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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Acts 15

Verses 1-41

Self-inquiry in Religion

Acts 15:36

This was a proposal made by St. Paul to Barnabas after their first missionary journey; he suggested revisiting the Churches they had founded, to see if their members were continuing steadfast in the faith, growing in grace, advancing in the spiritual life standing still, or falling away.

It was both a wise and useful proposal. And we, nineteen centuries after, may apply it to ourselves; let us 'consider our ways,' and find out how things stand between ourselves and God; for if ever self-inquiry in religion was needed, it is needed now.

I. Do we ever think about our souls at all? Thousands cannot answer satisfactorily. They never give the subject of religion any place in their thoughts. They are absorbed in the pursuit of business, pleasure, politics, money, self-indulgence; and death, judgment, eternity, heaven and hell, and the Resurrection are never seriously regarded.

II. Do we ever do anything about our souls? There are multitudes in England who do occasionally think about religion, but never get beyond the thinking. These people are always meaning, purposing, and resolving; they say they 'know 'what is right, and 'hope 'to be found right at the last; but there is no actual separation from the service of the world and sin; no 'doing' in their religion they never attain to action.

III. Are we trying to satisfy our consciences with mere formality? How many are making shipwreck on this rock! They are punctual in the observance of the outward forms and ordinances of religion, even the most solemn; yet all this time there is no secret heart in their Christianity. Of these our Lord's words are true (St. Matthew 15:9 ).

IV. Have we sought and received the forgiveness of our sins? Forgiveness has been purchased for us by the eternal Son of God, Who became incarnate, lived, died, and rose again, as our Substitute, in our behalf. But this forgiveness is a thing which each must lay hold on, appropriate, and make his own by faith. Jesus is able and willing to save, but man must come to Him in faith; without believing there is no forgiveness.

V. Do we know anything by experience of conversion to God? Without conversion there is no salvation. Sense of sin, deep hatred of it, faith in Christ, and love to Him, 'hungering and thirsting after righteousness,' detachment from love of the things of the world these are some of the signs of true conversion.

VI. Do we know anything of practical Christian holiness? 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord '(Hebrews 12:14 ). Holiness is not absolute perfection, freedom from all faults. That is for heaven and not earth, where we have a weak body, wicked surroundings, and a busy devil ever near at hand. Yet Christian holiness is a real thing, with distinct characteristics; it is seen more than heard: humility, kindness, gentleness, unselfishness, consideration for others, meekness, a forgiving temper, the faithful performance of duty, the rising to the test alike of trial or prosperity; this is practical Christianity. But it is never attained or maintained without a struggle, a constant conflict.

VII. Do we use and enjoy the 'means of grace'? God has graciously appointed certain means to be the channels of Divine grace to man's heart, to maintain his spiritual life. Tell me what a man does in the matter of Bible study, private prayer, public worship, attendance at the Holy Communion, and I will soon tell you what he is, and on what road he is travelling.

VIII. Are we preparing for, and looking forward to, the Second Coming of our Lord? The Bible emphatically declares this glorious fact, that He shall return with power and great glory to raise the dead, to judge the souls of men, and to set up a kingdom where sin and death shall have no place.

The late Bishop Ryle.

References. XV. 36. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 25; ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 366. XV. 37, 38. J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 239. XV. 37-39. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 206. XV. 39. C. Vince, The Unchanging Saviour, p. 263. F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 243. XVI. 1. H. A. Smith, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 345. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 17; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 446. XVI. 1, 3. Ibid. vol. i. p. 107. XVI. 4. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 266; ibid. (6 th Series), vol. ii. p. 298; ibid. vol. viii. p. 419. XVI. 5. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 284. XVI. 6. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 404; ibid. vol. viii. p. 325; ibid. vol. ix. pp. 45, 294, 332; ibid. vol. x. p. 6; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 11.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 15". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/acts-15.html. 1910.