Acts 17:30
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
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(30) And the times of this ignorance God winked at.—Better, perhaps, overlooked, the English phrase, though vivid, being somewhat too familiar, and suggesting; strictly taken, not merely tolerance, but connivance and concurrence. The thought is one in which St. Paul manifestly found comfort. He sees in that ignorance a mitigation of the guilt, and therefore of the punishment due to the heathen world. The past history of the world had shown a prætermission of the sins, for which, on the condition of repentance, men were now offered a full remission. (See Note on Romans 3:25.) In thus teaching he was reproducing what our Lord had taught as to the servant who “knew not his Lord’s will,” and should therefore be beaten, but with “few stripes.” (See Note on Luke 12:48.)

And now commandeth all men every where to repent.—At this point the feelings of both Stoics and Epicureans would almost inevitably undergo a change. The latter might regret the mistakes he had made in his search after the maximum of enjoyment, but a change such as the Greek for “repentance” implied—new aims and purposes, loathing of the past and efforts for the future—was altogether alien to his thoughts. From the Stoics, as measured by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, better things might perhaps have been expected, but the doctrine of Necessity, which entered largely into popular Stoicism, blunted their sense of responsibility. They accepted the consequences of their actions with a serene apathy; for the most part, they gave thanks, as the philosophic Emperor did, that they were not as other men, and that the events of their life had led them to an ethical completeness; but the idea of abhorring themselves, and repenting in dust and ashes, had not as yet dawned on the Stoic’s thoughts. (Meditt. i. 1-16.)

Acts 17:30-31. And the times of this ignorance — What! Does he object ignorance to the learned and knowing Athenians? Yes, and they acknowledged it by this very altar; God winked at — Greek, υπεριδων, having overlooked, bearing with it, as if he did not take notice of it: that is, in his great long-suffering, he suffered mankind to go on in their course of ignorance and idolatry, without interrupting them in it, by sending express messages to them, by divinely-commissioned instructers, as he did to the Jews; because he meant to show them experimentally the insufficiency of their own reason in matters of religion; but now — This day, this hour, saith Paul, puts an end to the divine forbearance, and brings either greater mercy or punishment. Now he commandeth all men everywhere to repent — Of their ignorance, idolatry, and wickedness. There is a dignity and grandeur in this language of the apostle becoming an ambassador from the King of heaven. And this universal demand of repentance declared universal guilt in the strongest manner: and admirably confronted the pride of the haughtiest Stoic of them all. At the same time it bore down the idle plea of fatality. For how could any one repent of doing what he could not but have done. Because he hath appointed a day, &c. — To persuade them more effectually to repent, God hath set before mankind the greatest of all motives, that of a future judgment. He hath appointed a day — A great and awful day in which he will judge the world — Even the whole world; in righteousness — And will pass a final sentence of happiness or misery on each, according to his true character and behaviour. How fitly does the apostle speak thus in their supreme court of justice! By that man whom he hath ordained — For that important purpose. Thus he speaks, suiting himself to the capacity of his hearers. Whereof he hath given assurance, &c., in that he hath raised him from the dead — The resurrection of Jesus from the dead hath put the resurrection and judgment of all men beyond dispute: 1st, Because it hath confirmed the doctrine of Christ, one important branch of which was, that he would raise the dead and judge all mankind. 2d, Because God raised him from the dead, as on divers other accounts, so especially that he might judge mankind by him. We are by no means to imagine that this was all which the apostle intended to have said. But the indolence of some of his hearers, and the petulancy of others, cut him short. For when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked — Made a jest of it, as a despicable and incredible tale, not worthy to be any longer heard; thereby interrupting him. These were probably the Epicureans, who took offence at that which is a principal object of faith, from the pride of reason. And having once stumbled at this, they disbelieved all the rest; and so went down to righteous condemnation, under the guilt of having rejected a gospel, the proof of which they might have learned in one single day, but would not give themselves the trouble of examining: and this is the condemnation to which many among us are exposed. And others — More candid; said, We will hear thee again on this matter — And having said this, they put an end to the apostle’s discourse, and to the assembly, without allowing him an opportunity of showing how the resurrection of Jesus renders the resurrection and judgment of mankind probable; or of explaining the other fundamental doctrines of the gospel.

17:22-31 Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.And the times of this ignorance - The long period when people were ignorant of the true God, and when they worshipped stocks and stones. Paul here refers to the times preceding the gospel.

God winked at - ὑπεριδὼν huperidōn. Overlooked; connived at; did not come forth to punish. In Acts 14:16 it is expressed thus: "Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways" The sense is, he passed over those times without punishing them, as if he did not see them. For wise purposes he suffered them to walk in ignorance that there might be a fair experiment to show what people would do, and how much necessity there was for a revelation to instruct them in the true know edge of God. We are not to suppose that God regarded idolatry as innocent, or the crimes and vices to which idolatry led as of no importance; but their ignorance was a mitigating circumstance, and he suffered the nations to live without coming forth in direct judgment against them. Compare the notes on Acts 3:17; Acts 14:16.

But now commandeth - By the gospel, Luke 24:47.

All men - Not Jews only, who had been favored with special privileges, but all nations. The barrier was broken down, and the call to repentance was sent abroad into all the earth.

To repent - To exercise sorrow for their sins, and to forsake them. If God commands all people to repent, we may observe:

(1) That it is their duty to do it. There is no higher obligation than to obey the command of God.

(2) it can be done. God would not command an impossibility.

(3) it is binding on all. The rich, the learned, the great, the frivolous, are as much bound as the beggar and the slave.

(4) it must be done, or the soul lost. It is not safe to neglect a plain Law of God. It will not be well to die reflecting that we have all our life despised his commands.

(5) we should send the gospel to the pagan. God calls on the nations to repent, and to be saved. It is the duty of Christians to make known to them the command, and to invite them to the blessings of pardon and heaven.

30. the times of this ignorance God winked at—literally (and far better), "overlooked," that is, bore with, without interposing to punish it, otherwise than suffering the debasing tendency of such worship to develop itself (compare Ac 14:16, and see on [2043]Ro 1:24, &c.).

but now—that a new light was risen upon the world.

commandeth—"That duty—all along lying upon man estranged from his Creator, but hitherto only silently recommending itself and little felt—is now peremptory."

all men every where to repent—(compare Col 1:6, 23; Tit 1:11)—a tacit allusion to the narrow precincts of favored Judaism, within which immediate and entire repentance was ever urged. The word "repentance" is here used (as in Lu 13:3, 5; 15:10) in its most comprehensive sense of "repentance unto life."

The times of this ignorance God winked at; to prevent an objection, lest any should think that they might continue in their unbelief, and fare as well as their progenitors, God is said to have overlooked them; as if he had counted them unworthy of his care and providence, and therefore he did not correct or instruct them. When any are left to go on in their sin, without God’s instruction or correction, it is a sad sign that God scorns to look upon them, or to use any means to recover them.

But now commandeth all men every where to repent: under the gospel we are so far from having liberty to do what we list, that we are more nearly concerned to repent and become holy, Romans 13:11 Titus 2:11,12 1 Peter 1:14,15; and all men, every where, without exception of time or place, are under this command of repentance; and cursed indeed will he be that does not observe it.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at,.... Not that he approved of, or encouraged such blindness and folly, as appeared among the Gentiles, when they worshipped idols of gold, silver, and stone, taking them for deities; but rather the sense is, he despised this, and them for it, and was displeased and angry with them; and as an evidence of such contempt and indignation, he overlooked them, and took no notice of them, and gave them no revelation to direct them, nor prophets to instruct them, and left them to their stupidity and ignorance:

but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; that is, he hath given orders, that the doctrine of repentance, as well as remission of sins, should be preached to all nations, to Gentiles as well as Jews; and that it becomes them to repent of their idolatries, and turn from their idols, and worship the one, only, living and true God: and though for many hundreds of years God had neglected them, and sent no messengers, nor messages to them, to acquaint them with his will, and to show them their follies and mistakes; yet now he had sent his apostles unto them, to lay before them their sins, and call them to repentance; and to stir them up to this, the apostle informs them of the future judgment in the following verse. Repentance being represented as a command, does not suppose it to be in the power of men, or contradict evangelical repentance, being the free grace gift of God, but only shows the need men stand in of it, and how necessary and requisite it is; and when it is said to be a command to all, this does not destroy its being a special blessing of the covenant of grace to some; but points out the sad condition that all men are in as sinners, and that without repentance they must perish: and indeed, all men are obliged to natural repentance for sin, though to all men the grace of evangelical repentance is not given: the Jews (a) call repentance , "the command of repentance", though they do not think it obligatory on men, as the other commands of the law. The law gives no encouragement to repentance, and shows no mercy on account of it; it is a branch of the Gospel ministry, and goes along with the doctrine of the remission of sins; and though in the Gospel, strictly taken, there is no command, yet being largely taken for the whole ministry of the word, it includes this, and everything else which Christ has commanded, and was taught by him and his apostles; Matthew 28:20.

(a) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 157. 4.

{15} And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

(15) The oldness of the error does not excuse those that err, but it commends and sets forth the patience of God, who nonetheless will be a just judge to those who condemn him.

Acts 17:30-31. It is evident from Acts 17:29 that heathenism is based on ignorance. Therefore Paul, proceeding to the Christological portion of his discourse, now continues with μὲν οὖν: the times, therefore, of ignorance (for such they are, according to Acts 17:29) God having overlooked, makes known at present to all men everywhere to repent.

ὑπεριδών] without noting them with a view to punishment or other interference. Comp. Dion. Hal. v. 32. Opposite of ἐφορᾶν. See also on Romans 3:25; Acts 14:16. The idea of contempt (Vulg.: despiciens), although otherwise linguistically suitable, which Castalio, de Dieu, Gataker, Calovius, Seb. Schmid, and others find in the expression, partly even with the observation: “indignatione et odio temporum … correptus” (Wolf), is at variance with the cautiousness and moderation of the whole speech.

πᾶσι πανταχοῦ] a popular hyperbolical expression; yet not incorrect, as the universal announcement was certainly in course of development. Comp. Colossians 1:23. On the juxtaposition of πᾶσι παντ., see Lobeck, Paralip. p. 56 f.

καθότι (see the critical remarks): in accordance with the fact that He has appointed a day. It denotes the important consideration, by which God was induced τανῦν παραγγέλλειν κ.τ.λ. Comp. Acts 2:24.

ἐν δικαιοσ.] in righteousness (so that this is the determining moral element, in which the κρίνειν is to take place), i.e. δικαίως (1 Peter 2:23). Paul means the Messianic judgment, and that as not remotely impending.

ἐν ἀνδρι] i.e. in the person of a man, who will be God’s representative.

ᾧ ὥρισε κ.τ.λ.] a well-known attraction: whom He ordained (namely, for holding the judgment), having afforded faith (in Him as a judge) to all, by the fact that He raised Him from the dead. The πίστιν παρέχειν (see Wetstein and Kypke in loc.) is the operation of God on men, by which He affords to them faith,—an operation which He brought to bear on them historically, by His having conspicuously placed before them in the resurrection of Jesus His credentials as the appointed judge. The resurrection of Jesus is indeed the divine σημεῖον (comp. John 2:18 f.), and consequently the foundation of knowledge and conviction, divinely given as a sure handle of faith to all men, as regards what the Lord in His nature and destination was and is; and therefore the thought is not to be regarded as “not sufficiently ideal” (de Wette) for Paul; comp. on Acts 2:36, Acts 4:27, Acts 10:38, Acts 13:33. The ὁρίζειν is not, as in Acts 10:42, the appointment which took place in the counsel of God, but that which was accomplished in time and fact as regards the faith of men, as in Romans 1:4. Moreover, the πίστιν παρέχειν, which on the part of God took place by the resurrection of Jesus, does not exclude the human self-determination to accept and appropriate this divine παρέχειν; comp. on Romans 2:4. Πίστιν παρέχειν may be rendered, with Beza and others (see especially Raphel, Polyb. in loc.), according to likewise correct Greek usage: to give assurance by His resurrection, but this commends itself the less, because in that case the important element of faith remains without express mention, although it corresponds very suitably to the παραγγέλλει μετανοεῖν, Acts 17:30. The conception and mode of expression, to afford faith, is similar to μετάνοιαν διδόναι, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, yet the latter is already more than παρέχειν (potestatem facere, ansam praebere credendi).

Acts 17:30. τοὺς μὲν οὖν χρ.: a contrast drawn between the past times of ignorance, and the present times with God’s summons to repentance, but instead of a finite verb we have the participle ὑπεριδών, and so δέ is omitted in the apodosis; see Rend all, in loco, and Appendix on μὲν οὖν, p. 163, and to the same effect, Blass, in loco.—τῆς ἀγνοίας: simply “the times of ignorance,” R.V., not “this,” as in Vulgate and all E.V[316] “Ignorantia objicitur Atheniensibus? Hanc ipsi sunt fassi. ἀγνώστῳ, ignoto; ἀγνοοῦντες, ignorantes, Acts 5:23.”—ὑπεριδὼν: “overlooked,” R.V., “winked at,” A.V. The latter rendering occurs three times in LXX, Wis 18:19, Sir 28:7; Sir 30:11 R.; for the verb παρορᾶν Skeat quotes Lever, Serm., p. 81: “For if ye winke at such matters, God wyl scoull upon you,” when the word evidently means to connive at, but not the sense required here, cf. also Chapman, Il., iv., 66. The verb ὑπερορᾶν is frequent in the LXX, but rather in the sense of despising, neglecting, Genesis 42:21, Deuteronomy 22:3-4, Psalms 54 :(55) 1, Job 31:19, and Sir 2:10, etc. But here it is used rather as the opposite of ἐφορᾶν, a verb used in classical Greek of overseeing, observing, as of the divine providence of the gods (cf. in N.T. Luke 1:25, Acts 4:29); so ὑπερορᾶν = (1) to look over, (2) to overlook, i.e., not attend to, to let pass (cf. the use of ὑπεριδεῖν in LXX, Leviticus 26:44 and 3Ma 6:15). Tyndale rendered “regarded not,” with which we may compare: “et cum videas perinde te gerere quasi non videas,” Erasmus. Both Chrys. and Oecum. comment on the words, pointing out that it is not παρεῖδεν or εἴασεν, but ὑπερεῖδεν, τουτέστιν, οὐκ ἀπαιτεῖ κόλασιν ὡς ἀξίους ὄντας κολάσεως. With the statement of St. Paul here cf. Acts 14:16, Romans 3:25. But it must be remembered that πάρεσις, Romans 3:25, is by no means the same as ἄφεσις (“idem paene est παριέναι quod ὑπεριδεῖν, Acts 17:30,” Bengel); in considering the strictures of Overbeck against the use of the passage in Romans as a parallel to our present passage, it is not alleged, let it be noted, either here or there that God inflicted no punishment upon the sins of the heathen. Romans 1:19 is a decided proof of the contrary in the case of the very sin of idolatry which St. Paul condemns in Athens; see the words of Chrys. and Oecum. above, and cf. the comments of Weiss, Wendt, Felten, Plumptre, and McGiffert’s note, pp. 260, 261.—τὰ νῦν, see above p. 135; “hic dies, haec hora, inquit Paulus,” Bengel, in contrast to the “overlooking” on account of ignorance, and so relatively of excuse (cf. ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, Romans 3:26, i.e., from the N.T. times of salvation to the final judgment).—παραγγέλλει: “commandeth,” but in margin, R.V., ἀπαγ., “he declareth”: cf. Friedrich, p. 29, on the constant use of the latter in St. Luke’s writings, but used twice by St. Paul elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 14:25, 1 Thessalonians 1:9.—πᾶσι πανταχοῦ: on this and other collocations with πᾶς as frequent in Luke see Friedrich, p. 5. πανταχοῦ is used in the N.T. four times by St. Luke, cf. Luke 9:6, Acts 24:3; Acts 28:22 (elsewhere in the Gospels, Mark 1:28; Mark 16:20), but it is also used, although only once, by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:17. Wetstein quotes instances of the same collocation in Dem., Philo, and adds: “ex toto terrarum orbe plurimi Athenas advenerant, adeoque hac ipsa Pauli oratione omnibus prædicatur doctrina Evangelii”.—μετανοεῖν: for all had sinned, and all would be judged; infinitive after verbs dicendi, expressing what they must do, cf. Acts 14:15, Acts 4:18, Acts 5:28; Acts 5:40. The context requires something more than a reference of the words to the turning from idol worship to the true God (Holtzmann), it points to the change of mind which was demanded of those whose consciences by sin were accused. To both Stoic and Epicurean the counsel would appear not merely needless, but objectionable. To the latter because it would conflict not only with his denial of immortality, but with his whole idea of the gods, and to the Stoic because the wise man was himself a king, self-sufficing, who stood in no need of atonement, who feared no judgment to come; the famous picture of Josephus was so far realised, and the Epicurean might be called the Sadducee, and the Stoic the Pharisee of ancient philosophy; but in one respect both Stoic and Epicurean were at one—whether they were just persons or not, they “needed no repentance,” Bethge, Die Paulinischen Reden, p. 115; Lightfoot, “Paul and Seneca” (Philippians, pp. 280, 296, 305); Plumptre, in loco; Zahn, Der Stoiker Epiktet, und sein Verhältniss zum Christenthum, pp. 26, 33, etc.

[316] English Version.

30. And the times of this ignorance] There is no pronoun in the original, and the conjunctions are feebly represented by “and.” The sense is more nearly conveyed by “Having however overlooked the times of ignorance.” (Cp. Romans 3:25.) “To wink at” is now used with the meaning of “to connive at.” St Paul, however, only means that God has not imputed to men the errors which they committed in ignorance, but now the case is changed. Men cannot plead ignorance, who have heard of Christ. (Cp. Luke 12:48.)

but now commandeth] If the translation of the first clause be taken as above, the conjunction “but” (which has no Greek representative) is not needed. The best Greek text would be literally translated “He now commandeth men that they all everywhere should repent” (as nearly R. V.). “Repentance” means that they shall amend the lives which hitherto they have lived wrongly through ignorance.

Acts 17:30. Χρόνους) the long times, which both ye, and other nations older than you, have spent. For that the Athenians, a colony of the Egyptians, derived that inscription, to the unknown God, from Isis and her robe (peplo: the πέπλος or robe of state worn by the gods), which was never taken off her so as to reveal her, is shown by Gottfr. Olearius Diss. de Gestis Pauli in urbe Athen.—τῆς ἀγνοίας, of ignorance) Is ignorance brought as an objection against the Athenians? (“Whom ye ignorantly worship,” Acts 17:23.) They themselves have confessed it. Ἀγνώστῳ Θεῷ, “to the unknown God;” answering to which is the ἀγνοοῦντες, ye ignorantly, of Paul, Acts 17:23.—ὑπεριδὼν) A frequent verb in the LXX. Transl., applied to a thing which is not attended to, and is left without favourable help (propitious aid) or without severe punishment (animadversion). For it is a verb of a middle signification between good and bad, most suitable to this passage: Genesis 42:21, ὑπερείδομεν τὴν θλίψιν, “we overlooked, or did not regard, the distress of our brother,” etc.; Leviticus 20:4; Numbers 22:30; Deuteronomy 21:16; Deuteronomy 22:1; Deuteronomy 22:3-4; Job 31:19. And God is said ὑπεριδεῖν, Leviticus 26:44, οὐχ ὑπερεῖδον αὐτοὺς, “I did not disregard them;” with which comp. Leviticus 26:43, ἀνθʼ ὧν τὰ κρίματά μου ὑπερεῖδον, “because they disregarded My judgments:” Deuteronomy 3:26; Zechariah 1:12; Psalm 55:1; Psalm 78:59; Psalm 78:62; Job 6:14. Therefore Paul means to say this: God passed over the times of ignorance, without any preaching of repentance, faith, and the judgment to come, as if He Himself did not animadvert upon (take notice with a view to punishment) or feel much displeased at the error of mankind, which was so great. Comp. Matthew 20:7, “No man hath hired us” (the parable of the labourers called at different hours of the day), and Acts 14:16, “God in times past suffered (εἴασε) all nations to walk in their own ways:” although Paul speaks more severely at Athens, than he had spoken to the Lycaonians: for he had courteously invited the latter, whereas here, at Athens, he speaks in atone of threatening.—τὰ νῦν, now) This day, this hour, saith Paul, brings with it the termination of the Divine connivance [dissimulationis, overlooking the times of ignorance, as though they had no existence, acting as if He did not see them], and a season of greater grace or else of greater punishment.—παραγγέλλει, plainly enjoins) even by Paul.—πανταχοῦ, everywhere) Repentance is preached everywhere: because all shall be judged. The penitent escape.—μετανοεῖν) to repent, to cease from their ignorance, etc. Paul, though drawing his discourse from natural Theology, yet blends with it some things out of revealed Theology. Comp. Acts 17:27-28. For even the Gentiles are to be won over by the doctrines which are above nature.

Verse 30. - The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked for and the times of this ignorance God winked at, A.V.; he commandeth for commandeth, A.V.; men for all men, A.V.; that they should all everywhere repent for everywhere to repent, A.V. and T.R. The times of ignorance; perhaps with reference to ver. 23, and also implying that all the idolatry, of which he had spoken in ver. 29, arose from ignorance. God overlooked; or, as it is idiomatically expressed in the A.V., winked at; made as if he did not see it; "kept silence," as it is said in Psalm 50:21; made no move to punish it. That they should all everywhere. The gospel is for the whole world- "Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18); "Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Repent. The key-note of the gospel (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Acts 20:21). Acts 17:30Winked at (ὑπεριδὼν)

Only here in New Testament. Originally, to overlook; to suffer to pass unnoticed. So Rev., overlooked.

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