Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)No man forbidding him.—The fact is interesting as showing the attitude of the Roman empire to the new faith. So far, even under Nero, it was tolerant, and even though the “sect” of the Christians was “everywhere spoken against,” a leading teacher of that sect was allowed free room to propagate his views. The rulers of the empire were not as yet alarmed at the thought of the wide-spread secret organisation of the Christian Society, and the influence of Seneca and Burrus may not have been without its share in this policy of toleration. The history closes somewhat abruptly. It may have been the intention of the writer to continue his narrative. It is a natural inference that when he closed it the two years had expired, or were on the point of expiring; that he, who had remained with the Apostle during his imprisonment, started with him on his eastward journey afterwards; and that some incidents to us unknown, hindered him from completing the work which he had begun. It is possible, on the other hand, that Theophilus, as an Italian convert (see Introduction), may have known what had passed in Rome during the Apostle’s first sojourn there, or subsequently, and that St. Luke did not aim at more than setting before his friend the stages by which St. Paul had been brought to the imperial city.Acts 20:25.
With all confidence - Openly and boldly, without anyone to hinder him. It is known also that Paul was not unsuccessful even when a prisoner at Rome. Several persons were converted by his preaching, even in the court of the emperor. The things which had happened to him, he says Philippians 1:12-14, had fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel, so that his bonds in Christ were manifested in all the palace, and in all other places; and many brethren in the Lord, says he, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear. In this situation he was remembered with deep interest by the church at Philippi, who sent Epaphroditus to him with a contribution to supply his needs. Of their kindness he speaks in terms of the tenderest gratitude in Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18. During his confinement also, he was the means of the Conversion of Onesimus, a runaway servant of Philemon, of Colosse in Phrygia Plm 1:10, whom he sent back to his master with a letter to himself, and with an epistle to the church at that place. See the Epistle to the Colossians, Colossians 4:8-9, Colossians 4:18. During this imprisonment, he wrote, according to Lardner, the following epistles, in the order and time mentioned, namely,:
Here closes the inspired account of the propagation of Christianity; of the organization of the Christian church, and of the toils and persecutions of the apostle Paul. Who can but be deeply affected when he comes to the conclusion of this inspired book recording the history of the spread of the Christian religion, and the labors and trials of that wonderful man, the apostle Paul. Who can help heaving a sigh of regret that the historian did not carry forward the history of Paul until his death, and that henceforward, in the history of the church, we want this faithful, inspired guide; and that, from the close of this book, everything becomes at once so involved in obscurity and uncertainty? Instead, however, of pouring forth unavailing regrets that the sacred historian has carried us no further onward, we should rather employ the language of praise that God inspired the writer of this book to give a history of the church for 30 years after the ascension of the Saviour; that he has recorded the accounts of the first great revivals of religion; that he has presented us the examples of the early missionary zeal; that he has informed us how the early Christians endured persecution and toil; that he has conducted us from land to land, and from city to city, showing us everywhere how the gospel was propagated, until we are led to the seat of the Roman power, and see the great apostle of Christianity there proclaiming, in that mighty capital of the world, the name of Jesus as the Saviour of people.
Perhaps there could be no more appropriate close to the book of the inspired history than thus to have conducted the apostle of the Gentiles to the capital of the Roman world, and to leave the principal agent in the establishment of the Christian religion in that seat of intelligence, influence, and power. It is the conducting of Christianity to the very height of its earthly victories; and having shown its power in the provinces of the empire, it was proper to close the account with the record of its achievements in the capital.
Why Luke closed his history here is not known. It may have been that he was not afterward the companion of Paul; or that he might have been himself removed by death. It is agreed on all hands that he did not attend Paul in his subsequent travels; and we should infer from the conclusion of this book that he did not survive the apostle, as it is almost incredible, if he did, that he did not mention his release and death. It is the uniform account of antiquity that Luke, after the transactions with which the Acts of the Apostles closes, passed over into Achaia, where he lived a year or two, and there died at the age of 84 years.
Everything in regard to the apostle Paul, after the account with which Luke closes this book, is involved in doubt and uncertainty. By what means he was set at liberty is not known; and there is a great contradiction of statements in regard to his subsequent travels, and even in regard to the time of his death. It is generally agreed, indeed, that he was set at liberty in the year of our Lord 63 a.d. After this some of the fathers assert that he traveled over Italy and passed into Spain. But this account is involved in great uncertainty. Lardner, who has examined all the statements with care, and than whom no one is better qualified to pronounce an opinion on these subjects, gives the following account of the subsequent life of Paul (Works, vol. v. pp. 331-336, London edition, 1829). He supposes that after his release he went from Rome to Jerusalem as soon as possible; that he then went to Ephesus, and from thence to Laodicea and Colosse; and that he returned to Rome by Troas, Philippi, and Corinth. The reason why he returned to Rome, Lardner supposes, was that he regarded that city as opening before him the widest and most important field of labor, and that, therefore, he proposed there to spend the remainder of his life.
In the year of our Lord 64 a.d., a dreadful fire happened at Rome which continued for six or seven days. It was generally supposed that the city had been set on fire by order of the Emperor Nero. In order to divert the attention of the people from this charge against himself, he accused the Christians of having been the authors of the conflagration, and excited against them a most furious and bloody persecution. In this persecution it is generally supposed that Paul and Peter suffered death, the former by being beheaded, and the latter by crucifixion. Paul is supposed to have been beheaded rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen, and because it was unlawful to put a Roman citizen to death on a cross. Lardher thinks that this occurred in the year 65. Where Paul was beheaded is not certainly known. It is generally supposed to have occurred at a place called the Salvian Waters, about 3 miles from Rome, and that he was buried in the Ostian Way, where a magnificent church was afterward built. But of this there is no absolute certainty.
It is far more important and interesting for us to be assured from the character which he evinced, and from the proofs of his zeal and toil in the cause of the Lord Jesus, that his spirit rested in the bosom of his Saviour and his God. Wherever he died, his spirit, we doubt not, is in heaven. And where that body rested at last, which he labored "to keep under," and which he sought to bring "into subjection" 1 Corinthians 9:27, and which was to him so much the source of conflict and of sin Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23, is a matter of little consequence. It will be guarded by the eye of that Saviour whom he served, and will be raised up to eternal life. In his own inimitable language, it was "sown in corruption, it shall be raised in incorruption; it was sown in dishonor, it shall be raised in glory; it was sown in weakness, it shall be raised in power; it was sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body," 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. And in regard to him, and to all other saints, "when that corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and that mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory," 1 Corinthians 15:54.
To Paul now, what are all his sorrows, and persecutions, and toils in the cause of his Master? What but a source of thanksgiving that he was permitted thus to labor to spread the gospel through the world? So may we live - imitating his life of zeal, and self-denial, and faithfulness, that when we rise from the dead we may participate with him in the glories of the resurrection of the just.The kingdom of God; the gospel is so called; as also Paul preached that kingdom of God which is to come at the end of the world, which falls in with the subject he was so often upon, concerning the resurrection; which if men did but believe effectually, all the other ends of preaching would be easily obtained.
Those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ; Christ’s precepts and miracles, his death and resurrection.
No man forbidding him: God, who puts bounds to the raging sea, had stopped the Jews’ malice, and bidden it go no further; and he who delivered Daniel from the lions, had delivered Paul from Nero, and would have delivered him, had not his death been more for the glory of God, and the good of Paul himself, than his life; which at last he offered in confirmation of the truths which he had preached; which he foresaw, 2 Timothy 4:6, and, as Eusebius says, it came to pass accordingly.
This book may be called, not only praxeiv, but terata; not only the Acts, but the wonders, of the Apostles: though the holy penman and the apostles meekly contented themselves with that name by which at present it is called, yet what wonders are contained in it! Not only such as were wrought by the apostles, but for them, to deliver, preserve, and encourage them; insomuch as the attempt to silence them, and to hinder the progress of the gospel preached by them, proved as vain as if men had endeavoured to hinder the sun from shining, or the wind from blowing.
Now unto him, who is able to work so as none can hinder, be all honour and glory, dominion and power, for ever and ever. Amen. Luke 4:43; he preached up Jesus as the King Messiah, and declared that his kingdom was come, and opened the nature of it; that it consisted not in meats and drinks, but in righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; which is the kingdom of grace here, and is within a man, in his heart, where grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life: and he gave them same account of the kingdom of glory, and the way unto it; and showed, that without regeneration and sanctification, no one could be meet for it; and without the justifying righteousness of Christ, no man could have a right unto it, or be possessed of it:
and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ: his person, as God and man; his office as Mediator, being prophet, priest, and King; his incarnation and birth; his life and miracles; his doctrine and obedience, sufferings and death; his resurrection, ascension, session at God's right hand; his intercession, and second coming to judgment; with all the truths of the Gospel, in which he has a concern; as redemption, peace, reconciliation and pardon, by his blood and sacrifice, and justification by his righteousness, and salvation and eternal life through him. These things had been the subject of the apostle's ministry, throughout the whole of it: he began at Damascus with preaching Jesus as the Son of God and the true Messiah; and he ends at Rome, with teaching the things concerning him: at his first setting out in the work of the Lord, he determined to make known none but Christ, and him crucified; and in this resolution he continued through the whole course of his life, and abode by it to the end: and this he did
with all confidence; with all freedom and liberty in his soul, though he was bound in his body with a chain; with all plainness, openness, and faithfulness; and with all courage and boldness, though in the midst of adversaries:
no man forbidding him; not the Roman emperor, nor the Roman senate, nor any other magistrate; nor could the Jews hinder him, nor was his mouth to be stopped by any; nor could the open door of the Gospel be shut, or its course be impeded; for though the apostle was bound, the word of God was not, but ran and was glorified; and was made known, and even owned in Caesar's palace; some say Nero's cupbearer, and Poppea his concubine, were converted by him: and he not only continued preaching the Gospel during the two years of his imprisonment at Rome, but also wrote several epistles to churches, and particular persons; as the epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the Hebrews, and to Philemon, and the "second" epistle to Timothy: some copies add here, "Amen"; and at the close of the Alexandrian copy, stand these words, "the Acts of the holy Apostles"; and at the Syriac version these, "the End of the Acts of the blessed Apostles, that is, of their Histories".Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 28:31. Solemn close of the whole book, which is not to be regarded as incomplete (see Introd. § 3). The Gospel also concludes with a sonorous participial ending (but less full and solemn).
κηρύσσων κ.τ.λ.] thus his word was not bound in his bonds, 2 Timothy 2:9.
ἀκωλύτως] Plat. Crat. p. 415 D; Herodian. i. 12. 15; “Victoria verbi Dei. Paulus Romae, apex evangelii, actorum finis,” Bengel.Acts 28:31. τὰ περὶ: on the phrase see p. 481.—τοῦ Κ. Ἰ. Χ., see critical note, and cf. Acts 11:17, Acts 15:26, the full phrase corresponds with the solemn conclusion of the book.—μετὰ π. παῤῥ.: the phrase with or without πάσης four times in Acts, and nowhere else in N.T., see on p. 128. In Jerusalem by the Twelve, Acts 4:29, and in Rome no less than in Jerusalem by St. Paul, the witness was given “with all boldness,” cf. Php 1:14; and so the promise in the vision vouchsafed to the Apostle of the Gentiles was verified, Acts 23:11, and the aim of the Gentile historian fulfilled when the Gospel was thus preached boldly and openly, ἕως ἐσχ. τῆς γῆς, see note on Acts 1:8.—ἀκωλύτως: “eadem plane dicuntur in ep. ad Phil. Roma data, Acts 1:12 sqq.,” Blass, and the word of God had free course and was glorified. The adverb is found in Plato, Epict., Herodian, and also in Josephus. In LXX the adjective is found in Wis 7:22, and the adverb is used by Symm., Job 34:31. There is a note of triumph in the word, Bengel, Zöckler, and we may note with Wordsworth and Page the cadence of these concluding words, μετα π. π. ἀκωλ. But all this does not forbid the view that the writer intended to give a third book to complete his work. This latter view is strongly insisted upon by Prof. Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 23 ff., while Bishop Lightfoot, B.D., i., 27, can see no conceivable plea for any third treatise, if the purpose of the narrative is completed by Paul coming to Rome and there delivering his message, so, although less strongly, Harnack, Chron., i. p. 248, see note on Acts 1:8. But Prof. Ramsay has received the strong support not only of Zöckler, and curiously enough of Spitta, Apostelgeschichte, p. 318, but still more recently amongst English writers of Rendall, and in Germany of Dr. Zahn. Just as in St. Luke’s Gospel Luke 24:44 forms not merely a starting—point for, but an anticipation of, the succeeding history, or just as Luke 24:44-53 contain in a summary what is afterwards related in greater detail, Acts 1, 2, so in Acts 28:30-31 of Acts 28 we have, as it were, a brief sketch of what succeeded the events hitherto recorded, and an anticipation of what followed upon them. This probability remains quite apart from the additional force which is given to it if Ramsay is right in regarding πρῶτος, Acts 1:1, as signifying not simply πρότερος, but the first of a series, a view strongly supported by Zahn, Einleitung, ii., p. 371. Certainly the aorist, Acts 28:30 (see above), and the expression διετίαν ὅλην seem to show that some fact was known to the writer which followed the close of the two years, and we can therefore hardly say that he wrote no more because he knew no more, unless we also suppose that he wrote his history at the conclusion and not during the course of the two years. This he may have done while the result of St. Paul’s first trial was still unknown, although Php 1:25-27; Php 2:24, Philemon 1:22, show us plainly with what confidence the Apostle awaited the issue. At all events almost any conjecture seems more probable than that the writer should have concluded so abruptly if he had nothing more to chronicle than the immediate and tragic death of his hero! Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte, p. 162, Spitta, Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums, I., 15, 16. To say with Jülicher, Einleitung, p. 27, that he refrained from doing this because in such an event he would chronicle not the triumph but the defeat of the Gospel is certainly a strange argument, and no one has given a better answer to it than Harnack by asking, Since when did the early Christians regard martyrdom as a defeat? Is the death of Christ, or of Stephen, in the mind of the author of Acts a defeat? is it not rather a triumph? Chron., i., 247. The elaborate discussion of the abrupt conclusion in Acts by Wendt, 1899, pp. 31, 32, is entirely based upon the assumption that Luke was not the author of Acts, and that therefore this author, whoever he was, wrote no more because his information failed him, and he knew no more. This could not have been so in the case of Luke, who was with the Apostle at Rome, as we have from undoubted testimony quite apart from Acts. See further Introd. For the release of St. Paul, his subsequent journeys to Spain and to the East, and his second imprisonment, see in support, Zahn, Einleitung, i., p. 435 ff., Harnack, Chron., i., 239, Spitta, u. s., Salmon, Introd., p. 403 ff., Die zweite römische Gefangenschaft des Apostels Paulus, Steinmeyer (1897), and Critical Review (July), 1898. There were many possible reasons why the hearing of St. Paul’s appeal was so long delayed. The record of the previous proceedings forwarded by Festus may have been lost in the wreck, and it was therefore necessary to wait for fresh official information, as the prisoner’s accusers had not arrived. And when they arrived, it is very possible that they may have been glad to interpose fresh obstacles, and that they would be content to keep Paul bound as before; as evidence was probably wanted, not only from Jerusalem, but from various parts of the empire, the interposition of these fresh delays was easy. St. Paul had himself suggested that the Jews in Asia ought to be summoned, or to be present, Acts 24:19. That such delays would not be unusual we may learn from Tacitus, e.g., Ann., xiii., 43; cf. Suet., Nero, 15. When we remember how long a delay occurred in the case of the Jewish priests, the friends of Josephus, Vita, 3, who were sent to Rome by Felix to plead their cause, it ceases to be surprising that St. Paul was detained so long without a trial; see on the whole question Lewin, St. Paul, ii., 277 ff.; Lightfoot, Phil., p. 4; Knabenbauer, Actus Apostolorum, pp. 453, 454, 1899.Acts 28:31. Βασιλείαν, the kingdom) in the very seat of the empire (kingdom) of the whole earth. So presently, περὶ τοῦ Κυρίου, concerning the Lord. Comp. Acts 28:23. The mention of the kingdom had been a matter of odium in the eyes of Pilate: now Rome bears its being publicly stated.—παῤῥησίας, confidence) internally.—ἀκωλύτως, without hindrance) externally, after having overcome so many hindrances. The Victory of the Word of God. Paul at Rome forms the climax (crowning point) of the Gospel preaching, and the end of the Acts; which Luke otherwise (2 Timothy 4:11) might have easily brought on to the death of Paul. He began at Jerusalem; he ends at Rome. [And at the close of this very period of two years the fourth thousand years from the Creation of the world was completed.—V. g.] Thou hast, O Church, thy form given to thee. It is thine to preserve it, and to keep the deposit committed to thee. In the Old Testament, Isaiah, the volume of the Twelve Prophets, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations, have a close threatening and severe; whence the Jews are wont to subjoin the penultimate verses, of a more joyful character, without the vowel points. But in the system of the books of the New Testament all the endings of books have all that is favourable and joyous.
 Bengel, J. A. (1860). Vol. 2: Gnomon of the New Testament (M. E. Bengel & J. C. F. Steudel, Ed.) (A. R. Fausset, Trans.) (692–732). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.Verse 31. - The things for those things, A.V.; concerning for which concern, A.V.; boldness for confidence, A.V.; none for no man, A.V. Boldness (παρρησίας); see above, Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13, 29, 31. The verb παρρησιάζομαι also occurs frequently (Acts 9:27; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3, etc.). The boldness and freedom with which he spake the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ would naturally increase more and more, as he found himself day by day unchecked by enemies, and encouraged by the number and earnestness of his hearers. None forbidding him; ἀκωλύτως, only here in the New Testament; but the adjective is found in Symmachus's version of Job (Job 34:31), and in the LXX. of Wisd. 7:22; and both adjective and adverb are occasionally used in classical Greek. But the most common use of the adverb is by medical writers, who employ it "to denote freedom, unhindered action, in a variety of things, such as respiration, perspiration, the pulse, the muscles, the members of the body" (Hobart). In two passages quoted from Galen ('Meth. Med.,' 14:15; 'Usus Part.,' 2:15) the sentence ends, as here, with the word ἀκωλύτως Some derive the word "acolyte" hence, from their being admitted to holy functions, though not in full orders. And so ends this lively and beautiful and most faithful sketch of one of the greatest men, and one of the greatest works, the world has ever seen. "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft," is seen, as we read this history, to be no empty boast, but a simple statement of the truth. The springs of that mind and of that zeal were ever ready to rise to fresh work, however crushing a strain had been put upon them. "I count not my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God," is the true description of that life as delineated by the beloved physician. And yet how remarkable it is that in the whole of the Acts there is not one single word of panegyric! The portraiture is a bare photograph, without a single additional touch to enhance its beauty. Nor must we forget the singular brevity with which some episodes are passed over. Had we only Luke's history, we should not know that the apostle was an author - an author whose writings have moved the world of mind and spirit more than all the writings of Plato, and Aristotle, and Cicero, and Bacon combined, through a period of eighteen hundred years. Thus, to glance at the "two whole years" with the record of which the book closes, think of the work clone in that time. What gatherings of holy men and women within the walls of that "hired dwelling" are we sure must have taken place! Prisca and Aquila, and Epaenetus, and Mary, and Urban, and Apelles, and Persis, and Hermas, and Olympas, and all their compeers, we may be sure were often there. What wrestlings in prayer, what expositions of the Scriptures, what descriptions of the kingdom of God, what loving exhortations, what sympathetic communings, must have made that "hired dwelling" a very Bethel in the stronghold of heathenism! We think of the praetorian soldiers to whom he was successively chained; perhaps of the courteous Julius; of the inmates of Nero's palace (Philippians 4:22); perhaps of Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia (2 Timothy 4:21); of Epaphras and Epaphroditus, and of Luke, and Mark, and Timothy, and Aristarchus, and we know not how many more besides; and there rises before our minds a crowd of agencies and sober activities directed by that master mind to the advancement of the kingdom of God. We feel, indeed, that, though he was chained, "the word of God was not bound;" but that through the marvelous energy and unfailing wisdom of the great prisoner, his prison turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. And then we turn to the Epistles written at this time. What a contribution to the literature of the kingdom of heaven!-the Epistles to the Ephesians, to the Colossions, to Philemon, and to the Philippians, and probably much help given to Luke in the composition of the Acts of the Apostles. Truly they were two years of infinite moment to the Church of God. What followed those two years, what became of Paul, and what of his saintly biographer, we shall never know. It has pleased God to draw a curtain ever the events, which we cannot penetrate. Here our history ends, because nothing more had happened when it was given to the Church. Instead of vain regrets because it reaches no further, let us devoutly thank God for all that this book has taught us, and strive to show ourselves worthy members of that Gentile Church, whose foundation by St. Peter and St. Paul, and whose marvelous increment, through the labors of him who once laid it waste, has been so well set before us in the Book of THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
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