Acts 13:46
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(46) It was necessary.—The preachers recognised the necessity of following what they looked on as the divine plan in the education of mankind, and so they preached “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Romans 2:9-10). The former were offered, as the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham, the high privilege of being the channel through which “all families of the earth should be blessed” by the knowledge of Christ (Genesis 22:18). When they rejected that offer, it was made, without their intervention, to the Gentiles.

Judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life.—There is a touch of righteous indignation, perhaps something like irony, in the words. The preacher had thought them “worthy” of the highest of all blessings, the life eternal which was in Christ Jesus, but they, in their boastful and envious pride, took what was really a lower estimate of themselves, and showed that they were “unworthy.” They passed sentence, ipso facto, on themselves.

Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.—We have to remember (1) that the words were as an echo of those which the Apostle had heard in his trance in the Temple at Jerusalem (Acts 22:21); (2) that they would be heard, on the one hand, by the Gentiles with a joy hitherto unknown, and, on the other, by the Jews as a new cause of irritation.

Acts

JEWISH REJECTERS AND GENTILE RECEIVERS

UNWORTHY OF LIFE

Acts 13:46
.

So ended the first attempt on Paul’s great missionary journey to preach to the Jews. It is described at great length and the sermon given in full because it is the first. A wonderful sermon it was; touching all keys of feeling, now pleading almost with tears, now flashing with indignation, now calmly dealing with Scripture prophecies, now glowing as it tells the story of Christ’s death for men. It melted some of the hearers, but the most were wrought up to furious passion-and with characteristic vehemence, like their ancestors and their descendants through long dreary generations, fell to ‘contradicting and blaspheming.’ We can see the scene in the synagogue, the eager faces, the vehement gestures, the hubbub of tongues, the bitter words that stormed round the two in the midst, Barnabas like Jupiter, grave, majestic, and venerable; Paul like Mercury, agile, mobile, swift of speech. They bore the brunt of the fury till they saw it to be hopeless to try to calm it, and then departed with these remarkable words.

They are even more striking if we notice that ‘judge’ here may be used in its full legal sense. It is not merely equivalent to consider, for these Jews by no means thought themselves unworthy of eternal life, but it means, ‘ye adjudge and pass sentence on yourselves to be.’ Their rejection of the message was a self-pronounced sentence. It proved them to be, and made them, ‘unworthy of eternal life.’ There are two or three very striking thoughts to be gathered from these words which I would dwell on now.

I. What constitutes worthiness and unworthiness.

There are two meanings to the word ‘worthy’-deserving or fit. They run into each other and yet they may be kept quite apart. For instance you may say of a man that ‘he is worthy’ to be something or other, for which he is obviously qualified, not thinking at all whether he deserves it or not.

Now in the first of these senses-we are all unworthy of eternal life. That is just to state in other words the tragic truth of universal sinfulness. The natural outcome and issue of the course which all men follow is death. But yet there are men who are fit for and capable of eternal life. Who they are and what fitness is can only be ascertained when we rightly understand what eternal life is. It is not merely future blessedness or a synonym for a vulgar heaven. That is the common notion of its meaning. Men think of that future as a blessed state to which God can admit anybody if He will, and, as He is good, will admit pretty nearly everybody. But eternal life is a present possession as well as a future one, and passing by its deeper aspects, it includes-

Deliverance from evil habits and desires.

Purity, and love of all good and fair things.

Communion with God.

As well as forgiveness and removal of punishment.

What then are the qualifications making a man worthy of, in the sense of fit for, such a state?

{a} To know oneself to be unworthy.

He who judges himself to be worthy is unworthy. He who knows himself to be unworthy is worthy.

The first requisite is consciousness of sin, leading to repentance.

{b} To abandon striving to make oneself worthy.

By ourselves we never can do so. Many of us think that we must do our best, and then God will do the rest.

There must be the entire cessation of all attempt to work out by our own efforts characters that would entitle us to eternal life.

{c} To be willing to accept life on God’s terms.

As a mere gift.

{d} To desire it.

God cannot give it to any one who does not want it. He cannot force His gifts on us.

This then is the worthiness.

II. How we pass sentence on ourselves as unworthy.

It is quite clear that ‘judge’ here does not mean consider, for a sense of unworthiness is not the reason which keeps men away from the Gospel. Rather, as we have seen, a proud belief in our worthiness keeps very many away. But ‘judge’ here means ‘adjudicate’ or ‘pronounce sentence on,’ and worthy means fit, qualified.

Consider then-

{a} That our attitude to the Gospel is a revelation of our deepest selves.

The Gospel is a ‘discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart.’ It judges us here and now, and by their attitude to it ‘the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.’

{b} That our rejection of it plainly shows that we have not the qualifications for eternal life.

No doubt some men are kept from accepting Christ by intellectual doubts and difficulties, but even these would alter their whole attitude to Him if they had a profound consciousness of sin, and a desire for deliverance from it.

But with regard to the great bulk of its hearers, no doubt the hindrance is chiefly moral. Many causes may combine to produce the absence of qualification. The excuses in the parable’-farm, oxen, wife’-all amount to engrossment with this present world, and such absorption in the things seen and temporal deadens desire. So the Gospel preached excites no longings, and a man hears the offer of salvation without one motion of his heart towards it, and thus proclaims himself ‘unworthy of eternal life.’

But the great disqualification is the absence of all consciousness of sin. This is the very deepest reason which keeps men away from Christ.

How solemn a thing the preaching and hearing of this word is!

How possible for you to make yourselves fit!

How simple the qualification! We have but to know ourselves sinners and to trust Jesus and then we ‘shall be counted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead.’ Then we shall be ‘worthy to escape and to stand before the Son of Man.’ Then shall we be ‘worthy of this calling,’ and the Judge himself shall say: ‘They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.’Acts 13:46-47. Then Paul and Barnabas — Perceiving that no good impression could be made upon them; waxed bold — Used great freedom of speech; and said, It was necessary — According to the general instructions of our Divine Master; that the word of God should first be spoken to you — He shows that he had not preached to them from any confidence of their believing; but seeing ye put it from you, and — By that very action, in effect; judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life — Persons unfit to have it offered to you. This text plainly shows that persons may be said to be self-condemned, who furnish out matter of condemnation from their own words, though they do not actually pass sentence on themselves: for nothing was further from the thoughts of these Jews than to declare themselves unworthy of eternal life, because they did not believe the gospel; for they rather expected that life by rejecting it. They, indeed, judged none but themselves worthy of it; yet their conduct in rejecting the gospel, was the same as saying, We are unworthy of eternal life; as it effectually precluded their obtaining it. Lo, we turn to the Gentiles — Not that they intended entirely to desist from preaching to the Jews, for we find they continued to address them first in other places wherever they came; but they now determined to lose no more time at Antioch on their ungrateful countrymen, but to employ themselves wholly in doing what they could for the conversion of the Gentiles there. For so hath the Lord commanded us — See Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; in consequence of that prediction which was uttered by Isaiah in the name of God; saying — To his Son, the Messiah; I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles, &c.13:42-52 The Jews opposed the doctrine the apostles preached; and when they could find no objection, they blasphemed Christ and his gospel. Commonly those who begin with contradicting, end with blaspheming. But when adversaries of Christ's cause are daring, its advocates should be the bolder. And while many judge themselves unworthy of eternal life, others, who appear less likely, desire to hear more of the glad tidings of salvation. This is according to what was foretold in the Old Testament. What light, what power, what a treasure does this gospel bring with it! How excellent are its truths, its precepts, its promises! Those came to Christ whom the Father drew, and to whom the Spirit made the gospel call effectual, Ro 8:30. As many as were disposed to eternal life, as many as had concern about their eternal state, and aimed to make sure of eternal life, believed in Christ, in whom God has treasured up that life, and who is the only Way to it; and it was the grace of God that wrought it in them. It is good to see honourable women devout; the less they have to do in the world, the more they should do for their own souls, and the souls of others: but it is sad, when, under colour of devotion to God, they try to show hatred to Christ. And the more we relish the comforts and encouragements we meet with in the power of godliness, and the fuller our hearts are of them, the better prepared we are to face difficulties in the profession of godliness.Waxed bold - Became bold; spake boldly and openly. They were not terrified by their strife, or alarmed by their opposition. The contradictions and blasphemies of sinners often show that their consciences are alarmed; that the truth has taken effect; and then is not the time to shrink, but to declare more fearlessly the truth.

It was necessary - It was so designed; so commanded. They regarded it as their duty to offer the gospel first to their own countrymen. See the notes on Luke 24:47.

Ye put it from you - You reject it.

And judge yourselves - By your conduct, by your rejecting it, you declare this. The word "judge" here does not mean they "expressed such an opinion," or that "they regarded themselves" as unworthy of eternal life - for they thought just the reverse; but that by their conduct they condemned themselves. By such conduct they did, in fact, pass sentence on themselves, and show that they were unworthy of eternal life, and of having the offer of salvation any further made to them. Sinners by their conduct do, in fact, condemn themselves, and show that they are not only unfit to be saved, but that they have advanced so far in wickedness that there is no hope of their salvation, and no propriety in offering them, any further, eternal life. See the notes on Matthew 7:6.

Unworthy ... - Unfit to be saved. They had deliberately and solemnly rejected the gospel, and thus shown that they were not suited to enter into everlasting life. We may remark here:

(1) When people, even but once, deliberately and solemnly reject the offers of God's mercy, it greatly endangers their salvation. The probability is, that they then put the cup of salvation forever away from themselves.

(2) the gospel produces an effect wherever it is preached.

(3) when sinners are hardened, and spurn the gospel, it may often be the duty of ministers to turn their efforts toward others where they may have more prospect of success. A man will not long labor on a rocky, batten, sterile soil, when there is near him a rich and fertile valley that will abundantly reward the pains of cultivation.

Lo, we turn ... - We shall offer the gospel to them, and devote ourselves to seeking their salvation.

46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, &c.—This is in the highest style of a last and solemn protestation.

It was necessary that the word should first have been spoken to you—See the direction of Christ in Lu 24:47; also Ro 1:16.

since ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life—pass sentence upon yourselves.

Waxed bold; being nothing aftrighted with the reproaches and blasphemies they met with, which but increased their zeal, as a little water does the fire in the smith’s forge.

It was necessary; there was a necessity that the Word of God should be first preached to the Jews:

1. Because Christ was promised to the children and heirs of their ancestors.

2. Because Christ did command it to be thus preached, Matthew 10:5,6 Lu 24:47 Acts 1:8.

3. Christ himself thus preached it, declaring that he was not sent (comparatively)

but to the lost sheep of the house of lsrael, Matthew 15:24.

And judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life; by this their contradicting and blaspheming, they show as evidently that they are thus unworthy of everlasting life, as if a judge had determined so, or passed such a sentence upon his tribunal, or judgment seat. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold,.... They were not at all daunted at the opposition they met with, but rather grew more courageous, and used great liberty of speech, and spoke out freely, plainly, and openly: and said,

it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; as it was by Christ and his apostles, whilst he was on earth; and though, after his resurrection, the commission to his apostles ran, to preach the Gospel to all nations, yet they were ordered to begin at Jerusalem, and preach to the Jews first; and this they hitherto strictly observed:

but seeing ye put it from you; with loathing, indignation, and contempt:

and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life; no man is worthy of everlasting life, on account of anything done by him, for it is the free gift of God; and all who are sensible of themselves, and of the just demerit of sin, conclude themselves unworthy to inherit eternal life; but this was not the case of these Jews, nor is it the sense here: but the meaning is, that the Jews, by this act of theirs in rejecting the Gospel, did as it were pass sentence upon themselves, and determine against themselves that they ought not to be saved, since they despised the means of salvation; or that they were not worthy to have the Gospel preached to them any more, which may be called eternal life, because it is brought to light by it, and revealed in it; and because it points out the way unto it, as well as gives some account of it:

lo, we turn to the Gentiles; to preach the Gospel to them only, or chiefly; now the words of Christ began to be fulfilled, Matthew 21:43.

{19} Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and {s} judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

(19) The Gospel is proclaimed to the Gentiles by the express commandment of God.

(s) By this your doing you pronounce as it were sentence upon yourselves, and judge yourselves.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 13:46-47. Ἦν ἀναγκαῖον] namely, according to the counsel of God (see on Acts 13:14) and our apostolic duty.

οὐκ ἀξίους κρίνετε κ.τ.λ.] This judgment of their unworthiness they, in point of fact, pronounced upon themselves by their zealous contradicting and blaspheming.

ἰδού] “ingens articulus temporis magna revolutio,” Bengel. As to the singular, comp. on Matthew 10:16.

οὕτω γὰρ ἐντέταλται κ.τ.λ.] a proof that the στρεφόμεθα εἰς τὰ ἔθνη occurred not arbitrarily, but in the service of the divine counsel. Isaiah 49:6 (according to the LXX., with slight deviation), referring to the servant of God, is by Paul and Barnabas, according to the Messianic fulfilment which this divine word was to receive, recognised and asserted as ἐντολή for the apostolic office; for by means of this office it was to be brought about that the Messiah (σε) would actually become the light of the Gentiles (Luke 2:32), etc., for which, according to this oracle, God has destined Him.

τοῦ εἶναί σε κ.τ.λ.] the final purpose: in order that thou mayest be, etc.Acts 13:46. παῤῥησιασάμενοι, see on Acts 9:27.—ἦν ἀναγκαῖον, cf. on Acts 13:14.—ἐπειδὴ δὲ, see critical notes. δέ marks the contrast, but its omission emphasises it even more vividly and sternly.—ἀπωθεῖσθε: “ye thrust it from you,” R.V.; repellitis, Vulgate; only in Luke and Paul, cf. 1 Timothy 1:19, Romans 11:1, Acts 7:27; Acts 7:39; frequent in LXX, cf., e.g., Ps. 93:14, Ezekiel 43:9, and 3Ma 3:22; 3Ma 6:32, 4Ma 2:16.—οὐκ ἀξίους, cf. Matthew 22:8.46. It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you] That, as Christ came first unto His own, so His messengers should declare their glad tidings first unto Jews, but if they received not the word, then it was to be proclaimed to all who would receive it.

judge yourselves unworthy] i.e. pronounce the sentence upon yourselves by your actions. Cp. Matthew 22:8, “They that were bidden” to the marriage supper “were not worthy.” They had been deemed worthy by him who sent to call them, but had declared they were not so by their refusal to come.Acts 13:46. Παρρησιασάμενοι, having waxed bold [using freedom of speech]) They who impede others ought especially to be reproved in public.—ἀναγκαῖον, necessary) although ye were not worthy. He shows that he had not preached with the confident assurance of their obedience.—ἀπωθεῖσθε, ye repel it) The antithetical words are, to repel the word of GOD, and, to glorify the word of the Lord, Acts 13:48.—οὐκ ἀξίους, not worthy) The Divine consideration [lit. “deeming worthy”] towards you is great; but ye are not worthy; Matthew 22:8 : and although ye think us unworthy of being heard, and esteem yourselves alone worthy of eternal life, yet ye yourselves of your own accord rush into this judgment, that ye are unworthy, and it is all the same as if you were to say, “We are unworthy;” There is therefore a Metonymy of the antecedent for the consequent. The antithesis is, they (the Gentiles) were glad, Acts 13:48.—τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς, of everlasting life) ibid. “ordained to eternal life.”—ἰδοὺ, lo) This points out a thing present. A grand point of time; a great revolution.Verse 46. - And for then, A.V. and T.R.; spake out boldly for waxed bold, A.V.; be for have been, A.V.; seeing for but seeing, A.V. and T.R.; thrust for put, A.V.; eternal for everlasting, A.V. Spake out boldly. Observe that Barnabas as well as Paul resented the unseemly opposition of the Jews. It was necessary. The necessity arose from the command of Christ (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Acts 3:26). It is in accordance with this purpose of God that St. Paul says of the gospel that "it is the power of God unto salvation... to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Compare, too, our Lord's saying (Matthew 15:24) and the woman's reply (ibid. 27). In point of fact, this had been the practice of Paul and Barnabas no less than of Peter, and was the very motive that had brought them to Antioch. Lo, we turn to the Gentiles. These were, indeed, bold words to speak in a Jewish synagogue; the speakers had doubtless sought courage from the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:29). Put (ἀπωθεῖσθε)

Not strong enough. Better, as Rev., thrust, denoting violent rejection.

Lo (ἰδοὺ)

Marking a crisis.

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