Click here to join the effort!
PREPARATIONS FOR A GENTILE MISSION—THE CALLING OF A NEW APOSTLE
A. The Conversion of Saul.
1. The Miracle near Damascus; or, the Arrest of the Persecutor (Acts 9:1-9).
2. The Mission of Ananias; or, the Baptism of Saul (Acts 9:10-19).
3. Saul at Damascus; or, the Persecutor turned Preacher (Acts 9:20-25).
4. Saul’s First Visit to Jerusalem; or, his Discipleship confirmed (Acts 9:26-31).
B. The Wanderings of Peter.
5. With the Saints at Lydda; or, the Healing of Eneas (Acts 9:32-35).
6. Among the Disciples at Joppa; or, the Raising of Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43).
Acts 9:1. And should be but directing attention once more to Saul. Breathing out.—Breathing in better renders the verb ἐμπνέων, threatening and slaughter describing the atmosphere inhaled. That Saul, a Pharisee of the straitest sect (Acts 26:5), went unto the high-priest, a Sadducee, revealed the intensity of his rage. Whether the high-priest in question was Annas or Caiaphas, deposed in A.D. 35 (Meyer) or 36 (Olshausen), Jonathan A.D. 36–37, Ananus’s son, his successor, or Theophilus, who followed his brother in A.D. 37–38, depends on the year of Saul’s conversion, which is uncertain.
Acts 9:2. The letters asked were not commendatory epistles merely, but legal warrants for search and apprehension. Damascus.—In Hebrew, Dammesek; in Assyrian, Dimaski and Dimaska; in Arabic, Dimeschk-esch-Schâm, or shortly, esch-Schâm. The oldest existing city in the world, the ancient capital of Syria, 145 miles north-east of Jerusalem, then contained a large number of Jews, many of whom were fugitives from persecution (Acts 8:1-4). Paul’s route uncertain (see “Homiletical Analysis”). To or unto the synagogues meant, of course, their presiding officers (Luke 8:49), and perhaps the elders or presbyters associated with them (Luke 7:3). Of this, rather the way.—I.e., of the Christian profession, faith, manner of life, etc. Compare Acts 16:17, Acts 18:25, Acts 19:9-23, Acts 22:4, Acts 24:14-22. This name given by the early Christians to themselves, in remembrance, doubtless, of Christ’s words, “I am the Way.”
Acts 9:3. He came near should be it came to pass, about noon (Acts 22:6), that he drew nigh, a Hebraistic form of expression. A light from (ἀπό) should be a light out of (ἐκ) heaven.—This was the “glory” of Jesus (Acts 22:6).
Acts 9:4. He fell.—Probably from the animal on which he rode. Compare Acts 22:7; Acts 26:14 represents his companions as having all fallen at the same time.
Acts 9:5. Lord.—Could not as yet have had in Paul’s lips its full significance. Some MSS. write, “of Nazareth,” or “the Nazarene,” after Jesus. The clause, it is hard for thee, etc., has been inserted here from Acts 26:14.
Acts 9:6. All codices begin this verse with But rise, as in Acts 26:16. The preceding words, “and he trembling and astonished,” etc., have also found their way into the text from the later accounts.
Acts 9:7. Stood speechless, dumb through terror, contradicts not the statement (Acts 26:14) that Saul’s companions all fell to the ground, nor is the phrase hearing a, or the voice or sound, inconsistent with the declaration (Acts 22:9) that they heard (in the sense of understood) not the voice of Him that spake unto him.
Acts 9:8. And when his eyes were opened, by the lifting up of his eyelids which had shut themselves before the dazzling light, he saw no man, not “from whom the voice came” (Bengel), but none of his companions, or nothing (R.V.), he was blind. This blindness, while not like that of Elymas (24:31), a punishment, and not intended to symbolise his antecedent spiritual blindness (Calvin, Grotius, Bengel), nevertheless reminds one of the dumbness inflicted on Zacharias (Luke 1:20; Luke 1:22).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 9:1-9
The Miracle near Damascus; or, the Conversion of Saul
I. Saul’s journey to Damascus.—
1. The object of it. To persecute the followers of Christ, to harry the disciples of the Crucified not out of Palestine merely, but out of the world as well, and with this end in view to bring any of “the way,” i.e., of the New Religion (see “Critical Remarks”), he might find, whether men or women, bound to Jerusalem.
2. The spirit of it. More than breathing out, Saul was breathing in threatenings and slaughter, inhaling persecution and murder as his soul’s and body’s atmosphere, feeding upon blood and carnage, stuffing himself full of rage and violence, which might be ready for disgorging upon the unhappy victims of his diabolical crusade, which was meant to be thoroughgoing, sparing neither sex nor age, and sticking at nothing short of imprisonment and death.
3. The authorisation of it. Saul carried with him letters from the Jewish high-priest (Annas, or Caiaphas, Jonathan, or Theophilus; see “Critical Remarks”), commending him to the rulers of the various synagogues in Damascus, and empowering him (with their help) to search out and seize any Nazarenes who might have attached themselves to these places of worship, and to fetch them bound to Jerusalem. The historic credibility of this statement has been vindicated by recalling the circumstance that on the death of Tiberius, in A.D. 37, Damascus passed from the hands of the Romans into those of Hareth, of Petra, who, in order to keep the Jews quiet, made concessions to their autonomy, and every concession was simply a permission to commit further religious violences (Renan, The Apostles, p. 155).
4. The prospect of it. No emissary of the Inquisition—no Thomas de Torquemada of Spain—ever had a better chance of success. If brilliant reputation, ardent zeal, absolute power, best wishes of friends and contemporaries who were all seized with a passion of hatred against the Christians, could have furthered Saul’s expedition, these without exception stood upon his side.
5. The prosecution of it. Imagination can easily picture the setting forth from Jerusalem of the Hebrew Claverhouse and his companions, all of them mounted, as the old masters have represented, upon high-mettled and richly caparisoned steeds. The route pursued may have led either by Bethel to Neapolis, then across the Jordan near Scythopolis, thence to Gadara, and on through the Hauran to Damascus; or along the base of Tabor, through the Jordan a few miles above Tiberias, then up by Cæsarea Philippi, and on to Damascus (Conybeare and Howson, vol. i., 81).
II. Saul’s experience near Damascus.—
1. His inward cogitations. Though not recorded by Luke, nor afterwards mentioned by Saul himself, these, it has been supposed, were of such sort as unconsciously to prepare for the sudden and unexpected transformation that took place within the persecutor’s soul. Stephen’s earnest discourse, to which he most likely listened, setting forth the transitory character of the temple workship and its true fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, must, it is said, have secretly poured a flood of light upon his understanding, from which he could never again escape, and upon which he probably often, and almost unconsciously to himself, pondered; while Stephen’s death which he witnessed, and Stephen’s prayers which he heard, more than probably helped to drive his half-formed intellectual convictions inward upon his heart and conscience. Indeed, proceed those who hold this view, it is hardly too much to say, that already in the interior of Saul’s soul the spiritual revolution had begun, in the shape of acute intellectual and heart impulses which almost unconsciously urged him to recognise that truth and right were on the side of the followers of Jesus, and which he could not resist without a painful sense of doing violence to conscience. A certain countenance is given to this representation by the words addressed to Saul by Christ: “It is hard for thee to kick against the goads”; and there seems no good reason for refusing to recognise in it a measure of truth, provided it is not pressed so far as to deny the objective reality of Christ’s appearance to the persecutor; but after all it is doubtful if this was the view taken by Saul himself of the mode of his conversion (compare Weizsäcker, i. 90).
2. His outward arrestment.
(1) The locality where this occurred was the vicinity of the city. The view of Damascus as seen by one approaching it from the south is described by travellers as of surpassing beauty. “It is true that in the apostle’s day there were no cupolas and no minarets. Justinian had not built St. Sophia, and the caliphs had erected no mosques; but the white buildings of the city gleamed then, as they do now, in the centre of a verdant inexhaustible paradise. The Syrian gardens, with their low walls and waterwheels, and careless mixture of fruits and flowers, were the same then as they are now. The same figures would be seen in the green approaches to the town, camels and mules, horses and asses, with Syrian peasants, and Arabs from beyond Palmyra” (The Life and Epistles of Paul, by Conybeare and Howson, i., 85, 86).
(2) The time of this arrestment was midday (Acts 22:6, Acts 24:13). “The birds were silent in the trees, the hush of noon was in the city, the sun was burning fiercely in the sky, the persecutor’s companions were enjoying the cool refreshment of the shade after their journey; and his eyes rested with satisfaction on those walls which were the end of his mission, and contained the victims of his righteous zeal” (Conybeare and Howson, i., 86).
(3) The manner of his arrestment was sudden as a flash of lightning. So shall the coming of the Son of man be (Luke 17:24).
(4) The instrument was “a light out of heaven” (Acts 9:3), “from heaven a great light” (Acts 22:6), “a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13)—no mere flash of lightning, but a shining forth of the Divine glory which encompassed the exalted Saviour (Acts 9:17).
(5) The agent was Christ. Saul himself believed this.
3. His interview with Christ.
(1) That Saul actually beheld the glorified Redeemer may be inferred from Luke’s statement that Saul’s companions saw no man (Acts 9:7), and is expressly declared by Ananias (Acts 9:17; Acts 22:14), Barnabas (Acts 9:27), and Saul himself (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8). It is quite conceivable also that while the dazzling radiance of supernal glory struck Saul’s companions at once to the earth, Saul himself may have looked into the light and seen the form of the Redeemer before he fell prostrate on the ground (compareRevelation 1:17; Revelation 1:17). A certain measure of support is obtained for this view from the circumstance that Saul appears in after life to have suffered from weakness or dimness of eyesight (see Acts 13:9, Acts 23:1; Galatians 4:13-31; Galatians 6:11).
(2) That Saul heard Christ’s voice addressing him in articulate speech is with equal emphasis contained in Luke’s narrative, and in Paul’s after recitals, and is not inconsistent with the fact that Saul’s companions only heard a sound but could not distinguish words (compareJohn 12:29; John 12:29).
(3) That Saul carried on a conversation with the Risen Redeemer all the accounts affirm. Addressed with a twice repeated “Saul! Saul!” expressive of earnestness, and a penetrating question, indicative of solicitude, “Why persecutest thou Me?” he responded with an inquiry, “Who art Thou, Lord?” which half revealed his suspicion that his interlocutor was Stephen’s Lord (Acts 7:59-60); and was in turn assured that his suspicion was correct, that the speaker who interrogated him was Jesus of Nazareth, whom he persecuted; after which he was directed to rise and go into the city, where it would be told him what he should do.
4. His actual conversion. Indicated in the narrative by his rising from the earth and entering into the city in obedience to Christ’s command (Acts 9:8), it is more distinctly set forth by the question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (borrowed from chap. Acts 22:10), which signalised his surrender—instantaneous, swift, clear, decided, complete, final—to Jesus as his Lord. It meant the shattering of all his former views as a Pharisee, concerning not worldly ambition alone, but the grounds of acceptance and justification before God. It lifted self out of the seat and centre of authority in all his after life, and substituted Christ instead. In this experience lies the essence of conversion.
III. Saul’s entrance into Damascus.—
1. Helpless. Different from the fashion in which he had expected to pass beneath the gateway of the city, he was led by the hands of his companions, who must have been astonished at, and perplexed by the change which had come upon their leader.
2. Blind. Whereas he had purposed to ferret out with searching glance the hated followers of Jesus he had been so dazzled by the glory that his eyesight was gone, he saw neither man nor thing.
3. Humbled. He had intended to root out the Christians from the city, now he must obtain a lodging with one of these (Acts 9:11). No thoughts now of letters for the high-priest.
4. Saddened. The three days of sightless existence in which he neither ate nor drank were emblematic of his spiritual condition. “Only one other space of three days’ duration can be mentioned of equal importance in the history of the world.” … (Conybeare and Howson, i., 90).
1. That no soul is beyond the reach of converting grace.
2. That Christ is often found of them who seek Him not.
3. That Christ observes everything that transpires on the earth.
4. That Christ regards persecution of His followers as equivalent to persecution of Himself.
5. That no conversion is complete which does not place the soul entirely at Christ’s command.
6. That the things of the Spirit are not discernible by natural men.
7. That Divine grace is sovereign in the selection of its objects.
Note.—On the Credibility of the Story of Paul’s Conversion.
I. It is not denied by any school of critics that such a man as Paul lived in the opening years of the Christian era, or that he was converted, meaning by this that from being a furious and fanatical Pharisee he suddenly became a follower of Christ and a preacher of the Gospel he had previously opposed.
II. There is nothing à priori impossible, except on the assumption that the supernatural is impossible, in the account given by Luke in the present narrative, that what converted Paul was a manifestation to him on the Damascus road of the risen and glorified Christ—a manifestation not internal but external, not to his mind’s eye but to his bodily sight.
III. The account given by Luke is confirmed, first, by two statements that are represented as having fallen from Paul’s own lips in public addresses given by him to his countrymen in Jerusalem (Acts 22:6-11), and to Festus and Agrippa in Cæsarea (Acts 26:12-18); and secondly, by three shorter but substantially equivalent statements that occur in two of his acknowledged epistles (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8; Galatians 1:16). Even if the speeches in the Acts should be ascribed to Luke, no one can doubt that the allusions in the letters are to the Damascus miracle.
IV. The alleged contradictions in the various accounts are not sufficient to invalidate their united testimony.—Accepting these contradictions in their strongest form, allowing them to be wholly irreconcilable—which, however, they are not—what do they amount to? These—
1. That Acts 9:4 represents Saul as the only one that fell to the earth, with which Acts 22:7 agrees, whereas Acts 26:14 says that all fell—i.e., Saul’s companions as well as himself.
2. That according to Acts 9:7 the men who journeyed with Saul heard a voice, which according to Acts 22:9 they heard not.
3. That in Acts 9:15; Acts 9:17, Saul’s call to be an apostle is made known first by Christ to Ananias, and then by Ananias to Saul, while in Acts 26:16-18 it is communicated directly to Saul by Christ Himself. For the solution of these tremendous (!) difficulties the Critical Remarks and Homiletical Analysis may be consulted. But, conceding for a moment that they could not be satisfactorily removed, is it not simply ridiculous to assert that unimportant variations such as these, which do not in the smallest degree affect the central fact which is affirmed in every one of the narratives, are sufficient to relegate the whole story to the category of legend? On similar principles every history book on earth might be reduced to a collection of fables.
V. The explanations of the Damascus occurrence which have been offered are so palpably inadequate that it may be seriously questioned if those who put them forth believe them.
1. The natural explanations of the older rationalists and of their present-day followers need only to be mentioned to be set aside. That Christ never died at all but only swooned away on the cross and revived in the sepulchre (Paulus), or if He died continued twenty-seven years on the earth after His resurrection (Bahrdt), and afterwards appeared to Saul, is an interesting speculation of no value whatever as a contribution to theology or Biblical exposition. Scarcely more worthy of consideration is the modern hallucination (Renan), that Saul, when “in a state of great excitement,” partly “through the fatigue of his journey,” partly through “dangerous fever accompanied by delirium,” partly through “remorse as he approached the city where he was to commit the most signal of his misdeeds,” was suddenly overtaken by a thunderstorm which frightened and converted him.
2. The vision theory of modern critics, more especially of the Tübingen School (Baur, Zeller, Overbeck, Pfleiderer, Hausrath, Weizsäcker, and others), that Saul’s mental conflict with himself concerning the truth of Christianity, his growing conviction that his pharisaic views of religion were wrong, and that the doctrines of the Christians he was persecuting were right, combined perhaps with the remembrance of Stephen’s dying utterances and the impressions made upon him by the martyr’s apology—that all these things so wrought upon Saul’s mind as to raise it into an ecstatic condition which caused it to project its own subjective conceptions outside of itself, so as to make them appear objective realities, when in point of fact they were only images of the mind—this theory is open to serious objection.
(1) It is difficult to perceive how a mental vision should have struck the Apostle with bodily blindness.
(2) It is more difficult to understand how a vision projected from within could have effected the complete revolution of Paul’s character and life implied in his conversion, or how this vision could be said to have caused his conversion, and not rather his conversion to have caused the vision.
(3) It is most difficult to realise how a clear-headed man like Paul should have continued, after the excitement had passed, to represent as an outward objective reality what he must have known, on reflection, to be only an inward imagination, or how he could have placed this experience on a level with the “seeings” of the other apostles, and of the five hundred brethren, unless indeed he was sure that they also had seen Christ only in vision.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 9:2. Damascus.
I. The oldest city in the world.—Its origin lost in remote antiquity. Known to have been in existence in the days of Abraham. “In the midst of an oasis of verdure rise the shining crenellated walls of a city that was old in the time of Abraham, the steward of whose house was one of its citizens; old when the pyramids were young, old in the dawn of history, and whose beginning no man knoweth with certainty.”—Wanderings in the Holy Land, by Adelia Gates, chap. xvi.
II. A city of surpassing beauty.—“It is one of the few towns of antiquity that have never lost their own splendour and renown. By Oriental writers it is named “The pearl of the Orient, the beautiful as Eden, the fragrant Paradise, the plumage of the Paradise cock, the coloured neck of the ring dove, the neck band of beauty, the gate of the Caaba, the eye of the East, the Eden of the Moslem” (Dr. Wolff in Riehm’s Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Damascus). “It bursts upon the view of a traveller like a vision of Paradise.” “The Damascenes believe that the Garden of Eden was located there, and that the clay of which Adam was formed was taken from the banks of the Abana.” When Mohammed saw the city and gardens below in all their enchanting beauty, he turnel away saying, “Man can have but one Paradise, my Paradise is fixed above.” Buckle, the historian, who “beheld the city from the same place only a fortnight before his death in 1862, exclaimed, “This is indeed worth all the toil and danger it has cost me to come here” (Picturesque Palestine, ii., 143, 144). “There may be other views in the world more beautiful; there can hardly be another at once so beautiful and instructive” (Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, p. 414i). “Damascus occupies one of those sites which nature seems to have intended for a perennial city; its beauty stands unrivalled, its richness has passed into a proverb, and its supply of water is unlimited, making fountains sparkle in every dwelling.”—Dr. J. L. Porter.
III. A historically interesting city.—
1. The probable birthplace of Abraham’s servant (Genesis 15:2).
2. The limit of Abraham’s pursuit of the Eastern Kings (Genesis 14:15).
3. A city visited by Elisha (2 Kings 8:7).
4. Paul’s journey to Damascus and the incidents connected therewith
5. Paul’s subsequent visit to the city (Galatians 1:17).
Acts 9:2. The Way.—This designation of the Christian religion appropriate, because the Christian religion—
I. Originated with Him who called Himself “the Way” (John 14:6).
II. Describes the way of truth, duty, life, and salvation for all who embrace it.
III. Is the only religion whose claim to do so infallibly can be established.
Acts 9:4. Christ’s Question to Paul.
I. Revealed to Saul Christ’s intimate knowledge of Himself.—Of His name, and doings, and intentions. The doctrine of Christ’s Omniscience.
II. Intimated to Saul Christ’s personal existence in heaven.—The doctrine of Christ’s resurrection.
III. Announced to Saul Christ’s sympathy with His persecuted followers.—The doctrine of Christ’s union with His people.
Acts 9:5-6. The Soul’s Questions and Christ’s Answers.
I. The soul’s questions.—
1. Who art Thou, Lord?
(1) Necessary. Impossible to be evaded by any to whom Christ presents Himself.
(2) Important. More momentous inquiry cannot be imagined than whether Christ is what He claims to be.
(3) Urgent. Cannot be settled too soon. Danger in delay; advantage in an early decision, provided that be right.
(4) Vital. Carrying with it eternal issues of good or evil, life or death.
2. Lord! what wilt thou have me to do? The question of one who has decided
(1) That Christ is in His person divine, and in His office the Saviour of the world. Both implied in addressing Christ as “Lord.”
(2) That religion is for him a personal matter of highest interest and immediate concern. This thought conveyed by the pronoun me.
(3) That salvation can only be found by placing the soul under Christ’s direction. Suggested by Saul’s asking Christ what he should do to obtain forgiveness for the past and hope for the future.
II. Christ’s answers.—
1. I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. That is to say, to the sincere seeker Christ reveals
(1) His name, office, and work—all expressed in the designation Jesus, or Saviour.
(2) His evil treatment at the hands of unbelieving and sinful men, who in opposing His cause and harassing His people are guilty of persecuting Himself.
(3) His secret ally in every honest heart that will consider His claims, the existence of which inward advocate makes it difficult and dangerous for earnest souls to stand aloof and refuse to yield submission to His grace.
2. Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. Which signifies—
(1) That no truly awakened soul will be left without Divine direction as to the way of peace.
(2) That such direction has in every instance been beforehand provided. The office performed by Ananias is now discharged by ministers or the word.
(3) That the direction of the word—which is, repent, believe, and be baptised (Acts 2:38)—if humbly followed will infallibly conduct to peace.
Acts 9:6. Conversion as illustrated by that of Paul.
I. Its nature.—
1. There is deep contrition. Knows that he has sinned, and that his sin is aggravated. His conscience is awakened.
2. There is spiritual illumination. With regard to himself and to the Saviour.
3. There is earnest self-surrender. Would go anywhere, would do anything.
4. There is a singular transformation. A new creature.
II. Its causes.—
1. The agent is God. An act of His omnipotence.
2. The instrument is truth. The truth in the Bible somehow becomes the truth in the heart.
3. The influence of love. Faith working by love.
III. Its rules.—
1. As to its subjects it is sovereign. There must be reasons for the selection, but we do not know them.
2. As to its mode it is invincible. The power of the Spirit may be resisted, but cannot be overcome.
3. As to its time it may be sudden. In one sense it is always sudden; in some cases it is remarkably sudden.
4. As to its circumstances it is variable. Sometimes violent, sometimes gentle.
5. There is no need for despair of the conversion of any.—G. Brooks.
Acts 9:8. And Saul arose from the Earth.—“Saul rose another man: he had fallen in death, he rose in life; he had fallen in the midst of things temporal, he rose in the awful consciousness of things eternal; he had fallen a proud, intolerant, persecuting Jew, he rose a humble, broken-hearted, penitent Christian.”—Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, p. 199.
The Conversion of Paul.
I. Remarkable as the conversion—
1. Of a young man (Acts 7:56).
2. Of a self-righteous Pharisee (Acts 23:6, Acts 26:5.
3. Of a brilliant scholar (Galatians 1:11).
4. Of a blood-thirsty persecutor (1 Timothy 1:13).
II. More remarkable, as the bringing over to Christianity of one who proved himself—
1. An incomparable type of Christian character. “Christianity got the opportunity in him of showing the world the whole force that was in it” (Stalker).
2. A great thinker which Christianity “specially needed at the moment” (Ibid.).
3. The most illus trious missionary the Church has ever produced or the world has ever seen.
Acts 9:10. That Ananias (see on Acts 9:1) was one of the Seventy is an unsupported conjecture; that he was a “devout” man Saul afterwards asserts (Acts 22:12); that he had previously heard of Saul he himself declares (Acts 9:13). Luke styles him a disciple, but leaves unrecorded whether his conversion occurred before or after Pentecost. Not the Ananias mentioned by Josephus (Ant., XX. ii. 4) as a Jewish merchant, who converted Izates, King of Adiabene, to the faith of Israel.
Acts 9:11. The street which is called Straight.—This name is still borne by a street in Damascus, which runs westward from the East gate, dividing the Christian from the Jewish quarter. (See Picturesque Palestine, vol. ii., p. 175.) “The houses of Ananias and of Judas are still shown” (Ibid., p. 179). “The ‘street that is called Straight,’ near the Jewish quarter, still merits its ancient name, as it traverses the entire city in a right line” (Wanderings in the Holy Land, by Adelia Gates, chap. xv.). Tarsus.—First mention of Saul’s birthplace. See on Acts 9:30.
Acts 9:12. In a vision is omitted in the best MSS. Putting his hand on him should be laying the hand, or hands, on him, in token of the benefit about to be conferred. Compare Acts 6:6, and contrast Acts 12:1, where a similar phrase denotes the infliction of injury.
Acts 9:13. I have heard.—Perhaps through letters received from Christians at Jerusalem, or through statements made by Saul’s companions.
Acts 9:15. A chosen vessel.—Lit. a vessel of choice. A common Hebrew idiom. Kings.—Paul witnessed before the governors of Cyprus (Acts 13:7), Achaia (Acts 18:12), and Judæa (Acts 24:10, Acts 25:6); before Herod Agrippa (Acts 26:12), and probably before Nero (2 Timothy 1:16).
Acts 9:16. I will show him may signify either by revelation (De Wette), or more likely by experience (Bengel).
Acts 9:17. And Ananias … said.—Ananias’s address is more fully reported in Acts 22:12-16. Brother.—Not by nationality merely (Acts 2:29, Acts 21:1, Acts 28:17), but by grace.
Acts 9:18. As it had been, but not in reality. Scales.—Compare Acts 2:3, Acts 6:15. Luke would no doubt derive this information about the sensation Saul experienced from the apostle himself.
Acts 9:19. Certain days.—Those which followed immediately on his recovery of sight were spent in intercourse with the disciples, but not in learning from them the gospel he afterwards preached (Galatians 1:12).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 9:10-19
The Mission of Ananias; or, the Baptism of Saul
1. His name. Ananias, like Annas, the Greek form of Hananiah, or “Gracious is Jehovah,” borne by the high-priest (Acts 4:6) and the false disciple (Acts 9:1), as well as by himself. In his case only did the character of its bearer correspond with its import.
2. His residence. Damascus (see on Acts 9:2, “Hints”); but whether a native or a fugitive who had found shelter there cannot be determined.
3. His standing. Not one of the Seventy. A devout man—i.e., a pious Jew (Acts 22:12), who waited for the consolation of Israel, he was also a Christian disciple who had found the Messias, the date of his conversion being unknown, though tradition reports that he afterwards became bishop of Damascus and a martyr.
4. His character.
(1) Of good report among the Jews (Acts 22:12). “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
(2) Intelligent, not only wise unto salvation, but keeping himself acquainted with all that concerned the welfare of the Church (Acts 9:13).
(3) Timid, disposed to shrink from meeting such a ravening wolf as rumour affirmed Saul to be (Acts 9:14). Brave men often shrink from danger. Yet
(4) Courageous, and ready to obey when he clearly understood the Lord’s will (Acts 9:17). Veniat, veniat verbum Domini, said one, et submittemus ei sexcenta si nobis essent colla; let but the Lord’s word come, and we will submit to him six hundred necks if we had them (Trapp). And
(5) Sympathetic, uttering words of kindly cheer the moment he entered Saul’s presence (Acts 9:17).
5. His calling. Having in a vision been summoned by Christ, as Samuel formerly had been by Jehovah (1 Samuel 3:4), and having answered as Samuel did, “Here am I, Lord,” he was further instructed about the mission on which he was forthwith to be sent. Pure romance is Renan’s idea that Paul, having often heard of Ananias, and “of the miraculous powers of new believers over maladies,” sent for him, under the conviction that the imposition of his hands would cure him of his disease (The Apostles, p. 161).
II. The mission.—
1. Its purport.
1. To repair to Saul’s presence without delay. A formidable task for a Damascus Christian; like thrusting one’s head into a lions’ den or a wolves’ lair. Yet that Christ intended this commission to be carried out Ananias must have gathered from the particularity of the instructions given, in which were, first, an order to be prompt, Arise; next, a specification of the street in which Saul would be found, the street called Straight, and of the house in which he lodged, that of Judas; and lastly, the condition of mind and body in which he would be found, as to his mind in the act of prayer and in a state of expectancy, as to his body enfeebled and blind.
2. To put hands upon Saul’s eyes, and so restore his sight. Such an act, if not required for the strengthening of Ananias’s faith, would serve to deepen Saul’s humility in that he should be ministered to by one of the very Christians he had purposed to murder, while it would help him to connect the restoration of his sight with Christ, whose ambassador Ananias was (Acts 9:12), and thus be an assurance to him that Christ had put away his sin and received him into favour.
2. Its occasion.
(1) Saul’s need of such assurance of Christ’s grace and mercy, which was the need that every darkened understanding has to be illumined, every troubled heart has to be appeased, and every unpardoned soul has to be forgiven; while over and above it was the need which arises from the pressure of all these unappeased wants upon an anguish-laden spirit.
(2) Saul’s preparedness for the reception of these heavenly blessings, which was shown by two things—the prayers he was pouring forth (Acts 9:11) and the vision he had seen (Acts 9:12).
(3) Saul’s selection by Christ to be a chosen vessel to bear His name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). This Christ told Ananias was the crowning reason why his mission could not be set aside or even delayed.
3. Its execution. At first timidly reluctant, as Moses of old had been reluctant to undertake the task of bearding Pharaoh in his palace (Exodus 3:11), Ananias at last carried through the business entrusted to him,
(1) promptly, hesitating nothing after Christ had removed his fears;
(2) faithfully, implementing it to the letter;
(3) tenderly, saluting the quondam persecutor as Brother Saul; and
(4) successfully, laying his hands upon Saul’s sightless orbs, so that immediately “there fell from his eyes as it had been scales,” “he received sight”—it is preposterous to say that Saul’s blindness was only nervous, and that on hearing Ananias’s words Saul believed himself cured (Renan: The Apostles, p. 161)—his soul was “filled with the Holy Ghost,” “he arose” from the dust of despair, “he was baptised,” he partook of food, and recovered strength.
1. That souls once truly awakened are sooner or later conducted into spiritual peace.
2. That the best occupation for an awakened soul is to keep calling upon God and Christ in prayer.
3. That Christ can always find suitable agents to execute His commissions on earth.
4. That the highest honour Christ can put upon a person is to make him a bearer of Christ’s name before his fellow-men.
5. That those who run on Christ’s errands should cultivate a spirit of love.
6. That Christ’s people should rejoice when they have an opportunity of returning good for evil.
7. That those who come to Jesus Christ enter into light.
8. That the greatest of men may be helped to salvation by the least.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 9:10. The Two Ananiases.
I. Ananias of Jerusalem.—
1. An insincere disciple.
2. A tool of Satan.
3. A minister of unrighteousness.
4. A warning to evil-doers.
II. Ananias of Damascus.—
1. A sincere disciple.
2. A messenger of Christ.
3. A servant of righteousness.
4. An example to Christ’s followers.
Acts 9:10-17. The Two Visions of Christ.
I. Ananias’s vision resembled Saul’s in being—
1. A supernatural presentation to the soul’s eye of the glorified Son of man.
2. Such a presentation that Ananias could recognise and answer the voice of Christ when it addressed him.
3. Such a presentation that when the vision passed the soul’s ordinary conciousness retained a recollection of what had transpired in the vision.
II. Saul’s vision differed from that of Ananias in this respect, that over and above the revelation of Christ to the soul’s eye, there was a distinct manifestation of the Saviour’s glorified form to the bodily eye (compare Acts 22:14). That Saul afterwards regarded Christ’s appearance to him on the Damascus road as something more and higher than, and essentially distinct from the “visions and revelations of the Lord” subsequently enjoyed by him, as a phenomenon the same in kind with the appearances of the Forty Days, he showed by—
1. Claiming, on the ground of it, an apostleship equal in validity with that of the Twelve (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9),—a “sight of Christ” being the specific warranty of apostle ship, as distinguished from prophethood, of which “receiving visions” was the seal.
2. Basing on the reality of it the doctrine of a resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15:14), which he could not have done on a mere vision, since persons who have not risen might appear in vision (Mark 9:4; Acts 16:9).
Acts 9:11. Behold! he prayeth.—Note four points:—
I. Prayer addressed to Jesus Christ is one of the first indications of a new life.
II. Prayer, as a first symptom of the religious life, is always the result of a spiritual vision of the Son of man.
III. Prayer which is the first utterance of a new-born soul is never unobserved by Christ.
IV. Neither is it ever left unanswered by Him.
A Strange Sight.—Saul of Tarsus praying!
I. A persecutor of the Christians calling on the Lord of Christians.
II. A self-righteous Pharisee supplicating Heaven’s mercy.
III. A learned Rabbi confessing his ideas of religion had been wrong.
Acts 9:13-14; Acts 9:17. Ananias’s Theology.
I. The divinity of Jesus.—Lord.
II. The personality of the Spirit.
III. The brotherhood of believers.
IV. The Sanctity of Christians.—Saints.
V. The essence of religion.—Calling on the name of Christ.
The Ideal Minister or Missionary.
I. His fundamental qualification.—He must be “a chosen vessel.” Chosen:
1. To be a vessel of Divine grace, to be a recipient of heavenly mercy (Romans 9:23)—i.e., he must be a sincere convert to the faith he seeks to preach. 2. To be a vessel of heavenly truth (2 Corinthians 4:7), since many sincere converts have small knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
II. His lofty commission.—To bear—
1. The grandest theme. Christ’s name.
2. Before the widest audience. Jews and Gentles, kings and subjects, princes and peasants—i.e., before humanity.
III. His severe trials.—“I will show him how great things he must suffer.” Few ministers or missionaries have been or are called upon to endure such hardships as the Apostle (2 Corinthians 11:23-27); yet should none enter on the office who are not prepared (with Christ’s aid) to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
IV. His strong encouragement.—“For My Name’s sake.”
1. The highest name (Philippians 2:9).
2. The worthiest name (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12).
3. The most powerful name (Philippians 4:13). The most enduring name (Psalms 72:17).
Acts 9:1-18. Doctrinal and Practical Lessons.
1. Jesus is supreme Lord and King in His own right and in the majesty of His power and the glory of His grace, while His enemies indulge their hatred and devise wicked schemes against Him.
2. In the conversion of Saul we have a striking illustration of the sovereignty of Divine grace in the salvation of the chief of sinners, saving them sometimes in the heat and fanaticism of their folly and guilt. How different the entrance of Saul into Damascus from his intentions and expectations! How was he humbled, and yet exalted in moral quality!
3. All the features of the scene show a complete and perfect design on the part of the Lord. Ananias, quite unexpectedly to himself, is made an instrument in the scheme of infinite wisdom, power, and love. The very house and street where Saul was fasting, meditating, and praying, and also all his exercises of mind and heart, were accurately and exactly known to the sovereign and governing Jesus.
4. The resources of Jesus the Lord are infinitely abundant for every emergency. He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. He can at any moment turn the wrath of men to His own praise. He is mighty to save.—C. H. Read, D.D.
Acts 9:20. And straightway he preached Christ.—Not after his return from Arabia (Plumptre), but after his conversion and during or at the end of the certain days. Paul’s preaching at this stage was not of an apostolic or missionary character, but merely an argumentative setting forth of the Divinity and Messiahship of Christ.
Acts 9:22. The visit to Arabia (Galatians 1:17) is best inserted here (Holtzmann, Zöckler) During it Saul increased the more in strength, and on returning to Damascus confounded the Jews there by his preaching.
Acts 9:23. Some interpreters (Neander, Meyer, Hackett) find room for the Arabian visit in the many days of this verse.
Acts 9:24. The gates were watched by means of a garrison of soldiers (2 Corinthians 11:32). The impression made upon Paul’s mind by this, the earliest of his persecutions, may be gathered from his allusion to it long after in his letter to the Corinthians.
Acts 9:25. The should be his disciples, Saul having already drawn around himself a body of converts. Let him down by a wall in a basket should be let him down through the wall—i.e., through the window of a house upon or overhanging the wall (2 Corinthians 11:33), lowering him in a basket. That Saul’s friends used a basket accorded with the present customs of the country. “It is the sort of vehicle which people employ there now, if they would lower a man into a well or raise him into the upper story of a house” (Hackett).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 9:19-25
Saul at Damascus; or, the Persecutor turned Preacher
I. The preaching of the preacher.—
1. When it began. After “certain days” spent with the disciples at Damascus, but whether immediately after these days (Conybeare and Howson, Hackett, Neander, Meyer, Spence), or after his three years retirement in Arabia from which he returned to Damascus (Plumptre, Farrar), is uncertain. “Straightway” (Acts 9:20) appears to favour the former supposition.
2. How long it continued. First, till he departed for Arabia (Galatians 1:17), which journey is variously located in Luke’s narrative: before the middle of Acts 9:19 (Pearson); before Acts 9:20 (Michaelis, Plumptre, Farrar); in the middle of Acts 9:22 or before it (Alford, Zöckler); at Acts 9:23, during the “many days” (Neander, Meyer, Lecbler, Hackett); between Acts 9:25 and Acts 9:26 (Olshausen. Ebrard). Next after he returned from Arabia and before he fled to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26).
3. Where it was conducted. In the Damascus synagogues which his unbelieving countrymen frequented, and with which the disciples had not yet entirely broken. His zeal for the salvation of his kinsmen according to the flesh led him, in the first instance, to seek a hearing from them (compareJohn 1:41; John 1:41). Besides, it was indispensable that they who knew him best should be able to judge of his conversion. Saul had no idea of being “a disciple secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).
4. The thesis it maintained. That Christ or Jesus whom their rulers had crucified was the Son of God. Probably his preaching at this stage (i.e., before his Arabian sojourn) consisted of little more than a proclamation of the new-found truth which God had revealed in his soul (Galatians 1:16), and the Damascus vision had burnt in upon his understanding. Afterwards, on returning from Arabia with matured and arranged thoughts, he advanced beyond proclamation to demonstration (Acts 9:22).
5. The vigour it displayed. If it began timidly, mildly, and half apologetically, it gradually waxed bold, fervid, and confident. The more he attained himself to a clear understanding and firm grasp of the new doctrine of Jesus which had been flashed in upon his intellect, heart, and conscience, of the ground on which it rested, and the significance it imported, the more courageously did he push his way into the citadel of his hearers’ souls.
6. The effect it produced.
(1) It filled all who heard him with amazement. And no wonder! Who ever heard before of a conversion so sudden, violent, and unlikely? A Pharisee become a Nazarene! A persecutor turned preacher! And that, too, like a clap of thunder! And for so little cause—because, as he alleged, he had seen a vision, or (as his opponents would say) he had been dazzled and frightened by a flash of lightning. No doubt the wiseacres laughed, ridiculed, shook their solemn heads, and called him Fanatic!
(2) It confounded all their previous notions about both the Scriptures and Jesus. If this new doctrine of the hare-brained Rabbi was correct, then they had completely misunderstood the teaching of their sacred books, and been guilty of a hideous crime—two charges (ignorance of God’s word and murder of God’s Son) under which the Jews could hardly be expected to sit with comfort.
(3) It kindled in their hearts hostile and even murderous designs (Acts 9:23). It woke up against him the same demon of persecution that had sent Stephen to his death. Possibly Saul was not surprised at this. It was what his new Master had suffered, and what he himself had been preparing for his new Master’s friends.
II. The peril of the preacher.—
1. The plot of his enemies.
(1) Its deadly purpose—to kill him. Nothing short of his blood would satisfy them. They must have been convinced that Saul was lost to them for ever, that he was no insincere convert, but a recruit to the side of Christianity who would never come back; they must have had a high appreciation of his ability and worth as a religious controversialist and propagandist when they could not afford to permit him to transfer his services to the other side; they must have been poorly off for arguments to answer his preaching when they felt themselves obliged so soon to resort to the persuasive weapons of fire and steel.
(2) Its unsleeping vigilance. Night and day they watched the city gates, with the help of a Roman garrison (2 Corinthians 11:32), to apprehend him (compareActs 23:21; Acts 23:21). So the wicked sleep not except they have done mischief (Proverbs 4:16), while “their feet are swift to shed blood” (Romans 3:15).
2. The observation of Paul. He was not so absorbed in preaching as not to become aware of what was going on. Saul, from the first to the last of his career, was a remarkably wide-awake person, who always knew the machinations of his adversaries, and understood the right thing to do. In this case he got to hear about the wicked devices of his foes.
3. The stratagem of his friends. Who says that Christians are incapable imbeciles? Under cover of the darkness (having taken him into one of their houses on the city wall), his disciples let him down from the window in a basket (see 2 Corinthians 11:33). “This nightly journey in a basket down over the town wall, whilst underneath perhaps the Jewish spies were waiting to apprehend him and drag him off to be stoned,” says Hausrath (Der Apostel Paulus, p. 139), “remained with him constantly as a frightful recollection which twenty years after he depicted in a more lively manner than all the other sufferings recounted by him, more especially even than the stoning which he once endured, or than the shipwreck in which he was tossed about a night and a day upon the deep.” Having eluded the lines of his would-be captors, he escaped not to Arabia (see Hausrath), but towards Jerusalem, where he abode fifteen days with Peter (Galatians 1:18).
1. When a man preaches or seeks to propagate the faith he once sought to destroy, there is good reason to conclude he is converted.
2. Sudden conversions, though not impossible, are often difficult to understand.
3. If the Scriptures be authority, Jesus of Nazareth was both Israel’s Messiah and the world’s Redeemer.
4. Zealous preachers of Jesus Christ, if not now murdered, are commonly disliked by the world.
5. God’s eye is always upon His faithful servants to watch over them, especially when the eyes of their enemies are watching against them.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 9:22. Paul’s increase in strength.
I. Whence it came.—
1. From the indwelling Spirit (Ephesians 3:16).
2. From acquaintance with the Scriptures (1 John 2:14).
3. From practice in preaching.
II. In what it resulted.—In more efficient service.
III. What it proved.—The reality of his conversion.
Acts 9:23. A New Convert’s Danger.
I. Hatred and persecution of the world (Acts 9:23).
II. Distrust on the part of believers (Acts 9:26).
III. Spiritual pride of one’s own heart.
IV. Contempt of the Church and the ordinary means of Grace.—Gerok.
Acts 9:25. Paul’s Escape from Damascus.
I. A disappointment to his foes.
II. A kindness to his friends.
III. A mercy to himself.
IV. A blessing to the Church and the world.
Acts 9:27. Barnabas (Acts 4:36) appears here as the patron of Saul, whom he takes by the hand (not literally, but metaphorically), and introduces to the apostles.
Acts 9:28-29, should read: And he was with them going in and going out—i.e., publicly and privately,—at Jerusalem preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. Saul stayed in Jerusalem not more than fifteen days (Galatians 1:18).
Acts 9:29. Grecians, or Greek-speaking Jews.—These were addressed by Saul probably because he himself was a foreign Jew, or because they may have been present in large numbers in the metropolis attending a feast, but chiefly (might it not be?) because they belonged to the synagogues or synagogue which murdered Stephen (Acts 6:9). They went about to kill him—Compare Acts 22:17-21, in which the motive for his withdrawing from Jerusalem is represented not as the murderous designs of the Jews, but a vision in the temple. But the two accounts are by no means inconsistent.
Acts 9:30. Cæsarea.—See on Acts 8:40. Tarsus.—Upon the monuments of Shalmanezer II., about the middle of the ninth century B.C., Tarzi (Schrader). The capital of Cilicia (Acts 21:39). Founded, according to tradition, by Sennacherib (705–681 B.C.). After the fall of the Assyrian empire it became, under Persian supremacy, the seat of the Syennesian princes of Cilicia. In Alexander’s time it was the residence of a Persian satrap, and in that of the Diadochi, an important place of the Seleucidæ. Under the old Cæsars Cilicia was conjoined with Syria; but Hadrian restored it to the dignity of an independent province with Tarsus as its chief town. In the time of Saul Tarsus was the seat of one of the most celebrated schools of philosophy and philology. “Strabo, a contemporary of Saul’s, names a whole series of famous teachers out of Tarsus, who all belonged to the first half of the first Christian century, and says: ‘So great zeal for philosophy, and for the circle of all other sciences, have the inhabitants of this town that they have surpassed even Athens and Alexandria, and, indeed, every other place where schools of philosophy and learning exist’ ” (Langhans, Biblische Geschichte und Literatur, ii. 704).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 9:26-30
Saul’s First Visit to Jerusalem; or, his Discipleship confirmed
I. Saul’s object in visiting Jerusalem (Acts 9:26).—
1. To associate himself with the disciples there, and thus obtain recognition of his standing as a member of the Church. The instinct which impels a disciple to seek after the communion of saints is healthy as well as right; that which leads a believer to dissociate himself from other believers, and to cultivate piety apart, is as unsound as it is wrong, and as hurtful to the individual himself as it is contrary to the mind of Christ (Luke 22:32) and the teaching of Christ’s apostles (Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:25; James 5:16; 1 John 1:7).
2. To make the acquaintance of Peter (Galatians 1:18). Though implying a recognition of Peter’s tacitly allowed supremacy in the Church at Jerusalem, this cannot be cited as an acknowledgment of his primacy, since on a second visit fourteen years later (Galatians 2:1) Saul (then called Paul) recognises James (the Lord’s brother), Cephas, and John equally with Peter as pillars in the Church (Galatians 2:9).
II. Saul’s reception by the disciples at Jerusalem.—
1. His sincerity was suspected. Not by one or two of the more timid of the community, but by all. Not by the ordinary membership, but by its leaders, or at least by Peter and James, since the rest of the apostles appear to have at this time been absent from Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19). Nor was their suspicion of him unreasonable. His conversion, of which they had doubtless heard, must have seemed to them beforehand unlikely. Then its miraculous and sudden character must have struck them at least as a reason for caution in accepting it as genuine. And if the larger portion of the three years passed since that occurrence had been spent in retirement in Arabia, their lack of trustworthy information about his manner of life in the interval must be held as having justified their want of forwardness in taking him to their bosoms. “The sudden appearance of Voltaire in a circle of Christians, claiming to be one of them, would have been something like this return of Saul to Jerusalem as a professed disciple” (Hackett).
2. His conversion was attested.
(1) To whom? To the apostles, or rather to Peter and James, the latter of whom Luke includes among the apostles, using the term in a less strict way than that in which it is commonly employed. Either, as above suggested, the other apostles were absent from Jerusalem, or Saul attended no public meeting of the disciples.
(2) By Whom? Barnabas, the Levite of Cyprus, who may have been a former acquaintance of Saul’s—a not unlikely supposition, since Saul’s early occupation as a tent-maker may have brought him into trade relations with the Cyprus farmer, and who apparently had personal knowledge obtained in some way not stated, both of Saul’s conversion and of his evangelistic labours at Damascus.
(3) How? By declaring how Christ had appeared to him in the way to Damascus, and by certifying that he had preached boldly in Christ’s name at Damascus. No one in Jerusalem could have spoken a more powerful word for Saul than the Brother of Consolation, and none could have spoken a better word than that uttered by him.
III. Saul’s evangelistic activity in Jerusalem.—
1. The nature of it.
(1) Preaching boldly—not defiantly or vehemently, but confidently and courageously—in the name of the Lord Jesus; and all who preach in or about Christ’s name should, and might, exhibit the same mental and spiritual characteristics.
(2) Disputing against the Grecian Jews, the party with whom Stephen had argued, and at whose hands he met his death (Acts 6:9-12), and who were probably most zealous in opposing him.
2. The continuance of it. Only fifteen days (Galatians 1:18), the exercise of his ministry having been—not abandoned for want of success or forsaken through weariness, or love of novelty, but—cut short by the murderous designs of his hearers. Whether these listened to him longer than they did to Stephen cannot be told.
IV. Saul’s precipitate flight from Jerusalem.—
1. Dictated by prudence. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself” (Proverbs 22:3). No man is required to make a martyr of himself even for religion, unless he cannot avoid doing so without sin.
2. Approved by Christ. This must be inferred from Christ’s own dictum (Matthew 10:23). What applied to the Twelve held good of the thirteenth apostle.
3. Assisted by his friends. His brethren in the faith, realising how valuable a coadjutor had been sent them, “took steps” to have him conveyed to Cæsarea (see on Acts 8:40 “Critical Remarks”), and sent forth to Tarsus, his native city (see “Critical Remarks”).
4. Rejoiced in by the whole Church of Christ since. What would the Church not have lost had Saul been cut off in the beginning of his glorious career? A heavier blow to Christianity would his fall then have been than his conversion was to Judaism!
1. That sudden and more especially violent conversions are always more or less open to suspicion.
2. That there are times when the services of a Christian brother are invaluable.
3. That the soundest evidence of sincerity in religion is patient and courageous perseverance in well doing.
4. That Christianity can hold the field against all opponents.
5. That Christ’s servants can hardly expect to be better treated than their Master.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 9:8-23. The Progress of Saul’s Conversion.
I. The first impression.—The deep feeling of spiritual inability (Acts 9:8).
II. The first signs of life.—“Behold he prayeth” (Acts 9:11).
III. The first testimony.—That Christ is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).
IV. The first experience.—The cross for the sake of Christ (Acts 9:23).—Jasper in Lange.
Acts 9:27. What the Name of Jesus is to a Preacher.
I. His theme.
II. His authority.
III. His power.
IV. His aim.
V. His protection.
VI. His reward.
Acts 9:29. “They went about to slay him.”—What the Church and the world would have lost had this plot succeeded.
I. The Church would have lost—
1. The brightest example of Christianity.
2. The greatest missionary.
3. The most eloquent preacher. And—
4. The most influential writer that has ever appeared within her borders.
II. The world would have lost—
1. Its foremost pioneer of civilisation.
2. Its noblest philanthropist.
3. Its most gifted teacher.
4. Its most influential personality.
Acts 9:20-30. The Marks of True Conversion.
I. Joyful confession of Christ (Acts 9:20).
II. Willing endurance of the world’s enmity (Acts 9:23).
III. Humble intercourse with believers (Acts 9:26).
IV. Godly conduct in the service of the Lord (Acts 9:28)—Leonhard and Spiegel in Lange).
Acts 9:26-30. The Qualifications, Work, and Reward of a True Minister, as exemplified in the case of Paul.
I. His qualifications.—Declared not by Paul himself, but by Barnabas.
1. A personal interview with Christ. Paul had seen the Lord in the way; and the man who has not had personal dealings in his own soul with Jesus Christ may be an eloquent and even thoughtful lecturer on religion as he understands it, but is not a true minister.
2. A direct message from Christ. Christ had spoken to Paul, and therefore Paul had somewhat to communicate to the world. The true business of the preacher is to communicate not his own but Christ’s thoughts to his fellow-men.
3. A proved fitness to speak for Christ. Paul had shown himself to possess this by his experiment at Damascus; and Christian Churches are specially cautioned against making those bishops, presbyters, or preachers who are not “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).
II. His work.—
1. Generally and chiefly to preach, to proclaim the main facts and doctrines of the Gospel of Christ.
2. Particularly and specially to confirm and defend the Gospel against all objectors and objections. In other words, he should be both an evangelist and an apologist.
III. His reward.—Not his ultimate and final, but his present and immediate recompense.
1. The opposition of the world. Here typified by the hostility of the Jews, who first attempted to silence and then to murder Paul.
2. The sympathy of his brethren. If at first regarded with suspicion, the true minister will eventually secure the kindly regards and hearty co-operation first of the Barnabases and then of the Peters, and lastly, of the Johns and Jameses, etc., among the brethren.
3. The protection of God. The Almighty arm will be his shield and buckler till his work is done. No weapon forged against him will prosper. The devices of his enemies will be outwitted and their counsels turned to folly.
Acts 9:19-30. Saul Preaching Christ.
I. For this work he had long preparation.—Were the Book of Acts our only source of information, we should conclude that the beginning of Paul’s work as a preacher followed close upon the end of his career as a persecutor. The interval between his persecuting and his preaching would seem to have been only the three days of his blindness at Damascus. We should then be obliged to explain, as best we might, how he so suddenly gained his wonderful insight into Christian truth in its relations to Judaism. We should have to seek, and should seek in vain, a reasonable explanation of the great revolution in his moral sentiments. The work of the Spirit in regeneration may be instantaneous, but the readjustments of character and convictions are always slow and progressive. Happily, we have another resource. In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul wrote: “But when it pleased God to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood … but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” His preaching was preceded, we may believe, by three years of study and reflection in the solitude of Arabia. St. Paul is not, therefore, to be cited as an instance of a man one day ignorant of Christian truth, and the next day, by means entirely supernatural, the wisest exponent of it. The world, in its love of the wonderful, is too ready to believe in such men. His knowledge of Christ and of Christian truth was in part a revelation, but in part also the result of patient thought and of piety prolonged through studious years. God never works needless miracles. Every view of Christian truth and duty which Paul attained had a long history behind it, stretching back through those years of meditation in Arabia.
II. His conviction that Jesus is the Son of God was reached in the face of the greatest obstacles.—As a Pharisee burning with zeal for the law and its traditions, he looked upon Christ as a dangerous innovator, and upon Christian doctrine as heretical and revolutionary. Salvation by the law-method he advocated with all his heart. That there was any other righteousness than obedience to a ceremonial law he did not for a moment imagine or allow. The sincerity of his intensely religious nature made it the more improbable that his convictions would ever be changed. The sect of the Nazarenes was unnoticed or despised. To him, as to them, the cross was a stumbling-block. No natural bias in favour of Christian truth, then, no motive of self-interest, no social influence, drew him into the number of Christ’s disciples. No greater or more improbable change in character and purpose is conceivable than that by which Saul the inquisitor, hurrying men and women to prison and persecuting to the death believers in the Christian way, became the apostle of the cross, “determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” How, then, were these obstacles removed? His own explanation always was, “Christ was seen by me also.… It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.” In this glorious revelation lay the power which revolutionised his moral sentiments, levelled all obstacles, and brought him to an undying faith in the crucified and risen Son of God.
III. The value of Paul’s testimony that Jesus is the son of God is further enhanced by the motive which prompted him to give it.—Human testimony is to be measured by the motive to its utterance. And it might be said that he was an impostor, bearing witness to a lie, and setting up claims which he knew to be false. But, whenever men have reflected that imposture always reacts upon him who tries it, that false claims demoralise him who makes them, and have seen in St. Paul’s life, not a spiritual declension, but a steady progress in holiness, they have been both unable and unwilling to call him an impostor. Besides, the motive to imposture is wanting. Review the list of selfish motives which impel men to make false claims, and not one of them can be applied to him. It was not pride of intellect; for, with supreme self-denial, Paul resolved to count as nothing all other learning than the knowledge of Christ and of His cross. The love of Christ constrained Him. This was the motive. The grateful desire to make some return for Christ’s love to him impelled Paul to labour, to preach, to suffer, “in His name.”
IV. The spiritual power of St. Paul’s life greatly augments the value of his testimony.—Never was there a more powerful life. Or, if we were to admit that St. Paul’s power rested in his natural gifts; if we were to enumerate the elements of a strong character—sobriety, sagacity, impartial judgment, courage, hopefulness, and whatever things enter into a powerful personality—and were to find in these a sufficient cause for his pre-eminence as a religious leader—we might then attach no greater value to his testimony than to that of any other wise and truthful man. But the fact is otherwise. Exalt his natural gifts as we will; say that his own personal powers made him “a greater preacher than Chrysostom, a greater reformer than Luther, a greater theologian than Thomas Aquinas”—it yet remains entirely true that the imperishable power of St. Paul’s life was derived from Christ. He was consciously dependent. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.”
V. His testimony is comprehensive.—“In the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that He is the Son of God.” A review of the ministry of St. Paul is fruitful of practical lessons.
1. He has set before us the superiority of the Christian religion to morality.
2. He has shown us that men may exalt the character of Christ.
3. His ministry rebukes all half-hearted service of the Master.—Monday Club Sermons.
Saul Preaching Christ.
I. There is a public confession of Christ, an unofficial preaching of Him, incumbent upon every one who is converted by His grace.—Saul is a noble example of this generous testimony for Christ. “Immediately” (R.V.) “he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues that He is the Son of God.” Notice in reference to this confession—First, it was prompt. “Immediately” he entered upon it. There was no unnecessary hesitation, no dalliance with duty, no waiting upon frames and feelings. Love, gratitude, joy, a desire to retrieve the wrongs of the past, a yearning to direct others to the fountain at which his thirst had been assuaged. Second, it was brave. He did not simply enter his name upon the roll of the disciples. He did not content himself with speaking privately to such of his former acquaintances or associates as he might chance to meet. In the face of friend and foe he made public confession of Jesus his Lord. Third, it was uncompromising. He did not undertake to strike a balance between his own convictions and the prejudices of his hearers, as so many faint-hearted confessors now do. He “proclaimed Jesus that He is the Son of God.”
II. A higher and official preaching of Christ is incumbent upon those, and those only, who are duly called, qualified, and commissioned to enter upon it.—This is the preaching which Saul did after his return from Arabia to Damascus. A study of his course in reference to it throws much light upon the prerequisites to the gospel ministry.
1. It must be preceded by a Divine call. None may enter upon it without such vocation. The call of Saul of Tarsus was in many respects extraordinary.
2. It must be preceded by thorough preparation.
3. It must be preceded by orderly commission. Saul was commissioned of God to preach.
III. The matter, the manner, and the effects of preaching Christ are the same in all ages.—They are strikingly illustrated in the passage which we study to-day.
1. The matter or substance of all gospel preaching is the same. Saul sounds here the key-note of his whole after-ministry.
2. The manner of all true gospel preaching is the same. Saul’s ministry at Damascus and in Jerusalem affords, in these respects, a faithful representation of his methods everywhere, and an instructive example of the manner in which the minister or teacher should hold forth Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Saul’s preaching was scriptural. He confounded the Jews by proving from the Old-Testament Scriptures that Jesus was Christ. Saul’s preaching was fearless. He preached “boldly” both in Damascus and in Jerusalem. He did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. Saul’s preaching was humble. He “preached in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He assumed no authority and asserted no superiority of his own.
3. The effects of all gospel preaching are the same. The Apostle found in Damascus and at Jerusalem what he did everywhere else: “To the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life.” Finally, the fruits of faithful teaching are gathered after the teacher is gone. Saul has been “brought down to Cæsarea, and sent away to Tarsus,” but the Church of God remains; and this Church, for which he has laboured and prayed, and which sorely misses him now that he has gone, nevertheless “has peace, being edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, is multiplied.”—T. D. Witherspoon, D.D.
Acts 9:32. Lydda.—The Old Testament Lod (Nehemiah 7:37; Nehemiah 11:35; 1 Chronicles 8:12), now called Lucid. Described by Josephus (Ant., XX. vi. 2) as a village “not less than a city in largeness.” Named Lydda in 1Ma. 11:34. After the destruction of Jerusalem it is often mentioned. Besides being the seat of a Christian community, it possessed for some time, like Jabne close by, a Rabbinical school. (See Riehm’s Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Allertums: art. Lod.)
Acts 9:35. Saron, or Sharon, the Plain, meant the north half of the flat end lying along the Mediterranean shore, from Lydda in the south to Carmel in the north. “The whole goodly plain of Sharon is visible—from Mount Carmel on the north down to Lydda, from the eastern hills to the blue sea, now bathed in gold—a wilderness of weeds and thorn brakes, and yet a very paradise of colour and ever varying beauty” (Picturesque Palestine, iii., 146).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 9:31-35
The Miracle at Lydda; or, the Healing of Æneas
I. The time.—
1. At the close of the persecution which arose on the death of Stephen. This must have continued three years, if the present paragraph chronologically succeeds the preceding. What occasioned the cessation of hostilities against the Christians can only be conjectured. The excitement raised by Gaius’s (Caligula’s) order to have his image erected in the temple, about A.D. 39 and 40 (Lardner, De Wette), may have diverted the attention of the Jews for a season from the apostles and disciples (Jos., Ant., XVIII. viii. 2–9).
2. During a period of Church rest and prosperity. This inevitably followed on the cessation of active measures of hostility against the Christians, and continued for a number of years, say from A.D. 39 to A.D. 44, when a fresh persecution was initiated against the Church by Herod Aprippa (Acts 12:1). During this interregnum, the work of preaching, going forward in uninterrupted quiet, caused the ranks of believers to be largely augmented—the Holy Ghost constantly bearing witness to the truth.
3. While Peter was on a visitation tour among the saints. Whether “quarters” (Kuinoel) or “saints” (Bengel, Meyer, Hackett) be supplied after “all” the sense is the same, that Peter, encouraged presumably by the peace which prevailed, had undertaken a pilgrimage among the Christians in all the districts round about for the purpose of confirming them in the faith, and by evangelising of increasing their number.
4. When he had come to the town of Lydda. The Lud of the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 8:12; Ezra 2:33; Nehemiah 7:37; Nehemiah 11:35) was a village lying between Joppa and Ramleh, on the ancient line of travel between Jerusalem and Cæsarea. It was at the time of Peter’s visit the seat of a Rabbinic School, and of a Christian community, established there probably as the result of Philip’s labours (Acts 8:40).
II. The miracle.—
1. The patient. Æneas, probably a Hellenistic Jew, and most likely a disciple. His name has suggested the question whether the fame of Virgil’s poem had made the Trojan hero known even in the plains of Palestine (Plumptre). Besser, interpreting his name as “Man of Praise,” finds in it a beautiful suggestion of the joyous singer of God’s grace who was healed at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 2:9).
2. The malady. Palsy. A paralysis in the limbs, which had rendered the patient bedridden for eight years. A minuteness of detail characteristic of Luke as a physician (compareActs 3:7; Acts 3:7; Acts 9:18; Acts 28:8).
3. The cure. Made whole.
(1) Easily; by a word.
(2) Instantly; without delay or lengthened process.
(3) Completely. He arose (compareActs 3:9; Acts 3:9) and made his bed (compareJohn 5:9; John 5:9), doing for himself what others for eight years had been doing for him.
(4) Really. Though Renan says that “Peter” only “passed for having cured a paralytic,” there is no reason to doubt that he actually did so.
4. The physician. Not Peter but Jesus Christ. “In the assonance of the Greek words (Ἰησοῦς ἰᾶταί σε) we may perhaps trace a desire to impress the thought that the very name of Jesus testified that He was the Great Healer. Such a paronomasia has its parallel in the later play upon Christian and Chrestiani = the good or gracious people (Tertull., Apoc., c. 3), perhaps also in Peter’s own language that the Lord is not Christos only but Chrestos = gracious (1 Peter 2:3)” (Plumptre).
5. The prescription. “Arise and make thy bed.” Probably a reminiscence of the way in which Christ was accustomed to proceed in similar cures (Matthew 9:6; John 5:8).
III. The result.—
1. The countryside was affected by the miracle. “All that dwelt at Lydda and in Sharon”—i.e., the plain extending along the coast from Joppa to Cæsarea, a distance of thirty miles, “saw” the man that had been cured, and were convinced of the reality of the miracle (compareActs 3:9; Acts 3:9).
2. Most of those who saw were by the sight converted. They believed the gospel Peter preached and turned to the Lord. The evidence of their eyesight was too strong to be gainsaid.
1. That the edification of the Church proceeds best in the time of peace.
2. That the best propagandists of Christianity are devout Christians.
3. That Christian ministers should avail themselves of every opportunity opened in providence for the prosecution of their sacred calling.
4. That the miracles of moral healing performed by Christianity are a powerful means of attracting men to faith.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 9:31. The Church of Jesus Christ.
I. Independent of territorial limitations.—“The Church throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria.”
II. Possessed of spiritual unity.—“The Church,” though existing in different localities.
III. Susceptible of growth.—Outwardly its number “was multiplied”; inwardly its religious life “was edified.”
IV. Distinguished by its walk and conversation.—“Walking in the fear of God and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 9:33. The Healing of Æneas.
I. An affecting emblem of the sinful soul.—
1. Afflicted with a grievous malady. Sin, which, like a palsy, paralyses the soul’s powers.
2. Of long standing—not for eight years only, but from birth.
3. Incurable by human means. Even if Æneas’s malady might have been remedied by ordinary therapeutics, the soul’s cannot be removed by any known power or wisdom of man.
II. A cheering proclamation of the soul’s physician.—
1. His name, Jesus Christ—i.e., the Heaven-sent Saviour.
2. His presence—in the immediate vicinity of every sick soul, so that He can operate at once.
3. His power—able to make the soul whole, to heal its destroying malady of sin, to cancel the guilt and break the power of it—and to do this completely.
III. An authoritative declaration of the soul’s duty.—
1. To believe. In the revealed physician. In His name and character, His presence and power.
2. To appropriate by an act of faith the healing offered. Without this the soul could not arise.
3. To arise from its sinful—i.e., guilty and helpless—condition. Practically it is the soul’s duty, instantly on believing, to begin to lead a new life.
IV. A simple illustration of the power of faith.—The moment he believed, appropriated, and endeavoured, he arose a cured man. So is it always with them who believe and obey the prescription of the soul’s physician. They arise from their guilty and condemned condition—no condemnation (Romans 8:1). They shake off the fetters of sin’s bondage and enter into spiritual liberty.
Acts 9:36. Joppa, or Japho (Jonah 1:3), in Assyrian inscriptions Ja-ap-pu; at the present day, Jaffa or Jâfa, meaning “the beautiful,” or, according to another derivation, “the height.” A seaport of great antiquity, twelve miles north-west of Lydda, originally allotted to Dan (Joshua 19:46). Here was landed the timber for the temple in Solomon’s time (2 Chronicles 2:16), and in Ezra’s (Acts 3:7). Here Jonah embarked to go to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3), and here Peter received the messengers of Cornelius (Acts 10:5). Tabitha’s tomb is still shown. It is popularly identified with the Sebîl of Abû Nabût, who was governor of Joppa at the commencement of the present century. Close to it was discovered, by M.C. Clermont Ganneau, in 1874, the ancient cemetery of Jaffa, containing many rock-cut tombs, the circle of earth including them being known as Ard Dabitha, the land of Dabitha (Picturesque Palestine, iii., 143). Herr Schick thinks Tabitha was most likely buried in this cemetery (Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, January 1894, p. 14). Tabitha.—A Chaldee term signifying “Gazelle.” Its Greek equivalent, Dorcas, occurs in Xen., Anab., I. Act. 9:2. Whether this amiable lady was a widow or a virgin does not appear from the context. The exact site of her house is now lost (Herr Schick, as above, p. 14).
Acts 9:43. Simon a tanner.—“The Latin monastery in Joppa is said to occupy the site of Simon’s house, but a little Mohammedan mosque or sanctuary by the seaside claims to be the house itself” (Picturesque Palestine, iii., 142). “The house itself is a comparatively modern building, with no pretensions to interest or antiquity.” “It is close on the seashore, the waves beating against the low wall of its courtyard” (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 274). Herr Schick thinks the modern building may stand not far from the real site (Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, January 1894, p. 14). Peter, by taking up his abode with a brother Christian who was a tanner—the trade being commonly regarded as unclean—took a long step towards ceremonial freedom. The Tübingen critics find one proof for their tendency theory in the name Simon, which was borne both by the apostle and the tanner, as if such a coincidence could not be historical, and another in the correspondence between the story of Dorcas, on the one hand, and those of Lydia (Acts 16:15) and Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12), on the other, for these two require to be combined to constitute an exact Pauline parallel to the Petrine episode.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 9:36-43
Among the Disciples at Joppa; or, the Raising of Dorcas
I. Dorcas living.—
1. Her name was beautiful. Dorcas, in Chaldee Tabitha, signifying “Gazelle.” The gazelle, or antelope of Judah, celebrated for its slender and agreeable form, its graceful motions, its fiery and beautiful eyes, was not infrequently employed by Hebrews and other Orientals as a type of female loveliness. To Dorcas the name “Gazelle” may have been originally ascribed on account of her personal attractions, though more probably because of the grace and beauty of her character; and pre-eminently beautiful it is when the lovely name is but an index to the lovely soul within, and the beauty of the person a reflection of that beauty of holiness in which the spirit should aspire continually to be arrayed.
2. Her character was beautiful.
“What is beauty? Not the show
Of shapely limbs and features. No;
These are but flowers
That have their dated hours
To breathe their momentary sweets and go.
’Tis the stainless soul within
That outshines the fairest skin.”
Crown the female figure with every conceivable excellence, till in perfection of external loveliness it may be said of her whose that figure is, as Milton said of Eve—
“Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye;
In every gesture dignity and love”;
or as Shakespeare wrote of one of his heroines:—
“She looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew;”
yet, devoid of the inner principle of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and of the unseen graces that cluster round and, in fact, spring from that, she is destitute of the one thing needful to consummate her perfections and constitute her brightest lustre in the sight of God; while with these, on the other hand, she possesses what lends an additional charm to all her other loveliness. So was it with the holy women of old time (1 Peter 3:5-6) and with Dorcas of Joppa, who was “a disciple” possessed of that faith which is the root and vital sap of all other Christian virtues and graces.
3. Her life was beautiful. As nearly as possible Dorcas realised the primitive idea of feminine loveliness as sketched by both Peter (Ephesians 3:1-4) and Paul (1 Timothy 2:9-10). She was “full of good works and alms deeds which she did.” Her Christian activity displayed itself specially in the making of coats and garments for poor widows in connection with the Church. Probably purchasing the material with her own savings, she wove it with her own labour, and fashioned it into articles of apparel with her own hands; so that the coats and garments she distributed, besides being valuable gifts of her charity, were substantial tokens of her industry as well. And here arises a hint of what is pre-eminently woman’s sphere within the Christian Church, which is hardly that of preaching or ruling, but of teaching the young, ministering to the sick, and caring for the poor.
II. Dorcas dying.—
1. Notwithstanding her piety, Dorcas died. Her beautiful name, lovely character, and useful life proved unable to ward off the attack of the last enemy. Having fallen sick, though Scripture maintains a holy reticence concerning the nature of her ailment, she passed from this mortal scene, most likely leaving behind her no death-bed testimony, but only the memory of her saintly character and life to suggest whither she had gone.
2. In consequence of her piety Dorcas was much lamented. Truth in the familiar phrase that one is never missed and one’s worth never appreciated till one dies. Whether Dorcas’s character and philanthropic labour were known beyond or even throughout the little circle of the Christian community in Joppa before her death cannot be told; but hardly had the vital spark become extinct within her frame than the whole truth concerning her was disclosed. First came the Church members, her fellow-disciples, to mourn for her death, and condole with her bereaved relatives, so proving that human hearts may be bound together by other ties than those of mere earthly relationship; and then arrived the weeping widows, the recipients of her benevolence, who exhibited the coats and garments she had made as a testimony at once to the piety of the deceased and to the gratitude of the living.
III. Dorcas rising.—
1. Unexpected on the part of the disciples. Difficult to think these had any other idea in sending for Peter than simply to receive from him comfort and consolation. As yet the apostles had never restored a dead body to life. Then the attentions bestowed upon the corpse showed it was being prepared for burial. Certainly the early Christians believed in the possibility of a resurrection; but ground scarcely exists for supposing the friends of Dorcas expected her revival. “Perhaps something whispered in the troubled hearts of the disciples, ‘If Peter had been here our sister would not have died’ … but the surpassing consolation with which the Lord intended presently to fill them went beyond their prayers and thoughts” (Besser).
2. Effected by the apostle.
(1) In solitude. Having entered the death-chamber, Peter put out all whom he found there; in this following the example of Christ in the house of Jairus (Luke 8:41).
(2) By means of prayer. Christ raised the daughter of Jairus by His own power; Peter invoked Christ’s aid.
(3) With appropriate actions. With a word of command—“Tabitha, arise!” (compare Luke 7:14; Luke 8:54; John 11:43). With a helping hand: “He gave her his hand and lifted her up.”
3. Authenticated in the eyes of the Church. When she had been recalled to life Peter presented her to the saints and widows waiting without; to those most anxious to believe in her restoration, it may be said, but also to those best qualified to attest its reality and least likely to be imposed upon—to those who had seen her die, washed her corpse, and prepared it for the tomb; and these having seen her, distinctly realised she was alive.
4. Followed by the happiest results in the general community. The miracle became “known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
1. The great poor law of the Christian Church. The strong should help the weak (Romans 16:0).
2. The proper sphere of work for woman. Ministries of love.
3. The value of a good name. Better than great riches (Proverbs 22:1).
4. The mutual sympathy which ought to bind together the various members of the Church (Galatians 1:2).
5. Tabitha’s resurrection a picture of the resurrection of the saints.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 9:36. Joppa, a City of—
I. High antiquity.—Reported by ancient geographers to have been built before the Flood. It certainly existed in the days of the conquest of Canaan under Joshua (Joshua 19:46).
II. Historical renown.—
1. In pre-Christian times.
(1) Solomon’s ships sailed from its harbour to go to Tarshish (1 Kings 10:22).
(2) Hiram’s timber floats landed at its quay (2 Chronicles 2:16).
(3) Ezra’s cedar trees received at its port (Acts 3:7).
(4) Jonah embarked at its wharf for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3).
2. In apostolic times.
(1) The scene of Peter’s miracle in raising Dorcas.
(2) The place of Peter’s vision concerning Cornelius (Acts 10:1). In modern times.
(1) “The landing-place of pilgrims going to Jerusalem for more than a thousand years—from Arculfin the seventh century to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in the nineteenth” (J. L. Porter).
(2) The object of many sieges, from the days of Pompey (B.C. 63) to those of Napoleon I.
III. Natural beauty.—“It is,” writes a distinguished traveller, “beautifully situated on a little rounded hill, dipping on the west side into the waves of the Mediterranean, and on the land side encompassed by orchards of orange, lemon, apricot, and other trees, which for luxuriance and beauty are not surpassed in the world.”
Full of Good Works. Good works—
I. Flow from a right principle—the love of God (John 14:15-23; Romans 13:10; 1 John 5:3).
II. Proceed according to a right rule—the word of God, the only rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
III. Tend towards a right end—the glory of God (Romans 14:7-8; Colossians 3:17-23).
IV. Should be constantly maintained (Titus 3:8).
V. Will certainly be rewarded (Romans 2:7).
The Variety of Gifts bestowed upon the Christian Church. Four characters, exceedingly diverse.
I. Paul, a man singularly gifted, morally and intellectually, with qualities more brilliant than almost ever fell to the lot of man.
II. Peter, full of love, a champion of the truth.
III. Ananias, one of those disciples of the inward life whose vocation is sympathy, and who by a single word, “Brother,” restore light to those that sit in darkness and loneliness.
IV. Dorcas, in a humbler, but not less true sphere of Divine goodness, clothing the poor with her own hands, practically loving and benevolent.—Robertson, of Brighton.
Acts 9:36-42. Dorcas and Peter.
I. The character of Dorcas illustrates the amiableness of female piety.
II. The conduct of the widows supplies a beautiful instance of gratitude.
III. The behaviour of Peter exemplifies that promptitude in doing good which ought to characterise Christians.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent