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1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.
Ver. 1. Men, brethren, and fathers ] They that spake for themselves before the Areopagites in Athens, were required to do it ανευ παθων και προοιμιων , without passions or prefaces, not so here.
2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
Ver. 2. In the Hebrew tongue ] See Trapp on " Act 21:40 "
3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
Ver. 3. At the feet of Gamaliel ] Among the Jews, the Rabbi sat, termed יושב or the sitter the scholar was called מהבלק or one that lies along in the dust, a token of the scholar’s humility, subjecting himself even to the feet of his teacher, as here, and Luke 10:39 ; 2 Kings 2:5 . Knowest thou not that the Lord will take thy master from thine head? A phrase taken from their manner of sitting in the schools. This, same custom (saith one) it is thought St Paul laboured to bring into the Christian Church,1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:6 . (Godw. Antiq. Heb.)
And was zealous toward God ] With a blind zeal, which is no better than mettle in a blind horse than fire on the chimney top, than the devil in the demoniac, which threw him into the fire sometimes, and sometimes into the water.
4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
Ver. 4. See Trapp on " Act 9:1 "
5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
Ver. 5. See Trapp on " Act 9:2 "
6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
Ver. 6. See Trapp on " Act 9:3 "
7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Ver. 7. See Trapp on " Act 9:4 "
8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
Ver. 8. I am Jesus of Nazareth ] Why saith our Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth? Doth any good come out of Nazareth? Why saith he not rather I am Jesus the Son of God, the heir of the world &c. Nazareth was a reproach cast upon Christ and he glories in it: should not we prefer the reproach of Christ before the highest honour the world can do us?
9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
Ver. 9. But they heard not ] See Trapp on " Act 9:7 "
10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
Ver. 10. See Acts 9:16-18 .
11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there ,
13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
Ver. 14. Hath chosen thee ] Gr. προεχειρισατο hath handled thee beforehand. Beza, "hath designed thee," Erasmus, "hath prepared thee," viz by unhorsing and blinding thee. Schola Crucis schola lucis. The school of the cross is the school of light.
15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
Ver. 15. Of what thou hast seen ] sc. When rapped into the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2 , which might very well be in that three days’ darkness. See Trapp on " Act 9:9 "
16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Ver. 16. Wash away thy sins ] By being inwardly baptized in the blood of Christ, by his merit and spirit. For there is baptismus flaminis et baptismus fluminis, a baptism of fire and water, Matthew 3:11 ; hence we read of baptisms, Hebrews 6:2 , and of the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost Titus 3:5 . See Trapp on " Act 2:38 "
17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
Ver. 17. Even while I prayed ] Then especially God’s people are rapped and ravished. See Trapp on " Act 10:10 "
18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
Ver. 18. They will not receive ] And I have ordained thee for a better purpose than to lie idle He therefore that heareth, let him hear, and he that forebeareth, let him forbear. God will not always be with men in the opportunities of grace but make them know the worth by the want. Ezekiel 3:27 .
19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
Ver. 19. Lord, they know that I imprisoned ] Therefore no wonder though they of Jerusalem reject my testimony, as a light giddy headed fellow who now teach that religion that I lately persecuted; sed praestat herbam dare quam turpiter pugnare. Luther was counted and called an apostate, he confessed the action; but blessed God that had given him grace to fall off from the devil. Bugenhagius having read some few leaves of Luther’s book de Captivitate Babylonica, rashly pronounced Luther the most pestilent heretic that ever troubled the Church. But shortly after, reading the book through, and wisely weighing the arguments therein used and urged, he recanted his former censure, and publicly averred and maintained that all the Christian world was out, and Luther only in the right; Hic vir unus et solus verum videt, said he to his collegioners; many of whom he convinced and converted to the truth. (Scult. Annal.) It is judged by many that the fear of disgrace began to work upon Paul here (as it had done upon Jonah, Jon 4:2 ), q.d. I shall be counted a moon-calf; a a Retraxit shall be entered against me, as is against a plaintiff that will not proceed in his suit.
a An abortive shapeless fleshy mass in the womb; a false conception. Obs. Regarded as being produced by the influence of the moon. ŒD
20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
Ver. 20. When the blood of thy martyr ] An honour not afforded to any angel in heaven, said Father Latimer. God forgive me mine unthankfulness, said Bradford, for this, that I must die a martyr, that Christ will be magnified in my mortal body, whether it be by life or by death. Stephen, Christ’s proto-martyr! Antipas, my faithful martyr! what a high style is this! Ignatius professed that he would rather he a martyr than a monarch. He called his bonds his spiritual pearls, and triumphed in his voyage to Rome to suffer, to think that his blood should be found among the mighty worthies, such as Abel, Stephen, Antipas, &c. a
a τα δεσμα απεριφερω τους πνευματικους μαργαριτας . Ep. ad Ephes.
21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
Ver. 21. And he said unto me, Depart ] Which good Paul was full loth to do; having (with the vinedresser in the Gospel, Luk 13:8 ) both digged and begged for his unworthy countrymen, till there was no remedy, 2 Chronicles 36:16 , till the very last period of their day of grace, Acts 13:46 . See Trapp on " Act 13:46 "
22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.
Ver. 22. And they gave him audience ] The Jews to this day will not hear of the Gentiles having any interest in their Messiah, they call us bastard Gentiles, and curse us Christians in their daily prayers, with a Maledic Domine Nazaraeis. Gog, curse the Nazarene. They stick not to say that rather than we should have any benefit by their Messiah, they would crucify him a hundred times over. Thus to this present they please not God, and are contrary to all men, 1 Thessalonians 2:15 . We must pity them and pray for them, as Psalms 14:7 . Lopez the traitor, at Tyburn, affirmed that he loved Queen Elizabeth as he loved Jesus Christ; which from a Jew was heard not without laughter. (Camd. Eliz.)
23 And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,
Ver. 23. And as they cried ] A graphic description of their unreasonable rage and rout. Well might our Saviour say, Beware of men acted and agitated by the devil, Matthew 10:17 ; and St Paul pray to be delivered from absurd and wicked men, 2 Thessalonians 3:2 , as bad as those beasts that he encountered at Ephesus, 1 Corinthians 15:32 . Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man rather than a fry of furious fools in their folly, Proverbs 17:12 .
24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.
Ver. 24. Examined by scourgings ] Politicians consider not often what is just, but what is of use for the present purpose, be it right or wrong. Paul is here commanded to be scourged, and then examined. This is hysteron proteron, justice turned topsy-turvy.
25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
Ver. 25. A man that is a Roman ] A citizen of Rome might neither be bound nor beaten. See Trapp on " Act 16:37 " Paul by this freedom escaped whipping; we by that which Christ hath purchased us, not for gold or silver, but his own blood, 1 Peter 1:19 , escape the pain of eternal torment.
26 When the centurion heard that , he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
Ver. 26. This man is a Roman ] The centurion might believe St Paul upon his bare word, because if any claimed that privilege and could not prove it, he was to die for so doing.
27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
Ver. 27. He said, Yea ] And withal he made it out (likely) by sufficient proof to be so; he produced some convincing evidence, though it be not here recorded. All God’s people are fellow citizens with the saints, burgesses of the new Jerusalem, free denizens of heaven, Ephesians 2:19 ; Hebrews 12:23 ; where their names are enrolled long since, as the manner was at Rome, and likewise at Jerusalem, Psalms 48:3 . But they must look up their evidences, and be able to prove their interest by irrefragable arguments, when Satan shall roar upon them and shake his chain at them. It should be our care and study to find out that which Luke calls the certainty, Acts 1:4 , and not be led by conjectural suppositions, but be fully persuaded, Acts 22:1 , and get such a victorious faith as the gates of hell may not prevail against. God is no way wanting to us herein, as having made heaven ours both by covenant and his testament, his covenant he hath written not only in his word, but also in our hearts; and we have witnesses thereof, three in heaven and three on earth; his seals also and oath to confirm it. And lest we should think that covenant may break, he hath likewise given us heaven by testament, confirmed by the death of the Testator. A certainty therefore may be had of our interest in heaven, of our names written there; and that is an ignorant distinction among Papists, that men may have a certainty of hope, but not of faith in matters of salvation.
28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
Ver. 28. With a great sum ] Or, with long service. This privilege was first sold at a dear rate to foreigners, but afterwards for a small matter. (Dio in Claudio.)
But I was freeborn ] Tarsus, Paul’s country, was a Roman colony, and made free of Rome by Mark Antony.
29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
Ver. 29. Then straightway they departed from him ] Thus wonderfully and opportunely doth the Lord free his people, sometimes, from evils and enemies, when in human apprehension there is no way of escape.
30 On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
Ver. 30. And brought Paul down ] sc. From the castle, or from the rock Antonia. See Acts 21:34 .
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 22". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30