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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Acts 22

 

 

Verses 1-30

Acts 22:1. Men, brethren, and fathers; that is, men of mixed nations assembled at the feast. The persecutors had said, men of Israel, help. Brethren, religious persons of the stock of Israel. Fathers, aged men, elders and priests. Stephen’s address was in similar terms. Acts 7:2. The words indicate innocence and confidence; for culprits durst not be so bold.

Hear ye my defence: απολογια, my apology, my plea for my religion: this is a purer word than “defence.” Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Minutius Felix, and Tertullian have each written an “apology” for the christian religion: the two last are productions of incomparable eloquence, and the four are well translated by Mr. Reeves.

Acts 22:2. When they heard that he did not speak Greek, as the Hellenists from Grecian countries, they kept the more silence. He spake in the vulgar tongue, that all might understand; a mixture, says Beza, of Hebrew and Syrian words.

Acts 22:3. I am verily a man which am a jew, born in Tarsus — educated under Gamaliel, in this city; and zealous towards God, as you all are. By consequence, I am not to be confounded either with the leaders of sedition, or with the opposers of the law. A bold stroke of eloquence, which by a single word rebutted calumny.

Acts 22:4. And I persecuted this way unto the death, He avoids the word Nazarene, as offensive to their ears. In like manner, Cicero, in his oration for Milo, avoids the words kill, or murder.

Acts 22:6. As I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon. This city, whose walls are about four miles in circumference, lies a hundred and fourteen miles north-east of Jerusalem, and about the same distance from Antioch. Those officers therefore had horses; by rising early, which is always the case with oriental travellers, they would easily approach Damascus about noon.

Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. Thus in ancient times the Holy One covered the heavens with his glory, and the earth was full of his praise. The same God who gave the Hebrews their religion, called and converted Paul to the faith of Jesus, by the manifestation of his glory, and by his voice from heaven. On seeing this light, the whole cavalcade fell prostrate to the earth, for what is man, a worm of the dust, that he should fight against God? Acts 26:14.

Acts 22:7-8. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? A plain question, a question which the Lord puts to every persecutor. Why did the jews passionately forget to put it to themselves? Paul, in Jerusalem, had a hundred reasons, hearsay reasons which he had heard of the pharisees, for persecuting the church. Now he is silent, he is astounded, he trembles; yea more, he saw the holy and the Just One, and asked, who art thou Lord? The same voice replied, I am Jesus: ο ναζωραιος, the Nazarene, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee, like the restive bullock, to kick against the goads. — What, and is the Nazarene whom I have been execrating, and whose servants I have been killing, the Lord of glory, the Holy One of Israel, and the Prince of the kings of the earth! — Alas, alas for me! Lord, what shall I do? It appears from chap. 26., that more was said than Luke has here recorded.

Acts 22:14. The God of our fathers hath chosen thee; for so is his sovereign pleasure in calling whom he pleases to the work of the ministry. Mark 3:13. — That thou shouldest know his will, by the mystery of revelation, during the three days he lay deprived of sight. And see that Just One, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Bethel, the Jehovah at the burning bush; texts which the fathers by common consent refer to Christ. Vide Bulli Defen. Tirinus on 1 Corinthians 9:1, “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord,” has these words. Quia Christum corporaliter mihi apparentum vidi, because I saw Christ appear to me in his human presence. Paul saw the Lord a second time in a trance while he was praying in the temple, saying, “get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me:” Acts 22:18. Paul, both by view, and by this vision, was thus constituted the ambassador of Christ, and plenipotentiary of heaven to the gentiles. That word, the gentiles, Acts 22:21, they marked with the bitterest signs of indignation.

Acts 22:23. They cried out, stopping Paul in the midst of his speech with vociferations; meanwhile the baser sort threw dust in the air, by way of execration, while others pulled off their clothes to crush him at once with stones. But Lysias, prompted by an influence he might not know, hurried him back to the castle. Father forgive them, for they knew not that Paul was the brightest gem of Israel’s sons. But why all this bad feeling against the gentiles? Were not all the families of the earth comprised in Abraham’s covenant? Had not the prophets in succession augured greater glory to the Messiah from the conversion of the gentiles than from the jews? Nay, had they not foretold the obduration of the jews, and the election of the gentiles? Has not Cyprian, in his book against the jews, collected nearly three hundred texts predictive of their conversion? Does not Eusebius, as most other fathers, tread in the same path?

Acts 22:25. Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? This privilege saved Paul from another punishment by the Roman lictors. See the remarks on chap. 9.

REFLECTIONS.

Where shall we begin; how shall we enter on the subject of this chapter. The cloud of glory in Paul’s conversion, seems equally luminous on every side. While we pause, the Lord opens the way by showing how mercy waited for Paul in the road, when he was come nigh to Damascus; not while he was near Jerusalem; else he had been taken back to the pharisees, who would have opposed the work of the Lord on his mind. How sweetly does heaven, as in the seasons of the year, time the peculiar work of his Holy Spirit.

The conversion of this high spirited man, and notorious persecutor, was effected by a discovery of the glorious person of Christ, as the Holy and Just One, and as the Nazarene. How else could he believe, unless he had seen; how shall men believe on him of whom they have not heard; and how shall they hear without a preacher? St. Paul took the same ground in writing to the Hebrews that the Lord had taken with him: he sets before them in chap. 1., eight arguments to demonstrate the Deity of Christ, as the Son of God. This is “the pillar and ground of truth; the mystery of godliness — God manifest in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:15-16.

The next procedure of the Lord with this first of rebels was, conviction of sin. “Why persecutest thou me?” Why art thou mad against the Nazarenes, and resolved that no jew shall live unless he be of thy mind? What evils have those people done to thee, or to thy temple at Jerusalem. Do the criminal courts condemn men on ex parte evidence? I, the Judge, ask of thee a reason? I, the Lord of glory, am that Nazarene whom thou blasphemest, and whose servants thou accountest as sheep for the slaughter. It is still the Lord’s method to demonstrate sin by the glory of the law. He convicted, with much urbanity, the young ruler of loving his lands more than God. He covered the woman of Samaria with shame because of concupiscence; and Peter boldly charged home on the jews the murder of the Lord of glory by wicked hands. What is preaching worth, if it do not arraign the guilty. Who but the sick will apply to the physician?

Paul’s conversion was accompanied with prayer. Lord, said he, what wouldst thou have me to do? He continued in prayer and supplication for three days and three nights, as the Lord himself attests. “Behold, he prayeth.” What else can a sinner in distress do, but cry out of the depths, and plead the promises, and wait for the light and the salvation of God?

The Lord sent him, wounded with the sword of the Spirit, to the church for cure and for comfort. Go into the city, and it shall be told thee. So he did not weep and pray in anguish and despair. Let all persons convinced and touched under the word, run to the saints for consolation. They are the nursing fathers of the weak and tender lambs. The joy and delight of christian fellowship was to him a heaven upon earth.

St. Paul’s conversion was perfected by the pardon of sin, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, as we shall presently read. These are always joined in the scriptures, and we must not divide them. Ananias having announced his call of God to the ministry, as Elijah did to Elisha, hastened him to baptism. “And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” The Holy Ghost will seal the ordinance by shedding abroad the love of God in thy heart, and filling thee with peace and joy through believing.

And let it be particularly enforced, that the joys of remission are ever connected with hymns of praise to the Redeemer, as is noted on chap. 26., and in Psalms 103.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 22:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/acts-22.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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