Acts 9:26
And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
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(26) And when Saul was come to Jerusalem.—His journey probably took him, as before, through Samaria (see Note on Acts 9:3), and so laid the foundation of the interest in the Samaritan Church, which shows itself later on in the history in Acts 15:3, when he and Barnabas journeyed “through Phœnice and Samaria.”

He assayed to join himself to the disciples.—The reader may note the use of the word “assay,” which has since been confined to a purely technical meaning, in the wider sense of trying or attempting. The verb for “join” is that which is always used of close and intimate fellowship, such as that of husband and wife, of brothers, and of friends. (Comp. Acts 10:28; Matthew 19:5; Luke 15:15; 1Corinthians 6:16.) He was seeking, in the language of a later time, full communion with the disciples. It was not strange that his motives should be at first suspected. Might he not be coming to “spy out” their weak places, and in time appear again as a persecutor? The difficulty which at first presents itself in understanding how the Church at Jerusalem could have remained ignorant of what Saul had done at Damascus as a preacher of the faith, is adequately explained by the political incidents to which attention has been already drawn. The occupation of the city by Aretas, and his enmity against the Herodian house, may well have stopped the usual intercourse between it and Jerusalem, then under the rule of Agrippa, and so the reports that reached the Apostles would come in uncertain and fluctuating forms, which were not sufficient to lead the disciples to trust in the conversion of the persecutor.

Acts 9:26-30. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, &c. — It must be observed here, that the history of Paul’s preaching at Damascus, going into Arabia, and visiting Jerusalem, is somewhat intricate, and interpreters differ much about it. But the series of it seems most probably to be as Dr. Whitby has stated it; namely, 1st, That, “after his conversion, he constantly preached in the synagogues of Damascus, that Jesus was the Son of God. 2d, That, going thence into Arabia, between two and three years after, he returned to Damascus, (Galatians 1:17,) of which journey, however, Luke, not being with him, gives no account. 3d, That, at his return, being increased in wisdom and strength, he continued many days in Damascus, proving that Jesus was the Christ. 4th, That, after three years, escaping from Damascus, he came to Jerusalem, and was by Barnabas brought to the apostles Peter and James, and continued there fifteen days, Galatians 1:18-19. 5th, There Christ appeared to him in a vision; commanding him to depart out of Jerusalem; and he accordingly went thence to Cesarea Philippi in Cœlo-Syria, and to Tarsus in Cilicia, Acts 9:30; Galatians 1:21.”

He assayed to join himself to the disciples — The despised, persecuted followers of Jesus, who were now in his eyes the excellent of the earth, and with whom he desired to be united in Christian fellowship. But they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he — Who had signalized himself so much by his rage against the church; was indeed a disciple — But suspected that his professing to be such was a mere artifice whereby he endeavoured to insinuate himself into their confidence, in order that he might thus have it in his power to detect and ruin a great number of them. It may seem strange that so remarkable an event as Saul’s conversion should be concealed so long from the Christians at Jerusalem; but it is to be considered, that there were not then such conveniences of correspondence between one place and another as we now have, and the war then subsisting between Herod Antipas and Aretas, (Jos. Antiq., Acts 18:5,) might have interrupted that between Damascus and Jerusalem. Now might Paul be tempted to think himself in an ill case, when the Jews had abandoned and persecuted him on the one hand, and the Christians, on the other, would not receive and entertain him. But Barnabas took him — Probably having been informed of his conversion by Ananias, or some of the brethren of Damascus; and brought him to the apostles — Namely, to Peter and James, the rest, it seems, being then absent from Jerusalem, for Paul himself tells us, (Galatians 1:19,) that, on his going to Jerusalem at this time, he saw no other of the apostles but these two. And declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way — To Damascus, and that he had spoken to him in a manner that had conquered all his former prejudices against the gospel; and how — In consequence of the change which was then made in his views, and in his heart; he had preached boldly at Damascus — Even at the apparent hazard of his life. So that he gave sufficient proof that he was a new creature, changed in principle and practice. And he was with them — With the Christians, who, on receiving such information from Barnabas, gladly admitted him into communion with them, and even into their most intimate friendship, so that he was coming in and going out among them — That is, frequently conversing and associating with them, for fifteen days, Galatians 1:18. And he spake boldly in the name of Jesus — Even in Jerusalem, and that not only to such Jews as were natives of Judea; but disputed against the Grecians

Or Hellenists, namely, the foreign Jews, who used the Greek language, and came out of other parts to worship at Jerusalem. For Saul seems to have earnestly desired that they might carry along with them the knowledge of Christ into their own countries. But they went about to slay him — As they did Stephen, when they could not resist the Spirit by which he spake: so enraged were they at this unexpected opposition from one, on whose zeal for the Jewish religion, and against Christianity, they had had so great a dependance. Which when the brethren knew — Remembering how the putting Stephen to death, upon his disputing with the Hellenists, had been the beginning of a sore persecution, and being afraid of seeing such a tragedy acted over again, they hastened Paul out of the way; they brought him down to Cesarea — Namely, Cesarea Philippi, (for he went through the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and therefore went by land, Galatians 1:21,) and from thence sent him forth — Doubtless with proper recommendations; to Tarsus — The capital of Cilicia, and his native place, where they hoped he might proceed in his work with more safety than at Jerusalem, and, perhaps, might meet with protection, and some support from his relations and friends. Yet it was also by direction from heaven, as he himself tells us, (Acts 22:17-18,) that he left Jerusalem at this time, Christ ordering him to go out of it quickly, because he must be sent to the Gentiles. Observe, reader, those by whom God has work to do, shall be protected from all the designs of their enemies against them till it be done; for Christ’s witnesses cannot be slain till they have finished their testimony.

9:23-31 When we enter into the way of God, we must look for trials; but the Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape. Though Saul's conversion was and is a proof of the truth of Christianity, yet it could not, of itself, convert one soul at enmity with the truth; for nothing can produce true faith, but that power which new-creates the heart. Believers are apt to be too suspicious of those against whom they have prejudices. The world is full of deceit, and it is necessary to be cautious, but we must exercise charity, 1Co 13:5. The Lord will clear up the characters of true believers; and he will bring them to his people, and often gives them opportunities of bearing testimony to his truth, before those who once witnessed their hatred to it. Christ now appeared to Saul, and ordered him to go quickly out of Jerusalem, for he must be sent to the Gentiles: see ch. 22:21. Christ's witnesses cannot be slain till they have finished their testimony. The persecutions were stayed. The professors of the gospel walked uprightly, and enjoyed much comfort from the Holy Ghost, in the hope and peace of the gospel, and others were won over to them. They lived upon the comfort of the Holy Ghost, not only in the days of trouble and affliction, but in days of rest and prosperity. Those are most likely to walk cheerfully, who walk circumspectly.Was come to Jerusalem - He did not go to Jerusalem immediately after he escaped from Damascus. He first went into Arabia, where he spent a considerable part, or the whole of three years. For the reasons why he went there, and why this fact is omitted by Luke in the Acts , see the notes on Galatians 1:18.

He assayed - He attempted; he endeavored.

To join himself - To become connected with them as a fellow-Christian.

But they were all afraid of him - Their fear, or suspicion, was excited probably on these grounds:

(1) They remembered his former violence against Christians. They had an instinctive shrinking from him, and suspicion of the man that had been so violent a persecutor.

(2) he had been absent three years. If they had not heard of him during that time, they would naturally retain much of their old feelings toward him. If they had, they might suspect the man who had not returned to Jerusalem; who had not before sought the society of other Christians; and who had spent that time in a distant country, and among strangers. It would seem remarkable that he had not at once returned to Jerusalem and connected himself with the apostles. But the sacred writer does not justify the fears of the apostles. He simply records the fact of their apprehension. It is not unnatural, however, to have doubts respecting an open and virulent enemy of the gospel who suddenly professes a change in favor of it. The human mind does not easily cast off suspicion of some unworthy motive, and open itself at once to entire confidence. When great and notorious sinners profess to be converted - people who have been violent, artful, or malignant - it is natural to ask whether they have not some unworthy motive still in their professed change. Confidence is a plant of slow growth, and starts up, not by a sudden profession, but is the result of a course of life which is worthy of affection and of trust.

A disciple - A sincere Christian.

Ac 9:26-31. Saul's First Visit to Jerusalem after His Conversion.

26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem—"three years after" his conversion, and particularly "to see Peter" (Ga 1:18); no doubt because he was the leading apostle, and to communicate to him the prescribed sphere of his labors, specially to "the Gentiles."

he assayed to join himself to the disciples—simply as one of them, leaving his apostolic commission to manifest itself.

they were all afraid of him, &c.—knowing him only as a persecutor of the faith; the rumor of his conversion, if it ever was cordially believed, passing away during his long absence in Arabia, and the news of his subsequent labors in Damascus perhaps not having reached them.

To join himself to, to be admitted to intimate fellowship and communion with,

the disciples. They were all afraid of him; Paul was sufficiently known by name and face at Jerusalem, and many had felt his rage.

And believed not that he was a disciple; but how could the disciples be ignorant of his conversion so long, if it was three years after, as it seems by Galatians 1:18? To answer which may be considered:

1. The great distance between Jerusalem and Damascus, six days’ journey.

2. The little correspondence between the kings of those places, Herod and Aretas.

3. The persecution which was at Jerusalem might hinder the converts of Damascus them going thither.

4. Paul might have spent a great part of the three years in his journey amongst the Arabians, of which before.

And when Saul was come to Jerusalem,.... After he had escaped out of Damascus, in the manner before related, and which was three years after his conversion:

he assayed to join himself to the disciples; not to the private members of the church, or ordinary disciples, as distinct from the apostles, but to the whole society, as consisting of apostles and private Christians; for his chief view in going to Jerusalem was to see Peter; and the Ethiopic version reads, "to the apostles": the sense is, that he tried either to get into a free and familiar conversation with them, or to become one of their body, and a member of the church. He did not return to the high priest from whom he had received letters to Damascus, to give him an account of the execution of his commission, or what use he had made of the letters he gave him, but to the disciples, against whom he had breathed out threatenings and slaughter. Grace had made a strange alteration in him; those whom he hated, and was exceeding mad against, he now loves; they are the excellent ones in the earth in whom is all his delight; and whom he persecuted to strange cities, he now courts their company, and attempts to get among them; accounting it his greatest honour and happiness to be one of their society. It is the duty and interest of every gracious soul to join himself to a church of Christ, which consists of the disciples of Christ, as the church at Jerusalem did; of such who have learned Christ, and the way of life and salvation by him; who have believed in him, and have been taught to deny themselves for his sake, and to take up the cross and follow him, in the way of his ordinances and appointments; and to be "joined" to a church, is to become an open subject of Christ's kingdom, a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, one of the family of God, and a member of the body of Christ visibly. The phrase is expressive of that strict union there is between the saints in church relation, and of that close and intimate communion they have with each other, and shows that their incorporation together is by mutual consent and agreement. And a great privilege it is to be in such a relation, having the grace of God; for such have the best of company, and the most refreshing ordinances; are in the greatest safety, being under the watch and care of ministers and members, of angels, and of God himself; and shall never be disfranchised, or become foreigners and strangers; they may expect the presence of God, fresh supplies of his grace, and even life for evermore, and need fear no enemy. That which qualifies for church membership, is not natural descent from religious parents, nor a religious education, nor mere morality and civility, nor even a constant attendance on the word of God, but faith in Christ Jesus, and a profession of it; and according to the order of the Gospel it is necessary that baptism in water should go before it; and these qualifications the apostle had.

But they were all afraid of him; knowing him to have been such an enemy to Christ, and so violent a persecutor of his church in times past:

and believed not that he was a disciple; or a true follower of Christ, but only pretended to be one, having some wicked design upon them in attempting to get among them: the reason of their not knowing anything of his conversion might be, because not only of the distance between Damascus and Jerusalem, and the continuance of the persecution in the latter place, which might occasion few comers to and fro of the Christians; but because the apostle, soon after his conversion, went to Arabia, where he had been all this while. Hence it appears, that the primitive churches were very careful in the admission of persons into fellowship with them; as they could not bear them in their communion who were evil, so they would not admit any among them but such as they looked upon to be the true disciples of Christ: and this is a method worthy of imitation; and such persons who, before a profession of religion, have been either very scandalous in their lives and conversations, or notorious enemies to Christ and his Gospel, ought to be thoroughly examined into, and full satisfaction obtained concerning them, ere they be received into the bosom of the church.

{6} And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

(6) In ancient times no man was rashly or lightly received into the members and the sheep of the Church, much less to be a pastor.

Acts 9:26-27. Three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:18), Paul went for the first time back to Jerusalem.[246] Thus long, therefore, had his first labours at Damascus lasted, though interrupted by the Arabian journey. For the connection admits of no interruption between Acts 9:25-26 (the flight, Acts 9:25, and the παραγενόμ. σὲ εἰς Ἱερουσ., Acts 9:26, stand in close relation to each other). Driven from Damascus, the apostle very naturally and wisely directed his steps to the mother-church in Jerusalem, in order to enter into connection with the older apostles, particularly with Peter (Galatians 1:18).

ΤΟῖς ΜΑΘΗΤ.] to the Christians.

ΚΑῚ ΠΆΝΤΕς ἘΦΟΒ.] ΚΑΊ is the simple and, which annexes the (unfavourable) result of the ἐπειρ. κολλ. τοῖς μαθ. Observe, moreover, on this statement—(1) that it presupposes the conversion to have occurred not long ago; (2) that accordingly the ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, Acts 9:23, cannot have been conceived by Luke as a period of three years; (3) but that—since according to Galatians 1:18 Paul nevertheless did not appear till three years after at Jerusalem—the distrust of all, here reported, and the introduction by Barnabas resting on that distrust as its motive, cannot be historical, as after three years’ working the fact that Paul was actually a Christian could not but be undoubted in the church at Jerusalem.[247]

ὅτι ἐστὶν μαθ.] to be accented with Rinck and Bornemann, ἜΣΤΙΝ.

] see on Acts 4:36. Perhaps he was at an earlier period acquainted with the apostle.

ἘΠΙΛΑΒΌΜ.] graphically: he grasped him (by the hand), and led him; αὐτόν, however, is governed by ἬΓΑΓΕ, for ἘΠΙΛΑΜΒΆΝΕΣΘΑΙ is always conjoined with the genitive. So in Acts 16:19, Acts 18:17. Comp. Luke 14:4; Buttm. neut. Gr. p. 140 [E. T. 160].

πρὸς τοὺς ἀποστ.] an approximate and very indefinite statement, expressed by the plural of the category; for, according to Galatians 1:18, only Peter and James the Lord’s brother were present; but not at variance with this (Schneckenburger, Baur, Zeller, Laurent, comp. Neander, p. 165; Lekebusch, p. 283), especially as Luke betrays no acquaintance with the special design of the journey (ἹΣΤΟΡῆΣΑΙ ΠΈΤΡΟΝ, Gal. l.c.),—a design with which, we may add, the working related in Acts 9:28-30, although it can only have lasted for fifteen days, does not conflict. A purposely designed fiction, with a view to bring the apostle from the outset into closest union with the Twelve, would have had to make the very most of ἱστορῆσαι Πέτρον.

καὶ διηγήσατο] not Paul (so Beza and others), as already Abdias, Hist. Revelation 2:2, appears to have taken it, but Barnabas, which the construction requires, and which alone is in keeping with the business of the latter, to be the patron of Paul.

ὅτι] not , ΤΙ.

] the name—the confession and the proclamation of the name—of Jesus (as the Messiah), was the element, in which the bold speaking (ἘΠΑῤῬΗΣΙΆΣΑΤΟ) had free course.[248] Comp. Ephesians 6:20.

[246] According to Laurent, neutest. Stud. p. 70 ff., the journey to Jerusalem in our passage is different from the journey, in Galatians 1:18. The latter is to be placed before Acts 9:26. But in that case the important journey, Acts 9:26, would be left entirely unmentioned in the Epistle to the Galatians (for it is not to be found at Galatians 1:22-23),—which is absolutely irreconcilable with the very object of narrating the journeys in that Epistle.

[247] To explain the distrust from the enigmatically long disappearance and re-emergence of the apostle (Lange, Apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 98) is quite against the context of the Book of Acts, in which the Arabian journey has no place. The distrust may in some measure be explained from a long retirement in Arabia (comp. Ewald, p. 403), especially if, with Neander and Ewald, we suppose also a prolonged interruption of communication between Damascus and Jerusalem occasioned by the war of Aretas, which, however, does not admit of being verified.

[248] From this is dated the ἀπὸ Ἱερουσαλὴμ κ. κύκλῳ μέχρι ʼΙλλυρικοῦ Romans 15:19.

Acts 9:26. παραγενόμενος: on its frequency in St. Luke’s Gospel and Acts see Acts 5:21; apparently presupposes that Saul betook himself immediately to Jerusalem, so that the stay in Arabia cannot be inserted here (Weiss. in loco), a stay which Weiss holds was unknown to the author of Acts, see his note on Acts 9:19. παραγ. is found four times in Acts with εἰς, c. acc[231] loci, elsewhere only in Matthew 2:1 (cf. John 8:2).—ἐπειρᾶτο: the verb πειράομαι only found once in N.T., viz., Acts 26:21, and the true reading here is ἐπείραζε, which is used in a similar sense in Acts 16:7, Acts 24:6, only in the active in this sense = Attic πειρῶμαι, according to Blass, in loco, and Gram., 56, 221; “he assayed,” R.V. = to essay, attempt, try, Deuteronomy 4:34, 2Ma 2:23.—κολλᾶσθαι, cf. Acts 5:13, Acts 10:28, and also Matthew 19:5, Luke 15:5, 1 Corinthians 6:16—evidently means that he sought to join himself to them intimately.—καὶ πάντες ἐφοβ. αὐτόνκαὶ “and,” R.V., not “but,” A.V.; it is not adversative, but simply introduces the unfavourable result of Saul’s endeavour. This does not necessarily require that the conversion should have been recent, as Weiss maintains. If three years had elapsed, Galatians 1:16, during a portion of which at all events Saul had been in retirement, the Christians in Jerusalem might very naturally still feel apprehensive when their former persecutor was thus for the first time since his conversion actually present amongst them, and the memory of his former fierce hatred could not have been effaced. If it seems unlikely that this should have been their attitude had they known of Saul’s profession of faith at Damascus, there are critics who would have expressed great surprise if the Apostle had been received with open arms, and without any credentials: “credo si contrarium exstaret, hoc rursus mirarentur” (Blass).

[231] accusative case.

26–31. Saul visits Jerusalem. He is sent away to Tarsus. The Churches have rest

26. And when Saul [he] was come to Jerusalem] The oldest MSS. omit the proper name. Saul had never visited Jerusalem since the day when he set out on his inquisitorial journey to Damascus, and he could only be known at that time to the Christians as their determined enemy.

he assayed to join himself to the disciples] If as a Jew he had gone to Alexandria or any other city where Jews were numerous, his first thought would have been to search out his co-religionists; so he acts now. He seeks to join the Christian community. But his own language (Galatians 1:16) shews us that he had made no attempt to spread the news of his changed feelings among the Christian congregations. “I conferred not with flesh and blood,” he says, “but I went into Arabia, and returned to Damascus.” An absence of three years, mainly in a region whence little news could come of his conversion and labours, and the memory of what evil he had done in days gone by, were enough to justify some hesitation about receiving him, on the part of the disciples.

but [and] they were all afraid of him] The conjunction is the ordinary copulative, and connects the two clauses, Saul’s desire and the behaviour of the disciples. In Galatians 1:18 St Paul says his wish was to see Peter, and this we can very well understand, for though Saul had received his commission directly from Jesus, there were many things in the history of the life of Christ which could be best learned from the lips of him who had been with Jesus from the commencement of His ministry. But at first Saul came to the Christians at Jerusalem as an ordinary believer.

and believed not that he was a disciple] Here we see how little was known in Jerusalem of the history of Saul since his conversion, and we can understand those words of his own (Galatians 1:22), “I was unknown by face unto the Churches of Judæa which were in Christ.” God had been training him for his work among the Gentiles, and although he was brought to Jerusalem that all might know that the Gospel was one, and that Saul was sent forth even as the twelve, yet no attempt is made by St Luke at this point, where it might have been most expected, to set forth the unanimity of Paul and Peter. It is left for St Paul himself to tell us of his desire to see Peter, and the historian only says they all were afraid of him.

Acts 9:26. Παραγενόμενος, when Saul was come) three years after: Galatians 1:18. This space of three years also Paul leaps over, ch. Acts 22:17.—τοῖς μαθηταῖς, to the disciples) modestly: not immediately, to the apostles.—ὅτι ἐστὶ μαθητὴς, that he is a disciple) So far were they from believing that lie is an apostle.

Verse 26. - He for Saul, A.V. and T.R.; and they were for but, etc., A.V.; not believing for and believed not, A.V. The narrative thus far exactly agrees with Galatians 1:17, 18, which, however, supplies the motive of the journey to Jerusalem, which is not here mentioned, viz. to see Peter. It seems strange to some commentators that the news of Saul having become a zealous Christian should not have reached Jerusalem after an interval of three years. But first, we do not know. how much of those three years was spent in Arabia, nor how much the unsettled state of Damascus may have interrupted the usual communication between Jerusalem and Damascus, nor how suspicious of evil the poor persecuted disciples at Jerusalem may have been. They knew of the fierceness of Saul's zeal as a persecutor by their own experience; they knew of him as a disciple only by report. It may have been only an instance of the truth of Horace's maxim, "Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures quam quae sunt occults subjecta fidelibus." Acts 9:26Join himself

See on Acts 5:13; and Luke 15:15; and Luke 10:11.

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