|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:7-21 We see from the words purifying their hearts by faith, and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.
Verse 18. - Who maketh these things known, etc., for who doeth all these things (in ver. 17 of A.V.); known for known unto God are all his works, A.V. and T.R. Known from the beginning of the world. The above passage from Amos 9:11, 12, is quoted, not very exactly, though with no change of sense, from the LXX., where it ends with the words, "saith the Lord, who doeth all these things," as in the A.V. But the LXX. ver. 17 differs widely from the present Hebrew text. For whereas the Hebrew has, "That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen that are called by my Name," the LXX. (Cod. Alex.) have Ὅπως α}ν ἐκζητήσωσιν οἱ κατάλοιποι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸν Κύριον καὶ ππάντα τὰ ἔθνη κ.τ.λ., where it is evident that they read יִדְרְשׁוּ, seek after, for יֵרְשׁוּ, possess, and אָדָם, men, for אֶדום, Edom. There is every appearance of the LXX., followed here by St. James, having preserved the true reading. As regards the reading of the R.V. in ver. 18, it is a manifest corruption. It is not the reading of either the Hebrew or the Greek version of Amos, or of any other version; and it makes no sense. Whereas the T.R., which is the reading of Irenaeus (3:12.), as Meyer truly says, "presents a thought completely clear, pious, noble, and inoffensive as regards the connection," though he thinks that a reason for rejecting it. Nothing could be more germane to St. James's argument than thus to show from the words of Amos that God's present purpose of taking the Gentiles to be his people was, like all his other works, formed from the beginning of the world (comp. Ephesians 1:9, 10; Ephesians 3:5, 6; 2 Timothy 1:9, etc.). As regards the interpretation of the prophecy of Amos intended, the idea seems to be that that apparent ruin of the house and family of David which culminated in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus would be followed by those "sure mercies of David," which consisted in his resurrection from the dead, his exaltation to the right hand of God, and the gathering in of the Gentiles to his kingdom. The phrase, "the tabernacle of David," is rather difficult, because the word in the Hebrew is סֻכַּת דָזִיד, tabernacle or booth of David. It is the word used for the booths at the Feast of Tabernacles, and denotes a temporary shed of branches or the like of a very humble character. It is difficult to say why this word was used, unless it was to show that the house of David had fallen to a low estate before it was pulled down.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Known unto God are all his works,.... These are the words of James, and not of Amos; all the things which God does in the church and in the world, they were all foreknown and predetermined by him: from the beginning of the world; or from eternity; even all his works of creation, providence and grace: the Alexandrian copy, and Beza's most ancient copy, and the Vulgate Latin version, read in the singular number, "his work"; the work of the conversion of the Gentiles; this was fixed and resolved on by God in eternity; he knew it would be, because he had determined it should be; and accordingly he foretold it, and spoke of it in various periods of time before it came to pass; and therefore it should not be looked upon as some new and strange thing, that was never known, spoken or heard of: and this holds true of every other work of God, and agrees with what the Jews sometimes say (z), that
"every work which is renewed in the world, the holy blessed God has commanded (or ordered) it from the day the world was created.''
(z) Zohar in Exod. fol. 78. 2. Vid. ib. in Lev. fol. 25. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18, 19. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning—He who announced these things so long before, and He who had now brought them to pass, were one and the same; so that they were no novelty.
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