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Bible Commentaries
Acts 1

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-26




That Luke is the author of this book appears from its first sentence (Acts 1:1), making it a continuation of his Gospel, and from the use of the personal pronoun, first person, in some chapters, showing that he was a companion of Paul, as in Acts 16:10-16; Acts 20:5; Acts 28:16. The book was probably written at Rome, during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30), Luke being then with him (Acts 28:16), and as we also see from the references in Philemon 1:24 and Colossians 4:14. Its date was about A.D. 63. The person addressed was Theophilus (Arts Acts 1:1), to whom his Gospel was dedicated (Luke 1:1).

There are several New Testament references to the author. We learn from Colossians 4:14 that he was (1) a physician; (2) a Gentile Christian, probably one of Paul’s converts; (3) the author of two New Testament books (see Luke 1:1; Acts 1:1); (4) a companion and fellow worker with Paul from whom he received many of the facts, given both in his Gospel and in Acts; (5) he first appears in the story at Troas (Acts 16:10-11) and again at Philippi (Acts 20:5) and so continues with him to end of the book, and (6) he was with Paul in both of his Roman imprisonments. In the first imprisonment we have the testimony of Philemon 1:23; Colossians 4:14; Acts 28:16; and in the second Roman imprisonment we have the testimony of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11.

The title of the book is, as the manuscripts say, "Acts of the Apostles" or, without the article, simply, Acts. Two of the general limits of the book are (1) the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem, the Jewish capital, to Rome, the capital of the world; (2) the time period, AD. 33 to A.D. 63, i.e., thirty years. Many commentaries contest the propriety of its title, "Acts of the Apostles", but that propriety is supported by the following considerations: (1) It does give some of the acts of all the apostles, i.e., it recites the names of eleven of the original twelve, and of their place of meeting in an upper chamber (Acts 1:13); (2) it gives the history of the filling of the place of Judas by Matthias (Acts 1:15-26) ; (3) it gives an account of the baptism of all of them in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) ; and subsequently of the teaching of all of them (Acts 2:42) ; (4) it gives an account of their great prayer meeting (Acts 4:23-31); (5) it teaches us that they all wrought miracles (Acts 5:12), and were all imprisoned in the Sadducean persecution (Acts 5:18), and were all delivered by an angel of the Lord (Acts 5:19), and were all beaten with stripes (Acts 5:40), and that they continued their teaching (Acts 5:42) ; (6) it shows that they all participated in the ordination of the deacons (Acts 6:2-6); (7) they all remained in Jerusalem when the disciples were scattered abroad by the Pharisee persecution led by Saul (Acts 8:1); (8) it shows that they all participated in sending Peter and John to confer the power of the Spirit on Philip’s converts in Samaria (Acts 8:14); (9) it shows that some of them received Paul when he was introduced by Barabbas (Acts 9:27); (10) they all received and justified Peter’s account of the conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius (Acts 11:1-18); (II) it shows that they all participated in sending Barabbas to Antioch to look into the preaching unto the Greeks there (Acts 11:20-22); (12) they were all suffering under the Herodian persecution, one of them, James, the brother of John, being killed (Acts 12:9-24), and Peter imprisoned; (13) they all participated, including Paul, in the decision of the great question – the greatest of the apostolic times – whether Gentiles must become Jews in order to be saved (Acts 15:1-21), and joined in the decree to the churches officially settling this great question (Acts 15:22-30; Acts 16:4) ; (14) there was also full and official recognition of Paul’s independent apostleship and of the division of labor – Paul and Barabbas to go to the Gentiles, and the others to the circumcision (this we learn from Galatians 2:1-10); (15) from chapter 13 to the end of the book we have the acts of the Apostle to the Gentiles. From these fifteen particulars, the propriety of the title is sufficiently evident. It must be observed that the title in the manuscripts is without the article, and hence makes no claim to record all the acts of all the apostles. Indeed, its first beginnings at Jerusalem, then in Samaria, then among the Romans at Caesarea, then the Greeks at Antioch and various Greek cities of Asia Minor and in Europe, and finally at Rome.

Another important matter is settled by the book, viz.: that the apostles, though inspired, illumined, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, were "set in the church." We find the church, the whole 120, participating in the selection of Matthias; we find the church participating in the baptism of the Spirit, in the institution of the office of deacon, and in every detail of the worldwide character of the gospel. For example, the action of the church in the case of the Samaritans receiving the gospel, the action of the church in the case of the Greeks getting it, and in the great judicial decision of Acts 15, as set forth in Acts 15:2; Acts 15:6-7; Acts 15:11-12; Acts 15:15. This is a very important matter – to know that even inspired, illumined and Spirit-empowered apostles were set in the church and worked through the churches.

Many special names, or ascriptions, have been given to this book, e.g.: Barnes calls it, The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Chrysostom, the great Greek orator, The Demonstration of the Resurrection. Luther calls it, A Commentary on Paul’s Epistles. Eichorn, A History of Missions Propagating Christianity. Lekebusch, A Continuous Fulfillment of the Promise in Acts 1:8. Grotius, A Biographical Description of the Work of Peter and Paul. Baumgarten, The Teachings and Deeds of the Risen and Ascended Savior. Others, "An unfinished history of the church of the first century." Yet others, "The growth of the church, external and internal, from its foundation in Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, to its establishment in Rome, the center of heathendom." Canon Norris has named it, The Continued Action of the Risen Lord, Through the Spirit, in the Interval Between the Gospels and the Epistles. – (See the fine introduction by Professor Lindsay.)

Certain facts that justify somewhat the definitions of Barnes and Norris as given above are as follows: (1) Jesus gave his sentence limits the record to "beginnings." We have here worldwide commandment through the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:2; (2) they were to tarry until they were endued with that Spirit- power (Acts 1:4) ; (3) they received this power (Acts 2:1-4) ; (4) every advance toward a broader gospel was specifically Spirit-guided, viz.: the freer preaching of Stephen, the broader work of Philip, the still broader work of the reception of Cornelius, the preaching to the Greeks, the sending out of Paul and Barnabas, the recognition of their work, the great decision in Acts 15, the "Where-to-go," the "how-long-to-stay," the making of officers in the church, and the blessings on their work, all of the Holy Spirit.

The human heroes of the book are Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Paul.

We do well to trace on the map the missionary journeys of the book:

1. The Journeys of Philip: (1) From Jerusalem to Samaria; (2) From Samaria to the desert land between Jerusalem and Gaza; (3) Thence to Azotus, and thence to Caesarea.

II. The Journeys of Peter: (1) He first goes (with John) from Jerusalem to Samaria, and then returns; (2) he goes to Lydda; (3) to Joppa; (4) from Joppa to Caesarea; (5) thence to Jerusalem; (6) from Jerusalem he goes back to Caesarea, where he is left, so far as this history goes. (See, again, Professor Lindsay’s Acts of the Apostles.)

III. At the dispersion caused by Saul’s persecution we have the journeys of some unnamed brethren who (1) carried the gospel from Jerusalem to Phoenicia; (2) others to the island of Cyprus; (3) yet others to Antioch of Syria.

IV. The Journeys of Barnabas: (1) From Jerusalem to Antioch; (2) from Antioch to Tarsus after Paul; (3) from Tarsus back to Antioch with Paul; (4) from Antioch back to Jerusalem with Paul; (5) from Jerusalem back to Antioch with Paul; (6) from Antioch with Paul and Mark, on a long missionary tour and return; (7) from Antioch, with Paul, to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) ; (8) back to Antioch; (9) from Antioch to Cyprus, with Mark, after the separation from Paul.

V. The Journeys of Paul: (1) As a persecutor from Jerusalem to Damascus; (2) after his conversion, from Damascus to Arabia and back to Damascus, three years; (3) from Damascus to Jerusalem to see Peter; (4) from Jerusalem to Tarsus, several years; (5) from Tarsus to Antioch, with Barnabas; (6) from Antioch with Barnabas to Jerusalem, carrying alms, about the time James was killed and Peter imprisoned by Herod (Acts 12); (7) from Jerusalem back to Antioch; (8) then follow his three great missionary tours, ending at Jerusalem (Acts 13:1-21:19); (9) being arrested at Jerusalem, he, with many vicissitudes, by land and sea, is carried to Rome (Acts 21:20-28:31).

We should note the contemporaneous history in the thirty years covered by Acts:

I. Roman Emperors: (1) Tiberius, under whom Christ was crucified; (2) Caligula, A.D. 37; (3) Claudius, A.D. 41, mentioned in Acts 18:2; (4) Nero, A.D. 54.

II. Civil Rulers in Judea: (1) Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator until A.D. 36; (2) Herod Agrippa I, the Herod of Acts 12. Under Caligula, the Roman Emperor, he obtains, first, Gaulonitis, then Galilee and Perea. Under Claudius he gets Samaria and Judea, and so rules all Palestine until his death, A.D. 44. (3) Cuspus Fadus, at the death of Herod, becomes Roman procurator. (4) Herod Agrippa II, the King Agrippa of Acts 26, was king, but not of Judea. (5) Felix was made procurator by the Emperor Claudius. He is the Felix who trembled under Paul’s preaching, but left him a prisoner (Acts 23:24). (6) Festus was made procurator by the Emperor Nero. He is the Festus before whom Paul appeared (Acts 25).

III. The High Priesthood, which underwent many changes: (1) Caiaphas, before whom Christ appeared; (2) Jonathan, son of Annas, A.D. 37; (3) Theophilus, son of Annas, A.D. 38; (4) Simon Cantherus, A.D. 41; (5) Matthias, son of Annas, A.D. 42; (6) Elionacus, son of Cantherus, A.D. 45; (7) Ananias, A.D. 47; (8) Ishmael, son of Phabi, A.D. 59.

The divine purpose of the book appears in its relation to the Gospel by the same author, and the relation of both to the glorious person of our Lord. This book must be considered primarily as a continuation of Luke’s Gospel concerning the one glorious person, our Lord Jesus Christ, in his saving relation to the whole human race – the Gospel telling us what Jesus began to do and teach until his ascension and exaltation to his mediatorial throne; Acts telling us what this glorious King continued to do and teach until his kingdom had extended from Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, to imperial Rome, the capital and center of the heathen world. The Gospel gives an account of the earth life of Jesus, while Acts gives an account of his heaven life.

The stress in both books is on the humanity of our Lord in his relation to the whole race of man, the Gospel, unlike Matthew, tracing his genealogy beyond Abraham, and even Noah, back to Adam; and unlike John, stressing less his antecedent deity, while Acts shows the risen, ascended man made both Lord and Christ, and reigning in heaven to carry out on earth and for all nations the purposes of his sacrificial death in Jerusalem, beginning, indeed, at Jerusalem, but extending to all nations.

We miss the mark in interpreting the book if we do not see this aim of the two books, set forth so plainly in Luke 24:44-48. "And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things."

It is reaffirmed in Acts 1:6-8. "They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." It is repeated in Peter’s Pentecostal sermon: "For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him" (Acts 2:39), and abundantly evidenced in the freer preaching of Stephen, the wider work of Philip, and the startling commission to Paul at his conversion (Acts 9:15; Acts 22:14-21; Acts 26:16-18), and in the vision of the ark to Peter, followed by the reception of Cornelius, and in the preaching to the Greeks at Antioch: "But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord" (Acts 11:20-21) ; in the sending out of Barabbas and Saul to the Gentile world (Acts 13:1-4) ; in the decision of the great question of salvation in Acts 15, preceded by the solemn giving of the hand of fellowship to the Gentile workers (Galatians 2:1-10); in the side-light settlement of an involved social question just after (Galatians 2:11-21); and in the devotion of the greater part of the book to the labors of the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

The divine superintendence in all the transactions recorded in the book appears from the evident reluctance of the human agents to follow the broader lines of salvation, on equal terms for all men. Every forward step was questioned, investigated, contested, and reluctantly taken. The Jewish prejudice fought hard and long. If Philip preaches to Samaritans, as our Lord did, that matter must be investigated (Acts 8:14). To even our Lord himself, urging the open door to Gentiles, Peter characteristically replied, "Not so, Lord" (Acts 10) ; and when Peter was convinced himself, he had to explain to a questioning church (Acts II); and so long as the disciples, scattered abroad by Saul’s persecution, preached to Jews only, it was all right, but when some of them preached to Greeks, a deputation was sent to look into the matter (Acts 11:19-23).

What a solemn time they had over the great question decided in the council at Jerusalem! How strange that Peter, who so successfully justified himself when believers of the circumcision arraigned him for "going in to men uncircumcised and eating with them" (Acts 11:2-4), in the case of Cornelius, should allow himself to be browbeaten into dissimulation by the same men on precisely the same point, but a little while after, at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-21). How fiercely the same narrow-minded element obstructed every step of Paul’s advance toward a worldwide gospel! And how stubbornly even Paul himself insisted on being a home missionary to the Jews, instead of going far hence to the Gentiles! (Acts 22:17-21.)

The marked difference between this book and the Gospel by the same author appears from two facts: (1) While the purpose of Acts is to show a continuation of the Gospel account of what Jesus "began to do and teach," in the Gospel, Jesus acts immediately in his own person, but in Acts he works mediately through the Holy Spirit. Hence Acts has been aptly styled "The Gospel of the Spirit." When in his lifetime he had said, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you," and when in the great church commission he says, "Lo, I am with you all the days," the meaning is this: "I will come by the Holy Spirit; I will be present by the Holy Spirit." This omnipresence by the Spirit was far more expedient and profitable to them than a limited presence in the flesh. (2) While Acts is a continuation of Luke’s Gospel account of what Jesus began to do and teach, the Gospel tells of what he did and taught on earth – Acts, what he did and taught from his throne in heaven. In both, the stress is on the humanity of our Lord in his saving relation to the whole race. This purpose overrides the prejudices of all the Jewish subagents.


I commend to you as fine, clear, and simple, Dr. A. T. Robertson’s "Outline" as it appears in his Student’s Chronological New Testament:

I. Jerusalem as the Center (Acts 1-12).

1. Waiting for the promise of the Father (Acts 1).

2. The promise fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2).

3. An incident in the work of Peter and John, and opposition encountered from the Sadducees (Acts 3:1-4:31).

4. Wrestling with a social problem in church life (Acts 4:32-5:11).

5. Outward prosperity and renewed hostility from the Sadducees (Acts 5:12-42).

6. Meeting a crisis in church administration (Acts 6:1-7).

7. The Pharisees aroused by the preaching of Stephen, and his consequent death (Acts 6:8-8:1a).

8. The forced expansion of Christian effort in Judea, Samaria and the surrounding countries, as illustrated in the career of Philip (Acts 8:1-40).

9. The complete change in the affairs of Christianity wrought by the conversion of Saul the persecutor (Acts 9:1-31).

10. The door opened to the Gentiles (Acts 9:32-11:30).

11. The new persecution from the civil government – Herod Agrippa 1 (Acts 12).

II. Antioch as the Center (Acts 13:1-21:14).

1. The formal entrance of Barnabas and Saul upon the missionary enterprise (Acts 13:1-3).

2. The first great mission tour of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13: Acts 4-14:28).

3. The conference at Jerusalem over question of Gentile freedom from Jewish ceremonialism (Acts 15:1-35; cf. Galatians 2:1-10).

4. Paul’s second great mission tour (Acts 15:36-18:22).

5. Paul’s third great mission tour (Acts 18:23-21:14).

III. Paul in the hands of his enemies (Acts 21:15-28:31).

1. In the toils at Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-23:30).

2. Before Roman Court at Caesarea (Acts 23:31-26:32).

3. To Rome with appeal to Nero (Acts 27:1-28:15).

4. For two years awaiting Nero’s pleasure (Acts 28:16-31).


There are many good commentaries on Acts available for English Bible students who know no Greek. As examples I name:

(1) Professor Lindsay; publishers, T. and T. Clark. This, in two parts, is small, portable, clear, and simple. Any country preacher without knowledge of Greek can easily understand it.

(2) Hackett on Acts – American Commentary. This is critical and classical, but cold. One never reaches the revival spirit through Hackett. From some of its critical statements and interpretations we dissent.

(3) As an old, but warm, spiritual commentary, Barnes on Acts is good.


1. Who wrote the book of Acts, and what is the internal proof?

2. Where was the book written?

3. When was it written?

4. To whom was it written?

5. What are the chief New Testament references to the author?

6. What is the title of the book?

7. What are some of the general limits of the book?

8. What may we say of the propriety of its title, Acts of the Apostles, which has been so generally contested by the commentators?

9. What great matters touching the kingdom were thus settled, not by one apostle, but by the body of apostles?

10. What other important matter is settled by the book?

11. Mention some special names, or ascriptions, men have given to this book.

12. Cite some facts which justify somewhat the definitions of Barnes and Norris.

13. Who were the human heroes of the book?

14. Give the missionary journeys of the book.

15. What contemporaneous history in the thirty years covered by Acts?

16. What is the relation of Acts to the Gospel of Luke, as to time, and how are these books related, as to the glorious person of our Lord?

17. What is the stress of each of these books?

18. What is the aim of the book, and its bearing on the interpretation?

19. What is the evidence of the divine purpose of the book?

20. What are the marked differences between this book and Luke?

21. What outline commended, and what the main points of this outline?

22. What books are commended on Acts?

Verses 3-12



Harmony, pages 228-231 and Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:3-12; 1 Corinthians 15:7.

The next commission is found on page 228 of the Harmony, Matthew’s account, Matthew 28:16-20: "But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth, go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." By the side of it is Mark’s account, also a statement by Paul about five hundred being present. This is what is called the Great Commission. The points of it are: (1) Before he was put to death he appointed this place, a mountain in Galilee, for the assembling of his disciples; and Paul says five hundred brethren were there, and we have already seen that the women were there also. In his appearances to the women he told them to be present, so we must put the number at anywhere between five and six hundred. The gathering is a specially appointed one. He appointed the women after his resurrection to remind them of it. It was to be the gathering of the general body of his disciples – apostles, other men and women. The supposable reasons for assembling them at this particular place are: (a) Most of his disciples were Galileans, and (b) by having this big gathering in Galilee, it would avoid creating a disturbance, for if a meeting had been held in Jerusalem, not so many could have attended, and there they would be liable to interruption by the excited people. (2) The next point is that this was the most eventful, far-reaching, important gathering of God’s people between his death and his ascension. (3) Let us analyze the Commission itself. Dr. Landrum once preached a sermon on the Commission, calling attention to the "alls": (a) "all" authority; (b) go to "all" the nations; (c) observe "all things"; (d) "I am with you all the days," as it is expressed in the margin.

The reference to the authority which he received is to show them that in telling them to do something, and so great a something, and so important a something, he had the authority to do it; "all authority" in heaven and on earth, is given unto him. That is because of his faithful obedience to the divine law, and particularly because he had expiated sin by his own death on the cross. Now he is to be exalted to be above all angels and men; the dominion of the universe is to be in his hands, and from this time on. It is so now. He today sits on the throne of the universe and rules the world; all authority in heaven and on earth is given unto him.

That is the question which always is to be determined when a man starts out to do a thing: "By what authority do you do this?" If you, on going out to preach, should be asked, "By what authority do you preach, and are you not taking the honor on yourself?" you answer that he sent you.

We are to see what he told them to do, and we will compare the Commission to a suspension bridge across a river. On one side of the river is an abutment, the authority of Jesus Christ. And at the other end of the bridge we will take this for the abutment: "And lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age." On one side of the river stands the authority, and on the other side stands the presence of Jesus Christ – Christ in the Holy Spirit. That is to be until the end of the age. Suspended between these two, and dependent on these two, and resting on these two, is the bridge. Let us see exactly, then, what they are to do: First, to "go therefore." The "therefore" refers to the authority; second, "make disciples of all the nations." So there are three parts to this first item of the Commission: To go, what to go for, and to whom. If we are Missionary Baptists indeed, this Commission is the greatest of all authority.

One of the deacons, when I took charge of the First Baptist Church at Waco, said to me on one occasion, when I was taking up a foreign mission offering, "Brother Carroll, I am interested in helping you reach these Waco people, and I will help some on associational missions, and state missions, but when it comes to these Chinese and Japs, if you will just bring me one of them, I will try to convert him." I said to him, "You don’t read your Commission right. You are not under orders to wait until somebody brings you a Jap; you are to go; you are the one to get up and go yourself. You can’t wrap up in that excuse."

This Commission makes the moving on the part of the commissioned – the people of God; they are to go to these people wherever they are. If they are Laplanders, go; if Esquimaux, go; if they are in the tropics, you must go there; if in the temperate region, you must go there; anywhere from the center of the earth to its remotest bounds. That is what makes it missionary – one sent, and being sent, he goes. And we can’t send anybody unless he goes somewhere. The first thought, then, is the going. It does not say, "Make the earth come to you," but "you are to go to them," and that involves raising the necessary means to get you there. The command to go involves the means essential to going. That is the going law. If the United States shall send one of its diplomats to England, that involves the paying of the expenses of the going.

The next thing is, What are you to do when you get there? You are to make disciples. There are two words here in the Greek – one, matheteusate, which means "to make disciples"; the other, didaskontes, which means "teaching." You do not teach them first, but you make disciples out of them. Now come the questions: How make a disciple? What is discipleship? That will answer the other question, What is necessary to the remission of sins? When is a man a disciple? How far do you have to go in order to make him a disciple? The way to answer that question is to look at what John the Baptist and Christ did. The Gospel of John tells us that John the Baptist made and baptized disciples; that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John did. John made disciples before he baptized them; Jesus made disciples before he baptized them, not afterward. John did not baptize them before he made them disciples; he did not leave off the baptism after he disciplined them. The question of order here is one of great importance. There are three things to be done: (1) Make disciples; (2) baptize disciples; (3) then teach them all things whatsoever Christ commanded. And you must take them in their order. It is not worth while to try to teach a man to do everything that Jesus did when he refuses to be a disciple. Don’t baptize him before he is a disciple. You must not baptize him in order to make him a disciple; you must not attempt to instruct him in Christian duties until he is a disciple.

How important is the answering of that question: "How do you make a disciple?" John made disciples this way: Paul says that John preached repentance toward God, and that they should believe on Jesus to come, i.e., a man who has repented toward God and exercised faith in Jesus Christ, was a disciple; then John baptized him. The Pharisees came to be baptized, but John refused, saying to them: "Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father: for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." "Do not think that entitles you to baptism; that does not at all entitle you to baptism; but you bring forth fruits worthy of your repentance, then I will baptize you, ye offspring of vipers." And Jesus went forth and preached: "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." So that from time immemorial the Baptists have contended that the terms of discipleship, or the terms of remission of sins, are repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said that he everywhere testified to both Greeks and Jews, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. I sometimes change that a little by putting first the contrition, or godly sorrow; the Spirit convicts a man, and under that conviction he becomes contrite, has godly sorrow; that contrition leads him to repentance; that leads him to faith, then he is a child of God, right there: "We are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus."

This is a great part of your qualification to be a preacher – that you know how to tell a man what to do to be saved; to know what to tell him. You don’t bury a man to kill him. Baptism is a burial. You bury dead men, but not till they are dead. Nor do you bury a live, raw sinner. You must wait till the Spirit kills him to sin.

Major Penn told of a man who had been lost in the woods. It was in the heat of the day, and he was very thirsty. Late in the day he found his way to a shady little nook, where, bursting from a rock, was a cool mountain spring, and hanging up over the spring was an old-fashioned gourd. He dipped that gourd in the spring and held the water up a little and let it run down his throat, and gloried in drinking out of a gourd. Major Penn made such an apt description of it that one man came up and said, "I’ll go and get me a gourd; that is the best drinking vessel; I know by the way you talk about it." So he went to a farmer and asked for a gourd. The farmer picked him a green gourd. He cut off the top of it and dipped it into the water. He commenced sipping and drinking. When he discovered the bitter taste he asked, "What in the world is the matter with this gourd?" An old woman said to him, "Why, you were not such a fool as to drink out of a green gourd, were you? You let that gourd get thoroughly ripe; then open it, take out the insides, boil it, let it get dry, and it will be fit to drink out of." Major Penn said to baptize a man a dry sinner is to bring him up a wet sinner, and it is like drinking out of a green gourd.

This is the answer to the question, What are the terms of discipleship, or, How do you make a disciple? He has godly sorrow. That godly sorrow leads him to repentance – a change of mind; that leads him to the Saviour, and when he accepts Jesus Christ he is a child of God. Now you know how to approach a sinner, but don’t you put him under the water at the wrong time and with the wrong object in view.

This brings up another question: Who is to do this baptizing? Is the command here to be baptized, or is it to baptize? Which comes first? Any lawyer will tell you that the command to do a thing, in which you must submit to the act of another, must specify the authorized party to whom you must submit in that act. For example, suppose that after you had come to the United States from a foreign country, you speak to your friends and ask, "How did you settle in the United States?" They tell you that they took out naturalization papers. Then you meet a man and ask him, "Will you give me some naturalization papers?" He gives you the naturalization papers, and says, "You are a citizen of the United States." Being now a citizen, you come up to vote, but the judge of the election says, "Are you a foreigner?" "Yes, I was till I was naturalized." Then he asks for your papers. Looking at them he says, "Why, this man was not authorized to do it. The law tells how you shall be naturalized, and you have just picked up a fellow on the streets here that did not count at all." The law tells us in every state who shall issue naturalization papers, otherwise the citizenship of the state would be vested in a "Tom-Dick-and-Harry" – everybody and nobody. It is just that way about baptizing.

I know some who teach that the command is simply to be baptized. I said to one of them once, "Does it make any difference who does the baptizing?" "Well," he said, "no it doesn’t; the command is simply to be baptized." I said, "I will give you $100 if you will show me a command to be baptized, with no authorized administrator standing there to administer the ordinance." "Well," he said, "look at Paul’s case: Ananias said, ’Arise and be baptized.’ " I said, "Who sent Ananias? Ananias had authority from God to baptize Paul. Who sent Philip into the desert? The eunuch said, ’Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?’ but there was the administrator talking to him, a sent administrator."

And this question is thereby raised: Jesus ascended to heaven and vested this authority to disciple and to baptize, in whom? Here’s a big gathering, not apostles only, because here are five hundred besides those women. Not in that particular crowd alone, for he said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the age."

There is no escape from it, that when he gave this Commission, he gave it to an ecclesiastical body – the church. That is why the great church gathered. It is a perpetual commission. No man can deny that these disciples were acting representatively.

"But," says one, "the Commission was given to the apostles." But I say, "Where were the apostles?" Paul says that God set them in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-16). He did not set anybody out in the woods. Ask those free lances who run out on the prairie, or in the woods, who set them.

God put these apostles, pastors, etc., in the church, and from the time that God gave this commission he has done the baptizing through the church. You cannot give it just in your own way or notion; you cannot just pick people up and put them in the creek, and say, "I baptize you."

Here are the things that are essential to a valid baptism: (1) A man must be a disciple, a penitent believer in Jesus Christ; (2) The act of baptism, whatever that commission means. If it means to sprinkle, sprinkle them; if to pour, then pour; if to immerse, then immersion is the act. (3) The design or purpose: Why do it? If we baptize to "make a disciple" or in order that he may become a disciple; that he may be saved; that his sins be remitted, then I deny that it is baptism. It lacks the gospel design, or purpose. (4) It must be done by authority, and that authority is the church.

The church authorizes; the subject must be a disciple, and the act is immersion. The purpose is to make a public declaration, or confession, of faith in Jesus Christ, to symbolize the cleansing from sin, a memorial of Christ’s resurrection, and a pledge of the disciple.

According to your understanding of this commission you bring confusion into Israel, or keep it out.

While I was pastor in Waco, we received a member from another Baptist church. He heard me preach on this commission and came to me and said, "Look here, I want to preach; I believe I am called to preach, and the way you state that, I have not been baptized at all." I said, "How is that?" "A Campbellite preacher baptized me." "Did the Baptist church receive that baptism?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Now suppose you want to preach, and you come before this church for ordination, and they find out that fact, they won’t ordain you. But suppose they did ordain you, wherever you go that would come up against you. They would say, ’There is a man not scripturally baptized.’ It will hamper your whole ministerial life, and bring confusion into the kingdom of God." "Well," he said, "what ought I to do?" I said, "Don’t do anything until you are convinced it is the right thing to do. You study this again, and let me know what your conclusions are." About a week after he came and said, "I don’t think I have been baptized: he baptized me to make me a disciple. I did not claim to have been a disciple before he baptized me." "Well," I said, "did it make you one?" He said, "I do not think it did." So the blood you must reach before you reach the water. The way is the blood. It has to be applied before you reach the water. It must be reached before you can be saved. So, the blood is before the water. A preacher’s whole future depends on how he interprets this commission.

You will see by referring to the Harmony that Dr. Broadus puts Mark’s commission beside this great Commission on Matthew, thereby indicating that they refer to the same occasion. Assuming this to be correct, I do not discuss the commission of Mark except to say that the first eight verses of Mark 16 are in the manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, but the latter part of this (Mark 16:9-20) which includes the statement, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," is not in any of the ancient manuscripts. I have facsimiles of the three oldest manuscripts – the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian. Whenever those three agree as to what is the text of a passage we need not go further. It is usually right. But whenever those three leave out anything that is in the text, we may count it spurious. The best scholars among preachers never preach from Mark 16:9-20, because it is so very doubtful as to whether it is to be received as Scripture. Dr. Broadus says it certainly does not belong to Mark’s Gospel, but that he believes it records what is true; and I am somewhat inclined to believe that too. I think it is true, though it was added by a later hand. Certainly, Mark did not write it. The manuscript evidence is against that part of it. Therefore, I do not consider this as a separate commission of our Lord.

We now take up the fourth commission, that is to say, the commission recorded by Luke, found in Luke 24:44-49 and 1 Corinthians 15:7; Harmony, pp. 229-230. The remarks upon this commission are these:

1. It is to the eleven apostles.

2. He introduces it by reminding them of his teachings before his death of the witness to him in the law, the prophets, and the psalms, especially concerning his passion, his burial, and his resurrection.

3. Especially to be noted is the fact that he gives them illumination that they may understand these scriptures, and shows the necessity of their fulfilment, in order to the salvation of men.

4. On this necessity he bases the commission here given, which is, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

5. He constitutes them his witnesses of these things.

6. He announces that he will send the promise of the Father, namely, the Holy Spirit, and commands them to wait at Jerusalem until they receive this power from on high to enable them to carry out the work of this commission.

7. The reader should note that, as in the commission recorded by John (John 20:22) he inspired them to write the New Testament Scriptures, so here he illumined their minds to understand the Old Testament Scriptures. Mark the distinction between inspiration and illumination: The object of inspiration is to enable one to speak or write infallibly; the object of illumination is to enable one to understand infallibly what is written.

8. Further note the unity of the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures, and their equality in inspiration.

9. Note also the very important item that illumination settles authoritatively the apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament as to the true meaning of these Scriptures. As he inspired men to write the Old Testament, and inspired these men to write the New Testament, so now he illumines these men to understand the Old Testament and to interpret it correctly. In other words, as the Holy Spirit is the real author of the Old Testament, which he inspired, by illumination he shows these men just what he meant by those Old Testament writings. We cannot, therefore, put our unaided interpretation on an Old Testament passage against the Spirit’s own explanation of that passage by the illumination of the apostles’ minds. Due attention to this one fact would have prevented many false expositions of Old Testament Scriptures, particularly in limiting to national Israel what the Spirit spoke concerning spiritual Israel. Very many premillennial expositions of the Old Testament prophecies go astray on this point. They insist on applying to the Jews, as Jews, a great many prophecies which these illumined apostles saw referred to spiritual Israel, and not to fleshly Israel. In the same way do the expositions of the Old Testament passages by modern Jews and the limitations of meaning which destructive critics and other infidels put on the Old Testament Scriptures, go astray. It is wrong, and contrary to sane rules of interpretation, to say that you must not read into an Old Testament passage a New Testament meaning. In that way they wish to limit it to things back there only, but the Holy Spirit illumined the minds of the apostles to understand these Old Testament Scriptures better than the prophets that wrote them. Oftentimes the prophets did not know what they meant, and were very anxious to find out what they did mean. The meaning was revealed to New Testament prophets, and their minds illumined to understand them. I have just finished reading a book which as certainly misapplies about two dozen Old Testament prophecies as the sun shines. In other words, this book interprets them as a modern Jew would interpret them, and exactly contrary to what the apostles say these passages mean. When an illumined apostle tells us the meaning of an Old Testament passage, we must accept it, or else deny his illumination, one or the other. You have no idea how much you have learned if you let this one remark sink into your mind.

10. Yet again, you should especially note in this commission the inseparable relation between repentance and the remission of sins, or forgiveness. The first, repentance, must precede remission of sins, and the relation is constant and necessary in each case of all sin, whether against God, against the church, or against ourselves. If you read carefully Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Psalm 51, where the sin is against God, you find that a repentance of that sin is made a condition of forgiveness. Then if you read carefully Luke 17:3 and Matthew 18:15-17, where the sin is against ourselves or against the church, the law is, "If he repent, forgive him."

I saw a notice in The Baptist Standard once where it was assumed that we must forgive a sin before the person who committed it against us has repented of the sin. That would make us out better than God, for God won’t do it. He won’t forgive sin against himself until there is repentance, and he says to Peter, concerning a brother’s trespass against a brother, that if he repent, forgive him. And in Matthew 18:15, it says, "If thy brother sin against thee, go right along and convict him of his sin, and if he hear thee thou hast gained thy brother; if he does not hear thee, tell it to the church; if he does not hear the church, then he is unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." There are men who insist that you must forgive trespasses against you whether they are repented of or not, meaning that you must be in a forgiving and loving attitude; and that is correct. You must cultivate that spirit which at all times is ready to forgive when repentance comes. But the majority of people who take that position take it in order to get out of some very troublesome work resting on them, and that work is to go right along to convict a man of that sin. It is much easier to say, "I forgive," and let him alone, than it is to go and show him that he has sinned, and lead him to repentance. And they thus dodge their duty. The largest part of the back-sliding in the church comes from that fact. "If thou seest thy brother sin, then what? Forgive him? No. If thou seest thy brother sin, whether it is a private offense or a general one, report it to the church? No, but go right along and convict him of that sin; and if you fail, take one or two brethren with you; if they fail, let the church try the case. If the church fails, forgive him? No. Let him be to thee a heathen man and a publican." That is Bible usage.

On the other hand there are some people who rejoice in the thought that they do not have to forgive a man until he repents, and they keep right on hating him. You are not to hate him; you are to love him. You are to have toward him a keen desire to gain him, and under the spirit of that desire, the obligation to gain him is on you personally, and there is no excuse for you. God will not hold you guiltless if you see a brother sin on any point, whether against you, the church, or the state, and do not try to bring him to repentance. It is our duty, as Dr. Broadus puts it, "to go right along and not rave at him," but convict him that he has sinned, saying, "Now brother, this is wrong, and I have come, not in the spirit of accusation, nor in a disciplinary manner, but as a brother interested in you, and with the earnest desire in my heart to make you see that wrong, and if you ever see it and get it on your conscience and repent and make amends, I will save my brother."

He says that repentance and remission of sins shall be preached in all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Paul says about that, "I have testified everywhere, both to the Jews and to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

The weakness of modern preaching is that the preachers leave repentance out.

So the modern churches leave out the faithful and loving labor which should always precede exclusion. Especially should you note in this commission the unalterable relation between repentance and remission, or forgiveness of sins. The first must precede the second, and the relation is constant and necessary in the case of all sin, whether against God, the church or against ourselves.

The fifth commission is the commission at his ascension. The scriptures bearing on this are: Acts 1:6-12; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-53, and the account of it is found in the Harmony on pages 229-231. Upon this last commission, given just before Jesus was taken up out of their sight, note:

Acts 1:8 indicates a "gathering together," different from any of the preceding ones, and at which they asked this question: "Dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Acts 1:9 shows that the occasion of this commission was his ascension into heaven.

Acts 1:15 implies that 120 were present at this time. This specific number necessitates that the occasion when 500 brethren were present, mentioned by Paul, must have been at the appointed mountain in Galilee, where the great commission to the church, recorded in Matthew 28:16-20, was given. A very distinguished scholar has said, "Maybe these five hundred brethren were present at the time of his ascension." It could not be, because one hundred and twenty is given as the number. It could not even have been at any other time than at that appointed in Galilee, where most of his converts were, and where be could get together so large a number as that. The form of the commission here is: "Ye shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." That is the test for the Commission.

The place where the Commission was given is thus stated: "And he led them out until they were over against Bethany," and "from the mount called Olivet." Another commission was given at that place. The place from which he led them is the place of their gathering, to which they returned (Acts 1:13), and they returned to Jerusalem, to the upper room, where were a multitude together, about 120. And then the writer gives the names of those who abode there, and Peter got up and spoke to these 120.

The commission to be his witnesses suggests the simplicity and directness of their work. I heard a preacher say once with reference to what he did when he went out to an appointment, "I snowed." He said the Spirit was not with him, and it was just like s snow. Another preacher said, "I ’hollered,’ and I ’hollered.’ " Preachers lose sight of one important function of their office, and that is to be witnesses. That is a simple thing – to testify. You are to stand with uplifted hands, and with elbows on the Bible you are to witness before God and to bear witness to what you know – to testify.

They were to testify to his vicarious passion, his burial, and his resurrection. Paul makes these three things the gospel. He says, "I delivered unto you first of all that which also I have received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day." Of what they were eyewitnesses we will see a little later, in some other testimony.

We come now to his sixth commission. This commission is found in Acts 9:15-16; Acts 22:10-15; Acts 26:15-18; Galatians 1:15-16; Galatians 2:7-9. These scriptures give you the commission of Paul, on which note:

While both Peter and Paul, on proper occasion, preached to both Jews and Gentiles, yet we learn from Galatians 2:7-9 that while the stress of Peter’s commission was to the circumcision, the stress of Paul’s commission was to the uncircumcision. He was pre-eminently the apostle to the Gentiles.

The elements of his commission may be gathered from all these scriptures cited. Read every one of them, and you will gather together the elements of his commission. Let us see what these elements were:

(a) He was set apart to his work from his mother’s womb, and divinely chosen.

(b) Personally he must suffer great things.

(c) He received the gospel which he was to preach by direct revelation from the risen Lord. He did not get it from reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Paul’s letters were written before the Gospels were written.

He did not have them to read. He did not go to Jerusalem to talk with them, but he went into Arabia, and therefrom ;the Lord himself, and from the site of the giving of the law, whose relation to the gospel he so clearly cited, he received direct from Jesus Christ the gospel which he wrote.

(d) He was chosen to bear the Lord’s name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.

(e) He was chosen to know God’s will, and to see and hear the Just One, and then to witness to all men what he saw and heard. Now, here comes in Paul as a witness, and this is a part of his commission: "What are you testifying to, Paul?" "I know God’s will; it was revealed to me; I saw Jesus; I saw him with these eyes; Jesus raised; I heard him; I heard his voice." What next? "He saved my soul."

One of the most effective sermons I ever preached was on this use that Paul makes of his Christian experience. Seven times in the New Testament Paul states his Christian experience, and for a different purpose every time. When he was arraigned before Agrippa he tells his Christian experience as recorded in Acts 9. In Acts 22, standing on the stairway, looking into the faces of the howling mob of murderous men, he states his Christian experience. Writing to the Romans, as is shown in Romans 7, he tells his Christian experience. Writing to Timothy he does the same. The man is speaking as a witness.

In one of Edward Eggleston’s books there is an account of a pugnacious Methodist preacher, who was not only ready to preach the gospel, but to fight for the gospel also. On the way to a certain community two men waylaid him and said, "Mr. McGruder, if you will just turn your horse around and go back, we will let you alone, but if you persist in going to this place and interfering with our business, we are going to beat the life out of you." So the preacher got down off the horse, saying, "I prefer to give you the beating," and he whipped them both unmercifully. But he got his jaw broken, and that jaw being broken, he could not say a word. In the church he took his pencil and wrote to a sixteen-year-old boy and said, "Ralph, you have got to preach today." Ralph said, "I have just been converted, you must remember." "Do you want me to get up here and write a sermon in lead pencil to a crowd?" continued the preacher. "Well," said Ralph, "I don’t know any sermon." "If you break down on preaching," said the preacher, "tell your Christian experience." So Ralph got up and started to preaching a sermon, looking very much scared, for he had a terror, which was what we would call stage fright. At last he remembered the direction to tell his Christian experience, and the poor boy quit trying to be eloquent, or to expound the Scriptures that he knew very little about, and just told how the Lord Jesus Christ came to him, a poor orphan boy, an outlaw, and saved his soul, and that he wanted to testify how good God was to him. Before he got through there was sobbing all over the house, and a great revival broke out there.

I am telling these things to show that men are commissioned to bear witness, and while you cannot bear witness to facts that you do not know anything about, you can tell what you do know – what God has done for you. David says, "Come, all ye that fear the Lord and I will tell you what great things he hath done for my soul, whereof I am glad." In one of the prophecies concerning Jesus it is written: "I have not hid thy righteousnesses within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy loving kindness and thy truth from the great assembly."

(f) The fulness of Paul’s commission appears best in Acts 26:16-18, as follows: "Arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn: from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me." Whenever you want to preach Paul’s sermon, take Paul’s commission and analyze it. Paul was speaking before Agrippa. Notice that besides witnessing, Paul wanted to open their eyes (they were spiritually blind) ; that they might turn from darkness to light (then they were in the dark) ; from the power of Satan unto God, (they were under the power of Satan); that they might receive the remission of sins (so that they were unpardoned; and to an inheritance among them that are sanctified (then they were without heritage). Analyze that commission and you will see what he was to do; he puts it all before you plainly in that scripture. So he said to Agrippa, "Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision," i.e., he just went on and carried out that commission. That is the analysis of the commission of Paul.

The seventh and last commission is the special commission of John – Revelation 1:1-2; Revelation 1:9-11; Revelation 1:19. This commission is unlike any other; but it is a commission. It is a commission, not to speak, but to write; and in it we have an account of the past tenses. "What did you see, John?" "Well, I saw one of the most wonderful things in this world." And he tells about Jesus, and how he looked in his risen glory; about the candlesticks and the stars, and what they meant; and then, having thus told what he saw in the midst of the churches, and (see chap. 4) what he saw in heaven, he looks at the present things; the churches, as they are, and heaven as it is. Then follows the last part of his commission: "Write the things which are to come."

1. On the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) answer: What evidence that this was at an appointed meeting? Where, and who were present?

2. What are the supposable reasons for assembling at this particular place?

3. How does this occasion rank in importance?

4. What is Dr. Landrum’s analysis of this commission?

5. What authority does Christ claim in giving this commission, why was this authority given him and what the pertinency of this statement of our Lord on this particular occasion?

6. Compare this commission to a suspension bridge.

7. What does the first part of the commission prescribe to be done, or what are the three parts of the first item?

8. What does this going involve? Illustrate.

9. After going, then what three things are commanded to be done and what is the order?

10. How make disciples, and what is the teaching and example of John the Baptist and Jesus on this point?

11. Who then must do the baptizing?

12. What are the essentials to a valid baptism?

13. What can you say of Mark 16:9-20?

14. To whom was the Commission, recorded in Luke 24:44-49, given?

15. How does Christ introduce this commission?

16. What does he show in this commission to be a necessity in order to the salvation of men?

17. In this commission what does he say should be done?

18. What does he constitute the disciples in this commission?

19. What promise does he announce to them in this commission?

20. What special gift does he bestow upon the disciples here, what is the difference between inspiration & illumination, and what is the object of each?

21. What especially is noted relative to Old & New Testament Scriptures?

22. What very important question does this illumination settle and how?

23. What is the necessary & constant relation between repentance & forgiveness of sins, and what the application of this principle in the case of all sin?

24. What danger, on the other hand, does the author here warn against?

25. What weakness of modern preaching churches here pointed out?

26. Give the analysis of the Commission of our Lord at the ascension.

27. To whom was Paul especially commissioned to preach?

28. What are the six elements of this commission?

29. What was the condition of the people to whom he was sent as indicated in Acts 26:16-18?

30. What was the special commission to John, and what is the analysis of it as given in Revelation 1:1-2; Revelation 1:9-11; Revelation 1:19?

Verses 18-19



Harmony, pages 196-206 and Matthew 27:3-30; Acts 1:18-19; Mark 15:1-19; Luke 23:2-25; John 18:28-19:16.

You will understand that our Lord was tried before the Sanhedrin, as we saw in the last chapter, on the charge of blasphemy, penalty for which was stoning. We will find in this discussion that Jesus is first tried before the court of Pilate on the charge of treason, and then differently charged with sedition, the penalty of these two charges being crucifixion, and on the same two charges he was tried before the Galilean court of Herod. We have yet to consider his trial before the court of God on the charge of sin, with the penalty of physical and spiritual death, and finally, we will consider his trial before the court of hell on the charge of sin, with the penalty of passing under the power of the devil.

So that this discussion commences at the last verse on page 196 of the Harmony, Matthew 27:2, "And they bound him, and led him away, and delivered him up to Pilate, the governor"; or, as Mark puts it, Mark 15:1-2, "They bound Jesus and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate"; or, as Luke expresses it, Luke 23:1, "And the whole company of them rose up, and brought him before Pilate"; or, as John has it, John 18:28, "They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the palace; and it was early."

We have seen in the preceding discussion that Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court, on the charge of blasphemy, and condemned. We have seen that in every step of the proceedings they violated their own criminal law. Just now the important thing to note is that they also violate the Roman law. In this particular they had no right to even try a capital offense. Of course, we know that a capital offense is one of which the penalty is death. That is, capital offense comes from the word caput (root, "cap," connected withkephala), meaning "the head." And capital offense is one in which one loses his head. The right to-try-such an-offense Rome never granted to the conquered provinces. The position is untenable that any conquered province might try and condemn, but the Roman representative had to execute.

On this point Mr. Greenleaf says, "If they (the Sanhedrin) had condemned him, they had not the power to pass sentence, this being a right which passed from the Jews by conquest of their country, and really belonged to’ the Romans alone. They were merely citizens of the Roman province; they were left in the enjoyment of their civil laws, the public exercises of their religion, and many other things relating to their police and municipal regulations." They had not the power of life and death. This was a principal attribute of sovereignty which the Romans took care to reserve to themselves always, whatever else might be neglected. Tacitus says that the imperial right among the Romans was incapable of being transmitted or delegated, and that right was the jurisdiction of capital cases, belonging ordinarily to the Roman governor or general. The word is praeses, answering to our word president, or governor of the province, the procurator, having for his principal duties charge of the annual revenue and the cognizance of capital cases. Some procurators, like Pontius Pilate, had the jurisdiction of life and death, but it could not be expected that Pilate would trouble himself with the cognizance of any matter not pertaining to the Roman law, which consists of an alleged offense against the God of the Jews, and was neither acknowledged nor even respected by the Romans. Of this the chief priests and elders were well aware.

To show that Mr. Greenleaf is right in that contention, I will give three instances from the New Testament upon that point. The first is Acts 18, in the city of Corinth, and under the Roman governor Gallic. When Paul was accused under him, and brought before the judgment seat, Gallic says: "If indeed, it were a matter of wrong or of wicked villainy, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you, but if they are questions about words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; I am not minded to be a judge of these matters." So a little later, when the mob treated the chief of the synagogue with indignities, it is said, "But Gallic cared for none of these things," i.e., as a Roman officer he had nothing to do with them. So it was impossible for Pilate to take cognizance of anything brought against any matter of the Jewish religion, such as the accusation of blasphemy.

The next case that I cite is in Acts 23, where the chiliarch, or military tribune, called Claudius Lysias, writes a letter to Felix, who at that time was governor (Acts 23:27) : "This man was seized by the Jews, and was about to be slain of them, when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. And desiring to know the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him down into their council; whom I found to be accused about questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds."

The next case that I cite is from Acts 25) when Festus was governor in place of Felix. So we see we have Pilate, Felix, Festus, and Gallic, all testifying upon the point to which I am now speaking. Festus cited Paul’s case to King Agrippa (Acts 25:14): "There is a certain man left prisoner by Felix, about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, asking for sentence against him. To whom I answered, that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any man, before that the accused have the accusers face to face, and have had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter laid against him. When, therefore, they were come together here, I made no delay, but on the next day sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought. Con-erning whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought no charge of such evil things as I supposed: but had certain questions against him of their own religion." And he declined to take any jurisdiction of such a question.

Further upon this point, I now give what the great French lawyer, Dupin, says: Let us distinctly establish this point; for here I entirely differ in opinion from Mr. Salvador. According to him (p. 88), "the Jews had reserved the power of trying, according to their law; but it was in the hands of the procurator alone that the executive power was invested; every culprit must be put to death by his consent, in order that the senate should not have the means of reaching persons that were sold to foreigners." No; the Jews had not reserved the right of passing sentence of death. This right had been transferred to the Romans by the very act of the conquest; and this was not merely that the senate should not have the means of reaching persons who were sold to foreign countries; but it was done, in order that the conqueror might be able to reach those individuals who should become impatient of the yoke. It was, in short, for the equal protection of all, as all had become Roman subjects; and to Rome alone belonged the highest judicial power, which is the principal attribute of sovereignty. Pilate, as the representative of Caesar in Judea, was not merely an agent of the executive authority, which would have left the judiciary and legislative power in the hands of the conquered people – he was not simply an officer appointed to give an exequatur or mere approval (visa) to sentences passed by another authority, the authority of the Jews. When the matter in question was a capital case, the Roman authorities not only ordered the execution of a sentence, but also took cognizance (coynito) of the crime; it had the right of jurisdiction a pnon, and that of passing judgment in the last resort. If Pilate himself had not had this power by special delegation, vice praesdis, it was vested in the governor, within whose territorial jurisdiction the case occurred; but in any event we hold it to be clear that the Jews had lost the right of condemning to death any person whatsoever, not only so far as respects the execution, but the passing of the sentence. – M. DUPIN, Testimony of the Evangelists, pages 601-602.

We must not forget that Judea was a conquered country, and to the Roman governor belonged the right of taking cognizance of capital cases. What then was the right of the Jewish authorities in regard to Jesus? The Jews had not the right reserved of passing sentence of death. This right had been transferred to the Romans by the very act of conquest; and this was not merely that the Roman senate should not have the means of reaching persons who were sold to foreign countries, but that Rome might have charge of all cases of life and death. Pilate, as the representative of Caesar in Judea, was not merely an agent of the executive authority, he having left the judiciary in the hands of the Jews; not simply an officer appointed to execute a Jewish sentence passed by any authority, but when the matter in question was a capital case the Roman authorities could not only order the execution of the sentences, but they also claimed the right of passing upon the crime itself, with the right of jurisdiction over the question, and of passing judgment in the last resort. The Jews had lost the right to try a man for a capital offense, or to condemn to death any person whatever. This is one of the best settled points in the provincial law of the Romans.

If the Jews had the right of trial in capital cases, and the Roman power was exercised merely to execute a Jewish sentence, then when the accusation was brought before Pilate the proceedings would have been after this fashion: "Jesus has violated the Jewish law of blasphemy, and we have condemned him to death, and do bring him to you that you may approve and execute the sentence." But what are the facts? When they bring Jesus before Pilate they say not one word about the offense of blasphemy, but bring a new charge. Pilate puts the question, "What accusation bring you against this man?" And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a King."

That is the charge they prefer against him before the Roman Court. That is the new case. And Pilate examines whether Jesus Christ was guilty of treason against the Roman governor in claiming to be a king. So he examines the case by asking questions of Jesus himself: "Art thou the King of the Jews?" And after Pilate had finished his investigation he brought in his verdict of the case before him. He has heard the people and he has heard Jesus, and now here is his sentence: "And Pilate said unto the chief priests and the multitudes, I find no fault in this man." (Top of page 200 in the Harmony.) That is the decision.

The decision having been rendered upon that charge of treason, they bring another charge (Luke 23:5, Harmony page 200) : "But they were the more urgent, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, and beginning from Galilee even unto this place." This is what we call sedition, that is, stirring up a tumult; so they changed the accusation. When they bring that charge against him before Pilate he merely notes the fact that they have spoken of Galilee, and as Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, happened to be in Jerusalem at this time, and as the offense, according to this charge, commenced in Herod’s territory, Pilate wishing to avoid the responsibility of deciding the case, refers it to Herod.

We will see how it goes before Herod. On page 201 of the Harmony we find that Herod, after maltreating him, sends him back to Pilate. Page 203 shows that Pilate announces Herod’s verdict: "I, having examined him before you, found no fault in this man touching those things whereof you accused Him; no, nor yet Herod: for he sent Him back unto us; and behold, nothing worthy of death hath been done by Him." So there we have a double verdict, that under the second charge Herod finds no offense against the Roman law, and Pilate says the same thing – that he hath done nothing worthy of death. No fault in him under either of the accusations. So that is the third verdict of equivalence that has been pronounced – twice by Pilate and once by Herod.

Pilate now wishes to smooth things, for he knew that the Jews were very turbulent, and that the position of the Roman officer in Judea was always a hazardous one, since accusations could be made against him to Rome. Pilate had been moved by a message from his wife. She had had a dream. So she sends to Pilate while on his judgment throne, and says, "Have thou nothing to do with this man." Now, the Jews were urging Pilate on from one side, and his wife restraining him on the other. Burns, in "Tam O’Shanter," says, about the attitude of men toward the good counsel of their wives: Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet To think how many counsels sweet, How many lengthened, sage advices, The husband frae the wife despises!

Therefore, Pilate proposes an expedient. He says, "There is a custom among you that at feast time some guilty man shall be pardoned. Now, you have a man here, a murderer and a robber, whose name is Barabbas, and it is within my province to pardon a man. Suppose you let me pardon Jesus, or, would you prefer that I pardon Barabbas?" It is a strange thing to the lover of justice that after Pilate had twice acquitted this Man he now proposes to pardon him. He could not pardon a man that had been acquitted. The Jews make their choice; they say: "Not this man, but Barabbas; release that robber to us; don’t you release this man." Pilate then has Jesus crowned with thorns to show his contempt for their accusation that he would be a king, and invests him with purple, and brings him before the Jews, and exclaims (in words, that, put together, make a great text for a sermon: "Ecce homo"; "Behold the man!" "Ecce Rex!" "Behold the King!" When the Jews persisted that they preferred that Barabbas should be released to them, then Pilate put this question, which has been the theme of many sermons, "What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?"

Very many years ago at a meeting of the old General Association, Dr. A. E. Clemmons, pastor at Marshall, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana, preached a sermon from that text, and made this stirring application: This question comes to every man. Every man is under obligation to accept Jesus Christ as King, and if he rejects Christ then the question arises, "What shall I do with Jesus? He is in the world; he is preached in ten thousand pulpits; I cannot ignore him; I must make some disposition of him; what shall I do with him? Shall I count him as an impostor, or shall I accept him as my Saviour?"

Having made that point clear, Dr. Clemmons then passed to his last question: "In not trying to dispose of Jesus Christ you reject him. Then later the question will come to you in this form, ’What will Jesus, who is called the Christ, do with me?’ " Showing that there would come a time when the despised Nazarene would occupy the throne of eternal judgment, and according to the manner in which you disposed of him when the question was up to you, so will he dispose of you when the question is up to him.

Their answer to the question was, "Crucify him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate says, "Why don*t you take him and crucify him yourselves?" Then they said, "We have no jurisdiction; we have not this power of life and death; you have. We bring the case to you, and we tell you now that we charge him with being an enemy of Caesar, claiming himself to be a King; and if you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend." It was a favorite custom of the Jews to prefer charges against the governors of Judea before the Roman court at Rome itself, and many a governor of Judea was recalled on charges preferred against him at Rome. When Pilate heard that, he was terrified. He knew that it was an easy thing to shake the confidence of Caesar in any of his subordinates, and he was afraid. He therefore fell upon another expedient. He washed his hands, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this man; I wanted to let him go; you forced me to put him to death; you are responsible." Then they said, "His blood be on us and on our children."

When you see Pilate go through that form of washing his hands, as if by washing his hands he could divest himself of the responsibility to render just judgment, you are reminded of the incident in the play of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which Lady Macbeth, having instigated the death of the king, Duncan, and stirred up her husband to usurp that king’s throne, her conscience and her imagination were always washing off the blood spots on her hands. The great author relates how she became insane; and she was all the time going to the basin and washing her hands, then looking at them and saying, "This blood on my hands would make the sea red; all of the ocean cannot wash it – the stain of blood on this lily-white hand."

Pilate never recovered from his cowardly betrayal of his trust. History and tradition both tell us that he was pursued by undying remorse, and there is a tradition that when he was banished to the foot of the Alps, every time a storm was about to come a dark mist would gather over a mountain named after Pilate. There is a very thrilling reference to that in one of Scott’s novels. Whenever the people looked up and saw Mount Pilatus wrapped in mist they would cross themselves and say, "Avoid thee, Satan." So tradition and history have tied the name of Pilate to that cloud-covered mountain.

And Pilate finally signs the death warrant of Jesus of Nazareth, whom he had twice acquitted, and concerning whom he had said, "I find no fault in him; he is guilty of no crime." On page 206 of the Harmony we have an account of the indignities Christ suffered at the hands of the soldiers. Let the reader study that for himself.

1. Who brought the case of Jesus before Pilate and what great illconsistency in the Jews manifested at the palace?

2. In what particular did they violate the Roman law in the trial of Jesus?

3. What was the testimony of Tacitus on this point?

4. Was it the province of Pilate under Roman law to merely execute a sentence of the Sanhedrin concerning an offense against Jewish law or must he assume original and complete jurisdiction and try the case brought before him solely in view of an offense against Roman law?

5. What three special cases in the Acts illustrate this fact and what the point in each case?

6. What was the testimony of Dupin?

7. If the Jews had the right in capital cases, and the Roman power was exercised merely to execute a Jewish sentence, then when the accusation was brought before Pilate, what would have been the proceedings?

8. But what are the facts in the case?

9. What, therefore, was Pilate’s first demand and what was their answer?

10. What was Pilate’s second demand and their reply?

11. Would he have counted within his jurisdiction a charge of blasphemy against the Jewish God?

12. What threefold accusation against Roman law, therefore, did the Sanhedrin substitute for the charge of blasphemy and wherein consisted the atrocious malice of their accusation?

13. What one word covers all these accusations?

14. Was this threefold charge within Pilate’s jurisdiction?

15. What question, therefore, did Pilate ask Jesus, what was his answer, then what question did he ask Pilate and why?

16. What explanation did Christ here make to Pilate as to the nature of his kingdom and what was Pilate’s first verdict in the case?

17. What new charge did his accusers now prefer against him?

18. What was the legal term of this offense, was it a punishable offense against Roman law and was it within Pilate’s jurisdiction?

19. What circumstance in the new charge enabled Pilate to evade trying the case by referring it to another tribunal?

20. In referring a case from one Roman court to another, was it customary and necessary to make a formal statement of the case? (See Acts 23:26-30; Acts 25:25-27.)

21. Would such a statement in this case include the charge of treason, of which Pilate himself had acquitted Jesus, as well as the new charge of sedition and why?

22. How did Herod receive Christ, what interest did he manifest in our Lord, what was the procedure of the trial before Herod and how did this incident affect the relation of Herod and Pilate?

23. Under Roman law in this case would Herod announce his verdict directly to the Sanhedrin or would he send it through Pilate, and why?

24. What was Herod’s verdict on both counts as announced through Pilate?

25. What was Pilate’s verdict on the new charge?

26. What is now the legal status of the case?

27. What was, therefore, Pilate’s plain duty?

28. What Latin proverb of law would now be violated if the defendant’s life is again placed in jeopardy on either of these adjudicated cases?

29. Why, then, does Pilate hesitate and parley with the accusers?

30. What admonition came to Pilate on the judgment seat?

31. Cite the reference in Burns’ "Tarn O’Shanter" to a husband’s disregard of wifely admonitions.

32. What expedient does Pilate now suggest in order to save the life of Jesus and vet placate his proud accusers?

33. What was the infamy of this proposal?

34. Under Pilate’s proposal what deliberate choice did the Sanhedrin make?

35. How do the apostles subsequently bring home to them with terrific effect this unholy and malicious choice? (See Acts 3:14-15.)

36. How did Pilate again seek to appease their wrath?

37. What text for a sermon cited, what is the application and what was their answer to Pilate’s question?

38. How does the Sanhedrin now confess their mere pretense in making charges against Roman law and terrify Pilate by stating the case under Jewish law?

39. What were the circumstances of Pilate’s reopening of the case, what examination followed, what effort did Pilate again make and what was the result?

40. Why could not Pilate render a formal verdict on this count?

41. To what old charge do the Jews recur and thereby bully the cowardly Pilate into once more occupying the judgment seat, thereby reopening the case under Roman law?

42. What time in the day was it now, reconciling John’s sixth hour with the time in the other Gospels?

43. Why does Pilate now say, "Shall I crucify your king"?

44. By what dramatic form does Pilate now seek to divest himself of responsibility and guilt in the judicial murder of one whom he still declares innocent, but condemns, what incident in the classics referred to, and what the tradition concerning Pilate?

45. In what awful words do the bolder Jews assume the responsibility for Christ’s death?

46. To what indignities was Jesus then subjected?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 1". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/acts-1.html.
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