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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Acts 26

 

 

Verses 1-32

Acts 26:1. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, the usual signal to gain attention; it indicates presence of mind in the speaker, and that his auditory is large. Though the notice was short, the court would be crowded.

Acts 26:2. I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee. Festus, it would seem, had given Agrippa the first place on the bench, because of his age and superior knowledge of the law. This exordium is full of grace and dignity, and very properly so, the emperor having made Herod governor of the treasures of the temple.

Acts 26:4-5. My manner of life, as before related in Acts 23:24. The mind of the judge being prepared, the narration of Paul’s life naturally follows, for narration in all cases according to Quitilian is the second part of a discourse. So Cicero in his oration for Milo says, That after being the whole day in the senate, during a long session, he returned home, changed his dress, and rested for some time, while his wife got ready to go into the country.

Acts 26:6-8. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers — Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? The Hebrew scriptures abound with this hope. Here is the digression, not always necessary in a discourse, but it often prepares the mind before we enter fully into the subject in hand. The speaker may here correct errors, recal or soften severities, or enhance a virtue. In the narration of Paul’s life, it was natural to tread in the steps of his fathers, while waiting for Israel’s Hope. From Acts 26:9 to Acts 26:18, a succession of propositions and arguments follow, which forms the substance of this powerful address.

Acts 26:10. When they were put to death, I gave my voice, ψηφον, my vote against them. Those christians were dragged out of prison, and put to death by the sword. Much uncertainty veils those tragic occurrences. The court was Roman, having the power of life and death. The accusations then would be of sedition; and during the dreadful massacre, some christians might have had recourse to self-defence. Acts 8:4. We are also uncertain in what capacity Paul attended these courts. His father, being a Roman officer, might have procured a commission for his son; and some think so, because in salutations he twice uses the phrase, “my fellow- soldier.” Be that as it might, those bloody deeds of persecuting and wasting the church lay heavy on his mind.

Acts 26:11. Being exceedingly mad against them — ira est furor, I would scarcely allow a man to live, unless he was of my religion. Judea was too small a sphere for my zeal. I even desired ecclesiastical authority to arrest the Nazarenes in Damascus, and bring them up to Jerusalem for judgment.

Acts 26:13. At midday, oh king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. To stop this man in error, to convert him from his sins, to cover the flock in Damascus, and to call an ambassador for the conversion of the gentile world, the Lord Christ appeared to him in the way, as stated on Acts 22:14. 1 Corinthians 9:1.

Acts 26:14. When we were all fallen to the earth. And who can stand before Jehovah? How can rebels lift up their heads? A nation of elders and people, prostrated on mount Carmel when the fire fell from heaven. 1 Kings 18. Daniel fell down as dead before a celestial presence; and the three apostles all fell down to the earth before the same glory at the transfiguration. Matthew 17:6.

Acts 26:15. And I said, Who art thou Lord? This was the first voice to Paul; and like Samuel, he did not know the voice. Many emotions rise in the heart from the Spirit of God, which are not properly distinguished by the mind.

Acts 26:16. I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister: προχειρισασθαι σε. Montanus, designare, to designate thee to be a minister, and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those in which I will appear unto thee. Erasmus turns it, præpararem, because I would prepare thee to be a minister. υπηρετης designates

(1) A ministry.

(2) The flight of birds, in which some one mostly takes the lead.

(3) Though the primitive ερετης designates a rower with oars, yet that acceptation here is foreign to the sense.

To represent Paul as an under rower, totally misguides the reader. The Lord appeared to him, that he might be a plenary witness of his resurrection, and the first apostle of the gentile world, as in the next words.

Acts 26:17. Delivering thee from the people, in all assaults of the jews, and from the gentiles, to whom now I send thee. So far Paul’s whole life had realized the truth of the divine promise.

Acts 26:18. To open their eyes. The gentiles walked in the vanity of their minds; they had no mediator, no consecrated altar, no fountain for the ablution of crimes, no idea how real virtue was to be recovered, no certainty of life and immortality; and the worship of their gods, how sincere soever their hearts might be, was a theogony of the imagination. Paul’s mission was to deliver them from the yoke of demons, by the power and grace of the gospel; to console them with the remission of sins, the regeneration of their nature, and the assurance of eternal life. To them christianity was morally a translation out of darkness into marvellous light.

Acts 26:19. Whereupon, oh king Arippa, I was not disobedient. My whole life in Syria, in proconsular Asia, and in Greece, has been spent in conformity to my divine call. — Here we come to that part of Paul’s defence called by Quintilian peroration, by some called the coronation, and by others the conclusion of a discourse. It calls upon a person to decide according to evidence, and act in conformity to wisdom and equity. St. Paul, being thus divinely called, decided at once to hazard all, and devote life in conformity to his mission, and to turn the world to God.

Acts 26:24. Paul, thou art beside thyself. No marvel that schools and courts should think us deranged, because we seek our happiness in unseen things, for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. Yet we are not mad; faith is the substance of the things for which we hope and wait. We feed in ordinances as the sheep in green pastures, and have in our hearts the earnests of future bliss.

Acts 26:27. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Admirable stroke of eloquence — conclusive, victorious! If thou believest the prophets, thou oughtest to believe me; for my call and conversion, and a life of twenty eight years of hard labour and severe sufferings, have every characteristic that attended the divine legation of Moses. The glory, the voice in the one, are the same as in the other; and the perseverance of the prince of prophets, corresponds with my unceasing care for the church.

Acts 26:28. Then Agrippa said to Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a christian; words extorted from the king by the power and unction of Paul’s apology. εν ολιγω, in some, or in a small degree, thou persuadest me. The English follows Tremellius. Propemodum persuades mihi, ut sim christianus. The Mons Testament, of high authority, reads, Il ne s’en faut gueres qua vous ne me persuadiez d’etre christien. It is not a little that thou persuadest me to be a christian. Aye, indeed; but Agrippa forsook no sin. He did not so much as lift up a little finger to share the cross with Paul against the weight of persecution. He let an innocent man go off in chains to Rome. The almost christians, though they attend worship, forsake not their sins. They crowd theatres, and attend the sports and pleasures of the age. In a word, the best of almost christians, who have some exterior decency of morals and duties, are not christians in reality. They are often under the power of sin, and are destitute of the experimental religion described in the sixth collect after Trinity Sunday. “Oh God, who hast prepared, &c.”

Acts 26:32. This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed to Cæsar. So Paul, in age and infirmities, must now go a bitter and disastrous voyage to preach in chains to the Roman court.

Let us follow him with a feeling heart, and while we lose sight of the ship in the seas, retrace the steps of his journies, his conflicts, and labours in the Lord, as laid down chiefly by Theophylact.

Paul was converted in the second or third year after our Saviour’s crucifixion. He received the knowledge of the gospel by special revelation. Galatians 1:12. Being designated and qualified by learning for the ministry, he immediately made a circuit in Asia for three years, and returned to Jerusalem. The trance he had in the temple is placed by some in the second year of Claudius, when he brought alms from the rich gentile churches to the poor saints in Judas; and not at this first visit. His next evangelical course was to Antioch in company with Jude, Silas, and Barnabas. Acts 13:1. Here the Holy Ghost separated Barnabas and Paul to go to many ports and towns of the gentiles; to Seleucia, the island of Cyprus, to Salamis, and Paphos, the two principal towns in the island. Thence to Perga, called Pergamos, Revelation 1:11, in the province of Pamphylia: Acts 26:13. From thence to Antioch in Pisidia: Acts 26:14. They next went to Derbe, Iconium, Lystra, and back to Antioch, and thence to Attalia, called in Boiste’s dictionary, Satalia, once a great and flourishing city of Anatolia, about one hundred and fifty miles south-east of Constantinople. In Acts 15:30; Acts 15:41, we find Paul again at Antioch, and passing through Syria and Cilicia, the place of his nativity, confirming the churches. Thence to Derbe and Lystra again: Acts 16:1. Then a western tour was made through the provinces of Phrygia, Galatia, and Mysia: Acts 26:6-7.

At Troas Paul received his vision to cross over to Macedonia, where after visiting Samothracia and Neapolis, he arrived at Philippi, the capital. Here he planted the first church, and did the same at Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth: chap. 16. 17. 18. Thence, after a considerable stay, he crossed over into Asia again, and came to Ephesus. Afterwards he made a tour through western Asia, and came to this city again: Acts 19:1. He now, as is apparent from chap. 20., made a second, but rather a rapid tour through his old sphere of labours in Greece. This was requisite to confirm the churches. On his return to Asia, he was accompanied with many ministers, and being urgent to reach Jerusalem the third time, he sent for the elders of Ephesus to Miletus, to whom he delivered a most admirable charge. Acts 20:17. From Jerusalem by Cæsarea he went a state prisoner to Rome, where he remained a prisoner at large for two years. Luke now left him, and consequently he could not mention his release, and future travels in Italy, Spain, and France. Euseb. book 2. chap. 25. After this he returned to Rome, and suffered martyrdom in the same persecution with St. Peter, and some say on the same day. All however agree that St. Paul laboured about thirty five years. The learned Valesius, in his notes on the above chapter, seems to support the evidence of his martyrdom by sufficient authorities. But as Augustine observes, though the writings of christians in the first three centuries were almost infinite, few of them having come down to him, little can be said of those times. See general reflections on chap. 28.

REFLECTIONS.

What greater proofs can we have of the truth and certainty of the christian religion than are exhibited in the conversion, in the labours and sufferings of St. Paul? A persecutor, furious as a wolf against the flock, turned and changed in a moment! Could he and the peace-officers, generally men of common sense, be deceived? Could the whole church at Damascus be deceived, as to the facts of the light and glory, which brought the rebels to the ground? Could the Almighty, to human appearance, have called a more suitable man, as the first missionary of the gentile world? Could any stroke of grace have more effectually relieved the fears of the saints, or paralysed the arm of persecutors, than the manifestations of the divine glory which attended Paul’s conversion? The inward endowments of the Holy Ghost in his conversion, corresponded with the exterior glory of his call; he received remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the word of faith, were given to him at the same time. He saw the Lord, the Holy and the Just One, and boldly declared his resurrection. Had there been any flaw or collusion in the apostles, and hundreds of Galileans who saw him also, the sharp eyes of this man would have detected the fallacy. We have now the witness in our hearts.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 26:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/acts-26.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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