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THE CONVERSION OF SAUL; HIS LABORS AND EXPERIENCE IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS.
A.—THE ZEAL OF SAUL IN PERSECUTING THE CHRISTIANS, CONDUCTS HIM TO DAMASCUS
1And [But] Saul, yet breathing out threatenings [breathing menace] and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2And desired [asked] of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found [should find] any [who were, ὄντας] of this way1, whether they were men or women, he might bring [conduct] them bound unto Jerusalem.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Acts 9:1. And [But] Saul.—The following narrative is connected with the general course of this historical work by means of the particles δέ and ἔτι. The former particle [But, not And] exhibits the contrast between the hostile and destructive procedure of Saul, and the labors of Philip, which built up and extended the church, and which had just been described. The particle ἔτι, on the other hand, connects the course of Saul, as here set forth, with his earlier acts, Acts 8:3, and exhibits them as a continuation of the persecution of the Christians which he commenced at the time when Stephen was slain. The interval between the commencement and the present continuation of Saul’s hostile course, does not appear to have been very brief, for Luke must have designedly inserted the two narratives contained in Acts 8:5-44.8.40, between Acts 7:58 (combined with Acts 8:1; Acts 8:3,) and Acts 9:1. Hence, the present narrative is not introduced abruptly, or without regard to the connection. It is, moreover, evident, that the sentiments and feelings of Saul did not continue to be uniformly the same, but rather increased in intensity as time advanced. This fact is indicated by the terms: ἐμπνέων [for which genitives see Winer: Gram. N. T. § 30. 9. c. and comp. Joshua 10:40. LXX.—Tr.]. They imply that menace and slaughter constituted the vital air which he inhaled (and exhaled); that is, the hostile sentiments with which Saul regarded the Christians, had acquired an intensely fanatical, destructive and sanguinary character, which does not yet appear to have been the case at the period to which Acts 8:3 refers. It is, indeed, quite consistent with human nature, that when any passion has exercised an influence over an individual during a certain period, and been indulged to a certain extent, it should increase in violence and fury, identify itself, as it were, with his character, and constitute the principle of life for him; this observation specially applies to religious fanaticism. The course which Saul now intends to pursue, demonstrates that his fanaticism had acquired additional virulence.
Acts 9:2. Desired of him letters to Damascus, etc.—Hitherto Saul had contented himself with persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem; he now feels impelled to persecute the disciples of Jesus in other regions, even beyond the boundaries of the Holy Land. He determines to proceed to Damascus. This ancient capital of Syria, lying northeast of Jerusalem, and about 140 miles distant from it, was distinguished alike by its uncommonly beautiful situation, and by being the centre of a vast trade, and of important religious influences. It had passed, since the time of Pompey (B. C. 64), under the dominion of the Romans, and had been attached to the province of Syria. Many Jews had selected this city as their residence after the age of the Seleucidæ (Jos. War, ii. 20, 2), and this fact precisely agrees with the passage before us, which represents Damascus as having contained more than one synagogue (τὰς συναγωγάς, and comp. Acts 9:20). But the tidings appear to have reached Jerusalem that there were also Christians in Damascus; these were converted Jews, since Saul views them as persons who were connected with the synagogues. The form of the conditional clause, ἐάν τινας εὕρῃ, distinctly implies that he confidently expected to find such persons there. They are termed τινες τῆς ὁδοῦ ὅντες, that is, people who walk in the way, or, belong to that way [ὁδοῦ depending on ὅντας; for the Gen. with εἶναι see Winer, § 30, 5]. The word ὁδός does not of itself signify a sect, as some writers have erroneously inferred from Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4, but designates in general a particular mode of life and conduct; in its special application here, it denotes that way or manner of life which receives its peculiar character from faith in Christ as the Messiah.—Luke has not informed us of the means by which the Gospel reached Damascus. The most probable supposition is, that individual Christians belonging to Jerusalem, who were driven away at the time of the persecution, had withdrawn to that large city (Acts 8:4 διῆλθον; comp. Acts 11:19); if some of the fugitives proceeded as far as Cyprus and Antioch, others may have, still more probably, retired to Damascus, which was a nearer point. It is quite conceivable that these also proclaimed the Gospel when they reached the city, and thus became the means by which other Israelites who dwelt there, were converted (Acts 8:4, εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν λόγον). Saul selected Damascus as the field of his intended operations, as he had perhaps understood that a larger number of Christians would be found there than elsewhere, or, possibly, because he was personally connected with certain inhabitants of the place. In order to accomplish his design and be enabled to seize any disciples of Jesus whom he might find in Damascus, and conduct them as prisoners to Jerusalem, where they would be subjected to a trial, he requests the high priest to furnish him with letters of recommendation and authorization. (The plural ἐπιστολάς corresponds to the plural συναγωγάς; it would hence seem that he asked for several documents, intending to present one to each of the synagogues). The name of the high priest cannot be stated with entire confidence, as the year in which the conversion of Paul occurred is not known with, entire chronological precision. [Bengel assigns it to A. D. 31; Jerome, Petavius, 33; Baronius, 34; Meyer, Usher, Pearson, Hug, Olshausen, 35; Basnage, Alford, 37; de Wette, 37 or 38; Ewald, 38; L. Capellus, 39; Wieseler, 40.—Tr.]. If that event did not occur later than the year 36, Caiaphas, who was displaced by Vitellius in that year, still acted as high priest. [See below, note on Acts 23:4-44.23.5.]. He was succeeded by Jonathan, a son of Ananus [Annas]; in the next year, 37, the latter was, in his turn, displaced, and his brother Theophilus received the office (Jos. Ant. xviii. 4, 3, and xviii. 5, 3). The last named was, probably, the high priest to whom Saul applied. Luke does not expressly state, but obviously implies that the high priest of course furnished the desired documents; he could, indeed, have personally had no motive for refusing to gratify the zealot who applied for means to sustain the ancient Judaism. Foreign Jews voluntarily recognized the authority of the high priest in Jerusalem, and, specially, that of the Sanhedrin, of which he was [usually, but at a later period, not regularly, Herzog, Real-Encyk. XV. 516.—Tr.] the presiding officer, and which they regarded as the highest tribunal, in matters of religion. [“In Acts 26:10 (comp. Acts 9:14 below) Paul says that he received his authority from the ἀρχιερεῖς, and in Acts 22:5, from the πρεσβυτέριον, which are merely different modes of designating the Sanhedrim.” Hackett ad loc., and see below, Acts 9:13-44.9.14, Exeg. note.—Tr.]. And the experience of the Jews had taught them that, in a case like the present, the civil authorities [Roman] would offer no opposition to a measure represented to them as being directly connected with the internal religious affairs of the Israelites.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
Christ rules in the midst of his enemies. This truth derives a striking illustration from the fact that Saul’s enmity and murderous purposes, which glowed with hellish fire, were so long permitted to harass, scatter and ravage the church. The historian does not relate that he reviled and blasphemed the Redeemer himself; but at a later period Paul confesses that he had been guilty in this respect, 1 Timothy 1:13. In the present narrative he appears only as a persecutor of the Lord’s disciples, or of his church. But his spiritual state becomes the more alarming in proportion as a carnal zeal, passion, and even a Satanic thirst for blood (ἀνθρωποκτόνος, John 8:44), became mingled with his ignorant zeal of God [Romans 10:2], The flesh acquires increased influence whenever fanaticism ascends to a higher grade, and man, in his blind fury, becomes a ravening and bloodthirsty beast. To such a depth the Lord permits man to descend, in order to rescue him from the abyss and change his nature. The long-suffering of God waits unto the end, but divine grace never loses sight of the sinner, even when he rushes madly onward in his career. Saul’s history furnishes a brilliant illustration of God’s love in Christ, to sinful man—a love which seeks and saves even the most abandoned sinner. [1 Timothy 1:16.]
 Acts 9:2. [The margin of the English Bible (which in the text follows Tynd., Cranm., Geneva, and Rheims) offers the words of the way, as the literal translation of the phrase rendered in the text of this way; Gr. τῆς ὁδοῦ.—Tr.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See below, Acts 9:10-44.9.19 a.
B.—THE EXALTED LORD APPEARS TO SAUL, WHEN THE LATTER IS NEAR DAMASCUS
3And [But] as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about [flashed around] him a light from2 heaven: 4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5And [But] he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said [But he (omit the Lord said)]3, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:4 [omit the remainder of this verse, and that part of the next, which precedes the word Arise] it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said, unto him, [But] Arise, and go into the city, and it shall [will] be told thee what thou must do. 7And the men which [who] journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a [the, τῆς] voice, but seeing no man. 8And Saul arose from the earth; and [but] when his eyes were opened, he saw no man [nothing]Acts 5:0 : but they led him by the hand, and brought [conducted] him into [to] Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Acts 9:3. Suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.—Saul had nearly completed his journey, and was already in the vicinity of Damascus, when he was suddenly arrested by an appearance from heaven, and cast to the ground. A light, proceeding from above, flashed around him (περιήστραψεν [with which comp. περιλάμψαν, Acts 26:13]), as sudden in its appearance, as powerful, and as dazzling as a flash of lightning. It is evident, however, that Luke does not mean, literally, a flash of lightning; the verb which he employs is only intended to compare that heavenly appearance to the lightning. The preposition περί in the compound verb implies that the light surrounded Saul, and, specially him only, but not any of his attendants. Luke does not remark in this connection that Saul saw Jesus himself in this heavenly, light, but the fact is subsequently stated (Ἰησοῦς ὁ ὀφθείς σοι, Acts 9:17; ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ εἶδε τὸν κύριον, Acts 9:27; ἰδεῖν τὸν δίκαιον, Acts 22:14, and comp. 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8.)
Acts 9:4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice.—Saul was filled with terror, and, prostrated by the overpowering influence of the heavenly appearance, saw nothing further. But he heard a voice which called to him, and to which he replied—it was the Lord Jesus who spoke. He said; Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? The words were, according to Acts 26:14, pronounced in the Hebrew dialect [i.e. the Aramæan, or Syro-Chaldaic, (Robinson)], and with this circumstance the shorter Hebrew form of the name which is here given [Σαούλ], in place of the [somewhat more usual] Grecized form [Σαῦλος] precisely agrees. The interrogative pronoun τί demands an account of his motives for engaging in this persecution, according to the beautiful interpretation of Chrysostom:τί παρʼ ἐμοῦ μέγα ἤ μικρὸν ἠδικημένος ταῦτα ποιεῖς;—We are reminded by it of the noble reply which Polycarp made to the proconsul who required him to blaspheme Christ: ὀγδοήκοντα καὶ ἕξ ἓτη ἔχω δουλεύων αὐτῷ, και οὐδεν με ἠδίκησεν. Καὶ πῶς δύναμαι βλασφημῆσαι τον βασιλέα μου, τὸν σώσαντά με; Martyrium St. Polyk. c. 9. [Euseb. H. E. IV. 15.]. The question accordingly appeals to Saul’s conscience, and is designed to awaken in him a sense of the grievous wrong which he is committing.
Acts 9:5. Who art thou, Lord?—Saul’s question indicates that he did not immediately recognize Jesus, although a presentiment respecting the nature of Him who spoke, may have at once followed the appeal made to his conscience. [“Conscientia ipsa facile diccret: Jesum esse” (Bengel). Tr.]. The words of the Lord (in which ἐγὼ and σύ are emphatically contrasted) are not to be referred to the first call, in the sense that they are a continuation of it (equivalent to: ‘Saul, I, whom thou persecutes!, am Jesus.’ Bengel), but constitute a direct answer to the question: ‘Who art thou?’ (equivalent to: ‘I, who appear to thee, and have called, am that Jesus whom thou persecutest’). But as Jesus appeared in his heavenly glory, while Saul is a poor and feeble being, easily prostrated and terrified, the answer was adapted to humble him deeply, and lead to his self-abasement. [Here a part of the text. rec. is omitted by Lechler; see above, note 3, appended to the text. For the explanation, see below, Exeg. etc. note, on Acts 26:12-44.26.14.—Tr..]
Acts 9:6. [But] arise, and go into the city.—The address of Jesus turns, at the word ἀλλά [for which see above, note 3, appended to the text], from the past to the future; old things are passed away, all things are to become new. Jesus speaks as the Lord, who has the right to command Saul, who will issue further instructions, and who expects obedience. Paul would not have known what course he should now follow; ho is directed to enter the city and await information, without knowing the source from which it will proceed; the passive form, λαληθήσεται, is purposely chosen.
Acts 9:7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless.—The attendants, who had probably been commissioned by the high priest to aid Saul in the arrest and delivery at Jerusalem of the Damascene Christians, stood speechless and confounded. (Such is frequently the signification of ἐννεός, which originally signified only mute, but often, too, occurs in the sense of ἐκπεπληγμένος). [The form ἐνεοί, found in A. B. C. E. H., and Cod. Sin., is now regarded by the highest authorities as more correct than ἐννεοί of G. and the text. rec.—Tr.]. The circumstance that these attendants heard the voice, but, at the same time, saw no one from whom it proceeded, was specially adapted to amaze and confound them. When Paul himself speaks of this circumstance, in Acts 22:9, he says in reference to his companions:τὴν φωνὴν οὐκ ἥκουσαν τοῦ λαλοῦντός μοι. This language seems, at first view, to contradict the terms in the present verse, viz. ἀκούοντες μὲν τῆς φωνῆς, and recent criticism has not failed to take advantage of it. Those attempts to explain this apparent discrepancy, which make a distinction in the sense of φωνῆ occurring in both passages, have, no doubt, been unsuccessful; thus, some interpreters allege that φωνῆς here refers to Paul’s words, while, in Acts 22:9, φωνὴ τοῦ λαλοῦντός μοι is mentioned (Occum., Beza, and others); by others φωνή, in the present verse, has been supposed to designate an inarticulate sound, but, in Acts 22:9, to refer to articulated words (Rosenmüller, Heinrichs, and others); both of these interpretations are in conflict with the context. There, is, nevertheless, an essential difference between hearing [a mere sound], and hearing [that is, understanding the meaning, as earlier interpreters, and Grotius, Kuinoel, Hackett, etc. explain ἥκουσαν in Acts 22:9. (Meyer)—Tr.]. The meaning of Paul’s words in Acts 22:9 is very plain, viz.: his attendants did not hear the voice of him that spake to him, i. e., did not receive a distinct impression of the words or language of the speaker (φ. τοῦ λαλ. μοι), and therefore did not understand his address to Saul. In Acts 9:7, on the other hand, we are simply informed that they heard the voice, which could easily have been the case, even if the words of the Lord addressed to Saul were not distinctly understood by them. It is, besides, worthy of notice, in this connection, that ἀκούειν is connected in the present passage with the genitive, and not as in Acts 22:9, with the accusative. The distinction in sense is thus explained by the editors of the Thesaurus Linguæ Græcæ of H. Stephanus [Henry Stephens, or, more accurately, Estienne, a grandson of the first Henry, the founder of this celebrated family of Parisian printers. Herzog, Real-En. XV. 64 ff.—Tr.]: “Genitivus maxime poni videtur in re, quam in genere audimus, aut ex parte tantum, aut incerto aliquo modo,—Accusativus proprie rem certius definitam indicare cogitandus est” In this case, Bengel would be justified in saying: Audiebant vocem solam, non vocem cum verbis. And the objection made by Meyer to such a view, viz., that merely seeing and hearing are in both passages mentioned antithetically, is not well founded, neither does it prove that in both cases the hearing was the same, for the seeing was not the same: according to Acts 9:7, they saw no man, but according to Acts 22:9 they saw the light. Both passages alike show, as Baumgarten (I. 195 ff,) has ably demonstrated, that Paul received a distinct, but his companions an indistinct, impression.—[See Exeg. note on Acts 22:6-44.22.11, ult.—Tr.].—Another variation is found in the two statements, occurring in Acts 9:7 and Acts 26:14; according to the former, the attendants stood, but, according to the latter, they, as well as Paul, fell to the earth. Here, too, some writers have supposed that a discrepancy exists which cannot be explained, and inferences have thence been drawn to a certain extent, which affect the credibility of Luke. It should, however, be carefully noted that the words in Acts 26:14 (πάντων δὲ καταπεσόντων ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν γῆν) unmistakably refer to the first moment when the light was suddenly seen to flash, after which the voice of Jesus called to Saul, whereas, according to Acts 9:7 the men stood speechless at the time when Jesus and Saul were speaking. Or, in other words, Acts 26:14 refers to an earlier, but Acts 9:7 to a later point of time. It is not here admissible to take εἱστήκεισαν in a pluperfect sense (equivalent to: they had stood, or continued to stand), for since the perfect ἕστηκα has the sense of the present tense, the pluperfect εἱστήκειν occurs in that of the imperfect. [Win. Gram. N. T. § 40. 4. ult.—Tr.]. Moreover, that the men stood, is not the fact to which it is intended to give special prominence, but that they were speechless or confounded, although we are not authorized to overlook entirely the posture (standing) in which they are found. It is true, that if the present verse alone were considered, we would receive no other impression than that Saul’s companions had continued to stand during (he whole transaction. But as the other passage informs us that they all fell to the earth as soon as the light was seen, we can easily conceive (with Bengel, Kuinoel, Baumgarten) that, although it is not expressly stated, Saul’s attendants recovered from their fright, sooner than he did, and then arose. He fell down with them at once, and, when the voice called to him, continued to lie as if he were paralyzed; his attendants, who heard the voice but did not understand a word, and who were, consequently, not personally interested, very naturally recovered at an earlier moment. This is not an arbitrary assumption, as Meyer supposes, since it is sustained by a comparison of the parallel passages, and is not rendered improbable by any fact which they record.
Acts 9:8-44.9.9. When his eyes were opened, he saw no man [nothing].—Saul arose from the earth, in obedience to the command [Acts 9:6], but when he opened his eyes which had hitherto been closed, he could see nothing, and continued in this state during the following three days. He could open his eyes, but could not see.—(The phrase οὐδὲν ἔβλεπε involves an objective negation [denying an alleged fact]; μὴ βλέπων in Acts 9:9, is not distinguished from it logically, but, rather, only grammatically (Winer [Gram. N. T. § 55, 5, ult.—used subjectively, or, denying a certain conception.—Tr.]), since the negative belongs to the participle. The latter is merely a less emphatic expression than βλέπων, which would at once imply actual blindness; but it is not Luke’s purpose to convey such a conception, since he does not represent Saul’s condition as a divine punishment.).—This temporary loss of sight, which however continued during several days, was, without doubt, occasioned by the dazzling light that accompanied the appearance of Jesus [comp. Acts 22:11.—Tr.]; still, a special divine act must be assumed as the original cause, since the men who were with Saul, had also seen the light (Acts 22:9), without being themselves deprived of sight. For they were able to lead him, like a blind man, by the hand into the city.—During these three days Saul entirely refrained from eating and drinking; he was occupied with his own thoughts and the examination of his spiritual state; and while he waited for the instructions which he was to receive from the Lord, fasting and prayer constituted his preparation for the future.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It was not till Saul had reached the vicinity of Damascus, and now drew nigh to the gates of the city, that his progress was checked and he was awakened by Christ. The danger which threatened the Damascene Christians was imminent, for their enemy was at hand, but the help which God affords is most gloriously revealed in the most severe trials. When Saul reached the spot in which he hoped to celebrate the victory of his zeal, he was himself subdued by the Lord.
2. Jesus personally appeared to Saul, at. first in a heavenly light which flashed around the latter like lightning, then called to the prostrate man, reproached him for being a persecutor, revealed his own name, and finally directed him to enter the city, where the will of God should be made known to him. These are the essential features-of the occurrence which took place near Damascus. They instantly produced the deep conviction that Jesus lived. When Saul persecuted the disciples, he was governed by the delusion that after Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified as a malefactor and blasphemer, he had remained in the power of death. But Jesus, who now appears to him personally, is made known alike by the light and by the words which he pronounces, so that Saul obtains a direct, positive and personal knowledge that Jesus, the Crucified One, although he had died, is alive. [“He shewed himself alive” Acts 1:3]. It is a fundamental truth, of the Christian religion that the Redeemer lives. We have not a Saviour who lived only at a former time, or, “who was”, but we have one “who is, and is to come.” (Revelation 1:4, where ὁ ὤν designedly placed before ὁ ἦυ καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος). Christ is ὁ ζῶν (Revelation 1:18). And the truth, of which Saul is now convinced—that Christ, is alive—is one of the leading themes of his subsequent preaching—a prominent article of the faith which he proclaimed.
3. This appearance, besides, conveyed to Saul a deep impression of the glory of Jesus in his state of exaltation. The light which suddenly flashed around him with the rapidity and the brightness of lightning, was a light from heaven, the effulgence in which God himself dwells. It was in this effulgence that Jesus appeared to Saul, and so powerful was the effect, that, like all who were with him (Acts 26:14), he immediately fell to the earth, and was deprived of sight for several days. The voice, too, of Jesus exercised an irresistible influence over him; he at once became conscious of the superiority and sovereign power of Him who now appeared, and bowed in deep submission before him. Jesus, indeed, not only lives, but is exalted in heaven, living and reigning in divine glory. All the extraordinary and wonderful features of the scene combine in bearing witness to the majesty and glory of Jesus.
4. It is apparent as well from Acts 9:17; Acts 9:27, as from Saul’s own declarations (e. g. 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8), that he saw Jesus on this occasion, heard his voice, and spoke with him. And this did not occur in a dream; it was not exclusively an internal process in his soul; it was not the apparition of a spirit, but a real, visible and audible manifestation in the world of sense: Jesus appeared to Saul personally in his glorified corporeality, as true man, as the same Jesus, who had dwelt on earth, and who nevertheless appeared at this time from heaven in divine glory. This fact bears witness to the abiding humanity of the glorified Redeemer, and to his glorified corporeality. It was this event in the experience of the apostle Paul which formed the original and principal source whence he derived his deep views and doctrines concerning the combination of the spiritual and the corporeal in the spiritual-corporeal paths of human life,—the transfiguration of man’s bodily nature—the resurrection of the body, etc.
5. The very intimate communion of life which exists between Jesus and his disciples, is implied both in the first call: “Why persecutest thou me?”, and in the subsequent reply: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Saul had imagined that he persecuted none but the Christians, whom he regarded as fanatical sectaries without a leader or shepherd, and as apostates from the traditions of the fathers; but he had not supposed that any relations whatever now subsisted between himself and Jesus of Nazareth, who had been put, to death, and was thus removed from his path. But Jesus himself now appears to him and bears this witness: ‘Thou persecutest me—not simply my disciples, but me also.’ Their sufferings, consequently, are his sufferings—they cannot be separated from him, so that they can be assailed without afflicting Him. In consequence of the communion of life which he maintains with his people, he is ever in them, and suffers, is reviled and persecuted with them. And his exaltation and dominion confer blessings on them; while he protects his followers, he fills their enemies with terror. The oneness of Christ with Christians—the communion of life and intimate connection existing between the Lord and believers—the church of Christ one body, and the Lord its head—these lofty truths, which belong to our faith, which the mind of the apostle Paul grasped with more power and distinctness, and which he developed in his discourses and writings with even more fulness than others have done, are already presented in their general features, or in a germinal state in the appearance of Jesus to Saul in the vicinity of Damascus.
6. But the following thoughts must have, preeminently, occurred to him, and have moved him very deeply: ‘I have then persecuted Him, even when I little thought that I was doing it; I have sinned against Him! He is exalted in heaven, possesses irresistible power, justly claims humble and implicit obedience(τί με θέλεις ποιῆσαι), and yet I have resisted him! I now feel with whom I have to do. Nevertheless, he has not met me for judgment; he has not crushed me in his wrath. He has, rather, with pity and love, arrested my erring steps, has called me to himself, yea, assigns a holy work to me.’ (The latter thought is suggested by the call which he received, a few days afterwards, to be the apostle of the Gentiles.).—This was grace—full, free, pitying grace, granted to the sinner. It was the light of grace which first revealed to Saul the magnitude of his guilt, and the true character of sin in general. And his deep fall taught him, on the other hand, to understand the height and glory of divine grace, By such revelations he was cast down, and yet lifted up; his fall to the earth, and the ability to arise, when he received the encouraging command of Jesus, were an image of the processes which occurred in his soul. And now his own personal experience enabled him to understand the nature both of sin and of grace, revealing the latter as the preponderating power of God. Even if sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Romans 5:20). Hence, sin and grace are the two hinges of the Gospel, in the view of the apostle, on which, in the divine economy, all things turn.
7. Saul had hitherto persecuted the disciples of Jesus because he believed them to be not only fanatical and erring worshippers of Jesus of Nazareth, but also persons who did not render due honor to the sanctuary of Israel, the Law, and the traditions. He was a zealot in maintaining the traditions of the fathers (ζηλωτὴς τῶν πατρικῶν παραδόσεων, Galatians 1:14). As such a zealot, he warred with those who, as he thought in his delusion, had apostatized from Jehovah and his law; and if he beheld the execution of Stephen with satisfaction (Acts 8:1), and exerted all his power in destroying the church of Jesus, he entertained no other opinion than that he was performing a good and righteous work, on which God looked with pleasure. But he is now taught, in a startling and even painful manner, by the appearance of Jesus from heaven, that God looked on his course with displeasure. He is compelled to view his conduct in a new light; the work which he had believed to be acceptable and preeminently meritorious, is, in reality, most sinful in the eyes of God; it. is actually a conflict with the Anointed of God, and, consequently with God himself, by which deep guilt was contracted. The Christians are, accordingly, not apostates, but, on the contrary, the children of God, men who are eminently favored by the Most High. Hence, his views of the law, and of the righteousness of the law, were, of necessity, entirely altered.
8. The influence which the appearance of Jesus exercised on Saul was irresistible. He was thrown to the ground, and was compelled to yield unconditionally to a higher power, thoroughly convinced that he lay at the mercy of Him who had appeared and addressed him. But this is very different from the question: Is this revelation of Jesus to be considered as gratia irresistibilis, or is it not? Olshausen believed that it ought to be answered in the affirmative. [But after expressing his conviction that σκληρόν here occurs in the sense of ἀδύνατον, and that Paul could not then have resisted the force with which grace met him, Ols. adds: “If we, however, recognize this sense in the present passage, we do not on that account by any means approve of the Augustinian doctrine of gratia irresistibilis.”—Tr.]. The language of the Lord (which, it is true, is an interpolation here [see note 3, appended to the text above], but is genuine in Acts 26:14) does, in fact, apparently imply an irresistibility—but only apparently. For Paul himself remarks, on the occasion on which he repeats those words, that, he had not been ἀπειθής to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19), thus plainly presupposing the freedom of his will,—the independent character of his obedience, which he could have also refused. There is not a single feature of the whole transaction which indicates an irresistible change of the will. And the apostle Paul never speaks of his conversion, at any subsequent period, in such a manner as to deny the freedom of his self-determination, when ho followed the divine directions. However unrestricted the operations of grace are, they are directed only towards a free subject, or, to one who can as well accept as repel grace. The choice is given to Saul, either to yield to the impression which this appearance made on him, and open his heart more and more fully, or to close the avenues to it. But that he chose the former, or, was willing to yield to the impression which he had received, is already implied in the questions: “Who art thou, Lord?” “What wilt thou have me to do?”
9. The internal processes connected with the occurrence, were far more important than the external. However wonderful the visible appearance was, the revelation of Jesus to the spirit of Saul, was, nevertheless, the decisive miracle; and in this light the apostle himself views the subject. It is true that he repeatedly mentions the circumstance in his Epistles, that he had seen the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8). But when the occasion leads him to express his most profound views of the event, he describes the central circumstance of the whole as being ah internal ἀποκάλυψις (εὐδόκησευ ὁ θεὸς—ἀποκαλύψαι τὸυ υἱὸυ ἐν ἐμοί. Galatians 1:15-48.1.16). If the main design of the whole occurrence had been fully accomplished by means of the light and the sound, the attendants (assuming that their senses were perfect), would have necessarily been able to perceive and understand precisely as much as did Saul himself. But both the visible appearance and the call of Jesus made only an indistinct and confused impression on them, and furnished them with no definite and clear conceptions. This result must obviously be ascribed, first, to the sluggishness of their souls, which were not susceptible of such impressions, and, secondly, to the fact that this revelation of Jesus did not belong simply to the world of sense, but was, at the same time, of a spiritual, or spiritual-corporeal nature.
10. The temporary blindness of Saul was designed by the will of God not so much to be an image of the moral blindness in which he had hitherto lived (as it is generally believed), as, rather to withdraw and seclude him from the external world, during the period in which he pondered, and learned to understand, the decisive event that had occurred; it furnished him with an opportunity to be alone with himself and with his God and Saviour. According to this view, his blindness was not a punishment, but much rather an aid to reflection and a gift of grace.—During these three days Paul neither ate nor drank any thing whatever. This fasting or bodily preparation, was not imposed by the law, but was altogether voluntary, and was dictated by an inward impulse; it was, consequently, strictly evangelical; it referred to the divine instruction and the message which he had been directed (Acts 9:6) to await. We are informed in Acts 9:11, that prayer was, in this case, combined with fasting.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See below, Acts 9:10-44.9.19 a.
Acts 9:3; Acts 9:3. In place of ἀπό [of the text. rec., after φῶς], A. B. C. G. [also Cod. Sin.] and subordinate manuscripts, as well as several ancient versions, exhibit ἐκ, which has, accordingly, been very properly preferred by Lach. and Tisch.; ἀπό is sustained only by E. H., and some minuscules. [Alf. retains ἀπό, and, with Meyer, regards έκ as a correction from Acts 22:6.—Tr.]
Acts 9:5; Acts 9:5. The words Ὁ δὲ κύριος ει̇͂πεν, of the text. rec. [but omitted in the Vulgate], are found only in G. H., and some minuscules; they occur in the Syriac version. In E. ει̇͂πεν is wanting; other manuscripts omit κύριος. A. B. C. and some other authorities have simply ὁ δέ, which is undoubtedly the genuine reading, but was afterwards unnecessarily enlarged by the addition of κύρ. ει̇͂πεν. [Alf., like Lach. and Tisch. regards the two words κύρ. ει̇͂π. as interpolated, and omits them.—Cod. Sin. reads: ὁ δὲ ει̇͂πεν.—Tr.]
Acts 9:5-44.9.6; Acts 9:5-44.9.6. It is remarkable that the following gloss, which Erasmus, and, after him, the Elzevirs [text. rec.] adopted, does not occur in a single Greek manuscript; it is not found in the [recently discovered] Codex Sinaiticus. It was inserted after διώκεις in these terms: σκληρόν σοι πρὸς κέντρα λακτίζειν Τρέμων τε καί θαμβῶν εἶπε Κύριε, τί με θέλεις ποιῆσαι; καὶ ὁ κύριος πρὸς .—E. alone has σκληρόν .. λακτίζειν, but omits the rest. The Vulgate, on the other hand, and some oriental versions [Syr.], as well as Theophylact and Oecumenius, exhibit this addition, which is evidently borrowed from the parallel passages, with an enlargement intended to improve the whole. The words σκληρόν ..λακτίζειν, are taken from Acts 26:14, while in Acts 22:10 the following occur: ει̇͂πον δέ. τί ποιήσω κύριε, whereas in all the manuscripts Acts 9:6 begins with ἀλλά [before ἀνάστηθι.—Stier and Theile’s N. T. encloses the whole passage in brackets; Alf. like Lach., Tisch., etc., omits the whole, as “the authority of the MSS. is decisive: it could hardly be stronger.”—Cod. Sin. omits the whole passage, i. e., σκληρόν … πρὸς αὐτόν, and reads: διώκεις· ἀλλὰ .—Tr.]
Acts 9:8; Acts 9:8. The great majority of MSS., and some versions and fathers read οὐδένα, which was adopted by the text. rec. Still, οὐδέν is to be preferred; it is supported by B. and Cod. Sin., and, especially, some ancient versions [Syr. Vulg. nihil]; besides, A. originally exhibited οὐδέν, which was afterwards changed to οὐδένα by another hand. It is, moreover, very probable that this correction was suggested by μηδένα of Acts 9:7. [This is also the view of Meyer, who terms the correction “mechanical,” and of Lach. Tisch., etc., while Alf. retains οὐδένα, and thinks that οὐδέν is the correction, intended “to render the description of the blindness more complete.”—Cod. Sin. exhibits οὐδέν in Tischendorf’s 4th. edition (Lipsiæ, 1863), but he remarks, p. LXVIII.): “super ν videtur α cœptum sed statim missum esse factum.”—Tr.]
C.—THE CONVERSION OF SAUL IS COMPLETED IN DAMASCUS THROUGH THE AGENCY OF ANANIAS
Acts 9:10-44.9.19 a
10And [But] there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision6, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord, 11And the Lord said unto him, Arise,7 and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire [seek] in the house of Judas for [om. for] one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold,he prayeth, 12And hath seen in a vision [om. in a vision]8 a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand9 on him, that he might receive his sight [might see again]. 13Then [But, δὲ] Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard10 by many of thisman, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on [invoke] thy name. 15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he [this man, οὗτος] is a chosen vessel [instrument] unto me, to bear my name before the [om. the] Gentiles, and kings, and thechildren of Israel: 16For I will shew him11 how great things [how much] he must suffer for my name’s sake. 17And [Then, δὲ] Ananias went his way [om. his way], and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that [who] appeared unto thee in the way as [in which, ᾗ] thou earnest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight [mightest see again], and be filledwith the Holy Ghost. 18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been [as it were] scales: and he received sight [saw again] forthwith [om. forthwith]12, and a arose, and was baptized. 19And when he had received meat [nourishment], he was strengthened.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Acts 9:10-44.9.12. a. And there was … Ananias.—The manner in which Ananias is here introduced, distinctly implies that., previously, he and Saul had not been personally acquainted with each other; it appears, at least, from Acts 9:13, that Ananias knew Saul only by report. The particular description of the latter as a native of Tarsus, and the word ὀνόματι appended to his name, conclusively show that Ananias did not know him personally. So, too, in Acts 9:12, the special mention of the name of Ananias, demonstrates that he was unknown to Saul. If the historian had not entertained this opinion, it would have been far more natural for him to have simply written σέ instead of ἄνδρα ὀνομ Ἀν. If some interpreters (Eichhorn and others) have assumed that the two men were not only personally acquainted, but also intimate friends, their opinion is not sustained by the faintest intimation of such a fact in the present section, and is indeed at variance with it [Acts 9:11-44.9.13]. Ananias was, as his pure Hebrew name (חֲנַנְיָה) already shows, a Judæo-Christian [Hananiah, often found in the O. Test., e. g., Ezra 10:28; Jeremiah 28:1; Daniel 1:6.—Tr.]. Luke here simply mentions him as a μαθητής τις without adding any particulars belonging to his personal history. He is subsequently described, in Acts 22:12 [by Paul himself] as εὐσεβὴς κατὰ τὸν νόμον, μαρτυρούμενος ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν κατοικούντων Ἰουδαίων; he was, accordingly, even after his conversion, zealous in leading a godly life according to the law, and was, on that account, held in the highest esteem by the Jewish population of Damascus.
b. To him said the Lord in a vision, etc.—The Lord who here appears, is not God the Father, but Jesus Christ; for Ananias describes, in Acts 9:14, the Christians as those who invoke the name of the Lord; in this language ὄνομά σου can only be understood as referring to Jesus, not to Jehovah, as distinguished from Jesus; the same remark applies to τὸ ὄνομά μου in Acts 9:15-44.9.16.—Whether the ὅδαμα, the vision, which was granted to Ananias, occurred when he was awake, or in a dream, cannot be determined from the passage before us; for the words ἀναστὰς πορεύθητι, Acts 9:11 [comp. Acts 8:20, a.], do not imply that Ananias was lying on a bed, but only that he was remaining quietly at home. He is directed to go forth, to proceed to a certain street, to enter a certain house, and there seek Saul, who is exactly described to him, and is engaged in prayer. The street was called Straight, without doubt in order to distinguish it from other streets in that ancient city, which were in most cases angulated and crooked. Wilson (“Lands of the Bible”) ascertained that there is still a street with this name in the city; oven the house of Judas is still pointed out in this street; but here the work of tradition is almost overdone. (Ewald: Apost. Zeitalter, 1858, p. 259, 2d ed.)
c. For, behold, he prayeth.—The Lord informs Ananias of the reason for selecting and sending him precisely at that time to Saul—because (γάρ) the latter was, at that moment, engaged in prayer, and, consequently, needed an answer to his petitions, or a fulfilment of his desires and prayers, and was also internally prepared to receive such an answer. Hence the commission is now given, and it is intrusted to Ananias, because Saul had already seen, in a vision, a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him. The vision had been previously granted to Saul, and hence he is even at this moment offering prayer (προσεύχεται, pres., εἶδεν—εἰςελθόντα καὶ ἐπιθέντα, aor.). The words ὅπως indicate to Ananias that Saul is at this time deprived of sight. But the revelation made by the Lord to Ananias is, without, doubt, presented in this narrative only in a summary manner, and not in a complete form; for we must necessarily assume that Jesus informed Ananias of his appearance to Saul on the way, and also of the future gift of the Holy Ghost to the latter through the laying on of hands of Ananias. [Comp. Acts 6:6; Acts 8:15-44.8.17]. Every doubt on this point is removed by the words occurring in Acts 9:17 : Ἰησοῦς ὁ ὀφθείς σοι ἐν τῃ ὁδῷ ᾖ ἤρχου, and πλησθῇς πνεύματος ἁγίου.
Acts 9:13-44.9.14. Then Ananias answered, etc.—As Moses, to whom Jehovah appeared in Horeb, and revealed his purpose to send him to Egypt (Exodus 3:11 ff.), and also Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6 ff.), were, respectively, unwilling to accept and execute the divine commission, so here, too, Ananias exhibits hesitation and timidity, which he expresses with childlike candor and simplicity. He is unhappily only too well acquainted with the name of Saul as that of an enemy of the disciples of Jesus. If he had heard ἀπὸ πολλῶν that this man was a persecutor; these persons from whom he received the information, were, without doubt, chiefly fugitives from Jerusalem, who had sought a place of refuge in Damascus. We learn, at the same time, from the expressions which he uses, that he is not himself a Christian who had fled from Jerusalem, since, in such a case, he would not refer to the fact as one which he had ascertained from other persons; he was, therefore, originally an inhabitant of Damascus. [“We know nothing concerning Ananias, except what we learn from St. Luke or from St. Paul.” Life, etc. of St. Paul, by Conyb. and Howson. I. 102. London, 1854. No reliance can be placed on the traditions concerning him, which have descended to our times.—Tr.]. But from what source did he obtain the information that Saul had been empowered by the chief priests (the plural, τῶν , probably denoting the actual high priest, with the ex-high priests, and the Sanhedrin) to arrest the Christians? It is quite possible that certain Christians in Jerusalem, who could not have remained in ignorance respecting Saul’s departure, the purpose of his journey, and the authority which he had received, communicated the facts to their acquaintances in Damascus, either by letters or through messengers, so that they might adopt the necessary precautions. As Saul had reached the city at least three days previously, the resident Christians could have easily become acquainted during that period with the nature of his errand. [“Perhaps—the object of Saul’s journey was divulged by his companions.” (J. A. Alexander, in loc.).—Thy saints.—“This is the first time that this afterwards well-known appellation occurs as applied to the believers in Christ.” (Alford). “This term—belongs to all who profess to be disciples, and does not distinguish one class of them as superior to others in point of excellence.” (Hackett). See below, Doctr and Eth. No. 4.—Tr.]
Acts 9:15-44.9.16. Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me, etc.—The Lord, in place of recalling, repeats the command, but, at the same time, calms the troubled mind of Ananias, by informing him that Saul will not only no longer inflict injury on the church, but that he has even been chosen by the Lord Himself for the work of promoting his honor and increasing the number of those who shall confess His saving name.—Σκεῦος ἐκλογῆς is a chosen vessel, instrument or organ [ἐκλογῆς, the Hebraizing Gen. of quality, Wine, § 34, 3. b]; Saul is appointed to bear [or, carry; “continuatur metaphora, nam vasis utimur ad portandum.” (Kuinoel, ad loc); τοῦ βαστάσαι, Gen. of design, Winer, § 44. 4. b. Tr.]. My name; that is to say, he shall, by word and deed, spread abroad the knowledge and confession of Jesus, as the Redeemer and Messiah.—There are three scenes of action among men to which Saul is appointed to carry the name of Jesus: 1. ἔθνη, which word, as the υἱοὶ Ἰσραήλ are afterwards expressly distinguished from them, can only be understood as denoting pagans, and not nations in general; 2. βασιλεῖς, reigning lords, princely persons [Herod Agrippa, Acts 26:0. and probably Nero (de Wette; Alf.)—Tr.]; 3. υἱοὶ Ἰσραήλ. The mention of the ἔθνη precedes that of Israel, in order to imply that Saul’s vocation as a witness primarily refers to the Gentile world, where his field of labour would be found; Israel is not excluded from the sphere of his operations, but receives attention only in the second place. Saul is already, in these words of the Lord, distinctly described as the apostle of the Gentiles, and it is simply the name of apostle that is not expressly given to him.—The language in Acts 9:16, does not, as we might at first expect [from the introductory γάρ], explain the reason for which Saul is a chosen instrument (Meyer), but rather the reason for which the command (πορεύου) is issued; the sense is: ‘Go, for (ye have nothing to fear from him; ye will not suffer aught through his agency; on the contrary) I will show him how much he must suffer in his own person for my name’s sake.’ The term ὑποδείξω does not refer to a prophetic revelation (de Wette), but to a showing by means of events in the actual experience of Saul.—The terms: ὅσα δεῖ αὐτὸν παθεῖν, are, in their form, apparently an allusion to those which Ananias had employed in Acts 9:13 : ὅσα κακὰ ἐποίησε τοῖς ἁγίοις σου.
Acts 9:17. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house.—Ananias immediately obeys, and proceeds to the designated house (ἀπῆλθε—καὶ εἰζῆλθεν). The manner in which he addressed Saul (Σαοὺλ ) does not refer exclusively, nor even primarily to their common nationality as Israelites, but to the connection or fellowship now existing between them for Christ’s sake, of which the former had already been assured by the words of the Lord. He speaks to Saul, who is so deeply humbled, with all the tenderness of love, inspires him with confidence, and consoles him as a messenger of the Lord who is empowered to restore his sight, and impart the gift of the Holy Ghost. He does not appear to have at once communicated to Saul the information which he had himself, (when he expressed his fears,) received from Christ in a vision for his own personal encouragement, Acts 9:15-44.9.16; and here he acted with propriety and true Christian prudence, for, as Bengel expresses himself: Sauli non erat scire, quanti ipse jam esset. [This remark, however, scarcely seems to be sustained by Paul’s report of the address of Ananias, Acts 22:15,—Tr.]
Acts 9:18-44.9.19 a. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales.—This statement can hardly mean that a scaly substance had actually been separated from Saul’s eye-balls (Bengel and Meyer); it rather seems to describe merely a certain sensation which he experienced at the moment, that is, he felt as if something resembling scales fell from his eyes, after which he could see again; and this change occurred suddenly, after Ananias had laid his hands on him. [The original word, λεπίς, applied in Leviticus 11:9-3.11.10 Sept. (Robinson’s Lex.) to the scales of a fish, may also be “applied to egg-shells, and the rind or bark of plants, and even to metallic flakes or laminæ.” (Alexander, ad loc.)—Tr.]. Every unprejudiced reader can readily perceive from the whole tenor of the narrative, and also from the word εὐθέως, that Luke here intends to describe a miraculous event, proceeding from a supernatural power.—Saul at once received baptism from Ananias. And here ἀναστάς does not imply that the former had been lying on a bed, but rather that he was kneeling, and had continued in the attitude of prayer. However, it is the most probable supposition of all, that this word is merely intended to depict Saul’s rapid transition from a state in which he was occupied with his internal experience, and in which he was only a recipient, to a personal and energetic course of action. He was probably baptized in one of the rivers [of Syria] which Naaman had extolled in his day [2 Kings 5:12],. the Abana [marg. Amana] or Pharpar. [The identity of certain streams in the vicinity of the modern Damascus with those of which Naaman spoke, is not fully established (Herzog: Real-Encyk. III. 261; XV. 393; O. Thenius: Die Bücher d. Könige, ad loc. p. 286 f; Robinson’s Gesenius: Hebr. and Engl. Lex. 3d. ed. p. 868 f.); nor is there any indication in the present passage that a sufficient quantity of water to fill a bowl or other vessel, as well as the food mentioned in Acts 9:19, could not be obtained without departing from the house.—Tr.]. Saul discontinued his fast after he had been baptized, and partook of food, so that he rapidly regained his strength (ἐνίσχυσεν [intrans. as in Genesis 48:2. (de Wette)—Tr.]; the aorist is purposely employed, instead of the imperfect [see above, Acts 8:15-44.8.17, ult.]; the word is also applied to convalescents). It accordingly seems that in consequence of the heavenly appearance, which so powerfully affected Saul, as well as of his fast, which continued three days, and of his internal struggles, his bodily strength had, previously, been very greatly impaired.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. He who is, strictly speaking, the true author of all that is described in this section, is none other than Christ himself the exalted and reigning Lord of the kingdom. Ananias is only a messenger, commissioned and sent to declare and to perform that with which he is charged. It is Jesus Christ who “worketh both to will and to do”—who influences and acts. Both at the time when Saul was so completely overwhelmed, and when his conversion originally began, and also now, when that conversion advances and is completed, the heavenly Redeemer himself appears personally and is really engaged in action. He directs Ananias, in a vision, to proceed to Saul, who is likewise instructed in a vision to receive the former, Acts 9:10; Acts 9:12. Saul had been awakened by means of an extraordinary and miraculous appearance—his conversion is now completed by an extraordinary revelation. He was called and inducted into office by the Lord himself, not by men; to this important and decisive fact Paul continually-appeals with a perfect right and with entire truth.
2. But Christ revealed himself immediately [without intervening agents] to Saul in the vicinity of Damascus, when he appeared in the light, and addressed the latter; in the city he spoke with him and influenced him only mediately, i. e., through Ananias. That which was at the beginning altogether a supernatural operation, was intended, ultimately, to proceed by degrees in the natural, divine-human course; this transition is seen in the communication to Saul and his restoration to sight through the intervention of a man. It was, at the same time, the will of the Lord, who arrested Saul in his persecuting course and revealed himself, that the latter should become associated with the church, that is, be implanted in the body of Christ. For this purpose the Redeemer employed one of his disciples in the name of all; that disciple served him in word and deed—imposing his hands, baptizing, and declaring the word.
3. Ananias is not an apostle, but “a disciple,” that is, simply a member of the church, not intrusted either with the ministerial, or with any other congregational office. That precisely such a man came to Saul, was most wisely ordered. If an apostle like Peter had been sent to him, not only might he have been tempted to yield to a feeling of pride, but he would also have thus become dependent on human authority; his apostolical office and labors would have been so constituted as to depend on the other disciples, whereas it was specially designed that he should labor in an independent manner. On this latter fact, indeed, Paul often lays a stress when he maintains that he was an ἀπόστολος οὐκ ʼ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ διʼ ἀνθρώπων, αλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Galatians 1:1, and elsewhere.
4. It is an important christological point that when Ananias answers, he terms the disciples of Jesus not only οἱ ἐπικαλούμενοι τὸ ὄνομά σου, Acts 9:14, but also οἱ ἅγιοί σου, Acts 9:13. In the Septuagint, and here, also, ἐπικαλεῖσθαι [Mid.] ὄνομα is the Greek phrase for קָרָא בְשֵׁם [thus defined in Robinson’s Gesenius: Hebr. Lex. 938 and Acts 1067: to call upon the name (of God), to invoke his name, i.e., to praise, to celebrate, to worship God, Genesis 4:26; Genesis 12:8; Psalms 79:6, etc.—Tr.]. Here the fact is stated as one well known, that the Christians call on Jesus, or, address prayers to him, as the Israelite of the old covenant addressed Jehovah, the covenantal God. And when Ananias describes the Christians as the “saints” of the Lord Jesus, he again employs an expression which, in the old covenant, could have reference to Jehovah alone. If Christ has his saints, the statement itself of the fact ascribes divine honor to him. The Christians are, according to this view, men who are intimately and essentially united with Christ as a divine Person, and, as he is holy, they are also consecrated by their communion with him. [“Τοῖς ἁγίοις σου, the saints who belong to thee, i. e., the Christians; for these have, through the atonement, when appropriated to themselves through faith (comp. Romans 1:7), been separated from the κόσμος, and have become consecrated to God; they belong to Christ, who purchased them with his blood, (Acts 20:28),” (Meyer, ad loc.—Tr.]. Hence, both conceptions, οἱ ἐπικαλούμενοι τόν κύριον, and οἱ ἅγιοι αὐτοῦ, are of such a nature as to indicate the deity of Christ.
5. The imposition of hands is described in Acts 8:17 ff. as the means by which the Spirit was communicated, while here, Acts 9:12, the act is more immediately mentioned as the means by which Saul’s sight was to be restored. It distinctly appears, however, from Acts 9:17, that the gift of the Holy Ghost was likewise to be imparted through the imposition of hands. And, indeed, the very nature of the action, which is, primarily, corporeal, but also spiritual, adapts it fully to exercise not only spiritual, but also corporeal influences. It is also worthy of remark, that Ananias, who is simply a Christian, performs the act of the imposition of hands, and is the agent through whom I the gift of the Holy Ghost is imparted. Hence this function does not belong absolutely and exclusively to the sacred office, still less to the apostolic rank. It is God, not man, who imparts the Holy Spirit: he bestows that gift on any individual and in any manner, according to his own will. He is dependent on no human instrumentality or ecclesiastical office; but here, too, acts with a freedom which is absolute and unconditional.
6. It was not till Saul received Baptism, that the work of his conversion was completed, or his regeneration and implantation into Christ were accomplished. The question here arises: In what relation does the baptism with the Spirit stand to the baptism with water? It is not stated in the present passage in express terms that Saul was actually filled with the Holy Ghost either before or after his baptism with water; and the particular circumstance that his bodily restoration is noticed, but not the fact that he was filled with the Holy Ghost, is a matter of surprise to de Wette. [The latter adds, however, in his Commentary (3d ed. 1848) that the fact that the imposition of the hands of Ananias was followed by Saul’s being filled with the Holy Ghost, is subsequently demonstrated.—Tr.]. But the whole context necessarily leads us to assume that Saul was as certainly filled with the Holy Ghost, as he was restored to sight immediately, as the consequence of the imposition of the hands of Ananias. For the latter, who, in Acts 9:17, repeats the words of Jesus, mentions both events as coördinate, and as constituting the purpose of his mission. But if the corporeal gift followed εὐθέως, Acts 9:18, we must assume that the spiritual gift also attended the imposition of hands. If this view is correct, the baptism with the Spirit preceded that with water. Even if such was not the usual course, (comp. Acts 2:33), nevertheless, all that God does, constitutes a higher rule and ordinance; we are not permitted to suppose that God is subjected to any special order, although we are bound by it. The same principles apply lo baptismal instructions: none were imparted by Ananias to Saul, although they should never be omitted in the cases of proselytes. In the present case, however, any special preparations for the baptism were, in reality, superfluous, for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ had been already wrought by Him in Saul. Erasmus declares the truth, when he says in his Paraphrase: Paulus Jesum habuerat catechistam.
7. Saul is called to be the apostle of the Gentiles. He does not receive the title of apostle in the present section, it is true, and, indeed, it is only once applied to him in the Acts, and then, in conjunction with Barnabas, Acts 14:14. Still, his vocation as the apostle of the Gentiles is distinctly and unmistakably described in Acts 9:15. Ananias had doubtless already informed him that the Lord had appointed him to carry His name to the Gentiles. For Paul himself connects, in Galatians 1:15-48.1.16, the purpose of God that he should preach the Gospel “among the heathen,” in the most intimate manner with his own call and conversion. And in Acts 26:16 f., he tells Herod Agrippa that he had, at the beginning, been informed of his mission to the Gentiles: it is, at the same time, true, that he here reports the information, (which was no doubt communicated to him by Ananias,) as having been embodied in the direct address of Jesus. His call to be the apostle of the Gentiles coincided in time with the completion of his conversion; that call did not restrict him to the heathen world, but preëminently referred to it. In this respect Paul does not occupy precisely the same grade with the original apostles, as if he were the thirteenth, or even the twelfth (as some suppose), occupying the place of Judas Iscariot, in so far as the choice of Matthias is assumed to have been premature, and not valid in the eyes of God. They were more immediately the apostles of Israel; he was more immediately the apostle of the Gentiles. But in apostolical primitiveness and dignity, he is not subordinate to them. They were directly chosen, called, and invested with their office by Jesus; so, too, was Paul. The only difference is, that the former were called by the Redeemer in his state of humiliation, while He called Paul in His state of exaltation. The former were appointed to bear witness concerning Jesus Christ, as men who had both seen and heard. Such, too, was Paul’s duty (comp. Acts 22:15, ἔσῃ μάρτυς αὐτῷ πρὸς πάντας ; Acts 26:16, εἰς τοῦτο ὤφθην σοι προχειρίσασθαί σε—μάρτυρα ὦν τε εἶδες ὦν τε ὀφθήσομαί σοι.). In order to maintain the independence and reality of his apostolical rank, he himself always speaks in the most emphatic terms of the circumstance that he had been called by God, not by men, and, directly, through Jesus Christ, not through men, e. g., Galatians 1:1 [see above, No. 3, ult.].
8. The entire narrative of the conversion of Saul.—In what light are we to view it? It is well known that some have considered it to be the description of a merely ordinary occurrence, while others have rejected it as an unhistorical and highly colored legend; both opinions originally assume the impossibility of a miracle in general, that is, of a direct interposition of God in nature and history. Both opinions alike originate in Naturalism [which word, here, in general denotes those theories according to which God reveals himself only mediately or naturally, and not in an immediate or supernatural manner.—Tr.]; it is only when these opinions are more fully developed, that they are found to proceed in different directions. The adherents of the former give such an interpretation to the narrative presented in the Bible, that it is at last divested of every miraculous feature, and simply refers to an occurrence conforming to the ordinary course of nature. Those of the latter, who are influenced by the truth in so far that they recognize in the scriptural narrative an intention to exhibit miraculous circumstances, nevertheless allege that it has been embellished, that is to say, disfigured by legendary and traditional additions. The natural interpretation (the supporters of which are named by Meyer [p. 202, 3d ed.]) in general assumes that a thunder-storm and certain processes in the soul of Saul, are the principal facts. His thoughts were all absorbed by Christ and his church; he had received certain impressions at the death of Stephen, etc. In this excited state of mind, he imagined that, in the flash of lightning, he beheld the appearance of Jesus, and, amid the rolling thunder, heard his words. He was thereupon altogether won for Christianity by Ananias, with whom he had been previously well acquainted, and by whom his sight, which had been affected by the dazzling light, was restored. With this statement, in its essential features, the conjecture recently proposed by Ewald (Ap. Zeital. 1858, p. 343 ff.) agrees, viz., that a not and deadly wind had thrown Saul and all his travelling companions with irresistible force to the ground—that, at the same time, stormy emotions raged in his heart, insomuch that in the appearance which was visible in the air, he saw Christ descending from heaven and assailing him—that, as he lay on the ground, he heard the threatening words of the Heavenly One, etc. But all these representations have two features in common: 1. All the natural states and occurrences, both in the soul of Saul and in the external world, must first be invented, and even then the narrative before us does not present a single point of contact at which they can be combined with it. 2. The vital point of the whole event, namely, the reality of an appearance of the glorified Redeemer, of which the Bible here, and in the parallel passages, bears witness positively, unmistakably, and harmoniously, must be denied, or at least be silently set aside. With respect to the former of these two features, there is no intimation in the words of Luke [in the three parallel passages,] Acts 9:0.; Acts 22:0.; Acts 26:0., that thunder and lightning, a thunder-storm, or a simoom, had occurred. So, too, it is assumed that doubts had already arisen in the soul of Saul, before the appearance near Damascus was seen, and that his conscience was engaged in a violent struggle, occasioned by observations which he had made in the cases of Stephen and other Christians whom he had persecuted. But not the least trace of such a state of mind can be found in the several narratives: we are, on the contrary, most distinctly informed that Saul’s fanaticism retained all its violence, and that his views and sentiments were by no means changed; but that the appearance had suddenly arrested his steps, taught him to reflect, and turned him from his course. With this statement every remark will be found to harmonize, which Paul himself makes in his Epistles, respecting his conversion and the previous state of his mind. Besides, the whole character of the man, who at all times unhesitatingly and invariably acted in accordance with his convictions, forbids, already at the outset, the assumption of vacillation on his part, or unsteadiness of purpose.—With respect to the latter feature, the reality of the (objective) appearance of Christ is represented as the main point in the whole occurrence, not only in the Acts, but also in Paul’s own Epistles, whenever the fact of his conversion is mentioned. Now, the attempt to explain the entire transformation of this man, which is historically established, and, at the same time, to set aside the appearance of Christ, as if it had not actually occurred, not only does violence to the testimonies before us, but would also rob one of the greatest and most momentous events that ever occurred, of its historical basis, and involve the whole transaction in a deeper mystery than that which attends the miracle itself. Is it conceivable that the actual appearance of Christ near Damascus, on which (in addition to the transactions that immediately succeeded in the city) the conversion of Paul, all his vast labors, his sufferings, too, for Christ’s sake, and his whole doctrinal system, essentially depend, should have been a mere vagary of his fancy, that is, a fanatical self-delusion and an empty conceit? And how could Paul have acquired such influence, or have been so fully recognized by the other apostles and the whole church, not simply as a converted Christian, but as a commissioner of Christ, as an apostle, (all which is undeniably true), if his call to the apostolic office had not been, objectively, an established and undoubted fact? Insurmountable difficulties meet us at every step, when we discard the evidences before us, deny the reality of the appearance of the exalted Christ, and attempt to invent and support a different course of events for which no proof is adduced. The conversion of Paul and his call to be the apostle of the Gentiles, cannot possibly be made intelligible, when they are represented to be exclusively the natural development of his original character and recent experience. But the whole transaction becomes clear when we view the transformation that occurred in Saul, as the result of the miraculous interposition of God in the paths of the human spirit, and in the operations of the powers of nature, namely, of a real appearance of the exalted Redeemer, or one which the senses could perceive. We cannot, with some writers, find a positive preparation for this momentous event, but we do find the condition on which both the possibility of its occurrence, and Saul’s susceptibility in reference to it, depended, in the following two circumstances: first, the original tendencies of his moral nature, in so far as he possessed sincerity of heart, decision of the will, honesty and fidelity to his convictions, and the fear of God; secondly, the preliminary knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth and the church, which he had obtained.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Acts 9:1. And Saul, yet breathing out, etc.—God often permits men to proceed as far as their feelings will lead them, in order to show the great depth from which he can extricate them. (Quesn.).—The Lord our God is an artificer who takes pleasure only in performing a very difficult work, or one that is not of a trivial character; and he most of all delights to work on the raw material. He has, therefore, at all times preferred very hard wood and very hard stones and then the masterpieces which he produces, exhibit his great skill. (Luther).
Acts 9:2. And desired of him letters.—Letters and documents, and the services which they can render even at a distance, have often extended the blessings which the kingdom of God imparts. But Satan has availed himself of the same means for scattering his seed and communicating his spirit. (K. H. Rieger).—That … he might bring them bound.—A false religion is bloodthirsty; the true church suffers persecution. (Starke).
Acts 9:3. He came near Damascus.—Then came his hour; for no heart is so hard, even if it were like granite or adamant, that it could, under such circumstances, resist without breaking. (Luther).—No apparition is ever seen at mid-day (Acts 22:6); hence it was not possible that Saul should be misled by his imagination. (Williger).—In our greatest need, divine aid is nearest at hand; demonstrated, I. In the case of Saul; when the power of sin had reached its height, the Lord saved him; II. In the case of the Christians of Damascus; when the enemy was already at the gate, the Lord said: “Hitherto—but no further.” [Job 38:11].—Suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.—It was different from the “glory of the Lord” which “shone round about” the shepherds in the field near Bethlehem; still, it was essentially the same. Here, too, Christ was born in the darkness of a benighted heart.—Even yet a twofold light streams from heaven into the heart, when a sinner is converted: I. The alarming gleam of the divine law; II. The cheering light of evangelical grace.
Acts 9:4. And he fell to the earth.—We, who are by nature haughty and proud, cannot receive aid, until we fall to the ground. (Starke).—Saul, Saul!—The repeated and impressive mention of the name (as Abraham, Abraham! Genesis 22:11; Samuel, Samuel! 1 Samuel 3:10; Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Matthew 23:37; Simon, Simon! Luke 22:31), admonishes Saul to reflect, I. On the perverseness of his heart. “This loud and emphatic mention of his name, was, perhaps, intended to give a distinct impression to Saul of Tarsus, who was a Benjamite as well as Saul, the son of Kish, of his resemblance in nature and character to the rejected king of Israel. For as the latter went forth, impelled by the evil spirit, in order to seize and slay Israel’s anointed one, so the former, overflowing with a deadly zeal, proceeded on his way with his retinue, in order to persecute Christ, the Anointed One, in his members, and to consign these to death.” (Baumgarten). II. On the Lord’s gracious purpose with respect to himself. “Saul” signifies: “Asked for (of God).” Now Jesus here redemands Saul, as one that had been asked of God, and was His property, so that the words are applicable: “He shall have the strong as a prey” [Isaiah 53:12, Germ, version.].—Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?—Jesus is far above all the heavens, but his feet are on the earth: the head is in heaven, the body on earth. Now when Saul struck and trod on the feet, the head exclaimed: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (Augustine).—Thus God seizes Saul in his sins, and charges him with having shed the blood of His Christians, insomuch that it would not have been strange if Saul had fallen down dead on the spot; for the man will find little consolation whose heart and mind suddenly and with affright become conscious of the guilt of having persecuted God. (Luther).—Saul … me?—Saul persecuted Jesus, and Jesus persecuted him. Saul persecuted Jesus in madness, and sought to extirpate His name, His word, and His church; Jesus persecuted him in grace, and called to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? He seemed to say: What have I done unto thee? How have I injured thee, that thou so relentlessly persecutest and afflictest me in my members? Behold, how easily I could destroy thee, and, with a single thunderbolt, cast thee into hell! But I will not recompense thee according to thy desert. I, whom thou hast hitherto hated, have loved thee, too, from eternity; I have shed my blood even for thee, although thou hast thirsted for the blood of my saints.—The apostle’s own language is: “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12); [κατελήφθην, caught and seized in the course, (Wiesinger); held fast (Schenkel); laid hold of. (Robinson).—Tr.]. When I least of all thought of it—he says—and, like a madman, was hastening to hell, my most precious Redeemer seized me, and plucked me as a brand out of the fire. [Zechariah 3:2]. “Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” 1 Timothy 1:16. (Scriver).—With what terror Saul must have heard the words pronounced: Why persecutest thou me?! He had, in his whole course, intended to promote the honor of Jehovah, and may have expected to receive the approbation of heaven. But, behold, his works are pronounced accursed, and his zeal for God is termed a persecution of Jehovah. And this is the sentence of the Lord himself, whose voice from heaven reveals to Saul that He speaks. (Leonh. and Sp.).
Acts 9:5. Who art thou, Lord?—When Saul asks this question, he takes a step forward; he inquires after God. He submitted to the dispensation which hedged up his way with thorns [Hosea 2:6], and, at least, offered no resistance. Many of you have reached the same point in your inner life. The piercing tones of this call have reached you also. They awaken you in the morning, and disturb you in the evening; they attend you on your journeys, and imbitter your dreams. You feel a sting within you, from which you cannot escape; your whole life is pervaded by a deep sense of distress, which you cannot yourselves explain. You have an indistinct consciousness that our salvation depends in a certain mysterious manner on Christ, but you feel that you are still separated from this Saviour.—Ask, I beseech you, ask, at least: ‘Who art thou, Lord?’ Ask in prayer, search the Scriptures, and the Lord will reveal himself to you. (Jaspis).—I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.—A light here dawned on Saul that terrified him; he learned, I. With respect to the Lord Jesus: (a) that he lives, and is exalted in heaven; (b) that he dwells with his people on earth, and regards their sufferings as his own. II. With respect to himself: (a) that he had, in his sinful delusion, striven with God; (b) that he had, for that reason, labored in vain.—Saul … persecutest.—The law and the Gospel are combined in this address of the Lord; I. In the question: “Why persecutest thou me?” the law is proclaimed, convincing Saul of his sin. II. In the declaration: “I am Jesus,” the Gospel is proclaimed, in so far as the Lord therein reveals and offers himself to Saul, as the Redeemer of the world, and, consequently, also as his own Redeemer.—I am Jesus.—We can partially understand how precious this name of Jesus was to the converted Saul through his whole life, if we, too, have ever been conscious in our experience of an hour in which the heart was so moved by the words: “I am Jesus,” that we saw both that our sin abounded, and also that His grace did much more abound. (Besser).—It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.—[For Exeg. see below, Acts 26:12-44.26.14.—Tr.]. Did the Lord then compel him to retire from the course on which he had entered? By no means; for almighty grace does not take hold of us in opposition to our will, but it is precisely our will that takes hold of grace, so that we joyfully and unconditionally submit to it, having now distinctly seen the way of salvation. (Palmer).—It is hard, etc.—These words warn men not to resist the power which rules the world: I. The manner in which the warning was given to Saul; by means of an external, miraculous occurrence, it is true, but at the same time, not without deep internal impressions which directed him to the way of truth. II. The purport and intention of the warning; not that he should yield to an external, compulsory power, in opposition to his convictions, but, first, that he should become convinced of the folly of supposing that God designed to bestow salvation solely on the people of Israel, and not on all, and should no longer be controlled by such a prejudice; secondly, that he should not resist the impulse to diffuse among others the light which had dawned on him, that is, should obey his vocation to be the apostle of the Gentiles. (Schleierm.).—It is hard for thee.—Who may place his naked feet on burning coals, or attempt to break the diamond with a blow of his hand? These words, however, do not merely describe the fruitlessness of any human effort to repel the goad of divine wrath, but also exhibit all the riches of divine mercy and, grace; for it is, in truth, very difficult, to extinguish the burning coals of God’s love to his enemies, by adopting the resolution: “I will not be converted.” (Besser).
Acts 9:6. And he trembling and astonished, said.—The terror which filled the soul of Paul at this moment, furnished him also, in a brief period, with that experience which the other disciples acquired during the several years of their continuance with Jesus in his temptations. [Luke 22:28]. (Rieger).—The roaring lion is now converted into a patient lamb; the breathing out of threatenings has given place to trembling and astonishment. Saul is now changed into Paul, that is, little [παῦλος, (not found, in this sense, in the N. T.), equivalent to παῦρος, small, inconsiderable. (Passow).—Tr.], and must confess: “O Lord, thou hast persuaded [Germ, version; see Robinson’s, Gesenius, p. 875, Piel. 1.—Tr.] me, and I was persuaded; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed.” Jeremiah 20:7. His trembling and astonishment were signs of contrition and penitence, but the birth of faith also occurred amid these legal terrors, for he immediately terms that Jesus whom he had persecuted, his “Lord,” whose will should henceforth control his life. (Leonh. and Sp.).—The Christian’s two vital questions: they refer, I. To the knowledge of God: “Who art thou, Lord?”; II. To his will: “Lord; what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).—Go into the city and it shall be told thee, etc.—Paul received his apostolical dignity and the necessary qualifications afterwards, from the Lord himself, but it was ordered that he should become a Christian in the ordinary way, i.e., by the ministry of others. (Rieger).—Although God speaks with Paul from heaven, he is not willing to abolish the ministerial office, nor adopt an unusual course in favor of any one; he directs all to the pulpit or the pastor in the town:. they are told to hear and learn there all that is to be learned. The Lord our God will employ special and singular means in no case, but bestows his baptism and Gospel on the whole world, on the one as well as on the other. (Luther).
Acts 9:7. And the men which journeyed with him.—It was so ordered that Saul’s associates in sin, should be the witnesses of his change; it was fitting that the conversion of a man, whose excessive enmity against Christ had gleamed far and wide like a burning torch, should occur, not in a retired chamber, but in public, in the presence of many witnesses. (Leonh. and Sp.).—Stood speechless.—Behold the effect of the Gospel! All hear it, but few understand it with their heart. (Starke).—The conversion of Paul, a mirror in which every converted heart may be seen: it reveals, I. The zeal and great aim of the natural heart, but also the Lord’s voice: “Why persecutest thou me?” II. The question of the defiant heart: “Who art thou?” but also the Lord’s reply: “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” III. The question of the humbled heart: “What wilt thou have me to do?” but also the Lord’s reply: “Repent, and believe in in me.” (Florey).
Acts 9:8. And Saul arose from the earth.—A genuine conversion implies not only distress of mind and good resolutions, but also active obedience. (Starke).—He saw no man: but they led him by the hand.—All the features of the external miracle are images of those which the conversion of his heart exhibit. This man, who attempted to guide all others, before God cast him to the ground, now needs a guide himself. Others lead him like a child; his natural strength is gone, and he Willingly submits to their guidance. The false light in his soul is extinguished, and, in the darkness which envelops him, he ardently longs to see the true light. (Gerlach).—And brought him into Damascus.—He had not expected to enter the city in this manner. He had intended to bind the Christians, and then lead them forth out of Damascus, but now the Lord leads him as one bound, into the city. (Starke).
Acts 9:9. And he was three days without sight.—This blindness was intended to prove a blessing, by aiding him in surveying in his soul with deep attention that Saviour who had revealed himself, and in acquiring a spiritual knowledge of him. Jesus was revealed in glory in his heart, and hence he was not allowed to see the men and the vain objects around him. (Ap. Past.).—We must become hungry, before we are satisfied with food; and blind before we can see. (Starke).—These three days were a blessed period, well suited for collecting the thoughts. We often devote days and weeks to our preparations for a journey to medicinal springs, or for a visit to our friends, and neglect the duties which our office or household imposes. But who has at any time devoted three successive, days to self-examination and to the healing of the soul? (Rieger).—The eunuch, the keeper of the prison, Cornelius, etc., were not subjected to such a long delay. But God deemed it wise to wait in the case of. Paul, in order to deliver him effectually from his pharisaical pride and his deep-rooted hatred of the cross of Christ. (Ap. Past.).—During these three days Paul wrestled with God like Jacob; he has himself described that struggle in Romans 7:7-45.7.25. (Leonh. and Sp.).—The inner man, buried during three days: I. Old things pass away [2 Corinthians 5:17] entirely during this period: the old light is extinguished; the old enjoyments no longer satisfy; the old vigor is impaired; the old friends have disappeared. II. All things are peacefully becoming new: a new light is enkindled in the soul; a new salvation begins to dawn; a new vocation infuses new strength; new friends are at hand.
Acts 9:10. And there was a certain disciple … named Ananias.—Saul was only apparently forgotten during the three days of his blindness. The faithful shepherd does not for one moment neglect the sheep that is found again, but has already provided abundantly for its wants. Even after this truly miraculous conversion of Saul, he is directed by the Lord to proceed in the ordinary path of the means of grace, in accordance with the appointed order of salvation.—Ananias was not a distinguished teacher, but simply “a disciple.” The blessing which attends the pastoral office does not depend on the brilliant talents and the high rank, but only on the fidelity, of the servant. [1 Corinthians 4:2], The selection of Ananias, was, moreover, wisely made, in reference to Saul. It was intended that the learned Pharisee [ch. Acts 22:3; Acts 23:6; Acts 26:5] should be humbled by receiving an unlearned Christian as his teacher. If Peter or any other eminent apostle had been sent to him, he might have, on the one hand, become proud, and, on the other, have seemed to depend on human authority. (Ap. Past.). [See above, Doctr. and Eth. No. 3.]
Acts 9:11. Go into the street which is called Straight.—Go! the brief but expressive word of the Lord in addressing his servants: I. It demands implicit obedience; II. It puts the doubts of a weak faith to shame; III. It contains a promise of the Lord’s aid and blessing. (Comp. Acts 9:15).—The street which is called Straight.—God is well acquainted with every street, every nook, every obscure spot; he knows all that occurs in them, all the occupants, yea, all their thoughts. (Starke).—Behold, he prayeth: a very beautiful saying respecting a converted sinner. I. It is descriptive of the state of his heart; (a) he prays—then he no longer blasphemes Jesus, but, as an humble supplicant, entreats the Lord whom he had previously persecuted; (b) he prays—then he is no longer a persecutor of the Christians, but has cast away the sword, and folds his unarmed hands in peace. II. It attracts loving hearts to him; (a) the Lord himself looks down with love from “the high and holy place” [Isaiah 57:15] on the contrite heart, that humbly addresses him in prayer; (b) it becomes the duty of the Church of the Lord to approach him with tender pity, and no longer consider him as a dangerous and lost man, of whom it is once said, Behold, he prayeth!
Acts 9:12. And hath seen in a vision a man.—Why does the Lord adopt so many extraordinary means in the case of Saul, namely, visions and direct revelations? I. On account of his future apostolic office, that he might be able to say: “I have received of the Lord, etc.” [1 Corinthians 11:23]. II. On account of his previous pharisaical mode of thought, that he might understand that grace is not produced by man’s own powers of reason, or by carnal learning.—Hath seen a man … coming in, and putting his hand on him.—It seems then that the ordinary means of grace continued to be of primary importance. Even when the individual’s experience is of a peculiar nature, it is always necessary that he should be directed to the word and the ministry, Christ himself says to the ten lepers who were miraculously healed: Go shew yourselves unto the priests. [Luke 17:14]. (Ap. Past.).
Acts 9:13-44.9.14. Ananias answered, etc.—His hesitation arose partly from human infirmity, from which even saints are not free, and partly from a laudable caution; for we should not trust that which professes to be an extraordinary revelation, without proving it. (From Starke).
Acts 9:15. Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me.—Go, (comp. Acts 9:11.)—He is, etc.—The mystery of the divine election of grace was publicly magnified by the preaching of the apostle Paul; for he. is himself a glorious illustration of the power of free grace in the hearts of lost sinners. (Besser).—The words: He is, etc., a glorious description of the evangelical ministry: I. The divine authority by which it is sustained: “He is a chosen vessel unto me”; II. The heavenly blessing which it confers: “To bear my name:” III. The wide sphere of action assigned to it: “Before the Gentiles … Israel.” (The external or internal position of no man is so exalted, or so lowly, that the ministry has not received a message for him).—He is, etc.—Behold the wonderful power of divine grace! It converts the ravening wolf, first of all, into a peaceful lamb, and then even into a faithful shepherd. It first breaks off the point of the persecutor’s menacing spear, and then converts the latter into the shepherd’s protecting crook.
Acts 9:16. . I will shew him how great things he must suffer.—Ananias is merely the messenger; the Lord himself will do the rest. The former proclaims the grace of God to Saul; Jesus will qualify him for his office, and show him the way wherein he should go. He will, moreover, reveal to Saul the purpose of the sufferings which await him, and will fill his heart with the courage of faith, and with joy. (Ap. Past.).—How great things he must suffer.—The more abundantly God grants his grace to a soul, the greater are the afflictions which he sends. (Starke).
Acts 9:17. Ananias went … and putting his hands on him, said.—How well it is when a teacher follows the directions of the Lord with simplicity of heart! Ananias finds all, even as the Lord has said—the house indicated to him—Saul, to whom he was sent—the work assigned to him—the result which was promised. (From Ap. Past.).—Brother Saul, etc.—The address of Ananias, a model of pastoral wisdom: “Brother”; behold the gentleness of love with which a bruised heart should be approached. “The Lord—hath sent me;” behold how he points heavenward, whence alone the salvation and help of the penitent sinner can come. “That [who] appeared unto thee”; behold the cheering reference to the beginning of the work of grace which had already been made. “In the way as thou earnest”; a gentle reference to his former sinful way. “That thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost”; a consolatory statement of the glorious purpose of God’s gracious work.
Acts 9:18. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales.—Many souls that wander from one celebrated pulpit orator to another, in order to obtain an assurance of salvation, would have often come to the light by resorting to a devout layman. (Williger).—The sinner is enlightened when the scales of his own vain imagination are taken away from his mind by the Holy Spirit, through the word and prayer, and when the light of heaven streams into his soul. (Starke).—What progress a soul can make in a few brief days, if it is willing to obey grace implicitly! (Ap. Past.).—Arose, and was baptized, etc.—The restoration of Saul’s sight was not the main purpose for which Ananias came; it was merely the forerunner or earnest of that salvation which was to be imparted to him through Baptism. (Leonh. and Sp.).—Ananias rightly regarded any instructions and any preparations for the baptism as superfluous. [See Doctr. and Eth. above, No. 6. ult.]. Such a provision for the proper understanding of baptism in the name of Jesus had here been made, as had never yet been known, and never can be repeated. (Baumgarten).
Acts 9:19. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.—Like views and feelings are a bond of union. After Paul had been ingrafted in Jesus by baptism, he was also ingrafted in the communion of the members of the church; the immediate purpose of this process was, that his new life might be invigorated, and that he might be recompensed for having lost the friendship of the world; but it was the ultimate purpose that he might communicate to others, and labor independently in strengthening the church and spreading the Gospel.
ON THE WHOLE SECTION, (Acts 9:1-44.9.19 a.).
(See Couard,: Predigten, etc. [Sermons on the conversion of the apostle Paul.] Berlin. 1838.). Saul is changed into Paul: I. Saul’s last journey; II. The crisis in his history; III. The beginning of Paul. (Ahlfeld).
Jesus glorified by the conversion of Paul: in so far as He reveals, I. His patience; II. His mercy; III. His power; IV. His wisdom. (Knapp).
The grace of Christ which calls the sinner, glorified in the conversion of Paul—“a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” [1 Timothy 1:16]: I. Who was called? II. How was he called? III. How did he receive the call? (W. Hofacker).
The conversion of Saul, a miracle: in view, I. Of the character of the man; II. Of the circumstances attending it; I III. Of the impressions which it made. (Lisco).
The instructions furnished by the conversion of the apostle Paul: I. By the fact itself; (a) it illustrates the depth of divine wisdom in calling men to the faith, and (b) the greatness and omnipotence of divine mercy. II. By the deportment of the apostle; (a) when he asks: “Who art thou, Lord?” and receives the answer; (b) when he asks: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” and receives the answer. (Lisco).
Doubts respecting the conversion of others—first, founded on their previous conduct, and on special instances of an apparent but false conversion; but, secondly, not justified by our faith in the almighty, power of grace, nor by cases which have furnished indubitable evidences of a genuine change of heart. (Lisco).
The salutary lessons which the conversion of Paul affords to excellent, but unconverted men. (Nitzsch.)
The great miracle of the conversion of Paul: I. He who had persecuted Jesus, now enters his service; II. He who had not known Jesus, becomes his chosen vessel; III. The learned Pharisee now first begins to learn: IV. He loses his sight, whose spiritual eyes are opened; V. He who is appointed to bear the Lord’s name [before Gentiles and Jews, Acts 9:15], is waiting in solitude and silence. (Beck: Homilet. Rep.).
The conversion of Paul: I. Saul, the persecutor, is suddenly converted; II. Paul, the converted man, is exercised in patience, (ib.).
The conversion of Paul—a fulfilment of the words: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” [Proverbs 16:9]. (Beck: Christl. Reden).
Paul, the man who sold all that he had [Matthew 13:44]: in his joy on finding the treasure in the field, he sold all that he had, and bought that field. What did he abandon for the sake of Jesus? I. His circumcision, viewed as a claim on God; for he now rejoices in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh [Philippians 3:3]; II. His birth as one of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; he is now born again, of water and of the Spirit; III. His nationality, as a Hebrew of the Hebrews; he is now a Christian, and, consequently, of Abraham’s seed, and an heir according to the promise; IV. His position as a Pharisee; he is now a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle; V. His legal zeal, with which he persecuted the Church; he is now a beloved brother, and a partaker of Christ’s sufferings [1 Peter 4:13]: VI. His righteousness, with regard to which he was blameless [Philippians 3:6]; he now has the righteousness of faith by grace; VII. Finally, he yielded up the world to the cross of Christ, by whom the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world. Galatians 6:14. (Fr. Kapff, Pastor in Wilhelmsdorf: “Saul, Paul”).
The difficulties which the Lord places in the way of man’s destruction: I. In the Law, He threatens him with the curse of hell; II. In the Gospel, He draws him by the promise of grace; III. In the walk of believers, He exhibits the blessedness of faith; IV. In the wonderful ways of His Providence, He reveals to him His power and goodness; V. In the ministers of the Church, He sends to him guides unto life. (Leonh. and Sp.).
On Regeneration: I. Its necessity, Acts 9:1-44.9.2; even in the case of those who do not, like Saul, breathe out threatenings and slaughter; II. Its nature, Acts 9:3-44.9.6; the way is prepared for it by the knowledge which we acquire of our own sins, and of divine grace; it is completed when an entire change is effected in all our modes of thought, in our feelings, and in our will; III. Its results; they are, at first, concealed from the world, Acts 9:7, but are gradually manifested by love to the Lord, which extends to his people, Acts 9:15, by joyfulness in sufferings, Acts 9:16, and by zeal for the honor of God and the salvation of the world, Acts 9:20-44.9.22. (Lisco).
The glory of Jesus Christ revealed in his victory at Damascus: I. In protecting his friends; II. Subduing his foes.
The great day of Damascus: I. Clouds and storms in the morning; II. Burning heat and thunder-storms at noon; III, Serenity and holy peace in the evening.
The spiritual contest on the battle-field of Damascus: I. The mighty foes who there encounter each other; the raging Saul with his warlike escort, and his weapons of human learning and carnal zeal; Christ, the Crucified and Exalted One, with the marks of his wounds, and in his celestial glory, followed by the hosts of the angels, in whose presence there is joy over one sinner that repenteth. II. The violent struggle which succeeds; Christ assaults, Acts 9:3-44.9.4, Saul defends himself; Acts 9:6. III. The glorious victory; Saul and his men yield, Christ triumphs, ver 6, 7. IV. The rich spoils; “he shall have the strong as a prey” [see above, Hom. Acts 9:4], Saul is led away as a captive, Acts 9:8, not, however, to death, but to life, Acts 9:9 ff. V. The joyful Te Deum sung by the Church, Acts 9:19 ff.
The personal experience of the apostle Paul at his conversion, the foundation of his whole subsequent preaching: I. Concerning the power of sin; we are all by nature sinners and enemies of God; the law can pronounce only a sentence of condemnation; our works do not justify us before God. Such was his experience in the vicinity of Damascus, and during the three days of his blindness; II. Concerning the power of grace; it is revealed to the world in Christ) the prince of life; it is offered to all without distinction of birth or race. Repentance and faith conduct to salvation. All these truths were made manifest to him from the time in which the light of Jesus shone about him, and he heard the voice: “I am Jesus!”, until Ananias laid his hands on him and conferred baptism.
(On the festival of the Reformation [Octob. 31] —on which the pericope, Acts 9:1-44.9.20, in the series adopted in Würtemberg, is sometimes read as the evening Scripture lesson). Paul and Luther, two chosen vessels of the Lord: I. The manner in which he prepared them for his service; (a) He selects the appropriate material; a Pharisee, for overthrowing Pharisaism—a monk, for overthrowing Popery; in each case precisely the fitting instrument; (b) He brings them forward at the proper time; it was a critical time, when that scene occurred near Damascus, but it was also the proper time. And when the Lord called forth Luther, the proverb was applicable: “When the need is greatest, God is nearest”; (c) He forges them in the right fire; the fire is the flame of repentance, enkindled by the Holy Spirit—the hammer is God’s weighty word [Jeremiah 23:29]. It was by means of such a fire and such a hammer that Paul was made the noblest of Damascene blades [allusion to the celebrated Damascene sword blades. —Tr.]; the same fire and the same hammer were applied to Luther in the cell of the monastery of Erfurt. II. The manner in which he employed them; (a) in subduing His enemies; Paul and Luther were both soldiers of the Lord—sharp swords—not constituted like John [the Evangelist] and Melanchthon; (b) in defending his friends; the pastoral fidelity of Paul—the zeal of love in Luther; (c) in blessing us all—not that we should depend on the name of man, or hazard our all on the word of a mere man, but that we should suffer ourselves to be guided to Him whose servants and chosen vessels were also Paul and Luther.
The history of Paul’s conversion, a type of the history of the Reformation: in both cases, I. Previously to each event (a) Christ was persecuted; (b) believers were harassed; II. When each event occurred, (a) there was light from heaven; (b) repentance in the heart; III. Thereafter (a) evangelical preaching in the Church (Acts 9:20 ff.); (b) evangelical missions in the world. (Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles).
[The mission of Ananias, the disciple of Damascus: I. Its purpose; (a) its special purpose—to encourage Ananias—to direct Saul; (b) its general purpose—to promote the interests of the infant church—to confer a permanent blessing on the church. II. His qualifications for it: (a) his childlike faith; (b) his entire consecration to God. III. His mode of accepting it, (a) illustrates the weakness of the flesh; (b) and the power of divine grace. IV. Its results; (a) it gave the inspired apostle Paul to the world; (b) it will eternally glorify God. —Tr.]
Acts 9:10; Acts 9:10. The following order of the words, ἐν ὁράματι ὁ κύριος, is far better attested [A. B. C. E., Cod. Sin., and adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.] than ὁ κύρ. ἐν ὁρ. [in the text. rec. and G. H.]
Acts 9:11; Acts 9:11. Lachmann, in accordance with B., has adopted ἀνάστα [imperative form, Win. Gram. § 14. 1. h.], but the participle ἀναστάς [of the text. rec.] is here, as well as in Acts 10:13; Acts 10:20, fully sustained [by Cod. Sin., etc., and is adopted by Tisch., and Alf.—Tr.]
Acts 9:12; Acts 9:12. a. The words ἐν ὁράματι before ἄνδρα are [found, in this order, in E. G. H., but in B. C. before ει̇͂δεν; they are] wanting entirely in A., [and Cod. Sin.] and some versions [Vulg., etc.], and have been very properly cancelled by Lach. and Tisch., [and Alf. on account of the various position]; they were transferred, as an explanation, from Acts 9:10.
Acts 9:12; Acts 9:12. b. In place of χεῖρα [of text. rec.], Which is found in G. H., as well as in some versions and fathers, A. and C. [and Cod. Sin.] exhibit χεῖρας; B. and E., besides, prefix the article, τὰς χ. derived from Acts 9:17, where no various reading occurs. The plural is unquestionably the more usual form (“always in the Acts, except here” (Meyer)], and was, precisely for that reason, substituted as a correction of the singular, [χεῖρα is adopted by Meyer and Alf.; the plural by Lach., Vulg.—Tr.]
Acts 9:13; Acts 9:13. ἀκήκοα [of text. rec.] is supported only by G. h. [Chryst. etc], whereas ἤκουσα [adopted by Lach., Tisch., Meyer and Alf.] occurs in A. B. C. E. [and Cod. Sin.].
Acts 9:16; Acts 9:16. αὐτόν [before ὅσα] in place of αὐτῷ [text. rec. Cod. Sin., etc.] is not sustained by weighty authorities [found in G., but not recognized by later critics.—Tr.]
Acts 9:18; Acts 9:18. The text. rec., in accordance with E. G. [and Syr.] inserts παραχρῆμα after ἀνέβλεψέ τε; but the word is not found in A. B. C. H. [Cod. Sin. Vulg.] and minuscules, and is obviously an interpolation. [Omitted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—Tr.]
D. SAUL IMMEDIATELY PREACHES JESUS IN DAMASCUS, BUT IS COMPELLED BY THE HOSTILE COUNSEL OF THE JEWS TO FLEE FROM THE CITY
19b Then was Saul [But he was]13 certain [some] days with the disciples which [who]were at Damascus. 20And straightway he preached Christ [proclaimed Jesus]14 in thesynagogues, that he [this One] is the Son of God. 21But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that [in Jerusalem] destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem [om. in Jer.], and came hither for that intent, that hemight bring them bound unto the chief priests? 22But Saul increased the more [more and more] in strength, and confounded the Jews which [who] dwelt at Damascus,proving that this is very Christ [that this One is the Messiah]. 23And [But]after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 24But their laying wait [their plot] was [became] known of [to] Saul. And they watched15 the gates day and night [in order] to kill him. 25Then the [his]16 disciples took him by night, and let him down by [through] the wall in a basket.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Acts 9:19 (b).—Then was Saul certain days with the disciples … at Damascus.—Several periods of time are to be chronologically distinguished in Acts 9:19-44.9.25 : (a) ἡμέραι τινὲς, a period of undisturbed repose, during which Saul lived in retirement, and was strengthened and encouraged by his intercourse with the believers in Damascus; (b) the period in which he came forth from his retirement, after enjoying the fellowship of the brethren, and began to preach Jesus in the synagogues of the city, Acts 9:20 ff.; (c) a comparatively longer period (ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, Acts 9:23), during which he preached Christ to the Jews with increasing power and joyfulness, and proceeded in his teachings to act, as it were, on the offensive; (d) the close of this more extended period of time, occasioned by the hostile movements of the Jews, who threatened his life, and rendered his flight from Damascus necessary, Acts 9:23-44.9.25; (e) he now came to Jerusalem, Acts 9:26.—How is this narrative, which is obviously given in a very summary manner, to be chronologically combined with Paul’s own statements in his Epistles concerning the same periods of his life? He mentions in Galatians 1:17, that he had not, immediately after his conversion, proceeded to the older apostles in Jerusalem, but that he had first gone to Arabia, then returned to Damascus, and only after three years visited Jerusalem. When we compare these two accounts, we perceive at once that they differ in two particulars: 1. The Journey to Arabia, which occurred during the interval between the conversion of Saul and his visit to Jerusalem, is passed over in total silence in Acts, Acts 9-12. Luke speaks of days only (ἡμέραι τινὲς, ἡμ. ἱκαναί), whereas the apostle himself counts according to years, and, indeed, mentions precisely three years. With respect to this latter point, it should, in the first place, be considered that, after the second chapter, Luke does not furnish a single precise specification of the time. We might suppose, as far as the terms of his narrative are concerned, that all that he has hitherto related, had possibly occurred in rapid succession in a very brief period of time. Yet the foregoing chapters embrace at least four years, or perhaps a still longer period; it is, accordingly, quite consistent with this practice that a term of several years should here, too, be described in very brief terms. In the second place, the expression ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, Acts 9:23, is of such a nature, as possibly to comprehend several years. Ἰκανὸς occurs very, frequently, even in classic Greek (see Steph. Thes. etc.), in the sense of great, much, considerable, and, when combined with χρόνος or ἡμέραι, in that of a considerable time. The usage in the Hebrew is analogous: we find, for instance, a certain period described in 1 Kings 2:38, which embraces יָמִיס רַבִּים [“many days”] while, immediately afterwards, Acts 9:39, the same period is said to have consisted of מִקֵּץ שָׁלֹש שָנִים. [“(at the end of) three years.”]. Hence, the usage of Luke in reference to chronological specifications in general, and also the particular expression in Acts 9:23, allow us to assume that several years are here comprised.—Still, the other difficulty remains, viz., that Luke makes no mention whatever of Saul’s sojourn in Arabia. The question assumes the following form: Can any niche be found in the whole passage, Acts 9:19-44.9.26, in which that journey, which Paul himself mentions, can be inserted? Pearson [Annales Paulini, etc., transl. into Engl, by Williams, 1826.—Tr.], places it before the ἡμέραι τινὲς mentioned in Acts 9:19, but Heinrichs and Ewald immediately after them and before Acts 9:20; neither arrangement is in harmony with the context, that, is, with the facts here stated, and the terms that are employed, especially the word εὐθέως. Olshausen and Ebrard place it between Acts 9:25-44.9.26; but this arrangement does not commend itself, when we consider how improbable it is that Saul’s return to Damascus (which fact is positively stated in Galatians 1:17) should have occurred after his flight from that city. We are hence constrained (with Neander, Meyer and others) to assign the Arabian journey to that “considerable period of time” indicated in Acts 9:22 ff., in the following manner:—Soon after Saul had presented himself in the synagogues of Damascus, he departed to Arabia; it was after his return to the city that he preached to the Jews with increased strength, Acts 9:22; this course awakened hostile sentiments and led them to form plans for taking his life; hence, he fled, and, (soon afterwards) went to Jerusalem. [For Arabia, “a term of vague and uncertain import,” see Conyb. and Howson’s Life, &c. of St. Paul, I. 104 f. London, 1854; “the three years, according to the Jewish way of reckoning, may have been three entire years, or only one year with parts of two others.” ib. p. 108.—Tr.].—Both accounts may be reconciled in this manner, and yet the impression may remain on our minds that Luke had probably no knowledge of Saul’s visit to Arabia, and had, in general, not obtained full information respecting the events which occurred between his conversion and his visit to Jerusalem—perhaps, too, he had not become acquainted with the precise length of that interval. [These remarks may, possibly, be misunderstood unless we assume that the author simply means to enunciate the principle that inspiration is not equivalent to omniscience.—Tr.]
Acts 9:20-44.9.22.—And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues.—The work of Saul, as described in these verses, is not to be considered as constituting the commencement of his peculiar apostolical labors; he simply delivers his testimony concerning the Redeemer, being impelled by his own heart, which cannot but declare the things which it believes. For we cannot discover a single trace of any direct command or of a mission received from God for that purpose; the language of Luke in Acts 9:20, ἐκήρυσσε τὸν Ἰησοῦν, on the contrary, fully conforms to that which he had employed in Acts 8:5. The voluntary action of an “evangelist,” not the mission of an apostle, is here described. This view, besides, accords with Paul’s own expressions in Galatians 1:17, where he appears to represent all that had been done previously to his return to Damascus, as not having been, strictly speaking, apostolical action.—The difference between the two statements in Acts 9:20; Acts 9:22, respectively, is also worthy of observation. In the former, Saul proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God; in the latter, he furnishes the proof that Jesus is the Messiah. [“Very Christ, in Greek simply the Christ” (Alex.).—Tr.]. The predicates υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ and Χριστός, are not identical, for it cannot be demonstrated that the conceptions respectively connected with them are precisely the same. It is true that the conception expressed by υἱὸς τ. θ. includes that of the Messiah, but the former name is by no means to be considered as having no additional and deeper import. These words, υἱ. τ. θ., on the contrary, refer preëminently to personal grandeur, while Χρ. refers, (if we may so express our-selves) to official dignity; in the former, relationship to God, in the latter, the Messianic work, is the main thought. The change in the form and manner of Saul’s addresses to the Jews, conforms to this distinction. Thus Saul proved (συμβιβάζων, Acts 9:22 [primitively, bringing together]) that Jesus is the Messiah, (that is to say, he brought together, or, showed the connection). This statement presents with sufficient distinctness the method which he adopted: he proved that Jesus is the Messiah from the prophecies and their fulfilment; that is, he proved this truth by demonstrating the agreement between the Messianic predictions and the historical facts in the life of Jesus. On the other hand, he proclaimed (ἐκήρυσσε, Acts 9:20) that Jesus is the Son of God, originally divine, sharing in the divine glory, and worthy of divine honor; that is to say, he did not attempt to prove this statement by arguments derived from the Old Testament, but simply and directly delivered the testimony which was founded on his own experience and conviction. The former mode of address confused and embarrassed (συνέχυνε) his opponents, in so far as they were not able to refute his course of argument, and, nevertheless, were not willing to grant the concluding proposition to which it conducted. This result was produced not so much by any logical superiority, as rather by a certain moral strength which had gradually increased in Saul (μᾶλλον ἐυεδυναμοῦτο), since he continually received a larger measure of confidence and joyfulness in his Christian convictions, as well as of the courage and zeal of a witness, [“μαλ. ἐνεδ., was more and more strengthened, confirmed, namely, τῇ πίστει; comp. Acts 16:5; Romans 4:20.” (de Wette).—Tr.]
Acts 9:23.—The Jews took counsel to kill him.—The testimony which he delivered concerning Jesus, at first created astonishment alone; the Jews asked, in their amazement, whether it was possible that the same man who had become known as the most violent enemy of the Christians, and whose zeal in persecuting them had led him even to Damascus, had now really undergone such an entire change as to speak in this tone, and even seek to gain followers for Christ, Acts 9:21. This wonder afterwards changed into bitterness of feeling and enmity, particularly when the Jews were put to silence by the evidences which he furnished from the Old Testament, and hence felt humiliated. As they could not refute him by sound arguments, their hatred became implacable, and they began to devise means for removing him from their path, and silencing him for ever.
Acts 9:24-44.9.25.—But—the disciples took him by night.—Saul fortunately obtained information respecting the plot by which his life was threatened. The Jews had, in accordance with it, commenced to watch the gates of the city, so that he might not escape from their snares (παρετηρ. δὲ καί). But his disciples [see the text above, and note 4.—Tr.], that is, Jews who had been converted by his preaching of the Gospel, enabled him to flee. With their aid he escaped from the city by means of a wicker basket, being lowered from a window that was probably constructed in the wall and belonged to a house which was built against the latter. [“Probably where some overhanging houses, as is usual in Eastern cities, opened upon the outer country, they let him down from a window in a basket. (Διὰθυρίδος, 2 Corinthians 11:33, as in the analogous narratives, Joshua 2:15; 1 Samuel 19:12; the word θυρίς is used in the LXX. in both instances).” (Conyb. and Howson’s Life of Paul, I. 109 and note 7. London 1854.)—Tr.]. This narrative coïncides in a remarkable manner with Paul’s own statements in 2 Corinthians 11:32-47.11.33. The testimony of both passages is the same on four points—that his life was threatened—that the gates of the city were watched—that he was placed in a basket—and that he was lowered through an aperture in the wall [διὰ τοῦ τείχους, both in Acts 9:25 and in 2 Corinthians 11:33, through, (not by, as in the Engl. Vers.) the wall, precisely as, in the latter passage, διὰ θυρὶδος, through a window.—Tr.]; such was his mode of escape from the city, according to both narratives. They only differ with respect to the persons by whom his life was threatened and the gates were watched. These acts are ascribed in 2 Corinthians 11:32 to the ethnarch (prefect) (“governor,” Engl. Vers.] whom the Arabian king Aretas had placed over Damascus and Syria, while in Acts 9:23-44.9.24, these are represented as the acts of the Jews. This difference in the statements, may, however, be explained without difficulty. The Ethnarch (vicegerent) of the Arabian king, who possessed supreme power in the city, had undoubtedly no personal reasons for assailing Saul, and was induced solely by the slanderous charges of the Jews to proceed against him. If the circumstances were of this nature, it follows that Luke really mentions the true contrivers or authors of the measures which were adopted. But it cannot, on the other hand, be supposed that the Jews of Damascus were permitted personally to guard the city gates; it is far more probable that a military force belonging to the government was ordered to occupy the post. Hence, Paul mentions the executive authority with more precision than Luke, although the expression of the latter, παρετηροῦντο scil, οἰ Ἰουδαῖοι, is also in harmony with this circumstance. [“The Jews furnished the motive, the Ethnarch the military force.” (Conyb. etc. I. 109.)—Tr.]. The two accounts, in this manner, complete each other, while each one is, obviously, altogether independent of the other.—The general fact here related does not, as many have supposed, furnish a trustworthy basis for determining a chronological point in the life of the apostle Paul. For, concerning this occupation of Damascus by Aretas (whose relations to Herod Antipas and the Roman Empire may be ascertained from Josephus, Antiq. xviii. Acts 5:0) no other historical accounts whatever are extant, which would enable us to fix the time when it occurred. Comp. Winer: Realwört. II. 217. [art. Paulus, and an article by Wieseler, in Herzog; Real-Encyk. I. 488.—Tr.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The conversion of Saul was commenced by an immediate interposition of the exalted Redeemer in the material world, and was completed through Ananias as a human instrument, although this disciple was guided by a special revelation made in a vision the latter was already a transition to the channel of natural processes. Henceforth the personal and independent action, or the labors of Saul, conformed in every respect to the ordinary course of events. It was solely the impulse of his own heart—a voluntary, and yet an irresistible impulse—to proclaim that Saviour who had so graciously and mercifully manifested himself to those who knew Him not, that led him to speak to the Jews in the synagogues concerning Jesus.
2. Saul proclaimed Jesus to the Jews in Damascus; he not only proved from the Old Testament that He is the. Messiah, but also that He is the Son of God. The latter truth had not hitherto been publicly announced in the preaching and doctrine of the apostles. The invocation of Jesus by the believers (ἐπικαλούμενοι τὸ ὄνομα) undoubtedly implies his divine glory and dignity. Still, it is an indication that decisive progress has been made, when such a truth in reference to the Person of Christ is fully and distinctly perceived and expressed. This privilege was granted to Saul, but not independently of the peculiar mode in which he was converted and called. Jesus appeared to him from heaven, as the Exalted One, in his divine and supreme power and glory. The knowledge of the deity of Christ was thus made accessible to him, even in a higher degree than to those who had been apostles before him, and had long known Jesus in his humiliation. It was ordered that a deeper and more thorough insight into the true nature of the Person and the work of Christ should be gradually acquired, even as the whole work of salvation and all the revelations of God possess certain features that ally them to humanity; they have a growth that advances with the progress of time. God has reserved unto his own power and wisdom the selection and determination of the points and periods of time when such advance and growth shall occur, as well as of the agents by whom these are to be promoted. Paul himself, even after his conversion, was only gradually guided into all truth, strengthened in the spirit (μᾶλλονἐνεδυναμοῦτο, Acts 9:22), and furnished with a clear knowledge of the truth; to this progress all his experiences in his life and actions, and, especially, his labors in proclaiming the truth, necessarily contributed.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See below, (E), Acts 9:26-44.9.30.
Acts 9:19; Acts 9:19. [ὁ Σαυλος, of text. rec. and G. H. is omitted by A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg. Syr. etc. and recent editors. It was inserted at the commencement of an ecclesiastical Scripture lesson (Meyer; Alf.).—Tr.]
Acts 9:20; Acts 9:20. The reading τὸν Ιησοῦν [in A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg.], is, for external and internal reasons, decidedly preferable to τὸν Χριστόν. [This is the view of recent critics generally.—Tr.]
Acts 9:24; Acts 9:24. The Mid. παρετηροῦντο is far better attested than the Act. παρετήρουν [of text. rec. and G. H.]. The latter form was perhaps inserted in G. H. for the reason that the verb, in the sense: to watch, to lie in wait for, generally occurs in the active voice. [The Mid. in A. B. C. E. F. Cod. Sin.—τε after παρ. in text. rec. is changed by later editors into δὲ καὶ; Cod. Sin. also exhibits δὲ καὶ. This is regarded by later critics as the original reading. (Alf.).—Tr.]
Acts 9:25; Acts 9:25. Griesbach had already recommended, and Lachm. and Tisch. have adopted οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ instead of αὐτὸν οἰ μαθ., which latter reading is found in the text. rec. in accordance with E. G. H. and some versions. The reading μαθ. αὐτοῦ occurs in A. C. F., [B. has καθῆκαν αυτὸν], as well as in Cod. Sin., and is, therefore, better attested; it is, besides, the more difficult reading [another reason for adopting it], as the circumstance attracted attention that disciples of Saul should be mentioned, since only disciples in general terms, that is, of Jesus, had hitherto been introduced. Certainly, no copyist would have changed αὐτόν into αὐτοῦ, so that the latter must be regarded as the genuine reading. [“αὐτοῦ is obviously a false reading, as it is not possible that disciples of Paul should be introduced here.” (de Wette). Alf. reads οί μαθ. αὐτόν; the MSS. here vary considerably, as well as those of the Vulg.: eum, in the usual printed text, but ejus in Cod. Amiatinus and ed. Sixt.—Tr.]
E. He Visits Jerusalem, From Which City Also He Withdraws, In Consequence Of The Plots Of The Jews
26And [But] when Saul [he]17 was come to18 Jerusalem, he assayed19 [attempted] to join [attach] himself to the disciples: but [and] they were all afraid of him, and believednot [as they did not believe] that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared [narrated] unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached [spoken]boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28And he was with them coming in and going out20 [And he went in and out with them for a season] at Jerusalem, [atJer. and spake boldly … Jesus, (Acts 9:29)] 29And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus,21 [He spake also] and disputed against the Grecians [with the Hellenists]Acts 22:0 :but they went about to slay him. 30Which when the brethren knew [ascertained], they brought [conducted] him down to Cesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Acts 9:26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem. This event occurred, according to Galatians 1:18, three years after his conversion. The narrative before us, does not, it is true, suggest that such a long period had intervened; the fear with which the Christians of Jerusalem regarded Saul, and the recommendation and intercession of Barnabas, which were, in consequence, rendered necessary, rather convey the impression that the change which had occurred in the former, was of a comparatively recent date, and not one that had taken place three years previously. Nevertheless, it should be carefully noticed that Luke does not say μὴ εἰδὸτες, but μὴ πιστεύοντες ὅτι ἐστὶ μαθητής. They did not believe that he was a disciple of Christ, a truly converted man; they lacked confidence in the purity of his sentiments—in the genuineness of his Christianity. They may have possibly suspected that his conversion to Christ was merely a feint, a bait intended to deceive the Christians, and thus more easily effect their destruction. It is, besides, very probable that such views were held with most tenacity precisely in the spot where his earlier inquisitorial efforts had been made, so that when he at first presented himself in Jerusalem, even after the lapse of years, the believers withdrew from his presence with dread, and it became difficult for him to attach himself (κολλᾶσθαι) to the congregation of Christians.
Acts 9:27-44.9.28. a. But Barnabas took him.—It is probable that Saul and Barnabas had been previously acquainted; such may have been the more easily the case, as both were Hellenists, and many points of contact existed between Barnabas, a native of Cyprus (Acts 4:36), and Saul, a native of Cilicia [ch. Acts 21:39], which was not far distant. [“Cyprus is within a few hours’ sail from Cilicia.” (Conyb. and H. Life of Paul. I. 113.)—Tr.]. Barnabas took Saul (ἐπιλαβόμενος, not in the sense of took him to himself, but, graphically, took him by the hand). [Comp. Acts 17:19, and especially Acts 23:19, τῆς χειρὸς; αὐτὸν is governed by ἤγαγε, as in the analogous cases, Acts 16:19; Acts 18:17; Luke 14:4, as ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι is always connected with the Gen. (Meyer).—Tr.]. He conducted Saul to the apostles, and related to these the circumstances that had occurred both at the time of the appearance of Jesus, by which Saul was converted, and also subsequently, during the Christian labors of the latter at Damascus (τῶς—ει̇͂δε, καὶ πῶς—ἐπαῤῥησιάσατο) [“not merely that, but how, i. e., in what manner, etc.” (Alex.)—Tr.]. Barnabas does not seem so much; to have imparted new information, as rather to have communicated with authority and precision, as a trustworthy voucher, certain facts to the apostles, of which they had previously derived their knowledge only from remote sources.
b. Brought him to the apostles.—Paul himself states, Galatians 1:18-48.1.19, that his visit to Jerusalem referred to Peter, and that he had, on that occasion, seen no other apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. Now when Luke says: ἤγαγεπρὸς τοὺς , his language does not necessarily express the whole number of the Twelve, and it is unjust to assert (Zeller) that Acts 9:27-44.9.28 contradict Galatians 1:18-48.1.19. Still, we cannot conceal it from ourselves, that Luke does not here seem to possess a full knowledge of all the details. [But the fact which he states, fully agrees with Paul’s remark that he had seen two apostles (plur.); his language can as little suggest a doubt of the fulness of his knowledge, as the same general mode of expression, when adopted by Paul (who says, Acts 13:40 that a certain passage occurs in the prophets, using the plural number), would imply a want of precise knowledge on his part. So, too, Luke’s omission here of all mention of the trance reported by him, Acts 22:17, and noticed in the following note on Acts 9:30, is no indication that he was unacquainted with it.—Tr.]
Acts 9:29. And disputed against the Grecians [Hellenists.].—[For this word see above, Acts 6:1, b. Exeg., and note 6, appended to the text of the present chapter, Acts 9:29.—Tr.]. Saul very naturally directed his attention at first to those Jews who were, on account of their birth in heathen countries, more nearly allied to him, as it were, than others, since he himself, as a native of Tarsus [the capital of Cilicia, in Asia Minor], was also a Hellenist. He spoke with these men (ἐλάλει), but as they would not receive the witness which he bore concerning Jesus, their discourse at once became a debate or controversy (συζητεῖν, Acts 6:9). The result was, that a feeling of hatred was engendered in the Jews, which speedily prompted them to devise plans for murdering him.
Acts 9:30. They brought him down to Cesarea.—The Christians are termed brethren (άδελφοί), for they had now conceived a warm affection for Saul, whom they had at first met with reserve and fear. It appears from the narrative before us, that they ascertained that Saul’s life was threatened, and were hence induced to aid him in withdrawing from the city. Paul himself relates to the Jews, Acts 22:17-44.22.21, that when he was in the temple, Jesus appeared to him in a trance, and commanded him to “get quickly out of Jerusalem,” as his testimony concerning Jesus would not be willingly received. Both accounts perfectly agree, for the fact that the Jews in Jerusalem were contriving plans for murdering Saul, furnished indubitable evidence that they would not receive his testimony. We may, besides, easily conceive that Saul would not have determined to leave the city in consequence of the information which the brethren imparted to him, but that he did not hesitate a moment to withdraw, after the command which the Lord gave him in a vision.—Paul says in Galatians 1:21, that he went from Jerusalem to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. This statement precisely agrees with the passage before us, which names Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, as the point which he intended to reach. He is more precise in his statements than Luke, only in adding that his route conducted him through Syria. [The Cesarea here mentioned is not Cesarea Philippi, Matthew 16:13, etc., near the sources of the Jordan, but Cesarea Stratonis, a seaport on the Mediterranean, mentioned above, Acts 8:40.—Tr.]. Hence Paul did not at once proceed by sea from Cesarea to Tarsus, as the present narrative would allow us to conjecture, but either travelled entirely by land, along the coast, after leaving Cesarea, passing through Phenicia and Syria (Meyer), or took ship at Cesarea, the capital, but landed at Tyre, Sidon, or some other city on the coast, for which the vessel chanced to be bound, and from that point traversed Syria by land. The latter supposition is the more probable, as the Christians accompanied him as far as Cesarea; this circumstance indicates that he continued his journey by water, after reaching that city, for if he had proceeded further by land, the nearest road would have conducted him through Samaria, Galilee, etc.—At this point we lose sight of Saul; he reappears in Acts 11:25. The preceding facts lead us to assume that when he reached his home, he did not fail to proclaim the tidings concerning Jesus Christ. [Possibly, (according to Conyb. and H. Life of Paul, I. 114), the conversion of his “kinsmen” (Romans 16:7; Romans 16:11; Romans 16:21), and, specially, of his sister, the mother of the nephew mentioned in Acts 23:16, may be assigned to this last visit which Paul appears to have made to the home of his youth.—Tr.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Even at this comparatively late period, Saul does not yet announce himself in Jerusalem as an apostle, but only desires to be recognized as a disciple, and to be received by the brethren in that city as a genuine member of the church of Christ. And the testimony which he delivered in Jerusalem concerning Jesus, is, in its whole character, simply the declaration of an ordinary, but faithful Christian, whose joy proceeded from faith; it is not that of a man who had received a commission, or been invested with a special office.
2. The discussions of Saul and the Hellenists in Jerusalem vividly remind us of those which Stephen had previously held with the same class of people [Acts 6:9 ff.]; the latter had likewise assumed a controversial character. It is, besides, remarkable, that the same man who had entertained such hostile sentiments with respect to Stephen, and had heartily rejoiced when he witnessed his execution (Acts 8:1), should now walk in the footsteps of the latter, and assume the same functions which had previously been assigned to Stephen. Christ is a King who enlarges and governs his kingdom in a wonderful manner.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Acts 9:20. And straightway he preached, etc.—He now appropriated the words to himself: “I believe, therefore have I spoken.” [Psalms 116:10; 2 Corinthians 4:13]. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the life and soul of all evangelical preaching.
Acts 9:21. But all that heard him were amazed.—The amazement created by the conversion of Saul: I. It exercised a salutary influence on the converted man himself, by humbling him, since it reminded him of his former evil course. So, too, the new convert must always expect to be regarded not only with hatred and scorn by his former associates in sin, but also with doubt and distrust by his new brethren in the faith. But it, H. Furnished, at the same time, most honorable testimony to the wonderful power of the Lord. He turns the hearts of men as the rivers of water [Proverbs 21:1], and the reality of his works of grace is not affected either by the doubts of a weak faith, or the mockery of unbelief, while the wolf is found dwelling in peace with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid, etc. [Isaiah 11:6].
Acts 9:22. But Saul increased the more in strength.—“Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.” [Matthew 13:12].—Our growth in the new life is the best refutation of those who doubt the sincerity of our conversion.—And confounded the Jews.—He now contends, not with carnal, but with spiritual weapons.—The opponents of Christianity are not successfully repelled by ingenuity and learning alone; we need, besides, a knowledge, derived from experience, of the salvation wrought by Christ, so that we can say with Paul: “Christ liveth in me.” [Galatians 2:20]. (From Ap. Past.)—Proving that this is very Christ.—The Holy Ghost directed Paul in the choice of the most appropriate themes—those that were most of all needed at that time, and at all times, namely, that Jesus is the Son of God, (Acts 9:20), and that Jesus is the Christ, (Acts 9:22), (Ap. Past.).
Acts 9:23. And after that many days were fulfilled.—God has appointed certain times, years, places and circumstances, for each of his servants, in which he is to learn, to experience, and to perform certain things. Happy is he who rightly discerns his appointed task, and faithfully redeems the time. The ἡμέραι ἱκαναὶ at length come to an end. (Ap. Past.).—The Jews took counsel to kill him.—Already are the Lord’s words fulfilled, that Saul must suffer many things for His name’s sake [Acts 9:16]. Hatred and persecution are among the signs of true conversion.
Acts 9:24. But their laying wait was known of Saul.—He had previously united with the Jews in their evil counsel to slay the disciples of Jesus. Hence, when God caused him to be informed that the Jews were now seeking his own life, he must have been conscious alike of a feeling of shame, and of a feeling of blessedness. (Ap. Past.).—They watched the gates day and night.—The enemies watch day and night for the purpose of killing the servant of the Lord, but the faithful Keeper of Israel also neither slumbers nor sleeps [Psalms 121:4-19.121.5], and He guards the life of his servant with even greater vigilance. King Aretas had placed his men at the disposal of the enemies of Christ, but the King of heaven and earth gave his angels charge over his elect, that not a hair of his head should be touched. (Prom Leonh. and Sp.).
Acts 9:25.—Let him down … in a basket.—Saul, in whose case the Lord had already performed such great miracles, nevertheless does not reject the simple means of a basket which his brethren offered for the purpose of effecting his escape. We are not permitted to expect extraordinary aid from God, when ordinary means can be employed. (Ap. Past.).
Acts 9:26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem.—We learn from Galatians 1:17-48.1.18, that he had previously withdrawn to Arabia, and allowed three years to pass, before he came to Jerusalem. This was, no doubt, an important and blessed triennium for him, during which he was prepared and qualified by God, in silence and retirement, for his future office. Studiosi theologiæ and candidati ministerii may here find an excellent example. We could wish that no one would assume the office of the Christian ministry, until he had passed such a blessed triennium præparatorium in the school of the Holy Ghost. (Ap. Past.).—They were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.—The suspicions of the Christians were pardonable: it is not prudent at once to embrace every one who professes to be a brother in Christ. Paul met with a painful humiliation, but also with a salutary trial, when he was compelled to suffer for his former conduct, although three years had passed since his repentance and conversion.—It was a hard beginning, when he found that, after having scarcely escaped from his enemies, he was not received by the disciples. But when he thought on his former course, he did not wonder that he was regarded with horror, and when the brethren, influenced by a justifiable fear, repelled him, he patiently submitted. By this course he demonstrated the genuineness of his conversion; for he who had once been so furious and cruel, now calmly endures persecution and contempt. (Calvin).—It is well when any one is ultimately found to be better, than he had at first been supposed to be. (Rieger).
Acts 9:27. But Barnabas took him, etc.—The kind and loving act of Barnabas must have indeed exhibited him to the sorrowing soul of the rejected Paul, as a “son of consolation.” [Acts 4:36]. (Leon, and Sp.).—Thus the Lord always infuses his consolations into the bitterest cup of sorrow, especially by means of the faithful love of a like-minded friend. (Langbein).—And declared how he had seen the Lord in the way.—Biographies, accounts of the conversion of others and of the dealings of divine grace in their case, may often instruct, edify and humble us. Still, we should always remember that the ways of God are manifold, and that the souls of all are not conducted in the same path.
Acts 9:28. And he was with them, etc.—He is, consequently, now recognized as a brother, and the old enmity is forgotten. It is in accordance with the usage of the world, but inconsistent with Christian love, when men obstinately hold up to view the sins of those whose words and conduct prove that they are truly converted, solely for the purpose of veiling a work of grace, and causing the name of Christ to be blasphemed. (Leonh. and Sp.).
Acts 9:29. And disputed against the Grecians [with the Hellenists].—He adopted precisely the course of Stephen [Acts 6:9], whose death had given him
pleasure, but who had now risen up in him with augmented power. Such are the wonderful ways of God in his kingdom, and his gracious acts in dealing with the souls of men.
Acts 9:30. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him, etc.—The flight and deliverance of the apostle (as on the previous occasion in Damascus, [Acts 9:25]), furnish a testimony, I. For Paul himself; he appears to have been induced to flee rather by the persuasions of the brethren, than by any anxiety on his own account; II. For the brethren, who could appreciate him, and whose faithful love led them to adopt measures for his deliverance; III. For the Lord, who watched over the life of his servant, and was his refuge in Jerusalem as in Damascus, in Tarsus as in Cesarea. [See above, Exeg. Acts 9:30.]
ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 9:20-44.9.30.
The testimony concerning Christ: I. The source from which it must proceed—a heart apprehended of Christ [Philippians 3:12], and converted; II. Its substance: Christ, as the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; III. The effects produced by it: amazement, on the one hand—blessed fruits, on the other. (Langbein).
The evidences of a genuine conversion: I. Joyful confession of Christ, (Acts 9:20); II. Willing endurance of the enmity of the world, (Acts 9:23); III. Humble intercourse with believers, (Acts 9:26); IV. A godly walk in the service of the Lord, (Acts 9:28). (Leonh. and Sp.).
The dangers of newly converted persons: I. The hatred and persecution of the world (Acts 9:23); II. Distrust on the part of believers (Acts 9:26); III. The spiritual pride of their own hearts; IV. Contempt for the Church and the appointed means of grace, (ib).
The progress of the conversion of Paul (Acts 9:7-44.9.23): I. The first impression—a deep feeling of his spiritual inability (Acts 9:8); II. The first sign of life—“behold, he prayeth.” (Acts 9:11); III. His first testimony—“that Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20); IV. His first experience—the cross, for Christ’s sake (Acts 9:23). (Jaspis).
The evidences of faith furnished by the newly converted Paul: I. Joyful confession of Christ before men (Acts 9:20; Acts 9:22; Acts 9:28); II. Decided growth in the new life (Acts 9:22); III. Undaunted courage amid the persecutions of the world (Acts 9:23-44.9.25); IV. Humble and patient endurance of the distrust of the brethren (Acts 9:26).
The first essay of arms of a soldier of Christ [2 Timothy 2:3]: it is his duty, I. To take an oath that he will be unchangeably faithful to his banner (Acts 9:20; Acts 9:23); H. To exercise himself diligently in the use of his weapons (Acts 9:22); III. To take his position in the ranks with modesty (Acts 9:26; Acts 9:28); IV. To advance against the enemy with courage (Acts 9:22; Acts 9:29); V. To retire obediently at the signal (Acts 9:25; Acts 9:30).
The early years of probation in the office of the ministry: I. The first official tasks; II. The first official joys; III. The first official sorrows.
[The experience of Paul at his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion (Acts 9:26-44.9.30; Galatians 1:17-48.1.19); I. His reception by the Christians; II. The conduct of Barnabas; III. His interviews with Peter and James; IV. His discussions with the Jews; V. Their enmity; VI. The manner of his escape from the city. —Tr.]
Acts 9:26; Acts 9:26. a. The reading ὁ Σαὐλος in some MSS. [G. H.], or ὁ Παῦλος in one MS. [E.] is spurious. [Omitted in A. B. C.; Cod. Sin. Vulg.; “an insertion, as in Acts 9:19;” Alford; omitted by him, Lach. and Tisch.—Tr.]
Acts 9:26; Acts 9:26. b. The reading εἰς Ἱερ. [in A. B. C. and also Cod. Sin.] is not as strongly supported as ἐν [found in B. E. G. H.]; the latter is, besides, the more difficult reading, as παραγίνεσθαι is usually followed by εἰς; hence ἐν is preferred by all the recent critics. [But Alf. reads εἰς, regarding ἐν as a corruption, since παραγενόμενος is “taken absolutely.” De Wette also prefers ει̇͂ς, as Luke uniformly employs it in conjunction with this verb; but precisely for this reason Meyer prefers ἐν, which could have been more easily changed into εἰς. than vice versâ.—Tr.]
Acts 9:26; Acts 9:26. c. Ἐπειρᾶτο [of text. rec.] is as well sustained by external evidence [E. G. H.] as the Act. ἐπείραζεν (Lachmann) [found in A. B. C.; Cod. Sin.], but is less usual than the latter, and is therefore to be considered as genuine. [ἐπειρᾶτο, Alf. and Tisch.—Tr.]
Acts 9:28; Acts 9:28. The words καὶ ἐκπορ. are wanting in two MSS. [G. H.] of the first, and in many of the second rank [minuscules]; they were probably omitted only on account of the preposition εἰς which follows, and to which ἐκπορ. did not seem to correspond: but the reading is supported by Cod. Sin. also, and should be retained [as in Lach., Tisch. and Alf.].—Εἰς is sustained by decisive evidence [A. B. C. E. G.; Cod. Sin.], and should (in opposition to Meyer’s view) be preferred to ἐν, which occurs only in one of the older MSS. [H.].—Παῤῥηαι., without καί before it, is sufficiently attested [καί found in E. G. H., but omitted in A. B. C.; Cod. Sin.]; καί may have been the more readily inserted [by copyists] as two of the MSS. [G. H.] of three [E. G. H.] which exhibit it, omit καὶ ἐκπορ.
Acts 9:29; Acts 9:29. a. [Luther, Lechler, etc. in their versions, Lach., Tisch., etc., in the original, attach παῤῥηαιαζόμενος etc. to Acts 9:28, and begin Acts 9:29 with Ἐλάλει.—The text. rec. has immediately before Ἐλάλει the following: τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, with G. H.; τοῦ κυρ. is omitted in C., which exhibits only Ἰησοῦ, while A. B. E.; Cod. Sin.; Syr. Vulg. omit Ἰησοῦ. Alf. with Lach. and Tisch., accordingly exhibits only τοῦ κυρίου.—Tr.]
Acts 9:29; Acts 9:29. b. Instead of Ἑλληνιστὰς, [of text. rec.] A., which is followed by some ancient Latin versions, exhibits ̔́Ελληνας. There can be no doubt that the latter is spurious [a later correction from Acts 11:20 (Meyer; Alf.)]. The authority of Cod. Sin. has also been recently found to sustain Ἑλληνιστάς [which appears in the editions of Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—Tr.
DURING PETER’S VISITATION OF THE CONGREGATIONS IN JUDEA, HE IS INDUCED BY A SPECIAL REVELATION FROM HEAVEN TO VISIT A GENTILE NAMED CORNELIUS, TO PREACH CHRIST IN HIS HOUSE, AND TO BAPTIZE HIM AND THOSE THAT WERE IN HIS HOUSE; THIS ACT OF PETER WAS AT FIRST REGARDED IN JERUSALEM WITH DISAPPROBATION, BUT WAS ULTIMATELY, AFTER THE EXPLANATIONS WHICH HE GAVE, VERY GLADLY COMMENDED
Acts 9:31 to Acts 11:18
A.—WHILE THE CONGREGATIONS IN THE HOLY LAND ENJOY REPOSE, AND CONTINUE TO FLOURISH, PETER VISITS THEM. DURING THIS PERIOD, HE HEALS ENEAS IN LYDDA, WHO WAS SICK OF THE PALSY, AND, IN JOPPA, RESTORES TABITHA TO LIFE
31Then had the churches [church]23 rest [peace] throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified [was built up]; and walking [walked] in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were [and, by the exhortation of the H.G., was] multiplied. 32 And [But] it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, [went through all, that] he came down also to the saints which [who] dweltat Lydda. 33And there he found a certain man named Eneas which had kept his bed [who lay on his bed for] eight years, and was sick of the palsy [who was paralytic]. 34And Peter said unto him, Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole [Jesus, the Anointed One, healeth thee!]: arise, and make thy bed [the bed for thyself]. And he aroseimmediately. 35And all that dwelt at [the inhabitants of] Lydda and Saron saw him,and turned [then were converted] to the Lord. 36Now [But] there was at Joppa a certain [female] disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation [being interpreted] is called Dorcas [Gazelle]Acts 24:0 : this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds [mercy]which she did [practised]. 37And [But] it came to pass in those days, that she was sick [sickened], and died: whom when they had washed, they [then they washed herand] laid her in an upper chamber. 38And forasmuch as [But as] Lydda was nigh to [lies near] Joppa, and the disciples had [om. had] heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men,25 desiring him that he would not delay to come to them26 [and besought him: Delay not to come to us!]. 39 Then [But] Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him [conducted him up] into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by [came to] him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments [the under and upper garments] which Dorcas [Gazelle] made, whileshe was with them. 40But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him [, then turned] to the body [and] said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41And [But] he gave her his hand, and lifted [raised] her up; and when he had called [to] the saints and widows,he presented her alive. 42And it was [became] known throughout all Joppa; and manybelieved in the Lord. 43And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one [a certain] Simon [who was] a tanner.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Acts 9:31. Then had the churches rest [the church peace].—This section prepares the way for the narrative of the conversion of Cornelius, which event constituted an epoch in the history of missions among pagans; the gradual approach of Peter to the vicinity of Cesarea is distinctly described. The connection with the facts previously related, is indicated by οὖν, but, probably, not in the sense that the peace of the church was directly connected with the conversion of Saul, its former persecutor, as the immediate result. Luke rather intends to resume the thread of the history by means of οὖν, which word he also elsewhere employs for a similar purpose (Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19), when the course of the narrative had been interrupted by an intermediate remark or a somewhat extended episode.—He describes, in Acts 9:31, the state of the Christian church as one of external peace (εἰπήνη) and of internal growth in godliness, after the persecution which commenced with Stephen’s martyrdom had gradually abated, and, at length, entirely ceased. Here he names three provinces of Palestine, Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, as those in which Christian congregations existed. Several had been founded in Samaria, according to Acts 8:12; Acts 8:25, but none that existed in Judea, with the exception of the holy city itself, had hitherto been expressly mentioned. Still, we can easily conceive that Christian congregations had been formed in various villages and cities of Judea, as well as in Galilee, which latter province had, indeed, been the chief scene of the labors of Jesus, and was the home of the greater part of the apostles and disciples. If Samaria [the intermediate province] is mentioned in the last place, the cause is to be found in the religious, separation of the Samaritans from the people of Israel.—In accordance with the established usus loquendi in general, and the practice of Luke, in particular (comp. Acts 6:1; Acts 6:7), the verb ἐπληθύνετε can be taken in no other sense than (as Bengel also says) that of multiplicari, augescere numero, and not in that of repleri aliqua re. For similar reasons παράκλησις cannot well signify comfort [consolation (Vulg.; de Wette)], but rather means exhortation, admonition, encouragement. [Οἰκομουμένη, growing in the inner religious life; this explanation best agrees with the Pauline usage of the word, e. g., 1 Corinthians 14:4, (de Wette; Alford).—Tr.]
Acts 9:32. As Peter passed throughout all quarters [went through all].—This διέρχεσθαι (literally, a journey through different inhabited places) was an apostolic visitation, for the purpose of inspection. The statements which follow show that ἁγίων is to be supplied after διὰ πάντων [“not τόπων; comp. Acts 20:25; Romans 15:28” (de Wette), and also 2 Corinthians 1:16, δἰὑμῶν.—Tr.]. In the course of Peter’s journey to the west coast, he reached Lydda, a town not far distant from the Mediterranean, described by Josephus (Antiq. xx. 6. 2) as πόλεως τὸμέγεθος οὐκ ; it lay, according to Acts 9:38, in the vicinity of the city of Joppa [“just one day’s journey from Jerusalem.” (Alford). It is probably the Lod of the children of Benjamin, 1 Chronicles 8:12; Ezra 2:33; Nehemiah 11:35; at a later period it was called Diospolis. (von Raumer).—Tr.]
Acts 9:33-44.9.35. Eneas.—No circumstance is mentioned which indicates that he was a Christian; the expressions ευ̇͂ρε and ἄνθρωπόν rather represent him as a stranger; his Greek name leads us to conjecture that he was of Hellenistic descent. [His name, Αἰνέας. which is also found in Thuc. 4. 119; Xen. Anab. 4. 7. 13; Pind. Ol. 6. 149, is not identical with that of the Trojan Αἰςείας (Meyer), e. g., Il. II. 820; V. 166; the former is accented by English speakers on the first, the latter on the second syllable.—Tr.]. When Peter says to this man, whose paralyzed limbs had confined him to his bed: “Jesus, the Anointed One, healeth thee,” the mention of the Redeemer’s name no doubt implies that the man had obtained a certain amount of knowledge of Him by report (“audierat de Christo sine dubio, sanante omnes illo tempore.” Bengel), but by no means shows that he was already a member of the church of Christ. This mode of describing the Lord would not have been employed in the case of a believer. The word ἰᾶται itself is to be taken strictly in the present, and not in a future tense, inasmuch as the cure was instantly performed; the man was at once able to arise and make his bed. This sudden and miraculous restoration of one who had so long been paralyzed, but whom the inhabitants of that place and the surrounding region now saw in the enjoyment of health, led to the conversion of many persons; for no argument can here be needed to show that Luke does not intend to say that all without exception were converted.—The name ὁ Σαρών does not denote a particular place (the modern village Saron), as some have supposed, since, in that case, the article would not have been prefixed; it refers to the ell known fertile region of that name [Sharon, 1 Chronicles 27:29; Isaiah 33:9; Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 65:10] which also abounded in flowers [Song of Solomon 2:1]. This plain extends along the coast from Cesarea to Joppa on the south.
Acts 9:36. Tabitha.—The Gazelle (Greek, δορκάς, [see above, note 2 appended to the text.—Tr.]) is distinguished for its slender and beautiful form, its graceful movements and its soft but brilliant eyes; it is frequently introduced by the Hebrews and other Oriental nations as an image of female loveliness, and the name was often employed as a proper name, in the case of females [2 Kings 12:1; 1 Chronicles 8:9. Rob. Hebr. Lex. p. 881.—Tr.]. It was the designation of this person, who resided in Joppa, the well known seaport of antiquity, of the middle ages, and of modern times. [It was somewhat more than 30 miles distant from Jerusalem; it is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 2:16; Jonah 1:3 (Joppa); Joshua 19:46 (Japho); now called Japha, Jaffa or Yafa. A summary of its history is given by von Raumer: Palæstina, p. 204 f.—Tr.]. She is, unlike Eneas, at once introduced as a Christian, and her charitable disposition, which was demonstrated by many benevolent acts performed for others, receives special commendation. One illustration, evidently taken from real life, is furnished in Acts 9:39. The widows, who weep for the loss of their faithful benefactress, approach Peter, and, in the presence of the corpse of the beloved one, exhibit all the upper and under garments (χιτῶνας καὶ ἱμάτια) [“the tunic and robe or gown, which still constitute the oriental costume of both sexes” (J. A. Alexander, ad. loc.], which Tabitha had made for them while she lived, thus, demonstrating not only the skill of her practiced hand, but also her disinterested and self-sacrificing industry. [Hackett, ad loc. well observes: “The omission of the article [before χιτῶνας] (suggestive of a wrong sense as inserted in the English version [and by Lechler above]) shows that they presented specimens only of her industry.”—Tr.], This devout female disciple [μαθήτρια, Attic μαθητρίς] is a model for Christian women; although she does not appear to be endowed with extensive property, she is charitable, to the full extent of her ability, to the poorest and most neglected class of all, to widows; she acquires the means by furnishing articles usually made by females, and these she prepares with unwearied diligence and self-denial. While charity thus prompts her to provide for the needy, she proves that she is a faithful disciple of Him who himself first showed mercy to her and to all the world.
Acts 9:37-44.9.38. She was sick, and died.—Tabitha had, without doubt, served Christ for years in pauperibus, and exercised her faith by performing works of love. It was during the period in which Peter abode in the vicinity (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις), that she became sick and died. After the body had been washed and laid in a retired upper chamber [λούσατες masc. as Luke “speaks in the most general terms and impersonally: they washed and laid, etc.” Winer: Gram. N. T. § 27. 6], the disciples in Joppa sent a message to Peter, who was then in Lydda [distant about 10 Roman miles], and urged him to come to them without delay. All the members of the Christian congregation at Joppa (οἱ μαθηταί Acts 9:38) appear to have been deeply moved by the loss which they had sustained, and to have entertained the wish in their hearts, although they did not venture to express it, that, if it were possible, Tabitha might be recalled to life. Thus they bear witness to that intimate communion which subsists among Christians, by virtue of which even one who, viewed externally, seems to stand alone in society, may be connected with others by closer ties than those of kindred.
Acts 9:39-44.9.43. a. Then Peter arose and went.—As soon as the apostle, who had made no delay, had arrived, the Christians conducted him to that upper chamber in which the corpse lay (for οἰ μαθηταί must doubtless be taken as the nominative to ἀνήγαγον). Then the widows on whom the deceased had conferred such benefits also approached, so that the two classes of persons with whom Tabitha had been connected during her life, were now assembled: 1. the Christian congregation, to which she herself belonged, and, 2. the widows whose benefactress she had been, and who, in part at least, did not belong to the congregation [“saints and widows.”]. But Peter directed them all to withdraw, so that he might devote himself to prayer in entire seclusion. After having offered fervent prayer on his knees, he turned towards the body and called to Tabitha, saying: “Arise.” Luke gives a graphic description of the scene: at first she opened her eyes, then, on seeing Peter, rose up on the bed, and, at length, when Peter had given her his hand, stood up. The apostle now invited the Christians [the saints, Acts 9:41, see above, Exeg. and Crit. Acts 9:13-44.9.14.—Tr.] and the widows to enter, in order that he might present to them the woman alive, who had been raised up by the power of God. Such an event naturally became known to the whole city, and conducted many to faith in Christ.—Peter did not immediately leave Joppa, but remained there during a considerable period, and lodged with a tanner named Simon, who was, without doubt, a Christian. The apostle, accordingly, cannot have regarded the tanner as an unclean person, on account of his trade, although such was, according to rabbinic views, the case.
b. The restoration of Tabitha to life, has, as we might have expected, been explained by some as a natural occurrence, by others as an unhistorical legend. The former (for instance, Heinrichs) imagine that the whole was a case of apparent death, from which the subject was awakened. The latter (for instance, Baur) regard the narrative as simply a legendary transfer of events in the life of Jesus to the apostles, for the purpose of glorifying the latter, and that the whole has been embellished by tradition. The case of the restoration to life of the daughter of Jairus is specially adduced, and here Baur lays considerable stress on the similarity of sounds in the two words Ταλιθά (Mark 5:41) and Ταβιθά, and attempts to show that the latter name agrees in sense with the former word. If any analogy exists between the procedure of Peter on the present occasion and that of the Lord, (e. g., the removal of the spectators, the call to the deceased, the act of reaching the hand to her), it may be the more readily understood, when we remember that Peter himself was one of the three disciples, who, with the exception of the parents of the maiden [Luke 8:51], were the sole witnesses of the restoration of the latter; the apostle naturally regarded the course adopted by his Lord and Master as a model when he performed a similar miracle.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The unity or oneness of the Church of Christ is here presented for the first time, even if it be but in an expression. Quite a number of Christian congregations already existed in the three provinces of Palestine—Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. Nevertheless, they are regarded and designated as a whole, as ἡ ἐκκλησία; the experience of any one of them, concerns the others also; the same life pervades them—they belong together. It was more difficult to preserve this unity and maintain it in practice, when the Gospel was extended over several countries, in its progress in the heathen world. But, even at the present day, when national churches, of precisely the same creed, respectively maintain an isolated position, and, further, when the Romish, the Greek, and the Evangelical Churches appear to be separated from one another by wide chasms, the una sancta catholica ecclesia is not a vain delusion, but a truth—of faith!
2. The Church was edified.—What is edification?—The believing Christian is built by regeneration and conversion on the foundation which is laid, on Jesus Christ, as the corner-stone, and is joined to him. But even as our birth is only the beginning, while growth and development constitute the progress of bodily life, so, too, regeneration is only the beginning, but continued renewal and sanctification constitute the progress of spiritual life; the laying of the foundation must be succeeded by unceasing building. And as regeneration is a divine-human work in man, wrought by the grace of God, but dependent on man’s reception of, and capacity for it, so, too, edification or renewal is a divine-human work, in which human action from below, and the operation of grace from above, combine; the only difference is found in the circumstance that, in the latter case, the element of moral power and independent action assumes far more prominence than in the former. Luke, indeed, states this point in so far as he first remarks that the Church walked in the fear of God, that is, was earnest and diligent, with respect to any act of a moral character, in avoiding every sin (for by it they would offend God,) and, on the contrary, in pleasing him by obedience. He afterwards remarks, that, as a result of the exhortation of the Holy Ghost, the Church was multiplied, that is, increased in the number of members through the operations of the grace of the Spirit. For even when he refers only to the influence of the Holy Ghost on the external growth of the Church, he still testifies that that influence was an essential, animating and moving power, in the life of the Church.
3. The words of Peter: ἰᾶταί σε Ἰησο͂υς ὁ Χρ. bear witness to the actual presence and the divine power of Jesus Christ, particularly as the deed accompanies the words. It is not the apostle, but Jesus himself, who heals the sick man, and renews his prostrated strength. This miracle is a striking proof that Christ operates in his exaltation, and continues the work which he performed in his humiliation (comp. Acts 1:1; ω̇͂ν ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς ποιεῖν).—Peter’s words, at the same time, supplied a firm foundation for the sick man’s faith in the Person and the power of Christ. No reference is made by Luke to this man’s faith; Peter makes no inquiry respecting it—but it is unquestionably assumed as already existing in his soul.
4. The “conversion to the Lord,” namely, to Jesus Christ, Acts 9:35, is a testimony offered for the Deity of Christ. In Acts 15:19, Luke employs the expression: ἐπιστρέφεν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, in reference to heathens who became Christians; comp. μετάνοια εἰς τὸν θεόν, Acts 20:21. If faith in Jesus Christ is a conversion to the Lord, then his divine dignity and nature are thereby presupposed. For ἐπιστρέφειν, in the Scriptural sense, is certainly such a turning of the heart and the will, that all the trust of the individual is placed in him, and his most humble obedience is rendered to him, to whom he turns; and here it is taken for granted that Christ is equal to God, for otherwise conversion to his Person would be nothing else than a lapse into idolatry.
5. Tabitha was full of good works and almsdeeds [mercy].—Here we fully assent to the remark of Baumgarten as well established, that these terms describe the good works and merciful deeds by which this Christian woman was distinguished, as being really of an internal nature, permanently abiding in her soul and indeed attached to it [“full of, etc.”], whereas good works, as soon as they are actually performed, acquire an external, positive nature of their own. But, in truth, good works can be justly regarded as genuine and Christian in their nature, only when the whole soul of the individual who performs them, is infused into them, so that it is not the hand alone, but the soul also, that gives and performs—the external acts proceed from the heart. When such is the case, the work is not an opus operatum, in which the soul does not participate, and which, (as most of all important,) the Spirit of God does not recognize; it partakes, on the contrary, of the nature of the soul; it is wrought in the soul, abides in it, and follows it even in death (Revelation 14:13, τὰ δὲ ἔργα αὐτῶν ̓ αὐτῶν.).
6. The restoration of Tabitha to life, and the healing of Eneas, were not independent acts of Peter as a Christian and an apostle, but were acts of Christ, for they were essentially answers to prayer. The apostle first bends the knee, when he is alone with his God and Lord in the chamber of the dead. It is only after this exercise that he turns towards the corpse and says: Arise, speaking in the power of the Lord—of that Saviour, who is ὁ (comp. Peter’s address, Acts 3:15.). This prayer is the essential or most important feature in which the raising up of Tabitha differs from that of the daughter of Jairus. For Jesus himself took the dead child by the hand, without having previously offered prayer, when he called her back to life, whereas Peter does not restore life to the dead, until he has first besought the Lord to grant this miracle. Thus the name of Jesus, and not that of his apostle, is glorified, and, as a consequence of it, many persons in Joppa are converted to Christ, and not to Peter.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Acts 9:31. Then had the churches [church] rest, etc.—After the storm, the church enjoys a season of repose; even when the dragon [Revelation 12:1 ff.] threatens and rages, the Lord gathers his people under his wing and protects them. (Ap. Past.).—Throughout all Judea—and Samaria.—Jews and Samaritans meet together in peace, under the banner of the cross—an illustration alike of the pacificatory character of the Gospel, and of the divine purpose that it should become the religion of the world!—Edified … comfort of the Holy Ghost—multiplied.—The times of refreshing [Acts 3:19] granted to the Church: I. Seasons of repose and comfort after storms of trouble; II. Seasons of meditation and diligent preparation, in view of new contests.—When are the peaceful times of the Church truly blessed times? When the peace which we enjoy, I. Does not teach us to become arrogant, but inclines us to fear the Lord, even when no foe is present; II. Does not teach us to presume, but inclines us to seek they comfort of the Holy Ghost, even when we enjoy temporal prosperity; III. Does not teach us to become indolent, but rather tends to the edification of the church, that is, to its advancement in religious life, in place of encouraging it to be satisfied with the progress that has been already made.—Peace is the appropriate season for building—houses and granaries, schools and churches, hearts and congregations.—On a sound and an unsound peace; I. In the family; II. In the country; III. In the church.—Under what circumstances may a congregation be truly said to be built up? I. When the reverence with which it regards God and his word, constitutes the firm foundation on which its life and doctrine repose; II. When love and peace in Jesus Christ closely unite the hearts of all; III. When the power of the Holy Ghost is the animating and moving principle that conducts alike the individual and the whole congregation nearer and nearer to heaven.—When may a congregation be said to flourish? I. When it is rooted in the fear of the Lord; II. When it branches out in brotherly love; III. When it exhibits the fruits of the Spirit in their maturity.—Why are the seasons of blossoming so brief in Christian hearts, Christian congregations, and Christian nations?—Is it Spring or Autumn in the Church of the Lord?
Acts 9:32. And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all.—Congregations as much need a regular Church-visitation, as a garden needs the oversight of the gardener. We cannot safely yield to a feeling of security, even when the church enjoys peace, but should diligently watch, for Satan is never idle, Luke 11:24. (Starke).—He came down also to the saints.—It is an evidence of a serious decline that the word “saint” has become a term of derision in the bosom of Christendom, and that those who would claim it, would be accused of commending themselves. It may, according to the Scriptures, be assumed in a truly humble spirit. The sinner who repents, is a saint, when he devotes himself to God and Christ as a a peculiar servant. (Rieger).
Acts 9:33. There he found a certain man … which had kept his bed eight years.—Sick persons may he found also among the saints; the communion of the saints retains some of the features of a lazaretto, and the one is expected to serve as the nurse of the other. How much vital power has already streamed forth from Jesus Christ! And all that is diseased in me, will hereafter be gloriously restored by Him. (Rieger).
Acts 9:34. Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.—This is the language, I. Of an apostle’s humility (Jesus Christ, not I); II. Of a prophet’s power of faith (He “maketh”—not—May he make thee whole).—Arise and make thy bed.—We pray, in our less distinguished age, that God would grant his aid to the sick at whose bedside we stand, if such be his holy will; we exhort the sick to be patient, and to look to the future with hope. But Peter, when invested with apostolical fulness of power, is enabled to announce to Eneas: ‘Thou shalt be made whole; yea, thou art already restored.’ And Luther, with his heroic and mighty faith, speaks authoritatively to the faint-hearted and dying Melanchthon: “Thou must live! Thou shalt not die!” [It was at Weimar, in 1541; after very fervent prayer, Luther seized the hand of his friend, who was already unconscious, and said: Bono animo esto, Philippe; non morieris!—Tr.].—Two things pertain to the healing of souls that are sick: 1. They must be taught to look up in faith to the Lord, from whom alone salvation and help can come; II. They must be encouraged to arise in His strength, and walk in newness of life.
Acts 9:35. Turned to the Lord.—Thus the Lord blesses the labors of his servants; the healing of a sick man conducts many to salvation; the restoration of one may exercise a saving influence on many others.
Acts 9:36. A certain [female] disciple.—Women are not appointed to be teachers, but may be disciples in the church. (Starke).—Full of good works and almsdeeds.—The giving of alms does not impoverish; it empties the hand, but fills the heart. Proverbs 19:17. (Starke).—The honorable mention made of Tabitha: I. She was a disciple—the title refers to her faith; she sits with Mary at the feet of Jesus; II. She was full of good works and almsdeeds—this language describes her love, which served the Lord in the brethren, thereby manifesting its life and power.
Acts 9:37. She was sick, and died.—It was only after her death that it became known what a treasure she had been to the church; the odour of the costly ointment filled the house, when the vessel in which it lay concealed, was broken [John 12:3]. (Besser).
Very few words are used with respect to her sickness and death. But the Lord had surely been present at her bedside, both while she lay sick, and when she died, even as He had not failed to be present in her closet when she had kneeled there as His disciple, and in her chamber when she worked in his service, and prepared garments for the poor.—Thou wilt die, as thou hast lived.
Acts 9:38. The disciples heard that Peter was (at Lydda, and) sent unto him.—They also were believers, but they had not miraculous gifts like those of Peter. Grace and gifts are not the same; God bestows the latter according to his wisdom, giving five pounds to one servant, three to another, and one to a third. (Ap. Past.).—They can have scarcely expected a miracle from Peter, and only desired that he would address words of consolation to them. Much is already gained, when they who abide in the house of mourning sincerely desire the consolations of God’s word.
Acts 9:39. Shewing the coats and garments, etc.—Acts of benevolence which survive their author, are the best relics of the saints. (Starke).—The tears of the widows standing around the bier of Tabitha, a noble testimony, I. With respect to the deceased woman and her charity; II. With respect to the survivors and their gratitude.
Acts 9:40. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed.—Why did he direct all who were present to withdraw? I. He followed the example of his Master in the case of the daughter of Jairus; II. He may have perceived that some were governed by an idle curiosity; III. He could more fully engage in prayer when alone; IV. He did not yet know whether it was the Lord’s will to restore the deceased woman to life. Hence he desired to be alone with the Lord, in order to make known to Him the request of the disciples [Philippians 4:6].—Observe: (a) Even if a pastor should possess the miraculous powers of an apostle, it would still be his duty continually to cherish a sense of his dependence on the Lord, and never act presumptuously in his office, or suppose that he could perform any work by his own strength. (b) We are not at liberty to assent to every request, even of devout men or disciples, without due examination, but are in duty bound to lay the matter, first of all, before the Lord, particularly when it concerns the life or death of a child of God, the continued residence or the removal of a pastor, etc. (c) In such cases, private prayer is preëminently needed. (Ap. Past.).—Tabitha, arise! Such success should attend pastors, when souls are spiritually awakened. To have power with God and joyfulness in prayer [Hosea 12:3]—to penetrate, with the aid of God’s word, into hearts that are dead—to offer a helping and guiding hand to the awakened (Acts 9:41), and to present those who had been dead sinners as living saints, who glorify God, and instruct others by their example—this is a work worthy of an apostle and follower of Jesus. (Ap. Past.)
Acts 9:41. When he had called the saints, etc.—It is exceedingly cheering when a pastor can publicly diffuse the blessing which he had sought in his closet on his knees, and scatter it as the seed of new and more abundant fruits. (Ap. Past.).—Luke mentions that the widows wept as they stood around the corpse, but he does not describe their joy when Tabitha was restored to life—it could not be described. (Besser).
Acts 9:42. It was known throughout all Joppa.—Simon, the son of Jonah (Matthew 16:17), was more highly honored in Joppa, than Jonah, the ancient prophet (Jonah 1:3). (Starke).—Many believed.—In Lydda “all,” (Acts 9:35), in Joppa only “many” were converted. All miracles do not produce the same effects, and all sermons are not attended by the same blessing. (Ap. Past.).
Acts 9:43. He tarried many days in Joppa.—When God opens a wide door for a pastor in any spot, it becomes his duty to tarry as long as possible, so that the good seed may take root.—With one Simon a tanner. There is no trade, however mean it may be in the eyes of the world, or even, however unclean, which cannot be sanctified. (Starke).—The house of Simon the tanner may have been disregarded by men, but, according to Acts 10:6, it was well known in heaven, and in the presence of the angels of God, and was beheld by them with interest. (Rieger).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.
The church of Christ is rich in love, and through love: I. There are always persons to be found in a congregation, who constitute, as it were, central points around which the love that exists in the congregation, collects; every work of love is guided by their hands, and even when they utter no loud words, they successfully admonish others. A congregation which possesses but a single Tabitha, is rich through love, since it owns in that soul a vast productive capital. When such a member dies, God raises up a successor, for love never dies. II. But the congregation is then only rich in love and through love, when the love which gives, is met by a love which gratefully receives. Under any other circumstances, no blessing attends the gifts which have been received. (Palmer: Homil.).
That good works and alms are necessary features of the character of a true Christian. (Beck: Hom. Rep.).
That the Lord always has men ready to call that which is dead in his church back to life. (ib).
On the share of a Christian female in the work of Inner Missions [on which subject see the article in Herzog: Encyk. IX. 650–658, by Wichern. —Tr.]:
I. Her duty; II. Her fitness; III. Her opportunities for it. (Fritz: Zeitpr.).
On Christian sympathy with a neighbor in his affliction (J. Hartmann: Zeugnisse ev. Wahrh.).
How may the miracles of Jesus and the apostles prove to be blessings to us? I. They should strengthen our faith; II. Urge us to seek our sanctification. (Lisco).
Tabitha, not a fashion-plate, but a model for every Christian female: I. In her life—by her walk in faith (she was a disciple), and her labor of love (full of good works and almsdeeds); II. In her death—by the tears of love (the widows), and the prayer of faith (Peter) at her bier; III. In her restoration to life—as an image of the blessed duration of a holy and divine life, (on earth in grateful hearts; in heaven in glory).
The chamber of death (in which Tabitha (—our beloved friends—) died): I. It is the dark abode of grief, in which love has reason to weep; II. It is the retired closet in which faith wrestles with God in prayer; III. It is the spot in which hope triumphs over death and the grave.
Tabitha, prepared for the grave—the means of awakening many unto life [Acts 9:42]: I. The sketch of her life, read at the bier—brief, but expressive: “a disciple” —“full of good works;” II. The funeral procession, forming around her bier—unpretending, and yet affecting: love weeping, faith administering consolation; III. The funeral hymn heard at her bier—a triumphant recall to life: “Tabitha, arise!” —peculiar, and yet full of comfort, for us all; it not only refers to a brief continuance of her life on earth, but also reminds us of the resurrection and continued life of all the children of God, above, (in the mansions of our Father in heaven), and on earth (in those who were conducted by them to God).
“Tabitha, arise” —an awakening call addressed to our age: I. To whom is it addressed? Awake, thou spirit of love and mercy! This call is addressed to all Christendsm of our day, especially to evangelical Christendom. And if men will not hearken, then do ye put them to shame, ye females, who have always, since the days of Tabitha, led the way in works of love and heroic deeds of Christian mercy. II. Why is the call addressed to us? The wants of the times are urgent, and the debt of that love which saves, has greatly increased, particularly in the evangelical Church, which, on this point, may derive instruction from her Catholic sister. III. Whence does the call proceed? Not from an external source. The work of Inner Missions is not a matter of fashion, neither can the government of itself here afford aid. We need the presence of the Lord, and the instrumentality of Peter, that is, the word of God with its power, the Church with its blessing, the office of the ministry with its love. (Zeitpredigt über innere Mission, 1850.).
The miraculous awakening of Tabitha, an image of the miracle of grace when a sinner is spiritually awakened. I. The grief and sympathy of the mourning congregation, first appear—the weeping widows. II. The supplications and prayers of God’s believing servants—Peter praying. III. The awakening call of the divine word: “Tabitha, arise.” And now we perceive, IV. The first signs of life in the awakened soul—“she opened her eyes—saw Peter—sat up.” There is, next, needed, V. Friendly aid, offered to the new and still feeble life—“he gave her his hand—lifted her up;” VI. Also, an affectionate admission into the church—“he called … alive”; VII. And, lastly, as the result, a blessed impression is received by many, Acts 9:42.
(Compare, on the life and death of Tabitha, viewed as an example, the “Biography of the devout Beata Sturm, 1780, etc.,” edited by Rieger).
 Acts 9:31. H—ἐκκλησία—ἐπληθύνετο; this is the reading of A. B. C., and. as it has recently appeared, also of Cod. Sin. as well as of many manuscripts of the second rank, of the majority of the Oriental versions, and also of the Vulgate, and of Dionysius of Alex. On the other hand, the plural [text. rec.], (αἱ—ἐκκλησίαι (πᾶσαι E.) ει̇͂χον .. ἐπληθύνοντο) is found in E. G. H. and some other manuscripts. As the latter generally belong to a later period, and as most of the ancient versions exhibit the singular, this is far better attested than the plural, and has been preferred by Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf and Bornemann [Stier and Theile, and Alford, with whom de Wette concurs. Meyer had, in earlier editions, espoused the opposite view, but in the last edition of his Commentary (3d, 1861) unhesitatingly adopts the singular as the original reading, and as “expressive of the apostolical conception of the unity of the Church.”—Tr.]. The plural is to be regarded as an explanation. [The word ἐκκλῃσία, in the singular, used for the whole body of Christians, or the Church universal, occurs, e. g., in Matthew 16:18; Act 20:28; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 1:22.—Tr.]
 Acts 9:36. [The Greek word, Dorcas, which Luke furnishes as the translation of the Aramæan or Syro-Chal. Tabitha. is rendered in the margin of the English Bible “Doe, or, Roe”; it is usually applied to the gazelle, the Antelope dorcas of Linnæus.—The earlier English versions (Wiclif; Tynd.; Cranm.; Geneva; Rheims) all exhibit “Dorcas.”—Tr.]
 Acts 9:38. a. The words δύο ἄνδρας [of text. rec.] are omitted in G. H. and a number of later [minuscule] mss., as well as in several versions and fathers; the words in Acts 9:39, συνῆλθεν αὐτοῖς, however, imply that the former belong to the text. [Retained in the Vulg. and recent critical editions, and confirmed by Cod. Sin. etc.—Tr.]
 Acts 9:38. b. The readings ὀκνήσῃς and ἠμῶν [adopted by Lach. Tisch. and Alf., and recognized by the Vulg.] occur in A. B. E., and the original text of C., as well as in Cod. Sin.; but G. H. (and C. corrected by a later hand) furnish ὀκνῆσαι—αὐτῶν [text. rec.]. The alteration in Cod. Ephraemi [C.] is, in particular, a decisive fact, as it shows that the original was in the form of the direct style of address. Besides, the Coptic version, while it reproduces the infinitive, retains the first person of the pronoun [ἡμῶν]—a remnant of the original reading. [Ὀκνήσῃς—ἡμῶν is preferred by de Wette also, and, recently, by Meyer (3d. ed. of Commentary), although the latter had previously considered the oratio directa to be a gloss. If the infinitive had been the original form, there could be no motive—Alford says—for correcting it.—The margin of the Engl. Bible furnishes “be grieved” (Tynd.; Cranm.) as another translation of the original, which is more accurately rendered in the text, delay (Geneva).—Tr.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent