Acts 16:21
And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) And teach customs.—The word is used as including ritual as well as social habits, and seems to have been specially used of the whole system of Jewish life. (See Notes on Acts 6:14; Acts 15:1; Acts 21:21.)

Being Romans.—The people of Philippi, as a colonia, had a right to claim the title of Roman citizens, which could not have been claimed by those who were merely inhabitants of a Greek city, such as Thessalonica or Corinth. (See Note on Acts 16:12.)

16:16-24 Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers. Those who do good by drawing men from sin, may expect to be reviled as troublers of the city. While they teach men to fear God, to believe in Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives, they will be accused of teaching bad customs.And teach customs - The word "customs" here ἔθη ethē refers to "religious rites or forms of worship." See the notes on Acts 6:14. They meant to charge the apostles with introducing a new religion which was unauthorized by the Roman laws. This was a cunning and artful accusation. It is perfectly evident that they cared nothing either for the religion of the Romans or of the Jews. Nor were they really concerned about any change of religion. Paul had destroyed their hopes of gain; and as they Could not prevent that except by securing his punishment or expulsion, and as they had no way of revenge except by endeavoring to excite indignation against him and Silas for violating the laws, they endeavored to convict thorn of such violation. This is one among many instances, Where wicked and unprincipled people will endeavor to make religion the means of promoting their own interest. If they can make money by it, they will become its professed friends or if they can annoy Christians, they will at once have remarkable zeal for the laws and for the purity of religion. Many a man opposes revivals of religion, and the real progress of evangelical piety from professed zeal for truth and order.

Which are not lawful for us to receive - There were laws of the Roman empire under which they might shield themselves in this charge, though it is evident that their zeal was; not because they loved the laws more, but because they loved Christianity less. Thus, Servius on Virgil, Aeneid, viii. 187, says, "care was taken among the Athenians and the Romans that no one should introduce new religions. It was on this account that Socrates was condemned, and the Chaldeans or Jews were banished from the city." Cicero ("DeLegibus," ii. 8) says, "No person shall have any separate gods, or new ones; nor shall he privately worship any strange gods, unless they be publicly allowed." Wetstein (in loco) says, "The Romans would indeed allow foreigners to worship their own god, but not unless it were done secretly, so that the Worship of foreign gods would not interfere with the allowed worship of the Romans, and so that occasion for dissension and controversy might be avoided. Neither was it lawful among the Romans to recommend a new religion to the citizens, contrary to what was confirmed and established by the public authority, and to call off the people from that. It was on this account that there was such a hatred of the Romans against the Jews" (Kuinoel). Tertullian says that "there was a decree that no god should be consecrated unless approved by the senate" (Grotius). See many other authorities quoted in Dr. Watson's "Apology (Defense) for Christianity."

To observe - To do.

Being Romans - Having the privileges of Roman citizens. See the notes on Acts 16:12.

21. And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans—Here also there was a measure of truth; as the introduction of new gods was forbidden by the laws, and this might be thought to apply to any change of religion. But the whole charge was pure hypocrisy; for as these men would have let the missionaries preach what religion they pleased if they had not dried up the source of their gains, so they conceal the real cause of their rage under color of a zeal for religion, and law, and good order: so Ac 17:6, 7; 19:25, 27. There was at Philippi, as appears Acts 16:12, a colony of the Romans, and they were governed by their laws, by which they might make no innovation in religion without the consent of the senate, and afterwards of their emperors; which here these persecutors allege. And teach customs,.... The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read in the singular number, "custom or law"; referring to the doctrine of salvation by Christ, in whose name the spirit of divination was cast out of the maid, and whom they took for a new deity; and so concluded that the apostle and his company were introducing a new religious law or custom, the worship of another God:

which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans; for the city of Philippi was a Roman colony, and so the inhabitants of it called themselves Romans; or these men might be strictly such, who were transplanted hither; and with the Romans, it was not lawful to receive, observe, and worship, a new or strange deity, without the decree of the senate (l).

(l) Tertull. Apolog. c. 5. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 2.

{13} And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

(13) It is an argument of the devil to use the authority of ancestors, though not distinguishing exactly which ancestors.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 16:21. ἔθη: religious customs here; the charge ostensibly put forward was really that of introducing a religio illicita, licita as it was for the Jews themselves. No doubt the fact that they were Jews presented in itself no ground of accusation, but their Jewish nationality would suggest the kind of customs with the introduction of which it would be easy to charge them, e.g., circumcision. The introduction of Jewish habits and mode of life included under ἔθη, cf. Acts 6:14, Acts 21:21, would upset the whole social system, so that here, as on other occasions, the missionaries suffered from being identified with their Jewish countrymen.—οὑκ ἔξ. παραδέχεσθαι: Wetstein, in loco; Marquardt, Röm. Staatsrecht, iii., 70, and see preceding verse, cf. Acts 15:5, Acts 21:21. In LXX, cf. Exodus 23.—Ῥωμαίοις οὑσι: in natural contrast (at the end of the sentence) to the despised Jews: as inhabitants of a Roman colonia they could lay claim to the proud title. On the force of ὑπάρχοντες and οὗσι see Alford’s note in loco.21. and teach customs] Better, set forth (So R. V.), make proclamation of; the word refers to the preaching of the Apostles.Acts 16:21. Ἔθη, customs) The world has either admitted, or adopted, all the dogmas of all the philosophers; but this is the characteristic of the truth of the Gospel, that it has in it something singularly both hostile to and hated by human corruption.—ἃ οὐκ, which not) But is it lawful to hold fast ungodly customs?Ῥωμαίοις, being Romans) A frequent objection of the community of the world against the kingdom of GOD. Even in our days Romanism is repugnant to (opposes) Paul.Verse 21. - Set forth for teach, A.V.; it is for are, A.V.; or for neither, A.V. Romans; in a special sense, as members of a colony. Being Romans

The Romans granted absolute toleration to conquered nations to follow their own religious customs, and took the gods of these countries under their protection. Otho, Domitian, Commodus, and Caracalla were zealous partisans of the worship of Isis; Serapis and Cybele were patronized at Rome; and in the reign of Nero the religious dilettanti at Rome affected Judaism, and professed to honor the name of Moses and the sacred books. Poppaea, Nero's consort, was their patroness, and Seneca said, "the Jewish faith is now received on every hand. The conquered have given laws to the conquerors." On the other hand, there were laws which forbade the introduction of strange deities among the Romans themselves. In 186 b.c., when stringent measures were taken by the government for the repression of Bacchanalian orgies in Rome, one of the consuls, addressing an assembly of the people, said: "How often in the ages of our fathers was it given in charge to the magistrates to prohibit the performance of any foreign religious rites; to banish strolling sacrificers and soothsayers from the forum, the circus, and the city; to search for and burn books of divination; and to abolish every mode of sacrificing that was not conformable to the Roman practice" (Livy, xxxix., 16). It was contrary to strict Roman law for the Jews to propagate their opinions among the Romans, though they might make proselytes of other nations.

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