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THE CHURCH OF CHRIST AMONG THE GENTILES; OR, ITS PROGRESS FROM ANTIOCH TO ROME—THE ACTS OF PAUL
THE FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY (PAUL AND BARNABAS)—COMMENCED
1. Barnabas and Saul at Antioch; or, the Departure of the First Gentile Missionaries (Acts 13:1-3).
2. The Conversion of Sergius Paulus; or, the Gospel in Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12).
3. A Sabbath Day in Pisidian Antioch; or, Paul’s Sermon in the Synagogue (Acts 13:13-43).
4. A Second Sabbath in Pisidian Antioch; or, the Gospel carried to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-52).
Acts 13:1. In the Church that was at Antioch.—Better at or in Antioch, in or throughout, or for the benefit of the Church, κατά having all these different meanings. Certain should be omitted. Prophets (see on Acts 2:17) and teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28).—Named together (Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:11), yet not the same, though both functions might be united in one person—as, e.g., in Paul (Galatians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 12:1) and John (Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:9). Barnabas, named first, appears to have held at Antioch a position corresponding to that of Peter at Jerusalem (Holtzmann). Along with him Simeon and Lucius were prophets. Manaen and Saul.—Most likely teachers (Holtzmann). Brought up with.—σύντροφος. Might mean educated along with (2Ma. 9:29), but better rendered collactaneus, nourished at the same breast (Xen., Mem., ii. 3, 4).
Acts 13:2. Ministered refers to the rites of Christian worship, as prayer, exhortation, and fasting (Romans 15:27). They may signify the prophets and teachers, or the congregation or church in general. The Holy Ghost said.—Perhaps, as in Acts 11:28; Acts 20:23, through the lips of the prophets, or by the still small voice whispering to each of the leaders, as in Acts 8:29. The work where unto I have called them.—Though not stated, doubtless understood by all to be that of carrying the gospel to the heathen (Acts 14:26; Acts 15:38), as had already been intimated to Saul at his conversion (Acts 9:15).
Acts 13:3. Fasted and prayed.—Compare Acts 10:30; Acts 14:23, which show that the two were frequently practised in conjunction by both individuals and the Church. This fast was special, in preparation for the ordination of the missionaries. They—i.e., the prophets and teachers—laid their hands on them, without the co-operation of the Church members (against Overbeck). They—i.e., the Church—sent them—the missionaries—away—rather, gave them leave to depart, i.e., “released them from their regular duties and bade them ‘God-speed’ ” (Ramsay). In Acts 13:4 they are represented as having been sent forth by the Holy Ghost.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 13:1-3
The Church at Antioch; or, the Designation and Dispatch of the First Missionaries
I. The names of the missionaries.—
1. Barnabas. Originally called Joses. Styled Barnabas, meaning Son of Consolation or of Exhortation, either from his sympathy or from his eloquence, or perhaps from both. A native of Cyprus, a Levite, who stood high in the esteem of the Church at Jerusalem on account of his self-sacrificing liberality, and who had lately arrived in Antioch on a mission from the mother Church in the metropolis (Acts 4:36-37; Acts 11:22; which see).
2. Saul, a native of Tarsus, a scholar of Gamaliel, a participator in the murder of Stephen, a persecutor of Christians, a convert of Jesus, a powerful evangelist, recently introduced to the Church at Antioch by Barnabas (Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:0., Acts 11:25-26; which see).
II. Their standing in the Church at Antioch.—
1. Their offices. Prophets and teachers. All prophets were teachers, though all teachers were not prophets. A prophet was one who authoritatively uttered Divine communications, whereas a teacher was one who had the gift of teaching and explaining what the prophet uttered (see 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). Both offices were held by Barnabas and Saul, though Saul and Manaen it has been thought (Besser) were designed to be regarded as teachers; Barnabas, Simeon, and Lucius as prophets (see “Critical Remarks”).
2. Their colleagues.
(1) Simeon, called Niger, and so distinguished from both Simon Peter and Simon the Canaanite. Otherwise unknown, though probably a Jew who received the Roman appellation from the Gentiles. Whether a native of Africa who had become a proselyte (Alford) cannot be told.
(2) Lucius of Cyrene. Supposed by some to have been the writer of the Acts (see Acts 1:1), and by others with greater likelihood Lucius, Paul’s kinsman (Romans 16:21). On the place of his birth see Acts 2:10.
(3) Manaen = Menahem (2 Kings 15:14) occurs only here. Whether he had simply been brought up with, i.e., educated along with, Herod the tetrarch, a son of Herod the Great, an uncle of Herod Agrippa, the murderer of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:11), and the derider of our Lord (Luke 23:11), or nursed with him at the same breast, cannot be decided by expositors. The former notion (Calvin, Grotius, Baumgarten, and others) derives support from the circumstance that it was “common for persons of rank to associate other children with their own for the purpose of sharing their amusements and studies, and by their example serving to excite them to greater emulation” (Hackett); the latter (Kuinoel, Olshausen, Tholuck, and others) might have easily occurred if Manaen’s mother had been Herod’s nurse. And this is not unlikely if Manaen’s father or grandfather was the Essene prophet mentioned by Josephus (Ant., XV. x. 5), who in the early youth of Herod the Great foretold his future elevation to the throne.
III. Their call to be missionaries.—
1. To whom given.
(1) Without question inwardly to the missionaries themselves. The narrative (Acts 13:2) seems to indicate that Barnabas and Saul had already become conscious of an inward prompting to undertake a Gentile mission. Without this it might have been difficult to persuade them to undertake so arduous an enterprise; with this their path of duty would be immeasurably clearer. No man should enter on the office of a minister or missionary without an inward conviction that he is called of God (Hebrews 5:4).
(2) As certainly in outward form to the Church, without whose authorisation the evangelists should not proceed. The work of carrying the gospel into regions beyond may be executed by private individuals, but the duty of sending the gospel into all the world rests with the Church in its corporate capacity. Hence ambassadors should be sent abroad in its name and with its sanction. Nor should private individuals readily regard themselves as called to be ministers or missionaries, if they cannot obtain the concurrence of the Church. 2. When given. While they, the prophets and teachers, ministered to the Lord and fasted. Whether by themselves or in company with the members of the Church is not stated; but this may be inferred, that either the whole body of the Church or its leaders were at this time seeking heavenly light and guidance on this very point, the carrying of the gospel into regions beyond. When God desires to stir His people up to enter on some “forward movement” for the glory of His name and the extension of His cause and kingdom, He usually pours out upon them the Spirit of grace and supplication.
3. By whom given. By the Holy Ghost, the invisible but ever-present and Divine representative of Jesus Christ, whom Christ promised to send as His Church’s teacher and guide after He Himself had withdrawn His bodily presence (John 14:16-17; John 15:26; John 16:7-14). The same Spirit still must call forth the Church’s ministers and missionaries.
4. In what form given.
(1) To the missionaries themselves, probably, in a clear presentation to their minds of the claims of the heathen world, and a strong conviction wrought within their hearts that they should yield to those claims by going forth as messengers of the cross.
(2) To the Church by a still small voice, probably, which simultaneously spoke in each prophet’s and teacher’s heart, and seemed to say, “Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”—the work not being mentioned because it was understood, either as having formed the subject of their thoughts and the object of their prayers, or as being universally recognised in the Church that the Spirit’s office was to organise and extend the kingdom of Christ.
IV. Their ordination to the missionary office.—
1. By whom ordained.
(1) By the whole body of the Church. Whoever the agent, the act was that of the entire Christian community.
(2) By the prophets and teachers. Whether others besides these participated in the solemnities of the occasion, not being stated, will be differently replied to by different readers and interpreters.
2. How ordained.
(1) By fasting and prayer. In these religious services the entire body of Christian people may have taken, and probably did take, part.
(2) By laying on of hands. This symbolical rite was most likely performed by the Church’s leaders, the prophets and teachers; but whether by all or only by representatives cannot be decided.
3. To what ordained. Not to the work of the ministry, since Paul was a minister already (Galatians 1:1), nor to the apostleship (Lightfoot), since “the apostle was always appointed by God, not by the Church” (Ramsay), but to the special business of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. The mission-field, the high place of honour in the Christian Church, calls for men of the clearest intellect, the largest heart, and the bravest spirit—in short, for men of the type of Barnabas and Saul.
V. Their departure from Antioch.—Simply told, “they,” the Christians at Antioch, “sent them,” Barnabas and Saul, away (see Critical Remarks).
1. On a holy errand. To carry the light of truth and life into darkened understandings and benighted hearts, to proclaim the message of salvation to a lost and ruined world, to bring all nations to the obedience of the faith (Romans 1:5). An errand more sublime imagination cannot well conceive.
2. With fervent prayers. Commending them to heaven for protection on their journeys, for assistance in their labours, for success in their enterprise.
3. In hope of a triumphant return. Looking forward doubtless to the time when those who were setting forth would come back with tidings of what great things God had done by their hands (comparePsalms 126:6; Psalms 126:6), which they did (Acts 14:27).
1. That a Church may consist of different congregations.
2. That in the Church exist various orders of office-bearers.
3. That the presiding personality in the Church of Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit.
4. That no one can legitimately exercise office in the Church without the Spirit’s call.
5. That fasting and prayer prepare the human soul for the Spirit’s communications.
6. That the Church of Christ should ever regard itself as a great missionary society.
7. That the Church should follow with its prayers those who represent it in mission-fields.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 13:1-3. The Church at Antioch a True Church.
I. Its chief president was the Holy Ghost.
II. Its ministers were various.—Prophets, teachers, missionaries (possibly elders had not yet been appointed, though already they existed in Jerusalem) (Acts 11:30).
III. Its membership was mixed—not confined to one class, but composed of Jews and Gentiles.
IV. Its doctrine was evangelical, consisting of the tenets of the gospel.
V. Its worship was scriptural—fasting and prayer.
VI. Its spirit was missionary—it sent forth the first evangelists to the heathen.
Acts 13:2-3. The Indispensable Requirements of a True Minister or Missionary.
I. A call from the Holy Ghost.
II. Ordination from his brethren.
III. Recognition by the Church.
IV. A definite sphere of labour.
Acts 13:3. The Best Travelling Attendance for a Missionary on his Departure.
I. The Divine call concerning him.
II. The Spirit’s impulse within him.
III. The Church’s prayers behind him.
IV. The sighing of the heathen world before him.—Gerok.
Acts 13:1-3. The Forward Movement at Antioch.
I. The contemplated character of this movement.—Not the consolidation of the Church’s own membership, the elaboration of the Church’s worship, the systematisation of the Church’s doctrine, the development of the Church’s resources, the completion of the Church’s order—all of which were praiseworthy objects; but the extension of the gospel throughout the heathen world—the greatest movement that can occupy the thoughts of Christ’s people.
II. The felt necessity for the movement.—Hardly remarkable that this was first recognised not in Jerusalem, the city of exclusive theocratic privilege, of religious conservatism, of haughty spiritual pride, of comparative poverty, but in Antioch, a city of mixed population, of intellectual liberality, of commercial enterprise, of large wealth.
III. The earnest preparation for the movement.—In proportion to its vast importance and herculean difficulty, it required to be gone about with caution. Not only had fitting agents to he selected and proper fields to be marked out for their labours, but the approbation of the Holy Ghost and the concurrence of the Church had to be secured. Accordingly it was not surprising that the Church’s leaders gave the whole scheme prolonged and serious consideration, and in company with the Church’s members, it may be supposed, spread the matter out before the Lord.
IV. The actual initiation of the movement.—This was done by the Holy Ghost, whose province alone it was to sanction such a forward step, and without whose approbation the Church authorities would not have felt warranted to stir. Only when they got His signal could they see their way to advance; when that came they could no longer hold back.
V. The practical execution of the movement.—This was entrusted to Barnabas and Saul, than whom no better evangelists have ever unfurled the banner of the cross. Were all heathen missions conducted by two such captains, fewer failures and more successes would be recorded. Barnabas and Saul present the types of men the Church should seek for her missionaries.
VI. The faithful historian of the movement.—Not Lucius of Cyrene, but Luke, the beloved physician, who in his unadorned and artless chronicles has supplied an admirable model for missionaries’ reports.
Acts 13:4. Seleucia.—“Civitas potens, sæpta muris neque in barbarum corrupta sed conditoris Seleucia retinens” (Tac, An., vi. 42). The port of Antioch, three miles west of the city and two hours’ journey from the month of the Orontes, was founded almost contemporaneously with Antioch, B.C. 300, by King Seleucus I. (Nicanor). The harbour is mentioned according to Luke’s custom, Acts 14:25; Acts 16:11; Acts 18:18 (Ramsay).
Acts 13:5. Minister.—Attendant, or assistant; in what capacity is not told.
Acts 13:6. The best MSS. read the whole island. They probably made “a complete tour of the Jewish communities in the island, preaching in each synagogue” (Ramsay).
Acts 13:7. The deputy of the country should be proconsul, ἀνθύπατος. Long supposed that Luke had here erred in designating the governor of Cyprus proconsul, but now recognised that Luke is correct (see explanation in “Homiletical Analysis”). Bar-jesus = son of Jesus, or = Barjesuvan, son of readiness (Klostermann, Ramsay who for Elymas would read Ἕτοιμος).
Acts 13:8. Elymas.—Arabic for “wise” (like Turkish Ulemah), and interpreted by Luke as equivalent to sorcerer or magician. Note.—The above story of Elymas is supposed (Baur, Zeller, Holtzmann, and others) to have been influenced by the parallel narrations about Simon Magus (Acts 8:20-24) and Ananias and Sappbira (Acts 5:1-10); but see “Hints” on Acts 13:8.
Acts 13:9. Saul, who also is called Paul.—That from this point onward in the narrative the apostle ceases to be designated Saul, and is always called Paul, has been explained by the hypothesis that the apostle, either from Sergius Paulus, or his friends, received, or himself adopted, the Roman title Paul in commemoration of the proconsul’s conversion (Jerome, Augustine, Bengel, Olshausen, Meyer, Ewald); but against this stand these considerations:
1. That Luke introduces the change of name before the conversion is recorded.
2. That while customary for a pupil to adopt the name of a teacher, it was not usual for a teacher to appropriate the name of a pupil.
3. That if Paul actually did assume the governor’s name, it might at least look as if he attached more importance to the conversion of a distinguished than to that of an obscure person. Wherefore the more probable theory is that the apostle originally had the two names—Saul among the Jews, and Paul among the Gentiles (compare John Mark, John 12:25; Jesus Justus, Colossians 4:11)—and that, as hitherto, while preaching to the Jews his Jewish name was used, so henceforth, when evangelizing among the Gentiles, his Gentile designation should be employed (Weizsäcker, Holtzmann, Wendt, Lechler, Hackett, Spence, Ramsay). The notion that Saul assumed the name Paul to express his personal humility is unlikely; the suggestion that Luke at this point began to use memoirs in which the apostle was called Paul (Alford) is little better. Still less correct is the hypothesis that Luke only invented the name from Paul’s connection with Sergius (Baur, Zeller, Hausrath). The derivation of the name Paul from the Hebrew פלא = mirabilis, wonderful, in allusion to the miracle wrought by the apostle (Otto, Zöckler), appears somewhat fanciful.
Acts 13:12. Read the proconsul instead of the deputy as above. Believed.—Baur, entirely without reason, thinks the conversion of the proconsul has “only a very slight degree of probability.”
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 13:4-12
Barnabas and Saul in Cyprus; or, the Commencement of the First Missionary Journey
I. The journey to Cyprus.—
1. By land to Seleucia. This town, sixteen miles distant from Antioch, to which it served as a seaport, stood upon the coast five miles north of the mouth of the Orontes. “Seleucia united the two characters of a fortress and a seaport. It was situated on a rocky eminence, which is the southern extremity of a range of hills projecting from Mount Amanus.… The harbour and mercantile suburb were on level ground towards the west,” and were protected by “strong artificial defences” (Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles of Paul, 1:132). “In addition to splendid buildings and temples, the city possessed other advantages. The climate was excellent, and the soil around uncommonly fruitful. Its geographical position, before the gate of Antioch, between Cyprus, Cilicia, Syria, and Phœnicia, made it a seat of extraordinarily lively and profitable commerce” (Hertzberg in Riehm, art. “Seleucia”). “A village called Antakia and interesting ruins point out the ancient site” (Hackett).
2. By sea to Cyprus. Conybeare and Howson offer four reasons why the missionaries turned in the first instance towards this island. It was separated by no great distance from the mainland of Syria; a vessel sailing from Seleucia to Salamis was not difficult to procure, especially in the summer season; Cyprus was the native land of Barnabas, a consideration which would naturally weigh with the Son of Consolation (compareJohn 1:41-42; John 1:41-42; John 11:5); and some of the Cypriotes were already Christians (Acts 11:20). As the Holy Spirit is not said to have prescribed the route, these suggestions may serve as an explanation of the missionaries’ movements, at least till better can be found.
II. The work in Salamis.—
1. The city and its inhabitants. Situated near the modern town of Famagousta, the ancient city stood “on a bight of the coast to the north of the river Pediæus.” “A large city by the sea shore, a widespread plain with cornfields and orchards, and the blue distance of mountains beyond, composed the view on which the eyes of Barnabas and Saul rested when they came to anchor in the bay of Salamis” (Conybeare and Howson, 1:135). “When the apostles stepped ashore upon one of the ancient piers, of which the ruins are still visible, it was a busy and important place, and we cannot doubt that Barnabas would find many to greet him in his old home” (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, 1:347).
2. The synagogues and their worshippers. Since there were “synagogues,” the Jewish population must have been considerable; and one can easily understand how “the unparalleled productiveness of Cyprus, and its trade in fruit, wine, flax, and honey, would naturally attract them to the mercantile port” (Conybeare and Howson, 1:135). Hitherto it had been Saul’s custom to begin his work by visiting the synagogues; and from this practice, neither he nor Barnabas as yet departed.
3. The missionaries and their occupation. Whatever else they did, their time was mainly spent in preaching or proclaiming the word of God to their fellow-worshippers in these synagogues, who would of course be Jews with a mixture perhaps of heathen proselytes. (On synagogue worship, see Acts 13:15.) What measure of success they obtained is not reported.
4. Their attendant and his duties. By name John Mark (see on Acts 12:25); whether he assisted Barnabas and Saul in preaching and baptising, or confined his attention to secular matters, such as making arrangements for the travel, lodging, and sustenance of the company, cannot be determined. That John Mark is introduced in this “curiously incidental” way, was probably designed, in view of what was to happen in Pamphylia, to show that “he was not essential to the expedition, had not been selected by the Spirit, had not been formally delegated by the Church of Antioch, but was an extra hand taken by Barnabas and Saul on their own responsibility.”—Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, etc., p. 71.
III. The arrival at Paphos.—
1. The town. New Paphos, on the west coast of the island, a hundred miles from Salamis; then a bustling haven, the city of Aphrodite (Venus), whose infamous rites long continued to be celebrated in its temple, and the residence of the Roman proconsul; now a decayed and mouldering village, the modern Baffa.
2. The governor.
(1) His name—Sergius Paulus, of whom nothing more is known. Galen mentions a Sergius Paulus who flourished more than a century later, and was distinguished for philosophy; while Pliny (A.D. 90) names a Sergius Paulus as his chief authority for some facts in natural history which he relates, and in particular for two connected with Cyprus. “A Greek inscription of Soloi, on the north coast of Cyprus, is dated in the proconsulship of Paulus, who probably is the same governor that played a part in the strange and interesting scene to be described” (Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 74).
(2) His character—“prudent,” or “a man of understanding.” One who intermeddled with all knowledge, a philosopher like his namesake above referred to. Out of this thirst for learning may have arisen his acquaintance with Bar-jesus; it was a better proof of the sincerity of his desire for enlightenment that he summoned Barnabas and Saul to his palace to hear from them the word of God.
(3) His office—“deputy of the country,” or rather, proconsul. That Sergius Paulus should have been so styled was formerly regarded as an error on the part of Luke, but is now proved to be in accordance with absolute historical accuracy (see “Critical Remarks”).
3. The sorcerer.
(1) His personal designation. Bar-jesus, the son of Jesus (see “Critical Remarks”).
(2) His professional title. A certain magician. He had assumed the appellation Elymas (from the same root as the Turkish Ulemah), meaning, “the wise man” or wizard.
(3) His correct description. A false prophet. “He was a fortune-teller, but his art was an imposition” (Hackett).
(4) His national derivation. A Jew. Hackett thinks he may have been born in Arabia or lived there for some time.
IV. The encounter with Bar-jesus.—
1. The conduct of the sorcerer. He “withstood Barnabas and Saul, seeking to turn away the deputy or proconsul from the faith.” A statement which shows—
(1) That the governor’s reception of the apostles took place not in private, but in public, at least to the extent of being in presence of the inmates of his household, including Elymas, who was apparently established in the service of Sergius.
(2) That the exposition of the gospel given by the apostles had made a manifest impression on the governor’s heart, which promised to result in his conversion.
(3) That the false prophet interposed with a view of preventing his master and patron from yielding to the eloquence of the missionaries. How Elymas sought to weaken the force of the apostles’ preaching and deaden its influence upon Sergius is not told, but it is probable “he spared neither argument nor insult in his endeavour to persuade Sergius of the absurdity of the new faith” (Farrar)—perhaps reviling Christ as a crucified malefactor, and denouncing Him as an enemy of Moses.
2. The action of Saul. Significant that not Barnabas but Saul steps into the arena against Elymas and for the rescue of Sergius—a heroic deed which, by its success, for ever established Saul’s precedence over Barnabas, and, as some conjecture, won for him his new and now world-renowned name of Paul (see, however, “Critical Remarks”).
(1) The secret impulse which pushed Saul into the foreground came from the Holy Ghost, who then presided and still presides in the Church, who then selected and still selects His agents, and who then directed as He still directs their steps. “Saul, filled with the Holy Ghost.”
(2) The searching glance with which Saul transfixed the wizard (compareActs 3:4; Acts 3:4) showed how completely the wizard’s character and motives were understood, and how indignantly the apostle’s soul flamed out against them. Saul’s eyes were illumined by the Spirit of the Lord, which searcheth all things (1 Corinthians 2:10). Ramsay finds in the power of the apostle’s eye an indirect proof that the apostle’s “stake in the flesh” was not “impaired vision” (Ibid., p. 97).
(3) The denunciation uttered by the apostle must have told the detected impostor that his career of wickedness was at an end. In three terrific ejaculations the apostle revealed to him his depraved character, telling him first that he was “full of all guilt and of all villainy,” deceit and rascality, cunning and criminality; next, that instead of being a Bar-jesus—i.e., a son of the salvation of Jehovah—he was a veritable son of the devil (compareJohn 8:44; John 8:44); and thirdly, that he was an enemy of all righteousness, thus making him “equal to the father of lies” (Stier), “pierced through with hatred against the good” (Besser). In a short, sharp question the apostle unfolded to him the wickedness of his present behaviour: “Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” “The ways of the Lord aim directly and rightly at the salvation of all men (Deuteronomy 32:4; Hosea 14:9), and the two preachers of the gospel have just explained to the Romish governor these ways; … and Paul sees that the false prophet will not cease to crook the straight paths of the Lord and to turn them away from Sergius Paulus that he may not believe and become blessed” (Besser).
(4) The appalling judgment invoked upon the sorcerer—“Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee,” etc.—was a richly merited retribution for his heinous wickedness in having sought to prevent the salvation of a soul. Yet was it mingled with fourfold mercy. In the first place it was a bodily infliction, whereas it might have fallen on his soul, as with-Judas (Acts 1:25). Secondly, it spared his life, whereas it might have cut him off, as it did Herod (Acts 12:23). Thirdly, it was only blindness, whereas it might have been loss of reason, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:34). And fourthly, it might have been for the whole term of his natural life, whereas, as with Zacharias (Luke 1:20), it was only for a season.
3. The impression on Sergius.
(1) What he saw. The judgment taking instant effect. “Immediately there fell on Elymas a mist and a darkness,” etc.
(2) How he felt. He was astonished at such a display of spiritual power.
(3) What he did. “He believed.” “How far his belief was deep-seated or otherwise we have no evidence which would enable us to judge. But the silence of Luke would seem to indicate that he was not baptised, and we can hardly look upon him as a deep and lifelong convert, since otherwise we should, in the rarity of great men in the Christian community, have as certainly heard of him in their records, as we hear of the very few who at this period—like Flavius Clemens or Flavia Domitilla—joined the Church from the ranks of the noble or the mighty” (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, 1:355). With this pronouncement one may reasonably disagree. It is too much to expect that all great men who are converted should have their names and doings paraded in Church chronicles.
1. The highest sign of wisdom—desiring to hear the word of God.
2. The grossest act of wickedness—perverting the right ways of God, or opposing the salvation of others.
3. The sorest of all earthly calamities—the falling on one of God’s hand for judgment.
4. The noblest trophy of a preacher’s power—the conversion of a soul.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 13:4-12. The First Missionary Ship.
I. Its bold crew.—
1. The great Paul.
2. The noble Barnabas.
3. The youthful Mark.
II. Its first wind.—
1. The east wind filling its sails.
2. The breath of the Holy Ghost inspiring its teachers.
III. Its favourable anchorage.—The renowned Cyprus with its natural beauties and sinful abominations.
IV. Its great prizes.—
1. The sorcerer vanquished.
2. The governor converted.—Gerok.
Acts 13:6. The Story of Bar-Jesus.
I. His name—good.
II. His character—bad.
III. His profession—vile.
IV. His sin—great.
V. His punishment—severe.
Acts 13:6-12. Elymas, Sergius, and Saul; or, Three Sorts of Wisdom.
I. Elymas, the representative of false wisdom, the subtilty inspired by the devil (Acts 13:10).
II. Sergius, the representative of earthly wisdom, the wisdom which the world admires (Acts 13:7).
III. Saul, the representative of true (as opposed to false) and celestial (as distinguished from earthly) wisdom, the wisdom which the Holy Ghost teaches (Acts 13:9).
Acts 13:7. Sergius Paulus.
I. A man of understanding, and yet the dupe of a sorcerer.
II. An anxious inquirer opposed by a pretended “wise one.”
III. An astonished spectator of a suddenly inflicted judgment.
IV. A promising convert, who accepts the teaching of the Lord.
Desiring to hear the Word of God. Might proceed out of—
I. Curiosity, as in the case of Herod and the Athenians.
II. Thirst for knowledge, as with Sergius Paulus.
III. Eagerness to believe, as was true of the Gentiles in Antioch.
IV. Determination to oppose, as with the unbelieving Jews.
Sergius Paulus, a Prudent Man.
I. The nature of true prudence.—It is not craft or cunning, it is not self-conceit or self-wisdom, it is not a cautious avoidance of the dangers that lie in the path of duty. It is the adaptation of our line of action to the proprieties of time, and place, and persons. It is practical wisdom.
II. The cases to which it applies.
1. To the preference of objects according to their comparative value.
2. To the due improvement of all opportunities of doing good and getting good.
3. To the foresight of all future events that may be anticipated.
4. To the control of the temper.
5. To the government of the tongue.
III. Its advantages.
1. It prevents many evils.
2. It sweetens all the charities of social life.
3. It increases the means of doing good.
(1) Cherish a deep sense of its inestimable value;
(2) Cultivate it by prayer, and an intimate acquaintance with the Bible.—G. Brooks.
Acts 13:8 with Acts 8:9. The Two Sorcerers; or, Simon Magus and Elymas Bar-jesus.
I. Compare.—In being—
3. Hearers of the gospel.
4. Guilty of heinous sin—the one seeking to purchase the gift of God with money, the other to hinder the work of God in others, doubtless for the sake of money.
5. Subjects of apostolic denunciation.
1. The one (Simon Magus) an Oriental, the other (Elymas) a Jew.
2. The one a willing, the other an involuntary hearer of the gospel.
3. The one a baptised believer, the other a malignant opponent of the truth.
4. The one an adherent of Philip, the other an enemy of Saul.
5. The one simply denounced, the other signally punished. N.B.—These points of contrast sufficiently dispose of the allegation of the Tübingen critics that Paul’s contest with Elymas is simply an imitation, without any historical foundation, of Peter’s struggle with Simon Magus.
1. That there is not much to choose between an insincere disciple and an open enemy of the truth.
2. That nothing short of genuine conversion will secure salvation.
3. That the punishments of sinners are always less than they deserve.
4. That it is dangerous to oppose or disbelieve the gospel.
The Sorcerer, the Proconsul, and the Apostle; or, a Triangular Contest.
I. Elymas and Sergius, the sorcerer and the proconsul, the pretended wise man and the earthly savant; or the deceiver and his dupe.
II. Sergius and Paul, the proconsul and the apostle, the vicegerent of Cæsar and the ambassador of Christ, the impersonation of human prudence and the bearer of heavenly wisdom; or the scholar and his teacher.
III. Paul and Elymas, the true prophet and the false, the servant of Jesus and the son of the devil; or the preacher of righteousness and his satanic opponent.
Acts 13:10. Perverting the Right Ways of the Lord.
I. The ways of the Lord are right.—
1. The ways of the Lord Himself are right—always in accordance with holiness and truth (Hosea 14:9).
2. The ways the Lord prescribes to men are right—always like His own, conformable to law and justice (Psalms 19:8; Psalms 119:75).
II. The right ways of the Lord may be perverted.—
1. Not God’s ways for Himself—which never can be other than pure and upright (Psalms 145:17).
2. But God’s ways for man—which may be turned aside
(1) by false teaching (2 Peter 2:1),
(2) by bad example (2 Timothy 3:5-6),
(3) by sinful temptation (2 Peter 2:15).
III. To pervert the right ways of the Lord is offensive.—It is—
1. Presumptuous on the part of a creature.
2. Sinful, being contrary to Divine law.
3. Dangerous, as incurring the just judgment of God.
Acts 13:11-12. The Judgment on Elymas and its Effect on Sergius a Type of the Double Work of Christianity.
I. It blinds those who (like Elymas think they) see (John 9:39).
II. It imparts sight to those who (like Sergius confess they) are blind (John 9:39).
Acts 13:13. Paul and his company.—Note the two changes—first of Saul’s name, which is henceforth Paul, and next of Paul’s position in the mission as leader rather than as follower, as principal rather than as subordinate. οἱ περὶ Παῦλον (compare αἱ περὶ Μάρθαν καὶ Μαριάμ, Textus Receptus). The phrase perhaps hints that Paul had other unnamed companions besides Barnabas and John. Instead of loosed from read having set sail from; and for departing from them, having withdrawn from them. For the reasons which caused John Mark to return to Jerusalem, see “Homiletical Analysis.”
Acts 13:14. They now signifies Paul and Barnabas without John. Antioch of Pisidia.—So named by Strabo. “The chief city of inner Pisidia, a Roman colony, a strong fortress, the centre of military and civil administration in the southern parts of the vast province called by the Romans Galatia” (Ramsay).
Acts 13:15. The law and the prophets.—The higher critics say this should have been the prophets and the law. Christ agrees with Luke (Matthew 22:40). Men and Brethren, Brethren (R.V.), “Gentlemen, Brethren” (Ramsay).
Acts 13:16. Then Paul stood up.—Dr. Murphy thinks Paul found the occasion for his chronological exordium in the lessons which he heard read in the synagogue, and that these were—the Parasha, Exodus 10:13-16; Exodus 12:40-41; Exodus 13:3-16; and the Haphtara, Jeremiah 46:13-28 (see The Homiletical Quarterly, Oct. 1877, pp. 490, 491). Others (Farrar, Plumptre, Ramsay), think the passages read were Deuteronomy 1:0 and Isaiah 1:0 Baur (Paul, His Life and Works, i., pp. 104 ff) objects to the credibility of this speech on the grounds
(1) of its resemblance to the speeches of Peter, and
(2) of its lack of a truly Pauline character. But
(1) why should Paul not have been as well acquainted with the history of his people as Peter—both being Jews? and
(2) how can the speech be un-Pauline when on Baur’s own admission it contains the doctrine of justification by faith? (Acts 13:38-39).
Acts 13:18. Suffered He their manners in the wilderness.—ἐτροποφόρησεν, the reading of the best MSS., though some ancient authorities read ἐτροφοφόρησεν, meaning “carried them as a nurse”—i.e., sustained them and cared for them. “Both readings occur in the LXX. rendering of Deuteronomy 1:31, to which passage reference is evidently made here.… But there can be no reason for questioning the genuineness of the reading of the text” (Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, ii., Appendix, 94, 95).
Acts 13:19. The seven nations are named in Deuteronomy 7:1. Divided their land to them by lot should according to the best MSS. be gave them their land for an inheritance, the verb κατεκληρονόμησεν being substituted for κατεκληροδότησεν. The former verb occurs only here, and is a translation of Deuteronomy 3:28 (see Joshua 14:1-5).
Acts 13:20. After that, or these things, signifies after the conquest and occupation. About the space of four hundred and fifty years.—This undoubtedly implies that the interval of the Judges was 450 years, which agrees with the chronology of Josephus (Ant., VIII. ii. 1, X. viii. 5), who gives 592 years as the time that elapsed between the Exodus and the building of Solomon’s temple. Deducting 4 years of Solomon’s own reign, 40 of David’s, 40 of Saul’s, 25 for the leadership of Joshua, and 40 in the wilderness—i.e., 4 + 40 + 40 + 25 + 40 = 149, the remainder is 443 (592–149), sufficiently close an approximation for Paul to put 450 years as the period of the Judges. This, however, does not harmonise with the statement (1 Kings 8:0.) that the building of the Temple began in the 480th year after the Exodus, which would give only 480–149–331 years for the era of the Judges—a discrepancy which cannot easily be removed. A better reading, which connects about four hundred and fifty years with the preceding verse (R.V.), appears to obviate the difficulty by making the number 450 signify the space of time between the giving of the land for an inheritance and the occupation of the land at the conquest—which space is thus made up—from the birth of Isaac, when it may be assumed the promise was given, to the birth of Jacob, 60 years; from Jacob’s birth to his descent into Egypt, 130 years; the sojourn in Egypt, 215 years; from the Exodus to the settlement in Canaan, 47 years = in all 452 years. If this reading (Westcott and Hort) be adopted, the next clause will read, “And after these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.”
Acts 13:21. A man of the tribe of Benjamin, to which Paul also belonged (Philippians 3:5). Forty years.—The duration of Saul’s reign is not mentioned in the Old Testament, which only states that Ishbosheth, his youngest son (1 Chronicles 8:33), was forty years at the time of Saul’s death (1 Samuel 2:10), and that Saul himself was a young man when he ascended the throne (2 Samuel 9:2). Josephus (Ant., VI. xiv. 9) speaks of Saul as having reigned eighteen years before and twenty-two years after Samuel’s death.
Acts 13:22. I have found David the son of Jesse a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil, or who shall do, all My will, or wills.—The first clause is cited from Psalms 89:20, which has “My servant,” and omits “the son of Jesse”; the second is taken from 1 Samuel 13:14, where David in comparison with Saul is described as one who was faithful to Jehovah’s commandments and ordinances. The third clause found in Isaiah 44:28, with reference to Cyrus, may be held as included in the words “My servant,” spoken of David. Alford thinks these citations form “a strong presumption that we have Paul’s speeches verbatim as delivered by him, and no subsequent general statement of what he said, in which case the citations would have been corrected by the sacred text”; though Plumptre arrives at the opposite conclusion, that “it is possible we have, as it were, but the précis of a fuller statement.” Schwanbeck speaks of an old biography of Barnabas, Olshausen of a special missionary report drawn up by Barnabas and Saul, Bleek of an independent document, Zöckler of an old separate account by an unknown author as the original source of Luke’s information.
Acts 13:23-24. The promise was made not to David only, but to the fathers (Acts 13:32). The names of Jesus and John were widely known among the Jews of the Dispersion. His coming meant His entrance upon His public ministry.
Acts 13:25. Fulfilled should be was fulfilling. Whom think ye that I am?—Better, what suppose ye me to be? The question, not found in the gospel accounts of John’s ministry, is yet virtually implied in Matthew 3:11; John 1:20-21. The rendering, He whom ye suppose me to be I am not (Calvin, Luther, Grotius, Kuinoel, Holtzmann), is not so good. But behold, etc. are John’s words in Luke 3:16.
Acts 13:27. Because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets.—The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their rulers failed to recognise who Christ was because they misunderstood their own prophetic Scriptures.
Acts 13:28. No cause of death in Him.—The Sanhedrim pronounced Jesus guilty of blasphemy, which involved a capital sentence (Matthew 26:66), but they were unable to establish the accusation except by extorting a declaration from His own lips (Matthew 26:60). In all other respects His judges were constrained to acknowledge His innocence (Matthew 27:24; Luke 23:22).
Acts 13:29. They laid Him in a tomb.—His disciples—in particular Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:30)—did. Paul did not deem it needful to discriminate the individuals by whom the interment of Christ was carried out; yet the statement is literally accurate, since Nicodemus and Joseph were both rulers.
Acts 13:31. Them which came up with Him from Galilee were the apostles.
Acts 13:33. The second psalm is the preferable reading, the first psalm, found in Western MSS., having been probably inserted as a correction by a Western scribe who had been accustomed to read the first and second psalms as one (Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, ii. 95, Appendix), or who regarded the first psalm merely as an introduction to the rest. The allusion in the psalm is (here as in Heb. 1:51) not to the incarnation, but to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus (compare Romans 1:4).
Acts 13:34-37. The sure mercies of David should be the holy things of David, the sure—i.e., I will give to you the holy things of David (which have been promised, Isaiah 55:3, and) which are sure; one of which holy and sure things was the promise that God’s Holy One should not see corruption, a promise which could not apply to David, who, after having served his own generation by the will of God, or after having in his own generation served the will of God, fell on sleep, or by the will of God fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers—an expression generally distinguished from burial, and implying the existence of the soul in a future state (Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; 2 Kings 22:20)—and saw corruption. Christ who had been raised from the dead saw no corruption (compare Acts 2:25-33).
Acts 13:41. Behold, ye despisers, etc.—Taken from Habakkuk 1:5, where it is used with reference to an approaching Chaldean invasion, this citation follows very closely the LXX., but agrees essentially with the Hebrew. For “among the nations” in Hebrew the LXX. read “despisers,” and for “wonder marvellously,” “wonder and perish.” Paul followed the Septuagint, either because it was best known, or because it was sufficiently accurate for his purpose, or, because he believed it to correctly render the spirit of the ancient prediction.
Acts 13:42. The more correct reading of this verse is given in the R.V: “And as they, Paul and Barnabas (Hackett, Lechler) rather than the congregation (Alford), went” or were going, “out, they,” the rulers probably (Hackett and Lechler), rather than the congregation (Alford), “besought that these words might be spoken to them the next Sabbath day” εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ σάββατον, not during the middle of the week, but on (lit. unto, as the limit) the Sabbath between the days, as Acts 13:44 shows.
Acts 13:43. For congregation read synagogue. The Jews and religions proselytes represented two distinct classes.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 13:13-43
A Sabbath Day in Pisidian Antioch; or, Paul’s Sermon in the Synagogue
I. The missionaries in the city.—
1. Their journey thither. It is apparent from the narrative that Paul and Barnabas did not make a prolonged stay in any of the places which they visited on this journey. Having completed their visit to Cyprus, which probably extended over two months, and having set sail from Paphos, they landed at Perga in Pamphylia, situated on the Cestrus about seven miles from its mouth—a city, the ruins of which survive to this day in the shape of “walls and towers, columns and cornices, a theatre and a stadium, a broken aqueduct encrusted with the calcareous deposit of the Pamphylian streams, and tombs scattered on both sides of the site of the town” (Conybeare and Howson, i. 153). In Perga they did not linger many days—not longer than to settle the dissension caused by the proposal to cross the Taurus (Ramsay). The natural beauty of the city and its celebrated temple of Artemis (Diana) possessed for them no attractions. Accordingly they hastened on to Antioch in Pisidia, perhaps because the season of the year rendered it expedient to prosecute their journey into the interior then rather than at a later period. “Earlier in the spring the passes would have been filled with snow. In the heat of summer the weather would have been less favourable for the journey. In the autumn the disadvantages would have been still greater from the approaching difficulties of winter.” Besides, “at the beginning of the hot season people move up from the plains to the cool basinlike hollows on the mountains”; and “if Paul was at Perga in May, he would find the inhabitants deserting its hot and silent streets” (Conybeare and Howson, i. 156, 157). Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 62, 63) suggests that Paul caught fever in Perga, and was obliged, for health’s sake, to proceed into the more elevated region of the interior (see “Hints” on Acts 13:13), selecting Antioch as their destination because of its commercial importance and numerous Jewish population (Ibid., p. 19; compare St. Paul the Traveller, etc., pp. 89 ff).
2. What occurred upon the way. John Mark, departing from them at Perga, returned to Jerusalem. The reasons, not stated and not approved by Paul (Acts 15:38), were probably mixed.
(1) Mark was young and not inured to hardship, and may, have shrunk from the perils of the enterprise (Grotius, Holtzmann, Zöckler).
(2) His natural temperament may have been somewhat unsteady (Alford).
(3) He may have resented the growing ascendency of Paul, which was thrusting Barnabas, his uncle, into a second place.
(4) He may have been doubtful of the liberal theology which Paul was everywhere preaching.
(5) He may have grown somewhat apprehensive about the safety of his mother, whom he had left behind at Jerusalem: “either he did not like the work or he wanted to go and see his mother” (Henry).
(6) He may have regarded the proposal to cross the Taurus as an unwarranted deviation from the original plan (Ramsay).
3. How they acted on arrival. They doubtless made themselves acquainted with the aspect of the city and the character of its inhabitants; Antioch was a flourishing commercial city, which lay about a week’s journey north of Perga, up the valley of the Cestrus, on the central table-land of Asia Minor, on the confines of Pisidia and Phrygia. It had been built by Seleucus I., the founder of the Syrian Antioch, and was then an important emporium for the trade of Asia Minor in wood, oil, skins, goat’s-hair, and Ango’a wool, besides being a Roman colony. Its true position, at a place now called Yalobatch, was discovered by Mr. Arundell in 1833, its identity having been rendered certain by coins and inscriptions. On the Sabbath they visited the synagogue, which appears to have been the only one, and must therefore have been large.
II. Sabbath worship in the synagogue.—
1. The day. It said a good deal for the missionaries that they remembered the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and more for their good sense that they devoted its hours to worship. The Sabbath was meant by its Lord for the double purpose of resting man’s body from the toils of the other six days, and refreshing man’s soul through communion with heaven. To neglect either of these ends—to devote the entire day to physical repose but not to worship, or to worship in such a fashion as to fatigue the body—is to violate the day and misapprehend its use. To give it neither to worship nor to rest, but wholly to labour in business or in pleasure, is to turn it to the worst possible account.
2. The synagogue.—“A low, square, unadorned building, differing from Gentile places of worship by its total absence of interior sculpture”; “on one side a lattice-work partition, behind which sat a crowd of veiled and silent women”; “in front of these the reader’s desk, and in its immediate neighbourhood, facing the rest of the congregation, those chief seats which Rabbis and Pharisees were so eager to secure” (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, i. 365, 366).
3. The worship. “Each as he entered covered his head with the Tallîth, and the prayers began. They were read by the Shelîach, or ‘angel of the synagogue,’ who stood among the standing congregation.… After the prayers followed the first lesson, or Parashah,” which was “read in Hebrew, but translated or paraphrased by the interpreter. The Chazzân, or clerk of the synagogue, then took the Torah roll from the Ark and handed it to the reader.… After the Parashah, was read the Haphtarah, or the second lesson, from the prophets, the translation being given at the end of every three verses. After this followed the Midrash, or sermon, which was not delivered by one set minister,” but might be given by any distinguished stranger who might happen to be present (Farrar, i. 366, 367). (See an excellent account of synagogue worship in Stapfer’s Palestine in the Time of Christ, pp. 338–343.)
4. The invitation. In accordance with this custom Paul and Barnabas, who had doubtless not selected the chief seats in the synagogue (Matthew 23:6), but sat among the ordinary worshippers (1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 14:23-24; James 2:2-4), were asked if they had any word of exhortation for the people, in which case they might say on. Possibly some rumour had reached the synagogue that they were preachers; but whether or not, Paul and not Barnabas responded to the invitation.
III. Paul’s sermon to the congregation.—
1. The exordium. In manner respectful—“he stood up,” and serious—“he beckoned with his hand”; in matter, brief, consisting solely of a request for attention: three characteristics which improve all sermons in which they are found.
2. The contents. There were three main divisions in his discourse.
(1) The goodness of God to Israel, which culminated in sending them a Saviour according to His promise—a kind of “captatio benevolentæ” (Holtzmann) (Acts 13:16-25). Beginning with their earliest history, he rehearsed Jehovah’s gracious acts towards them—ten in number: the choice of their fathers; their exaltation in Egypt, meaning thereby their multiplication into a numerous and powerful people (Acts 13:17); their deliverance from bondage by His own right hand (Acts 13:17); their preservation in the wilderness, notwithstanding much unbelief and disobedience (Acts 13:18); their settlement in Canaan after destroying seven nations therein (Acts 13:19); their government by judges for a space of four hundred and fifty years (Acts 13:20); their reception from God of a king in answer to their request (Acts 13:21); the removal of Saul and the establishment of the throne in David and his seed (Acts 13:22); the appearance of Christ as a descendant of David, and in fulfilment of ancient promise (Acts 13:23), when the Baptist, His distinguished forerunner, had closed his career, or was fulfilling his course (Acts 13:24). Thus the history of Israel in its three chief moments—the formation of the covenant, the settlement in the land, and the institution of the theocracy—was depicted as a preparation for the appearance of Christ.
(2) Jesus of Nazareth proved to be the Saviour by His death and resurrection (Acts 13:26-37). The condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish leaders had been a literal fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Acts 13:27). Besides dying an innocent death, He was actually laid in a sepulchre (Acts 13:29). Taken down from the tree, He was buried, not by the rulers, it is true, but by Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:30), Paul not deeming it necessary to discriminate as to the agents, though his statement was literally accurate (see “Critical Remarks”). Yet God raised up Jesus from the dead, and showed Him alive to His disciples, in particular to those of them who had come up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem and who then were His witnesses to the people. This resurrection had been foretold in the second psalm (Psa 2:33), in the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah (Isa. 55:34), and again in the sixteenth psalm (Psa 16:35), which could not possibly refer to David, as he had died and seen corruption, whereas “He whom God raised again saw no corruption” (Acts 13:37).
(3) The proclamation of free forgiveness or of justification by faith through Jesus Christ (Acts 13:38-39), a blessing which had not been attainable through the law of Moses.
3. The application. In the form of a solemn warning drawn from words used by Habbakuk, he cautioned them to beware of rejecting the gospel and so involving then selves first in the guilt and then in the doom of those who persistently refused to see the hand of God in the events which were taking place around them (Acts 13:40-41).
4. The result.
(1) As they, Paul and Barnabas, were leaving the synagogue, the rulers, perhaps interpreting the wish of the congregation, requested them to repeat their preaching on the following Sabbath (see “Critical Remarks”).
(2) When the synagogue was dispersed, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, no doubt expressing their desire to hear more of the good tidings to which they had listened.
(3) Speaking to them Paul and Barnabas urged them to continue in the grace of God.
1. That no man having put his hand to the plough in connection with Christ’s kingdom should, like John Mark, draw or even look back.
2. That Christ’s disciples, like Paul and Barnabas, should honour the Sabbath and the sanctuary.
3. That ministers of the gospel, like Paul and Barnabas, should embrace every opportunity that opens to them of publishing their good news of salvation.
4. That the gospel when frankly, fully, and fearlessly preached will seldom fail to make a good impression.
5. That a chief point in the gospel is the doctrine of free forgiveness, or of justification by faith.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 13:13. The Incident at Perga; or, John Mark’s Departure. A Sermon on Weariness in Well-doing (but see “Homiletical Analysis”). Weariness in well-doing.
I. A common occurrence.—Seldom justified by good and sufficient reasons. Plausible excuses often offered; but men never give the right reason for doing a wrong thing.
II. An unfortunate example.—Discouraging to fellow-workers, deterrent to those who might become workers, hurtful to the individual worker himself. Bad examples much more contagious and much more easily set than good ones.
III. An irremediable mistake.—Men who lay down a good work cannot always take it up again at the point where they laid it down or at the time when they wish. Mark found this to be so with himself.
IV. An irreparable loss.—Those who grow weary in well-doing miss the reward which is promised to and laid up for them who labour on and faint not.
Acts 13:14. Passing through Perga; or, Paul’s Supposed Illness at Perga.—“Every one who has travelled in Pamphylia knows how relaxing and enervating the climate is. In these low-lying plains fever is endemic; the land is so moist as to be extraordinarily fertile, and most dangerous to strangers. Confined by the vast ridges of Taurus, five thousand to nine thousand feet high, the atmosphere is like the steam of a kettle, hot, moist, and swept by no west winds. Coming down in July 1890 from the north side of Taurus for a few days to the coast of Pamphylia, I seemed to feel my physical and mental powers melting rapidly away. I might spend a page in quoting examples, but the following fact bears so closely on our present purpose that it must be mentioned. In August 1890 I met on the Cilician coast an English officer on his way home from three years’ duty in Cyprus; previously he had spent some years in Eastern service. He said that the climate of the Cilician coast (which is very similar to that of Pamphylia, and has not any worse reputation for unhealthiness) reminded him of Singapore or Hong-Kong, while that of Cyprus was infinitely fresher and more invigorating.… We suppose then that Paul caught fever on reaching Perga (the Rev. Mr. Daniell, who travelled with Spratt and Forbes, the author states in a footnoot, died of fever at Attalia, a few miles from Perga). Here it may be objected … that Paul was used to the climate of Cilicia and Syria; why should he suffer in Pamphylia? In the first place, no one can count on immunity from fever, which attacks people in the most capricious way. In the second place, it was precisely after fatigue and hardship, travelling on foot through Cyprus amid great excitement and mental strain, that one was peculiarly liable to be affected by the sudden plunge into the enervating atmosphere of Pamphylia. The circumstances implied in Galatians 4:13 are therefore in perfect keeping with the narrative in the Acts; each of the authorities lends additional emphasis and meaning to the other” (Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 62, 63). Professor Ramsay not only assigns this malarial fever as the cause of Paul’s passing through Perga, but afterwards uses it as a confirmatory argument in support of his thesis that the Galatian Churches which Paul subsequently visited, and to which he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, were not in North but in Southern Galatia—were, in fact, the Churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (see on Acts 16:6). He also maintains that this malarial fever became chronic and was regarded by Paul as his “stake in the flesh” (St. Paul the Traveller, etc. p. 94).
Acts 13:17-19. The Story of Israel; a Type of the Church’s History.
I. Chosen.—As Jehovah selected Abraham’s descendants to be a people for Himself (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 44:1; Psalms 33:12), so did Christ elect His apostles the representatives of His Church (John 15:16), and so were Christians chosen by Divine grace (Ephesians 1:4).
II. Exalted.—As Jehovah looked upon the low estate of His people and exalted their horn when in Egypt (Psalms 148:14), so has He exalted or lifted up His believing people from their sin and misery because of His grace and mercy (Luke 1:52; Ephesians 2:6).
III. Emancipated.—As Israel was led forth from Egypt by the mighty hand of God (Exodus 15:13; Isaiah 63:12), so has the Church of Christ been redeemed from the bondage of sin and death (John 3:16-17; Galatians 3:13).
IV. Borne.—As Israel was carried and upheld during the wilderness wanderings (Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:10-12; Isaiah 46:3), so has the Church of Christ and so have individual believers been supported during their earthly pilgrimage (Matthew 16:18; Luke 21:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).
V. Endured.—Exactly as Jehovah had to exercise much long-suffering in dealing with Israel in the wilderness (Psalms 106:43-46), so has He still to bear with Christians as individuals and with the Church as a whole (Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15).
VI. Protected.—As Israel’s enemies were destroyed (Deuteronomy 7:1), so have been and will be the Church’s and the saints’ foes (1 Peter 3:13).
VII. Settled.—As Israel was established in the earthly (Joshua 23:4), so will the whole body of believers be in the heavenly Canaan (John 17:24).
Acts 13:20; Acts 13:22. Judges and Kings.
I. All forms of government are legitimate—i.e., are of God.
II. No form of government is enitled to count on permanency.—What suits one age may not be adapted to another.
III. Jehovah is superior to all governments, and may establish or remove them at pleasure.
IV. The government that does God’s will will last longest.—The people that refuse to serve Him will be destroyed.
Acts 13:21. Old Testament Prophets.—These were—
I. Religious seers.
II. Foretellers of the future.
III. Political statesmen.
IV. Social reformers.
Acts 13:23. The Saviour Jesus.
I. Promised to the fathers (Acts 13:32).
II. Heralded by John (Acts 13:24).
III. Manifested to the Jews (Acts 13:27).
IV. Crucified under Pilate (Acts 13:28).
V. Raised from the dead (Acts 13:30).
VI. Received up into glory (Acts 13:31).
VII. Preached unto the world (Acts 13:26; Acts 13:32).
VIII. Believed on by the Gentiles (Acts 13:48).
Acts 13:26. This Salvation.
I. What it is.—
2. Eternal life.
II. Whence it comes.—From God, its sole author.
III. Through whom procured.—Jesus.
IV. To whom offered.—
1. To the Jews first.
2. Also to the Gentiles.
V. On what condition.—As a free gift.
Acts 13:27. The Criminality of the Jewish Rulers.
I. In being ignorant of their own sacred books.
II. In not recognising Christ when He appeared.
III. In condemning Him when no cause of death had been found in Him.
IV. In rejecting Him after He had risen from the dead.—Show how far the criminality of the Jewish rulers may be reproduced in Christendom to-day.
The Voices of the Prophets.
I. An important question.—“Upon what grounds are we to rest the authority with which the prophets spoke—an authority which still breathes in their writings?”
II. A provisional reply.—“With one consent they would say that the thoughts which arose in their hearts and the words which arose to their lips were put there by God.”
III. A requisite interrogation.—“What guarantees have we that they were not mistaken? How do we know that they are not projecting their own thoughts outside of themselves, and ascribing them to an external cause?”
IV. A decisive answer.—“We believe it on the strength
(1) of the glimpses which the prophets give us into their own consciousness on the subject;
(2) of the universal belief of their contemporaries;
(3) of the extraordinary unanimity of their testimony;
(4) of the difficulty of accounting for it in any other way; and
(5) of the character of the teaching in which this Divine prompting and suggestion results—a character which is not only not unworthy, but most worthy of its source” (Sanday, Inspiration, pp. 145–147).
Acts 13:33. The Witness of the Second Psalm to Christ.
I. A proclamation of the Divine Sonship of Christ.—Neither—
1. Physical, with special reference to His miraculous or supernatural birth (the Nazarenes, Socinus, Beyschlag). Nor—
2. Ethical, as marking the exceptional perfection of His moral nature (Theodorus, Paul of Samosata, Strauss, Baur, Ewald). Nor—
3. Official, signalising the theanthropos or God-man as the theanthropic king by pre-eminence, the Messiah (Weiss). But, without denying that the phrase may sometimes appear to bear one or more of these significations,
4. Metaphysical, as descriptive of the essential relationship subsisting between Christ’s higher pre-existent nature and the deity (Gess, Godet, Luthardt, Calvin, and others).
II. A demonstration of the Divine Sonship of Christ.—“This day have I begotten Thee.” Probably signifying the same thing as, “Thou art My Son,” these words may, nevertheless, be understood as having received illustration and confirmation in—
1. The incarnation (Hebrews 1:5, which some interpreters regard as alluding to the birth in Bethlehem).
2. The resurrection, as in the text.
3. The exaltation (Hebrews 5:5). (See Whitelaw’s, How is the Divinity of Jesus depicted? pp. 66. 67.)
Acts 13:34. The Blessings of David
Acts 13:35. God’s Holy One.—See on Acts 2:27.
Acts 13:36. The Life, Death, and Burial of David.
I. His life.—
1. Useful. He served his own generation.
2. Pious. He served the counsel of God (to adopt the reading of R.V.).
3. Planned and determined for him by God. He served his generation by the will of God, or in accordance with the Divine purpose or plan.
4. Measured. He served his generation, and then passed away.
II. His death.—
1. Appointed. He fell on sleep by the will or counsel of God, according to a third reading.
2. Timely. He fell on sleep after he had served his generation—i.e., after, not before, his work was done.
3. Peaceful. He fell on sleep.
III. His burial.—
1. His body was deposited in the tomb and saw corruption.
2. His spirit was gathered to his fathers, and continued to exist in a future state (see “Critical Remarks”).
Acts 13:36. Our Day.
I. The words suggest the thought, that a man’s earthly history is a very limited period.—“His own generation.” We are accustomed, almost reconciled, to the brevity of our earthly career, but perhaps this attribute of it is more remarkable than we commonly feel it to be. The large portion of past human history which a man must needs miss when he only comes into it in the course of its seventh millennium,—this would still have left him much if then it had been possible for him to abide in the midst of human history until its consummation. The period of earthly life is in many ways an inadequate period—scanty, even to unnaturalness, from the merely terrestrial point of view. Fifty years of work in this world, then—that is the utmost we can reasonably look for, after we are equipped and before we are weary unto death. There is not much time to lose; our own generation is a quantity that is frugal of opportunity, so far as opportunity consists in continuance. Yet it is one great opportunity from first to last, and its very brevity accentuates its greatness. To live and work in a world like ours, after such a manner as grace can empower us to do; to bear and battle our way through it, with any credit and any success, ere we look back upon it out of a higher existence; to stand for God and righteousness, with the sterling bravery of a good conscience, that is an opportunity which must be in many ways unique, and has elements in it of heroism, with touches of tragic significance, which gather upon us the interest of multitudes of invisible well-wishers. Perhaps the opportunity is long enough if it be strenuously employed; for then, with all its wondrous cheer, it is not a little arduous.
II. The words suggest the thought, that a man has a lasting personal relation to the time upon which his earthly history is cast. “His own generation.” All generations of mankind, it is true, belong to the man who has given himself to God, and such a man belongs to all the generations. But the period of the world’s history upon which our relations centre themselves, and to which they stand for ever intimate, shall be the period in whose history we ourselves took part. It was that generation which most of all put its impress upon us, and it was that generation which most of all bore away the marks of whatever influence our own personality exerted upon men and things beneath the sky. Many steamers cross the Atlantic, and many trains wheel their way across the American continent; let a man cross the one or the other but once only—then, as long as he lives, that steamer, that train, by which he himself travelled, with its passengers and its incidents, is “his own” steamer, “his own” train; and it is still this upon the lips of his children after he is gone. So our experience of world-life and world-history, brief as it is, and passing rapidly from successor to successor again, is for ever bound up with the circumstances of our own one journey, and has abidingly gathered into it the memories, the complexion, and to some extent the type, which those circumstances determined. All this takes on a firmer emphasis according as we let in the consideration of duty and privilege, both of them having their ultimate source in Jesus Christ, the Sovereign of the human ages. The true man is the Christian man. It is he alone who is the genuine unit in world-life, the authentic link in the continuity of true world-history within his limits. The Christian man lives his life—more wisely indeed for himself than any unchristian man, yet straight in the line of liberating his whole feeling and action from the dominion of self-seeking. He lives his life for God in Christ; he lives it for other men in Christ’s name. He “keeps himself”—in spirit, in mind, in body—and finds he has a goodly task on hand in so doing; but it is not for himself that he keeps himself; it is for Christ, and for the will of Christ. The will of Christ is the weal of men—my own weal, and the weal of all around me. My “own generation”—the set of things which touches me on all sides, and is touched by me at many points—is the element within which I may, I must, directly fulfil the will of Christ as a will for this world in which He lived and died.
III. The words suggest the thought, that a man is called to note and to know the peculiar character of his own time.—“His own generation.” There is a certain individuality about every generation. It has its own disposition, temperament, moods, capabilities, opportunities, not all of which are shared in the same measure by any other generation. Each generation has something in it of every generation that has been; but it has also somewhat in it which is original enough to give a special tone to itself and to its effect upon the generations following. Intelligence about the past is mostly of value according as it helps us to be intelligent about the present. He will not fail to note, that his generation is one of unwonted activity—activity intense, ingenious, adventurous, daring—activity of hand, of tongue, of pen, of thought; yet a generation of special thinking rather than of general thoughtfulness, and eager rather than earnest—having much of the tug and bustle of strain, which has need to soothe itself into a more settled and self-controlling energy. He will scarcely overlook that His generation, more distinctly still, is one of scientific progress and material advancement—of rapid secular civilisation. If now our youthful observer, all but ready to step forth into the arena of his generation, turn his eye more intently upon its moral and religious aspects, he may still find much that ought to stir his interest. He will note, that Christian truth, as truth which holds the supernatural, and at its centre the great Biography which means all that is supernatural, is emerging from trials that have been severe—emerging from them, and with only new clearness in her eye and new stability in her bearing. He will mark, nevertheless, that Christian truth is not past all her trials. On the other hand, he will be free to mark, that in the face of all this his generation displays not a little of evangelic force and evangelistic fervour, and even some willingness to devise methods for overtaking the multitudes among us who are virtually beyond the contacts of Christendom.
IV. The words suggest the concluding thought, that a man is summoned to do the best for his own time.—There is no young man with the right spirit in him, and with the most ordinary preparation for his world-career, who will fail to recognise that this generation of his is waiting for him, and gives some occasion for his best work on its behalf. As he is getting him ready to step forth into the thick of his time, he will be resolving to look beyond the legitimate interests of self and of family, and onwards to the wider interests of truth, of Church, of country, of race. It may look more of a paradox than it is, if we say, that in order to be anything worth while for our generation, we must conserve our own individuality, and must confirm the personal independence of our own conscience and will. Among the forces of the time we must get in good measure to be masters of ourselves, and must refuse to let any of them be handling us very much without our consent. More than this: we shall do most for our time by developing all that is worthy of development in our own type of character, whether moral or intellectual, social or religious; so that it shall still be our very selves, and more of our very selves, with all the advantage of natural confluence of power, who are at work upon the materials of the time. And among the multifarious claims of a complicated time like ours, it seems in place to say that it were not well to scatter our energies by attempting too many things, but rather to make our energies tell by bringing their weight to bear upon one or two selected points. Your selection will be determined by circumstances, by capabilities, by temperament—that is, by providence, more or less fixed and cordially accepted. To some of us will fall a larger share of contest and demolition, to others of us a larger share of cherishing and construction: in the issue, none the less, it is all of it construction still. But we cannot, perhaps, look abroad upon our own generation, in the light of the past, without a feeling that combat with untruth and evil, hand to hand and weapon to weapon, is more and more evidently inadequate, and that something other and further must be endeavoured than to smite uprising error in the face, or to meet wrong-going with confronting argument and point-blank effort which ought to compel it into rightness. The real strength of all wrong things is not in their front, but in their flank and rear: their fronts are only the special facing, ever varying and ever new, which are evolved out of one or two principles, steady and old, that are lurking strong and vital behind the fighting-line. It is these that we ought above all to spend our lives in striving to reach and to enfeeble. It is ours to root around us as we can the living love of God in Christ. It is ours to take the strength out of the admiration of what is material by promoting a sense of what is spiritual. It is ours to throw our energies upon making the Church more ready of heart and hand for all her duty, and upon ridding her from the hesitancy and feebleness and reservation of human sympathy, which still so greatly limit her power.—J. A. Kerr Bain, M.A.
A Model of Life.—There is a biography in this brief epitaph. It is a “Life” flashed into vividness by a lightning sketch. The text conducts us to the master-secret of a great career. There is no time wasted over events and details. We are introduced at once to the purpose, the method, the spirit of the man commemorated. This is essentially the man’s life. All other matters—the time and place of his birth, the character of his education, his social environment, his plans and difficulties, his conflicts and achievements—are but incidents and episodes, the arena on which he pursues his purpose, the instruments by which he accomplishes his will. Our text gives us the right estimate. It is not the pious fraud of a charitable epitaph-writer. It is essentially just when, passing over exceptional episodes and penetrating to the normal mood of the life, it depicts this man as one who served his God and his generation. But our text is of more than historical interest. While it embalms a memory, it indicates an ideal. It is a philosophy as well as a biography. It presents life and death in their higher aspects; one as an unselfish yet self-rewarding energy, the other as in no sense an accident or disaster, but an ordered and gracious dispensation. It links the character of a man’s death to the character of his life, and both to the righteous dominion of God.
I. A good model of life.—“He served his own generation by the will of God.”
1. Now, in analysing this account of a great career, three prominent characteristics immediately arrest our attention. The first is that it was a life of service. It was not one of idleness, whether ornamental or fussy; not one of ease, either cultured or coarsely luxurious. It was an active life of service whose zeal was as broadly unselfish as it was intelligent and incessant. The full significance of that fact is only perceived when we remember that this serving-man was a king. Girt with the authority of power, gifted with the self-delighting resources of genius, housed amid the wealth and luxury incident to regal station, this man served. That is a noteworthy point. It emphasises a truth not always clearly perceived, that whatever be a man’s station or resource he does not escape the common obligation of service. To whom much is given, from him much shall be required. The king owes, because he can render, a larger loyalty to the subject than the subject owes to the king. The master is greater debtor to the servant than the servant to the master. Among rich and poor alike it is a common sentiment that the higher a man climbs in the social scale the further he gets from the thrall and burden of work. God’s law expresses and exacts the very opposite conclusion. God looks for the broadest and best servants of humanity not among the necessitous at the bottom, but among the free and favoured at the top. This Divine distribution of debt finds recognition, theoretically at least, even poetically, it may be said, in our English titles of distinction. Etymologically, the king is the able kinsman of his brethren, called to loftiest station because most fit to serve. The duke, as the word indicates, is the leader, the man who can see furthest ahead, with courage enough to stand at the front, capable not only of showing the way, but of giving and taking the first blows in the battle of progress, The earl is the elderman or alderman, the man of funded experience and accumulated wisdom, as eminent in grace as in vigour, the counsellor and shield of the people. The highest official in our Executive Government we call Prime Minister, which means head servant. The doctrine of Christ admits of no doubt on this subject. It denies to any man, whether rich or poor, the right to be an idler amid the ceaseless tasks of humanity. It aims at sweeping away parasites and excrescences of all kinds and degrees. But in doing this it is careful to distinguish itself from a mere gospel of industry. It is more than a law of labour. It is a law of service. Labour may be, and often is, utterly selfish. It is careful of its own products. It aims at its own aggrandisement. What we do for our own bread and comfort is labour. Service is the unselfish expenditure of talent in behalf of others. And Christ’s gospel is one of service, which means that it is one of human brotherhood. In nothing, perhaps, does the practical beneficence of our Christian gospel shine so luminously as in the victory it has won for this nobler philosophy of life. Men are beginning, as never before, to see that nothing in life is held in absolute ownership, that time and talent are possessed under a stewardship whose obligations are broad and ceaseless.
2. A second essential of noble living, as indicated in the example we are considering, is the element of contemporaneousness—the ability to see and seize the opportunities of the day. David not only served; he served his own generation. He discovered, that is to say, in the circumstances and claims of life around him, an ample field for all his energies, a primary and sacred call upon his various resource. Therein lay the secret of his greatness. The sign of all true wisdom and heroism is the ability to take occasion by the hand and translate it into beneficent achievement; to see what needs doing, and right zealously to do it. That is what our fathers used to call judicial wisdom, the highest because the lowliest wisdom, the wisdom most profound because most perceptive and most practical. To be, in any adequate sense, a leader or teacher of the time, one must be a student of all times—past, present, future. No man can read the lesson of to-day who did not learn his alphabet amid the events of yesterday. He will make sad mistakes in his handling of current opportunities who casts no prescient glance towards the indications of to-morrow. The combined genius of history and of prophecy can alone interpret and guide the spirit of the time. It is as true of humanity as it is of the physical universe; it is a grand and vital unit, not a kaleidoscope of broken fragments. And to understand where we are and whither we ought to tend we must know whence we have come and to what goal the growing indications point. A pitiable spectacle of noisy incompetence is the man who imagines that to serve his own generation he must cut himself adrift from all consideration and reverence of the past. Of no use to his age is the fussy experimenter, the declared opportunist, who boasts that he never looks more than a fortnight ahead in his manipulation of affairs. The crown of all true wisdom is service, and to serve the age a man must be alive to its evils and possibilities, to its laughter and its tears. The danger of judicial blindness, however, the failure to see and do the duty of the day, does not beset the leaders alone, but very palpably surrounds and afflicts the humbler occupants of the ranks. In one man it takes the form of regretful and debilitating reminiscence. His heart is in the “good old days.” Life was worth living then. There was something to be done, and room to do it. Things are different now. Life is too crowded, too vulgar, too complex. Poetry is gone. Chivalry is out of date. Heroism is impossible. This man is blinded by memory. Another is blinded by forecast. He believes there is work to be done, somewhere; he believes he is the man to do it, some time; but he waits his opportunity. His dream of great deeds fills him with enthusiasm, but he must bide his time. Thus, from one cause or another, men are apt to overlook or underrate the present task. They are dreamers, idlers, pessimists, in some cases pietists who despise the world’s problems even while they live by the world’s problem-making labour.
3. The third element in a truly noble life is the feature of Divine inspiration and submission. David not only served—he not only served his own generation—but he served it according to the will of God. That means, in a word, that while he served his own age he did not serve at its bidding, by its direction, for its reward. He stood above its prejudices and passions, above its noisy voices and its alleged interests. While in the world he was not of it. He was God’s servant, working out in God’s name and by His direction the sacred tasks of the day. That feature of his life suggests two important remarks. In the first place, it helps us to distinguish between a time-server and one who serves his time. Do not think, then, that in order to serve your own generation you must needs bow down to all its demands and favour all its schemes. Not the age, but God, is your Master; only as you make Him your Inspiration and Guide can you win liberty for yourself and success for your work. But another point is brought into prominence by this association of God’s and man’s service. It is clearly indicated that the true service of God is the true service of man. This identification of work and worship as twin elements of piety is suggested by the curiously balanced grammatical construction of the text. In the A.V. the text reads, “After he had served his own generation by the will of God”; but it places in the margin an alternative reading, “After he had in his own age served the will of God.” The R.V. gives us, with a slight verbal alteration, both these translations, only it places the text of the A.V. in its margin, and the marginal reading in its text. The sentence can be construed with equal accuracy either way, and so can its sense. For when we ask, What is the substantial difference between serving our generation by the will of God and serving the will of God in our generation? we cannot discover it. We can only see variously accentuated expressions of the same thought. Do not mistake me. I am not saying God has no delight in our songs, our prayers, our orderly and regular occasions of praise. He is pleased with them, and makes them means of grace to us. They are properly described as Divine service. But should I not be right If I called them occasions of self-service as well as of Divine praise? We get a great deal more than we give when we enter the sanctuary. We get a vision of God; a renewal of grace. I will tell you when the real Divine service begins—when the preacher has ceased to speak, and the organ has finished its noble notes, and the lights are put out, and the doors of the sanctuary are closed, and you are out yonder in the street, and you turn about to find an outlet for the inspiration of the house of prayer in the feeding of the poor, in the succouring of the helpless, in the attacking of some gaunt wrong, in the advocacy of justice, sobriety, truth. That is God’s service, Divine service, and it makes for the peace and joy of His kingdom! Such is the model life set before us in the text.
II. A fine conception of death.—“He fell on sleep.”
1. The death of the godly man is an ordered and gracious dispensation. For it was after David had served that “he fell on sleep”; not before nor during his submissive fulfilment of the work God gave him to do.
2. The death of the godly man is a peaceful sinking into rest. What a beautiful phrase is that, “He fell on sleep”! There is nothing repulsive or fearsome about sleep.—C. A. Berry, D.D.
Acts 13:38. A Sermon on Forgiveness.
I. The burden of the gospel message.
II. The result of a Divine act of justification.
III. A blessing secured for man through the work of Jesus Christ.
IV. Attainable by all on condition of believing on Christ.
Acts 13:43. Continuing in the Grace of God.
I. The best evidence of conversion.
II. The requisite condition of salvation.
III. The essence of Christian duty.
Acts 13:39. Paul’s Doctrine of Justification.
I. The meaning attached by Paul to the term justification.—
1. Etymologically considered, the English word “justification” signifies to make just; but the Greek word, being strictly a forensic term, does not mean to make just, or infuse righteousness into any one, but to declare one to be just or righteous, to absolve one from any charge or claim which the law might have against him.
2. Legally viewed, justification is the exact opposite of condemnation, which also is a purely forensic term, and does not make or render any one brought before it guilty, but simply declares or pronounces such a one to be guilty, if so be the evidence supplied has established his guilt.
3. Theologically regarded, justification is a declaration or pronouncement on the part of God, not that the sinner is thenceforward personally innocent, holy, blameless, but that, so far as the Divine law is concerned, the sinner is acquitted, freed from liability to punishment, and contemplated as having met all the law’s just and necessary demands upon him.
II. The ground upon which, according to Paul, this sentence of justification proceeds.—
1. Not the original righteousness or faultlessness of the so-called sinner, who has been impeached, but wrongly, at heaven’s bar. Paul’s doctrine of justification rests upon the antecedent doctrine of the universal guiltiness and actual condemnation of the race in its totality and in every separate member (Romans 3:9-22).
2. Not the acquired righteousness of the individual sinner, who by personal merit has undertaken to wipe out his original and actual unrighteousness. The Jews, and especially the Pharisees, imagined that this could be done by observance of the law of Moses. Men in general conceive the same thing attainable through good works. But Paul repudiated and repudiates all sort of personal merit based upon the individual’s own performances as a basis for the Divine sentence of justification (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5).
3. But the imputed rigteousness of Jesus Christ, who, according to the view taken by Him of Christ’s person and work, occupied the room of sinful men (2 Corinthians 5:21), and in their stead fulfilled the law’s requirements by His obedience unto death (Philippians 2:8), which obedience unto death, having been provided by God’s free grace, constituted “His righteousness” (Romans 3:25), which He wrought out for man by Jesus Christ, and manifested and set forth and still manifests and sets forth as an adequate and all-sufficient ground, yea, as the only ground upon which He either will or can justify the ungodly (Romans 3:19-31).
III. The condition upon which, according to Paul, this real act of justification proceeds.—
1. Not works, inasmuch as these have been already excluded (Galatians 2:11), and if again admitted would not only tend to impair the all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), but would inevitably introduce thoughts of personal merit into the individual’s mind (Romans 3:27), and so far would militate against the true character of justification as a judicial act of acquittal pronounced upon those who are themselves absolutely without righteousness or merit of their own (Romans 4:5).
2. But faith, and faith alone, without works (Romans 3:28), without merit, without righteousness (Ephesians 2:9; Galatians 2:16), simply by believing in Jesus Christ, and on Him who for Jesus’ sake justifies the ungodly (Romans 10:4-11; Galatians 3:8; Philippians 3:9).
IV. The extent to which, according to Paul, this justification prevails.—“All things from which a man could not (and cannot) be justified by the law of Moses,” whether moral or ceremonial.
1. It discharges the sinner who believes from all responsibility for his sins, past, present, and to come. It relieves him of the sentence of condemnation which previously overhung him (Romans 8:1). It blots out the handwriting which stood recorded against him (Colossians 2:14). It places him in a state of reconciliation towards God (2 Corinthians 5:18). It sets him in a condition of peace before God (Romans 5:1). It practically pardons him fully, freely, and for ever.
2. It furnishes the sinner who believes with a righteousness that can perfectly satisfy the law’s demands for obedience. It not only releases him from the law’s penalty, but it accepts him as righteous in its sight, not on account of any righteousness infused into him, but on account of Christ’s righteousness imputed to him (Romans 4:22-25; Romans 10:4). While Christ’s sacrificial death discharges him from the guilt of his sin, Christ’s perfect obedience constitutes his title to eternal life.
Acts 13:45. Contradicting and blaspheming.—The best MSS. Omit “contradicting” (Lachmann, Westcott and Hort); but as it is neither superfluous nor Hebraistic (Hackett), and defines more exactly the nature of the opposition (Zöckler), it may be retained.
Acts 13:46. It was necessary.—Compare Luke 24:47; Romans 1:16; Romans 2:10.
Acts 13:47. I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles.—This citation from Isaiah 49:6 (LXX.) represented the apostolic mission as a continuation of Christ’s (see Luke 2:32).
Acts 13:48. Ordained to eternal life.—τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. Cannot be rendered—those who believed were appointed to eternal life, or those who were disposed, i.e., inclined, to eternal life believed. The words mean what they say—“as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Calvin, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Meyer, Winer, De Wette, Hackett, Spence, and others)—the “ordained to eternal life” being those who are “chosen” (Ephesians 1:4), and “foreordained” (Romans 8:29), though it need not be doubted that this Divine “choosing,” “electing,” “foreordaining,” does not destroy, but is compatible with and realises itself through the complete freedom of the human will.
Acts 13:49. Implies a certain lapse of time; how long, uncertain.
Acts 13:50. The devout and honourable women, or devout, honourable women—i.e., devout women of honourable estate (R.V.)—were Gentile females who had embraced Judaism (see on Acts 17:4). The influence here attributed to women “is in perfect accord with the manners of the country. In Athens, or an Ionian city, it would have been impossible” (Ramsay). The chief men of the city were probably their husbands or kinsmen.
Acts 13:51. Shook off the dust of their feet (compare Acts 18:6), as directed by Christ (Matthew 10:14), for a testimony against their persecutors (Luke 9:5).
Acts 13:52. The disciples—i.e., at Antioch—were filled with joy, notwithstanding the persecution which raged against them (Acts 14:22).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 13:45-52
A Second Sabbath in Pisidian Antioch; or, the Promising Situation changed
I. Fierce opposition to the gospel on the part of the Jews.—Displayed in ascending stages.
1. Indignation.—They were filled with “envy” or “jealousy,” or better, boiling wrath, against the multitudes of Gentiles who on this second Sabbath had crowded the synagogue and perhaps overflowed into the street, and who everywhere manifested an eager desire to hear the word of God (Acts 13:45).
2. Contradiction. They interrupted the apostles while preaching by declaring what they said about Jesus to be contrary to fact and therefore untrue, possibly asserting that He was not the long-promised Messiah, was not God’s Holy One, had never been raised from the dead, and could not be the author of salvation to any.
3. Blasphemy. Either reviling Jesus as an impostor and a malefactor, or declaring Him to have been in league with Satan (compareJohn 10:20; John 10:20). Perhaps also hurling opprobrious epithets and railing accusations against the apostles (Acts 13:45).
4. Rejection. Rising into greater heat, they appear to have openly and scornfully intimated their determination not to believe in Christ or accept of salvation through His name, but to thrust away from themselves the offer of eternal life (Acts 13:46).
5. Persecution. They stirred up and urged on the devout women of honourable estate who were proselytes, along with the chief men of the city, most likely their husbands, to set on foot a persecution against the apostles—a persecution Paul afterwards alludes to (2 Timothy 3:11).
6. Expulsion. So successfully did they work that the apostles were forcibly ejected from their “coasts” or “cast out of their borders.” The persecution, probably a tumultuous outbreak, obliged the apostles to retire beyond the precincts of the city, to which, however, they returned on their homeward journey (Acts 14:21).
II. Solemn decision as to preaching on the part of the apostles.—
1. Its purport. Not that they would henceforth discontinue preaching to the Jews, and turn exclusively to the Gentiles, since they do not appear to have passed by their countrymen in their subsequent ministrations (Acts 14:1), but that there and then they would leave their unbelieving brethren to their blind infatuation and self-elected doom, and devote their attention to the Gentile inhabitants of the city.
2. Its reason. It was necessary, both as according with Christ’s command (Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16) and with their own natural instincts, that their countrymen and kinsmen should obtain the first offer of the gospel; but these, having judged themselves unworthy of the everlasting life, having shown by their unbelief, but more especially by their contradiction and blasphemy, that they loved the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19), had thus virtually made their choice to seek no part or lot in the kingdom of God or the salvation of Messiah.
3. Its boldness. It was uttered in no half apologetic tone, but with courageous manliness as became those who were conscious, not only of following the path of duty, but of being guided by the Spirit.
4. Its finality. They shook off the dust of their feet, as Christ had directed them (Matthew 10:14), not in contempt for (Meyer), but as a testimony against, the unbelievers, and departed into Iconium, presently called Konieh, a city variously located—at ninety (Plumptre), sixty (Lewin), forty-five miles (Hackett) south-east of Antioch, the capital of Lycaonia, and situated at the foot of the Taurus (see on Acts 14:1).
III. Hearty reception of the gospel by the Gentiles.—
1. Eager listening. Almost the whole city—the greater part of the congregation being the native heathen inhabitants—came together to hear the word of God.
(1) A sublime spectac’e, a whole city moved by a common impulse, more sublime when that common impulse is to hear the gospel, most sublime when that common impulse is yielded to. Compare the situation in Samaria (Acts 8:6).
(2) A hopeful attitude. When men will not hear their conversion is impossible, or at all events improbable, since “faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17). Those who hear the gospel, if not yet in, are at least near the kingdom. The word of the kingdom received into the understanding may find its way to the heart and conscience.
2. Earnest believing. Those among the listeners who were ordained to eternal life and whose hearts the Lord opened (Acts 16:14), believed, received the truth in the simplicity of faith, and were thereby saved.
(1) That any believed was due to grace Divine. Whatever else is signified by being “ordained to eternal life,” this is implied, that their faith proceeded not from themselves, but was the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
(2) That all did not believe was due to the natural disinclination of the human heart (1 Corinthians 2:14). If it cannot be supposed that all the Antiochians were converted, the impression conveyed by the narrative is that many were. Had the majority been won over, the persecution of the apostles would scarcely have been successful.
2. Triumphant rejoicing. The Gentiles were glad.
(1) At the intimation of the apostles that they were about to bear their gospel message to the heathen.
(2) At the announcement that Christ had been “set for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
(3) At their own personal experience of the blessing of the gospel, “they were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.”
4. Adorirng gratitude. They glorified the word of God, or of the Lord, not simply by listening to, believing in, and making experience of, but also in giving thanks for it—“for the mercy which had embraced them in the plan of salvation and had given them this opportunity to secure its benefits.”
1. That the duty of every one to whom the gospel comes is to accord it a hearing, patient, unprejudiced, and respectful.
2. That the gospel cannot be killed by contradicting and blaspheming either it or its messengers.
3. That the first to hear the gospel are often the last to accept it.
4. That none are lost except those who judge themselves unworthy of eternal life.
5. That none believe except those who are ordained to eternal life.
6. That the same gospel which fills some with rage fills others with joy.
7. That joy in a believer’s soul arises from the inhabitation of that soul by the Holy Ghost.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 13:44. A Marvellous Sight. “Almost a whole city gathered together to hear the word of God.”
I. Unusual.—Cities or the people in them have so much else to engage their attention, as, e.g., business, pleasure, social duties, political engagements, etc.
II. Wonderful.—Not to see groups of persons assembled to hear the word of God, but to observe a whole city or nearly so gathered for such a purpose.
III. Sublime.—To look upon a vast multitude all absorbed in higher things than those of time and sense, in things pertaining to salvation and eternal life.
IV. Desirable.—Few, who can rightly estimate the value of the gospel as God’s word in contradistinction to man’s, will deny that such a spectacle as is here described is one greatly to be longed for.
V. Hopeful.—What consequences of good might be expected to result from a whole city or the larger portion of it turning out to hear the word of God! Surely an immediate awakening would follow with not a few, perhaps a multitude of conversions.
Acts 13:45-48. Jews and Gentiles; or, Gospel Hearers and their Different Attitudes, Characters, and Destinies.
I. The Jews full of envy, the Gentiles full of gladness.
II. The Jews contradicting, the Gentiles listening.
III. The Jews thrusting from them the word of God, the Gentiles glorifying the word of God.
IV. The Jews condemning themselves as unworthy of eternal life, the Gentiles believing to justification as worthy of and qualified for eternal life.—Stier.
Acts 13:47. Salvation.
I. Its nature—light.
II. Its medium—“Thee,” Christ.
III. Its destination—the Gentiles, the uttermost parts of the earth.
IV. Its source—God.
Acts 13:48. Ordained to Eternal Life.
I. The goal, eternal life.
II. The way thither, through faith.
III. The impelling power, Divine grace.
IV. The plan in accordance with which it works, foreordination.
A Sermon on Foreordination.—Foreordination. An act—
I. Divine.—Of necessity whatsoever comes to pass is known beforehand to God. Whether foreordination is grounded on foreknowledge (Arminius) or foreknowledge on foreordination (Calvin), makes no difference to the issue. Whatever comes to pass is and has been divinely arranged, τεταγμένον.
II. Sovereign.—This arrangement has its basis in the good pleasure of God, or the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11). This so, even should it be that God in arranging has had regard to foreseen faith and good works in man.
III. Gracious.—It is ordination, not to condemnation, but to eternal life. If men are lost, it is because they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life; if they are saved, it is because Divine grace has chosen them to eternal life (Ephesians 1:4).
IV. Rational.—Foreordination is not an arbitrary or mechanical force or decree that overrides the human will and executes itself irrespective of the nature of man, but a counsel of perfection that works towards its end by making use of man’s free will and responsible intelligence.
V. Mysterious.—After all has been said that can be said by metaphysical theologians, it remains an impenetrable secret how God can be sovereign and man free. Yet Scripture, providence, and individual consciousness attest that both doctrines are true.
Acts 13:52. Filled with Joy.
I. Desirable.—Cannot be desirable to live in doubt, sadness, and fear arising from uncertainty as to personal salvation.
II. Possible.—Proved by numerous instances in Scripture; as, e.g., the Samaritans (Acts 8:8), the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:2), the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:6), the Eunuch (Acts 8:39), the jailor of Philippi (Acts 16:34).
1. By being filled with the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:3; Galatians 5:22).
2. By believing on Jesus.
Acts 13:48-49. How to glorify the Word of God. By—
I. Listening to it.
II. Believing it.
III. Obeying it.
IV. Spreading it.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany