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At Antioch., in the Church that was there for in the Church that was at Antioch, A.V.; prophets, etc., for certain prophets, etc., A.V. and T.R.; Barnabas, etc., for as Barnabas, etc., A.V.; Symeon for Simeon, A.V.; the foster-brother of for which had been brought up with, A.V. At Antioch, in the Church, etc. Κατὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἐκκλησίαν rather means "the existing Church," just as at αἱ οὖσαι ἐξουσίαι means "the existing powers," "the powers that be," in Romans 13:1, A.V. and T.R. The then Church seems mere the meaning than the Church there. Luke writes from the standpoint of many years later. Prophets were a regular part of the ministry of the then Church (see Acts 11:27; Acts 21:9, Acts 21:10; Romans 12:6, Romans 12:7; 1Co 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 13:2, etc.; 1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Corinthians 14:3, etc., 22, 24, 31, 32: Ephesians 4:11. See also note on Acts 4:26). Teachers (διδάσκαλοι) are coupled with prophets, as here, in 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 12:29; Ephesians 4:11. The teachers would appear to differ from the prophets in that they were not under the ecstatic influence of the Holy Spirit, and did not utter exhortations or prophecies in a poetic strain, but were expounders of Christian truth, under the teaching of the Spirit. What they spoke was called a διδαχή (1 Corinthians 14:26), and their function was διδασκαλία, as Romans 12:7, where διδασκαλία is reckoned among the χαρίσματα, the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It was forbidden to women to teach (διδάσκειν: 1 Timothy 2:12), though they might prophesy (Acts 21:9). It is thought by Meyer, Alford, and others that the position of the particles τε attaching the two following names to Barnabas in the first place, and one name following to Manaen in the second, indicates that Barnabas, Symeon, and Lucius were prophets, and Manaen and Saul teachers. Lucius has by some been falsely identified with St. Luke. The foster-brother; σύντροφος may equally mean a foster-brother, one nursed at the same time at the same breast, which would indicate that Manaen's mother was wet-nurse to Herod the tetrarch; or a playmate, which would indicate that he had been sodalis to Herod. It is only found here in the New Testament, but is used by Xenophon, Plutarch, etc., and in 1 Macc. 1:7; 2 Macc. 9:29. In this chapter and onwards the scene of the great drama of Christianity is transferred from Jerusalem to Antioch. The first part, which has hitherto been played by Peter and John and James, is now taken up by Barnabas and Saul, soon, however, to be classed as Paul and Barnabas.
And as for as, A.V. They ministered; i.e. not, as Meyer explains it, the whole Church, but the prophets and teachers, doubtless at an assembly of the Church. The word λειτουργούντων, here rendered "they ministered" (from which the word "Liturgy" is derived), signifies any solemn ministration or holy service. In the Old Testament the LXX. use it as the rendering of תרֵשֵׁ, to minister (often with the addition "to God," or "to the Lord "), which is a general word applying to the ministrations of priests and Levites (Exodus 28:35; Numbers 8:26, etc.). Hence its use in Hebrews 10:11 (see too Luke 1:23; Hebrews 9:21). Joshua too is called Moses'minister (תרֵשָׁםְ) in Joshua 1:1, etc., and the angels are called λριτουργικὰ πνεύματα, "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14). Just as the Church transferred from the Jewish congregation so many other words and things, so also the use of the words λειτουργία λειτουργεῖν, to Sicily "Divine service," without specifying the particular office, whether prayer, or preaching, or Holy Communion, or ordination, or any ether part of the worship of God. Its classical use was to designate any office performed by an individual for the public good. Hence in the New Testament its application to Church alms (2 Corinthians 9:12), to gifts for the support of the ministry (Philippians 2:30), to the office of magistrates (Romans 13:6), etc. The restricted application of the term λειτουργία to the service used in the celebration of the Eucharist was of much later growth, as is evident from Chrysostom explaining the word here of preaching. "What means ministering? Preaching" (Hom. 27.). It seems to have arisen from the fact that the first forms of prayer were those come posed for the office of the Holy Communion. This passage, therefore, does not give the slightest support to fasting Communion. What was the exact occasion of the service and fast here spoken of it is impossible to say. The Holy Ghost said, etc. This is the origin of the question in the Ordination of Deacons, "Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?" Separate me (ἀφορίσατε). The act of separation, or ordination, would be by the laying on of the hands of Symeon and Lucius and Manaen, as Chrysostom says (at least of the two last named), in the presence of the whole Church, but the separation by the Holy Ghost, at least as regards Saul (ὁ ἀφορίσας με), bad been from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15). Observe, too, the καλέσας of Galatians 1:15, and the προσκέκλημαι here. This is another instance of the very close resemblance between parts of the Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians, which looks as if St. Paul was writing it about the same time as he was giving to St. Luke the details of his own history (see Acts 8:19, note). The ordination was to the apostolate (Chrysostom). Barnabas and Saul are never called apostles till after their ordination or consecration (Acts 14:14).
Then for and, A.V. It does not follow that the laying on of hands was on the same day. On the contrary, the mention of the fasting again in this verse makes it impossible so to understand it. Doubtless, on receiving this intimation of the Spirit, they fixed a day for the ordination, and prepared for it by fasting and prayer. The ember days of the Church before ordinations are m accordance with this precedent of Holy Scripture. With this departure of Barnabas and Saul commences the second and main part of the Acts of the apostles.
Went down to for departed unto, A.V. (κατῆλθον). Seleucia was the sea-port of Antioch, about sixteen miles from it, and five miles north of the mouth of the Orontes. It was a free city by a grant from Pompey. It is now in ruins, but "the masonry of the once magnificent port of Seleucia is in so good a state that" it might be repaired and cleared out "for about £31,000". They sailed to Cyprus. Barnabas, no doubt, took the lead, and was naturally drawn to his native island of Cyprus—within a hundred miles of Seleucia, and, on a clear day, visible from it. The number of Jews in the island, and the partial evangelization of it which had already taken place (Acts 11:19, Acts 11:20), and which promised them assistance and support, no doubt further influenced them. John Mark went with them, as we learn from the fifth and thirteenth verses, and possibly other brethren as deacons and ministers (see next note). They sailed straight to Salamis, "a convenient and capacious harbor," in the center of the eastern end of the island, and the principal or one of the principal towns. It had a large population of Jews. It was destroyed in the reign of Trajan, in consequence of a terrible insurrection of the Jews, in which they massacred 240,000 of the Gentile population. No Jew was ever after allowed to land in Cyprus.
Proclaimed for preached, A.V.; as their attendant for to their minister, A.V. (ὑπηρέτην). It is a word taken from the synagogue, where it denotes an inferior minister (see Luke 4:20). In Acts 5:22 the ὑπηρέται are the apparitors of the high priest. Here it is synonymous with διάκονος, a deacon. John was to Barnabas and Saul what Joshua was to Moses, Elisha to Elijah, etc. Peter, when he went to Caesarea, was accompanied by six brethren (Acts 11:12).
The whole island for the isle, A.V. and T.R. Paphos; on the south coast at the further extremity of the island, now Baffa. It had once a convenient harbor, which is now choked up from neglect. The chief temple of the Cyprian Venus was here. A certain sorcerer. The Greek word μάγος, whence magic and magician, is the same as in Matthew 2:1 is rendered "wise men." But here, as in Acts 8:9, it has a bad sense. It is a Persian word, and in its original use designated a Persian religious caste, famous for their knowledge, wisdom, and purity of religious faith. They were attached to the court of the Babylonian monarchs, and were deemed to have great skill in astrology, in interpretation of dreams, and the like (see Daniel 1:20; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 4:1-37 in the LXX.). In Jeremiah 39:3, Jeremiah 39:13, the name Rab-mag seems to mean "the chief of the magi." But in process of time the word "magus" came to mean a sorcerer, a magician, a practicer of dark arts, as e.g. Simon Magus.
The proconsul for the deputy of the country, A.V.; a man of understanding for a prudent man, A.V.; the same for who, A.V.; unto him for for, A.V.; sought for desired, A.V. The proconsul (ἀνθύπατος); here and Acts 13:8, Acts 13:12. This is an instance of Luke's great accuracy. Cyprus had become a proconsular province in the reign of Claudius, having previously been one of the emperor's provinces governed by a propraetor, or legatus. £ A man of understanding (ἀνδρὶ συνετῷ). Συνετός is a rare word in the New Testament, and is always translated in the A.V. "prudent" (see Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; 1 Corinthians 1:19). It is common in the LXX., where it represents the Hebrew words ניבִםֵ נוֹבןָ ליכִּשְׂםַ, and מכָחָ, all signifying "intelligence," "skill," "knowledge," and the like. The substantive σύνεσις has the same scope (see Luke 2:47; Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 1:9, etc.); ἀνὴρ συνετός, therefore, means something more than "a prudent man." It means a man of knowledge and superior intelligence and understanding. And such was Sergius Paulus, a noble Roman, who is twice named by Pliny in the list of authors placed at the commencement of his work as the authorities from whom he derived the matter contained in the several books. It is not a little remarkable that the two books, lib. it. and lib. 18., for which Sergius Paulus is quoted are just those which contain accounts of the heavenly bodies, and prognostications from the sun and moon and stars, from thunder, from the clouds, and such like things, which doubtless formed the staple of Elymas's science; so that there can be little doubt that Sergius Paulus had Elymas with him, that he might learn from him such matters as might be useful for the hook which he was writing. There is also a curious passage in lib. 30. cap. 1. of the 'Hist. Nat.', in which Pliny, after enumerating the most famous teachers of magic, Zoroaster, Orthanes, Pythagoras, and others, adds, "There is also another school of magic which springs from Moses and Jannes, who were Jews, but many thousand years later than Zoroaster; so much more recent is the school of Cyprus;" showing that he knew of a school of magic art at Cyprus taught by Jews, and leading us to infer that he had acquired this knowledge either from the pen or the mouth of Sergius Paulus. Anyhow, a remarkable confirmation of St. Luke's narrative. Another Sergius Paulus, who might be a son or grandson of the proconsul, is highly commended by Galen for his eminent philosophical attainments. One L. Sergius Paulus was consul suffectus in A.D. 94, another in A.D. 168. Renan thinks they may have been descendants of the Sergius Paulus in the text.
Turn aside for turn away, A.V.; proconsul for deputy, A.V. Elymas, from the Arabic elite, plural oulema, a wise man, a wizard, a magician. But Renan thinks this derivation doubtful. Elymas withstood Barnabas and Saul just as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses (2 Timothy 3:8, ἀντέστησαν).
But for then, A.V.; is also for also is, A.V.; fastened for set, A.V. (above, Acts ill 4, note). Who is also called Paul. The explanation of Jerome, Augustine, Bede, and many modern commentators, as Meyer, Olshausen, etc., and not rejected by Renan, is that Saul took the name of Paul on the occasion of this remarkable and important conversion of Sergius Paulus. Saul's future intercourse with Gentiles made it desirable that, after the common custom of the Jews of his day—as seen in Peter, Stephen, Mark, Lucius, Jason, Crispus, Justus, Niger, Aquila, Priscilla, Drusilla etc.—he should have a Gentile name, and so, in honor of his illustrious convert, or in memory of his conversion, or at the special request of Sergius Paulus (Baronius), he took the name of Paul, which in sound was not unlike his Hebrew name. The fact of this change of name being recorded by St. Luke at this precise moment makes this the most simple and natural explanation. Compare Gideon's change of name to Jerubbaal (Judges 6:32; Judges 7:1; Judges 8:29, Judges 8:35). Alford, on the ether hand, thinks it strange that any one should make such a mistake as Jerome's, and says that "this notice marks the transition from the former part of his history"—"gathered from the narratives of others"—to "the joint memoirs of himself and St. Paul." But this gives no account of the coincidence of the two Pauls, nor is it true that the latter half of the Acts begins here. It began at verse 1, and the name of Saul has been retained three times in the early part of this chapter. Farrar speaks of this explanation as, long and deservedly abandoned," and as having in it an element of vulgarity. Howson thinks that Paul had long been his Roman name, but that the conversion of Sergius Paulus, as it were, stereotyped the Roman name as that by which the apostle was henceforth to be known. The idea of Augustine and others, that he took the name of Paul (paulus, small) from humility, to indicate that he was "the least" of the apostles, is fanciful. Neither is Chrysostom's assertion, that he changed his name at his ordination or consecration, borne out by the facts. Renan ('Saint Paul,' Acts 1:19) notes that "Paul" was a very common name in Cilicia. No certainty can be arrived at in the matter.
All guile and all villainy for all subtlety and all mischief, A.V.; son for child, A.V. The word ῥᾳδιουργία, reckless conduct, villainy, wickedness, is only found here in the New Testament. The kindred form (ῥᾳδιούργημα) occurs in Acts 18:14. Thou son of the devil (comp. John 8:38, John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). Elymas showed himself a child of the devil in his endeavors to resist the truth of the gospel, and substitute his own falsehoods and imposture. Compare the severity of Peter's language in rebuking Simon Magas (Acts 8:20-23). Probably, too, he accused (διέβαλεν) Paul and Barnabas, and traduced their motives before the proconsul, when he saw his own influence being undermined, and his gains likely to be stopped.
Is upon thee; or rather, against thee (Matthew 10:21; Matthew 26:55; Luke 11:17; and Luke 11:50 of this chapter). For a season. It has been well observed that this limitation in time is an indication that there was place for repentance. It was a remedial chastisement. A mist (ἀχλύς); only here in the New Testament; but it is a medical term, very common in Hippocrates, to express a darkening and dimming of the eyes by cataract or other disease. As regards the reason why the particular punishment of blindness was inflicted upon Elymas, it might be to put a forcible interruption upon those observations of the stars and clouds by which the magician pretended to foresee the future. It would exhibit, too, to Sergius, Paulus the utter helplessness of the great necromancer. Some to lead him by the hand (χειραγωγούς), as Saul had needed χειραγωγοῦντας when he was struck blind by the vision of the Savior's glory (Acts 9:8).
The proconsul for the deputy, A.V.; teaching for doctrine, A.V. Believed. We cannot, perhaps, conclude positively from this that Sergius was baptized and became an avowed Christian, though the usual language of the Acts rather leads us to infer it (see verse 48; Acts 2:44; Acts 4:4; Acts 8:12, Acts 8:13; Acts 11:21; Acts 19:18). Farrar thinks that if so marked a person had become a lifelong convert, we should have heard of him as such in other writings, Renan says, "La conversion d'un Romain de cet ordre, a cette epoque est chose absolument inadmissible." Alford and Olshausen speak doubtfully. Lange and Howson and Meyer look upon him as a genuine convert. The 'Speaker's Commentary' speaks of him as "the first fruits of heathenism." Being astonished at the teaching. "For the connection of the judgment concerning the doctrine with the miracle seen, comp. Mark 1:27" (Meyer).
Vow for now when, A.V.; set sail for loosed, A.V.; and came for they came, A.V.; departed.., and returned for departing … returned, A.V. A very marked change may here be observed in the relations of Barnabas and Paul. Hitherto Barnabas has always occupied the first rank. It has been "Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; Acts 12:2, Acts 12:7). But now the whole mission, including Barnabas, is described as οἱ περὶ τὸν Παῦλον, Paul and his company, and ever after it is usually "Paul and Barnabas" (Acts 13:43, Acts 13:46, Acts 13:50; Acts 15:2, Acts 15:22, Acts 15:35); though in Acts 14:14 and Acts 15:12, Acts 15:25, the old order is retained. Renan dwells much on the beauty of Barnabas's character as seen in his cheerful acquiescence in this change of relative position, and his single-minded devotion to the success of the work. Came to Perga, the capital of Pamphylia, in that part of the coast of Asia Minor which looks due south. Perga was about seven and a half miles inland, on the river Cestrus, which is navigable. There was a constant intercourse between Paphos the capital of Cyprus, and Perga the capital of Pamphylia, fostered probably by the two famous temples of Venus and Diana. The word for set sail (ἀναχθέντες) is a nautical term, meaning sailing from the shore or harbor into the open sea (see Acts 16:11; Acts 21:1; Acts 27:12; Luke 8:22). At Perga John Mark left them. Perhaps his position as Barnabas's cousin was less pleasant now that Paul took the first place; perhaps his courage failed him now that they were fairly launched out into the heathen world, where, unlike Cyprus, his Jewish kinsmen were a small minority, and the dangers and fatigues were great. Pamphylia was now governed by a propraetor, being an imperial province. Its name denotes that it was inhabited by a mixed race—men of all tribes, aborigines, Cilicians, Greeks, etc.
They, passing through from Perga, came for when they departed from Perga they came, A.V.; of for in, A.V.; they went for went, A.V. Traveling due north into the interior for over a hundred miles, they would reach Antioch in Pisidia, now a Roman colony. It would be a difficult and dangerous road, infested with robbers (2 Corinthians 11:26), mountainous, rugged, and passing through an untamed and half-savage population. Pisidia was part of the province of Galatia. The direction of their route was probably determined by the locality of the Jewish populations, which were always their first object, and their door of access to the more pious heathen. Sat down; perhaps, as many think, on the seat of the rabbis—those "chief seats in the synagogues," which our Lord rebukes the scribes for loving (Mark 12:39), but which "Paul as a former Sanhe-drist, and Barnabas as a Levite," had a fair claim to occupy; but more probably on the seats of ordinary worshippers, where, however, the presence of strangers would at once be noticed.
Brethren for ye men and brethren, A.V. The order of the synagogue service was first the prayers, read by the Sheliach, or angel of the synagogue, the people standing. Then came the reading of the Law in Hebrew by the reader, and the interpretation by the interpreter, who, outside of Judaea, generally used the version of the LXX. This reading, or lesson, was called the Parashah. Next came the reading and interpreting of the prophets, called the Haphtorah, either by the regular reader or by any one invited by the ruler of the synagogue (Luke 4:16, Luke 4:17). Then came the Midrash, the exposition or sermon, which Paul undertook at the invitation of the ruler of the synagogue. Our Lord at Nazareth seems to have delivered the Midrash sitting (Luke 4:20); here St. Paul stands (Acts 13:16).
And for then, A.V.; the for Ms, A.V.; hearken for give audience, A.V. Beckoning with the hand (see Acts 12:17, note). Ye that fear God; addressed to the devout heathen who attended the synagogue service (see Acts 10:2, note, and 22; Acts 10:43 of this chapter; Acts 15:21; Acts 16:14; Acts 17:4, Acts 17:17; Acts 18:7).
Israel for of Israel, A.V., sojourned for dwelt as strangers, A.V.; a for an, A.V.; led he them forth for brought he them out, A.V. The word ὕψωσεν, exalted, is thought by some to be borrowed from the LXX. of Isaiah 1:2 (יתִמְמנור), I have brought up" (A.V.), but this is very doubtful, as ὑψόω is frequently used in the New Testament in the sense of exalting from a low to a high estate (see Matthew 11:23; Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew 23:12; Luke 1:52; Luke 10:15; Luke 14:11; Acts 2:33; see too Genesis 41:52 (LXX., Cod. Vat.) and Genesis 48:19). The resemblance of this exordium to that of Stephen's speech in Acts 7:1-60. must strike every one. The natural conclusion is that that speech made a deep impression upon St. Paul when he heard it at Stephen's trial. The common purpose in the two speeches is to conciliate and gain the attention of the Jewish hearers by dwelling upon the great events of the history of their fathers, of which they were proud, and claiming for Christians an equal heritage in that history. The speeches diverge in that Stephen sought to show in that history instances of the same stubborn unbelief in their fathers which had led the children to crucify the Lord of glory; but St. Paul rather sought to show how the promises made to their fathers had their fulfillment in that Jesus whom he preached unto them, and how the crucifixion of Christ by the Jerusalem Jews was an exact fulfillment of the Law and the prophets which had just been read to them in the synagogue. In both speeches it is a great point to exhibit Christianity as the true development of Judaism (comp. Hebrews 1:1 and throughout).
For about for about, A.V. Suffered he their manners (ἐτροποφόρησεν). This word τροποφορέω, to bear or put up with any one's (perverse) manners, is found nowhere else in the New Testament. But in the Cod. Alex. of the LXX. it is the rendering of Deuteronomy 1:31, instead of ἐτροφόρησεν he bare or carried, as a nursing father carries his child, which is the read of the Cod. Vat. and of the margin of the R.T. here. The Hebrew אשָׂןָ is capable of either sense. From this quotation from Deuteronomy it is conjectured that the Parashah on this occasion was from Deuteronomy 1:1-46., and if the ὕψωσεν of Deuteronomy 1:17 is taken from Isaiah 1:1-31, that would seem to have been the Haphtorah, and it is curious that Deuteronomy 1:1-46 and Isaiah 1:1-31 are read in the synagogues now on the same sabbath (but see note on Isaiah 1:17). Forty years is invariably the time assigned to the dwelling in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:33, Numbers 14:34; Numbers 32:13; Numbers 33:38; Deuteronomy 1:3; Psalms 95:10, etc.).
Acts 13:19, Acts 13:20
Canaan for Chanaan, A.V.; he gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years: and after these things he gave them judges, etc., for he divided their land unto them by lot: and after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, etc., A.V. and T.R. It is difficult to say what is the meaning of the R.T. in regard to the four hundred and fifty years, what is the terminus a quo or ad quem intended by it. The usual explanations of the reading of the R.T. (adopted by Lachman, Bishop Wordsworth, and others) is that the years are dated from the birth of Isaac, and that the meaning is that the promise to give the land to the seed of Abraham was actually performed within four hundred and fifty years (ὡς ἔτεσι) (after the analogy of Galatians 3:17), which gives a good sense and is not at all improbable (see Bishop Wordsworth's note). The reading of the T.R. has grave objections on the score of chronology as well as grammar. Duration of time is expressed by the accusative case, as Acts 13:18 and Acts 13:21; the measure of time in which a thing is done by the dative. So that the natural rendering of the T.R. would be that he gave them judges four hundred and fifty years after the entrance into Canaan; which of course cannot be the meaning. The other objection is that, if the times of the judges from the final conquest of the land to the judgeship of Samuel was four hundred and fifty years, the whole time from the Exodus to the building of the temple must have been about six hundred and forty years £, whereas 1 Kings 6:1 gives the time as four hundred and eighty years; while the genealogies suppose a much shorter time—about two hundred and eighty years. It is an immense gain, therefore, to get rid of this four hundred and fifty years for the time of the judges, and by the well-supported reading of the R.T. to get a calculation in agreement with Galatians 3:17 and with the chronology of the times. Gave them … for an inheritance. The T.R. has κατεκληροδότησεν, the R.T. has κατεκληρονόμησεν, which words are not infrequently interchanged in different codices of the LXX. (see Joshua 19:51; Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 21:16, etc.). They have nearly identical meanings, "to give as an inheritance by lot." Neither word occurs elsewhere in the New Testament.
Asked for for desired, A.V.; Kish for Cis, A.V.; for for by, A.V. The forty years assigned to Saul may very probably include the seven years and six months (2 Samuel 5:5) which elapsed before David's kingdom was established over all Israel, while the house of Saul was still in power. The first twenty or thirty years of his reign after the rescue of Jabesh-gilead are passed over in absolute silence. The narrative from 1 Samuel 13-31. relates only to about the last ten years of his life (for the correction of the A.V. of 1 Samuel 13:1, see 'Speaker's Commentary').
Raised up for raised up unto them, A.V. and T.R.; bare witness for gave testimony, A.V.; my for mine own, A.V.; do for fulfill, A.V.; who for which, A.V. This is not an exact quotation, but the combined meaning of 1 Samuel 13:14 and Psalms 89:21.
Promise for his promise, A.V.; brought for raised, A.V. and T.R. (comp. Isaiah 48:15; Hebrews 1:6). This verse leads to the great announcement which Paul had to make of the next great step in God's dealings with Israel, for which the pro- ceding ones of the redemption from Egyptian bondage, and the kingdom of David, were preparatory, viz. the actual coming of the Son of David, the Messiah, to save his people Israel.
His coming (τῆς εἰσόδου); his entrance upon his ministry, with reference to the ὁδὸς (the way) of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 (for the use of dadoes, see 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1).
Was fulfilling for fulfilled, A.V.; what suppose ye for whom think ye, A.V. and T.R.; the shoes of whose feet for whose shoes of his feet, A.V.; unloose for loose, A.V. St. Paul, as reported by Luke, follows very closely the narrative in Luke 3:3, etc. Compare the words Προκηρύξαντος Ἰωάννου … βάπτισμα μετανοίας with Luke 3:3, Κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας. Compare Πρὸ προσώπου τῆς εἰσόδου with Τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου, Luke 3:4. Compare Παντὶ τῷ λαῷ Ἰσραήλ with the mention in Luke 3:9, Luke 3:10, of the multitudes of the people, and the enumeration of the different classes of people. Com- pare the question, "Whom [or, 'what'] think ye that I am?" with the statement in Luke 3:15, that all men were musing in their hearts of John whether he were the Christ or not. Compare the construction of the phrase, Ἔρχεται μετ ἐμὲ οὖ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος τὸ, ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν λῦσαι with Luke 3:16; and in Luke 3:26 compare the Υἱοὶ γένους Ἀβραὰμ with the Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ, and the Τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ of Luke 3:8. There is also a strong resemblance to John 1:19-28. St. Paul fortifies his own witness to Jesus as the Christ by that of John the Baptist, probably from knowing that many of his hearers believed that John was a prophet (see Luke 20:6; Matthew 21:26; comp. Peter's address, Acts 10:37).
Brethren for men and brethren, A.V., as Acts 13:15; those among you that fear for whosoever among you feareth, A.V.; to us for to you, A.V. and T.R.; sent forth for sent, A.V. and T.R. The same address in substance as that in Acts 13:16, comprising the Jews and the devout heathen. To us; see Acts 13:33; but on the other hand (Acts 13:38), "to you," seems preferable. This salvation; proceeding from the Savior, mentioned in Acts 13:23 (comp. Acts 10:36, "The word which God sent").
In for at, A.V.; nor for nor yet, A.V.; sabbath for sabbath day, A.V.; fulfilled … by for they have fulfilled … in, A.V. For they, etc. It is not clear what is the force of the γὰρ in this verse. Meyer (following Chrysostom), Alford, and others, make it mark the contrast between the Jews addressed by Paul and the Jews at Jerusalem. "This salvation is sent forth to you [according to Bengel, 'from Jerusalem,' according to others, 'from God'], for the Jerusalem Jews have rejected Christ. And in consequence of their rejection, you, who had no share in crucifying the Lord of glory, are invited to take their place. But it maybe taken as expressing the cause why this salvation is complete and capable of being offered to them. This salvation is preached to you because, through the instrumentality of those that dwell at Jerusalem, all that was written in the Scriptures concerning Christ has been fulfilled. Christ has been crucified and raised from the dead, and so now remission of sins is proclaimed to you through him (Acts 13:38, Acts 13:39; comp. Acts 3:13-20). Which are read every sabbath. Note the value of the constant reading of Holy Scripture in the congregation.
Asked they of for desired they, A.V. The narrative of this verse is exactly that of Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:4, Luke 23:5, Luke 23:14-23.
All things that were for all that was, A.V.; tomb for sepulcher, A.V. The reference is to his being crucified between two thieves (Luke 23:32, Luke 23:33), to parting his raiment among them (Luke 23:34) to offering him vinegar (Luke 23:36), to the commendation of his spirit to his Father (Luke 23:46). The words καθελόντες and ἔθηκαν εἰς μνημεῖον are the same as Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:53, Luke 23:55 (μνῆμα and μνημεῖον being interchanged).
For many days for many days, A.V.; that for which, A.V.; who are now for who are, A.V. and T.R. St. Paul thus confirms the statement in Acts 1:3 (see note to Acts 1:11). From Galilee to Jerusalem. Who are meant? and what ascent from Galilee to Jerusalem is here intended? The answer to the first question is, the eleven apostles, whose special office it was to bear witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:22, note). The answer to the second is, that the ascent from Galilee, where most of our Lord's appearances took place, to Jerusalem, shortly before the Ascension, is here intended, and that this passage is a distinct recognition by St. Luke of the Galilaean appearances. There is, as is well known, great obscurity, and apparent discrepancies in the accounts of our Lord's appearances after the Resurrection. St. Matthew seems to place them exclusively in Galilee (Matthew 28:7, Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16). St. Mark likewise (16: 7); but in the section 9-20 he mentions the appearance to Mary Magdalene and to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, but gives no clue as to where the appearance to the eleven took place. St. Luke seems to place them exclusively in Judaea, but very curiously puts a mention of Galilee in the angel's mouth in the very place where, according to St. Matthew, he announced the Lord's appearance in Galilee. St. John, again places the three first appearances in Jerusalem (John 20:1-31.), but describes at length a third as having taken place in Galilee (John 21:2, John 21:14). St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6) speaks of an appearance to five hundred brethren at once, which in all probability took place in Galilee, as only a hundred and twenty names were numbered at Jerusalem (Acts 1:15). It is, therefore, satisfactory to have this confirmation of the residence of the apostles in Galilee between the Resurrection and the Ascension in St. Luke's report of St. Paul's speech. Observe that St. Paul distinctly separates himself from these witnesses by the emphatic ἡμεῖς in verse 32.
Bring you good tidings of the promise made for declare unto you glad tidings how that the promise which was made, A.V.
How that God for God, A.V. ("how that" being in Acts 13:32); our children for us their children, A.V. and T.R.; raised up for hath raised up … again, A.V.; as also it is for as it is also, A.V. Our children. The reading of the R.T. is not adopted by Meyer or Alford, and is scarcely an improvement upon the T.R. There can be no reasonable doubt that ἀναστήσας, raised up, means here, as in Acts 13:44, raised from the dead. Observe with what skill the apostle speaks of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God's promise to their fathers, which it was to be presumed they were anxiously expecting. The second psalm. Many manuscripts and editions have, "the first," because the first psalm was often reckoned not numerically but as an introduction to the whole book, so that the second psalm was numbered as the first. This is probably the reason why the eighteen psalms as reckoned by the Jews include Psalms 19:1-14., though Joshua ben Levi explains it by the rejection of the second psalm, on account, no doubt, of its testimony to Messiah as God's begotten Son. But the rabbins generally acknowledge the application of this psalm to Messiah (Lightfoot, 'Exercit. on the Acts'). Thou art my Son, etc. This application of the second psalm to the Resurrection is best explained by Romans 1:4. The reference in both passages to David is remarkable (Romans 1:22, Romans 1:23). Christ, who was begotten of the Father before all worlds, was declared before men and angels to be the Son of God, when he was raised from the dead in the power of an endless life.
Hath spoken for said, A.V.; holy and sure blessings for sure mercies, A.V. No more to return to corruption. This is added to show that Christ's resurrection was a final victory over death; not like that of Lazarus, or the Shunammite's son, or Jairus's daughter, but, as St. Paul himself says (Romans 6:9), "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him." Here he tells us that this eternal exemption of Christ from death was promised or signified in Isaiah 55:3, which he quotes from the LXX., only abbreviating the διαθήσομαι κ.τ.λ., into δώσω, I will give. What, then, is meant by the ὅσια Δαβὶδ τὰ πιστά? The Hebrew has מינִמָאֱנֶּהַ דוְדָ ידֵסְחֻ, which can mean nothing else but "the sure mercies of David," the favor and mercy promised to David in God's everlasting covenant, well ordered in all things and sure. And in like manner, in 2 Chronicles 6:42, ὅσια Δαβὶδ means "the mercies of God to David." And if we turn to the account of this covenanted mercy in 2 Samuel 7:1-29., we shall see that it comprises the setting of David's seed upon his throne for ever (see specially 2 Samuel 7:12-16). In 2 Samuel 7:15 it is said, וּגמֶּםִ רוּסיָ אִל ידִסְחַ, "My mercy shall not depart from him." And in the next verse his house and his kingdom are described as being מלָעֹלְ נמַאְןֶ, sure," or "established for ever," which, when applied to the personal Christ, the Son of David, manifestly implies his eternal exemption from death and corruption (see also Psalms 132:4). The sense of the Hebrew, therefore, is clever and certain, and it is equally certain that the LXX. meant to represent this sense in the version here quoted by St. Paul. Ὅσιος, though properly meaning "holy, pious," and thence "mild" and "merciful" (εἰρηνικὸς, Hesych.) as applied to man, came to be applied in the same senses to God (Revelation 15:4; Revelation 16:5; and here and in the LXX.). Beyond doubt, therefore, the passage before us is rightly rendered in the A.V., "the sure mercies of David;" the plural, ὅσια, represents the מידִסָחֲ of the Hebrew. Clemens Alex. (quoted by Schleusner) uses it in the same way for "mercies or "benefits:" Πόσα αὐτῷ ὀφείλομεν ὅσια: "For how many mercies are we indebted to Christ!" In a similar way, the Latin pietas is used for God's "justice" or "kindness" ('AEneid,' 2.536; 5.688). "Trini pulses pietatem": "Beat at the door of God's mercy." Gronovius, in his note on 'AEian. V. H.,' 8.1, where he ascribes to ὅσιος the primitive sense of what is "just" and "due," from man either to God or to his fellowman, adds, "Tribuunt quidem LXX? interpetiam Deo to_ o#sion: sod etiam tum significat quoddam quasi offcium benignitatia in heroines pios, Deo decorum."
Because for wherefore, A.V. and T.R.; thou wilt not give for thou shalt not suffer, A.V. (see Acts 2:27, note); thy for thine, A.V. It is remarkable that St. Peter and St. Paul should both quote this sixteenth psalm, and use precisely the same argument.
In his own generation served the counsel of God for served his own generation by the will of God, A.V. Many good commentators construe the words as the R.T. does, only some, instead of in his own generation, render "for," i.e. for the good of, "his own generation." But the A.V. is the most natural division of the sentence, and gives the best sense, only the punctuation should connect the words "by the will of God" with "fell on sleep." There is an allusion to 2 Samuel 7:12 and 1 Kings 2:1-46 :l, 10, and it is intimated that God was still caring for David in his death. But there was this vast difference between David and Christ. David had a work to do limited to his own generation, and when that work was done he died and saw corruption. But Christ had a work to carry on for eternal generations, and so he rose and saw no corruption.
Raised up for raised again, A.V., Ἤγειρεν, "raised from the death of sleep, as Acts 5:30; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Ephesians 5:14, etc. The two words (ἀνίστημι and ἐγείρω) are combined in Acts 12:7. Ἐγείρω is "to arouse," or "awaken;" ἀνίστημι, to "make to get up." Or in the passive ἐγείρομαι to be "awakened," and in the neuter, ἀνέστην, to get.
Brethren for men and brethren, A.V., as before, Acts 13:26 and Acts 13:15; proclaimed for preached, A.V.; remission for the forgiveness, A.V.
Every one that believeth is for all that believe are, A.V. Here, then, is the great gospel message of grace, "the gospel of the grace of God," as St. Paul speaks in Acts 20:24; the proclamation, consequent upon the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, of a free and full forgiveness of sins to all that repent and believe the gospel (Acts 20:21); see Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 4:12; Acts 5:31; Colossians 1:14, etc., and Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:77. Note, too, how adroitly the apostle points out the superiority of the gospel which he was preaching to them over the Law, and the pre-eminence of Christ over Moses.
Spoken for spoken of, A.V.
If one for though a man, A.V. "Though" best expresses the ἐὰν and the יךּ of the Hebrew. The passage is quoted nearly verbatim from the LXX. of Hebrews 1:5. The difference from the Hebrew arises from the LXX. having read in their copy מיִדְגבֹּ, proud, arrogant men (καταφρονητάι), for מיוֹגּבַ, among the heathen, as is clear from their rendering the Hebrew דגֵוֹב, in Habakkuk 1:13 and Habakkuk 2:5, by the same word (καταφρονοῦντας and καταφρονητής). The rendering καὶ ἀφανίσθητε, and perish, for the Hebrew וּהמָתְּ, is not so easily explained. The two best explanations seem to be
(1) that the LXX. read וּהמְתַּהוְ וּהמָתְּ instead of the present order of the words, and so rendered the first word θαυμάσατε, wonder, and, taking the next word from another root, ממַתָ, rendered it ἀφανίσθητε, perish;
(2) that, reading the words in the same order in which they now stand in the Hebrew text, they rendered the first θαυμάσατε, or, with the intensive addition, θαυμασίᾳ, and took the second in the sense it has in Arabic, "to be altered" or "changed for the worse," and expressed it by ἀφανίσθητε, meaning" change countenance from fear and astonishment." And in favor of this explanation the use of ἀφανίζουσι τὰ πρόσωπα in Matthew 6:16 ("they disfigure their faces") is quoted (see Rosenmuller on Habakkuk 1:5). St. Paul took the LXX. as he found it. Perhaps he saw signs in some of that unbelief and perverse opposition which afterwards broke out (verse 45), and so was led to close his sermon with words of awful warning.
And as they went out for when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, A.V. and T.R.; they for the Gentiles, A.V. and T.R.; spoken for preached, A.V. They besought. The R.T. is that of Chrysostom and the best manuscripts, and is adopted by Meyer, Olshausen, Lange, Afford, Bishop Wordsworth, the 'Speaker's Commentary,' etc. There is a difference of opinion as to who is meant by they. The simplest explanation is that they means Paul and Barnabas, who went out of the synagogue before the formal dismissal of the congregation; and, as they were going out, received an invitation to repeat their instruction on the next sabbath.
The synagogue broke up for the congregation was broken up, A.V.; the devout for religious, A.V.; urged for persuaded, A.V. This verse manifestly describes something subsequent to the event recorded in the preceding. The congregation had asked Paul and Barnabas, perhaps through the ruler of the synagogue, to return next sabbath. But when the congregation broke up, many Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas to their own house and received further instructions and exhortation to continue in the grace of God. No doubt Barnabas had his full share in this more private ministry of exhortation (Acts 4:36, note, and Acts 11:23). (For the meaning of "to continue in the grace of God," see Galatians 5:4.)
Sabbath for sabbath day, A.V.; almost the whole city was gathered for came almost the whole city, A.V. We may suppose that as many as could crowded into the synagogue, and that a multitude stood outside in the street.
Jealousy for envy, A.V.; contradicted the things for spake against those things, A.V.; and blasphemed for contradicting and blaspheming, A.V. and T.R. Jealousy. Neither word exactly expresses the ζῆλος. The indignation of Acts 13:17, A.V. (where see note), is nearer the sense; though jealousy of the influence of the two strangers may have entered into the fierce passion which was stirred up in the Jewish mind, as well as jealousy for their own religion, which they saw was being superseded by the doctrine of Paul.
And for then, A.V. and T.R.; spake out boldly for waxed bold, A.V.; be for have been, A.V.; seeing for but seeing, A.V. and T.R.; thrust for put, A.V.; eternal for everlasting, A.V. Spake out boldly. Observe that Barnabas as well as Paul resented the unseemly opposition of the Jews. It was necessary. The necessity arose from the command of Christ (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Acts 3:26). It is in accordance with this purpose of God that St. Paul says of the gospel that "it is the power of God unto salvation … to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Compare, too, our Lord's saying (Matthew 15:24) and the woman's reply (ibid. 27). In point of fact, this had been the practice of Paul and Barnabas no less than of Peter, and was the very motive that had brought them to Antioch. Lo, we turn to the Gentiles. These were, indeed, bold words to speak in a Jewish synagogue; the speakers had doubtless sought courage from the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:29).
For a light for to be a light, A.V.; the uttermost part for the ends, A.V. The quotation is from the LXX. (Cod. Alex.) of Isaiah 49:6. Compare the frequent quotations by St. Paul from Isaiah in Romans 15:1-33. The additional words which appear in the LXX., εἰς διαθήκην γένους, have no counterpart in the Hebrew, and are probably corrupt. The application of the passage is, God declared his purpose by Isaiah, that his Servant Messiah should be the Light and Salvation of the Gentiles, and we are commissioned to give effect to that purpose by our preaching.
As for when, A.V.; God for the Lord, A.V. and T.R. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. This can only refer to the predestination or election of God, viewed as the moving cause of their faith (comp. Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:12; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 1:2. See the Seventeenth Article of Religion).
Spread abroad for published, A.V. As the persecution after the death of Stephen led to the preaching of the Word in Judaea and Samaria and beyond, so here the contradiction and opposition of the Jews led to the free preaching of the gospel for the first time among the heathen population of Pisidia.
Urged on for stirred up, A.V.; the devout women of honorable estate for the devout and honorable women, A.V. and T.R.; stirred up a for raised, A.V.; cast them out of their borders for expelled them out of their coasts, A.V. Urged on (παρώτρυναν). The word only occurs here in the New Testament, and is not common elsewhere. The devout women of honorable estate: εὐσχήμων is, literally, well-formed; then decent, becoming; and then honorable, well-to-do (comb. Acts 17:4, γυναικῶν τῶν πρώτων). See Mark 15:43, where Joseph of Arimathaea is described as εὐσχήμων βουλευτής, "an honorable counselor." The devout women (αἲ σεβόμεναι) were the Gentile proselytes who worshipped God, as in Mark 15:43. So of Lydia (Acts 16:14), and of "the devout Greeks" (Acts 17:4, Acts 17:17; Acts 18:7). The chief men (τοὺς πρώτους), as in Acts 17:4
They shook off the dust, etc.; according to the Lord's injunction (Luke 9:5; comp. Acts 18:6). And came into Iconium; a distance of about sixty miles south-east, a five days' journey (Renan). Iconium lay on the high road from Antioch in Syria to Ephesus. It is now called Cogni, and has a population of nearly thirty thousand souls. Iconium is assigned by Xenophon to Phrygia; by others to Pisidia; and again by others (Cicero, Strabo, etc.) to Lyeaonia. At this time it was the capital of a separate tetrarchy (Lewin, 'Saint Paul'), but Renan calls it" the capital of Lycaonia".
And the disciples, etc. Nothing can be more beautiful than this description. In spite of the persecution, in spite of the danger, in spite of the banishment of their teachers, the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Hebrews 10:34). With regard to this important incident at Antioch, Renan observes on its powerful influence in turning St. Paul's mind more decisively to the conversion of the Gentiles as the great object of his apostleship. He adds, "The character of that great soul was to have a boundless power of expansion. I know none to be compared with it in respect of its inexhaustible freshness, its unlimited resources of will, and readiness to make the most of every opportunity, except that of Alexander the Great?
The invasion of heathendom.
It has been well remarked that Antioch was the true center of direct missions to the heathen world. An Ethiopian eunuch, and a Roman centurion, had indeed been gathered into the fold of Christ. But they were both closely connected with the land of Judah, and their conversion had not led to any further extension of the gospel of Christ. At Antioch the seed of Christian truth first fell in abundance upon heathen soil; from Antioch first went forth the preachers of the gospel with the express purpose of disseminating it among the nations of mankind. It is a deeply interesting study to mark the various steps by which the providence of God brought about this great event. There was first the molding of the great soul of Saul into a fitting instrument for this momentous ministry by the circumstances of his conversion. The tenderness of heart caused by the memory of his persecution of the Church of God; the gradual loosening of the ties which bound him to the Jews' religion, through the bigotry, the distrust, and the repulses of his Jewish countrymen, which drove him from Jerusalem; the friendship of the kind and sympathetic Barnabas; his enforced retreat to his native Tarsus, within easy distance of Antioch;—these were the preparatory steps by which God was bringing about his great purpose. Then, as the work grew among the Gentiles, Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the Church of Jerusalem; thence, needing more help, he went to Tarsus and sought Saul and brought him to Antioch. Then followed a full year's ministry in that great heathen city. That year brought a rich experience of things sad and of things joyful; experience of heathen darkness, experience of God's grace; widening knowledge of the thoughts, the wants, the misery of heathenism; deepening knowledge of the power of a preached gospel; a further loosening of the strait bands of Judaism as lettering Christian liberty. And then, when the ground was thus prepared, came the direct call of the Holy Ghost, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." And what a work it was! It requires some knowledge of the degradation of human nature as manifested in all the vileness of the voluptuousness and impostures of the East, in the incredible and growing flagitiousness of the once noble Roman character under the shameful profligacy's of the empire, and of the general spread of vice, oppression, and cruelty in the Roman world, to take a just measure of the work to which Barnabas and Saul were called. It was a work of hopeless difficulty if measured by the strength of man; it was a work of incalculable importance if measured by its world-wide influences and results—a work than which no greater has ever been undertaken either by man or for man. To revolutionize the whole relations of man with God; to upset and root out all the old thoughts of the whole world concerning God and the service of God; to give a new direction to man's thoughts about himself, about his duty, and about eternity; to transform human life from sin to holiness; and to do all this by the power of words,—was the task given to Barnabas and Saul. And they did it. That we know and love God; that we believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins; that we live righteous lives; that we have a good hope of the resurrection to eternal life—is the fruit of the mission of Barnabas and Saul. They invaded heathendom with the sword of faith, and heathendom fell before their onslaught. O God, raise up in our days such soldiers of the cross that all the kingdoms of the world may become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ!
The New Testament in the Old.
The expositions of the Scriptures of the Old Testament by the writers and speakers of the New Testament are worthy of our deepest attention, Not only do they draw out from those Scriptures particular instruction which of ourselves we should never, perhaps, have found there, but they supply us with irrefragable proofs of the unity of purpose which ordained the long sequence of events themselves, through many centuries, and also ordained that a faithful record of them should be preserved in the sacred archives of the Jewish people. There is probably no evidence of more overwhelming power of conviction, when once it is grasped, that the Scriptures are from God, and that they are a revelation of the very mind of God, than that which is supplied by the continuity of events whose historical truth rests upon a solid basis, and whose meaning and purpose receive their only and full explanation in another set of events whose basis of historical evidence is no less firm and solid than the former. This double testimony to the truth of the gospel, supplied by the direct evidence of those who went in and out with the Lord Jesus, on the one hand, and by the prophetic preparation for those events, and the significant types of them, exhibited centuries before, on the other hand, together form a moral demonstration which, when apprehended, is simply irresistible. It is this which gives such force to those apostolic and other sermons which are recorded in this Book of the Acts. In this sermon of St. Paul's we have the election of Israel to be the people of God, their redemption from Egyptian bondage, their planting in the land of Canaan according to God's promise, first held up to view. Could any one deny the truth of those events? Were not the Jewish people still in actual possession of the land of Canaan? Living in the midst of heathens, were they not, and were not they alone, worshippers of the true and living God? Did they not possess the sacred oracles? And if they went back century by century, did they not come to the time when the seven nations of Canaan possessed the land, and when their fathers dispossessed them of it? If they went further back still, was there not the Egyptian bondage described in their ancient records, living in their traditions and sacred songs, engraved in the monuments and annals of Egypt? Yes; God had dealt with them as he had dealt with no other people. They were the children of miracle, the heirs of Divine promises, the depositaries of a Divine plan, the ordained instruments of a great and eternal purpose. Every page of their history proved it, as that history was slowly unfolded in the course of successive ages. And the purpose itself was partially revealed from time to time. Let them bethink themselves of David and his throne; his humble origin, and his exalted power; the hand which raised him, the promises which surrounded him, the expectations which clung to his name. Did he not live in the hearts and hopes of the people through ages of oppression and wrong? Did not his name still glow on the page of prophecy, as the heir of mercy, as the future prince of Israel, as the founder of Israel's glory? What did all these things mean? What was the hidden truth that swelled and was ready to burst under all these images? What was the womb of time so big with in the days which had come upon them? There was an answer, and one only answer, to these questions. The history of their fathers was explained by one and only one fact, and that was the birth of Jesus Christ, of the seed of Abraham and of the lineage of David, to be the Savior of Israel, and not of Israel only, but also of the whole world. And he Paul was there to tell them of Jesus Christ: how he was born in the city of David; how John the Baptist bore witness of him; how in him was fulfilled all that was written in the Law of Moses and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning the Christ that should come. Let them turn to those prophets and to those Psalms, and see what was there written concerning the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. It had all been fulfilled. The Man of sorrows had been despised and rejected; his hands and his feet had been pierced on the tree; they had parted his raiment among them and cast lots upon his vesture; he had gone to the grave and to hell; he had risen again and seen no corruption; his old companions had seen him many days after his resurrection; they had eaten and drunk with him, and in their sight he had gone up to heaven. What further proof could they have that he was very Christ, the promised Savior, the Son of David, of whose kingdom there should be no cud? Let them believe in him, and he would justify them from all their sins. Let them not by their unbelief bring upon themselves the curse denounced by the prophet upon the despisers of God's Word. Thus it was that the fulfillment in the New Testament of all the types and promises of the Old was as the seal of God to the truth of both. The testimony of nearly two thousand years, in which words, deeds, persons, things, events, pointed with steady consistency to one Person that should come, was all concentrated upon Jesus Christ, who did come in the fullness of time. And the 1850 years which have elapsed since Jesus rose again have added their testimony, too, to all that went before. So that our age will be altogether without excuse if, shutting its eyes to the light of truth, it rejects the Son of God and misses the great salvation which he has brought to our sinful and fallen world.
The savor of death and of life.
We have here a memorable example of the same gospel being a savor of life to some and of death to others, according to the reception given to it in the heart of the hearers. Here was a mixed congregation of Jews and proselytes and Gentiles. They had all the same advantages; they all heard the same gospel at the mouth of the same preacher. Some, when they heard, believed; a hunger sprang up in their souls to hear and to know more of the salvation of God. They followed the preachers out of the synagogue; they hung upon their words; they listened to their exhortations. The next sabbath found them in the synagogue again. We can imagine that the pressing thought in their hearts was, "What must I do to be saved?" We can imagine how they struggled out of the darkness into the light of Christ; how the new message of redeeming love and justifying grace kindled new thoughts in their inmost souls; how they followed the words which led them till they found peace and life in Jesus Christ. The gospel was to them "a savor of life unto life." But others heard and believed not. Their conscience was not pricked with sin; their souls were not moved by the love of God; they did not yearn after more light, more knowledge of the glorious Lord; they were not humbled before the cross; but their self-love was wounded, their pride was aroused, jealousy and hatred were kindled within them at the success of the gospel. They spurned the truth which would lower their importance; they scorned the light in which their own glory would grow pale; they hated the goodness before which their own goodness withered into sin. They knew Christ only to contradict him; they knew his Word only to blaspheme him. The gospel of God's grace had come to them, but their last state was worse than the first. The gospel was to them "a savor of death unto death."
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
An illustrious Church.
Antecedently it might have been expected that the Church of Jerusalem would prove to be the most influential and illustrious of all Christian communities, and that from all lands and ages men would look back to it as the most potent factor in the early history of "our holy religion." But in this respect it must give place to "the Church that was at Antioch." This community was remarkable for four things.
I. ITS HUMAN COMPOSITION. (Acts 13:1.) Great names have been entered on the rolls of many Churches; but very few indeed, if any, could compare with the list which included the names of Barnabas and Saul, as well as that of a man (Manaen) who was the foster-brother of Herod Antipas. A Church is influential, not only according to the number of souls it can count in its communion, but according to the character of the men who are included in its ranks. A Church which can win and can train and send forth a most useful minister, or a most successful missionary, or a most powerful writer, may do a work which, in the balances of Heaven, weighs more than that of another which has five times its number on the lists. Nowhere more than here does quality, character, spiritual worth, tell in the estimate of truth and wisdom.
II. ITS DIVINE INDWELLING. The Church at Antioch had "prophets and teachers" (Acts 13:1). This statement implies that there were those amongst the brethren who received occasionally such Divine impulse that they spoke under the consciousness of his inspiration. And to them, or to one of them, the Spirit of God made known the Divine will that they should set apart two of their number for special work (Acts 13:2). Evidently this Church was one in which, as in a temple, the Holy Ghost dwelt. The fact of the indwelling of the Spirit is not, indeed, anything which is itself remarkable; for no Church of which this cannot be said is worthy of its name. But of "the Church that was at Antioch" this was strikingly and eminently true, if we may take this short passage of its history as of a piece with the rest.
III. ITS RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY. We know that Barnabas and Saul "taught much people" (Acts 11:26); the work of evangelization went on actively at, Antioch. We may gather from our text—"they ministered to the Lord, and fasted"—that the Church was diligent in its devotions; not only worshipping when it was convenient and agreeable to the flesh, but to the extent of self-denial: twice in two verses we read of the members fasting (Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3). Fasting, for the sake of fasting or with a view of pleasing Christ, is not enjoined, and both the words of our Lord and the genius of his religion discourage rather than encourage it. But we shall undoubtedly do well to pursue our work and to maintain our worship—"ministering unto the Lord"—up to and within the line of self-control and even self-denial; not only not giving the reins to our bodily cravings, but checking these and restricting ourselves beyond that which is positively demanded, if by so doing we can worship God more spiritually or work more effectively for our fellows.
IV. ITS OBEDIENT ENTRANCE ON AN APPARENTLY HOPELESS ENTERPRISE. (Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3.) The Church was commanded by its Lord to send two of its members on the errand of converting the Gentiles, "and … they sent them away." It was not its part to "reason why," but to obey. Had it reckoned the likelihood of the case, dwelt on the difficulties in the way of success, measured the might and number of its adversaries, weighed the strength of two Jews against the learning, the prejudice, the military forces, the material interests, the social customs, the evil habits, the inwrought unrighteousness of a bitterly and even passionately hostile world, it would have hesitated, it would have refrained. But it did not measure these things. It heard the sovereign sound of its Divine Leader's voice, and it proceeded unquestioningly to obey. It "sent them away." And they went forth—those two men—unpracticed in the wiles of the world; poor; unarmed; unequipped with any forces which, on mere human lines, could avail anything; determined to preach a doctrine which would be received with the haughtiest contempt, which would clash with men's strongest interests and smite their most cherished sins;—they went forth, with the confidence of the Church behind them (Acts 13:3), with the hand of the Lord upon them, with the hope of his welcome and his reward before them. It was a splendid action of an illustrious Church, and the nearer we can approach it in our own times and in our own communities, the dearer shall we be to our Master and the greater service shall we render to our race.—C.
Forwardness and frailty.
The two leading points in this passage are the forwardness of Bar-jesus and the frailty of Mark. But there are other incidental lessons which spring up by the way. We may learn as we pass:
1. That good work for others comes home with a blessing before long. Some of the scattered Christians were men of Cyprus, "who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks" (Acts 11:20); and here are men from the Church which the Cypriots helped to form coming to evangelize Cyprus (verse 4). "Give, and it shall be given unto you."
2. That the success of any great work is not to be measured by the fruit of the first endeavor. We read that "when they were at Salamis, they preached the Word of God in the synagogues" (verse 5); but we do not read of any conversion, to the faith. It is fair to infer that their earliest attempt was, if not disappointing, far from a marked success; but they were not daunted thereby.
3. That it is well worth while for youthful aspiration to attend on mature and established piety. "They had also John to their minister" (verse 5). Mark may have been little more than the courier of the apostles, but it was no mean service he was rendering the Church and the world if he did his duty thus.
4. That when religion is cast out superstition is sure to enter. Where God is unhonored the people will resort to the "sorcerer" (verse 6), the soothsayer, the spiritualist, etc.
I. THAT MAN MAY DEPART SO FAR FROM RECTITUDE AS TO DELIBERATELY FALSIFY THE TRUTH OF GOD. (Verses 5-8.) "Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" Here was a man who, for the purpose of retaining a lucrative position, was determinately opposing the truth. Many have been his predecessors and many his successors, who have not scrupled to "fight against God," to act in such a way that they have made what they knew to be right seem to be wrong, what they knew to be wholesome and helpful seem to be injurious; they have twisted round and perverted the right line of heavenly wisdom; they have not only "called good evil and evil good," but striven, for some base motive, to make it seem thus in the eyes of men, resolutely and wantonly deceiving them.
II. THAT THE TIME COMES FOR BURNING INDIGNATION AND STRONG INVECTIVE, "O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness!" (verse 10). It is not often allowable for men to speak thus to one another. As a rule, we must follow the example of the archangel, and instead of "bringing a railing accusation, say, The Lord rebuke thee." But there are occasions when we do well to be angry, when we should rather sin by not being righteously angry than by even passionate indignation. When men are palpably ruining others in order to fill their own treasury, undoubtedly keeping others out of the kingdom in order to secure their own base objects, it is not only permissible but laudable to let our holy indignation boil over in scathing condemnation and rebuke.
III. THAT JUDGMENT HAS ITS PART TO PLAY IN THE DIVINE ECONOMY. (Verse 11.) It was, of course, only in virtue of the inspiration under which he was acting (see verse 1) that Paul pronounced this judgment on Elymas. It was a very unusual occurrence. Our Lord himself never, so far as we know, used his almighty power to punish a human being; with the exception of the banning of the fig tree, all his works were those of beneficence. Yet we need to remember that judgment is a part of his whole system. He does condemn and smite. The storm uproots the tree; the locusts lay bare the fruitful field; disease paralyzes the human form; death does its closing work; spiritual blindness darkens the mind and spiritual hardness encrusts the soul,-at his holy and awful bidding. The pleasant theories of the universe, which leave judgment out of the account, are fair enough to look at, but they are not true; they arc false to the facts of the case as these meet us in many forms and in every sphere of human life.
IV. THAT THE BEST HUMAN SURROUNDINGS WILL NOT ENSURE SPIRITUAL STEADFASTNESS. (Verse 13.) We might have thought that the presence of such men as Barnabas and Saul would have ensured the stability of John Mark; but it did not. Though under the influence of one man whose unswerving devotedness to Christ has never been surpassed, he yielded to his inclination to return home rather than brave the hazards and endure the privations of missionary work in Asia Minor. Nothing will secure our spiritual steadfastness but the indwelling of Divine power. We must abide in Christ that he may abide in us by his Spirit. It is only when we are "strengthened with all might by his Spirit in the inner man," when we are "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might," that we are really safe and secure. "When I am weak, then am I strong."—C.
The Christian faith.
The Apostle of the Gentiles goes first to the synagogue of the Jews (Acts 13:14). This partly, perhaps, because he would be most at home there and find a readier audience (Acts 13:15); partly in accordance with the words of the Lord (Luke 24:47). At liberty to speak by the courtesy of his countrymen, Paul preached the discourse which we have in the text concerning the faith of Christ. He shows—
I. ITS BASIS IN HISTORICAL FACT. (Acts 13:17-22, Acts 13:31.) It is a matter of history. That history commences with the call of Abraham and the redemption of Israel from the bondage of Egypt (Acts 13:17); it includes the life in the wilderness (Acts 13:18) and the early years in the land of promise (Acts 13:19, Acts 13:20); it contains the choice of a monarchy (Acts 13:21) and the elevation of David (Acts 13:22). From beginning to end, the faith of Christ rests on the solid ground of established facts; it does not depend on dreams and visions, nor on logical deductions or intuitions of the human reason; it is built on well-attested facts; "That which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" (1 John 1:1-8). Not "cunningly devised fables," but facts of which truthful men were "eye-witnesses" (1 Peter 1:16), are the material on which Christian doctrine rests.
II. ITS CULMINATION IN A LIVING ONE. (Acts 13:23-37.) "God raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus (Acts 13:28); One of supreme rank and majesty, whose shoes the great Baptist was "not worthy to loose" (Acts 13:25); One slain by his own people, but raised from the dead by the favor and the power of God (Acts 13:27-30); One whose immortality is the fulfillment of the Divine word (Acts 13:32-37). In Christianity everything gathers round, centers in, Jesus Christ himself. We are not compelled to subscribe to certain profound propositions, nor to conform to a number of minute requirements either in domestic or social life or devotional habit; we are desired to accept a once-crucified and now risen One—"a Savior, Jesus"—as the almighty Savior, living Lord, Divine Friend, he offers to be to us all.
III. ITS CARDINAL DOCTRINE. (Acts 13:38, Acts 13:39.) "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins;" "By him all that believe are justified," etc. There can be no real religious life without the conscious enjoyment of God's favor; and this cannot be attained until sin has been forgiven. The initial step into the kingdom of God is, therefore, the remission of sins, the justification of the sinner before God. This is the cardinal doctrine of the gospel of Christ; "This [he said] is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). There may come times when this doctrine will be neglected, but to it mankind will continually return; for it is the sense of sin and the consciousness of condemnation which stand between the soul of man and its heritage in God, and it is the forgiveness of sin and the justification of the sinner which open the gates of the kingdom of peace, of joy, of eternal life.
IV. ITS GLORIOUS COMPREHENSIVENESS. "Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience" (Acts 13:16; "Children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent" (Acts 13:26); "By him all that believe are justified" (Acts 13:39). Already the old and narrowing traditions had been broken; already the strong prejudices had melted away; already the hearts of men had been enlarged, and Gentiles and Jews were invited to believe and to be saved. As missionary work proceeded, and as more light from heaven broke in, the world-embracing thought of God became clearer and fuller to the minds of men.
V. THE URGENCY OF ITS CLAIM. (Acts 13:40, Acts 13:41.) A most sad succession of steps—despise—wonder—perish; but one that has been taken by thousands of the children of men. We cannot oppose ourselves to a "great salvation" without being bruised and broken by our folly (Matthew 21:44). The height of blessedness and dignity to which we rise if we accept a Divine Savior marks the depth of shame and woe to which we fall if we reject him.—C.
I. THAT IT IS A REAL MINISTERIAL GAIN TO EXCITE RELIGIOUS INQUIRY. (Acts 13:42-44.) It was a considerable success to have called forth the interest of the Gentile audience, so that they begged to hear the same truths stated again (Acts 13:42). It was the beginning of "the grace of God" in their hearts (Acts 13:43); it resulted in the excitement of still more extensive inquiry, so that "the whole city" was agitated and solicitous (Acts 13:44). We may thank God for the commencement of religious life, for the sprouting of the seed, for the first signs of spiritual awakening; we need not hesitate to ascribe this to the hand of God on the heart of man.
II. THAT SUCH AWAKENING MUST BE FAITHFULLY FOLLOWED UP BY THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER. Paul and Barnabas "persuaded them to continue," etc. (Acts 13:43). We must not only plant, but water (1 Corinthians 3:6). We should watch for the first signs of religious earnestness, and promptly follow up what has been wrought by wise, earnest, devout encouragement.
III. THAT THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER SHOULD AVAIL HIMSELF OF EVERY PROVIDENTIAL OPENING. (Acts 13:45-47.) The rejection of the gospel by the Jews might have led some half-hearted missionaries to abandon their work. But to those who were here at work it simply acted as an incentive to go forth into a wider field. They took the shutting of one gate to mean entrance through another; the blocking of one way to prove that the finger of God was pointing in another direction, where more ground was to be cultivated and larger harvests were to be reaped. So must we strive to gain good from apparent evil, and look on every adverse event as showing us what other and what better thing our Master would have us do.
IV. THAT GOD'S WORK WILL BE WROUGHT IN SPITE OF MAN'S ENMITY, AND EVEN BY MEANS OF IT. The violent and determined opposition of the Jews (Acts 13:45) led the apostles to a conclusion in favor of more extensive Christian labor earlier than they could otherwise have reached it. The language of Paul (Acts 13:46) indicates no little tension of feeling. The enemies of the truth urged onward the chariot of the kingdom, and it rolled forward at full speed. And the fervent words of the apostle met with a prompt and earnest response (Acts 13:48); the Gentiles "glorified God," and many of them yielded an intelligent, saving faith to the truths presented. So much of centrifugal force was there in the enmity of the Jews that the. gospel was carried far and wide, and "the Word of the Lord was published throughout all the region" (Acts 13:49). A happy thing it is for us that often "vaulting ambition o'er leaps itself and comes down on the other side," that the wrath of man does occasionally and incidentally work the righteousness and grace of God, that the industry of evil builds up the walls it is seeking to undermine.
V. THAT MINISTERIAL SUCCESS IS CERTAIN TO BE DASHED WITH SOME DISAPPOINTMENT, and that the Christian teacher must mingle reproach with invitation (Acts 13:50, Acts 13:51).
VI. THAT FAITHFUL WORK MAY FILL THE MINISTER OF CHRIST WITH HOLY JOY. (Acts 13:52.) There is a gladness, an exultation, which may find a home in the teacher's heart which is not holy, and when it cannot be said that he is "filled with joy and the holy Ghost;" that is, when he is congratulating himself with a satisfaction that is selfish, earthly, unspiritual. But when his joy is pure, disinterested, Christian; when he rejoices because Christ is being honored and men are being raised and blessed, then is his heart happy with a joy with which the Holy Spirit is closely associated, and which "sanctifies and satisfies the soul."—C.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Ordination of Barnabas and Saul.
I. THE TRUE WEALTH OF A CHURCH. There were prophets and teachers at Antioch. Nothing is said about its wealth in money, only about its wealth in men. A religious community may possess splendid buildings, wealthy members; may command amply all the external appliances of worship and work; but unless it has men, it has not strength. Intelligence and enthusiasm, piety and genius, constitute the true forces of the Church. Without these, it is feeble with all its worldly resources; with these, it is mighty in poverty.
II. THE CONSECRATION OF THE FIRST MISSIONARIES.
1. It was preceded by prayer and fasting. The moderation of the body gives freedom and clearness to the judgment. There is nothing artificial in the true proceedings of spiritual man. The bodily and the spiritual life cannot be both affirmed at the same time. In denying the body we affirm the Spirit. In casting off the weights of sense we rise into the purer air.
2. It was accompanied by laying on of hands. "Order is Heaven's first law," and in the Church "let all things be done decently and in order." The act marks peculiar selection out of the mass of men, and for special and peculiar ends of work. From Antioch in its strength and spiritual prosperity went forth the first missionaries. This is an example. When we are full of thought we long to speak or otherwise give it to the world. When the fire burns within the soul the tongue cannot be mute. In like manner, a vigorous Church will be a missionary Church; the falling off of missionary interest is a symptom that we have less hold upon the truth or have lost the fullness of love from the heart.—J.
The mission in Cyprus.
I. THE FALSE PROPHET. Bar-jesus may stand as the type of one class of foes with whom Christianity has to contend. He is described as a "mage" and a "false prophet." It appears that he gave himself the title of Elymas (to which word the modern Turkish ulema corresponds)—"wise man" par excellence. The essence of the magic calling is the pretension to override the laws of nature and providence in obedience to the wishes and fantasies and caprices of the individual. It would make imagination and feeling the test of truth and right, rather than the fixed truth and Word of God. The spirit of this false prophet is seen in his attaching himself to the proconsul, as the parasite attaches itself to the sound life, and in the endeavor to divert him from Christianity. Here is a test of the false spirit in the teacher. If we really love the truth and possess it, we have no desire to divert the course of argument from other minds. The more light and discussion, the better for the truth. Suspect the man who tries to silence another by clamor or prejudice the ear of the audience against him.
II. THE TRUE APOSTLE. Paul had been "sent by the Holy Spirit," and now he is filled by the "Holy Spirit." This gives him boldness and directness in dealing with the impostor.
1. There are times when denunciation may be used by the servant of Christ; for there are times when evil, stripped of its disguises, is manifest, and no terms can be held with it. And the denunciation of the apostle points to the secret root of evil in the false prophet's life, and which poisons all his teaching. There is craft, guile, the design to deceive Others for private ends. Then there is a certain lightness and recklessness of conduct connected with this, denoted by a peculiar Greek word (radiourgia). The false teacher will respect no truth and no sanctity which stands in the way of his objects and ends. Such a man may well be called a "child of the devil." The idea of the devil is that of an accuser or slanderer; and the false prophet will stick at no lies to serve his ends. He is the foe of all that is good, and must he; for the good and right, resting on the principle of truth, is deadly opposed to him, the living lie. He is the perverter of the Lord's straight ways. While the servants of God proclaim, in the words of the ancient prophet, the leveling of inequalities and the making of the crooked straight, the object of the deceiver is to twist the straight into crookedness, and bring back old chaos and disorder. Such are the arrows of denunciation launched at his head; such, in brief words, are the traits of the deceiver, drawn by the firm hand of the apostle.
2. The occasional revelation of Divine judgment against the ungodly. Such acts as that of Paul, in virtue of a Divine authority, in their occasional character, reveal a general principle of judgment. "The hand of the Lord is upon thee," not to strengthen and to illuminate, but to weaken and to deprive of light. The unused or misused sense decays. "From him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath." If we use not our intelligence in the cause of truth, we cannot expect to retain it in its clearness. And if our conscience is not guided by love, it will become darkened. And if the light within becomes darkness, how great is that darkness i At the same time, mercy mingles with judgment. It is for a season only, that the opportunity for reformation and repentance may be given, and blessed the suspensions of activities which we have misused, if, in the enforced silence and privation, we are led to reflection and back to God.
III. CONVERSION FOLLOWS THE MANIFESTATION OF THE TRUTH. The fall of error means the establishment of a conviction in the mind. The overthrow of a lie delights the spirit, which is made for truth. Falsehood tempts and enthralls when it appeals to cur passions; let the falsehood be exposed, and spiritual emancipation follows. Fear and astonishment are often the means God employs to break up the fatal slumbers of the soul. They are like volcanic forces, which prepare for the working of the genial forces of nature. Every conversion implies in the subject of it the knowledge of the superiority of truth over falsehood, the presence of the soul at a moral victory. Truth in conquering us, sets us free.—J.
Paul's missionary discourse at Antioch in Pisidia.
We are introduced to one of those synagogue scenes which are of so much interest in connection with the early progress of Christianity. Here the gospel fought its foes and triumphed by the logic of love; here the seeds were sown which sprang up to cover the world with fruit. According to the ordinary practice, the officers of the synagogue invite the strangers to address the congregation. Paul rises. His address falls naturally into parts. It resembles in general argument and tenor that of Stephen before the Sanhedrim. We may gather from it what were the great reasons which convinced and led to the conversion of the Jews.
I. THE PROVIDENTIAL COURSE OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY.
1. There was the Divine selection of a people, not to be for themselves favorites of God, but to be his light and salvation to the ends of the earth.
2. There was the wondrous deliverance of this people out of the oppressor's hand—from the land of Egypt. On this memory of a surpassing Divine power joined with Divine goodness, the historic Consciousness of the nation was based.
3. There was the desert discipline: the giving of the Law, the enforcement of holiness—chastisement, purification, education in obedience.
4. The expulsion of the Canaanite tribes and the foundation of a settled system of government. This, too, wan a great epoch; and Israel could not refer to it without the consciousness of her high mission as a nation—called of God to supersede the weak, effete idolatrous nations of the land, and to diffuse holier manners, purer laws.
5. The epoch of the kings. The brilliant but erring Saul; the hero David and his glorious era. Every nation has some similar or analogous points in its history on which its memory rests; landmarks of its way; prophetic moments containing the future; sowing-times for future harvests; endeavors towards an ideal. Think of our own Magna Charta, our Civil War, our Revolution, our struggle for existence, our chastisements, and our triumphs. Israel's history is the mirror in which every nation may view its own, and trace the hand of the same world-guiding providence.
II. THE CONSUMMATION OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY. In Jesus the line of Israel's greatness was continued. He was of the seed of David according to the flesh. There was an echo of glorious memories in him He came to revive the kingdom of David and the ascendency of Israel, although in a far different way from that expected by his countrymen. The testimony of the Baptist was mighty in favor of Jesus. No prophet in these latter days had commanded greater reverence than John the Baptist, the great religious reformer, a preacher of repentance. Now he had distinctly waived his claims to be the Messiah, and had pointed to Jesus; had retired before him with the most lowly confession of inferiority. When we see a great man sincerely willing to take a second place in the presence of a new-comer, it is a witness of the greatest moment to the latter's superiority. The highest human elevation of character—such as John's—can only bend before the Divine. "To you, then," may Paul well say to the Jews, "and that not on the ground of my assertion, but the witness of the greatest man held in honor by you, the second Elijah, is this salvation sent, this good news delivered."
II. THE CONDUCT OF THE SANHEDRIM TO JESUS EXPLAINED. Paul is aware that he has a great prejudice in the minds of his hearers to overcome—the great "scandal of the cross."
1. The ignorance of the rulers. They did not understand the voices of the prophets, nor the meaning of the Scriptures constantly read in their synagogues. But their ignorance was little excuse for them. They ought to have known better. If we choose to look at facts in one light only—that of our wishes or prejudices—we suppress a part of the truth; and when this suppressed truth rises up from an unexpected quarter to confront us, the sense of self-condemnation cannot be overcome. The Sanhedrim saw in Jesus the embodiment of suppressed truth, and they hated him. It was like the uprising of a ghost long thought to have been laid.
2. What they could not meet with reason they tried to quell by violence. Jesus was tried, with the result of establishing his innocence. No crime, no fault, no disobedience to the Law, no rebellion against order, could be proved. Yet he was handed to the Roman governor, and his death was a judicial murder.
3. Thus prophecy was unconsciously fulfilled. A suffering Messiah had been foretold, and had now been revealed in a death of martyrdom. Behind the innocence of the sufferer and the guilt of his murderers a purpose of eternal wisdom and love had wrought and fulfilled itself. It is this insight into Divine thoughts which can alone relieve the dreadful tragedies of human passions and events. While in one point of view the death of Jesus is a scene of horror and of darkness, and the thought of it a scandal to the Jew and a folly to the Greek, in another it is a revelation of a Divine love which conquers hate and forgives even guilty ignorance, and converts a revelation of weakness into a revelation of wisdom and of power.
III. THE RESURRECTION. Without this crowning fact the rest had been incomplete. A suffering Messiah would have been a witness of the peoples' sin; a Messiah rising triumphant over death could alone bespeak the victory of Divine love over human hate and sin. Here, then, comes the core of the message. The apostles can never forget that they are "witnesses of the Resurrection." And this was good news—the fulfillment of a promise made to the fathers in olden time. The apostles found in psalms and prophecies of the past which referred in the first instance to events then passing and persons then living, an ideal or prophetic element. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" these words, perhaps referable in the first instance to Solomon, can only in the apostolic thought be properly satisfied in Christ. And so with the other citation. The promise to continue the Divine covenant in the line of the kings is fulfilled above all in Jesus. We must recollect that the kingdom of Judah and the national life as a whole was ideal; that is, it pointed to meanings not at any time within the visible field of experience. If we grasp this thought, it may help us to understand how the apostles viewed Scripture, and how they quoted it; not so much for its literal and primary as for its spiritual and prophetic meaning. The Holy One of God was not to see corruption. But David passed away and mixed with dust. It is, then, in David's "greater Son" that this prophecy must be fulfilled, of an incorruptible and immortal life.
IV. THE REMISSION OF SINS. Through this risen One the blessed boon is proclaimed. The life, the death, the resurrection, would be simply a grand Divine drama, an object of contemplation, a piece of magnificent poetry, were there no practical result like this flowing from it. But it means victory and release from sin. Surrender to the Divine ideal, affiance in the Anointed of God, means deliverance and peace, not to be obtained by laborious obedience to the moral or ceremonial Law. Faith is whole-hearted surrender to the Divine Object. It is not a mere act of intelligence, nor yielding of the affections, nor decision of the will; but the giving up one's self to Christ. It is this which brings the full blessing of Divine peace upon the heart, and nothing short of this can do so.
V. FINAL WARNING. How shall men escape if they reject so great salvation? Refuse love, and wrath only can be expected. Similarly does Stephen's speech end with a sharp note of warning. Our heart is stirred by contrasted motives. We move between two poles of emotion. To be drawn by love is to be repelled by fear. The one motive or the other may have the greater weight with different minds, or with the same mind in different moods. Let us thankfully recognize that, whether the gospel touches the chord of love or of fear, it aims at our salvation. "Save, Lord, by love or fear!"—J.
The result of the preaching of Paul at Antioch was the conversion of many Jews and Gentile proselytes to the Christian faith. To these the exhortation, appropriate to all new converts, was given: "Abide in the grace of God."
I. THE GATHERING OF THE MULTITUDE. There is always some reason for the gathering of the crowd. Its fancy is easily excited. It is attracted by the wonderful and the novel. Here it was no mere sensationalism; it was the desire to hear the Word of God which drew them together. At its heart the multitude loves truth. Well it may; for it craves salvation from misery, and knows that this is to be found in truth alone. Often is the multitude deceived in thought, and mistakes sound for sense; but not for long.
II. THE RISE OF JEWISH ENVY. The causes of which are not difficult to explain. The new-comer has laid hold upon the people and gained their ear. It is at last the multitude to whom the teacher and the ruler must appeal, and from whom he must derive his influence. Popularity invites jealousy and attracts hate from the unsuccessful. Rare indeed is the magnanimity shown by John the Baptist: "He must increase, but I must decrease." To be willing that monopoly of privileges should pass away and that all should equally share the light and the love of God, is the spirit of the gospel, which opposes Jewish exclusiveness and jealousy.
III. THE DESTINATION OF THE GOSPEL.
1. First to the Jews. Not for their own merits' sake, but because of the promises of God, who cannot deny himself, and, despite our unfaithfulness, remains faithful. But the blessings of the gospel are freely offered to free men. They may, therefore, be rejected. In the freedom of choice lies bound- less possibility of good and boundless responsibility for evil.
2. Those who reject it are self east away. "Ye cast away yourselves, and do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life." It is never that God thinks us unworthy of the best, but that we do not rise to seek it. Self-neglecting, as the great poet teaches, is a viler sin than self- love. We prefer our prejudices to the truth, our passions and pleasures to God's will, the material to the spiritual and ideal good; and thus turn against ourselves in acts that are suicidal. Men shut themselves out of heaven while they shut themselves in with narrowness and contempt of truth.
3. Opportunity passes to those who are ready for it The Gentiles in their sorrow and depression, needed comfort, and greeted the … good news of the love of God. The kingdom of God and the mission of the Messiah were for all who needed its blessings. The gospel is a light and a saving power in mankind. Those who are satisfied with their own state, outward or inward, will turn away from it; they cannot relish a message which implies the inward misery of those to whom it is addressed. But the sad and the sick hail it with joy, and find in it the power of God unto salvation. And the Word of God spreads over the whole land.
4. The influence of women in the diffusion of Christianity. Women can powerfully help or hinder the course of any movement in the world, especially any religious movement. Here certain feelings in their minds are appealed to, antagonistic to the gospel. It would be easy to misrepresent it. These proselyte women might say that they had learned to be religious without the gospel, and what could it do more for them? Or it might be represented that it subverted sound piety, whereas it really fulfils every noble ideal learned elsewhere. Among the proselytes to Judaism we see elsewhere that it received a warm welcome. The lesson from such incidents is the practical one—that we should test any new teaching for ourselves, not accept reports at second hand. The seeming new is often not true; the new and the true are ever the fulfillment of the old.—J.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The gospel in Cyprus.
Break in the narrative, the second portion, referring to the missionary labors of St. Paul, reminding us that the chief purpose of the book is to describe the growth of the Church, not directly its constitution or doctrines or discipline. Notice—
I. THE TENTATIVE CHARACTER of this first missionary journey, which embraced Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, and so back through Attalia to Antioch. The Church at Antioch kept in view, and the report of the work brought back to it. This showed that the double aspect of the work was remembered—its bearing on the world and its bearing on the Church itself. All aggressive efforts should be thus held closely to the vital center of fellowship. Paul and his companions did not aim at preaching themselves, but Christ. So diffusion is strength, not weakness.
II. The faithful observance of the Lord's rule, TO THE JEW FIRST. Thus the mission of God's ancient people still recognized. The unity of truth. The continuity of grace. "Salvation is of the Jews."
III. THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF CYPRUS A TYPE OF THAT OF THE WORLD. Corrupt synagogues, side by side with heathen ignorance and superstition. Bar-jesus, or Elymas, between the Gentiles and Christ; false prophecy hiding the true. So in Europe during the Middle Ages. The infidelity which broke out in the French Revolution the natural product of a monstrous travesty of Christianity. Yet there is hope in "the men of understanding" to whom the gospel can appeal.
IV. MIRACULOUS MANIFESTATION brought in to break the spell of falsehood. Paul's first miracle. He wrought it when under the special influence of the Holy Ghost. No vindictive feeling in the apostle, but a simple obedience to the voice of the Spirit. The miracle was one of mercy, both as regards Sergius Paulus and the heathen population generally. Nothing would more open the way of the gospel. People that were accustomed to magic could be easily impressed by such a sign, especially as it fell on the sorcerer. May it not be that some such influences are to be watched against in modern society? Those in high station often listen to spiritualists, thinking to aid their own weakness by such means. Yet the wonders of the gospel far greater than all the deceits of false prophets. We may safely employ the feeling of astonishment, if only we sanctify it by the preaching of the Word.—R.
A rapid journey by sea and land.
Paphos to Perga. Perga through Pisidia to Antiochia, the northern extremity of the province.
I. JOHN MARK separated and returned to Jerusalem. Probably a failure of spiritual Courage. Yet notice the change which afterwards occurred. He is, according to many, the evangelist; perhaps Jewish in feeling, and hence attaching himself more to Peter. Sign of the Jewish prejudice still at work, and the difficulties in store for the Church.
II. The PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION of Paul for his entire devotion to the Gentiles.
1. There was no self-assertion in it. He simply followed the leading of events. We should watch the guidance of God in our work.
2. The attitude of the Jews of Antioch showed that the Word was brought to them in a respectful and reverent manner.
3. Glimpse into the synagogue life shows what an opportunity the Jews had among the heathen. The Law and the prophets still read. On that foundation -the gospel was placed. The Law was the schoolmaster to bring the nations to Christ, but the schooling was corrupt.—R.
Paul's sermon in the synagogue at Antioch.
I. The MAIN PURPOSE of it—to prove the Messiahship of Jesus, and therefore to proclaim the gate of life open. History of Divine grace pointing to clay of salvation. The course of thought in Paul's own mind, which led him to faith.
II. The MAIN STRENGTH of the argument—the facts of the Savior's death and. resurrection. Paul could speak with special emphasis, though prudently avoided bringing in at this point his own conversion.
III. The SPIRITUAL APPEAL twofold.
1. You need this salvation; for the Law of Moses will not justify you.
2. How can you escape if you neglect it? resist not the Holy Ghost.
IV. The MARKED EFFECT of sincerity and earnestness.
1. Inquiry. It is much to break through stolid indifference.
2. Devout attention led to faith. Many followed them; that is, declared themselves convinced. Fruit gathered even among the Jews.—R.
The character of David.
"And when he had removed him," etc. Divine testimony to the character as one of the most wonderful.
I. All grew out of CONSECRATED GROUND. No evolution explains such a man. The grace of God from a child. Converse with nature in his shepherd life (see Wordsworth's 'Excursion'). Forgetfulness of self. Patience. Courage and fortitude. But all led up to Divine anointing.
II. Fashioned by PROVIDENTIAL DEALINGS. Sufferings in the school of affliction. His discipline in conflict with Saul.
III. A MINGLED CHARACTER. Great faults beside great virtues. Tempted by luxury. Yet illustrating in his recovery that same grace which had raised him to the height. Goodness and severity of God. Our David is perfect.—R.
"Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren," etc. The change in the world since Paul was at Antioch; yet the proclamation as necessary as ever. The nearer we come to apostolic simplicity, the greater our success. Nothing but the gospel can accomplish the work, and that because it changes the heart through the forgiveness of sins.
I. The FREEDOM of the proclamation. Forgiveness, not purchased or wrought out, but simply announced.
II. The invitation to FAITH. Through this Man, whose Name can be published, whose authority we testify. Religion is not a self-constructed edifice of spiritual feelings to which the Name of Christ is attached to give it a Christian sanction; it is the fruit of faith, and faith is surrender to the authority of Christ.
III. Knowledge the root of RESPONSIBILITY. "Be it known unto you;" therefore as made known, take heed that you incur not the guilt of its rejection-. A very small amount of knowledge enough to point to the "Man Christ Jesus." But if the light be darkness, by neglect, perversity, prejudice, pride, how great that darkness!—R.
Jewish opposition overruled to the world's good.
I. THE TEST OF SINCERITY applied to the professedly zealous. The city stirred by those who "followed not with them." The true zeal is that which is actuated by the true charity, which "rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in truth."
II. The best success is that which is obtained by simply FOLLOWING DIVINE DIRECTION. "It was necessary" to encounter the prejudice of the Jews, but the work of the world's evangelization was promoted by the causes which seemed to thwart it.
II. THOSE THAT EXALT THEMSELVES ARE ABASED. To thrust opportunity away is to judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life. The facts will be condemnation, without human accusation.
IV. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL is its original charter of right to possession of all nations. The light was created before the sun, and the grace of God preceded the call of the Jews. The patriarchal religion testifies to the breadth of the message.
V. PERSECUTION is the last resort of defeated opponents of truth. When arguments fail, try abuse. The old priestly spirit at work, "urging on devout women."
VI. MOVEMENT is the law of life, If Antioch shuts its gates, Iconium opens a new sphere. The messengers must think first of the work—last of themselves. Ohne Hast, ohne Rast.—R.
"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost." At the conclusion of a narrative descriptive of varied experiences both of the messengers and of the Church.
I. THE JOY OF TRUE DISCIPLES IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLES.
1. Joy of personal faith, which is promoted by discipline. If all went smoothly with us we should lose strength by the ease and self-indulgence which we should be apt to cherish.
2. Joy in the spread of the Gospel The world opposes, false religion opposes, but the truth makes way.
II. THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY GHOST IS THE CHURCH, independent of human guidance, Paul and Barnabas expelled, but the disciples taught and led by the Spirit. We must not glory in men. The great resource of the Church is fellowship. Even the spread of truth largely independent of particular agencies. The Word speaks for itself. The Spirit works often without apparent use of human instrumentality.
III. THE UPLIFTED HEART AND THE UPLIFTED TESTIMONY. Joy and the Holy Ghost. We should show the world that religious joy is above all other. Victories, if given, should be recounted. We should often meet together to tell of Divine wonders. The bold and joyful spirit especially needful, as the present day is full of growing unbelief and indifference.—R.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
An ordination service.
This chapter is very interesting, as finding for us the real starting-point of Saul's grand missionary labors; as recording the change of his name to Paul (Acts 13:9); as altering the order hitherto observed in mentioning it, from "Barnabas and Saul" to "Paul and Barnabas" (Acts 13:2, Acts 13:8; comp. with Acts 13:13, Acts 13:43); and lastly, as forming the commencement of a long sketch of history almost exclusively occupied with his acts and career alone. For reasons which doubt- less came of the Holy Spirit, of his purpose, his motions, and his sanctifying guidance, Paul now takes the foreground and henceforth is kept in it. His early character and career had been marked, his "call" had been marked, his waiting and trial since had been marked, and now marked for ever on the page of Scripture and upon the genius of Christ's Church was the stamp of his work and devotion. The preamble alike of the chapter and of this long sketch of history is filled in with the very brief recital of the ordination of Barnabas and Saul to missionary labor. Let us observe what is distinctly recorded as the condition of things at this juncture, and what thereupon the course of things.
I. THE CHURCH APPEARS AS THE UNIT ECCLESIASTICAL. This is worth observing, if only for the honor thereby done the Church. But yet more for the suggestions that arise from it, as indicating that it is the point of departure condescendingly recognized by Heaven itself, by Christ and the Spirit—of duty, of work, of character, of privilege to men. Wherever the Church, it is the living center, where dwells the Spirit, around which warmest and most intelligent affection, devotion, and enthusiasm should gather, even beyond those owned to by David and the most pious of the Jews toward Jerusalem and Zion (Psalms 137:4-6). No metropolitan center of officialism, it purports to be and is ordained to be a living fountain head. This is the "rest of the Lord" (Psalms 132:8, Psalms 132:14). This is where his people find rest. This the spot from which the heralds of everlasting truth set out, and of which they say again and again, "All my springs are in thee" (Psalms 87:7).
II. EMPHATIC MENTION IS MADE OF FIVE MEN IN THE CHURCH. They are prophets and teachers.
1. Though every Christian man should be a spring of good to others and a true minister in the Church, the New Testament, far from dishonoring the idea of orders among those who compose it, here evidently enough countenances it.
2. The personnel of these five excites interest. Barnabas, who stands first, we know, and Saul, who stands last. Lucius is an African, and is mentioned again (Romans 16:21). The epithet attached to Symeon marks something interesting, though we cannot say certainly what. While a volume of interest underlies what is added to the name of Manaen! It is a signal ease, indeed, of "one being taken and the other left."
3. The holy engagements of these five men is emphasized. They are warming the fire; they are keeping warm the Church; they are prevailing in prayer with God; they are subduing the body and keeping it under subjection. How often might five men save and bless a Church, and call down richest blessing on it!
III. EMPHATIC HONOUR IS SET ON THESE FIVE MEN.
1. The Spirit "speaketh expressly" to them, in the midst of their prayer and fastings and devotion (Acts 10:3, Acts 10:4, Acts 10:10, Acts 10:19, Acts 10:30). It is possible that this occasion may have found the Church gathered together also, but it cannot be affirmed that it was so. Any way, there were more than "two or three gathered together in the Name" of Christ.
2. The Spirit speaks another "call" to them. The forces of the Church are growing. Two of the five are "called" to go far away to the Gentiles. The other three are "called" to "separate" the two designated for" the work." "Doubting nothing" and "without gainsaying," they do this. Still does the Spirit keep the choosing and the designating, and should be honored and glorified for doing so. And still does the Spirit delegate the outer and visible carrying out of his will to the ministers of the Church. Note:
(1) What a happy "separating" this compared with the many of which the Church, and, alas! the world, has heard, through all the succeeding centuries!
(2) The method of "separating" Barnabas and Saul. It is
(a) after fasting;
(b) by prayer; and
(c) with the accompanying sign of laying on of hands.
(3) The probable object and advantages of this service. If there seem any ceremony about it, it is not vain ceremony. It is full of meaning, and may be full of use and advantage.
(a) An object, high, holy, not self-serving, is very distinctly placed before those thus ordained.
(b) They are reminded that the eyes of witnesses are upon them.
(c) They are reminded that he who calls them to be "separated" will hear their call to him when perils abound, when flesh is weary, when the heart is sore and weary, when enemies press in, and when all things seem against them.
(d) They are taught that in this "one thing" they now do, their Master and their Judge, the one Being to whom they are responsible, is above, the great invisible but ever sympathizing One. How blessed and how useful have the memories of self-consecration often been in the subsequent periods of life! The heart has dwelt with them and been refreshed and enriched by them. And what added impression, stimulus, and sustained energy have often come to us in the memory of those, if only of earth, who once heard our vows and witnessed our consecration! But these have most possessed the heart and ruled it and governed it entirely, when to the rest has been added the unswerving conviction that the Spirit called, and that it was his call and nothing less than his, that we once heard and never could forget.—B.
Acts 13:11, Acts 13:12
Obstruction of the truth summarily visited: the blighter blighted.
We can imagine something of the earnestness of Barnabas and Saul as they set out on their new mission, feeling that they had "the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ" in their charge. Others felt this too, or, if they did not feel it, feared it. And one, in his iniquitous attempt to neutralize the force of it, courts his own discomfiture and strengthens the cause he had designed to undermine. Notice—
I. THE GUILT HERE PUNISHED. It has been already in trenchant language denounced (Acts 13:9, Acts 13:13), but deed is to follow word. The guilt had certain aggravations.
1. It is the guilt of a man averse himself to light and conviction.
2. It is the guilt of a man who was thus averse chiefly because he saw true light, would stop his dark ways and probably put an end "to his gains."
3. It is the guilt of a man who had loved it long, and long habituated himself to a career of deception of others and taking Heaven's Name in vain.
4. It is the guilt of one who, misled himself, sets himself to mislead others.
5. It is the guilt of one who would mislead another in matter of deepest, dearest, tenderest moment to him. 6. It is the guilt of one who will do this in those sensitive, critical moments when decision trembles in the balance, and his fellow man is looking to the light and inclining to Acts 2:7. It is the guilt of a man who will lay himself out to crush with tenfold vigor the events of the conversion of one whose good character, position, and influence would count for much if he should turn to the light. So correspondingly great would be the forfeiture and destruction of good, the responsibility of which would lie at the door of the tempter.
II. THE PUNISHMENT ITSELF.
1. Elymas has pretended, probably for a long, long time, to work signs and wonders among a deluded people. He shall now in punishment, incurred by the filling up of the full measure of his iniquities, learn what a real sign and wonder and miracle are, in his own painful experience. How much had he taken out of others in money and in credulity. He shall be reminded of the past.
2. He tried to keep another in the dark and amid the groping and the wandering. He himself shall know the grievousness of darkness and the humiliation of groping and the bitter dissatisfaction of the wanderer.
3. He tried to take away from another the help of a good strong hand divinely proffered him. He shall know what it is to have to beg the leading of even a human hand himself.
4. Yet hope and "room for repentance" are not pronounced for ever closed for Elymas. And the punishment awarded him is less than the injury he had sought to inflict—less by far.
III. THE LEADING EFFECTS OF THE PUNISHMENT.
1. It removes the transgressor off the ground.
2. It effectually confounds his endeavors, and turns him into an impressive witness to that truth which he had resisted for himself and tried to take the comfort of from another.
3. It produces strong faith and admiring astonishment and grateful acceptance of "the truth as it is in Jesus," on the part of the deputy threatened in his highest interests.
4. It leaves a long warning, in the stricken blindness of Elymas, though it was but temporary, of the verdict that Christ passes on the heinousness of that sin which consists in attempting to blight the opening religious growth and knowledge of any.
5. In the temporary character of the blindness of Elymas, provision was secured for a certain resuscitation of the whole matter, in his own memory and in that of many others, whensoever he might regain vision.
6. An evident proof is given how God both rules and overrules, can convert and does convert, all the efforts of his opponents against him "to the furtherance of the gospel." For this was literally the issue of the conduct of one whom not the bitterness of a prejudiced tongue, but the sober truth of an inspired apostle, describes as "full of all subtilty and mischief, a child of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness, and an unceasing perverter of the right ways of the Lord."—B.
Another faithful sermon to the Jew.
It is pleasant to observe the traces, in every possible place, of the grace still held out to the Jew. It vindicates with emphasis "the long-suffering" of God, and the continuing force of the dying prayer of him whom those Jews "slew and hanged on a tree." And, though in a less degree, it is pleasant to observe how messengers and apostles, when they reach a new town, pay their first visit to the synagogue. This very thing the Apostle of the Gentiles now does. It has been the order of the two companions since they set out from the former Antioch (Acts 13:4, Acts 13:5), but now arrived at "Antioch in Pisidia," and Paul distinctly taking the lead, the same course is observed. "Paul and his company" (Acts 13:13) "went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down." They are strangers, and "after the reading of the Law and the prophets," they are invited by the rulers of the synagogue to speak. Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7) sent for them when they were at Paphos, and "desired to hear the Word of God." And now again they spoke from all the better vantage-ground, in that they were invited to speak. The occasion proved a memorable one. And its memorableness turned on Paul's "word of exhortation" to a Jewish audience. Notice—
I. THE ONE DETERMINED OBJECT OF THIS "WORD OF EXHORTATION." (Acts 13:38, Acts 13:39.) It is to fix sole, undivided attention on the "Man" (Acts 13:38) Jesus, as the Obtainer of forgiveness of sins for men, though not himself necessarily the actual Forgiver, and as the Justifier of all men who believe in him, from the demands of responsibilities of which they would fain be free. This is the key-note of Paul's preaching, and we hear it distinctly sounded on this the first great occasion of his authoritative pronouncements. It marks the standpoint of his practical theology. And it is the burden of his apostolic mission. Nothing lies nearer his own heart, nothing is spoken more plainly on his lip, whether he converses with himself, a sinner, or would appeal to others, sinners. It is the core of the truth; it is the bone and marrow of the gospel itself. Therefore:
1. Paul preaches the "Man Christ Jesus."
2. Paul preaches him as the only One who obtains forgiveness for the burdened sinner.
3. Paul preaches him as the living, all-efficient Justifier of men before God.
4. Paul preaches him as the "red" (John 15:1), after all the typical and figurative (Acts 13:39).
II. THE STRAIGHT, DIRECT ROAD ALONG WHICH PAUL TRAVELS TO HIS ONE DETERMINED OBJECT. There is no touch of "the Socratic argument" here. Paul takes, it is true, a little while to reach his grand point. But he goes by no covert approach towards it. He paves the way, and may be said to smooth the way, but it is all in full daylight. The brief yet effective historical survey which Paul takes of Israel may be compared, for object and matter and manner, with those of Peter (Acts 2:1-47.) and (though in less degree) of Stephen (Acts 7:1-60.). Without invidiousness it may be said, however, that Paul's brevity, pointedness, trenchancy in this address, could not be surpassed. He introduces Christ, from the moment of God's election of Abraham to "the raising up Jesus again" from a death and grave which had set not one stigma of corruption on him. And in a moment or two he has confronted his whole audience in that Antioch synagogue with two portraits like life and life-size—the one the portrait of their "own nation and people, the Jews," and the other the portrait of the crucified, "dead, and buried," but risen One. This introductory survey of Paul owns to the greatest fidelity to fact and fidelity to the conscience of those who listened. The evidences of promise sacred to every memory, of genealogy that in point of fact had been as undisputed as it was indisputable, of prophet of old, of that greatest "prophet born of women" (Luke 7:28)—John the Baptist, of modern time, and of "sacred psalm," are all marshaled. And at present the effect seemed likely to be irresistible. The "men of Israel, and they that feared God" from happy association with them, and "the Gentiles," or some chance representatives of them, seem to be, not indeed chained to the spot (Acts 13:42), not entranced, not bewitched, but deeply impressed and thoughtful without being embittered.
III. THE FAITHFUL WARNING AND POWERFUL REMONSTRANCE THAT CLOSED "THE WORD OF EXHORTATION." The word of trumpet-warning is Paul's own. He clenches it, albeit, with quotation from "the Scriptures," which should add the force that comes of sacred reverence's claim. "Repent!" cried John the Baptist. "Beware!" cries Paul, "lest you fail to repent;" as so many had failed to do since John the Baptist's cry. They heard the quotation, and often as they had heard it before and knew it so well, or it would have lost much of its significance and aptness on the lip of Paul, they had never thought of it in this light, they had never dreamt it could have foretold of them or be any description of them. Yet what a wonderful picture it had been of a nation, for at all events some three years, and of their sons and daughters some thirteen years more already! What a true picture of that "highly favored" nation! They had beheld and despised; they had wondered and had—perished, yes, already too many of them—perished. And that from no convulsion of nature, or collapse of heaven, or irremediable pestilence, or sword of conquering foe, but because, though they were given to behold things that kings and prophets and righteous men of their ancestors for centuries had desired in vain, they "despised" what they beheld. So must perish all who will "in no wise believe a work which" Heaven itself works in the very midst of them, and which is "declared" to them with the voice of power, of love, of patient importunity, but is "despised and rejected."—B.
Present service, promised sleep.
This allusion to the known devotion of David during his life, and to his "rest from his labors" in the "sleep" that hid him awhile from life, has been introduced in connection with Paul's vindication of the resurrection of "the Man" Jesus—that cardinal fact of Christianity and conspicuous top stone of the multiform Christian edifice. This, foretold in the shape of a shadowy typical promise made to David, to lie like seed long buried, had of late sprung up and shown surprising blossom, and indeed had already borne glorious fruit, even in him who "rose from the dead" and "became the first fruits of them that slept in him." The allusion in itself meanwhile is grateful and instructive. And when the sun goes down brightly and purely then does this lesser light sparkle. It covers five practical suggestions.
I. THE PLAIN DUTY OF THE SERVANT OF CHRIST—THIS, TO "SERVE." This is a great word, a greater thing—to serve. Long time it was not so considered, till Jesus rose on the world, and, with ever-illustrious career of self-sacrifice, was among us as "he that served," and said it as well, "Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." He who bare our sins, who carried our sorrows, who suffered our stripes, who murmured, not beneath our infirmities, who staunched so many a bleeding wound of humanity, nor refused to stoop to wash and to wipe its hot and dusty feet,—he grafted this heavenly shoot on the wild, selfish, unpromising stock of human nature. And it is the memory of him, his obedience and his service and his devotion, that again and again reproduces the like, the vital motive of the humblest service and gladdest obedience of each true inmate of his Church. If any man would know the real secret of real position in the Church of Christ, let him learn:
1. To serve.
2. To serve Christ.
3. To serve him faithfully and closely and continuingly.
This man will find his way to serve his fellow men and "generation" without fail—the poor, the humble, the untaught, the sinful, and those who already with himself wait on one Lord.
II. THE RULE ACCORDING TO WHICH OUR SERVING MUST BE ORDERED—"BY THE WILL OF GOD." If we do really serve our generation, there can be no doubt that we are in the path of duty, and accordingly in harmony with "the will of God." At the same time, it is too possible to spend a large amount of time, of energy, of property, thinking you do God service, when you are doing no such thing. The safer way is to begin by seeing to it that the work is according to the will of God. This should be the very first thing in work, greater or less (1 Corinthians 10:31). So sang the quaint George Herbert, whose earthly song merged so well in the heavenly song, these two centuries ago—
"Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for thee.
"All may of thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean
But with this tincture—for thy sake;
Will not grow bright and clean.
"A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
"This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told."
It is most important to remember that very much in our serving depends on:
1. Our purpose to serve God's will. For God whose power to overrule is so often and so strikingly seen all-coextensive with his power to rule, often employs men to further his purposes, and to serve their generation, who never consecrated a single intelligent purpose or energy consciously to him. Far from such unconscious, ungrateful, even unwilling doers of his work should we be. The generation of such is indeed served, in one sense, according to God's will; but it is no thanks to them.
2. Our care to do the thing best approved as God's will. Right purpose and good intention have too often been the cover of a certain non-performance of the things that would be most true to the will of God. The will of God is to be consulted, not merely in the spring of our work, but carefully, humbly, all the way down the accomplishment of the purpose his grace may have originated in the heart.
III. THE HUMILITY WITH WHICH WE SHOULD SERVE. We are to serve "our own generation." A faithful memory of this will save:
1. Waste aspirations. Pride is often at the root of great desires, personal feeling the motive of great schemes, lack of humility the direct cause of idle disappointment.
2. Seeking the unattainable distant, instead of that which we may most certainly touch because it is close by us. The present time, the present place, the present task are the time, the sphere, the toil for the servant of Christ. Between dreams of the past and visions of the future, the priceless opportunity of practical duty has too often irrevocably slipped past.
3. Sighing for more strength, or more knowledge, or more wealth, instead of using at once our available strength, and improving soberly our given talents, one, two, or ten. There are many who wait for a showy-opportunity of serving Christ and his Church, with ears shut to one of the sweetest utterances that even he spoke, respecting the "cup of cold water;" and with eyes closed to the widow woman of the mite by the treasury, to whom the Lord did not close his eyes, and to whom he even called the attention of others.
4. An actual lessening of moral strength and diminishment of that enlarged opportunity which is the invariable sequel of faithfulness "in few things." The time is neither very slow in its coming nor at all doubtful when the shoulders of those who have been faithful in few things and in very little things bend beneath the weight of most honorable burdens of responsibilities. Not a few of those who once did on the humblest scale the work of their generation, and neither bargained for nor dreamt of posthumous fame, stand now in niches or aisles of the Church, and "dead, yet speak" with a voice to edify and to thrill generations to come. Of one such instance we know to a certainty, that of the woman who most spontaneously and at her own individual expense thought to serve her generation by richly anointing the body of her Lord so loved to the burying, and received the promise, now for two thousand years fulfilled, "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, there also shall this, that this woman hath done, be spoken of for a memorial of her."
IV. THE AMPLE ROOM TO SERVE—A GENERATION. Just now to serve only one's generation seemed little. But is it so? A generation. For what does the word stand?
1. For what an important length of time!
2. For what a multitude and variety of people!
3. For what a weight of solemn, thrilling interests in human affairs!
4. For what a trial of individual consistency and education of individual character! Only the infinite mind can read that volume through—the volume of one generation. Yes; there is no great distance to lend enchantment to the view, and no so picturesque vista, and no vague, flattering, indefinite scope; yet how full, how ample is the definite scope I "Blessed are those servants," who through a generation length, or from youth even to old age, are found in this sense, "expecting their Lord."
V. THE COMFORTING DESIGNATION GIVEN TO THE END OF SUCH A LIFE-SERVICE. "David fell on sleep." It is sweet language indeed. But how often we lose the sweetness of it! The servant of Christ need not call that death which bounds the days of earth and shuts the bodily eye to the light of an earthly sun. It is but night. Night, grateful night, bounds the day of life, speedily merging in that grandest morning, the morning of the resurrection. It is but sleep. Sleep in Jesus, equally deep, soft, restful, closes the eyes of his wearied servant, surely renews his youth, and soon wakes into life everlasting and the light that is in God's presence. Let us learn the name Jesus himself gave to death, and learn it to love it. Now we work, we watch, we pray—soon we shall sleep on and take our rest. And our awakening from it will be ineffable light and knowledge and love.—B.
Acts 13:46, Acts 13:47
"Ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life." The gentle, pitying character of the immense preponderance of the language of Jesus to men speaks and has ever spoken his condescending acquaintance with human nature, and his sympathetic acquaintance with those of the springs of human action that lie deep in feeling. His spirit in these respects was not altogether unworthily caught by his apostles, and notably by the one time disciple, now apostle, John. There came times and occasions, however, both in the converse of the Master himself with sinful men, and of his servants with their fellow-men, when words of kindness to the ear would be the very signal of unkindness to the soul and untruthfulness to its highest interests. And the plain and "bold" language of Paul and Barnabas now, needing no extenuation at our hands, and little enough of explanation, offers a forcible and most striking suggestion, how often, through all the coverings of gracious and forbearing language, the polished shaft of naked truth must be threatening to pierce, let the crash be what it may. The statement to which Paul now committed himself may be regarded as saying very significantly that,—
I. MEN NEVER MORE EFFECTUALLY PRONOUNCE JUDGMENT ON THEMSELVES THAN WHEN THEY ARE PRONOUNCING JUDGMENT ON CHRIST. This is true in two leading cases.
1. If men are pronouncing judgment unfavorable to Christ—as, for instance, in supposed answer to such a question as his own, "What think ye of Christ?"—they are pronouncing nothing less than decisive condemnation of themselves.
2. If they are humbly and in the genuine spirit of trying to feel their way, giving out from time to time some testimony of their growing and growingly grateful appreciation of Christ and of his truth, they then are proving their own growth in likeness to him. They are unconsciously giving the measure of how far the "day dawns" with them, and how high the "day-star arises in their hearts," or even how far they have got on that path which is like "the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
II. MEN'S PUTTING FROM THEM THE WORD OF GOD AS NOW GIVEN IN CHRIST IS DOING NOTHING LESS THAN PUTTING FROM THEM THE PROSPECT OF EVERLASTING LIFE.
1. The dogmatic tone of the apostle is to be noted. This is not the personal prerogative of Paul or of any one else; it is the claimed, asserted, demanded right of Christianity. Christianity gives its account of it, and a good and competent account. If this be not so, Christianity must go. But if it be so, he must go who will not have its reign over him.
2. Momentous and awful as is the issue to which Paul leaves now the refusing Jews, he lays the whole responsibility of it upon them. They were "filled with envy," they" spake against the things which were spoken by Paul," they "contradicted and blasphemed," they "put from" them the "Word of God;" and Paul rules that theirs is the undivided folly of forfeiting "everlasting life," as though they seriously "judged themselves unworthy of it."
III. THE SIMPLEST FACTS OF SOME SORTS OF HUMAN CONDUCTS WHEN TRANSLATED INTO WORDS, SOUND LIKE THE PUREST, MOST UNDISGUISED SATIRE. Nothing could be further from the pride and presumption of a Jew, of the type of those who were now before Paul, than to think himself "unworthy of everlasting life," or indeed of any other thing whatsoever, either great or good, which could be had. Yet nothing could be truer than that his conduct amounted to that, ran a terrible risk of ending in it, and, unrepented, unaltered, could in fact end in nothing else. For it may be stated thus—that
(1) the message of Christ,
(2) the credentials of every kind of Christ, and
(3) the deep, incontestable, universal needs of the heart and life of man, are such that, whether a man be Jew or Gentile, so only he be made fairly acquainted with Jesus and "the Word of God" in him, he is "inexcusable" if he "put these away from" him. The thing, it might be supposed, could rationally (though then not rightly) explain the conduct except it were the profoundest humility of a publican of the publicans. But this, we know, would forget the prayer of the publican, though it might commemorate his deepest humiliation of self-reproach and sense of "unworthiness." Yet is this too sadly often found the case with men in matters of religion. Without humility, they pursue a line of conduct which only the extreme of self-reproach could rationally and temporarily account for. Other reason, indeed, in very truth there may be, must be—unutterable folly, blindest infatuation, amazing recklessness, and uncalculating force of passion and envy, and withal guilt's own chosen particular type of hardness; these or their like must at the last be found answerable. But when they are summoned for their last answer, this will be the irony of their situation, that, furthest removed of all from pure and modest and self-upbraiding humility, they counterfeited it, and, in the name of that counterfeit, "would not come to Jesus that they might have life" everlasting. An inspired apostle gave this unexpected interpretation of the state of things in the instance before us; how many more such, alas! will "the day reveal"?—B.
The clash of two worlds in Christ.
It may certainly be said that the Jews had long been a world by themselves. In one fashion this had been the ordaining of Heaven itself, though they had wrested the true idea of things to a false. And in matter of fact, the whole of the rest of the earth had been another world. It was but too true now that places were to change, and, while the lofty fell, the lowly were exalted. The climax was scarcely reached as yet chronologically, but the passage of the history before us may most justly be looked at as setting forth very strikingly the climax in its nature. Notice—
I. THE OPENING SIGNS. The place is the synagogue, the place of the Jew. The service is on the sabbath, the service and the sabbath both of the Jew. The congregation is in the first place almost exclusively the congregation of the Jew and of those who had now some time been allied to him as proselytes. These had heard read the Law and the prophets, and had, in addition, heard thereupon exposition and exhortation, the freshest in style, from two of their own race. The service is over, and they leave, when
(1) in some form or another, by deputation or by the importunate acclamation of many together, the Gentiles beg that next sabbath they may be given to hear the same Word preached. It seems that their application was at all events not refused. But
(2) Paul and Barnabas turn not their back upon those who had been listening to them, nor give them any sign of the cold shoulder, but the contrary. They speak to them, and beg them to value and "to continue in the grace of God."
II. THE GREAT DISCLOSURE. The next sabbath day has come round. There is still a standing synagogue; there are still "Law and prophets and blest psalm;" there are still an ample number of Jews and of proselytes to make a congregation, and a good one. But the synagogue has come to look like an antiquated, useless, and quite disproportionate building. It is not equal to the needs of the day, nor anything like it.
1. "Almost the whole city is come together to hear the Word of God."
2. The second part of the great disclosure is that the Jews cannot take it with any equanimity even, that they are to be thus swamped by the outsiders. "Envy" rules them.
3. The third act in the disclosure is that they will try to resist the tide of a greater force than the ocean. They "speak against" what last sabbath they did not speak against. They commit themselves to speak against the word spoken by Paul, and they add contradiction and blasphemy.
4. And the fourth act in the disclosure is that Paul and Barnabas both close with them, no longer in argument—argument is waste when "contradiction and blasphemy" are begun—but in an authoritative and bold declaration of their own mission. The very hour has come to say that the privileges, long neglected and now refused, shall not waste nor be "drawn up again into heaven," but shall be fully, freely, publicly offered to all the world; "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Acts 13:47).
III. THE DAY'S ISSUE. It is threefold.
1. The strangers and outsiders are filled with gladness and gratitude. They do not refuse to take the "leavings" of haughty and exclusive Jews. Nor do they think them, call them, or find them "crumbs from the Master's table." No; they see their day, their opportunity, their feast, and, hungry, sit down to it as a banquet indeed. They are "glad;" they glorify the Word of the Lord;" they "believe;" they are "filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost." For they felt that that "day salvation had come to their house."
2. The disconcerted Jew, most disconcerted of all because he inwardly knew he had forfeited, of his own surrender, his chiefest blessing and distinction, will not let things lie. He will raise the "respectable," the "orthodox," part of the city, and even women of the devout and honorable, and chief men of the city, who "cared for none of these things" probably in their heart. And all these join to persecute the two men, Paul and Barnabas. And they expel them.
3. These two servants of Christ hear the echoes of a voice which perhaps they had not heard itself (Luke 10:11). And they hear the call of duty (Matthew 10:23) elsewhere, and do not forget that the time is precious, that daylight will soon have gone, and that it is theirs to "work while it is day."—B.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3
Human separation to Divine missions.
The point to which attention may be directed is that the living Lord, presiding in his Church, selects the persons to do his work, but requires the Church to make outward and formal recognition of his selection. Christ calls to work. The Church separates to work. This subject may be introduced by illustrations of the ways in which God was pleased to communicate his will under the older dispensations, as e.g. by the vision and message of angels, by the mission of prophets, by inward impulses. We may recognize a steady advance towards the more spiritual ways in which God communicates his will to the New Testament Church; sometimes directly inspiring the individual member; at other times revealing his will to some that, through them, it might be communicated to all. The indwelling Spirit is now the medium of Divine revelation to men. So indwelling, he becomes the constant inspiration of thought, feeling, judgment, and action. The Holy Ghost, conceived as the abiding Divine presence in the Church, said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." It has been suggested that the will of the Holy Ghost was known "through the lips of the prophets, speaking as by a sudden burst of simultaneous inspiration."
I. THE DIVINE ALLOTMENT OF WORK AND WORKERS.
1. God has a work for each one of his creatures to do. This truth is illustrated in the infinite variety of things which God has made on the earth. Each minutest creature has his place, his work, and his fitness for doing it. As we ascend in the scale of being, the work becomes more complex; and it is difficult for us to realize that the same thing can be true of man, who is endowed with self-will and is free to choose his own way. Yet we do hold that, in the Divine omniscience and government, a work is appointed for every man, and that, for the doing of that precise work, each man is brought into being at a particular time and endowed with particular abilities. A perfect order on earth could be attained if each individual fitted precisely into the place and work to which he has been divinely assigned.
2. But God not only has a variety of forms of work, he has a perfect knowledge of the men who can best do it. Sometimes the Divine sovereignty is spoken of in a way that cannot honor God. It is assumed that he acts upon a bare exercise of will, and without the necessity for consideration. But the case of our text rather shows that the Divine selections are always made upon due estimate of the fitness of the individuals. Barnabas and Saul were evidently just the men to undertake this new mission to the Gentiles. It follows from this view of the Divine calls to work that it can never be a true humility that refuses a Divine call; Moses and Jeremiah were both in the wrong when they hesitated and shrank back from a duty which God laid upon them. We may be quite sure that we can do whatsoever God requires us to do.
3. And it may further be shown that God has the full right to call forth any one of his servants to serve him in any way that he may please. Moses must come from the deserts, Gideon from the winepress, David from the sheepfolds, Elisha from his ploughing, and John from his fishing, if the "Lord hath need of him."
II. THE HUMAN RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE ALLOTMENT. It may be said—Is not the Divine allotment of workers and their work sufficient? and why should more than this be necessary? In reply, it may be pointed out that God deals with us as communities, and recognizes our mutual relations, and our influence one upon another. For the sake of the blessing which one man's call may be to many, he requires that it shall be publicly and openly recognized. In this way his claims, his presence, and his abiding relations to all work and workers may be freshly impressed upon the Church. Ordination and dedication services are fruitful in blessing to the Churches. It may be well to point out:
1. The value of forms, services, and devout ceremonials.
2. The most profitable and helpful forms such services may take, noting and explaining that, in the ordination of Barnabas and Saul, there was union in fasting and in prayer, with the solemn "laying on of hands."
3. The purposes that may be served by such public dedications—
(1) increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the persons dedicated;
(2) assured interest of the congregation in their work;
(3) impulse to others to devote themselves to Christian work.—R.T.
Acts 13:2, Acts 13:4
The presidency of the Holy Ghost.
"The Holy Ghost said;" "Being sent forth by the Holy Ghost." Seriously erroneous views of the presidency of the Holy Ghost in the Christian Church or Churches make it necessary that the true and scriptural teaching on the subject should be explained. It is assumed, by some sections, that this presidency secures the absolute truth of whatever may be said at such a meeting, and the infallibility of every decision to which such a meeting may be led. But the Holy Spirit is not present to secure results, only to guide deliberations. God is present with man in no such sense as involves the mastery of man's free thought and will, and changing him into a mere created thing. The distinction is an essential one, though it may be difficult to grasp. We may illustrate from the relations between the branch and the vine. The life in the branch is the life of the vine; but the branch is free to take its own shapings under various external influences. At the same time, it is still true that the vine-life controls and overrules the very shapings of the branch, in its own secret ways. Presidency, inspiration, guidance, and control we may have in the abiding and indwelling Holy Ghost; but infallibility for the individual, the community, or the Church, it is no part of his work to ensure. Considering what may be learned concerning the presidency of the Holy Spirit from the Scriptures, we notice—
I. THE FIGURE AS SEEN IN THE OLD PROPHETS. Divine communications were made, in the earlier days of the world, to individuals upon due occasion, and oracular responses were made by the high priest, through Urim and Thummim. But in the times of the prophets we meet with a most important advance in the Divine relations. More or less constantly God dwells with and abides in those prophets, and their relation to the Divine was the foreshadowing and preparation for the abiding relations of the Holy Ghost with the believer and the Church. The "Word of the Lord" came to the prophets, but, besides this, there was an openness and sensitiveness to Divine leadings which could be thus expressed: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me." Other points will come out upon a study of the nature of prophetic inspiration, and especially this one, as bearing on the point now before us, that the Holy Ghost used the individuality of the prophet, and became only the life and force behind it, and so prepared for the Christian times when, in this way, all the Lord's people are prophets. The progression of Divine truth is well illustrated in the history of the relations of the Spirit of God with men.
II. THE FACT AS REPRESENTED IN THE THEOCRACY. The very essence of the idea of the theocracy was the invisible presence and rule of God with men. God was with them—always with them. Yet they never saw him. Somehow he was in them. He knew all their concerns. He was appropriately affected by all their doings. He could be "grieved," "quenched," "resisted," and even "driven away." Present with them, he inspired and guided all the national life; he toned and sanctified all the family and social life. The sublimest sentiment of Mosaism was that of the indwelling presence of Jehovah. Then, when the fullness of times came, the Jehovah-figure could pass aside, with its kingliness and mystery, giving place to the Father (holy Father, righteous Father); and the sense of God's near presence and close though invisible relations could be realized in the conception of the abiding, indwelling Holy Ghost, who leads us into all truth and righteousness.
III. THE FEELING AS REALIZED IN A MOVING AND GUIDING OF OUR JUDGMENT, WILL, AND RESOLVE. In seeking to avoid the merely sentimental, we must take heed that we miss or undervalue no truth. And Christian experience abundantly confirms the position that there is a most real sense in which open hearts feel the inward movings of the Holy Ghost, and may rely on the Divine inward guidance of judgment and will. The Church, too, may plead that her experience confirms the testimony of the individual Christian. This subject should be so treated as to deal with men's practical difficulty—How can we know we have Divine guidance in our business and family affairs now? If God's Spirit dwells in us, we now have the actual inspiration and direction of our judgment, will, purpose, and decision.—R.T.
Seekers after God.
This passage introduces to us a Roman official, speaks of him in generally good terms as a "prudent man," but lets us know something of his secret feelings and his unrest of heart, by adding that he "desired to hear the Word of God." The way in which heathen religions prepared the way for the gospel is often pointed out, but we have not yet adequately apprehended the fact that a Divine work of preparation was carried on in many heathen souls; such instances as this of Sergius Paulus being properly treated as prominent examples of a general fact. It is to the yearning of the heathen heart for the true God and the eternal life that St. Paul makes his appeals; and in later missionary work remarkable instances have been met with of soul-seeking for God, before the missionaries brought the gospel light. We ought, indeed, to expect to find men everywhere seeking after God, seeing that "he hath made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the earth," and has never "left himself without a witness;" but a conception of the exclusiveness of the revelation in Christ has so occupied Christian thought that the noble conception of Christ's revelation as the ultimate issue and completion of all other revelations, is only now gaining acceptance. Men have so strongly felt the antagonistic sides of the heathen religions that they have failed to ask whether earnest souls within utterly corrupt systems may not be
"Infants crying in the night;
Infants crying for the light;
And with no language but a cry."
Dean Plumptre gives an interesting inscription—the date of which is, however, uncertain, and may be of the second or third century after Christ—found at Galgoi, in Cyprus, which shows a yearning after something higher than the polytheism of Greece. It reads thus: "Thou, the one God, the greatest, the most glorious Name, help us all, we beseech thee." The unrest and anxious inquiring of Sergius Paulus are farther indicated in the fact that he had come into the power of Elymas the sorcerer, who evidently persuaded him that he could settle all his doubts. The subject introduced by this incident may be considered under the following divisions:—
I. THE NATURAL DISPOSITION OF MAN TO SEEK FOR GOD. Remember St. Augustine's words, "Man is made for God, and can find no rest till he finds rest in him." Seeking God is necessary to the dependent creature, who must lean, and must find some one on whom he may perfectly lean. "A belief in some personal power, the arbiter of man's destiny, above and beyond himself, is a primary necessity of the human mind. Mankind can never dispense with this belief, however superfluous in certain cases and for a time it may seem to be to the individual" (Canon Farrar). Much has been made of the fact that some tribes of men have been found which had no name for God, and indeed no knowledge of him or concern to hear about him; but it may fairly be urged, from the utterly degraded condition of these tribes, that men have never lost their care for God until they have virtually lost their manhood. Degraded to be like the beasts, they cease to have uplooking eyes and yearning hearts. Humanity is knit in brotherhood by its great united cry for its Father.
II. THE THINGS THAT MAY TEMPORARILY SATISFY THE SEEKING. These take one of three forms; either:
1. The absorption of a man in purely material and selfish interests, which may overlay and crush down the soul's great needs; just as now the world and its business and pleasure so often silence the soul's cry in the Christian.
2. The teachings of a philosophy which attempts to put "thoughts" and" ideas" in the place of a living being.
3. So-called false religions, which give unworthy views of God, but, by ceremonial, seek to satisfy the religious instinct. Such religions offer, what man appears to need, a doctrine about God, and a cult or worship of him. It may be shown that, in subtle forms, men are enticed from their seekings, even in these Christian days, by one or other of these evil influences.
III. THE UNREST WHICH SOONER OR LATER RETURNS. For man can only find permanent rest in that which is true. The false has no "staying power." It may seem to fit at one time, but life advances, new needs arise, new thoughts stir within, and the false theory will no longer serve,—the man finds himself looking out again, as anxiously as in the early days, and with the feeling that life is passing and the time for the quest is brief, for the truth and God wherein are final rest. Sooner or later a man wakes up from his sleep of delusion, feels the darkness all about him, and puts out his hand, feeling after God, if haply he may find him. The unrest that surely comes to men within the world's care and pleasure, within skeptical philosophies, and within merely ceremonial religions, is our constant plea for the preaching of the gospel and the revelation to men of God, in Christ manifest.
IV. THE RESPONSE WHICH GOD SURELY MAKES WHEN A WHOLE SOUL IS TURNED To HIM. He waiteth to be gracious, stands at the door ready for the opening, really wants every man to be saved, in the mystery of his great Fatherhood has a real need of souls, desires their love, finds his own joy in their trust, and so is sure to respond when men turn and seek him. And finding God, and coming into personal relations with him, is the end of man's quest. Against God, and everything in life is hard and dark and wrong. Apart from God, and all life and relations lie bathed in the lurid glow of stormy passion and self-will. With God, and earth, life, duty, and fellowship catch the soft, sweet sunlight, and everything takes on its beauty and perfection. If we have God we have all; and we have all in God, in the God whom St. Paul preached, of whose glory Jesus the Man is the express and blessed image.—R.T.
Acts 13:24, Acts 13:25
John Baptist's relations with Christ.
These verses are part of an address which should have peculiar interest for us, seeing it is the first recorded speech of St. Paul the missionary, and gives us intimation of the points which were prominently before his mind as the themes of his ministry. It is singular to find St. Paul from this time more prominent than the eider man, Barnabas. It may be an example of the commonly observed fact that, sooner or later, the man of power and adaptation comes to the front place. St. Paul's power as a speaker is shown in this address. He was not a rhetorician, and was only in the higher sense eloquent. He was too intense to be careful of mere form, and his speech was always liable to sudden breaks and halts, through the rapidity with which new thoughts were suggested and side issues forced into consideration. His power lay in the intensity of his convictions, which gave a dogmatic and convincing force to the expression of his views; and in his strong sympathy with his audience, which made him quick to adapt himself to them, and so to press home his thought. In this address we may notice:
1. His characteristic attitude, standing up and beckoning with the hand (Acts 17:22; Acts 21:40; Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:1; Acts 26:1).
2. His conciliatory introductions: he always strives first to be sure of a common platform with his audience.
3. His skill in dealing with the early histories; which served his purposes in two ways—
(1) by securing the attention of his Jewish audiences, which are to this day always pleased with reviews of the national history; and
(2) by bringing out the preparatory character of the earlier dispensation, and fitting his gospel message to it as a completion.
4. His firm handling of the facts connected with the mission of Jesus of Nazareth: his innocence; his death as a victim of ecclesiastical enmity; his resurrection.
5. His simple offer of pardon and life in the name of the glorified, living Savior. It is not conceivable that the gospel, in its very essence, can be more succinctly expressed than it has been by the Apostle Paul, in his missionary speeches (see especially here verses 26, 32, 38, 39).
6. His force of passionate pleading and application of the truth to individuals, as shown in verses 40, 41. It is to be noted that St. Paul always makes his appeal to both the intelligence and the heart, and the verses now before us for consideration show how he offered proofs of his statements which were well within the comprehension of his audience. A sentiment prevailed generally among the Jewish race concerning John the Baptist. St. Paul takes advantage of it, and shows how John gave his indirect and direct witness to the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. It may be true that John's testimony to Jesus was of more value to a Jewish than to a Christian audience, but we question whether sufficient has ever yet been made of it as one of our best evidences to the truth of Christianity. Three things require careful study and efficient illustration.
I. JOHN'S PROPHET-CHARACTER. In fixing attention on John the Baptizer, men have lost sight of his more important relations as John the Prophet. "All men counted John as a prophet," the last of the line of men whom God was pleased to raise up, for a time, as the expounders to men of his will—the voices that spoke to men his message. It was the very essence of the prophet that he had a message from God to deliver, and a right to arrest men and compel them to listen to it. John's message was his mission, and his baptizing rite was but an accident or mode of expressing and sealing his message. We should ask—What did John say to men in the Name of God? not, What rite did John perform?
II. JOHN'S PREPARATORY WORK. This St. Paul dwells on. John never assumed that he had a message complete in itself, or that what he demanded was all, or even, the greatest thing, men needed. He was a herald, but his heralding assumed the close approach of the King. He was a mender of ways, but only to get ready for the royal progress. He demanded repentance, but only that men might be ready to receive the forgiveness and life which the King was coming to bestow. To stop with John is on the face of it absurd. There is no going on from John save to Christ.
III. JOHN'S DIRECT TESTIMONY. There should have been no need for this. And yet it forms a most valuable link, especially to Jews. John witnessed plainly that he had prepared the way for Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Lamb of God to take away sins, and that God had given to him visible and audible testimony that Jesus was the expected Messiah and Savior. Accept John as prophet, we must accept Jesus as Messiah.—R.T.
Serving one's generation.
Literally, "ministered to his own generation." The place of this text in St. Paul's address should be noticed. In it he reaches the height of his argument. The passage is an endeavor to show that Old Testament prophecy could not be exhausted in the persons whom its first reference might seem to concern. It was not even true if its applications were thus limited. Its references were to Messiah; they all met in Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore he must be acknowledged as Messiah. He presented to his audience one crucial test. David says in one psalm, "Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Now, could that possibly be limited in its application to David himself? Our text is the overwhelming answer: "David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption." The words could only be true of Messiah. They were true of Jesus of Nazareth. The seal of his Messiahship was his resurrection. We fix attention now on the description given of David as a man who "served his own generation." Dean Plumptre says, "There is, perhaps, a suggested contrast between the limits within which the work of service to mankind done by any mere man, however great and powerful, is necessarily confined, and the wide, far-reaching, endless ministry to the whole human family which belongs to the Son of man." If God is pleased to spare a man so long as to reach the fullness of old age, that man really lives through nearly three generations; and yet it is only upon one of them that even he can exert an active influence. The first generation moulds him, with its various educational forces. The second generation he may distinctly impress with his own individuality; of it he may become one of the potent forces. On the third he can only exert a passive influence; he is, for the most part, out of sympathy with it, and he presently finds that he had better step aside, and let the current of life and thought pass on. No matter how long we may live, no one of us can influence more than just our one generation of thirty years or more. Some men serve their generation by being before it, and giving expression in it to the thoughts and truths and sentiments which properly belong to the age that is yet to be. Such men do a great work by anticipating the coming time and preventing the transitions and changes from becoming too abrupt. Such men must accept the peril of being misunderstood, and called hard names until they die, and the new generation recognizes in them its heroes, forerunners, and apostles. Some men belong precisely to their own generation: they are exactly adapted to it; they never get beyond it; they are born into its thought and feeling; they live in it, work for it, worthily express it, and pass away with it; usually leaving no name only the good fruitage and the silent seeding of their good works. These are the thousands of the unknown ones, but they are the "salt of the earth." And some men seem to be always in the past generation. Their thoughts and feelings all belong to times past and gone. A queer, old-fashioned life they live amongst us, and their very talk sounds strange. And yet these links we need, lest, in the pride of our present attainments, we should try to break the bonds of the holy and the good that have gone on before us. No generation dares forget the past out of which it has come. But no generation can afford to keep only a downward and a backward look; it must lift up its head, peer away yonder, and hail the "good time coming." We may all serve our generation in three ways.
I. WE MAY WITNESS FOR GOD IN IT. Every generation wants men and women who really believe in God, and make it plain to everybody that they do believe in him. In one form or in another, the belief in the living God is put in peril in each succeeding generation. Sometimes the unbelief is intellectual, and sometimes it is practical; but every generation produces its "fools" and its "wicked," who secretly or openly say, "There is no God." Then we may minister to our generation by a clear and constant witness to the living God; not as by our word only, but by the impression we make on men that we are actually living under the "great Taskmaster's eye;" by the signs we show that all our life is spent in his fear; and by the tone of all cur thought, relationship, and duty, which plainly indicates the abiding sense of his presence. Thus David served his generation, bringing the sense of God to men whenever he came into relations with them; and it is the honor of Mohammed that he laid this down as the very foundation of Islamism, "There is no God but God."
II. WE MAY SERVE OUR OWN GENERATION BY BEING OUR BEST POSSIBLE IN IT. For every generation needs, in all its spheres, such models and examples as may be to it a constant inspiration. And exactly what we all may do, wherever our lot is cast, is this—keep the moral standard up, and raise the moral standard higher. And this can only be done by lives, by examples, by personal character. What we are may be the leavening force of our generation in our sphere. But it would seem that, in this respect, David sadly failed. We cannot say that he served his generation by being the best possible in it. And yet, maybe, if we rightly knew his age, we might come to feel that he did Even taking into account his grievous fall, the main current of his life was, to his people, a high and inspiring example; a stream of influence that made for righteousness. And certainly we may find the perfect example of the "best" in David's greater Son.
III. WE MAY MINISTER TO OUR GENERATION BY MANFULLY RESISTING THE EVILS THAT MAY AFFLICT IT. For every generation has its conflicts, and wants its holy warriors, its brave soldiers, as well as its noble leaders. Evil is active in every age. The enemy of God and righteousness "goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." It is true that we best oppose to evil the solid, steadfast, quiet persistence of godly character; but we are not fully faithful to our God or our generation if we let any phase of social, political, or moral evil grow up in our midst unchallenged and unresisted. And in this our Lord has left us his holy example. There is a sublime force in his fearless denunciations of Pharisaic conceit and Sadducean laxity. He always called things by their right names, and sought, with wholesome reproofs and warnings, to purify a corrupt generation. And the man who faithfully serves his generation may be sure of this—his influence will never fade out, will never die. And God will show one day how he helped on his kingdom of righteousness and peace.—R.T.
Forgiveness of sins.
To illustrate how the gospel message has ever borne on this "forgiveness of sins," compare for the teaching of John the Baptist, Mark 1:4; Luke 2:3 : of our Lord himself, Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:6; Luke 7:47; Luke 24:47 : of St. Peter, Acts 2:38; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43. See another instance of St. Paul's teaching on the subject (Acts 26:18). Taken with its context, the passage is a striking one, as showing how deeply St. Paul was, from the first, impressed by the fact that the Mosaic Law was inefficient as a guide to true righteousness; and by the fact that forgiveness, as an act of grace, and not bestowed on any form of human merit, was the very essence of the gospel announcement to men. This subject is, however, so familiar, that there seems little need for more than the suggestion of an order in which thought may hopefully be guided.
I. DISTINGUISH SINS FROM CEREMONIAL OFFENCES. Observe the distinction so carefully made in Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 9:23; and note:
1. Ceremonial offences are limited by human regulations; sins are indicated by Divine Law.
2. Ceremonial offences concern only such persons as come under the ceremonial rules; sins attach to all mankind, because related to God's moral law for all his creatures.
3. Treatment of ceremonial offences may illustrate, but can only illustrate, Divine methods of dealing with sin.
4. Sins, and not ceremonial offences, are dealt with by the Heaven-sent Savior. The heinousness, hatefulness, and evil influences of men's sins may be shown, and the greatness of a redemptive scheme that can meet all the mischief caused by sin, should be explained.
II. FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS MAN'S SUPREME WANT. Not man's only want, but the real root of all his wants, because other right relations can only follow on his right relations with God. Sin is, in essence, self-will, and finds expression in rebellious actions; therefore the way of the removal of sin must be repentance, which is the humbling of the self-will, and forgiveness, which removes the expressions and consequences of the self-wilt. It may be that man's sin was at first pressed home upon men by the apostles in its greatest manifestation—the rejection and crucifixion of the Son of God; but this supreme act of iniquity did but reveal the utter baseness, badness, and corruption of the human heart and life. On this point see the teachings of St. Paul in Romans 3:9-19.
III. SUCH FORGIVENESS IS ADMINISTERED BY THE RISEN CHRIST. Prospectively, he had power on earth to forgive sins, but in that he did but declare his right, and illustrate the power he now has to "give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins." Direct from the living Savior to the sinner's own soul must now come the message of Divine forgiveness. On the basis of his finished and accepted sacrifice, to our Lord Jesus Christ is now entrusted the power to grant absolution and remission of sins to all who "truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel." And the declaration to men of a full and free forgiveness, actually now ministered to them by the living Savior, as the beginning of his proposed work of delivering them from all sin's power and thraldom, is the very point of the message which we must bear to men. Not men's frailties only, nor men's mistakes, nor men's intellectual errors, nor men's hereditary tendencies, nor men's faults in the eye of "class" or "society;" but distinctly men's sins, men's wilfulnesses, and wickednesses, and defiances of God, and breakings of law, and crucifying of God's Son,—these, the infinite love has found out how to reach; and it speaks from the lips of the "once dead, but now risen, living, and glorified Christ," free, full forgiveness of all, even the blotting out for ever of scarlet and crimson stains.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Acts 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34