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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Acts 13

Verses 1-52

St. Barnabas the Apostle (For St. Barnabas' Day)

Acts 13:1-3

We keep today the memory of St. Barnabas the Apostle. These men were not only inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them this voice of ministration, but they were solemnly consecrated to the ministry of apostleship by the outward ordination by the then rulers of the Church.

I. Love for Missionary Work. These words suggest just two or three points first the beginning of missionary work among the Gentiles. These men are commissioned by the Holy Ghost to go forth and carry the Name and Gospel of Jesus, the salvation of Jesus to the world, and the results are everywhere. If there are any in this church today who are not really interested in mission work, I would say begin to be so at once. Think, and fight, and pray. Do something for the Lord Jesus outside just your own immediate work something in return for the effort of those who laboured to give the message of salvation to the world, to you and me.

II. Reverence for Church Order. Just ponder this one sentence 'so they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed,' and then read in the text a confirmation of our belief in order and propriety and the great principles in Scripture. Even the express designation of the Holy Ghost does not supersede the outward form of ordination. The ministry is a work, a business, and it needs the authority of the accredited representatives of the Church of Christ. Just as the Church at Antioch fasted and prayed, and laid on hands in solemn benediction before they sent forth the new Apostles to their work, so the Church of England, with its historic and spiritual claim to follow the teaching of the Apostles, acting under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, offers prayers for those to be ordained.

III. The Unction of the Holy One. There is no department of our life, individual or corporate, which is not ruled over and controlled by the mighty influence, the unction of the Holy Ghost. Let us try and believe that there is nothing done that does not begin from an idea, and that nothing therefore is too small or too great for us to pray that the Holy Ghost may take part in it and enrich it with His grace. Everyone may not be called to a sacred office; yet there are hundreds called to offices which man does not regard as sacred, but which really are so. To those who have eyes to see, God's Spirit is everywhere. Our Collect today reminds us that He who endowed His Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts the Holy Ghost will not, if we earnestly beseech Him, leave us destitute of His manifold gilts in our sphere of life, and thought, and business, nor yet of the grace to use them to the honour and glory of Christ Jesus, our Lord and King.

References. XIII. 1. J. Baines, Twenty Sermons, p. 57. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 306; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 413.

Worship and Service (For the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul)

Acts 13:2

In this thirteenth chapter of the Acts we are told about the visit of St. Paul and St. Barnabas to the Church which was in Antioch. It was no ordinary work that they did. They 'ministered to the Lord,' and this expression meant a great deal. Ministering to the Lord nearly always carries with it a service to one's brethren. This is brought before us in various ways, and, taking the word 'ministered' in its technical sense, it is especially brought before us in this chapter. But, if we understand the word aright, we find that it represents also the Divine Service and highest act of worship in the Christian Church.

I. There is a Distinct Call to Worship in God's House. It is part of the system of the Christian Church. Would that that could be brought home to the people of England today. People who are against the forms which the Church has taken to guide itself are against God. People imagine that these forms are unspiritual, whereas they are nothing of the kind. Let us learn from St. Paul's own experience, and not confine ourselves to some small section of his writings.

II. Note now the Blessing that came to St. Paul and the whole Gentile world when Jesus Christ called him to immediate preparation to work for His sake. St. Paul was always a good man. He persecuted the Christian Church because he honestly believed it to be inconsistent with God's teaching. After his conversion we read that he made use of his privileges as a Jew that he might gain Jews for Christ. Saul the persecutor became Paul the Apostle. He was a devout worshipper both at public service and in private prayer. Then, by the grace of God, let us try to follow him and engage in both. How do we devote our powers and energies during Divine service? The answer may be that many of us do not realise that that service calls for powers and energies; but, if that be the case, it is not the right way to think of religion. We must throw our whole energies and interest into our public as well as private worship.

III. When the Call comes to you as it came to St. Paul, try to follow in his footsteps. His call came direct to him through the agency of the Church, and that is the way it may come to you. But it also came to him in answer to a life of intense earnestness truly mistaken as it was at first and if you should hear the Master's call you must put away indifference. You must prepare yourselves with the first great prayer that St. Paul offered for the first time on the way to Damascus, 'Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?'

References. XIII. 2. R. W. Dale, The Epistle of James, p. 278. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 31; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 345. XIII. 2-50. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 26. XIII. 3. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 349. XIII. 4. H. Bailey, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 84. XIII. 6. Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 386; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 105. XIII. 7. Ibid. vol. x. p. 113. XIII. 8. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p. 144. XIII. 9. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 225; ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 455. XIII. 10. Ibid. vol. viii. p. 36 XIII. 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1781. XIII. 13. J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 239. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 242. XIII. 14. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 167; ibid. vol. x. p. 1; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 188; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 324. XIII. 14, 16, 27. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 25. XIII. 16-26. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 238. XIII. 20. Ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 560.

The Man After God's Own Heart

Acts 13:22

These words are the definition and the description of the model human life. The general truth of these words is simply this: that the end of life is to do God's will. God has given us two sides of this model life: realised in the Living Word: analysed in the written Word. Let us search our Bibles to find this ideal life, so that copying it in our lives, reproducing it day by day and point by point, we may learn to make the most of our life, and have it said of us, as it was of David, 'A man after Mine own heart, who shall fulfil all My will'.

I. The first thing our ideal man wants is a reason for his being alive at all. What is he here for? And the Bible answer is this: 'I come to do Thy will, O God'. (Hebrews 10:7 .)

II. The second thing an ideal man needs is sustenince. After he has got life, you must give him food. Now, what food shall you give him? Shall you feed him with knowledge, or with riches, or with honour, or with beauty, or with power, or truth? No; there is a rarer luxury than these. It is this: 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me'. (John 4:34 .)

III. The next thing the ideal man needs is society. He needs friendships. Now, whom will you give him? The answer trembles on the lip of every one who is trying to follow the ideal life: 'Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.' (Matthew 12:50 , Mark 3:35 .)

IV. Now we have found the ideal man a Friend. But he wants something more. He wants language. He must speak to his Friend. Every one knows what his prayer will be. Every one remembers the words of the ideal prayer: 'Thy will be done'. (Matthew 6:10 .) Now mark the emphasis on done. It is not that God's will may be borne, endured, put up with. There is activity in his prayer.

V. But the ideal man does not always pray. He is too full to speak, so his heart bursts into song, 'Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.' (Psalms 119:54 .)

VI. The next thing the ideal man wants is education. 'Teach me to do Thy will' (Psalms 143:10 ). This is the true education. And now we have almost gone far enough. These are really all the things the ideal man can need. But in case he should want anything else, God has given the man after His own heart a promise.

VII. So God has given the ideal promise: 'If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us... and we know that we have the petitions that we desired from Him.' (1 John 5:14 )

VIII. There is only one thing more which the model man may ever wish to have. We can imagine him wondering, as he thinks of the unspeakable beauty of this life, how long this life can last. But God in the riches of His forethought, has rounded off this corner of his life with a great far-reaching text. 'He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.'

Henry Drummond, The Ideal Life and other Addresses, p. 217.

References. XIII. 22. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 126. XIII. 26. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. 1. No. 2899. F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 120. XIII. 32. F. Harper, Preacher's Magazine, vol. x. p. 411. W. M. Sinclair, Words from St. Paul's (2nd Series), p. 119. XIII. 34. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2366. XIII. 36. John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 417. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2243. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 135. G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 68.

Forgiveness of Sins

Acts 13:38

This was St. Paul's first public utterance since his conversion. He was the Barnabas of the Synagogue, and, as the custom of the Synagogue was, he was asked to speak, and up he got, and the Holy Ghost was upon him, and he poured out this most significant speech.

Notice that the speech follows very closely on that of St. Stephen's dying utterance. Compare the two. They both begin with the history of God's Covenant with the Jewish nation, and they both end by preaching Jesus and the Resurrection. St. Paul heard that speech of Stephen's, and he modelled his own after it He never forgot that eloquence, and was never likely to, as he had stood by and seen the eloquence of Stephen's death, which was greater even than the eloquence of his dying speech.

The portion I have taken for the text is': 'Be it known unto you.' That is, about this matter there is to be no agnosticism whatever. It is to be 'known unto you'. You must know this, that the Holy One being dead saw no corruption, that He was raised from the dead, and that through Him is preached the forgiveness of sins. That is the matter about which you and I must have no doubt whatever. There is no agnosticism permissible on this point.

I. First, then, I should like upon this subject to say, it is the forgiveness of sin that is preached in Christ's name. It is not forgiveness of crime. A great many make a mistake here Crime can be appraised, and the punishment due to it meted out. Sin may be committed without crime, but crime can never be committed without sin. A man has committed a crime. It is expiated. For six months, say, he has been in prison. The doors are open, he is free, and, because he has expiated his crime, I hope there are none of you here would be so ungenerous as to throw it in his teeth, as there may be many crimes you and I have committed which are never expiated. But, if the man has a soul, there is the dishonour and the stain still there. If he has expiated his crime, society is bound to forgive him. But what about God? And then comes this Gospel, 'Through this Man is preached unto you forgiveness of sin'. He may say, 'I can never forget that I did it, the consciousness of my guilt still remains'. And it is to such an one that the Gospel comes home.

II. Forgiveness of sins is through Jesus Christ complete. Our religion is not a metaphysical argument or archæological study. It is a Gospel good news. To those who feel that they cannot forgive themselves, He comes as the Saviour Christ. We are forgiven of God. So the Gospel is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the love of God, which is the fellowship of the Holy Ghost III. And another point is this: when God forgives sin, He forgets. Without forgetting there can be no real forgiveness. We say, 'Well, of course, I forgive you, but you know I can never forget; it is not possible.' But the forgetfulness I speak of here is forgetfulness of the heart, not of the intelligence. The essence of God is love. God is love, and therefore, God being love, with Him forgiveness is forgetfulness. The Bible expression for this is, as you know, that God puts sin behind His back. How far is that? Where is that? As far as the east is from the west. How far is that? You cannot measure it; it means utter, complete, entire. 'I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.'

References. XIII. 38. W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 268. XIII. 38, 39. J. T. O'Brien, The Nature and the Effects of Faith, p. 49. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 257; ibid. vol. vii. p. 17. XIII. 39. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 287. XIII. 40, 41. F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 197. XIII. 41. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 120. XIII. 43. J. Arnoid, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 188. XIII. 46-48. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2045. XIII. 49. Ibid. vol. ii. No. 76. XIII. 50. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 276. XIII. 51. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 404. XIII. 52. A. Maclaren, The Wearied Christ, p. 212. XIV. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 20; ibid. vol. v. p. 30; ibid. vol. vi. pp. 294, 373; ibid, (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 411. XIV. 1. Ibid. p. 282. XIV. 2. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. pp. 140, 272, 276, 284. XIV. 4. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 74. XIV. 9. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 267. XIV. 9. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 559. XIV. 11. F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 212. XIV. 20. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 429. XIV. 22. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. iii. p. 105. S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 13. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 217. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii. p. 131. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 294.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 13". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.