled Him, all in the deepest sense.
Ø They are witnesses "to all men,” as far as they can possibly in any way
reach all men, and under any circumstances to all impartially. Deep was
the impression that these communications (unmentioned elsewhere) had
made on the mind of Paul. The words of Ananias, inspired most freshly as
he was from the source, had dwelt deep-stored in his memory. And now,
some twenty-five years afterwards, at a crisis most opportune, they come
to the surface, they are full-charged with their own vitality; and are
practically commended by Paul as embodying the charter of all who should
be “witnesses for Christ.”
16 “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins,
calling on the name of the Lord.” for , Authorized
Version and Textus Receptus. Wash away thy sins; ἀπόλουσαι – apolousai – be you
bathed off only here and in I Corinthians 6:11, where it is found in exactly the same
sense of "washing away sins" in holy baptism. Hence the λουτρὸν παλιγγενεσίας –
loutron paliggenesias, "the washing of regeneration," Titus 3:5; compare
all texts distinctly justifying prayer to the Lord Jesus.
17 “And it came to pass, that, when I was come again
while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;” for
, Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version; for in,
Authorized Version. Into a trance (ἐν ἐκστάσει – en ekstasei – in ecstasy); see
ch. 10:10, note.
18 “And saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of
for , Authorized Version; for ,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Get thee quickly, etc. The narrative
in ch. 9:28-30 does not mention the vision, but gives the murderous opposition
of the Hellenist Jews as the reason of Saul's departure from
Possibly, if it had not been for the Divine warning, the apostle would have braved
the danger and lost his life.
This action continued to seal the doom of
receive of thy testimony concerning me.” Stephen’s blood was crying out,
and now they would have Paul’s. Resistance to the Holy Ghost, the
messenger sent from heaven unto the Gentiles betokened the Divine
judgments about to be poured out on
from them and given to those who would return faithfully the fruits of the
vineyard. (ch. 28:28; Matthew 21:43)
19 “And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue
them that believed on thee:” for , Authorized Version. In
every synagogue. It appears from Matthew 10:18 that offenders were beaten in
the synagogue, and doubtless by command of the synagogue authorities. A
delation to any synagogue that any member of it was a blasphemer (i.e. a Christian)
would lead to such a punishment. But probably the meaning here rather is that he
went or sent to every synagogue to find out who there was among them that
believed in Jesus, and then had them punished at
20 “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing
by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.”
for , Authorized Version; for
, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;
συνευδοκῶν –for , Authorized Version. ;
I Corinthians 7:12-13). It is also found in I Maccabees 1:60; II Maccabees 11:34-35.
Of them that slew him (τῶν ἀναιρούν των αὐτόν – ton anairoun ton auton – the
assassination of him). Ἀναιρέω - Anaireo - in the sense of "to kill," is a favorite
Text. It is frequent in the Septuagint and also in medical writers in the sense
of "taking away" or "
21 “And He said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”
for , Authorized Version. The natural understanding of the
preceding dialogue is that Saul, when bid depart quickly out
the Jews would not receive his testimony, was unwilling to obey, and pleaded
that surely the Jews must listen to him and be convinced, since they were well
aware how hot and zealous a partisan of the Jews he had been, and must see that
nothing but a great miracle could have converted him. It was the argument of a
young and impetuous man, with little experience of the headstrong obstinacy
of bigoted men. The Lord cut him short with a peremptory "Depart!" but with
the gracious addition, "I will send thee unto the Gentiles" - a commission which
is more fully given in ch. 26:17-18, and which was carried out in his whole life.
Paul’s Self-Defense Before the Jews (vs. 1-21)
“Brothers and fathers.” These words fell from his lips in the Hebrew
tongue, and a hush fell upon them. If we desire to be listened to with
attention, we must speak to the people “in their own tongue.”
throughout of himself; but in the background of his thought is the
providence and the grace of Him who had called him out from darkness
into His marvelous light. He was a Jew, strictly educated in the Law, and a
zealot for God. And yet a persecutor. A lesson for us all against the over
evaluation of learning and of orthodoxy. He had tried the way of zealotry
and persecution, as Luther had tried that of monkery, sincerely seeking
salvation, but without success. The memory of his earlier time is one
mingled with thankfulness and penitence, as indeed all our memories must
be. In his good education and in his unhappy errors he could trace the hand
of God. Boasting is in every case excluded.
The great light from
heaven on the way to
dark ways of sin and error in which the heart had been wandering; and at
the same time lighted up the ways of Divine grace by which the convinced
soul was to be led, and the path of duty the new-born soul was to follow.
He is led by the hand, as into a mystery, which only the Divine wisdom
shall gradually unfold. Jesus, still lead on! Like led children ever we enter
the kingdom of heaven.
Ø The ordination by the hands of Ananias. A pious man according to the
Law. God knows all His servants, and the work for which each is best
fitted. Here is a mirror for all preachers. They should bring to the office
knowledge and experience of the working of God’s grace upon the heart.
They must in their office be like Paul — witnesses before all men, by
word and conversation, of that which they have seen and heard. And their
comfort may in like manner be that He who has called will strengthen,
edify, and support them in their calling.
soul overwhelmed by the weight of those Divine communications. The
voice says, “Hasten,
and go quickly out of
with reluctance. This struggle is among the incidents of the strife of the
Spirit of God with our spirit. We would stay when He bids to go. “Lord, I
will follow thee, but ...” Sometimes it is fear, as in Jonah’s case;
sometimes it is modesty, as with Moses and Jeremiah; or
conscientiousness, as with Peter (ch. 10:14); or compassion, as with
Abraham at Sodom, and Paul with Israel. Over against all our buts stands
the firm command of God, “Go hence!” Only he who overcomes his
hesitation in full trust in the perfect right and wisdom of that command will
be enabled by-and-by to say, “He has done all things well.” (Mark 7:37)
Men’s Past Sins Often the Unknown Determiners of Their Future Life,
its Opportunities, and its Disqualifications (vs. 18-21)
It is possible to take different views of the drift and the intended tenor of
this passage. The language of Saul (which Paul now quotes), as found in
vs. 19-20, will be very far from powerless, whether read as a view
humbly offered in harmony with the command just laid upon him, or as
perhaps is the more probable, in deprecation of it. The passage, however,
reminds us, amid high associations of great truths, of solemn far-reaching
principles in human life. The retribution which it enwraps is not that of the
severity of judgment to the sinner, but of the inevitableness of that cause
and effect which speak a Creator-God of infinite wisdom, and a creature-man
of reason, of moral capabilities, and of a certain freedom of action,
that lies at the root of moral responsibility and final accountability. Notice,
HONOR IN THE MOTHER CITY JERUSALEM CUT SHORT FOR
Ø We could imagine reasons why Paul would have felt his highest ambition
fired by testifying, working, suffering, and dying for Jesus in Jerusalem, as;
o The mother city of the land and of God’s favored people, renowned
with ancient and special renown,
o The place at the very heart of Jewish life, where he would have longed
to recant most publicly his one-time errors of creed, and retrieve
whatever it were possible to retrieve of the effects of those errors. This
would have been of what was most noble among the characteristics of
o The place which held the same relation to the religious world that
Rome did to the heathen world.
o The place where the Master bore the grandest testimony of all His
course, and suffered and died.
Ø It needs little imagination to see that, let alone any sense of a noble
ambition, Paul would feel that it would be one of the grandest
opportunities of usefulness, at the very center of typical and peculiar risk
and danger. From all this Paul is interdicted by a voice of sovereign
authority, and on the plain ground of his own past of error.
AGAINST SETTLED DESPAIR, AGAINST REMORSEFUL
THROWING UP OF ENDEAVOR, IN THE PRESENCE OF THE
RETRIBUTIVE ASPECTS OF HUMAN LIFE. The veto of Jesus Christ,
spoken with authority to Paul, is nothing else than linked with a summons
to other work and another sphere, that may turn into all equal usefulness
and probably usefulness far greater. Notice the method of that summons.
Ø Though to state the ground of it might be pain and might give pain, it is
not wrapped in vague mystery and unsatisfying innuendo. It is, on the
other hand, a grand instance of “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
Ø The summons exhibits a very distinct and emphatic value set upon the
life and the useful employment of the servant somewhere or other.
Twice, nay, thrice repeated is the direction to depart with “haste,”
“quickly,” and unquestioningly. Men may depart like Jonah.
But also they may depart for
o Christ’s own command, announced in the individual conscience or by
the living Spirit; and
o for greater toil and exposure, instead of for ease and hiding from work.
Ø The summons announces, by a most gracious anticipation, an highly
important substitute career. The man who has incapacitated himself by
follies, by errors, even by sins, for some of the noblest of Christian service
shall still not be cast away as useless. He is still good to do something; yes,
to do much. The Master does not refuse the love or the service of the
fallen, when they return, nor does he consent to treat with them only
through others. First He saves them and protects them, and suggests His
care and love of them. Then He gives them their work, though “far hence.”
And lastly, He does not withhold from their ear to hear His own voice,
" I will send thee.” What trust, what love, what forgivingness, and what
streams of hope Jesus has to give — and gives to His own!
Paul’s Commission to the Gentiles (v. 21)
“I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” In the narrative given in
ch. 9:15 this command is said to have come direct to Ananias, and to
have been by him communicated to Paul. Of the direct message to
Paul himself subsequently, at
account (compare the narrative in ch.26:17). It is to be noticed that,
though Paul thus distinctly knew what his mission was, he waited
patiently until Divine directions or Divine providence clearly opened the
way for him. And, while he waited, he cheerfully did the work which came
to his hand. We proceed to dwell on three points:
(1) the sphere to which Paul was sent;
(2) the fitness of Paul for work in this particular sphere; and
(3) the influence which work in this sphere had upon Paul’s own
apprehensions of the truth.
Noticing first what a strain upon his own Jewish feelings it must have involved
for him to undertake this work, and how his doing so proves the sincerity and
completeness of his conversion.
Gentiles.” Jews divided the whole world into Jews and Gentiles; so
Paul’s mission was to all outside the Jewish nation. Illustrate how the
prevalence of the Greek tongue, and the wide supremacy of the Roman
rule, at this time opened the whole world to the gospel. Illustrate what
variety of classes and of people the apostle met with in traveling, as he did,
under which the apostle came to leave the synagogues and devote himself
exclusively to the Gentile populations. And show what preparation there
was for the gospel in Gentile spheres:
Ø in the common religious wants of men; and
Ø in the sense of dissatisfaction with idolatry which then so widely
Lystra, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome were representative cities of this sphere.
PARTICULAR SPHERE. Find the fitnesses in:
Ø His birth as a Grecian Jew.
Ø His knowledge of the Greek language, and partial Greek education.
All the other apostles were Aramaic Jews. Paul’s early associations
prepared him to take larger and more comprehensive views of
Christian truth, when once his strong Jewish prejudices were overcome.
Ø His unquestioning sense of a Divine call.
Ø The permanent influence exerted on him by Stephen’s death, and
probably by Stephen’s teachings.
Ø The clear apprehension he had of Christian truth, in its distinction
from, but full harmony with, the principles of Judaism.
Ø Further fitness may be found on a careful estimate of Paul’s
peculiarities of mind, disposition, and character.
THE APOSTLE’S OWN APPREHENSIONS OF THE TRUTH. This is
a difficult subject to treat, and involves a very close study of Paul’s
doctrinal position at different points of his ministry. To open it out wisely,
the Epistles must be chronologically arranged and fitted into the record in
the Acts, and compared with the apostle’s speeches. An illustration may be
taken from the Epistle to the Ephesians, which clearly shows that the
superstitious people of
on Paul as led him to consider some great speculative questions, and,
we may say, tended to exercise and develop his mystical faculty. The
influence of work among the Gentiles may be illustrated in relation:
Ø To doctrine. It led to the first attempts at a philosophy of the
Ø To practical Christian life. Paul had to find out how to adjust
Christian principles to Gentile life and manners, and so he was led to
develop a system of Christian ethics. Impress that the work to which
God calls us will also be:
o our service to others; and
o our own personal culture.
22 “And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices,
and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should
live.” for , Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version.
Unto this word. They could not bear the idea of the Gentiles being admitted into
of the Gentiles seemed to be as intolerable as the leveling-down of themselves,
Argument and Prejudice (vs. 1-22)
We have here:
moment, made a powerful defense of his position. He showed:
Ø That no one could enter into their feelings more perfectly than himself.
o Was he not a Jew by birth (v. 3)?
o Had he not received a thoroughly Jewish education, at the feet of
a Jewish master (v. 3)?
o Had he not been absolutely possessed by a devotedness to the Law,
and a corresponding hatred of the new “Way” (v. 4)?
o Had they not the evidence in their own hands of the bitter and
unrelenting persecution of which he had been the eager and active
agent (v. 5)?
If, then, he was found advocating this hated “Way,” it was not because
he did not understand Jewish sympathies, nor because he had always
been one of its votaries; quite the contrary.
Ø That no one could possibly have weightier reasons for changing his mind
than he had. First came a heavenly vision, arresting him in his path of
persecution, and forbidding him to continue (vs. 6-11). Then came a
powerful confirmation, in a miracle of healing of which he himself was the
subject and of which a most honorable and estimable Jew was the
instrument (vs. 12-13); and a further confirmation in the message with
which he was charged (vs. 14-16). Then came a third influence of a
powerful character in the shape of another manifestation, and a command,
against which he vainly strove, to go out and work among the Gentiles
Such was the violent antipathy in the minds of his audience to any
fellowship with the Gentile world that all Paul’s arguments went for
nothing. This was such an opportunity as was little likely to recur, of
having the facts of the case placed plainly and forcibly before their minds;
it was a day of grace to them. But so utterly prejudiced were they that one
word filled them with a senseless exasperation which stole from them the
golden chance they had of learning the truth, and which riveted the chains
of error and exclusiveness they wore upon their souls. This defense of the
apostle and this exasperation of his audience may suggest to us:
Ø The fullness of the Divine argument. God “reasons with” us.
He does so:
o in proof of His own presence and providence in the world;
o in proof of the heavenly origin of the gospel of His grace; and
o in furtherance of our personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and
Savior of our soul.
The Divine arguments and inducements are very strong, and they are very
varied. They include the miraculous and the ordinary; they appeal to the
human consciousness, to history, and to daily observation; they are based on
well-attested facts; they appeal to our hopes and to our fears, to our sense of
what is due to our Creator and of what we owe to ourselves, of obligation
and of wisdom. They are mighty, urgent, convincing, one would say —
but for sad facts which argue to the contrary — overwhelming.
Ø The foolish and fatal anger which it sometimes excites. There are those
who, when God speaks to them in nature, providence, or privilege, instead
of lending their ear to His word and bowing their spirit to His will, are only
angered and exasperated; they go still further away from Him in increased
alienation, in still more determined rebelliousness of soul. But so doing
o they aggravate their guilt; and
o they cut down the bridge by which they might cross to the heavenly
The Testimony of Religious Experience (vs. 1-22)
Not now dwelling upon the details of Saul’s conversion, treated of for the
most part under the consideration of the ninth chapter, we may observe
that we have here Paul’s own account of it, that is to say, we have his own
rehearsal of his conversion, and so far forth religious experience. We may
use the opportunity for the purpose of illustrating the right occasion and
use of the individual declaring to the world “what the Lord has done for his
soul". This is in some cases an undoubted duty, and the neglect of it an
undoubted dereliction of duty. Many, no doubt, are the occasions that lie
on the border-line of expediency, and even of duty. And, as in many, many
other things, it is then that the solemn claims of individual responsibility are
either seen and honored or dishonored. We may, therefore, observe some
of the facts involved in a man’s confession of his own religious experience
before the Church and the world.
THE WORKING AND FORCE OF GOD’S PRESENCE IN HUMAN
OTHER MEN WHO OWN TO NO LIVING CONSCIOUSNESS OF
THAT PRESENCE OR COOPERATION WITH IT.
THOSE “WHO BELIEVE” IN THEIR OWN RELIGIOUS COURSE.
GOODNESS, LOVE, AND POWER OF GOD AND OF CHRIST AND
OF THE SPIRIT.
UNDER CERTAIN MOST SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND
TREATMENT, AND OF ITS BEHAVIOUR UNDER SUCH
OF HIM, BUT IT IS USEFUL TO MEN, TO BIND THEMSELVES BY
SOLEMN OBLIGATION OF PUBLIC PROFESSION BEFORE MEN.
23 “And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,”
for , Authorized Version; for ,
Authorized Version. Threw off their garments. Either "wild signs of fury, gestures
by which they gave to understand that they would gladly accomplish the cry, 'Away
with him from the earth!'" (Lunge), tokens of applause and consent at the sentiment
of the cry (see the passages quoted by Kuinoel, Τὴν ἐσθῆτα ἀνασείων ἐκρότει τὸν
Προαιρέσιον "The proconsul applauded Proairesius the rhetorician by shaking
his purple robe," Eunapius, 'Life of the Emperor Julian;' "The whole theatre
raved together, and leaped, and shouted, and threw off their garments (τὰς
ἐσθῆτας ἀπεῥῤίπτουν)," Lucian, ' De Salt,'); or (so Meyer) signifying that
they were ready to stone the culprit (see v. 20). There is a close relationship
between IGNORANCE and VIOLENCE!
The Unreasoning Excitement of Crowds (vs. 22-23)
The action of this crowd is in most respects similar to that of crowds in all
ages and in all districts; but in some of its features it was characteristically
Eastern. “A great similarity appears between the conduct of the Jews when
the chief captain of the Roman garrison
the temple, and the behavior of the Persian peasants when they go to court
to complain of the governors under whom they live, upon their oppressions
becoming intolerable. Sir John Chardin tells us respecting them, that they
carry their complaints against their governors by companies, consisting of
several hundreds, and sometimes of a thousand; they repair to that gate of
the palace near to which their prince is most likely to be, where they begin
to make the most horrid cries, tearing their garments, and throwing dust
into the air, at the same time demanding justice. The king, upon hearing
these cries, sends to know the occasion of them. The people deliver their
complaint in writing, upon which he lets them know that he will commit
the cognizance of the affair to some one by whom justice is usually done
them” (Paxton). Compare the excitement of the multitudes assembled in
the Ephesian theatre (ch. 19:29-34).
readily take up prejudices and give way to mere feeling, and so are led to
do terrible things. Illustrate from the riots of country towns in the older
election-times, when the people were excited by political sentiment; or by
the violent scenes of the French Revolution. It is usually true of all mobs
that “the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.”
Sentiment is valuable as giving tone and feeling to action, but sentiment
alone can never be allowed to decide and control action, because it tends
to make a man at once passionate and weak. There is no wise decision, no
calm judgment, no definite purpose, no solid strength of will, and so
sentiment leads men to do things of which they are afterwards ashamed, to
forget the reasonable claims of others, and to commit great social wrongs.
The Christian man’s duty, wherever his lot may be cast, is:
Ø To strive against yielding to popular sentiments on
o religious subjects, as injurious to his own spiritual life, and
likely to make him unjust toward others.
Ø To use his influence to check public excitement, and to disseminate right
principles. In religious spheres, yielding to “sentiment” has often been the
cause of public and private persecution. In common life, reason is the
proper check of sentiment. In religious spheres, the revelation given us in
God’s Word, and the direct illuminations of God’s Spirit, are the proper
checks. Illustrate how, in religious spheres, untempered sentiment has often
developed into “mania.”
their power by appeal to sentiment. Illustrate from the incidents of the text.
The leaders of the Judaic party knew perfectly well that they had no case
against the apostle, but they appealed to the prejudice of the people, and
excited their feeling into passion, which might have led to Paul’s death
work done by the revivalist and the missioner, and at the same time of the
responsibility of such workers, in the influence they gain over masses of
people. So far as their work is merely an appeal to sentiment, it can exert
but a passing, and only too possibly a mischievous, influence. So far as
they become teachers of the truth and persuaders of men to duty, their
work will be PERMANENT and BLESSED!
Ø The Crusades illustrate the sway of the masses by sentiment;
Ø the Reformation the sway of the masses by truth.
CROWDS. Paul tried, but he found it vain: they were carried away by
the mere sound of the word “Gentiles.” Compare the scheme of the townclerk
dies down, or dispersed by physical force. Reasoning is of no use until men
have become reasonable. Show that Christ never works upon the mere
crowd. He and His servants make their appeal to men who have their power
of reason. They use emotion and affection, but in subordination to reason.
They work by the enthusiasm of numbers, but subordinate this influence to
the enforcement of the saving truth.
24 “The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade
that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore
they cried so against him.” for , Authorized Version;
for , Authorized Version; so for , Authorized Version.
The chief captain (see ch. 21:31, note). The castle (see ibid. v. 34, note). Examined;
ἀνετάζεσθαι - - anetazesthai – to be being interogated, only here and in v. 29. In
Judges 6:29 (Codex Alexandrinus) and in the Hist. of Susanna 14 the verb has the
simple sense of "inquiring." The classical word for "examining" and especially by
torture, is ἐξετάζειν – exetazein. By scourging (μάστιξιν - mastixin). The μάστιξ –
mastix was in Latin the , the most severe implement of flogging, though
even with the lighter, the rod of the lictor, slaves and others were beaten to
death (). It was not lawful to beat a Roman citizen even with the
ῤάβδος – rabdos – rod; staff); ch. 16:22, 35, 37, notes. The μάστιξ, or(
scourge, was that with which our Lord was scourged at the bidding of Pilate
(Matthew 27:26, where φραγελλώσας – phragellosas – whipping is from the
not understood Paul's Hebrew speech, and so had not known what it was which
provoked so fierce an uproar among the people.
There is cruelty in power when it is exercised without righteousness. Torture was
at once a confession of weakness and a violation of the rights of man. Law needs
no cruelty to support it. It must be based upon truth and benevolence, or it is not
RIGHTEOUS LAW! While the noisy tumult of the mob showed the corrupt state
of the Jewish nation, the scene in the castle revealed the imperfection and
worthlessness of mere human rule. Both these facts are cries of the world for
THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
25 “And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that
stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and
uncondemned?” When for
When they had tied him up, etc. This does, Authorized Version.
not seem to be a right rendering. Π – Proeteinan - they stretch out
can only mean "to stretch out before," or "expose to the action," of anything,
when taken in a literal sense; - himasin – thongs again, more naturally
means the "thong" or lash of a whip or scourge than a thong to bind a man
with; indeed, it is thought to be etymologically connected with μάστιξ (scourging),
Meyer, therefore, rightly understands the passage to mean when they had stretched
him on the stake ready to receive the scourging. Is it lawful, etc.? Paul now pleads
his privileges as a Roman citizen, just in time to stop the outrage, remembering,
no doubt, the terror inspired in the Philippian magistrates when they found they
had beaten with rods an uncondemned Roman citizen (see ch. 16:38). Uncondemned
(ἀκατάκριτον37. Only found in these two passages in the
New Testament, and nowhere else.
Times to Suffer, and Times to Get Relief from Suffering (v. 25)
This subject is suggested by the fact that, although the apostle’s plea of his
Roman birthright would have always stood him in good stead, he only used
it occasionally; from which fact we may assume that he sometimes felt it
was his duty to submit to suffering, and that, at other times, he equally felt
it his duty to resist suffering. Probably a careful estimate of the
circumstances connected with each case led to his decisions. Here we may
see that no special testimony could be made by his patient enduring of
suffering, seeing that he was among strangers, who knew nothing of him or
his mission, so he felt at liberty to secure relief from indignity and pain, and
appealed for his rights as a Roman citizen. The apostle spoke as they were
preparing to scourge him. According to the Roman custom, he was
stripped to the waist, and tied with leather thongs to the column, or
whipping-post, which was used within the fortress for this kind of torture.
“It was unlawful to scourge a Roman citizen in any case; it was an
aggravation so to torture him as slaves were tortured only as a means of
inquiry” (see ch. 16:37). Remember the familiar passage, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
show him how great things he must suffer for my Name’s sake”
(ch. 9:1) So to His early disciples Christ spoke of persecution and
suffering as part of His disciples’ necessary lot. Compare His teachings
in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:10-12) with John 15:18-21.
Ø As an historical fact, the earlier apostles found, suffering attend on
fulfilling Christ’s mission; and the Apostle Paul had a life full of peril
and of pain.
Ø As a fact of present observation, suffering is very largely the Christian’s
lot. It comes partly by reason of his conflict with evil in himself and in the
world, and partly as a Divine arrangement for his moral testing and
Ø As a doctrine of the Divine Word, suffering is:
o a means of sanctifying to the believer,” Tribulation worketh
patience,” etc.; (Romans 5:3-5)
o a means of witnessing to the world the power of God’s
sustaining grace and the beauty of the Christian virtues.
God has such witnesses in His great sufferers, in every age
and in every sphere of life.
to the apostles and the “seventy” (Luke 10:1-12), when He sent them on their
trial mission. If persecuted in one city, they were to flee to another. Nay, in this
avoidance of suffering, our Lord set us His own example; for, on more than
one occasion He went away from a neighborhood which had become
perilous, and escaped from those who would cast Him from the hill-top. So
Paul, in connection with our text, felt justified in avoiding and resisting
suffering. The practical difficulty we find is to know when we should bear
and when we should resist; and the following suggestions may be fully
Ø When we can recognize an immediate good in our sufferings, either a
blessing of men or the glory of God, we should be prepared cheerfully
Ø When the suffering plainly comes in the orderings of God’s providence,
we ought to bear it.
Ø When we find that we can, by patient suffering, make a needed witness
for the Christian truth or the Christian spirit, we should be willing to
Ø When we find ourselves among strangers and enemies we may use our
influence to avoid suffering.
Ø And when our suffering plainly comes from the mere willfulness or the
pure ignorance of men, we do right to resist. It may also be urged that we
must always follow along the line of “conscience” and “duty,” whatever
consequences may follow. Therefore the “three Hebrew youths” dare not
shrink from the fiery furnace, nor Daniel from the den of lions. Impress
that we have an inward leading of God’s Spirit, even as Paul had; and that,
if we will follow the lead in all simplicity, we shall be able to decide, in the
circumstances of life that arise, whether it is our duty to suffer or to avoid
suffering. Whether we bear or whether we refuse to bear, we must seek to
glorify Christ, and do all things as part of our loving life-service rendered
26 “When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying,
Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.” for ,
Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version; for , Authorized
Version; for , Authorized Version;
for , Authorized Version.
27 “Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman?
He said, Yea.” for , Authorized Version; for ,
28 “And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom.
And Paul said, But I was free born.” for , Authorized Version;
for , Authorized Version. A great sum (πολλοῦ κεφαλαίου –
pollou kephalaiou – of vast sum). The word is only found here in the New Testament
in the sense of a "sum of money," but is so used in classical writers. Citizenship;
πολιτεία – politeia), for "freedom of the city," in Xenophon, AElian, Polybius,
Dion Cassius, etc., and III Maccabees 3:21. Dion Cassius (9 17) relates that
Messaliua, the wife of the Emperor Claudius, used to sell the freedom of the
city, and that at first she sold it (μεγάλων ξρημάτων – megalon xraematon)
for a very high price, but that afterwards it became very cheap. In all probability
Lysias had so purchased it, and in consequence took the name of Claudius
(Renan, ' St. Paul,' p. 524). I am a Roman born. It is not known how Paul's
family acquired the Roman citizenship.
Notice the Providence of God in the government of the world. The Roman state
was needed to prepare the way for the gospel. The two citizenships — of the
earthly kingdom, of the heavenly, compared in the two men, Lysias and
Paul. Little the parents of the apostle could have anticipated how that
Roman privilege would work into his history. We should give our children
all we can to prepare them for future life. GRACE and
together. The world’s alarm opens the way for the gospel.
Naturally and Spiritually Free Born (v. 28)
Rights of citizenship were obtained in various ways and on various
grounds. Some men had it by birth, others by gift, others by purchase,
others as the public recognition of heroic deeds. These may be illustrated in
connection with the citizenship of
large cities. Roman citizenship was once sold at a very high rate, but in
later times its value was lowered, and it was bartered for a trifle. It is not
known how Paul’s parents obtained their citizen rights, but the apostle
held his as an inheritance. Paul was not a citizen by virtue of his having
been born in Tarsus. “That city, in consideration of its sufferings under
Cassius, and because of its adherence to Julius Caesar, was admitted by
that did not confer citizenship. Some of the apostle’s ancestors, it may be
assumed, had been admitted to citizenship in acknowledgment of good
service, civil or military.” A distinction is made, which men still recognize,
between acquired rights and natural rights; but a far higher value is set on
the rights of birth than on those which can be obtained in any other way.
We fix attention on the fact that Paul was twice free born. He held right
of birth into Roman citizenship, and right of the new Divine birth into the
kingdom of Christ and of heaven.
Ø Illustrate what positions their birth puts some men in, and what
consequent trusts and responsibilities come upon them.
Ø Show that such privileges are not to be despised by Christian people,
because they may give them noble opportunities of serving Christ.
Ø Point out that any envy of those born to high station is unworthy of all
who feel aright the honor of having any kind or degree of trust from God.
Ø And impress that the greater the trust of position and privilege which a
man may have, the heavier will be his judgment if he misuses his powers
and privileges. “Of him that hath, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
of "new birth,” “being born again,” and “regeneration.” Illustrate that no
man can acquire a place in Christ’s kingdom by any
Ø or effort.
The only entrance is by a Divine birth: “Ye must be born again;” the only
possible right of the Christian is his birthright. This kind of right excludes
all pride and self-satisfaction. “We are saved by grace.” (Ephesians 2:8)
It gives to God all the glory; for we are “born of God.” (I John 5:4)
It changes all the aspects and relations of our lives, so that we seem to have
wakened up into a new world with new powers. It lays us under serious
obligations, appoints for us high and holy duties, and holds out before us
A GLORIOUS FUTURE! If the Roman citizen was bound to walk worthily
of his citizenship, and honor the Roman name wherever he might go, much
more should those who are born of God “walk as children of light,”
(Ephesians 5:8); “walk worthy of the vocation by which they are
called.” (ibid. ch. 4:1) See Paul’s statement, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
29 “Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him:
and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and
because he had bound him.”
, Authorized Version; for , Authorized Version.
Had bound him (ῆν αὐτὸν δεδεκώς – aen auton dedekos – he had bound him),
as related in ch. 21:33.
Danger and Deliverance (v. 22-29)
At length the latent envy of the Jewish audience breaks forth. “Away with
such a man from the earth!”
The wild force of fanaticism has to be encountered again and again.
These scenes are a warning against fostering it. It dishonors God, under the
pretext of jealousy for His honor; ill treats the innocent; disgraces itself,
turning men into wild beasts.
Ø It is brought about by the right feeling of the Roman captain, together
with the civil privileges of the apostle. And he obtains a new opportunity
Ø It tends to illustrate his character. The violence offered to him elicits a
gentle and lowly reply (v. 25; John 18:23). Outwardly ill treated, he
remains inwardly unhurt. Momentarily trodden in the dust, he rises to
THE NEW BIRTH! It is sealed by the Spirit of God. It is proved by trial,
conflict, and affliction. It appears in full glory in the heavenly state. Their
privileges are — exemption from fear in the presence of the powers of this
world; inviolate safety from the violence of evil men; independence of the
judgment of the world. “Now are we the sons of God, and 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)
30 “On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he
was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the
chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set
him before them.” for on, Authorized Version; for
, Authorized Version; for
, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; for
, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; for
to , Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Brought Paul down;
from the castle to the council-room below, either to the hall Gazith or to some
other place of meeting. Lysias probably still kept Paul a prisoner through the
night, on account of the excited state of the people.
The Apology (vs. 1-30)
It was a very remarkable promise which our Lord made to His apostles,
when, forewarning them that they should be delivered up to councils, and
brought before kings and rulers for His sake, He added, “But when they so
deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do
ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak
ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost” (Mark 13:9-11). It is
impossible not to see a fulfillment of this promise in Paul’s apology
delivered from the castle stairs at
bloodthirsty mob. A Jewish riot had something terrific in it, something
dreaded even by the iron-minded Romans. The features all contorted with
passion, the large eyes starting out of their sockets, the savage grinding of
the teeth, the fierce cries, the wild throwing of handfuls of dust into the air,
the tossing and waving of their garments with an unbridled violence, gave a
demoniac aspect to such rioters (Renan, p. 524). Paul had just come out of
the thick of such a mob. He had barely escaped with his life, but not
without many blows. He had heard his name given to execration, held up
to detestation as the author of blasphemies and sacrilege, and as the enemy
of his race. And now he was a prisoner in the hands of the heathen masters
of his unhappy country. His hands were loaded with chains, and he knew
not what dangers were before him. And yet, when he had scarce recovered
breath after the struggle for life, we find him with the chains on his wrists,
but with unruffled spirit, and admirable composure and self-possession,
delivering to his enemies and would-be murderers a speech as gentle, as
firm, as calm, as collected, and as logical, as if he had composed and
prepared it at leisure in the stillness of his own study, and was addressing it
to a congregation of friends and admirers. Must it not have been given to
him in that hour what to speak, and how to say it? The great force of this
defense lay in its simple statement of facts. The apostle’s conduct at each
successive stage had flowed naturally and almost inevitably from the
circumstances which surrounded him. He had nothing to conceal. Indeed,
the circumstances of his early life were well known to his hearers. If his
statement was true, how could he have acted differently? He appealed to
his fellow-countrymen, his fathers and brothers of the Jewish people, to
hear with impartiality the apology which he made. Had he stopped here,
maybe his defense would have been accepted. His Hebrew speech, his
thoroughly Jewish attitude, his high-minded earnestness, his splendid
courage, seem to have wrought to some extent upon his volatile and
mobile hearers. But he could not stop there. He had a further message to
deliver, and it must be delivered at
of the circumcision, but of the whole Gentile world. That message was that
Christ was to be preached to the Gentiles, and that Jews and Gentiles were
to be henceforth one in Christ. And that message he delivered with chains
on his arms, from the midst of a Roman cohort, to the angry crowd
beneath him, having obviously one single purpose — to speak the truth,
and to do his duty both to God and man. One other remark is called for by
this apology. The nature of the case, a defense under false accusation,
made it absolutely necessary that the defendant should speak of himself.
But in the course of the twenty verses in which he details the several
passages in the history of his life which bore upon the accusation, it is
impossible to detect one particle of vainglory or of egotism. There are no
boastings, nor are there any expressions of an affected humility. There is
absolute simplicity. He speaks of himself because he must. And in the same
spirit of genuine humility, when it was not necessary, he did not speak of
himself. In the remarkable absence of details in all those parts of the Acts
of the Apostles where Luke does not write as an eyewitness, we have
strong evidence that Paul did not make his own doings the subject of
his conversation with his familiar friends. Had he done so, Luke’s
narrative might have been richer and fuller, but Paul greatness would
have been diminished, as that of all vain men is, by the desire to appear
great. As it is, the apology enables us to enumerate the great apostle’s
virtues as combining in an extraordinary degree, courage, gentleness,
calmness, vigor, humility, high-mindedness, determination, honesty, truth,
patriotism, self-forgetfulness, wisdom, eloquence, and a passionate zeal for
the glory of Christ and for the salvation of men. (For an illustration of
some of these features in the apostle’s character, see also II Corinthians
11.; 12.; Galatians 2:5, 11; Ephesians 3:7-8; I Timothy 1:1-13, 16; and
throughout the Acts of the Apostles.)
The Earthly and the Heavenly Citizenship (vs. 23-30)
The most interesting and the most distinctively Christian truth contained in
this passage is that which we gain by contrasting the citizenship of ancient
remind us of:
that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know,” etc.
(v. 24). What an inhuman and brutal procedure to extract evidence or
confession by scourging — by cruel, relentless laceration of the body! It is
painful to think how, in this as in many another respect, departure from
God meant distance from all justice and benignity. It is, indeed, all too true
that pagan law passed on many of its usages to Christian legislature, and
that down to even recent times harsh and stern things have dishonored the
statute-books of Christian lands; but these have been
Ø diametrically opposed to the spirit of Jesus Christ,
Ø implicitly condemned by His words, and
Ø have been (or are being) disowned and disestablished by His followers.
defective as Roman law was, it shone in brilliant contrast with Jewish
Ø How pitiable, not to say contemptible, the crowd crying out,
rending their clothes, flinging dust in the air, in their
uncontrollable passion (v. 23)!
Ø Excellent, indeed, as compared with this, the safe custody of the
Roman soldiery (v. 24),
o the immediate regard paid to his claim of citizenship (vs. 26-29),
o the determination of the chief captain to bring Paul before the
council in a legitimate and orderly way (v. 30).
With all defects and severities, law and discipline are immeasurably superior
to the violent excitements of an insensitive and ungovernable mob.
man who is perpetually asserting his rights is a man as far, in spirit, from
the likeness of Jesus Christ as he is far, in fact, from the enjoyment of the
esteem of man. God blesses him as little as man loves him. But obviously
there are times when it is not only our right but our duty to assert our
claims. Paul did so here (v. 25), and most justifiably; there was no reason
why he should suffer and be weakened by suffering when he could escape
by making a lawful claim. We do well to be self-assertive so long as we do
not acquire the spirit of selfishness and do not give the impression of being
self-centered. We do well, when we act thus with a distinct view to:
Ø the benefit of others,
Ø our own spiritual well-being, or
Ø to the extension of the
Paul acceded to the citizenship in virtue of his birth; he was free born. The
chief captain obtained it by purchase. Others gained it by valuable military
or civil service, or by favor of some illustrious man. Entrance into the
Ø Not by birth (John 1:13),
Ø nor by purchase (Acts 8:20),
Ø nor by the favor of man (John 1:13),
Ø nor by meritorious behavior (Ephesians 2:9),
do we become citizens of the spiritual kingdom and heirs of eternal life. It
is rather by the influence of the Spirit of God upon and within us (John
3:5), and by our appropriate and corresponding action in response — by
penitence of spirit and humble faith in A DIVINE SAVIOUR! (ch. 20:21),
that we become true subjects of the great King, and have our names
entered on that blessed roll which is the Book of Life.
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