Acts 18:6
And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
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(6) And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed.—The latter word includes the reviling of which the Apostle himself was the object, as well as blaspheming against God. Assuming what has been suggested in the Note on Acts 18:2, we may think of these disturbances as reproducing what had already taken place at Rome. We may, perhaps, trace an echo of such blasphemies in the words “Anathema be Jesus,” of which St. Paul speaks in 1Corinthians 12:3 as having been uttered as with the vehemence of a simulated inspiration, against which men needed to be warned.

He shook his raiment.—On the symbolic significance of the act, see Note on Matthew 10:14. As done by a Jew to Jews no words and no act could so well express the Apostle’s indignant protest. It was the last resource of one who found appeals to reason and conscience powerless, and was met by brute violence and clamour.

Your blood be upon your own heads.—The phrase and thought were both essentially Hebrew. (See Note on Matthew 27:25.) We can hardly think of the Apostle as using them without a distinct recollection of the language which defined the responsibility of a prophet of the truth in Ezekiel 3:18-19.

From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.—The words are almost identical with those in Acts 13:46, and are explained by them. It is obvious in each case that the words have a limited and local application. The Apostle did not renounce all future work among the Jews, but gave up preaching to those at Corinth.



Acts 18:1 - Acts 18:11

Solitude is a hard trial for sensitive natures, and tends to weaken their power of work. Paul was entirely alone in Athens, and appears to have cut his stay there short, since his two companions, who were to have joined him in that city, did not do so till after he had been some time in Corinth. His long stay there has several well-marked stages, which yield valuable lessons.

I. First, we note the solitary Apostle, seeking friends, toiling for bread, and withal preaching Christ.

Corinth was a centre of commerce, of wealth, and of moral corruption. The celebrated local worship of Aphrodite fed the corruption as well as the wealth. The Apostle met there with a new phase of Greek life, no less formidable in antagonism to the Gospel than the culture of Athens. He tells us that he entered on his work in Corinth ‘in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling,’ but also that he did not try to attract by adaptation of his words to the prevailing tastes either of Greek or Jew, but preached ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,’ knowing that, while that appeared to go right in the teeth of the demands of both, it really met their wants. This ministry was begun, in his usual fashion, very unobtrusively and quietly. His first care was to find a home; his second, to provide his daily bread; and then he was free to take the Sabbath for Christian work in the synagogue.

We cannot tell whether he had had any previous acquaintance with Aquila and his wife, nor indeed is it certain that they had previously been Christians. Paul’s reason for living with them was simply the convenience of getting work at his trade, and it seems probable that, if they had been disciples, that fact would have been named as part of his reason. Pontus lay to the north of Cilicia, and though widely separated from it, was near enough to make a kind of bond as of fellow-countrymen, which would be the stronger because they had the same craft at their finger-ends.

It was the wholesome practice for every Rabbi to learn some trade. If all graduates had to do the same now there would be fewer educated idlers, who are dangerous to society and burdens to themselves and their friends. What a curl of contempt would have lifted the lips of the rich men of Corinth if they had been told that the greatest man in their city was that little Jew tent-maker, and that in this unostentatious fashion he had begun to preach truths which would be like a charge of dynamite to all their social and religious order! True zeal can be patiently silent.

Sewing rough goat’s-hair cloth into tents may be as truly serving Christ as preaching His name. All manner of work that contributes to the same end is the same in worth and in recompense. Perhaps the wholesomest form of Christian ministry is that after the Apostolic pattern, when the teacher can say, as Paul did to the people of Corinth, ‘When I was present with you and was in want, I was not a burden on any man.’ If not in letter, at any rate in spirit, his example must be followed. If the preacher would win souls he must be free from any taint of suspicion as to money.

II. The second stage in Paul’s Corinthian residence is the increased activity when his friends, Silas and Timothy, came from Beroea.

We learn from Php 4:15, and 2 Corinthians 11:9, that they brought gifts from the Church at Philippi; and from 1 Thessalonians 3:6, that they brought something still more gladdening namely, good accounts of the steadfastness of the Thessalonian converts. The money would make it less necessary to spend most of the week in manual labour; the glad tidings of the Thessalonians’ ‘faith and love’ did bring fresh life, and the presence of his helpers would cheer him. So a period of enlarged activity followed their coming.

The reading of Acts 18:5, ‘Paul was constrained by the word,’ brings out strikingly the Christian impulse which makes speech of the Gospel a necessity. The force of that impulse may vary, as it did with Paul; but if we have any deep possession of the grace of God for ourselves, we shall, like him, feel it pressing us for utterance, as soon as the need of providing daily bread becomes less stringent and our hearts are gladdened by Christian communion. It augurs ill for a man’s hold of the word if the word does not hold him. He who never felt that he was weary of forbearing, and that the word was like a fire, if it was ‘shut up in his bones,’ has need to ask himself if he has any belief in the Gospel. The craving to impart ever accompanies real possession.

The Apostle’s solemn symbolism, announcing his cessation of efforts among the Jews, has of course reference only to Corinth, for we find him in his subsequent ministry adhering to his method, ‘to the Jew first.’ It is a great part of Christian wisdom in evangelical work to recognise the right time to give up efforts which have been fruitless. Much strength is wasted, and many hearts depressed, by obstinate continuance in such methods or on such fields as have cost much effort and yielded no fruit. We often call it faith, when it is only pride, which prevents the acknowledgment of failure. Better to learn the lessons taught by Providence, and to try a new ‘claim,’ than to keep on digging and washing when we only find sand and mud. God teaches us by failures as well as by successes. Let us not be too conceited to learn the lesson or to confess defeat, and shift our ground accordingly.

It is a solemn thing to say ‘I am clean.’ We need to have been very diligent, very loving, very prayerful to God, and very persuasive in pleading with men, before we dare to roll all the blame of their condemnation on themselves. But we have no right to say, ‘Henceforth I go to’ others, until we can say that we have done all that man-or, at any rate, that we-can do to avert the doom.

Paul did not go so far away but that any whose hearts God had touched could easily find him. It was with a lingering eye to his countrymen that he took up his abode in the house of ‘one that feared God,’ that is, a proselyte; and that he settled down next door to the synagogue. What a glimpse of yearning love which cannot bear to give Israel up as hopeless, that simple detail gives us! And may we not say that the yearning of the servant is caught from the example of the Master? ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?’ Does not Christ, in His long-suffering love, linger in like manner round each closed heart? and if He withdraws a little way, does He not do so rather to stimulate search after Him, and tarry near enough to be found by every seeking heart?

Paul’s purpose in his solemn warning to the Jews of Corinth was partly accomplished. The ruler of the synagogue ‘believed in the Lord with all his house.’ Thus men are sometimes brought to decision for Christ by the apparently impending possibility of His Gospel leaving them to themselves. ‘Blessings brighten as they take their flight.’ Severity sometimes effects what forbearance fails to achieve. If the train is on the point of starting, the hesitating passenger will swiftly make up his mind and rush for a seat. It is permissible to press for immediate decision on the ground that the time is short, and that soon these things ‘will be hid from the eyes.’

We learn from 1 Corinthians 1:14, that Paul deviated from his usual practice, and himself baptized Crispus. We may be very sure that his doing so arose from no unworthy subserviency to an important convert, but indicated how deeply grateful he was to the Lord for giving him, as a seal to a ministry which had seemed barren, so encouraging a token. The opposition and blasphemy of many are outweighed, to a true evangelist, by the conversion of one; and while all souls are in one aspect equally valuable, they are unequal in the influence which they may exert on others. So it was with Crispus, for ‘many of the Corinthians hearing’ of such a signal fact as the conversion of the chief of the synagogue, likewise ‘believed.’ We may distinguish in our estimate of the value of converts, without being untrue to the great principle that all men are equally precious in Christ’s eyes.

III. The next stage is the vision to Paul and his consequent protracted residence in Corinth.

God does not waste visions, nor bid men put away fears which are not haunting them. This vision enables us to conceive Paul’s state of mind when it came to him. He was for some reason cast down. He had not been so when things looked much more hopeless. But though now he had his friends and many converts, some mood of sadness crept over him. Men like him are often swayed by impulses rising within, and quite apart from outward circumstances. Possibly he had reason to apprehend that his very success had sharpened hostility, and to anticipate danger to life. The contents of the vision make this not improbable.

But the mere calming of fear, worthy object as it is, is by no means the main part of the message of the vision. ‘Speak, and hold not thy peace,’ is its central word. Fear which makes a Christian dumb is always cowardly, and always exaggerated. Speech which comes from trembling lips may be very powerful, and there is no better remedy for terror than work for Christ. If we screw ourselves up to do what we fear to do, the dread vanishes, as a bather recovers himself as soon as his head has once been under water.

Why was Paul not to be afraid? It is easy to say, ‘Fear not,’ but unless the exhortation is accompanied with some good reason shown, it is wasted breath. Paul got a truth put into his heart which ends all fear-’For I am with thee.’ Surely that is enough to exorcise all demons of cowardice or despondency, and it is the assurance that all Christ’s servants may lay up in their hearts, for use at all moments and in all moods. His presence, in no metaphor, but in deepest inmost reality, is theirs, and whether their fears come from without or within, His presence is more than enough to make them brave and strong.

Paul needed a vision, for Paul had never seen Christ ‘after the flesh,’ nor heard His parting promise. We do not need it, for we have the unalterable word, which He left with all His disciples when He ascended, and which remains true to the ends of the world and till the world ends.

The consequence of Christ’s presence is not exemption from attacks, but preservation in them. Men may ‘set on’ Paul, but they cannot ‘hurt’ him. The promise was literally fulfilled when the would-be accusers were contemptuously sent away by Gallio, the embodiment of Roman even-handedness and despising of the deepest things. It is fulfilled no less truly to-day; for no hurt can come to us if Christ is with us, and whatever does come is not hurt.

‘I have much people in this city.’ Jesus saw what Paul did not, the souls yet to be won for Him. That loving Eye gladly beholds His own sheep, though they may be yet in danger of the wolves, and far from the Shepherd. ‘Them also He must bring’; and His servants are wise if, in all their labours, they cherish the courage that comes from the consciousness of His presence, and the unquenchable hope, which sees in the most degraded and alienated those whom the Good Shepherd will yet find in the wilderness and bear back to the fold. Such a hope will quicken them for all service, and such a vision will embolden them in all peril.

18:1-6 Though Paul was entitled to support from the churches he planted, and from the people to whom he preached, yet he worked at his calling. An honest trade, by which a man may get his bread, is not to be looked upon with contempt by any. It was the custom of the Jews to bring up their children to some trade, though they gave them learning or estates. Paul was careful to prevent prejudices, even the most unreasonable. The love of Christ is the best bond of the saints; and the communings of the saints with each other, sweeten labour, contempt, and even persecution. Most of the Jews persisted in contradicting the gospel of Christ, and blasphemed. They would not believe themselves, and did all they could to keep others from believing. Paul hereupon left them. He did not give over his work; for though Israel be not gathered, Christ and his gospel shall be glorious. The Jews could not complain, for they had the first offer. When some oppose the gospel, we must turn to others. Grief that many persist in unbelief should not prevent gratitude for the conversion of some to Christ.And when they opposed themselves - To him and his message.

And blasphemed - See the notes on Acts 13:45.

He shook his raiment - As an expressive act of shaking off the guilt of their condemnation. Compare Acts 13:45. He shook his raiment to show that he was resolved henceforward to have nothing to do with them; perhaps, also, to express the fact that God would soon slake them off, or reject them (Doddridge).

Your blood ... - The guilt of your destruction is your own. You only are the cause of the destruction that is coming upon you. See the notes on Matthew 27:25.

I am clean - I am not to blame for your destruction. I have done my duty. The gospel had been fairly offered and deliberately rejected; and Paul was not to blame for their ruin, which he saw was coming upon them.

I will go ... - See Acts 13:46.

6. Your blood be upon your own heads, &c.—See Eze 33:4, 9.

from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles—Compare Ac 13:46.

Blasphemed; they blasphemed Paul, miscalling of him, but especially Christ, whose dishonour grieved Paul most.

He shook his raiment; his upper garment, as the manner was, Matthew 26:65, that none of the dust of that place where such blasphemy was spoken might stick unto him. See Acts 13:51.

Your blood be upon your own heads; or, You are guilty of your own deaths and damnation, 2 Samuel 1:16 Matthew 27:25;

Felo de se. This expression is borrowed from the witnesses laying their hands on the head of the guilty person; or the sacrificer’s laying his hand on the head of the beast which was to be slain; Exodus 29:10 Leviticus 1:4.

I am clean; free from their blood, or the loss of their souls, having warned them, and shown the way of life unto them. Ezekiel 33:4; he had blown the trumpet, and warned the people.

And when they opposed themselves,.... To the truth, and contradicted themselves in many instances, and their own prophecies; or those books which they themselves allowed to be the oracles of God, and blasphemed both Christ, and the apostle, and the doctrine which he taught; and railed at him, and spoke evil of him, and used him in a very contumelious and reproachful manner, as they were used from contradicting to go to blaspheming; see Acts 13:45

he shook his raiment; his outer garment, and the dust off from it, as a testimony against them; see Matthew 10:14

and said unto them, your blood be upon your heads; meaning, that they were the authors of their own ruin and destruction; that they could not impute it to any other, when it came upon them; and that they were left inexcusable, and must bear their own iniquities, and the punishment of them: this clause is wanting in the Syriac version.

I am clean; meaning from their blood; see Acts 20:26. The apostle seems to allude to Ezekiel 33:4 signifying, that he had discharged his duty as a preacher, and so had delivered his own soul from their blood being required at his hands; and that it rested entirely on themselves, and they were answerable for all their impenitence, unbelief, and blasphemy:

from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles; in that city, and preach the Gospel to them, and no more enter into their synagogue, as it is very likely he afterwards never did; for though Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, was afterwards converted, yet his conversion seems to have been not in the synagogue, but in the house of Justus, which was hard by it. Compare with this Acts 13:46.

{3} And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your {d} blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

(3) Although we have tried all possible means, and yet in vain, we must not stop our work, but forsake the rebellious, and go to those that are more obedient.

(d) This is a type of speech taken from the Hebrews, by which he means that the Jews are the cause of their own destruction, and as for him, that he is without fault in forsaking them and going to other nations.

Acts 18:6. The refractoriness (Romans 13:2) and reviling, which he experienced from them amidst this increased activity, induced him to turn to the Gentiles.

ἐκτιναξ. τὰ ἱμάτ.] he shook out his garments, ridding himself of the dust, indicating contempt, as in Acts 13:51.

τὸ αἷμα ὑμῶνὑμῶν] sc. ἐλθέτω (Matthew 23:35), i.e. let the blame of the destruction, which will as a divine punishment reach you, light on no other than yourselves. Comp. 2 Samuel 1:16; 1 Kings 2:33; Ezekiel 3:16 ff; Ezekiel 33:4; Ezekiel 33:7 ff. On ἐπὶ or εἰς τ. κεφάλην, see Dem. p. 323, ult. 381. 15. On the elliptical mode of expression, see Matthew 27:25; 2 Samuel 1:16; Plat. Euthyd. p. 283 E; Arist. Plut. 526. The expression is not to be explained from the custom of laying the hands on the victim (Leviticus 16:31; comp. Herod. ii. 39), as Elsner and others suppose, or on the accused on the part of the witnesses (so Piscator); but in all languages (comp. Heinsius, ad Ov. Her. xx. 127) the head is the significant designation of the person himself. The significance here lies particularly in the conception of the divine punishment coming from above, Romans 1:18.

What Paul intends by the destruction which he announces as certainly coming, and the blame of which he adjudges to themselves, is not moral corruption (de Wette, who sees here an un-Pauline expression), but eternal ἀπώλεια, which is conceived as θάνατος (Romans 1:32; Romans 6:16; Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:5; Romans 7:10; Romans 7:13; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:6 al.), and therefore symbolized as αἷμα (to be shed), because the blood is the seat of life (comp. on Acts 15:20). The setting in of this ἀπώλεια occurs at the Parousia (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Thus Paul, as his conduct was already in point of fact for his adversaries an ἐνδείξις ἀπωλείας (Php 1:28), expressly gives to them such an ἐνδείξις.

καθαρὸς ἐγώ] comp. Acts 20:26.

ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν κ.τ.λ.] as in Acts 13:46.

Acts 18:6. ἀντιτασσ.: classical use, of an army ranged in hostile array, or of those opposed to each other in opinion, Thuc., iii., 83. So in later Greek, in Polyb-generally to oppose, to resist. Ramsay renders “and when they began to form a faction against him,” but cf. Romans 13:2, Jam 4:6; Jam 5:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34.—βλασφ., cf. Acts 13:45, or it may be used generally as in Acts 19:9, and 2 Peter 2:2.—ἐκτιναξ., cf. Acts 13:51, note; cf. Matthew 10:14, and LXX, Nehemiah 5:13, “undoubtedly a very exasperating gesture,” Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 256; but we must remember that the opposition at Corinth seems to have been unusally great, as Ramsay himself points out, u. s., pp. 143, 256.—τὸ αἶμα ὑμῶν, cf. Acts 20:26, Hebraistic, cf., e.g., Matthew 27:25, and in LXX, Leviticus 20:16, 2 Samuel 1:16, 1 Kings 2:37, Ezekiel 3:18, etc., i.e., ἐλθέτω, Matthew 23:35. Both here and in Acts 20:26 we can scarcely doubt that St. Paul had in mind the words of the prophet, Ezekiel 33:6.—ἐπὶ τὴν κεφ., i.e., upon yourselves, the head being used for the person—for other ideas of the word see Wendt (1888), in loco. De Wette interprets of moral ruin, and others of the eternal ἀπωλεία, but we cannot refine so much upon a figurative phrase. In Acts 18:5 b and 6 Spitta and Jüngst see the hand of a Reviser, the former holding that the whole passage runs smoothly with these omissions, whilst Jüngst ascribes also the word ἐκεῖθεν, Acts 18:7, to the Reviser. According to Clemen, 4 and 5b, the preaching in the synagogue belongs to Redactor Judaicus, the Jewish persecution in Acts 18:6 to the Redactor Antijudaicus. Hilgenfeld agrees with Spitta in so far that he ascribes 5b and 6b to “the author to Theophilus”.—καθαρὸς ἐγὼ: scarcely enough to say “I am pure,” have discharged my duty with a clear conscience, cf. Acts 20:26, the same idea here, better to punctuate at ἐγώ, but see Blass, in loco.—ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν: from henceforth, i.e., so far as he is concerned. It is evident that the words did not apply to other places, for in Acts 19:8 St. Paul goes to the synagogue according to his wont. The phrase is found five times in St. Luke’s Gospel, but only here in Acts. It is used once elsewhere in N.T, and there by St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:16 (cf. John 8:11). See Friedrich, p. 16, and Hawkins, Horæ Synopticæ, p. 29.

6. opposed themselves] The word implies very strong opposition, as of a force drawn up in battle array. It was an organized opposition.

and blasphemed] The same word is used in 2 Peter 2:2, “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” And the same conduct, though the word is different, is described in the next chapter (Acts 19:9), “speaking evil of the Way before the multitude.”

he shook out his raiment] Figurative of entire renunciation of them. Nothing that pertained to them should cling to him; and in like manner he would cast them off from his thoughts (cp. Acts 13:51). For the action cp. Nehemiah 5:13.

Your blood be upon your own heads] He says “blood” in the sense of “destruction,” using figuratively the language which in Joshua 2:19 is used literally.

I will go unto the Gentiles] i.e. the Gentiles in Corinth. For in future preaching elsewhere (see Acts 19:8) he addressed the Jews and went to the synagogue, as had been his custom from the first.

Acts 18:6. Ἐκτιναξάμενος, having shaken) The meaning of this gesture (significant act) is understood from the words with which he accompanied it.—αἷμα, your blood) souls. “Life” and death are put in antithesis: also, “life” and soul on the one hand, and death and the shedding of the blood on the other: comp. 1 Samuel 22:22, εἰμι αἴτιος τῶν ψυχῶν, “I am the occasion of the lives” (being taken).—ἐπὶ) The Hebrew על, upon. This denotes guilt resting or falling upon.—καθαρὸς ἐγὼ, I am clean) No one can say so, who has not previously fulfilled (the duty of giving) his testimony.—πορεύσομαι, I will go) So Paul changed his lodging: and yet he did not entirely withdraw himself from the better class of Jews, whom he made by this very act the more earnestly attentive.

Verse 6. - Shook out for shook, A.V. For this action of shaking his raiment, comp. Acts 13:51. It was in accordance with our Lord's direction in Matthew 10:14, where the same word (ἐκτινάσσειν) is used. It is "much employed in medical language" (Hobart, ' Medical Language of St. Luke,' p. 240). The idea seems to be having nothing henceforth in common with them. Your blood, etc. (see Ezekiel 33:4-9). St. Paul's keen sense of the perverseness of the Jews breaks out in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians (it. 14-16), written about this time. See hole to ver. 5. Acts 18:6Opposed themselves (ἀντιτασσομένων)

Implying an organized or concerted resistance. See on resisteth, 1 Peter 5:5.

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