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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Acts 14

 

 

Verse 1

And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.

At Iconium, Meeting with Similar Success and Similar Opposition as at Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas Flee for their Lives to Lystra, and Preach There ()

And it came to pass in Iconium (as to which, see the note at Acts 13:51), that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews (see the note at Acts 13:46), and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed - meaning, no doubt, the religious proselytes, as distinguished from the pagan population of the city, now to be mentioned. As this discourse would be in substance the same as at Antioch in Pisidia, the historian records only the fruit of it; and this method he follows in all the subsequent history, until he comes to the apostle's address to his countrymen from the castle stairs, which was too important in itself, and too different from all his preceding discourses, not to be given in full.


Verse 2

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.

But the unbelieving Jews , [ apeitheesantes (Greek #544) is preferable to-thountes of the Received Text] - rather, 'the disbelieving Jews;' for the word means, to 'disbelieve,' 'refuse compliance,' or 'be disobedient' (and by this last word is often rendered in our version). It expresses positive disbelief of the Gospel.

Stirred up the Gentiles [ toon (G3588) ethnoon (G1484), 'the pagan,'] and made their minds evil affected (or 'embittered them') against the brethren - the converts as well as the preachers.


Verse 3

Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Long time therefore abode they - because, in spite of the opposition, their success was so great;

Speaking boldly in the Lord , [ epi (Greek #1909) too (Greek #3588) Kurioo (Greek #2962): cf. Luke 4:4, ep' (Greek #1909) artoo (Greek #740)] - meaning, 'in dependence' or 'in reliance on the Lord;' that is, the Lord Jesus,

Which gave testimony unto the word of his grace - a notable definition this of the Gospel (as Bengel remarks), whose whole burden is GRACE,

And granted ('granting') signs and wonders - that is, gave miraculous attestation to it

To be done by their hands. [The kai (Greek #2532) before didonti (Greek #1325) in the Received Text, is evidently not genuine.]


Verse 4

But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.


Verse 5

And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,

And when there was an assault made. The word [ hormee (Greek #3730)] properly signifies 'a rush,' 'onset,' or any impetuous movement. But here it can scarcely mean so much, since they had time to consider what to do, and actually escaped it. Probably it denotes some organized movement with a view to set upon them.

Both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully (or 'insult'), and to stone them - on which, see Paley's observation in Remark 4, at the close of this section.


Verse 6

They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:

They were ware of it , [ sunidontes (Greek #4894)] - rather, 'they reflected on,' or 'considered it' (as in Acts 12:12; that is, considered whether it were wiser to brave or to bend to this gathering storm;

And fled (according to the direction, Matthew 10:23) unto Lystra and Derbe - the one some 20 miles to the south, the other about 60 miles to the east of Iconium, somewhere about the bases of what is called the Black Mountain and the roots of Mount Tanrus; but their exact position has not yet been discovered.

Cities of Lycaonia - a wide district of Asia Minor, lying between Phrygia, Cilicia, and Cappadocia, "and unto the region that lieth round about:"


Verse 7

And there they preached the gospel.

And there they preached the gospel.

At Lystra, Paul having healed a born cripple, the people are scarce restrained from sacrificing to them as gods ()


Verse 8

And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:

And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb [ huparchoon (Greek #5225), after meetros (Greek #3384) autou, is evidently not genuine]

Who never had walked - [ periepateekei (Greek #4043)] preferable to Tischendorf's aorist, [ periepateesen (Greek #4043).]


Verse 9

The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,

The same heard Paul speak. There being no mention of a synagogue, probably the Jews here were too few to have one. The apostle, therefore, seeing this cripple seated-and possibly having a presentiment that the power of the Lord would be present to heal him by his instrumentality, and thus make way for the truth into the peoples hearts-may have gathered a knot around this spot and addressed them.

Who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed. In all likelihood the apostle looking to this born cripple, would dwell on the Saviour's miracles of healing, and the grant of the same power to His chosen witnesses, as evinced by Peter's healing the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple (Acts 3:1-8), and possibly also Aeneas (Acts 9:33). And perceiving from the eagerness with which the helpless man drank in his words, that he was prepared to put his own case into the Redeemer's hands, the Spirit of the glorified Healer came upon him, and he


Verse 10

Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. The effect was instantaneous and the cure perfect.

And he leaped (or sprang up) and walked. [The spring, being one act, is put in the aorist - heelato (Greek #242) not heelleto, as in the Received Text; whereas the walk, being continuous, is in the imperfect, periepatei (Greek #4043).]


Verse 11

And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 12

And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

And they called Barnabas, Jupiter - the father of the gods, (as Chrysostom thinks) from his commanding mien.

And Paul, Mercurius - the messenger and attendant of Jupiter, and the spokesman of the gods. This latter character was that which suggested the application of this name to Paul, "because he was the chief speaker."


Verse 13

Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.

Then the priest of [the image of] Jupiter, which was [erected] before their city - or 'the city' (according to the better reading) that is, at the gates and in front of the city, as its tutelary deity,

Brought oxen and garlands unto the gates - not oxen domed with garlands (as DeWette and others), but oxen for sacrifice, and garlands to decorate probably the altar, the temple, and those engaged in the service.

And would have done sacrifice, (along) with the people , [ tois (Greek #3588) ochlois (Greek #3793)] - 'the crowds.'


Verse 14

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

[Which] when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of. Here the name of Barnabas, for once since the scene before the proconsul of Cyprus, is put first-evidently because the historian had just before stated that the Lycaonians had given to him the name of Jupiter, who, as compared with Mercurius (the name given to Paul), behoved to take the precedence. On the apostleship of Barnabas, See Remark 8, at the close of this section.

They rent their clothes - the ancient Oriental way of expressing intense grief,

And ran in among the people , [ eisepeedeesan (Greek #1530)] - but the true reading evidently is, 'ran out' or 'burst forth [ exepeedeesan (G1600a)] into the crowd,' "crying out."


Verse 15

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? This was something more than that abhorrence of idolatry which took possession of the Jews as a nation from the time of the Babylonian captivity: it was that delicate sensibility to everything which affects the honour of God, which Christianity-giving us in God a reconciled Father-alone can produce; making the Christian instinctively feel himself to be wounded in all dishonour done to God, and filling him with mingled horror and grief when such gross insults as this are offered to Him. We also are men of like passions with you , [ homoiopatheis (Greek #3663) humin (Greek #5213) anthroopoi (Greek #444)] - 'men of like nature (or similarly constituted) with yourselves.' (The phrase, "like passions," is correct enough, if understood in a physical sense-as implying like infirmities-but not in the moral sense.) How unlike either imposture or enthusiasm is this, and how high above all self-seeking do these men of Christ show themselves to be!

And preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities - the familiar and most expressive name in the Old Testament for idols of every sort.

Unto the living God - [ epi (Greek #1909) Theon (Greek #2316) zoonta (Greek #2198) is better supported than the emphatic form of the Received Text ton (Greek #3588) Theon (Greek #2316) ton (Greek #3588) zoonton (Greek #2198).] This is the most glorious and distinctive of all the names of God; expressive of that which separates Him infinitely not only from all dead idols, but from all pantheistic conceptions of Him, which confound and identify Him with the works of His hands-His "having life in Himself," as the great Fontal Principle of life in His creatures-life conscious and personal-life essential, independent, eternal, changeless-in virtue of which we, who are a faint shadow of Himself, as living persons, are able to hold rational and intelligent fellowship with Him, spirit with Spirit. These are the household words of Bible truth; but to all beyond its pale they are an unknown tongue: and not more so to the rude barbarian than to the cultivated and refined philosopher. Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:9.

Which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein. This idea of creation utterly unknown alike to rude and to cultivated paganism, would not only define what was meant by "the living God," but open up a new world, on after reflection, to the more thoughtful part of the audience.


Verse 16

Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways - that is, interfered not with their own unaided search after truth and happiness, by extending to them the Revelation which He had vouchsafed to the seed of Abraham (see the note at Acts 17:30; and 1 Corinthians 1:21). And yet, not without guilt on their part was this privation (see the note at Romans 1:20), nor were they left so absolutely to themselves as not to have the means of "feeling after Him," as we are now to hear.


Verse 17

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

Nevertheless , [ kaitoige (Greek #2544)] - 'Although indeed.' Nevertheless , [ kaitoige (Greek #2544)] - 'Although indeed.'

He left not himself without witness. Though the heinousness of idolatry is represented as so much less in the pagan, by how much they were outside the pale of revealed religion, the apostle takes care to add, that the pagan have divine "witness" enough to leave them "without excuse."

In that he did good , [ agathourgoon (Greek #14) is preferable to - agathoupoioon (Greek #15)] - scattering His beneficence everywhere and in a thousand forms.

And gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons - on which human subsistence and all human enjoyment depend. In Lycaonia, where rain is peculiarly scarce, as ancient writers attest, this allusion would have all the greater effect.

Filling our hearts - or 'your hearts,' according to another reading.

With food and gladness - a natural colloquialism, the heart being gladdened by the food supplied to the body.


Verse 18

And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. In spite of this, and of the apostle Peter's repudiation of all such undue honours (see the note at Acts 10:26), how soon did idolatrous tendencies begin to show themselves in the Christian Church, at length to be systematized and enjoined in the Church of Rome!

The minds of the Lycaonians being poisoned by Jews from Antioch and Iconium, a popular tumult is excited, and Paul, being stoned and drawn out of the city, is left for dead. Recovering, however he withdraws with Barnabas to Derbe ()


Verse 19

And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

And - rather, 'But' [ de (Greek #1161)]. There came there certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium. Furious zeal that must have been which would travel so far to counteract the missionaries of the Cross, and how bitter and determined it was may be seen by the result.

Who persuaded the people - `gained over the crowds,' 'the populace,' or 'the mob' [ peisantes (Greek #3982) tous (Greek #3588) ochlous (Greek #3793)].

And, having stoned Paul. "Once (writes he to the Corinthians) was I stoned" (1 Corinthians 11:25); and the allusion must be to this scene at Lystra, for that at Iconium (Acts 14:5) was not an accomplished fact. The mob seem to have let Barnabas alone, Paul, as the prominent actor and speaker, being the object of all their rage. The words seem to imply that it was the Jews who did this; and no doubt they took the lead (Acts 14:19); but it was the act of the instigated and fickle mob along with them.

Drew him out of the city. By comparing this with Acts 7:58, it will be seen that the Jews must have been the chief actors in this scene.

Supposing he had been dead - [ nomizontes (Greek #3543) is slightly preferable to nomisantes (Greek #3543), and tethneekenai (Greek #2348) to tethnanai.]


Verse 20

Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him - `having surrounded or encircled him.' So his labours here had not been in vain: "disciples," we see, had been gained, who now rallied around the bleeding body; and we shall afterward see ground to conclude that among these must have been that most valued of all his future companions and fellow-labourers-TIMOTHEUS (see the notes at Acts 16:1-3).

He rose up. It is just possible that this recovery was natural; the insensibility occasioned by such treatment as he had received, sometimes passing away of itself, and leaving the patient less hurt than appears. But certainly the impression naturally left on the mind by the words is, that the restoration was miraculous; and so the best interpreters understand the words. This is confirmed by what follows.

And came into the city -- out of which he had been dragged as a corpse. Noble intrepidity! Yet he did not again venture to present himself as a preacher after such treatment.

And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe (see the note at Acts 14:6) - a journey for which he would hardly have been fit if his recovery had been quite natural.

Retracing their Steps, They Return to Antioch, whence They Started, and Report their Oroceedings ()


Verse 21

And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,

And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many - rather 'had made disciples of a considerable number' [ matheeteusantes (Greek #3100) hikanous (Greek #2425)]. It is a pity that our version (following the Vulgate) has not observed the important distinction between the two words used in Matthew 28:19-20 - the one for 'making disciples,' the other for "teaching" the disciples so made. That distinction is carefully observed in this book. The former word is used here; nor could the other have properly been used where the Gospel was now for the first time preached, and there was no time for any after "teaching:" but the latter is used in Acts 11:26, where, the disciples having been already made, the thing aimed at was their establishment in the faith and growth in grace.

They returned again. They appear to have experienced no persecution here, since the apostle, long after this, when reminding Timothy of what he endured for, the Gospel "at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra," seems studiously to omit Derbe (2 Timothy 3:11). Beyond this our missionaries did not see fit for the present to prosecute their journey. Not that they were hurried home by urgent business-else they might have gone by a considerably shorter route than they took-taking a southeasterly direction from Derbe to Tarsus, and thence to Antioch. And one would imagine that, when so near the home of his youth, the great apostle, whose human affections were so keen, would prefer that route. But he had reasons for returning by the way he came, which with him were of paramount weight. 'At Derbe (says Howson admirably) Paul was not far from the well known pass which leads down from the central table-land to Cilicia and Tarsus. But his thoughts did not center in an earthly home. He revisted the places where he had been reviled and persecuted, but where he had left, as sheep in the desert, the disciples whom his Master had enabled him to gather. They needed building up and strengthening in the Faith comforting in the midst of their inevitable suffering, and fencing round by permanent institutions. Undaunted, therefore, by the dangers that awaited them, our missionaries return to them, using words of encouragement which none but the founders of a true Religion would have ventured to address to their earliest converts, that "we can only enter into the kingdom of God by passing through much tribulation."

To Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch - taking these places now, of course, in the reverse order from the former visit.


Verse 22

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

Confirming the souls of the disciples. Whatever may be pleaded in favour of Episcopal Confirmation of the young, it would be absurd to take the term here employed in any such technical sense: 'Establishing' in the Faith is clearly the sense; as appears, indeed, from what follows.

Exhorting them to continue in the faith. The "and" of our King James Version prefixed to this clause injures the sense; for the historian does not say that they 'confirmed firmed their souls and exhorted them,' but "confirmed their souls (by) exhorting them to continue in the Faith" which they had before embraced,

And (warning them) that we must through, much tribulation , [ dia (Greek #1223) polloon (Greek #4183) thlipseoon (Greek #2347)] - or 'through many troubles,' "enter into the kingdom of God."


Verse 23

And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

And when they had ordained them elders , [ Cheirotoneesantes (Greek #5500) de (Greek #1161) autois (Greek #846) presbuterous (Greek #4245)] - literally, 'Having chosen them elders by show of hands'-that is, having superintended such choice on the part of the disciples; and there is the best reason to conclude that this is the sense intended by the historian, and not "ordained" (as our version, following in this case the Vulgate and Luther, rather than Beza, have rendered the term). There is no evidence an the New Testament that, in apostolic times, the word had lost its proper meaning: this is beyond doubt its meaning in 2 Corinthians 8:19; and there is indisputable evidence that the concurrence of the people was required in all elections to sacred office in the earliest ages of the Church. The expression used (says Lechler) leads to the idea that the apostles appointed and conducted a congregational election; and to this also points the precedent (in Acts 6:1-15) of the election of the seven deacons in Jerusalem, conducted by the apostles. 'And, indeed (adds the same writer, with much judgment), it consisted with the nature of the transaction that the apostles should give the most decided weight to the public opinion and confidence of the members of the church. The distance of these Asiatic churches from Antioch in Syria, which was the mother church, taken in connection with the circumstances of time and place-by reason of which they, being at the commencement detached from the synagogue, were in want of a social footing, and were obliged to find such footing in themselves; and also, opposed as they were to the hostile Jewish multitude, they were necessarily obliged to exist compact and united among themselves-all this made an independent church-government, and therefore overseers, indispensably necessary.'

In every church , [ kat' (Greek #2596) ekkleesian (Greek #1577)]. Comparing this expression with the similar one in Acts 2:46 [ kat' (Greek #2596) oikon (Greek #3624)], which our version renders "from house to house," but which probably means simply, 'in private houses' (see the note on that verse), it may mean that they caused elders to be chosen for these churches, not in the sense of some for each of them, but of several for all of them; and what is said (in Acts 16:2) of Timothy, who appears to have belonged to Lystra, that he "was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium," might imply that he acted in this capacity both places. But the former sense is preferable, since there is no evidence that in the apostolic churches the elders were placed over different churches; nor would it be deemed necessary to copy so literally the model of the Jewish synagogues.

And had prayed with fasting - literally, 'fastings.' Compare Acts 13:3, from which it appears that our missionaries set these elders apart to their sacred work, just as they had been themselves, except that no mention is here made of the "laying on of hands." One thing, at least, seems clear, that if this last clause refers to the ordination of these elders, the former clause cannot he meant to express the same thing, but must refer to the choice of them.

They commended , [ parethento (Greek #3908) - or 'committed'] them (all these churches), to the Lord (that is, the Lord Jesus), on whom they (had) believed}, [ pepisteukeisan (Greek #4100)].


Verse 24

And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.


Verse 25

And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:

And when they had preached (or 'spoken') the word in Perga - now doing what for some reason they appear not to have done on their former visit, though probably without visible fruit.

They went down into Attaleia - the sea-port, on the Gulf of Pamphylia, which drew to itself the commerce both of Egypt and Syria.


Verse 26

And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

And thence sailed to Antioch (touching tint at Seleucia),

From whence they had been recommended to the grace of God (Acts 13:3) for the work which they fulfilled.


Verse 27

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed , [ aneengellon (Greek #312) is preferable to aneengeilan (Greek #312) of the Received Text]

All that God had done with them , [ met' (Greek #3326) autoon (Greek #846)] - considering themselves but as His instruments.

And (in particular) how he had opened the (or rather, and 'a') door of faith unto the Gentiles - to such as had not been even proselytes before. The "door of faith unto the Gentiles," which God opened to our missionaries, appears to mean, not only the outward openings which He gave them for reaching the ears of the Gentiles, but that entrance for the Gospel among them which secured its believing reception. Compare Acts 16:14, "whose heart the Lord opened;" 1 Corinthians 16:9, "For a great door and effectual is opened unto me;" 2 Corinthians 2:12, "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord;" Colossians 4:3, "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance." As their call and mission had been solemn and formal in the presence of the church, and by the church of Antioch as well as by the Holy Spirit, it was a fitting thing that to that church they should hasten to give in the report of the mission just concluded. And O with what eager joy would they tell their checquered tale and its wonderful results, and with what transport would the true-hearted members of that vigorous church drink in their story!


Verse 28

And there they abode long time with the disciples.

And [there] they abode. [The bracketed word has but slender authority].

Long time, [ chronon (G5550) ouk (G3756) oligon (G3641), 'no little time'] with the disciples - how long cannot be certainly determined; but since, from the commencement of the mission until they left Antioch to go up to attend the council at Jerusalem, some four or five years elapsed, and since the missionary journey would occupy less than two years, the difference would be the period of their stay at Antioch. (But see Chronological Table.)

Remarks:

(1) The carping character of the objections made by the Tubingen school of critics to the historical credibility of this book is nowhere more contemptible than in this chapter. The remarks of Baur, of Zeller, and of Schwegler on the sameness of the incidents in different places-on the suspicious resemblance of the cure of this Lystran cripple to times of Peter; on the speech of Lycaonia, as a clumsy invention of the writer; on the legendary character of the worship offered to the missionaries; and on the Jewish character of the expostulation addressed to the rude pagans: these objections have so little even of the semblance of force, that instead of its being necessary to refute them, the difficulty is to conceive how acute critics should waste their time in hunting for them and holding them up. Such arguments-though here and there we are compelled to notice them-we cannot disfigure our pages by refuting in detail. But it may not be out of place to warn young students against being carded away by that show of acute and learned criticism with which these laborious triflers contrive to conceal the shallowness of their argumentation.

(2) At the very opening of this precious History it was observed that it is not so ranch a Record of "the Acts of the Apostles," as of the actings of the glorified Redeemer Himself, who, as Lord of the Church which He hath purchased with His own blood, employed His apostles and others to gather, to organize, and to feed that Church. Such is the view of the Church on earth which this chapter presents to our view. Thus, at Iconium, "long time abode Paul and Barnabas there, speaking boldly in reliance on the Lord (Jesus), who gave testimony to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands." On their way home from this missionary tour they committed all the churches they had formed at their first visit-at Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch - "to the Lord (Jesus) on whom they had believed;" and in reporting at Antioch all their proceedings, they did but "rehearse all that God, had done with them" (as His instruments), and "how He had opened to the Gentiles a door of faith." If this view of the present relation of Christ in heaven to the Church on earth be steadily borne in mind, it will not only throw a glory around this Book of the Church in its earliest stage, but transfigure the true history of the Church of Christ in every age.

(3) The exclamation of the Lycaonians as to Barnabas and Paul, that "the gods had come down to them in the likeness of men," shows what a yearning there is in the hearts even of the most unenlightened tribes after the Incarnation of the invisible Godhead; even as the glad reception of it, with the deep spiritual repose and the elevation of humanity itself which the true Incarnation has imparted, is evidence enough that this is the consummation of the eternal purposes of love to men.

(4) What a contrast does the horror of Barnabas and Paul at the attempted worship of them by the simple Lycaonians present to the self-satisfaction which the idolatrous adulation of the people gave to Herod Agrippa, when they shouted, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man," and for which the angel of the Lord smote him with the horrible disease of which he died! (Acts 12:21-23.) But in the light of this horror of our missionaries, what are we to think of that clerical ambition which, once indulged, craved its continuance and growth until nothing would content it short of claims nakedly idolatrous. 'And what would these apostles have done (say Leonhard and Spiegel, quoted by Lechler) if they had seen the adoration of their pretended bones, the worship of their images, and the idolatry which is now practiced with them?' And is the spirit which loves to be so regarded quite dead in some Protestant Churches!

(5) In Paley's incomparable Horae Paulinae-the object of which is to demonstrate the truth of the apostolic Church History, from a great number of 'Undesigned Coincidences' between the Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles-an argument is built on the stoning of Paul at Lystra, recorded in this chapter, which is too beautiful not to be here extracted. '"Once (saith Paul) was I stoned" (2 Corinthians 11:25). Does the history relate that Paul, prior to the writing of this letter, had been stoned more than once? The history mentions distinctly one occasion upon which Paul was stoned-namely, at Lystra in Lycaonia. "There came there certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul drew him out of the city, supposing had been dead" (Acts 14:19). And it mentions also another occasion in which "an assault was made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them;" but "they were ware of it (the history proceeds to tell us) and fled unto Lystra and Derbe." This happened at Iconium prior to the date of this [second] letter [to the Corinthians]. Now had the assault been completed-had the history related that a stone was thrown, as it relates that preparations were made both by Jews and Gentiles to stone Paul and his companions; or even had the account of this transaction stepped, without going on to inform us that Paul and his companions "were aware of their danger and fled" - a contradiction between the history and the letter would have ensued. Truth is necessarily consistent; but it is scarcely possible that independent accounts, not having truth to guide them, should thus advance to the very brink of contradiction without falling into it.'

(6) The three-fold procedure of Paul and Barnabas, in revisiting the young churches gathered out by them at their former visit, forms a noble model for that of the Christian churches in our own day whose missionaries are engaged in similar work to that here recorded. First, they "confirm the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the Faith" which they had embraced, and forewarning them of the trials through which they must pass to glory. This was the ministration of the word, which must lie at the foundation of all establishment in the faith and growth in grace. Next, they proceed to organize them, so that they might have within themselves the means of their own consolidation, nurture, and extension. Nor did they do this for them: they simply presided over and directed their own choice of elders from among themselves. 'And yet (as Lechler says) these were youthful communities, in which as yet no long Christian experience, no stedfastness of Christian character, no deep insight, could be sought.' To this it may not be amiss to add the observations of Baumgarten-`It has been a question whether in this organization of their body the Christians were permitted to cooperate, or whether the apostles in these regulations acted as possessing fullness of power, and of themselves nominated and appointed these presbyters.

From all that we have hitherto discovered in the work before us, of the relation subsisting between the apostles and the believers, we find it antecedently impossible to suppose this. It is true, these believers are but recent converts; but still they are unhesitatingly spoken of as believers in the Lord (Acts 14:23), and as such they are partakers of the same Spirit which fills the apostles. Now it is inconceivable that such communion of the Spirit should not have been duly recognized in a matter like this, which most immediately concerned the believers. And, inasmuch as the mode of proceeding in the election of the seven deacons stands forth as a model at all times for the initiatory organization of churches, it is impossible to suppose that in the times immediately succeeding the apostles, the concurrence of the laity in the nomination of bishops should have been held to be so essential as was undeniably the case (see Guericke, 'Christliche Archaeologie,' English translation, pp. 37, 38, and Augusti 'Denkwurdigkeiten,' 11: 259, etc.), unless this had been the practice from the very beginning of the Gentile Church, at whose threshold we are now standing.

On this supposition, the custom of the apostolical missionaries to leave the several bands of Christian converts for a while, to follow a purely internal development becomes easily explicable; for in this period it was the apostle's object that the several characters and capacities which the Holy Spirit had called into being should manifest and distinguish themselves, in order to their attaining to their appropriate position and employment in the Church, by the judgment of the whole body and the ratification of the apostles.' But lastly, our apostolic missionaries spent with each of these young Christian churches a season of prayer with fasting, that they might solemnly "commit them to the Lord on Whom they had believed." What paternal wisdom and grace did this three-fold treatment of these young churches display!

(7) Though the Gentile church at Antioch would to a large extent be prepared for the tidings brought them by Paul and Barnabas, of considerable accessions to Christ from among the pagan of other places, the extent to which Gentile Christianity had spread, could not fail to astonish them; anti taking this in connection with the systematic, persevering, and deadly opposition of the heads of the Jewish community, and most of all when the Gentiles were addressed and appeared ready to flock under the wing of Christ, the impression would grow upon them that the Gospel, spurned away by the Jews, was now to find its home among the Gentiles, and that their own Antioch-honoured to be the birthplace of Gentile Christianity-ought now to consecrate its chief strength to the extension of the Faith and Church of Christ over the wide pagan world, at least to the extent of not grudging its great teachers to that work whenever the providence of God and their own missionary impulses should call for the surrender of them, as in course of time we shall find was the case. (8) The 14th verse of this chapter raises some important questions which may fitly be noticed here. First, Were there more apostles in the strict sense of that term, than the original Twelve; including Matthias, whose appointment in the room of Judas came as near as possible, in the manner of it, to that in which the Twelve were selected and set apart? Second, Since Paul was confessedly on a level, in point of apostolic authority, with these Twelve, are we to regard his case as exceptional; or was he but one of an extended apostolate, which included Barnabas and others in the apostolic age? Third, Even supposing the apostleship of Paul to have been exceptional, must we not still admit that there existed in the apostolic age-outside this circle-a more extended though perhaps lower apostleship, in which are to be reckoned Barnabas and others? Fourth, Should this be granted, was such an apostolate designed to continue in the Church of Christ; and are its permanent possessors the prelatical bishops of those churches which are constituted on the hierarchical principal?-What were the qualifications for the apostleship, in the strictly official sense of that term?

(a) The ability to attest the resurrection of Christ, from having seen Him after He rose from the dead (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 22:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

(b) An immediate divine call (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1).

(c) The possession of miraculous gifts (2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:18-19).

(d) The consciousness of infallible guidance (Acts 15:28) and of divine authority for the government of the Church 2 Corinthians 10:8).

Now, were these qualifications transmitted, or in their nature transmissible, beyond the apostolic age? With the first age of the Church they of necessity expired; and certainly the whole procedure in the upper room, in the matter of a successor to Judas, supposes the office to be special and intransmissible. In this case the apostleship of Paul must needs have been exceptional. So be himself represents it in 1 Corinthians 15:8-10; and while every other allusion which he makes to it is of the same tenor, there is nothing anywhere said of Barnabas which clearly ascribes to him the above qualifications. But neither must we, on the other hand, overlook certain facts, which seem to imply that in some sense the term apostle was applied to others besides Paul and the Eleven. Thus, in the verse which has given occasion to these remarks, "the apostles Barnabas and Paul:" compare also Acts 14:4, "Part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles" - meaning Paul and Barnabas.

In confirmation of this we are referred to 1 Corinthians 9:5-6, where Paul claims the rights of the apostleship for Barnabas as well as himself, as being engaged in the same apostolic work; also Galatians 2:9, where both are spoken of as engaged in the apostleship of the Gentiles. Again, the risen Saviour "was seen (says Paul) of Cephas, then of the Twelve, after that of above five hundred brethren at once ... after that of James, then of all the apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:5-7) - as if there were many such in addition to "the Twelve." Then, to the Galatians (Galatians 1:19) Paul says, "Other of the apostles saw I none, except James, the Lord's brother" - who certainly was not one of the Twelve, and yet seems here to be called an apostle. Further, we read of "false teachers, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13); and the great Head of all the churches commends Ephesus for having "tried them which said they were apostles, and were not, and had found them liars" (Revelation 2:2) - as if the number of the apostles had not been so restricted as to preclude deceitful workers from transforming themselves into such, and with such plausible pretensions as to require to be tested before the deceit could be detected.

In a word, we are referred to Romans 16:7 - "Salute Andronicus and Junia (if the name be that of a woman, or 'Junias,' if a man be intended) ... who are of note among the apostles" - which, it is alleged, most naturally means, 'who are noted apostles.' Of these arguments some appear to have hardly any force. Thus, in the last passage, if the person named along with Andronicus is properly rendered Junia, and denotes a woman, few will think that a female apostle is here meant, or that there were any such; and as to the allegation that 'noted apostles' is the natural sense of the words, it is enough to say that a majority of the best critics hold the reverse (see our comment on that verse), and take them same sense as our translators. Then, the argument drawn from 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 - "seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve ... after that of above five hundred brethren at once

... then of all the apostles" - would seem to prove too much; not only implying that the apostolate was extended far beyond limits of the Twelve even before Christ left the earth-which who can readily believe?-but giving to this additional company of apostles a place (after the "five hundred brethren") very unlike what one would expect of such a body.

On Galatians 1:19 - "Other of the apostles saw I none save James, the Lord's brother" - it is unsafe to rely, as the statement is so ambiguous on this particular point that some think it proof positive that his James is here named as one of the Twelve; while others think that the apostle means here to ascribe no apostleship to this, James at all, and that the meaning simply is, 'Other of the apostles saw I none-but James, the Lord's brother, I did see.' (See the note on that verse.) The argument from the pretensions to apostleship which some false teachers advanced (2 Corinthians 11:13), and whom the Ephesian church is commended for having tried and detected (Revelation 2:2), is much more was plausible; since it seems hard to conceive how, if the apostolate was limited to the original number-only Paul being exceptionally added-such pretensions could be advanced at all, or need to be tried. But why should it be presumed that the limitation of the apostolate, and the exceptional character of Paul's apostleship, must have been so well known to all the churches that no false teacher could have the face to pretend that his claim to the apostleship was as valid as Paul's, or if he did, that the imposture would so immediately discover itself to all real Christians as to supersede the necessity of trying him? Surely this is too much to presume, and our own impression is quite the reverse.

One argument, then, alone remains, which to us appears to have real force-the way in which Barnabas is spoken of in connection with Paul. Supposing Barnabas to have been an apostle, in all respects officially equal with Paul, the language employed in speaking of him is certainly quite suitable; and had we no reasons for coming to a different conclusion, that sense would be quite natural. The only question then is, Do they admit naturally of a sense which would exclude Barnabas from official equality with Paul, or from the apostleship in any strict sense? Two of them surely do. In 1 Corinthians 9:5-6, Paul is merely asserting his right to temporal maintenance and the ordinary comforts of domestic life, against those who insinuated that indulgences of this nature were not consistent in those who advanced the high claims which Paul did; and in self-defense he asks whether that was unlawful in him which was permitted to the other apostles, to the brethren of the Lord, and to Cephas, and whether he and Barnabas who were fellow-workers in all the same fields of labour, were to be singled out as alone, of all these, unworthy of such rights.

But does not the apostle expressly say, "we as well as other apostles" (Acts 14:5)? True; but, besides that he has himself chiefly in view in that "we," everyone must see that he is writing (or dictating) with no regard to rigid accuracy of arrangement; for after saying "we as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord," he adds, "and Cephas" - as if Cephas had not himself been one of those other apostles. The other passage (Galatians 2:9) seems less decisive, as it merely affirms that in the dispute about circumcision, when "James, Cephas, and John" - who seemed to be "pillars" of the Jewish party-perceived the grace that was given to Paul, they gave the right hand of fellowship to him and his companion, Barnabas, who together represented and stood for Gentile liberty, and came to the understanding that the two parties should divide the field between them; the one taking charge of the Jewish, the other of the Gentile department.

This, therefore, proves nothing. It only remains, then, to explain our own verse - Acts 14:14 - "the apostles Barnabas and Paul." That the historian does here (and in Acts 14:4) class both under one denomination - "apostles" - is plain enough. But in what sense? Not merely as Paul's companion, but in their missionary character. In no other character had Paul as yet stood forth among his brethren. His distinctively official apostolic authority had as yet no scope for its exercise. And since in the missionary character of his apostleship there was no perceptible, and hardly any real difference-if any at all-between him and Barnabas, why might not our historian, with propriety enough, style them both "apostles," without implying that there was not, and never would be, any difference between the two as apostles? If this be correct, it is easy to see how a certain laxity in the use of the term "apostle" - even by Paul himself, whenever he had not to maintain his own strict apostleship-and so by our historian, might obtain currency, and get into the phraseology of the early Church, without implying that an extended apostolate, to be perpetuated in the Church's bishops, was from the first understood to exist. Such, accordingly, we find to be the fact. The name of 'apostles' was given even to the Seventy disciples by Irenaeus and Tertullian (toward the close of the second and beginning of the third century), and several other fathers write as if there were many apostles. Yet these same writers carefully distinguish between such and the original apostles, strictly so called. As to the figment of an episcopal succession of such apostles, heirs to the original office, there is about as little to support it in solid patristic evidence as there is warrant for it in Scripture.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-14.html. 1871-8.

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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