Acts 17:31
Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.
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(31) Because he hath appointed a day.—Here the speaker would seem, to both sets of hearers, to be falling back into popular superstition. Minos and Rhadamanthus, and Tartarus and the Elysian Fields,—these they had learnt to dismiss, as belonging to the childhood of the individual and of mankind,—

“Esse aliquid Manes et subterranea regna

Vix pueri credunt.”. . . .

[“Talk of our souls and realms beyond the grave,

The very boys will laugh and say you rave.”]

—Juvenal, Sat. ii. 149.

The Epicurean rejected the idea of a divine government altogether. For the Stoic, to quote a line from Schiller,—

“Die Welt-geschichte ist das Welt-gericht,”

[“And the world’s story is its judgment day, “]

and he expected no other. The thought of a day of judgment as the consummation of that history, which was so prominent in St. Paul’s teaching, was altogether strange to them.

By that man whom he hath ordained.—Literally, by a man. Who the man was, and what proof there was that he had been raised from the dead, were questions either reserved for a later stage of teaching, or interrupted by the derision of the hearers. Up to this point they had listened attentively, but that the dead should be raised again seemed to them—as to the Sadducean, to the Greeks generally—absolutely incredible (Acts 26:8; 1Corinthians 15:35).




Acts 17:31

I. The Resurrection of Jesus gives assurance of judgment.

{a} Christ’s Resurrection is the pledge of ours.

The belief in a future life, as entertained by Paul’s hearers on Mars Hill, was shadowy and dashed with much unbelief. Disembodied spirits wandered ghostlike and spectral in a shadowy underworld.

The belief in the Resurrection of Jesus converts the Greek peradventure into a fact. It gives that belief solidity and makes it easier to grasp firmly. Unless the thought of a future life is completed by the belief that it is a corporeal life, it will never have definiteness and reality enough to sustain itself as a counterpoise to the weight of things seen.

{b} Resurrection implies judgment.

A future bodily life affirms individual identity as persisting beyond the accident of death, and can only be conceived of as a state in which the earthly life is fully developed in its individual results. The dead, who are raised, are raised that they may ‘receive the things done in the body, according to that they have done, whether it be good or bad.’ Historically, the two thoughts have always gone together; and as has been the clearness with which a resurrection has been held as certain, so has been the force with which the anticipation of judgment to come has impinged on conscience.

Jesus is, even in this respect, our Example, for the glory to which He was raised and in which He reigns now is the issue of His earthly life; and in His Resurrection and Ascension we have the historical fact which certifies to all men that a life of self-sacrifice here will assuredly flower into a life of glory there, ‘Ours the Cross, the grave, the skies.’

II. The Resurrection of Jesus gives the assurance that He is Judge.

The bare fact that He is risen does not carry that assurance; we have to take into account that He has risen.

After such a life.

His Resurrection was God’s setting the seal of His approval and acceptance on Christ’s work; His endorsement of Christ’s claims to special relations with Him; His affirmation of Christ’s sinlessness. Jesus had declared that He did always the things that pleased the Father; had claimed to be the pure and perfect realisation of the divine ideal of manhood; had presented Himself as the legitimate object of utter devotion and of religious trust, love, and obedience, and as the only way to God. Men said that He was a blasphemer; God said, and said most emphatically, by raising Him from the dead: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’

With such a sequel.

‘Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more,’ and that fact sets Him apart from others who, according to Scripture, have been raised. His resurrection is, if we may use such a figure, a point; His Ascension and Session at the right hand of God are the line into which the point is prolonged. And from both the point and the line come the assurance that He is the Judge.

III. The risen Jesus is Judge because He is Man.

That seems a paradox. It is a commonplace that we are incompetent to judge another, for human eyes cannot read the secrets of a human heart, and we can only surmise, not know, each other’s motives, which are the all-important part of our deeds. But when we rightly understand Christ’s human nature, we understand how fitted He is to be our Judge, and how blessed it is to think of Him as such. Paul tells the Athenians with deep significance that He who is to be their and the world’s Judge is ‘the Man.’ He sums up human nature in Himself, He is the ideal and the real Man.

And further, Paul tells his hearers that God judges ‘through’ Him, and does so ‘in righteousness.’ He is fitted to be our Judge, because He perfectly and completely bears our nature, knows by experience all its weaknesses and windings, as from the inside, so to speak, and is ‘wondrous kind’ with the kindness which ‘fellow-feeling’ enkindles. He knows us with the knowledge of a God; He knows us with the sympathy of a brother.

The Man who has died for all men thereby becomes the Judge of all. Even in this life, Jesus and His Cross judge us. Our disposition towards Him is the test of our whole character. By their attitude to Him, the thoughts of many hearts are revealed. ‘What think ye of Christ?’ is the question, the answer to which determines our fate, because it reveals our inmost selves and their capacities for receiving blessing or harm from God and His mercy. Jesus Himself has taught us that ‘in that day’ the condition of entrance into the Kingdom is ‘doing the will of My Father which is in heaven.’ He has also taught us that ‘this is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.’ Faith in Jesus as our Saviour is the root from which will grow the good tree which will bring forth good fruit, bearing which our love will be ‘made perfect, that we may have boldness before Him in the day of judgment.’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.Because he hath appointed a day - This is given as a reason why God commands people to repent. They must be judged; and if they are not penitent and pardoned, they must be condemned. See the notes on Romans 2:16.

Judge the world - The whole world - Jews and Gentiles.

In righteousness - According to the principles of strict justice.

Whom he hath ordained - Or whom he has constituted or appointed as judge. See the Acts 10:42 notes; John 5:25 notes.

Hath given assurance - Has afforded evidence of this. That evidence consists:

(1) In the fact that Jesus declared that he would judge the nations John 5:25-26; Matthew 25; and,

(2) God confirmed the truth of his declarations by raising him from the dead, or gave his sanction to what the Lord Jesus had said, for God would nor work a miracle in favor of an impostor.

31. Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world—Such language beyond doubt teaches that the judgment will, in its essence, be a solemn judicial assize held upon all mankind at once. "Aptly is this uttered on the Areopagus, the seat of judgment" [Bengel].

by that man whom he hath ordained—compare Joh 5:22, 23, 27; Ac 10:42.

whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead—the most patent evidence to mankind at large of the judicial authority with which the Risen One is clothed.

He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world: that God will judge the world his enemies have with trembling acknowledged, but when God will judge the world he hath concealed from his friends; yet the time is already set, Psalm 96:13 2 Corinthians 5:10, and we ought to be daily prepared for it.

In righteousness: shall not the Judge of all the world do right?

By that man whom he hath ordained; our blessed Saviour, called here man, suitably to his death and resurrection, which St. Paul preached of; as also as man he is thus highly exalted for his debasing of himself for our sakes, Philippians 2:9-11.

Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead; an undeniable proof or argument, it being so difficult a matter to believe a world to come, when we see all things remain as they did in this world; and especially to believe, that in the general judgment Christ, whom they had judged, condemned, and executed, should be Judge: God therefore did glorify him, by raising him from the dead, that they and we might not be faithless, but believe, Romans 1:4. Because he hath appointed a day,.... The day of judgment is fixed by God in his eternal purposes, and is sure and certain, and will come, though it is not known by men or angels; and this is a reason why God will have the doctrine of repentance everywhere published, both to Jews and Gentiles, since all must come to judgment: and the day for it is appointed by him,

in the which he will judge the world in righteousness; the whole world will be judged, and every individual in it, good and bad, righteous and wicked; and this judgment will be a righteous one; it will proceed according to the strict rules of justice and equity, and upon the foot of the righteousness of Christ, as that has been received or rejected by men, or as men are clothed with, or are without that righteousness:

by that man whom he hath ordained; Beza's ancient copy reads, "the man Jesus": not that the apostle means that Christ is a mere man; for then he would not be fit to be a Judge of quick and dead, and to pass and execute the definitive sentence; which requires omniscience and omnipotence: but preaching to mere Heathens, he chose not at once to assert the deity of Christ, though he tacitly suggests it: but intended, by degrees, to open the glories of his nature and office to them, he being the person God had from all eternity ordained, and in time had signified, should have all judgment committed to him, and by whom the last judgment shall be managed and transacted:

whereof he hath given assurance to all men: or full proof, both of his being the Judge, and of his fitness to be one, and also of the righteousness, according to which he will judge:

in that he hath raised him from the dead; whereby he was declared to be the Son of God; and when all power in heaven and in earth was given to him; and which was done for the justification of all those for whose offences he was delivered: and this seems to be the reason why the apostle calls Christ the Judge a man, that he might have the opportunity of mentioning his resurrection from the dead.

Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given {r} assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

(r) By declaring Christ to be the judge of the world through the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 17:31. διότικαθότι, R.V., see critical note, only found in St. Luke = quia (Blass) in Luke 1:7; Luke 19:9, Acts 2:24; Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35 = according as: see Plummer on Luke 1:7, and Blass, Gram., p. 268.—ἔστησεν ἡμέραν: hence the command to repent, cf. 1Ma 4:59 and Blass, in loco.—μέλλει κρίνειν, LXX, Psalm 9:8; Psa 95:13,(Psalm 96:13), Psalm 97:9, Psalm 98:9; its form here may = Acts 12:6, “on the point of judging” (Weiss).—τὴν οἰκ., so often in LXX, as in instances above.—ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ = δικαίως (as of the moral element in which the judgment will take place), cf. 1 Peter 2:24 and Revelation 19:11, cf. Psalms as above, and Sir 45:26.—ἐν ἀνδρὶ: in the person of the man (so Ramsay, Meyer, Alford), not ἄνθρωπος but ἀνήρ, in viro (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12, ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται); above we have ἀνθρώποις, but here the nobler appellation. We may compare with the Christian doctrine Book of Enoch, xli. 9, although according to other Jewish statements it would seem that God, and not the Messiah, was to judge the dead.—ᾧ ὥρισε: attraction, cf. Acts 2:22, see Winer-Schmiedel, p. 225, cf. Acts 10:42, Romans 1:4. The whole statement, as indeed the general tenor of the address, is entirely in line with the preaching to the Thessalonians in the Epistles written some few months later, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 259, and Plumptre, in loco. “Pour un juif, dire que Jésus présidera au jugement, c’éait à peu près dire qu’il est créateur. Aussi je ne sais pas de preuve plus éclatante de l’immense impression produite par le Galiléan que ce simple fait … après qu’il eut été crucifié, un pharisien, comme l’avait été Paul, a pu voir en lui le juge des vivants et des morts,” Colani, J. C. et les Croyances Messianiques de son temps.—πίστιν παρασχὼν: in classical Greek to afford assurance, a guarantee, see instances in Wetstein. But it is difficult to say how much St. Paul included in the words—to a Jewish audience he would no doubt, like St. Peter, have insisted upon the resurrection of Christ as a final proof given by God that the claims of Christ were true; but to an audience like that at Athens he might well insist upon the fact of the resurrection of the Man ordained by God as a guarantee that all men would be raised; R.V., “whereof he hath given assurance,” “whereof” implied in the Greek: marginal rendering in A.V. “offered faith” is omitted in R.V.; “and He hath given all a guarantee in that He hath raised Him from the dead”: so Ramsay. Others have taken the words to mean that God thus affords assurance that He will judge the world righteously in that He hath shown His righteousness by raising Christ, others again connect πίστιν closely with ἐν ἀνδρί (so Bethge). If at this point the Apostle was interrupted he may have intended to pursue the theme further, if not then, on some other occasion. But the fact that the speech contains so little that is distinctively Christian is a strong proof of its genuineness; none would have invented such a speech for Paul, any more than they could have invented his discourse at Lystra, see below on p. 381, and Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 150 and 250, 251. Yet in this short address at Athens the Apostle had preached both Jesus and the Resurrection.31. because he hath appointed, &c.] The day of judgment had long ago been appointed in God’s foreknowledge, but through Christ man’s resurrection and immortality have been made more clear. He knows now, who knows of Christ, that the Son of Man has been raised up, as the first-fruits of a general resurrection. The rising of Christ proved Him to be divine and stamped His doctrine as true. But a part of that doctrine is (Matthew 25:32) “Before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats.” By the resurrection of Jesus, God has given to men assurance that what Jesus taught was true, therefore because of the judgment which Christ foretold, men should repent everywhere, for the whole world shall be judged.

It is worth while to notice how St Paul’s argument advances through its various stages. He speaks first of God as the Creator of the world and of men, and of the ordinances which He has made for man’s abode on earth. Then he argues that all this should inspire men with the thought that as they are more worthy than material things, so God is far exalted above men. This ought to have led them to seek after Him, and even in the darker days those who sought could find Him. But now the days of God’s revelation through nature are at an end. He has spoken through that Son of Man whom the resurrection proved to be the Son of God. Through Him will God judge the world, for which judgment men should prepare themselves by repentance.

It may be that at this point the Apostle’s speech was stopped. Neither party among the hearers would have any sympathy with the doctrine of a resurrection and a final judgment. Had the address been completed, St Paul would have probably spoken in more definite language of the life and work of Jesus.Acts 17:31. Μέλλει κρίνειν, He is about to judge) This is appropriately said in the Areopagus, where justice and judgment used to be dispensed. Paid adds presently the mention of righteousness, as he did also before the judge Felix: ch. Acts 24:10; Acts 24:25.—[τὴν οἰκουμένην, the habitable earth) Comp. Acts 17:26.—V. g.]—ἐν ἀνδρὶ, by the Man) So he calls Jesus, to accord with the comprehension of his hearers. He was about to speak more in detail of Gospel truths to those who desired to hear. The ἐν, by, is construed with μέλλει κρίνειν, He will judge.—) for ὃν, whom.—ὥρισε, He hath ordained) viz. as Judge: ch. Acts 10:42.—πίστιν παρασχὼν) God hath raised again Jesus from the dead, and by that fact hath demonstrated (having thereby given assurance) that Jesus is the glorious Judge of all men. As to this very phrase, comp. the note on Chrys. de Sacerd. p. 450; and as to the use of the verb παρέχειν, Camerar. comm, utr. ling. col. 328, 329. All ought to have faith in God παρασχόντι, affording faith [who gives the assurance which is the object of faith,—which faith lays hold of]. Therefore Paul here also preaches repentance and faith: and since faith was altogether unknown to the Athenians, he most elegantly makes merely an allusion to it by this phrase. The language besides implies, that no one is compelled [God affords, or presents the object of faith to all, compels none].—ἀναστήσας, in that He hath raised) As to the connection of the resurrection of Christ with the universal preaching of Him, see note, ch. Acts 13:32;[108] Luke 24:46-47. Paul did not conclude even this discourse without mention of the resurrection of Christ.

[108] Also 34, as Beng. does not interpret 33 of the resurrection at all. But in ver. 34 of ch. 13, the giving to the whole world of the sure mercies of David, and the declaring of the glad tidings unto the Gentiles, according to the promise made unto the fathers, is represented as necessarily requiring the resurrection of Christ as the preliminary.—E. and T.Verse 31. - Inasmuch as for because, A.V. and T.R.; the man for that man, A.V. He hath appointed a day. Hitherto the Athenians seem to have listened with interest while St. Paul was, with consummate skill, leading them onwards from the doctrines of natural religion, and while he was laying down speculative truths. But now they are brought to a stand. They might no longer go on asking, Τι καινόν; A day fixed by God, they were told, was at hand, in which God would judge the world in righteousness, and in which they themselves would be judged also. And the certainty of this was made apparent by the fact that he who was ordained to be Judge was raised from the dead, and so ready to commence the judgment. The time for immediate action was come; God's revelation had reached them. The man (ἀνδρί). So Acts 2:22, Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον ἄνδρα ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀποδεδειγμένον κ.τ.λ. And so in John 5:27 our Lord himself says of himself that the Father gave him authority to execute judgment "because he is the Son of man;" and in Matthew 26:24, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power." (For the connection of the judgment with Christ's resurrection, see especially Acts 10:40-42.) So too the Creeds.
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