|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
28:23-31 Paul persuaded the Jews concerning Jesus. Some were wrought upon by the word, and others hardened; some received the light, and others shut their eyes against it. And the same has always been the effect of the gospel. Paul parted with them, observing that the Holy Ghost had well described their state. Let all that hear the gospel, and do not heed it, tremble at their doom; for who shall heal them, if God does not? The Jews had afterwards much reasoning among themselves. Many have great reasoning, who do not reason aright. They find fault with one another's opinions, yet will not yield to truth. Nor will men's reasoning among themselves convince them, without the grace of God to open their understandings. While we mourn on account of such despisers, we should rejoice that the salvation of God is sent to others, who will receive it; and if we are of that number, we should be thankful to Him who hath made us to differ. The apostle kept to his principle, to know and preach nothing but Christ and him crucified. Christians, when tempted from their main business, should bring themselves back with this question, What does this concern the Lord Jesus? What tendency has it to bring us to him, and to keep us walking in him? The apostle preached not himself, but Christ, and he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Though Paul was placed in a very narrow opportunity for being useful, he was not disturbed in it. Though it was not a wide door that was opened to him, yet no man was suffered to shut it; and to many it was an effectual door, so that there were saints even in Nero's household, Php 4:22. We learn also from Php 1:13, how God overruled Paul's imprisonment for the furtherance of the gospel. And not the residents at Rome only, but all the church of Christ, to the present day, and in the most remote corner of the globe, have abundant reason to bless God, that during the most mature period of his Christian life and experience, he was detained a prisoner. It was from his prison, probably chained hand to hand to the soldier who kept him, that the apostle wrote the epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Hebrews; epistles showing, perhaps more than any others, the Christian love with which his heart overflowed, and the Christian experience with which his soul was filled. The believer of the present time may have less of triumph, and less of heavenly joy, than the apostle, but every follower of the same Saviour, is equally sure of safety and peace at the last. Let us seek to live more and more in the love of the Saviour; to labour to glorify Him by every action of our lives; and we shall assuredly, by his strength, be among the number of those who now overcome our enemies; and by his free grace and mercy, be hereafter among the blessed company who shall sit with Him upon his throne, even as He also has overcome, and is sitting on his Father's throne, at God's right hand for evermore.
Verse 31. - The things for those things, A.V.; concerning for which concern, A.V.; boldness for confidence, A.V.; none for no man, A.V. Boldness (παρρησίας); see above, Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13, 29, 31. The verb παρρησιάζομαι also occurs frequently (Acts 9:27; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3, etc.). The boldness and freedom with which he spake the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ would naturally increase more and more, as he found himself day by day unchecked by enemies, and encouraged by the number and earnestness of his hearers. None forbidding him; ἀκωλύτως, only here in the New Testament; but the adjective is found in Symmachus's version of Job (Job 34:31), and in the LXX. of Wisd. 7:22; and both adjective and adverb are occasionally used in classical Greek. But the most common use of the adverb is by medical writers, who employ it "to denote freedom, unhindered action, in a variety of things, such as respiration, perspiration, the pulse, the muscles, the members of the body" (Hobart). In two passages quoted from Galen ('Meth. Med.,' 14:15; 'Usus Part.,' 2:15) the sentence ends, as here, with the word ἀκωλύτως Some derive the word "acolyte" hence, from their being admitted to holy functions, though not in full orders. And so ends this lively and beautiful and most faithful sketch of one of the greatest men, and one of the greatest works, the world has ever seen. "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft," is seen, as we read this history, to be no empty boast, but a simple statement of the truth. The springs of that mind and of that zeal were ever ready to rise to fresh work, however crushing a strain had been put upon them. "I count not my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God," is the true description of that life as delineated by the beloved physician. And yet how remarkable it is that in the whole of the Acts there is not one single word of panegyric! The portraiture is a bare photograph, without a single additional touch to enhance its beauty. Nor must we forget the singular brevity with which some episodes are passed over. Had we only Luke's history, we should not know that the apostle was an author - an author whose writings have moved the world of mind and spirit more than all the writings of Plato, and Aristotle, and Cicero, and Bacon combined, through a period of eighteen hundred years. Thus, to glance at the "two whole years" with the record of which the book closes, think of the work clone in that time. What gatherings of holy men and women within the walls of that "hired dwelling" are we sure must have taken place! Prisca and Aquila, and Epaenetus, and Mary, and Urban, and Apelles, and Persis, and Hermas, and Olympas, and all their compeers, we may be sure were often there. What wrestlings in prayer, what expositions of the Scriptures, what descriptions of the kingdom of God, what loving exhortations, what sympathetic communings, must have made that "hired dwelling" a very Bethel in the stronghold of heathenism! We think of the praetorian soldiers to whom he was successively chained; perhaps of the courteous Julius; of the inmates of Nero's palace (Philippians 4:22); perhaps of Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia (2 Timothy 4:21); of Epaphras and Epaphroditus, and of Luke, and Mark, and Timothy, and Aristarchus, and we know not how many more besides; and there rises before our minds a crowd of agencies and sober activities directed by that master mind to the advancement of the kingdom of God. We feel, indeed, that, though he was chained, "the word of God was not bound;" but that through the marvelous energy and unfailing wisdom of the great prisoner, his prison turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. And then we turn to the Epistles written at this time. What a contribution to the literature of the kingdom of heaven!-the Epistles to the Ephesians, to the Colossions, to Philemon, and to the Philippians, and probably much help given to Luke in the composition of the Acts of the Apostles. Truly they were two years of infinite moment to the Church of God. What followed those two years, what became of Paul, and what of his saintly biographer, we shall never know. It has pleased God to draw a curtain ever the events, which we cannot penetrate. Here our history ends, because nothing more had happened when it was given to the Church. Instead of vain regrets because it reaches no further, let us devoutly thank God for all that this book has taught us, and strive to show ourselves worthy members of that Gentile Church, whose foundation by St. Peter and St. Paul, and whose marvelous increment, through the labors of him who once laid it waste, has been so well set before us in the Book of THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Preaching the kingdom of God,.... That is, the Gospel, as in Luke 4:43; he preached up Jesus as the King Messiah, and declared that his kingdom was come, and opened the nature of it; that it consisted not in meats and drinks, but in righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; which is the kingdom of grace here, and is within a man, in his heart, where grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life: and he gave them same account of the kingdom of glory, and the way unto it; and showed, that without regeneration and sanctification, no one could be meet for it; and without the justifying righteousness of Christ, no man could have a right unto it, or be possessed of it:
and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ: his person, as God and man; his office as Mediator, being prophet, priest, and King; his incarnation and birth; his life and miracles; his doctrine and obedience, sufferings and death; his resurrection, ascension, session at God's right hand; his intercession, and second coming to judgment; with all the truths of the Gospel, in which he has a concern; as redemption, peace, reconciliation and pardon, by his blood and sacrifice, and justification by his righteousness, and salvation and eternal life through him. These things had been the subject of the apostle's ministry, throughout the whole of it: he began at Damascus with preaching Jesus as the Son of God and the true Messiah; and he ends at Rome, with teaching the things concerning him: at his first setting out in the work of the Lord, he determined to make known none but Christ, and him crucified; and in this resolution he continued through the whole course of his life, and abode by it to the end: and this he did
with all confidence; with all freedom and liberty in his soul, though he was bound in his body with a chain; with all plainness, openness, and faithfulness; and with all courage and boldness, though in the midst of adversaries:
no man forbidding him; not the Roman emperor, nor the Roman senate, nor any other magistrate; nor could the Jews hinder him, nor was his mouth to be stopped by any; nor could the open door of the Gospel be shut, or its course be impeded; for though the apostle was bound, the word of God was not, but ran and was glorified; and was made known, and even owned in Caesar's palace; some say Nero's cupbearer, and Poppea his concubine, were converted by him: and he not only continued preaching the Gospel during the two years of his imprisonment at Rome, but also wrote several epistles to churches, and particular persons; as the epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the Hebrews, and to Philemon, and the "second" epistle to Timothy: some copies add here, "Amen"; and at the close of the Alexandrian copy, stand these words, "the Acts of the holy Apostles"; and at the Syriac version these, "the End of the Acts of the blessed Apostles, that is, of their Histories".
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
31. with all confidence, no man forbidding him—enjoying, in the uninterrupted exercise of his ministry, all the liberty of a guarded man. Thus closes this most precious monument of the beginnings of the Christian Church in its march from east to west, among the Jews first, whose center was Jerusalem; next among the Gentiles, with Antioch for its headquarters; finally, its banner is seen waving over imperial Rome, foretokening its universal triumphs. That distinguished apostle whose conversion, labors, and sufferings for "the faith which once he destroyed" occupy more than half of this History, it leaves a prisoner, unheard, so far as appears, for two years. His accusers, whose presence was indispensable, would have to await the return of spring before starting for the capital, and might not reach it for many months; nor, even when there, would they be so sanguine of success—after Felix, Festus, and Agrippa had all pronounced him innocent—as to be impatient of delay. And if witnesses were required to prove the charge advanced by Tertullus, that he was "a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the [Roman] world" (Ac 24:5), they must have seen that unless considerable time was allowed them the case would certainly break down. If to this be added the capricious delays which the emperor himself might interpose, and the practice of Nero to hear but one charge at a time, it will not seem strange that the historian should have no proceedings in the case to record for two years. Begun, probably, before the apostle's arrival, its progress at Rome under his own eye would furnish exalted employment, and beguile many a tedious hour of his two years' imprisonment. Had the case come on for hearing during this period, much more if it had been disposed of, it is hardly conceivable that the History should have closed as it does. But if, at the end of this period, the Narrative only wanted the decision of the case, while hope deferred was making the heart sick (Pr 13:12), and if, under the guidance of that Spirit whose seal was on it all, it seemed of more consequence to put the Church at once in possession of this History than to keep it back indefinitely for the sake of what might come to be otherwise known, we cannot wonder that it should be wound up as it is in its two concluding verses. All that we know of the apostle's proceedings and history beyond this must be gathered from the Epistles of the Imprisonment—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon—written during this period, and the Pastoral Epistles—to Timothy and Titus, which, in our judgment, are of subsequent date. From the former class of Epistles we learn the following particulars: (1) That the trying restraint laid upon the apostle's labors by his imprisonment had only turned his influence into a new channel; the Gospel having in consequence penetrated even into the palace, and pervaded the city, while the preachers of Christ were emboldened; and though the Judaizing portion of them, observing his success among the Gentiles, had been led to inculcate with fresh zeal their own narrower Gospel, even this had done much good by extending the truth common to both (See on Php 1:12-18; Php 4:22); (2) That as in addition to all his other labors, "the care of all the churches pressed upon him from day to-day" (2Co 11:28), so with these churches he kept up an active correspondence by means of letters and messages, and on such errands he lacked not faithful and beloved brethren enough ready to be employed—Luke; Timotheus; Tychicus; (John) Mark; Demas; Aristarchus; Epaphras; Onesimus; Jesus, called Justus; and, for a short time, Epaphroditus (See on Col 4:7; Col 4:9-12; Col 4:14; Phm 23, 24; see Introduction to Ephesians, Introduction to Philippians, and Introduction to Philemon). That the apostle suffered martyrdom under Nero at Rome has never been doubted. But that the appeal which brought him to Rome issued in his liberation, that he was at large for some years thereafter and took some wide missionary circuits, and that he was again arrested, carried to Rome, and then executed—was the undisputed belief of the early Church, as expressed by Chrysostom, Jerome, and Eusebius, in the fourth century, up to Clement of Rome, the "fellow laborer" of the apostle himself (Php 4:3), in the first century. The strongest possible confirmation of this is found in the Pastoral Epistles, which bear marks throughout of a more advanced state of the Church, and more matured forms of error, than can well have existed at any period before the appeal which brought the apostle to Rome; which refer to movements of himself and Timothy that cannot without some straining (as we think) be made to fit into any prior period; and which are couched in a manifestly riper style than any of his other Epistles. (See Introduction to First Timothy, Introduction to Second Timothy Introduction to Titus and Notes). All this has been called in question by modern critics of great research and acuteness [Petavius, Lardner, De Wette, Wieseler, Davidson, and others]. But those who maintain the ancient view are of equal authority and more numerous, while the weight of argument appears to us to be decidedly on their side.
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