Acts 14:17
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) He left not himself without witness.—Here again we have the outline of what is afterwards expanded (Romans 1:19-20). In speaking to peasants like those at Lystra, St. Paul naturally dwells most on the witness given through the divine goodness as manifested in nature. In addressing philosophers at Athens and at Rome, he points to the yet fuller witness of consciousness and conscience (Acts 17:28; Romans 2:14-15).

In that he did good.—Better, as expressing the continuous manifestation of the divine will, “working good, giving rain, filling our hearts.” The MSS. vary, some giving “us” and “our,” and some “you” and “your.” The former is more characteristic of the sympathy which led St. Paul to identify himself with Gentile as well as Jew. The “joy of harvest” (Isaiah 9:3) was the common inheritance of each. The latter words in the Greek, from “giving us rain from heaven,” are so distinctly rhythmical that they suggest the thought that St. Paul quotes from some hymn of praise which he had heard in a harvest or vintage festival, and which, as with the altar to the Unknown God at Athens, he claims as due to Him whom men ignorantly worshipped. (See Note on Acts 17:23.)

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.Nevertheless - Though he gave them no revelation.

He left not himself without witness - He gave demonstration of his existence and of his moral character.

In that he did good - By doing good. The manner in which he did it, Paul immediately specifies. Idols did not do good; they conferred no favors, and were, therefore, unworthy of confidence.

And gave us rain from heaven - Rain from above - from the clouds, Mark 8:11; Luke 9:54; Luke 17:29; Luke 21:11; John 6:31-32. Rain is one of the evidences of the goodness of God. Man could not cause it; and without it, regulated at proper intervals of time and in proper quantities, the earth would soon be one wide scene of desolation. There is scarcely anything which more certainly indicates unceasing care and wisdom than the needful and refreshing showers of rain. The sun and stars move by fixed laws, whose operation we can see and anticipate. The falling of rain is regulated by laws which We cannot trace, and it seems, therefore, to be poured, as it were, directly from God's hollow hand, Psalm 147:8, "Who covereth the heaven with clouds; who prepareth rain for the earth."

And fruitful seasons - Seasons when the earth produces abundance. It is remarkable, and a striking proof of the divine goodness, that so few seasons are unfruitful. The earth yields her increase; the labors of the farmer are crowned with success; and the goodness of God demands the expressions of praise. God does not forget his ancient covenant Genesis 8:22, though man forgets it, and disregards his great Benefactor.

Filling our hearts with food - The word "hearts" is used here as a Hebraism, to denote "persons" themselves; filling us with food, etc. Compare Matthew 12:40.

Gladness - Joy; comfort the comfort arising from the supply of our constantly returning needs. This is proof of everwatchful goodness. It is a demonstration at once that there is a God, and that he is good. It would be easy for God to withdraw these blessings, and leave us to want. A single word, or a single deviation from the fullness of benevolence, would blast all these comforts, and leave us to lamentation, woe, and death, Psalm 104:27-29; Psalm 145:15-16.

17. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness—Though the heinousness of idolatry is represented as so much less in the heathen, by how much they were outside the pale of revealed religion, he takes care to add that the heathen have divine "witness" enough to leave them "without excuse."

he did good—scattering His beneficence everywhere and in a thousand forms.

rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons—on which human subsistence and all human enjoyment depend. In Lycaonia, where, as ancient writers attest, rain is peculiarly scarce, this allusion would have all the greater effect.

filling our hearts with food and gladness—a natural colloquialism, the heart being gladdened by the food supplied to the body.

These words are to prevent that cavil, Why does God yet complain? and inform them, that though God had not given them, nor their ancestors, his laws written in tables of stone, as he had given to the Jews; yet they had the law written in their hearts, which they had not obeyed, though God’s manifold mercies, his works of creation and providence, had testified unto them, that he only was to be feared and worshipped. How many witnesses hath God against sinful man, when every creature and providence speaks his power, wisdom, goodness, &c., and call upon us to love and obey him? Every creature tells us that God made it, &c. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness,.... Of his kindness and goodness to them, during this long interval and period of time; for they had not the written law, yet they were not destitute of the law of nature; and had, besides, many instances of providential goodness, by which they might have known God: and should have been thankful to him, and glorified him as God, and not have worshipped the idols of their own hands; the goodness of God should have led them to repentance, and not have been abused to so many wicked purposes as it had been:

in that he did good; in a providential way, to persons very undeserving of it, of which some particular instances follow:

and gave us rain from heaven, which none of the gods of the Gentiles could, do, Jeremiah 14:22. So , "the key of rains", is by the Jews (a) said to be one of the keys which God has in his own hands, and which he does not commit to any other: and a wonderful blessing is this to mankind, and which God gives to the just and to the unjust, and did give to the ignorant and idolatrous Gentiles. Beza's most ancient copy, and four other ancient copies of his, and some others, read "you", instead of "us"; which reading seems most agreeable:

and fruitful seasons; spring, summer, harvest, and autumn, at which several times, different fruits of the earth appear:

filling our hearts with food and gladness; giving a sufficiency of food, and even an abundance of it, and that for pleasure and delight, as well as for support and refreshment: the Syriac version reads, "their hearts"; some copies read, "your hearts".

(a) Targum Jerus. in Genesis 30.22. & Jon. in Deuteronomy 28.12.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 14:17. καίτοιγε, see critical notes. If we read καίτοι the word is only found in the N.T. here and in Hebrews 4:3; used here as an adversative conjunction; see Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 168, and further Blass, Gramm., pp. 242, 264; Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 118 (1893); see 4Ma 2:6.—ἀμάρτυρον: not in LXX or Apocrypha; only here in N.T., but in classical Greek, and also in Josephus, see instances in Wetstein. This witness is not as at Athens, Acts 17:27, Romans 2:15, to man’s consciousness and conscience, but rather to God’s presence in nature, cf. for the expression LXX, Ps. 88:37, ὁ μάρτυς ἐν οὐρανῷ πιστός, and Pseudo-Heracleitus, letter iv., where the moon is spoken of as God’s οὐράνιος μαρτυρία; see below on Acts 14:17.—οὐκ ἀφῆκεν: non reliquit sed sivit (Blass).—ἀγαθοποιῶν, see critical notes. Neither ἀγαθουργέω nor ἀγαθοεργέω, 1 Timothy 6:18, occur in classical Greek or LXX. T.R. uses the more familiar word; found three times in Luke’s Gospel and elsewhere in N.T., and also a few times in LXX (in different senses), but not in classical Greek; see Plummer on Luke 6:33, and Hatch, Essays in B. G., p. 7.17. he left not himself without witness] This is the same argument which the Apostle employs (Acts 17:27) to the more philosophic multitude whom he addressed on Mars’ hill. God’s natural teaching is meant to speak alike to all men. Cp. also the similar reasoning in Romans 1:19-20.

and gave us rain] The oldest MSS. read “gave you,” and this is the more natural language, for the Apostle could not include himself among those to whom God’s appeal was made through the gifts of nature only.

A few rather unusual words and forms which occur in this verse have suggested to some that we have here a fragment of a Greek poem on the bounties of nature, which the Apostle quotes, as he sometimes does quote the Greek poets, to illustrate his speech from the language familiar to his hearers. Attempts have therefore been made to arrange the words into some dithyrambic metre. But it is hardly probable that St Paul would quote Greek poetry to the people in Lycaonia, to whom Greek was not sufficiently familiar for them to appreciate its literature to the extent which this supposition presumes, and certainly the other quotations which he makes from Greek authors (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12) are used to much more cultured audiences.Acts 14:17. Οὐκ ἀμάρτυρον, not without witness) For the nations had testimony from GOD, concerning GOD. And now He decidedly commandeth (all men everywhere to repent): ch. Acts 17:30.—ἀγαθοποιῶν, in that He did good) The testimony of GOD is put forth even in the punishments which He inflicts; but more properly in His acts of goodness, namely from heaven: Hosea 2:21.—οὐράνοθεν, from heaven) Without doubt Paul here pointed to the heaven by a gesture (a motion of his head) or with his hand. Heaven is the seat of GOD. Comp. the expression, are come down, applied to the gods, Acts 14:11.—ὑετοὺς) By the rain the heaven, earth, and sea are joined with one another. Therefore it is beautifully mentioned in this place, and perhaps there was rain at the time.—διδοὺς, giving) in the larger world [macrocosmo, opposed to the microcosmus].—καιροὺς, seasons) Days of sunshine, winds, and seasons of the year.—ἐμπιπλῶν, filling) in the little world in which we move [microcosmo].—τροφῆς, with food) in the body, daily.—εὐφροσύνης, gladness) in the mind: at festive seasons.Verse 17. - And yet for nevertheless, A.V.; you from heaven rains for us rain from hearer, A.V. and T.R.; your for our, A.V. and T.R. Observe how the apostle adapts his preaching to his hearers. How different this address to the heathen Lycaonians from those to Jews and proselytes! Here he leads them from nature to God; there from prophecy to Jesus. Rains

Jupiter was lord of the air. He dispensed the thunder and lightning, the rain and the hail, the rivers and tempests. "All signs and portents whatever, that appear in the air, belong primarily to him, as does the genial sign of the rainbow" (Gladstone, "Homer and the Homeric Age"). The mention of rain is appropriate, as there was a scarcity of water in Lycaonia.

Food

Mercury, as the god of merchandise, was also the dispenser of food.

"No one can read the speech without once more perceiving its subtle and inimitable coincidence with his (Paul's) thoughts and expressions. The rhythmic conclusion is not unaccordant with the style of his most elevated moods; and besides the appropriate appeal to God's natural gifts in a town not in itself unhappily situated, but surrounded by a waterless and treeless plain, we may naturally suppose that the 'filling our hearts with food and gladness' was suggested by the garlands and festive pomp which accompanied the bulls on which the people would afterward have made their common banquet" (Farrar, "Life and Work of Paul"). For the coincidences between this discourse and other utterances of Paul, compare Acts 14:15, and 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Acts 14:16, and Romans 3:25; Acts 17:30; Acts 14:17, and Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20.

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