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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
Acts 14

 

 

Verse 1

CONTENTS

Paul, and Barnabas, preaching in the Synagogue, are opposed by the unbelieving Jews. Paul healeth a Cripple. The Multitude are astonished, and are for offering to the Apostles divine Honors. Certain Jews from Antioch persuade the People, and Paul is stoned. He recovers, and, with Barnabas, departs from Antioch.


Verses 1-7

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. (2) But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. (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. (4) But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. (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, (6) They were aware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and into the region that lieth round about: (7) And there they preached the gospel.

Iconium was the chief city of Lycaonia, a province in the lesser Asia. Here the Apostles, Barnabas and Paul had fled, as Christ directed them, from the persecutions raised against them, Matthew 10:24. But here the same conflicts they had to encounter. How full of rage is Satan! He knoweth that he hath but a short time, Revelation 12:12. But, Reader! do not fail to remark, that though men, or devils, oppose the cause of Christ, that cause cannot fail. The Lord always hath, and always will, as is here said, give testimony to the word of his grace, and fail not to bring home his redeemed to his everlasting kingdom. There is nothing doubtful in the final issue of the Church of Christ. No peradventures, or uncertainties. All that the Father hath given to me (said Jesus) shall come to me, John 6:37. Jesus is pledged for their eternal safety. So that not one of them can be found wanting, when he maketh up his jewels, Malachi 3:17; John 17:2


Verses 8-10

And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: (9) The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, (10) Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

We have here a most interesting account of a miracle wrought by Paul, in confirmation of the doctrines of grace. So Christ had promised, and here we behold the accomplishment. See Mark 16:17 to the end. It is worthy remark, that Peter and John opened their commission in the Jewish Church, with healing a cripple at the gate of the temple, Acts 3:2, etc. And here Paul and Barnabas commenced their public ministry to the Gentile Church, with healing a cripple also in the streets of Lystra. And both these cases were similar, being cripples from the womb, and never had walked, Striking emblems of the crippled state of the souls of God's people, by reason of sin; lame from the womb of nature, and such as not only never had walked, but as never could have walked, unless restored by Jesus Christ.

I beg the Reader to observe, what is said, concerning this man, bearing Paul speak. There is certainly somewhat more intended from the expression, than merely that hearing which is promiscuous, and what is general. And I confess, that I am the more inclined to this opinion, from what is said of the Apostle in remarking it. For it is added, that he, stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed; said with a loud voice, stand upright on thy feet. We know that the Apostles possessed the faculty of discerning spirits: for this was among the spiritual gifts given to them. See 1 Corinthians 12:10-11. And hence, by virtue of it, the Apostle perceived the faith this man had. Is it not probable, (I ask the question, but do not decide upon it,) that the Lord, who placed this Cripple in the Apostle's way, did by him as he did by Lydia; opened his heart, to attend to the things which were spoken by Paul, Acts 16:14. Now, we are told, that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Romans 10:17. And therefore, is it not as probable in the one instance, as in the other; that the Lord wrought a miracle of grace in the soul of this poor cripple, by regeneration, before that Paul, as the Lord's servant, wrought a work of mercy on the body, by healing him of his disease: and both, becoming blessed confirmations of the truth of the Gospel? However, be it as it may, one thing is certain: The poor cripple, at the Apostle's command, arose and stood on his feet, and leaped, and walked. And, Reader! do not overlook, that these were the promised effects which were to take place in the earth in the days of the Gospel, when the lame man should leap as an hart; and the tongue of the dumb sing, Isaiah 35:6.

And, if the Reader will allow me to detain him a moment longer, over this sweet miracle of sovereign grace shewn, as we have reason to hope, both to body and soul, I would desire him to remark with me, the properties of grace, so beautifully illustrated as they are, in the example of this cripple. Here was no provision, no preparation, made on the part of the happy receiver. Yea, it is probable, that at the time, and perhaps after, he had no immediate consciousness, how much greater mercy he had been shewn to his soul, than to his body. Such, depend upon it, is the case, in the numberless instances that are going on continually in life. What David said, all God's children more or less find, and may with equal truth, say the same: The God of my mercy shall prevent me, Psalms 109:10. The Lord prevents, that is, goes before his people, in all their mercies. He is found of them that seek him not, Isaiah 65:1. Our whole Adam - nature, the Church, as well as the world, are all alike born crippled in all our faculties; yea, not merely crippled, but dead in trespasses and sins. There is no apprehension of this ruined state, in any one of the Adam race of our misery, much less a cry for deliverance from it. Therefore, when at any time the Lord healeth our souls, it is his preventing grace, not our application. The poor sinner is healed he knoweth not how; and faith is wrought in his heart in a way he hath no consciousness of. So wonderful, and powerful, are the works of grace. And oh! how infinitely more wonderful must He be in himself, and in the tendencies of his love towards his people, by whom the whole is wrought; and who is blessedly called, the God of all grace!


Verses 11-18

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. (12) And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. (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. (14) Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, (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: (16) Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. (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. (18) And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

Reader! do not fail to observe, the awful darkness in which those men must have been covered, who, while looking with astonishment at the Apostles, in the contemplation of the miracle which they had wrought; had sense enough to know, that such an act could not be performed by man: yet were totally ignorant of the nature, and being of God. And, let me ask, is it not equally so with respect to a real knowledge of God, notwithstanding the light of the Gospel, in the present day, when such gross misconceptions take place, concerning the real character of Jehovah, in his threefold distinction of Person? How few are there, who though they profess this truth, that live in the heartfelt knowledge and enjoyment of it. The creed of multitudes, concerning this glorious, and fundamental article of our holy faith, is found only in their prayer-books. They know the Person of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, only by name. They constantly have heard of these truths. They have been taught to rehearse them. (Read that Scripture, Isaiah 29:13.) And they repeat in words, what they are taught to believe in form; but know not the power of godliness. And here they rest. But, in respect to the relation of the Persons of the Godhead to each other, and of their love and grace to the Church: who of this description could give a reason, if they were asked, of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear? 1 Peter 3:15.

Reader! do not dismiss the consideration of this subject, (for it is a solemn one,) before that you have given it a more special regard; as it concerns yourself, in making it personal. Depend upon it, that it is not the simple acknowledgement of God, as God, which constitutes a real faith in him. Neither is it all that is needful to be called true faith, which subscribes to the doctrine, that there are three which hear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are One, 1 John 5:7. For, although it be in fact, no acknowledgment of the true God, which doth not acknowledge him in the true scriptural revelation of Him, as existing in a threefold character of Person; yet men may acknowledge Jehovah in this sense by mouth, while having no saving apprehension of him as such, in the heart. It is with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness; and then from the heart, with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Romans 10:10. Other belief is in fact no saving belief. For we are told, that there is a sense, in which devils believe and tremble, James 2:19. The true faith of the Gospel, on this, and every other momentous article of faith, is taught of God. And this becomes a life-giving, a soul-quickening, and refreshing faith, bringing the believer into a personal acquaintance with each glorious Person of the Godhead, as they have been pleased to reveal themselves to the Church in Christ, in their Covenant offices, and characters: when you and I know, and have tasted, the love of God the Father, the grace of God the Son, and the communion of God the Holy Ghost, 2 Corinthians 13:14. And it was, as the Lord Jesus himself saith, for the communication of this knowledge, that as God-Man Mediator, he had power given him over all flesh; that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him. And, Christ defined this eternal life, to consist in this knowledge; to know Him the only true God, (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,) and Jesus Christ God-Man Mediator, whom Jehovah hath sent, John 17:2-3. Reader! what hath the Lord taught you, of these precious things? The belief, the mere profession of belief, in an unknown God, is no belief at all. They that know thy name, (is the language of scripture,) will put their trust in thee, Psalms 9:10.

I hardly think it necessary to pause and remark, what is so very plain, the stupidity of those people at Lystra, in their proposed sacrifices. We may indeed make an improvement under grace from it, in observing on the one hand, to what a desperate state of ruin our whole nature is reduced, by the fall; and on the other, what grace the Lord Jesus hath manifested to his Church, in her recovery. What line shall fathom the vast depths of misery, in the one; and what stretch of thought, calculate the infinite dimensions of mercy, in both depths, heights, breadths, and lengths, in the other? Ephesians 3:17-19.

But I pass over for the present, the consideration of these things, in order to call the Reader's attention to that part of the Apostle's sermon, before these men of Lystra, wherein he speaks of the Lord's suffering, in times past, all nations to walk in their own ways. Which is a similar expression to what he said some time after, in his discourse before the men at Athens. The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30.

It cannot be supposed that in either case, Paul meant, that the God of the whole earth was indifferent to the conduct of his creatures. Much less, that the infinite Creator, whose eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good; can possibly be an inattentive observer, to any of the works of his Almighty bands. But, the sense seems to be this. The Apostle is drawing a line of distinction, between the Church and the world. And he intended to shew them, from what he said of himself and his companion, that as they were men of like passions with themselves; the Church of God, no more than the world, had in themselves any difference of nature. It is as if Paul had said; though to the coming of Christ, the Lord suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, all the purposes of revelation being wholly with an eye to his Church; yet even then, from the fall of man, the Lord had been gathering out his children, wheresoever they were scattered, from the Adam-nature of corruption. But now, by the Son of God having finished redemption-work, and being returned to glory; the Holy Ghost is come down, to send abroad the remedy of God's own providing for sin; and commanding all men everywhere to repent. This appears to be the mean drift of the Apostle's words. God's people consisting both of Jew and Gentile, are scattered over the face of the earth. And, therefore, still with an eye to the Church, so scattered, the Lord is sending his message to them. And the consequence will be, that all in every nation, whom the Father hath given to his Son, shall come to him; for he that calls them to repent, will give them grace to repent; for they shall come that are ready to perish, John 6:37.

And, in the further confirmation of these truths, the Apostle adds: Nevertheless, the Lord 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. Meaning, no doubt, that notwithstanding in spiritual things, the Lord had all along respect only to his Church; yet he left not himself without witness to the whole earth in temporal things. The Covenant which he made after the flood with all flesh, had stood firm, and would stand firm, never to be broken. The Lord had said, and several thousand years had now run out since the Lord said it, to confirm the purpose of his unchangeable decree. While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, should not cease, Genesis 8:22.

I beg the Reader to remark this. And, while he doth remark it, in testimony to the faithfulness of a Covenant God with all flesh, and to which every day's experience gives a further testimony; let him not forget, that while the Lord continueth his fruitful seasons, and fills the heart with food and gladness, carnal men have not the true relish which spiritual men enjoy. Here, as in the other instance, there is still a line of distinction drawn. It is not the mere possession of the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, nor the precious things put forth by the moon; unless the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, sweeten, and sanctify all, Deuteronomy 33:14-16. It is the want of this, for which so many aching hearts are in fine houses: and on the contrary, the possession of this, which gladdens the sorrowful situations of many that are very poor. Reader! turn over the subject for yourself, and judge accordingly. See Commentary on Acts 17:22, etc.


Verses 19-28

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. (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. (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, (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. (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. (24) And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. (25) And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: (26) And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. (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. (28) And there they abode long time with the disciples.

It is worthy observation, how fluctuating and inconstant the minds of men are, in respect to religious things, where the heart is not established in grace. Here are those very persons, of whom we read in a few preceding verses, which would have offered, in the extravagance of their zeal, divine honors to Paul and Barnabas, would now stone them. And was it not so with the Lord Jesus? The multitude, which hailed him with Hosannas, within a few days after, cried out, Crucify him, Crucify him. So it hath been, and so will it be, in all ages of the Church, during the present time-state of her pilgrimage. See notes on Luke 4:32. See also Matthew 10:21-25; John 15:18-21. Paul seems to have referred to this treatment, 2 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Timothy 3:10-11.

I pray the Reader not to overlook the faith and boldness of Paul, who, although he had been stoned at Lystra; yet shunned not to go there, for a second benefit to the Church. And Iconium, however undeserving, shall not lose the blessings of his labors, where the Lord had before owned his ministry, though there were many adversaries, 1 Corinthians 16:9. If the Reader would see Paul's comment upon this part of his history, he may read it: 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. Oh! that all ministers of Christ, had the grace to be like him, faithful!

I detain the Reader in the close of this Chapter, to notice what is said about confirming the souls of the disciples. By which we are authorized to conclude, that those were partakers of grace. For otherwise, they could not be confirmed, in what they were not. And, indeed, we are told as much, in the opening of this Chapter. A great multitude, (it. is said) both of Jews and Greeks, believed (Acts 15:1). So that they were real regenerated followers of the Lord. It was highly proper, that they should be confirmed in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus. Whether there was any particular service used upon this occasion, is not said. Some of the old writers have said much, in contending that there was. Others have said not. But, on the supposition that there was, it should seem to have been more than probable, agreeable to primitive times, the ordinance was accompanied with the breaking of bread, and of prayer. See Acts 2:46-47, and Acts 20:36. And, if such was the service of Confirmation, it must have been a blessed service; where both the persons confirming, and the persons confirmed, were all in grace, Acts 11:24; Galatians 1:15-16. All the beholders of such an assembly must have felt, what Paul himself describes, of one coming into a similar congregation of spiritual worshippers; and, being smitten with a deep sense of what he had heard and felt, would fall upon his face, and worship God; and report that God was in them of a truth! 1 Corinthians 14:25.

We have a short, but it is an interesting account, of an Ordination held by the Apostles, And truly, it must have, been altogether Apostolical. It appears to have been observed in prayer and fasting: and then the Apostles commended the Elders to the Lord in whom they believed. And these things, for the most part, are all that comes within the province of man in ordination to perform. For the ordination itself, must be of the Lord. Christ, as the Head of his body the Church, appoints his under Shepherds, in his fold. And God the Holy Ghost consecrates, and ordains them. And, oh! how truly called, separated, and sent forth to the service of the sanctuary, who are thus anointed by the sovereign unction of God the Holy Ghost? What may not be expected, from such a ministry? What blessings are too great to look for in that Church, where the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, come forth in the authority of Jesus, ordained by God the Holy Ghost; and through grace, are enabled to give themselves first to the Lord, and then to his people? See Acts 13:2 and Commentary. Holy, Blessed, and Eternal Spirit! in love and compassion to thy Church, send forth Pastors after thine own heart, to feed thy people with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 2:15.


Verse 28

REFLECTIONS

Gracious Lord! we behold, in what is here said in this Chapter, the true representation of thy Church, in all ages. The faithful sent servants must endure persecution. The pure Gospel of Jesus, will never be relished by the corrupt minds of the unawakened; neither will it be cordially received by those, who desire to add law to Gospel. But, what grace Lord must it be in thee, to overrule the malice of the enemy, when opposing thy truths, in making the flight of thy servants from persecution to minister to thy glory, in dispersing thy word everywhere. Oh! may such views sweetly teach my soul, to cry out with the Psalmist, Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath wilt thou restrain! I see, Lord, by this wonderful work of thine, that so much of the wrath of man as thou wilt convert into good, shall be employed to praise thee; all the further malice intended, shall be driven, like water running to waste, into another channel.

Will it please my honored Lord, to teach my soul to profit, from the changeable opinion of men, as here set forth; first in honoring his servants too much, and afterwards in treating them so cruelly; to leave all confidence in the creature, and live wholly upon my God the Infinite Creator. Precious Jesus! doth not every day's experience with a loud voice proclaim the solemn truth: Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of? Oh! the blessedness of knowing thee, living to thee, walking with thee, and rejoicing in thee, as the Lord my righteousness. Here let my soul be daily confirmed, and then it matters not, what tribulation I pass through, to enter into thy kingdom! And grant, Lord, to all thy seat servants, the continual manifestations of thy favor, to bear them up, and bear them on, and bear them through, all opposition. Shortly the Lord will come, to take all his redeemed home, both ministers and people, to himself, forever: and then the whole of persecution will end, in an everlasting day of the full knowledge, and enjoyment of may God forever!

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/acts-14.html. 1828.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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