Acts 14:16
Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Who in times past suffered all nations.—Better, all the heathen; the term used being that which is always employed of the nations outside the covenant of Israel. We have here the first germ of what may be fairly described as St. Paul’s philosophy of history. The times of ignorance had been permitted by God, and those who had lived in them would be equitably dealt with, and judged according to their knowledge. The same thought meets us again in the speech at Athens (Acts 17:30). In Romans 1, 2, 11, we meet with it, in an expanded form, as a more complete vindication of the righteousness of God. The ignorance and the sins of the Gentile world had been allowed to run their course, as the Law had been allowed to do its partial and imperfect work among the Jews, as parts, if one may so speak, of a great divine drama, leading both to feel the need of redemption, and preparing both for its reception. All were included in unbelief that God might have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32).

14:8-18 All things are possible to those that believe. When we have faith, that most precious gift of God, we shall be delivered from the spiritual helplessness in which we were born, and from the dominion of sinful habits since formed; we shall be made able to stand upright and walk cheerfully in the ways of the Lord. When Christ, the Son of God, appeared in the likeness of men, and did many miracles, men were so far from doing sacrifice to him, that they made him a sacrifice to their pride and malice; but Paul and Barnabas, upon their working one miracle, were treated as gods. The same power of the god of this world, which closes the carnal mind against truth, makes errors and mistakes find easy admission. We do not learn that they rent their clothes when the people spake of stoning them; but when they spake of worshipping them; they could not bear it, being more concerned for God's honour than their own. God's truth needs not the services of man's falsehood. The servants of God might easily obtain undue honours if they would wink at men's errors and vices; but they must dread and detest such respect more than any reproach. When the apostles preached to the Jews, who hated idolatry, they had only to preach the grace of God in Christ; but when they had to do with the Gentiles, they must set right their mistakes in natural religion. Compare their conduct and declaration with the false opinions of those who think the worship of a God, under any name, or in any manner, is equally acceptable to the Lord Almighty. The most powerful arguments, the most earnest and affectionate addresses, even with miracles, are scarcely enough to keep men from absurdities and abominations; much less can they, without special grace, turn the hearts of sinners to God and to holiness.Who in times past - Previous to the gospel; in past ages.

Suffered all nations - Permitted all nations; that is, all Gentiles, Acts 17:30. "And the times of this ignorance God winked at."

To walk in their own ways - To conduct themselves without the restraints and instructions of a written law. They were permitted to follow their own reason and passions, and their own system of religion. God gave them no written laws, and sent to them no messengers. Why he did this we cannot determine. It might have been, among other reasons, to show to the world conclusively:

(1) The insufficiency of reason to guide people in the matters of religion. The experiment was made under the most favorable circumstances. The most enlightened nations, the Greeks and Romans, were left to pursue the inquiry, and failed no less than the most degraded tribes of people. The trial was made for four thousand years, and attended with the same results everywhere.

(2) it showed the need of revelation to guide man.

(3) it evinced, beyond the possibility of mistake, the depravity of man. In all nations, in all circumstances, people had shown the same alienation from God. By suffering them to walk in their own ways, it was seen that those ways were sin, and that some power more than human was necessary to bring people back to God.

16. Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways—that is, without extending to them the revelation vouchsafed to the seed of Abraham, and the grace attending it; compare Ac 17:30; 1Co 1:21. Yet not without guilt on their part was this privation (Ro 1:20, &c.). There were two main objections which these heathen idolaters might make against the gospel, and the worship of the true God: and they are, first, from the antiquity, secondly, from the universality, of that false worship; both which the apostle here gives a critical answer unto, telling them, that the reason why so many, and for so long a time had followed idols, was from the just judgment of God upon them, as Psalm 81:12 Romans 1:24,28.

Their own ways; ways of our choosing, and not of God’s commanding, are false ways. Who in times past,.... For many hundred years past; even ever since God chose and separated the people of Israel from the rest of the nations, to be a peculiar people to himself: from that time he

suffered all nations to walk in their own ways; of ignorance, superstition, and idolatry; which they devised, and chose, and delighted in: not that he gave them any licence to walk in these ways, without being chargeable with sin, or with impunity; but he left them to themselves, to the dim light and law of nature, and gave them no written law, nor any external revelation of his mind and will; nor did he send any prophets or ministers of his unto them, to show them the evil of their ways, and turn them from them, and direct them to the true God, and the right way of worshipping him; but left them to take their own methods, and pursue the imagination of their own hearts: but the apostle suggests, that the case was now altered, and God had sent them and other ministers of his, among all nations of the world, to protest against their superstition and idolatry; and to reclaim them from their evil ways, and to direct them to the true and living God, and his worship, and to preach salvation by his Son Jesus Christ.

{5} Who in times past {g} suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

(5) Custom, be it ever so old, does not excuse the idolaters.

(g) Allowed them to live as they wished, prescribing and appointing them no type of religion.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 14:16-18. Who in the past ages left the Gentiles to themselves (did not guide them by special revelation), although He withal made Himself known, doing good to them, by the blessings of nature—an indulgent description (comp. Acts 17:30) of the ungodly character of the heathen, with a gently reproving reference to the revelation of God in nature. Ὅρα πῶς λανθανόντως τὴν κατηγορίαν τίθησι, Chrysostom. Grotius aptly remarks: “Egregiam hic habemus formam orationis, quam imitari debeant, qui apud populos in idololatria educates evangelium praedicant.” Comp. Schneckenburger, die natürl. Theol. d. Paul. in his Beitr. p. 97 ff.

ταῖς ὁδοῖς] local[18] dative: in their ways. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 12:18; Judges 1:11; Jdt 13:16; Sir 35:20. What is meant is the development of the inward and outward life in a way shaped by themselves, without divine regulation and influence, and also without the intervention of the divine anger. Comp. Romans 3:10 ff; Romans 1:22 ff., where the whole moral abomination and curse of this relation is unveiled, whereas here only alluring gentleness speaks.[19]

καίτοιγε οὐκ ἀμάρτ. κ.τ.λ.] An indication that they, nevertheless, might and should have known Him. Comp. Romans 1:20, καίτοιγε, as in John 4:2, quamquam quidem, and yet. See also Baeumlein, Partik. p. 245 ff.; and Krüger, Dion. H. p. 267.

Observe the relation of the three participles, of which the second is logically subordinate to the first, and the third to the second: as doer of good, in that He gives you rain, thereby filling, etc.

οὐρανόθεν] not uselessly added. “Coelum sedes Dei,” Bengel. Observe also the individualizing ὑμῖν (see critical remarks).

εὐφροσύνης] joy generally. Arbitrarily, Grotius and Wolf suggest that (Sir 31:31) wine is meant.

τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν] neither stands for the simple ὑμᾶς, nor is it to be taken, with Wolf, of the stomach (Thuc. II. 49. 2); but the heart is filed with food, inasmuch as the sensation of being filled, the pleasant feeling of satisfaction, is in the heart. Comp. Psalm 104:15; Jam 5:5.

τοῦ μὴ θύειν αὐτοῖς] comp. Acts 10:47. The genitive depends on κατέπαυσαν, according to the construction καταπ. τινά τινος to divert a person from a thing, to hinder him in it (Hom. Od. xxiv. 457; Plat. Polit. p. 294 E; frequently in the LXX.), and μή is the usual particle with verbs of preventing and hindering (Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 167 f.; Baeumlein, l.c. p. 298 ff.).

[18] See, generally, on the dativus localis, Becker, Homer. Blätter, p. 208 f.

[19] The announcement of the gospel forms the great epoch in the history of salvation, with the emergence of which the times of men’s being left to themselves are fulfilled. See Acts 17:30; Romans 3:25 f. Comp. also Hebart, natürl. Theol. d. Ap. Paul. p. 13. For judgment Jesus has come into the world.Acts 14:16-17. ὃς: God working not only in creation, but in history, not only the source of life but the personal living Guide and Ruler of man, even in His tolerance far removed from the easy indifference of the gods of Olympus. The three present participles ἀγαθ.… διδ.… ἐμπ.… mark the continuous activity and goodness of God, and are all three epexegetical of ἀμάρτυρον; whilst the second participle is generally regarded as specifying a mode of the first, and the third as expressing a consequence of the second.—οὐρανόθεν: only again in Acts 26:13 in N.T., see 4Ma 4:10; so in Hom. and Hes., old genitive of οὐρανός.—ὑετοὺς διδοὺς καὶ καιροὺς καρπ.: the Apostle’s appeal becomes more significant when we remember that Zeus was spoken of as ὑέτιος, ἐπικάρπιος (Bethge); the rain was regarded in the East as a special sign of divine favour, and here, as in the O.T., God’s goodness and power in this gift are asserted as against the impotence of the gods of the heathen, see especially Jeremiah 14:22, and cf. 1 Kings 18:1 and 1 Samuel 12:17 where this same phrase ὑετ. διδόναι is used of God.—καρπ.: here only in N.T., cf. LXX, Jeremiah 2:21, Psalm 106:34, and also classical; cf. for the whole passage Cicero, De Nat. Deorum, ii., 53.—ἐμπιπλῶν (ἐμπιπλάω), cf. Luke 1:53; Luke 6:25, Romans 15:24, John 6:12, frequent in LXX, e.g., Psalm 106:9, Isaiah 29:19, Jeremiah 38:14, Sir 4:12; see also below on εὐφροσ.—καρδίας: Blass compares Luke 21:34, where the heart is spoken of as overcharged with surfeiting, as here it is spoken of as filled with food. But the word may be used not merely as = ὑμᾶς, or in a merely material sense, but as including the idea of enjoyment, cf. LXX, Psalm 103:15; Winer-Moulton, Acts 23:1, and Alford on Jam 5:5.—εὐφροσύνης: in its ordinary Greek use might simply mean “good cheer,” although we need not limit it here with Grotius to wine as in Sir 31:28; very frequently used in LXX (only here and in Acts 2:28 in N.T.), sometimes of mere festive joy, Genesis 31:27, sometimes of religious gladness, Deuteronomy 28:47. Although St. Paul could not have used it here as it is employed in Acts 2:28, yet he might perhaps have used it as a kind of transition word to lead his hearers on to a deeper gladness of heart, a richer gift of God than corn and wine, cf. Psalm 4:7, and for the phrase ἐμπ. εὐφροσ. Isaiah 29:19, Sir 4:12. It may well be that whilst we have in this address the germ of the thoughts afterwards developed in Romans 1:18; Romans 1:23, etc., St. Paul did not press his argument on this occasion as in his Epistle, but took the first step to arrest the attention of his hearers by an appeal to the goodness, not to the severity, of God—the goodness which leadeth to repentance. It has been thought that the words οὐρ. ἡμῖν διδούς κ.τ.λ. are rhythmical, and may have been some familiar fragment of a song, or a citation from a Greek poet, in which the Apostle expressed his thoughts; others have maintained that they may have formed part of the hymn sung in the procession for the sacrifice, and that St. Paul made the words his text; see Humphry, in loco; Farrar, St. Paul, i., p. 384; Felten, in loco; but it may be fairly said that the O.T. language was in itself quite sufficient to suggest the Apostle’s words. On the remarkable parallels between this speech and the sayings of Pseudo-Heracleitus in his letters see Gore, Ephesians, p. 253 ff., but see also Bernays, Die Heraklitischen Briefe, p. 29.—πάντα τὰ ἔθνη: “all the Gentiles,” R.V., the words divided mankind into two classes, but there was the same Lord over all, Romans 3:29.—ἐν ταῖς παρῳχ. γενεαῖς: “in the generations gone by,” R.V. παρῳχ.: not in LXX or Apocrypha, but classical, and used also by Josephus.—εἴασε (cf. Acts 17:30, Romans 3:25-26) … πορεύ. ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν, i.e., without summoning them as now to repent, cf. for the combination Acts 9:31, and for the expression 2 Corinthians 12:18, Judges 1:11, Jam 5:20 (in classical Greek cf. Thuc., iii., 64, ἄδικον ὁδὸν ἰέναι), cf. also the contrast between God’s ways and the wilfulness of Israel in the past, Psalm 81:13 and previous verses, expressed in the same phraseology.16. who in times past (by-gone generations) suffered all nations (all the heathen) to walk in their own ways] God had chosen Israel only for His own people before the coming of Christ, and had given to the rest of the world no revelation of Himself except what they could read in the pages of the book of nature. But that, St Paul says, spake clearly of a careful creator and preserver of the world.Acts 14:16. Ὃς, who) An anticipation of an objection that might be made, lest the Lycaonians should suppose that, had these same things been true, they would have heard them from their parents.—παρῳχημέναις, past) οἴχεσθαι is said of that which perishes and passes away ineffectual. See by all means 2 Esdras 9 :(13) 14–22; with which comp. as to a vain mode of life, 1 Peter 1:18 : and, on the contrary, as to believers, Acts 13:36, David served the will of God in his generation.—εἴασε, suffered) A great judgment. With this may be compared Heidanus de Orig. erroris, l. vi., etc.—πάντα, all) The largeness of the number of those in error does not take away (set aside) the error.—ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν, in their own ways) of idolatry, which they themselves entered upon (have begun).Verse 16. - The generations gone by for times past, A.V.; the nations for nations, A.V. Times (γενεαῖς)

More correctly, generations, as Rev.

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