Acts 9:31
Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
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(31) Then had the churches rest.—The better MSS. have “the Church” in the singular. The tranquility described may have been due, partly to the absence of any leading men among the opponents of the new society; partly, perhaps, to public excitement being diverted to the insane attempt of Caligula to set up his statue in the Temple at Jerusalem—an attempt from which he was only dissuaded by the earnest entreaties of Herod Agrippa, whom he had raised to the dignity of King of Judæa, but who happened at the time to be at Rome, and of Petronius, the Prœses of Syria. The latter was influenced by great showers of rain falling from a clear sky, after a long drought, in answer to the prayers of Israel (Jos. Ant. xviii. 8, § 6). Such prayers, made at a crisis in which believing and unbelieving Jews felt an equal interest, may, probably, have suggested St. James’s allusion to the old historical parallel of Elijah (James 5:17).

Throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria.—Brief as the notice is, it is every way significant. It is the first intimation since the opening of the apostolic history of the existence, not of disciples only, such as had gathered round our Lord during His personal ministry, but of organised religious communities, in the towns and villages of Galilee. We may think of such churches as formed in Capernaum and Tiberias, in Chorazin and the two Bethsaidas, perhaps even in Nazareth. The history is silent as to the agency by which these churches had been founded; but looking to the close relations between St. Luke and St. Philip, and to the probability that the latter made Cæsarea his head-quarters for the work of an Evangelist, we may legitimately think of him as having worked there as he had worked in Samaria. It is not improbable, however, that here also, as in that region, he may have been followed, after he had done his work as an Evangelist, by the Apostles to whom it belonged to confirm and organise. (See Note on Acts 8:14.) The mention of Samaria in like manner indicates the extent and permanence of the result of Philip’s work there, followed up as it had been by the preaching of Peter and John.

Were edified; and walking. . . .—The more accurate construction of the sentence gives, The Church . . . . had peace, being edified and walking in the fear of the Lord, and was multiplied by the counsel of the Holy Ghost. The passage is noticeable for the appearance of the word “edified,” or “built up,” in the sense in which St. Paul had used it (1Corinthians 8:1; 1Corinthians 14:4), as describing orderly and continuous growth, the superstructure raised wisely upon the right foundation,

Walking in the fear of the Lord.—The phrase, so common in the Old Testament, is comparatively rare in the New, being used only by St. Luke here, and in 2Corinthians 5:11, where it is wrongly translated “the terror of the Lord.” What it describes, as interpreted by its Old Testament use (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, et al.), is the temper of reverential awe; the scrupulous obedience to the commandments of God, which had been described of old as “the beginning” of wisdom.

The comfort of the Holy Ghost.—It was natural that the gift of the Spirit who had been promised as the Paraclete, or Advocate (see Excursus G on the Gospel of St. John), should be described by the kindred word of paraclesis, and equally natural that this connection should re-appear in the two English words of “comfort” and “Comforter.” “Comfort “is, however, somewhat too narrow; the Greek word including (see Note on Acts 4:36) counsel and exhortation, so as to be very nearly equivalent to “prophecy.” What is meant here is that the words of counsel which came from the Holy Ghost, speaking through the prophets of the Church, were, then as always, far more than signs and wonders, or human skill of speech, the chief agents in its expansion.



Acts 9:31

A man climbing a hill stops every now and then to take breath and look about him; and in the earlier part of this Book of the Acts of the Apostles there are a number of such landing-places where the writer suspends the course of his narrative, in order to give a general notion of the condition of the Church at the moment. We have in this verse one of the shortest, but perhaps the most significant, of these resting-places. The original and proper reading, instead of ‘the Churches,’ as our Version has it, reads ‘the Church’ as a whole -the whole body of believers in the three districts named-Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria-being in the same circumstances and passing through like experiences. The several small communities of disciples formed a whole. They were ‘churches’ individually; they were collectively ‘the Church.’ Christ’s order of expansion, given in Acts 1:1 - Acts 1:26, had been thus far followed, and the sequence here sums up the progress which the Acts has thus far recorded. Galilee had been the cradle of the Church, but the onward march of the Gospel had begun at Jerusalem. Before Luke goes on to tell how the last part of our Lord’s programme-’to the uttermost parts of the earth’-began to be carried into execution by the conversion of Cornelius, he gives us this bird’s-eye view. To its significant items I desire to draw your attention now.

There are three of them: outward rest, inward progress, outward increase.

I. Outward rest.

‘Then had the Church rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria.’

The principal persecutor had just been converted, and that would somewhat damp the zeal of his followers. Saul having gone over to the enemy, it would be difficult to go on harrying the Church with the same spirit, when the chief actor was turned traitor. And besides that, historians tell us that there were political complications which gave both Romans and Jews quite enough to do to watch one another, instead of persecuting this little community of Christians. I have nothing to do with these, but this one point I desire to make, that the condition of security and tranquillity in which the Church found itself conduced to spiritual good and growth. This has not always been the case. As one of our quaint divines says, ‘as in cities where ground is scarce men build high up, so in times of straitness and persecution the Christian community, and the individuals who compose it, are often raised to a higher level of devotion than in easier and quieter times.’ But these primitive Christians utilised this breathing-space in order to grow, and having a moment of lull and stillness in the storm, turned it to the highest and best uses. Is that what you and I do with our quiet times? None of us have any occasion to fear persecution or annoyance of that sort, but there are other thorns in our pillows besides these, and other rough places in our beds, and we are often disturbed in our nests. When there does come a quiet time in which no outward circumstances fret us, do we seize it as coming from God, in order that, with undistracted energies, we may cast ourselves altogether into the work of growing like our Master and doing His will more fully? How many of us, dear brethren, have misused both our adversity and our prosperity by making the one an occasion for deeper worldliness, and the other a reason for forgetting Him in the darkness as in the light? To be absorbed by earthly things, whether by the enjoyment of their possession or by the bitter pain and misery of their withdrawal, is fatal to all our spiritual progress, and only they use things prosperous and things adverse aright, who take them both as means by which they may be wafted nearer to their God. Whatsoever forces act upon us, if we put the helm right and trim the sails as we ought, they will carry us to our haven. And whatsoever forces act upon us, if we neglect the sailor’s skill and duty, we shall be washed backwards and forwards in the trough of the sea, and make no progress in the voyage. ‘Then had the Church rest’-and grew lazy? ‘Then had the Church rest’-and grew worldly? Then was I happy and prosperous and peaceful in my home and in my business, and I said, ‘I shall never be moved,’ and I forgot my God? ‘Then had the Church rest, and was edified.’

Now, in the next place, note the

II. Inward progress.

There are difficulties about the exact relation of the clauses here to one another, the discussion of which would be fitter for a lecture-room than for a pulpit. I do not mean to trouble you with these, but it seems to me that we may perhaps best understand the writer’s intention if we throw together the clauses which stand in the middle of this verse, and take them as being a description of the inward progress, being ‘edified’ and ‘walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.’ There are two things, then-the being ‘edified’ and ‘walking’; and I wish to say a word or two about each of them.

Now that word ‘edified’ and the cognate one ‘edification’ have been enfeebled in signification so as to mean very much less than they did to Luke. When we speak of ‘being edified,’ what do we mean? Little more than that we have been instructed, and especially that we have been comforted. And what is the instrument of edification in our ordinary religious parlance? Good words, wise teaching, or pious speech. But the New Testament means vastly more than this by the word, and looks not so much to other people’s utterances as to a man’s own strenuous efforts, as the means of edification. Much misunderstanding would have been avoided if our translators had really translated, instead of putting us off with a Latinised word which to many readers conveys little meaning and none of the significant metaphor of the original. ‘Being edified’ sounds very theological and far away from daily life. Would it not sound more real if we read ‘being built up’? That is the emblem of the process that ought to go on, not only in the Christian community as a whole, but in every individual member of it. Each Christian is bound to build himself up and to help to build up other Christians; and God builds them all up by His Spirit. We have brought before us the picture of the rising of some stately fabric upon a firm foundation, course by course, stone by stone, each laid by a separate act of the builder’s hand, and carefully bedded in its place until the whole is complete.

That is one emblem of the growth of the Christian community and of the Christian individual, and the other clause that is coupled with it in the text seems to me to give the same idea under a slightly different figure. The rising of a stately building and the advance on a given path suggest substantially the same notion of progress.

And of these two metaphors, I would dwell chiefly on the former, because it is the less familiar of the two to modern readers, and because it is of some consequence to restore it to its weight and true significance in the popular mind. Edification, then, is the building up of Christian character, and it involves four things: a foundation, a continuous progress, a patient, persistent effort, and a completion.

Now, Christian men and women, this is our office for ourselves, and, according to our faculty and opportunities, for the Churches with which we may stand connected, that on the foundation which is Jesus Christ-’and other foundation can no man lay’-we all should slowly, carefully, unceasingly be at our building work; each day’s attainment, like the course of stones laid in some great temple, becoming the basis upon which to-morrow’s work is to be piled, and each having in it the toil of the builder and being a result and monument of his strenuous effort, and each being built in, according to the plan that the great Architect has given, and each tending a little nearer to the roof-tree, and the time that ‘the top stone shall be brought forth with the shout of rejoicing.’ Is that a transcript of my life and yours? Do we make a business of the cultivation of Christian character thus? Do we rest the whole structure of our lives upon Jesus Christ? And then, do we, hour by hour, moment by moment, lay the fair stones, until

‘Firm and fair the building rise,

A temple to His praise.’

The old worn metaphor, which we have vulgarised and degraded into a synonym for a comfortable condition produced by a brother’s words, carries in it the solemnest teaching as to what the duty and privilege of all Christian souls is-to ‘build themselves up for an habitation of God through the Spirit.’

But note further the elements of which this progress consists. May we not suppose that both metaphors refer to the clauses that follow, and that ‘the fear of the Lord’ and ‘the comfort of the Holy Ghost’ are the particulars in which the Christian is built up and walks?

‘The fear of the Lord’ is eminently an Old Testament expression, and occurs only once or twice in the New. But its meaning is thoroughly in accordance with the loftiest teaching of the new revelation. ‘The fear of the Lord’ is that reverential awe of Him, by which we are ever conscious of His presence with us, and ever seek, as our supreme aim and end, to submit our wills to His commandment, and to do the things that are pleasing in His sight. Are you and I building ourselves up in that? Do we feel more thrillingly and gladly to-day than we did yesterday, that God is beside us? And do we submit ourselves more loyally, more easily, more joyously to His will, in blessed obedience, now than ever before? Have we learned, and are we learning, moment by moment, more of that ‘secret of the Lord’ which ‘is with them that fear Him,’ and of that ‘covenant’ which ‘He will show’ to them? Unless we do, our growth in Christian character is a very doubtful thing. And are we advancing, too, in that other element which so beautifully completes and softens the notion of the fear of the Lord, ‘the encouragement’ which the divine Spirit gives us? Are we bolder to-day than we were yesterday? Are we ready to meet with more undaunted confidence whatever we may have to face? Do we feel ever increasing within us the full blessedness and inspiration of that divine visitant? And do these sweet communications take all the ‘torment’ away from ‘fear,’ and leave only the bliss of reverential love? They who walk in the fear of the Lord, and who with the fear have the courage that the divine Spirit gives, will ‘have rest,’ like the first Christians, whatsoever storms may howl around them, and whatsoever enemies may threaten to disturb their peace.

And so, lastly, note

III. The outward growth.

Thus building themselves up, and thus growing, the Church ‘was multiplied.’ Of course it was. Christian men and women that are spiritually alive, and who, because they are alive, grow, and grow in these things, the manifest reverence of God, and the manifest ‘comfort’ of the divine Spirit’s giving, will commend their gospel to a blind world. They will be an attractive force in the midst of men, and their inward growth will make them eager to hold forth the word of life, and will give them ‘a mouth and wisdom’ which nothing but genuine spiritual experience can give.

And so, dear friends, especially those of you who set yourselves to any of the many forms of Christian work which prevail in this day, learn the lesson of my text, and make sure of ‘a’ before you go on to ‘b,’ and see to it that before you set yourselves to try to multiply the Church, you set yourselves to build up yourselves in your most holy faith.

We hear a great deal nowadays about ‘forward movements,’ and I sympathise with all that is said in favour of them. But I would remind you that the precursor of every genuine forward movement is a Godward movement, and that it is worse than useless to talk about lengthening the cords unless you begin with strengthening the stakes. The little prop that holds up the bell-tent that will contain half-a-dozen soldiers will be all too weak for the great one that will cover a company. And the fault of some Christian people is that they set themselves to work upon others without remembering that the first requisite is a deepened and growing godliness and devotion in their own souls. Dear friends, begin at home, and remember that whilst what the world calls eloquence may draw people, and oddities will draw them, and all sorts of lower attractions will gather multitudes for a little while, the one solid power which Christian men and women can exercise for the numerical increase of the Church is rooted in, and only tenable through, their own personal increase day by day in consecration and likeness to the Saviour, in possession of the Spirit, and in loving fear of the Lord.

Acts 9:31. Then had the churches — The whole body of Christian believers, with all their congregations, wherever they were dispersed; throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, rest Ειρηνην, peace; their bitterest persecutor being converted. So some. But the peace they now enjoyed, Dr. Doddridge, with many others, thinks, “is by no means to be ascribed merely or chiefly to Saul’s conversion, who, though a great zealot, was but one young man, and whose personal danger proves the persecution, in some measure, to have continued, at least, three years after it. The period spoken of, therefore, seems to be that which commenced at, or quickly after, his setting out for Cilicia; and, as Dr. Lardner observes, this repose of the Christians might be occasioned by the general alarm which was given to the Jews, when Petronius, by the order of Caligula, attempted to bring the statue of that emperor among them, and set it up in the holy of holies; a horrid profanation, which the whole people deprecated with the greatest concern, in the most solicitous and affectionate manner. How long this peace, or rest, continued, we do not certainly know: probably till Herod interrupted it, as we shall see, chap. 12. And were edified — In faith and holiness. The word οικοδομουμεναι, thus rendered, is a figurative expression, properly a term of architecture, signifying the erecting or constructing the whole superstructure of a building upon a foundation. In this place it must signify, by analogy, that the churches were further instructed in the great truths of the gospel, and advanced in all the branches of piety and virtue; and walking — That is, speaking and acting; in the fear of the Lord — That is, under the influence of that principle; and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost — In the consolations afforded by his agency; were multiplied — By an accession of new members, whereby the damage sustained in the late persecution was abundantly repaired.

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.Then had the churches rest - That is, the persecutions against Christians ceased. Those persecutions had been excited by the opposition made to Stephen Acts 11:19; they had been greatly promoted by Saul Acts 8:3; and they had extended doubtless throughout the whole land of Palestine. The precise causes of this cessation of the persecution are not known. Probably they were the following:

(1) It is not improbable that the great mass of Christians had been driven into other regions by these persecutions.

(2) he who had been most active in exciting the persecution; who was, in a sort, its leader, and who was best adapted to carry it on, had been converted. He had ceased his opposition; and even he was now removed from Judea. All this would have some effect in causing the persecution to subside.

(3) but it is not improbable that the state of things in Judea contributed much to turn the attention of the Jews to other matters. Dr. Lardner accounts for this in the following manner: "Soon after Caligula's accession, the Jews at Alexandria suffered very much from the Egyptians in that city, and at length their oratories there were all destroyed. In the third year of Caligula, 39 a.d., Petronius was sent into Syria, with orders to set up the emperor's statue in the temple at Jerusalem. This order from Caligula was, to the Jews, a thunderstroke. The Jews must have been too much engaged after this to mind anything else, as may appear from the accounts which Philo and Josephus have given us of this affair. Josephus says 'that Caligula ordered Petronius to go with an army to Jerusalem, to set up his statue in the temple there; enjoining him, if the Jews opposed it, to put to death all who made any resistance, and to make all the rest of the nation slaves. Petronius therefore marched from Antioch into Judea with three legions and a large body of auxiliaries raised in Syria. "All were hereupon filled with consternation, the army being come as far as Ptolemais." See Lardner's Works, vol. i, pp. 101, 102, London edition, 1829.

Philo gives the same account of the consternation as Josephus (Philo, DeLegat. a.d. Cai., pp. 1024, 1025). He describes the Jews "as abandoning their cities, villages, and open country; as going to Petronius in Phoenicia, both men and women, the old, the young, the middle-aged; as throwing themselves on the ground before Petronius with weeping and lamentation," etc. The effect of this consternation in diverting their minds from the Christians can be easily conceived. The prospect that the images of the Roman emperor were about to be set up by violence in the temple, or, that in case of resistance, death or slavery was to be their portion, and the advance of a large army to execute that purpose, all tended to throw the nation into alarm. By the providence of God, therefore, this event was permitted to occur to divert the attention of bloody-minded persecutors from a feeble and bleeding church. Anxious for their own safety, the Jews would cease to persecute the Christians, and thus, by the conversion of the main instrument in persecution, and by the universal alarm for the welfare of the nation, the trembling and enfeebled church was permitted to obtain repose. Thus ended the first general persecution against Christians, and thus effectually did God show that he had power to guard and protect his chosen people.

All Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria - These three places included the land of Palestine. See the notes on Matthew 2:22. The formation of churches in Galilee is not expressly mentioned before this; but there is no improbability in supposing that Christians had traveled there, and had preached the gospel. Compare Acts 11:19. The formation of churches in Samaria is expressly mentioned, Acts 8.

Were edified - Were built up, increased, and strengthened. See Romans 14:19; Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1.

And walking - Living. The word is often used to denote "Christian conduct, or manner of life," Colossians 1:10; Luke 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 John 2:6. The idea is that of travelers who are going to any place, and who walk in the right path. Christians are thus travelers to another country, an heavenly.

In the fear of the Lord - Fearing the Lord; with reverence for him and his commandments. This expression is often used to denote "piety" in general, 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 13:13.

In the comfort of the Holy Ghost - In the consolations which the Holy Spirit produced, John 14:16-17; Romans 5:1-5.

Were multiplied - Were increased.

Ac 9:31. Flourishing State of the Church in Palestine at This Time.

31. Then had all the churches rest—rather, "the Church," according to the best manuscripts and versions. But this rest was owing not so much to the conversion of Saul, as probably to the Jews being engrossed with the emperor Caligula's attempt to have his own image set up in the temple of Jerusalem [Josephus, Antiquities, 18.8.1, &c.].

throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria—This incidental notice of distinct churches already dotting all the regions which were the chief scenes of our Lord's ministry, and that were best able to test the facts on which the whole preaching of the apostles was based, is extremely interesting. "The fear of the Lord" expresses their holy walk; "the comfort of the Holy Ghost," their "peace and joy in believing," under the silent operation of the blessed Comforter.

Then had the churches rest; when Paul was sent away, against whom they had the greater spite, as having been as zealous a persecutor as any amongst them.

And were edified: the church is frequently compared to a building, and every believer to the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16, and 1 Corinthians 6:19, which God dwells in; from whence this metaphor is taken.

Walking in the fear of the Lord: walking is a progressive notion, and so is building and adding to a structure till it come to perfection; which signifies that these believers increased daily in the knowledge of God, in true piety and charity, &c.

In the comfort of the Holy Ghost; the word also signifies the exhortation of the Holy Ghost; such exhortations as were given from God by the apostles: to be sure, the comforts of the Spirit are not without our obedience to the commandments of God; and it seems to be given here as the reason why the churches were edified, and did thus increase, because believers walked in the fear of the Lord; and nothing persuades more effectually to the embracing of religion, than the holy living of such as make profession of it.

Then had the churches rest,.... Meaning not spiritual rest in Christ; this they had before, even in tribulation, but rest from persecution; not so much because of the conversion of Saul, the great persecutor of them, for his conversion had been three years before; but rather because of his removal to other parts, the sight of whose person, and especially his ministry, had afresh stirred up the Jews to wrath and fury. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, read in the singular number, "the church": but the several countries hereafter mentioned shows that more are designed: for it follows,

throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria; for by means of the dispersion, on account of persecution, the Gospel was preached in these several places, and churches gathered, and which shared in the persecution until this time, when they began to have rest; Galatians 1:22 1 Thessalonians 2:14 and were edified; or built up on the foundation Christ, and their most holy faith, through the ministry of the word and ordinances, and their mutual love and holy conversation; and had an increase of members, and of grace, and of spiritual knowledge:

and walking in the fear of the Lord; which was always before their eyes, and upon their hearts, continuing in religious exercises, and in the discharge of every duty, both to God and man. Not in a slavish fear of the wrath of the Lord, and of damnation for sin committed against him; for this is not consistent with their characters, as Gospel churches, made of persons who had received not the spirit of bondage to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, nor with their edification in faith and holiness; for "he that feareth is not made perfect in love"; 1 John 4:18 which edifies; nor with the comforts of the Holy Ghost, they are afterwards said to walk in: but in a godly fear, which has the Lord for its author, is not of a man's self, but of the grace of God, and is encouraged and increased by the discoveries of his grace and goodness: and which has the Lord for its object, whose name is holy and reverend, and is to be feared by all his saints: it shows itself in an hatred of sin; in a departure from it; in a carefulness not to offend the Lord; in withholding nothing from him, though ever so dear and valuable, he calls for; and in attending to all the parts of divine worship: and walking in it denotes a continuance in it, a constant progression in all the acts of internal and external worship, which are both included in the fear of the Lord; and it requires strength, and supposes pleasure and freedom. It is said of Enoch, that "he walked with God"; which the Targum of Onkelos paraphrases, "he walked in the fear of the Lord", Genesis 5:22 the same phrase which is here used.

And in the comfort of the Holy Ghost: which he communicated by shedding abroad the love of God in them, taking the things of Christ, and showing them to them, applying covenant blessings and Gospel promises to their souls, owning the word and ordinances, and making them useful to them, thereby leading them into fellowship with the Father, and with the Son. In all which he acts the part of a Comforter, and answers to the character he bears, and the office he is in: the love of God, which he directs into, and sheds abroad in the heart, refreshes and revives the Spirit of God's people; it influences and encourages every grace that is wrought in them; and makes them easy and comfortable under all providences, even the most afflicting ones: the things of Christ he takes and shows unto them are his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; which being applied, and interest in them shown, produce abundance of peace, joy, and comfort: the promises of the covenant, and of the Gospel, he opens and applies, being such as hold forth the blessings of grace unto them; and being exceeding great, and precious, and suitable to their cases; and being absolute and unconditional, immutable, and sure, afford them much pleasure and satisfaction: and the word and ordinances being attended with the Holy Ghost, and much assurance, are breasts of consolation to them: and "walking" in those comforts which he administers, by such means, denotes a continuance of them, a long enjoyment of them, which is not very common; for, generally speaking, these comforts last but for a small time; and also it intimates much delight and pleasure in them, Psalm 94:19 and so "were multiplied"; both in their gifts and graces, and in the number of converts added to them.

{9} Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were {n} edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

(9) The result of persecutions is the building of the Church, so that we will patiently wait for the Lord.

(n) This is a borrowed type of speech which signifies establishment and increase.

Acts 9:31. Οὖν] draws an inference from the whole history, Acts 9:3-30 : in consequence of the conversion of the former chief enemy and his transformation into the zealous apostle.

The description of the happy state of the church contains two elements: (1) It had peace, rest from persecutions, and, as its accompaniment, the moral state: becoming edified (advancing in Christian perfection, according to the habitual use of the word in the N. T.), and walking in the fear of the Lord (dative of manner, as in Acts 21:21; Romans 13:13; comp. on 2 Corinthians 12:18), i.e. leading a God-fearing life, by which that edification exhibited itself in the moral conduct. (2) It was enlarged, increased in the number of its members (as in Acts 6:1; Acts 6:7, Acts 7:17, Acts 12:24; hence not: it was filled with, etc., Vulgate, Baumgarten, and others), by the exhortation (as in Acts 4:36, Acts 13:15, Acts 15:31; Php 2:1) of the Holy Spirit, i.e. by the Holy Spirit through His awakening influence directing the minds of men to give audience to the preaching of the gospel (comp. Acts 16:14). The meaning: comfort, consolation (Vulgate and others), is at variance with the context, although still adopted by Baumgarten.

Observe, moreover, with the correct reading ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐκκλησία κ.τ.λ. the aspect of unity, under which Luke, surveying the whole domain of Christendom, comprehends the churches which had been already formed (Galatians 1:22), and were in course of formation (comp. Acts 16:5). The external bond of this unity was the apostles; the internal, the Spirit; Christ the One Head; the forms of the union were not yet more fully developed than by the gradual institution of presbyters (Acts 11:30) and deacons. That the church was also in Galilee, was obvious of itself, though the name is not included in Acts 8:1; it was, indeed, the cradle of Christianity.

Acts 9:31. αἱ ἐκκλησίαι—if we read the singular ἡ ἐκκλ. with the great MS. the word shows us that the Church, though manifestly assuming a wider range, is still one: Hort, Ecclesia, p. 55, thinks that here the term in the singular corresponds by the three modern representative districts named, viz., Judæa, Galilee, Samaria, to the ancient Ecclesia, which had its home in the whole land of Israel; but however this may be, the term is used here markedly of the unified Church, and in accordance with St. Paul’s own later usage of the word; see especially Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 126, 127, and also p. 124.—καθʼ ὅλης: the genitive in this sense is peculiar to St. Luke, and always with the adjective ὅλος; Luke 4:14; Luke 23:5, Acts 9:42; Acts 10:37, the phrase, although not the best classically, seeming to “sound right,” because καθόλου, only in Acts 4:18 in N.T., had come into common use since Aristotle (Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 148; Vogel, p. 45).—οὖν connects with the preceding narrative; so Bengel, Weiss, Wendt, Blass, Zöckler; the Church had rest because the persecutors had become converted; but see also Rendall, Appendix, on μὲν οὖν, p. 164, and Hackett, Felten.—οἰκοδομούμεσαι: “being edified,” R.V. (see critical notes) (not “and were edified,” A.V.)—as an accompaniment of the peace from persecutors. The term may refer primarily to the organisation of the Church as a visible institution, but would also indicate the spiritual edification which is so often expressed by the word in St. Paul’s Epistles, where both the verb and its cognate noun are so frequent; cf. Acts 20:32, and note. The fact that the verb is employed only once in the Gospels, Matthew 16:18, of the Church, as here in a non-literal sense, as compared with its constant use by St. Paul as above, is a striking indication of the early date of the Synoptic Gospels or their source (see Page, in loco). For the metaphorical use of the word in the O.T. of good fortune and prosperity, cf. LXX, Psalm 27:5 (Psalm 28:5), Jeremiah 12:16; Jeremiah 40:7 (Jeremiah 33:7); Jeremiah 38:4 (Jeremiah 31:4), Jeremiah 49:10 (Jeremiah 42:10). (Hilgenfeld refers the whole section Acts 9:32-42 to the same source A from which his “author to Theophilus” derived the founding, and the first incidents in the history, of the early Church, 1:15–4:42, although the “author to Theophilus” may have added the words καὶ τῇ παρακ.… ἐπληθύνοντο. But if we desire a good illustration of the labyrinth (as Hilgenfeld calls it) through which we have to tread, if we would see our way to any coherent meaning in Acts 9:31 to Acts 12:25, it is sufficient to note the analysis of the sources of the modern critics given us by Hilgenfeld himself, Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol., pp. 481, 482; 1895.)—οἰκοδ.: may refer to the inward spiritual growth, ἐπληθ. to the outward growth in numbers; a growth attributed not to human agency but to the power of the Holy Ghost. παράκλησις only here in Acts of the Holy Ghost. Hort renders “and walking by the fear of the Lord and by the invocation [παρακ.] of the Holy Spirit [probably invoking His guidance as Paraclete to the Ecclesia] was multiplied” (Ecclesia, p. 55), and it is not strange that the working of the Παράκλητος should be so described; while others connect the word with the divine counsel or exhortation of the prophets in opening hearts and minds; others again attach παρακ. to ἐπληθ. as expressing increase of spiritual strength and comfort (see Blass, Rendall, Felten, and cf. Colossians 1:11, 1 Peter 1:2). On the verb and its frequency in Acts see p. 73.

31. Then had the churches rest, &c.] Better, “So the Church throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria had peace.” In the best texts the noun and all the verbs agreeing with it are in the singular number, and what is meant is the whole Christian body, not the various congregations. The cause of this peace for the Christians was that the attention of their persecutors the Jews was turned from them to resist the attempt made by Caligula (Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 8. 2) to have his statue erected in the Temple at Jerusalem. This profanation was averted partly by the determined opposition of the Jews, and partly by the intercession of King Agrippa with the mad Emperor.

Acts 9:31. Ἐκκλησία, the Church) So ch. Acts 16:5, as to the churches, they “were established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” [The Singular number is emphatic.—Not. Crit.]

[59]—καθʼ ὅλης, κ.τ.λ., throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria) Recapitulation.—εἰρήνην, peace) after that Saul, the principal persecutor, was converted.—πυρευομένη) So ὑπάγητε, John 15:16, where see note [as הלך of progress, not in reference to place, but to time and degree]. In both passages there is an Hendiad. So ἐπορεύετο χεὶρ τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ, Jdg 4:24.—φόβῳπαρακλήσει, in the fear—comfort) An excellent blending. Comfort, peace internal: εἰρήνη, peace external, with the fear of the Lord, the dread of men being taken away.—ἐπληθύνετο, was multiplied) in the number of believers.

[59] Ee and later Syr. support the Plural αἱ ἐκκλησίαι of Rec. Text. But the best authorities, ABC Vulg. Syr. Memph. and Theb. have ἡ ἐκκλησία.—E. and T.

Verse 31. - So the Church... had peace, being edified for then had the Churches rest,... and were edified, A.V. and T.R.; was multiplied for were multiplied, A.V. and T.R. It is thought that the attention of the Jews to the progress of the faith of Jesus Christ was diverted at this time, and their active hostility stayed, by the still greater danger to the Jews' religion which arose from Caligula's intention of placing a statue to himself as a god in the holy of holies. Thus did God's gracious providence intervene to give rest to his harassed saints, and to build up his Church in numbers, in holiness, and in heavenly comfort. Especially Paul had another breathing-time, which may have been the more required if, as is thought, one at least of the five scourgings mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:24 had been inflicted at Damascus, and one of the three shipwrecks alluded to in the same passage and been undergone in the dangerous coasting voyage from Caesarca to Scleucia. Acts 9:31The churches

The best texts read the church; embracing all the different churches throughout the three provinces of Palestine.


Or built up.

Comfort (παρακλήσει)

From παρακαλέω, call toward or to one's side for help. The word is rendered in the New Testament both exhortation and consolation. Compare Acts 13:15; Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:17; Hebrews 12:5; and Luke 2:25 (see note); 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Matthew 5:4. In some passages the meaning is disputed, as Philippians 2:1, where, as in 1 Corinthians 14:3, it is joined with παραμύθιον or παραμυθία, the meaning of which also varies between incentive and consolation or assuagement. Here exhortation is the rendering approved by the best authorities, to be construed with was multiplied: was multiplied by the exhortation of the Holy Ghost; i.e., by the Holy Spirit inspiring the preachers, and moving the hearts of the hearers.

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