After setting sail from Paphos, Paul and his companions came to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.
I. THE PROVIDENTIAL COURSE OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY.
1. There was the Divine selection of a people, not to be for themselves favorites of God, but to be his light and salvation to the ends of the earth.
2. There was the wondrous deliverance of this people out of the oppressor's hand - from the land of Egypt. On this memory of a surpassing Divine power joined with Divine goodness, the historic Consciousness of the nation was based.
3. There was the desert discipline: the giving of the Law, the enforcement of holiness - chastisement, purification, education in obedience.
4. The expulsion of the Canaanite tribes and the foundation of a settled system of government. This, too, wan a great epoch; and Israel could not refer to it without the consciousness of her high mission as a nation - called of God to supersede the weak, effete idolatrous nations of the land, and to diffuse holier manners, purer laws.
5. The epoch of the kings. The brilliant but erring Saul; the hero David and his glorious era. Every nation has some similar or analogous points in its history on which its memory rests; landmarks of its way; prophetic moments containing the future; sowing-times for future harvests; endeavors towards an ideal. Think of our own Magna Charta, our Civil War, our Revolution, our struggle for existence, our chastisements, and our triumphs. Israel's history is the mirror in which every nation may view its own, and trace the hand of the same world-guiding providence.
II. THE CONSUMMATION OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY. In Jesus the line of Israel's greatness was continued. He was of the seed of David according to the flesh. There was an echo of glorious memories in him He came to revive the kingdom of David and the ascendency of Israel, although in a far different way from that expected by his countrymen. The testimony of the Baptist was mighty in favor of Jesus. No prophet in these latter days had commanded greater reverence than John the Baptist, the great religious reformer, a preacher of repentance. Now he had distinctly waived his claims to be the Messiah, and had pointed to Jesus; had retired before him with the most lowly confession of inferiority. When we see a great man sincerely willing to take a second place in the presence of a new-comer, it is a witness of the greatest moment to the latter's superiority. The highest human elevation of character - such as John's - can only bend before the Divine. "To you, then," may Paul well say to the Jews, "and that not on the ground of my assertion, but the witness of the greatest man held in honor by you, the second Elijah, is this salvation sent, this good news delivered."
II. THE CONDUCT OF THE SANHEDRIM TO JESUS EXPLAINED. Paul is aware that he has a great prejudice in the minds of his hearers to overcome - the great "scandal of the cross."
1. The ignorance of the rulers. They did not understand the voices of the prophets, nor the meaning of the Scriptures constantly read in their synagogues. But their ignorance was little excuse for them. They ought to have known better. If we choose to look at facts in one light only - that of our wishes or prejudices - we suppress a part of the truth; and when this suppressed truth rises up from an unexpected quarter to confront us, the sense of self-condemnation cannot be overcome. The Sanhedrim saw in Jesus the embodiment of suppressed truth, and they hated him. It was like the uprising of a ghost long thought to have been laid.
2. What they could not meet with reason they tried to quell by violence. Jesus was tried, with the result of establishing his innocence. No crime, no fault, no disobedience to the Law, no rebellion against order, could be proved. Yet he was handed to the Roman governor, and his death was a judicial murder.
3. Thus prophecy was unconsciously fulfilled. A suffering Messiah had been foretold, and had now been revealed in a death of martyrdom. Behind the innocence of the sufferer and the guilt of his murderers a purpose of eternal wisdom and love had wrought and fulfilled itself. It is this insight into Divine thoughts which can alone relieve the dreadful tragedies of human passions and events. While in one point of view the death of Jesus is a scene of horror and of darkness, and the thought of it a scandal to the Jew and a folly to the Greek, in another it is a revelation of a Divine love which conquers hate and forgives even guilty ignorance, and converts a revelation of weakness into a revelation of wisdom and of power.
III. THE RESURRECTION. Without this crowning fact the rest had been incomplete. A suffering Messiah would have been a witness of the peoples' sin; a Messiah rising triumphant over death could alone bespeak the victory of Divine love over human hate and sin. Here, then, comes the core of the message. The apostles can never forget that they are "witnesses of the Resurrection." And this was good news - the fulfillment of a promise made to the fathers in olden time. The apostles found in psalms and prophecies of the past which referred in the first instance to events then passing and persons then living, an ideal or prophetic element. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" these words, perhaps referable in the first instance to Solomon, can only in the apostolic thought be properly satisfied in Christ. And so with the other citation. The promise to continue the Divine covenant in the line of the kings is fulfilled above all in Jesus. We must recollect that the kingdom of Judah and the national life as a whole was ideal; that is, it pointed to meanings not at any time within the visible field of experience. If we grasp this thought, it may help us to understand how the apostles viewed Scripture, and how they quoted it; not so much for its literal and primary as for its spiritual and prophetic meaning. The Holy One of God was not to see corruption. But David passed away and mixed with dust. It is, then, in David's "greater Son" that this prophecy must be fulfilled, of an incorruptible and immortal life.
IV. THE REMISSION OF SINS. Through this risen One the blessed boon is proclaimed. The life, the death, the resurrection, would be simply a grand Divine drama, an object of contemplation, a piece of magnificent poetry, were there no practical result like this flowing from it. But it means victory and release from sin. Surrender to the Divine ideal, affiance in the Anointed of God, means deliverance and peace, not to be obtained by laborious obedience to the moral or ceremonial Law. Faith is whole-hearted surrender to the Divine Object. It is not a mere act of intelligence, nor yielding of the affections, nor decision of the will; but the giving up one's self to Christ. It is this which brings the full blessing of Divine peace upon the heart, and nothing short of this can do so.
V. FINAL WARNING. How shall men escape if they reject so great salvation? Refuse love, and wrath only can be expected. Similarly does Stephen's speech end with a sharp note of warning. Our heart is stirred by contrasted motives. We move between two poles of emotion. To be drawn by love is to be repelled by fear. The one motive or the other may have the greater weight with different minds, or with the same mind in different moods. Let us thankfully recognize that, whether the gospel touches the chord of love or of fear, it aims at our salvation. "Save, Lord, by love or fear!" - J.
Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia.Acts 14:25). Some of the perils from robbers and rivers (2 Corinthians 11:16) may have been encountered at this time.
And John departing from them returned to JerusalemActs 15:37-39). Nor did Paul always retain his unfavourable judgment of him (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). Yet if we consider all the circumstances of his life, we shall not find it difficult to blame his conduct, and to see good reasons why Paul should distrust his steadiness of character. The child of a religious mother, who had sheltered in her house the Christian disciples, he had been a close spectator of the wonderful power of the religion of Christ, and had been a minister of the apostles in their successful enterprise; and now he forsook them when they were about to proceed through greater difficulties to more glorious success. We are not left in doubt as to the real character of his departure. He was drawn from the work of God by the attraction of an earthly home. "Either he did not like the work, or he wanted to go and see his mother" (M. Henry).
(J. S. Howson, D. D.)
S. S. Times.1. Any one who turns back from God's work does himself an injury.
2. The work will go on, no matter who turns back.
3. Those in the work should seek every fit opportunity to proclaim the Word.
4. Those in the work should seek the regular and appointed channels for proclaiming the Word.
5. Those who seek for opportunities for work will have opportunities given them.
6. Those in the work should make use of all their tact to make the Word acceptable.
7. Those who are earnest and persistent in the work, guided by the Spirit, will be successful.
(S. S. Times.)I. Consider, first, his — what shall I call it? Well, if I may use the word which Paul himself designates it by, in its correct signification, we may call it HIS APOSTASY. It was not a departure from Christ, but it was a departure from very plain duty. He was quite ready for missionary work as long as it was easy work; quite ready to do it as long as he was moving upon known ground and there was no great call upon his heroism, or his indolence; does not wait to test the difficulties, but is frightened by the imagination of them; does not throw himself into the work and see how he gets on with it; but before he has gone a mile into the land, or made any real experience of the perils and hardships, has had quite enough of it, and goes away back to his mother in Jerusalem, Yes! and we find exactly the same thing in all courses of honourable life. Many begin to run, but one after another, as "lap" after "lap" of the race course is got over, has had enough of it, and drops on one side; a hundred started, and at the end the field is reduced to three or four. And so, in regard of every career which has in it anything of honour and of effort, let this man teach us the lesson not swiftly to begin and inconsiderately to venture upon a course, but once begun let nothing discourage. "Nor bate one jot of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer right onward." Some of you need the word of exhortation and earnest beseeching, to contrast the sluggishness, the indolence of your present, with the brightness and the fervour of your past. And I beseech you, do not let your Christian life be like snow — when it first lights upon the earth, radiant and white, but day by day more covered with a veil of sooty blackness until it becomes dark and foul.
II. Look, next, in the development of this little bit of biography, to MARK'S ECLIPSE. Paul and Barnabas differed about how to treat the renegade. Which of them was right? Would it have been better to have put him back in his old post, and given him another chance, and said nothing about the failure; or was it better to do what the sterner wisdom of Paul did, and declare that a man who had once so forgotten himself and abandoned his work was not the man to put in the same place again? Barnabas made a mistake. It would have been the cruellest thing that could have been done to his relative to have put him back again without acknowledgment, without repentance, without riding quarantine for a bit, and holding his tongue for a while. He would not then have known his fault as he ought to have known it, and so there would never have been the chance of his conquering it. God treats His renegades as Paul treated Mark, and not as Barnabas would have treated him. Ready, and infinitely ready, to forgive and to restore, but needing to see the consciousness of the sin first, and needing, before large tasks are committed to hands that once have dropped them, to have some kind of evidence that the hands are stronger and the heart purified from its cowardice and its selfishness. Let us learn the difference between a weak charity which loves too foolishly, and therefore too selfishly, to let a man inherit the fruit of his doings, and the large mercy which knows how to take the bitterness out of the chastisement, and yet knows how to chastise. Mark's eclipse may teach us another lesson, viz., that the punishment for shirking work is to be denied work. You have been asked to work — I speak now to professing Christians — duties have been pressed upon you, fields of service have opened plainly before you, and you have not had the heart to go into them. And so you stand idle all the day now, and the work goes to other people that can do it. And God honours them, and passes you by. Mark goes away to Cyprus, he does not go back to Jerusalem; he and Barnabas try to get up some little schismatic sort of mission of their own. Nothing comes of it; nothing ought to have come of it. He drops out of the story; he has no share in the joyful conflicts and sacrifices and successes of the apostle. The punishment of indolence is absolute idleness. Beware! all of you professing Christians, lest to you should come the fate of the slothful servant with his one buried talent, to whom the punishment of burying it unused was to lose it altogether; according to that solemn word fulfilled in the temporal sphere of this story, on which I am commenting. "To him that hath shall be given," etc.
III. Again, consider THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY. Concerning it we read nothing indeed in Scripture; but concerning it we know enough to be able at least to determine what its outline must have been. There is only one road, with well-marked stages, by which a backsliding or apostate Christian can return to his Master. And that road has three halting places upon it, through which our heart must pass if it have wandered from its early faith, and falsified its first professions. The first of them is the consciousness of the fall; the second is the resort to the Master for forgiveness; and the last is the deepened consecration to Him. No man that wanders into the wilderness but comes back to the King's highway, if he comes back at all.
IV. And so, lastly, notice THE REINSTATEMENT OF THE PENITENT RENEGADE. Notwithstanding the failure, notwithstanding the wise refusal of Paul to have nothing to do with him years before, he is reinstated in his old office, and the aged apostle before he dies would like to have the comfort of his presence once more at his side. Is not the lesson out of that, this eternal gospel, that even early failures, recognised and repented of, may make a man better fitted for the tasks which once he fled from? Just as they tell us — I do not know whether it is true or not, it will do for an illustration — just as they tell us that a broken bone renewed is stronger at the point of fracture than it ever was before, so the very sin that we commit, when once we know it for a sin, and have brought it to Christ for forgiveness, may minister to our future efficiency and strength. The sin which we have learned to know for a sin and to hate, teaches us humility, dependence, shows us where the weak places are; sin which is forgiven knits us to Christ with deeper and more fervid love, and results in a larger consecration. Think of the two ends of this man's life — flying like a frightened hare from the very first suspicion of danger or of difficulty, sulking in his solitude, apart from all the joyful stir of consecration and of service; and at the end of it made an evangelist to proclaim to the whole world the story of the gospel of the servant. God works with broken reeds, and through them breathes His sweetest music.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)was a missionary, but he is now shrivelled up to an ambassador."
They came to Antioch in PisidiaJus Italicum, from which circumstance it is sometimes called Antiochea Caesarea. Until that time it was distinguished for the worship of the moon, as a male deity, and large numbers of priests were supported by the rich endowments belonging to the temple at this place. The population was a very mixed one, with a larger amount of the Latin element than was usual in the cities of Asia Minor. The Jews were probably not numerous, as we only read of the synagogue, not, as at Salamis and other places, in the plural. It is referred to in the New Testament, in Acts 13:14; Acts 14:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:11. Many of the inscriptions and coins belonging to the Pisidian Antioch are for this reason in Latin. This city is now entirely deserted, and its site, having been long unknown, has only been rediscovered in modern times.
(W. Denton, M. A.)I. THE WORD ACCEPTED.
1. Giving up the work. The return of Mark very much displeased Paul. In his eyes a deserter was worse than an enemy; no man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, was fit ever again to be taken into such service. Hence, when Barnabas would have given him another trial, Paul would not consent. But Barnabas was right. His kindly nature was better than the stern, uncompromising disposition of Paul. Barnabas was "a good man," his goodness leading him to lean toward the erring. Under his training and influence Mark recovered the character he had lost, so that at last Paul himself said, "He is useful to me for the ministering." In his dealing with Mark, Barnabas again proved his right to the title, "Son of Consolation."
2. Going on with the work. It was a small force, numerically, that moved upon the intrenched idolatrous hosts of Asia Minor. By the desertion of Mark, the army of three had been reduced one-third. But the soldiers of Christ are not to be estimated by their numbers, but by the personality in and back of them — the Holy Spirit.
3. The opportunity for work. They followed the course pursued by their Master before them. They reverenced the Sabbath, and had regard for its institutions. They so commended themselves by this, and by their devout behaviour, as to receive from the rulers the invitation, "Brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation, say on." The result was a surprise to those who gave it. A word of exhortation was given, the like of which they never had heard before. What they heard was to them a revelation.(1) Paul declared that God, who had done such great things for His chosen people of old time, had now, according to promise, completed His work of grace by giving unto Israel a Saviour (vers. 17-23).(2) Paul went on to prove the truth of this assertion by showing —(a) That Jesus' advent was prophetically preannounced by John, His forerunner (vers. 24, 25).(b) That Jesus rose from the dead (vers. 26-37). After reciting how the Messiah was slain, Paul proved His resurrection, first, by the fact that He was seen of chosen witnesses; second, by quotations from the Psalms, which showed that this resurrection was nothing more than a fulfilment of the promise made unto the fathers.(3) Paul declared that "through this Man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins."(4) Paul warned his hearers of the fatal consequences of despising this offer of salvation.
4. The fruit of the work. The address of Paul —(1) Aroused a general interest (ver 42). It is a good sign when there is a general desire to have a sermon repeated.(2) Secured many converts (ver. 43). These had become so obedient to the truth, that the apostles needed only to urge them "to continue in the grace of God."(3) Bitter opposition was aroused (ver. 45). Jealousy has been the secret of the opposition to many a new religious movement. The Jews here were jealous of their new leaders, and of the hold they and their doctrines were getting.
II. THE WORD REJECTED.
1. The bold word (ver. 46). They were not cowed by the opposition. They had within them a moral courage, born of the Spirit and of a conviction of right, that made them more than a match for their opponents. Bold words, uttered under such circumstances, make revolutions in opinions.
2. The spoken word. The Divine order was Jews first, then Gentiles. The Jews were the natural sons of the household, and therefore had the first right to the Father's proclamation of a new inheritance for all of His children.
3. The word thrust away. Note —(1) That those who reject the gospel judge themselves to be "unworthy of eternal life." The choice that a man makes determines his personal worth. God demands no more worthiness in men than that they shall accept the offer of salvation.(2) That when men demonstrate that they are unworthy of eternal life, it is the duty of Christian workers to turn to others. There is no use in labouring in a barren field, when a rich harvest can be reaped near by. Better save ten, than work on unavailingly with one.
4. The word of command (ver. 47). The redemption of the Gentiles was no new addition to the plan of salvation. From the beginning God intended that those who sat in darkness should see a great light. His eye was fixed upon "the uttermost part of the earth," as well as upon the land of the covenant.
5. The word glorified (ver. 48). They proved themselves to be worthy of eternal life, for many believed, "and the Word of the Lord was spread abroad throughout all the region."
III. THE WORD PERSECUTED. Note —
1. The unbelieving Jews. They demonstrated that they were unworthy of eternal life by conducting themselves as though inspired by the evil one.
2. The believing disciples. "The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Ghost." The persecutors, on the contrary, were filled with jealousy and with hate. They succeeded in driving away Paul and Barnabas, but the apostles left behind them a peace and joy that could not be banished. The missionaries were expelled, but the gospel had come to stay.
(M. C. Hazard.)
And went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.e.g., ver. 26. We are not to cast our pearls before swine; it was to those who feared God that Paul spoke of the great salvation. To him that hath shall be given; those who fear God shall be led to the knowledge of His truth. Ver. 27. Ignorance is a frequent cause of crime; hence the importance of educational effort. It is possible for us to misunderstand the things with which we are most familiar. How little we know of the tendencies of our actions; they may actually accomplish the very opposite of what we intended. Ver. 28. A blameless life will not necessarily exempt from hatred and persecution. Hatred is irrational; let us be on our guard against its perverting influences. Ver. 29. There is a limit to all that men can do to us, and it is soon reached. Ver. 34. The men of the greatest influence and activity soon reach the end of their course and pass away; only Christ remains the same efficient power in all generations. Note here —
I. PAUL'S METHOD OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO THE JEWS. He urged them to accept it because —
1. In Christ were fulfilled the promises made to their fathers. This Paul used to establish by copious quotations from the Old Testament, his object being always to prove that Jesus was not the founder of a new religion, but the Messiah of whom the prophets had spoken.
2. The ignorance and wickedness of the Jewish rulers had led to the accomplishment of predictions that could not otherwise have been fulfilled.
3. By the resurrection of Christ God had completely reversed this condemnation by men.
4. Christ confers on them who believe on Him greater blessings than could be obtained from the Mosaic law.
II. LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THIS METHOD.
1. Let us endeavour to conciliate those whom we seek to convert.
2. Let us make Christ the central theme of our teaching.
3. In our presentation of Christ and all truth, let us adapt ourselves to our hearers. What a contrast between this address and that on Mars Hill!
4. Yet no fear of offending the prejudices of our hearers must lead us to keep back any portion of the truth.
5. While always maintaining the spirit of love, let us not hesitate, if need be, to persuade our hearers by the terrors of the Lord.
(R. A. Bertram.)I. HE BROUGHT A GREAT MESSAGE. It was not an ingenious development of a trivial theme. No doubt the account of the sermon is only the merest outline, but it calls to a living interest in the few great themes of the gospel. A true religious knowledge is not an infinite number of anatomical bits of information about the Bible. He whose heart and mind are filled with the thoughts of God's sovereignty, and Christ's redemption and the resurrection life, has a true knowledge of the revelation. Other things are important only as they throw light on these.
II. HE REINFORCED HIS MESSAGE BY THE POWER OF HIS OWN INTENSE CONVICTION. He was not half persuaded merely of the truth he preached. It was a message to the utterance of which he had given his life, upon the truth of which he had staked his own destiny.
III. THE GOSPEL MESSAGE THUS BROUGHT TO ANTIOCH REVEALED THE HEARTS OF HER CITIZENS.
1. The Jews Were narrow, unteachable, holding what truth they had in unrighteousness: they judged themselves "unworthy of eternal life."
2. The Gentiles awakened to a transient interest in a new religion, in their sudden excitement betokened their lack of thought and earnestness in receiving the grace of God. They were the "stony-ground" hearers.
3. The "devout women of honourable estate" were able to influence the municipal authorities, and to stir up persecution against the apostles. In so doing, they passed judgment upon themselves, separating themselves from the greater number of "honourable women," who elsewhere greatly aided the apostles in their labours.
4. The Roman authorities, tolerant of the Jewish religion because careless about all religion; deprecating excitements, solicitous for peace; easily persuaded, for the sake of quiet, to banish the disturbers — their irreligious nature is disclosed to us. Thus the gospel revealed the hearts of all. It compelled all to take sides. And so now men cannot come into the full light of the gospel without showing what manner of men they are.
IV. THE MESSAGE NOT ONLY REVEALED CHARACTER — IT FORMED CHARACTER. God's Word does not leave men as it finds them. The gospel has power to quicken the conscience; but when the clearer voice of conscience is disobeyed, estrangement from God is deepened. More evident and remarkable was its transforming power upon those that believed. They were "filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost."
V. THE OPPOSITION OF THE JEWS TO THE MESSAGE SUGGESTS THAT THERE IS A LIMIT TO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL AT GIVEN TIMES AND PLACES. Having clearly set before the Jews the claims of the gospel, Paul had discharged his obligation (ver. 46). Every man who has learned from the gospel what the state of the natural heart is, and what the power is by which God renews the heart, and what the channel is through which Divine grace comes to men, has learned enough to be fully accountable for his own salvation. To him the Church has performed her mission and discharged her obligation. When she has set before you the gift of God, which ix eternal life, you must judge yourself worthy or unworthy of it.
VI. THE GOSPEL BRINGS ABIDING AND INCREASING BLESSINGS TO THOSE WHO RECEIVE IT (ver. 52). The persecution of Paul and Barnabas did not shake their faith. By the presence of the Holy Ghost they were freed from shame and fear, and filled with joyous hope.
(W. G. Sperry.)1. Paul and Barnabas did not violently separate themselves from old traditions and religious companionships. The Christian is not the enemy of the Jew; he owes everything precious in his civilisation and in his hope to the Jew. There was a custom in the synagogue which we have not in the church. The rulers of the synagogue, noticing distinguished persons in the audience, would invite them to address the assembly. In the olden time they believed that the Word was its own defence, that the fire of the Lord would disinfect whatever it touched, and that to be in the synagogue was to be deeply religious, and loyal to the spirit of the house. These things have all changed. Men can be in the Christian church in an unchristian spirit. The mere verbalist, yes, and even the mocker, may find his way into the church, and be only too glad to have an opportunity to contradict what he did not understand. The usual challenge having been given, Paul stood up. That was an event in history. In that brief sentence you have the beginning of a battle which was concluded with these words — "I have fought a good fight," etc. Paul did not stand up by himself. Men are lifted up. Every action of the loyal life is an action of inspiration. The good man lays no plans, and makes no arrangements which can exclude the sudden and incalculable inspiration of God.
2. This is Paul's first recorded speech. I like to be present at beginnings. There is a subtle, tender mysterious joy about planting roots and sowing seed, covering it up and leaving it in the darkness; then what a surprise it is to come back in due time and find the green lancet puncturing the soil and coming up to look at the light it has been groping for all the while! Sometimes our first speeches were very poor because they were our own. We made them, wrote them out, graved them upon the unwilling memory, and they were like something put on, not growing out; and so we begged our friends, who were unhappy enough to be able to quote some portions of them, to forget them if they could! But the first speeches of the Christian defender were incapable of improvement. They were as complete as the fiat of God which said — "Let there be light: and there was light."
3. Paul based his apology on the model of Stephen. We cannot tell of what elements our life is made up. It is no one shower of rain that makes the summer green. We are gathering from every point all day long. Paul was no student of rhetoric when he listened to Stephen; but Stephen's speech, like all vital speech, got into the man, and became part of his intellectual and spiritual life. Paul began as Stephen did, with a narrative of Jewish history. To their credit be it spoken, the Jews were never tired of hearing their own history. Are we patient under the citation of the facts which make up our history? We cannot live in sentiment. You cannot build a castle in the air that you can live in; it must be founded upon rock, however high up into the air you may carry it. This was the great law of Jewish eloquence and Jewish appeal, basing the whole argument upon the rock of undisputed history. Do not some of us occasionally say, "Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and His love"? — therein we are partly Jewish — that is our story! As the Jews began from the formation of themselves as a people, we begin at Bethlehem, and in proportion as we are in the right spirit and temper, we are never tired of hearing the old, old story.
4. Notice in this speech what we may call Paul's grip of God. I know not any speech of the same length in which the sacred word occurs so frequently. The factor we have omitted from our sermons is only — God! We are afraid or ashamed of His name; we pronounce it hesitatingly, mincingly, timidly. Paul did not use it so; he hurled it like a thunderbolt; he measured everything by that grand standard. All through history he saw a Figure after the similitude of God. You can dislodge a man from any position but that.
5. As we find Stephen's character in Stephen's apology, so we may find Paul's character in Paul's exposition. Mark his courtesy. He was no rough intruder, but a gentleman born, and indestructible all through and through, polite, refined, courteous, gentlemanly. His tact is most wonderful; he notices how the assembly is made up — he is a poor speaker who takes no note of his hearers. Paul saw not only the Jews, but the Greeks and proselytes, who, wearied with the absurdities of polytheism, had come to believe there was one God, a spiritual, invisible, eternal God! So Paul accosted both classes, "Men of Israel" — always distinguishable, never to be confounded with others — "and ye that fear God" — converted from mythology to true spirituality of thought — "give audience." How delicately he puts the case in ver. 27!
6. How wondrously Paul introduced the right way of quoting Scripture! There is hardly a quotation which he makes here which is not a double or a treble quotation turned into one: e.g., ver. 22 cannot be found in the Old Testament; it is at least three passages made into one. It is all in the Bible, but is in no one place in the Scripture. He does not quote the Bible who quotes mere texts. The Bible is larger than any one text that is in it. There is a spirit of collocation and a spirit of quotation, a Bible spirit that can bring from east, west, north, and south lines that shall focalise in one intense and dazzling glory.
7. Paul's voice surely had a quiver in it which no reporter could catch — for in reports we do not get the tonic colour and force of speech — when he said, "God gave unto them Saul," etc.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THAT THEIR SCRIPTURES, WHICH EXHIBITED GOD'S SPECIAL KINDNESS TO THEM AS A PEOPLE, CONTAINED THE PROMISE OF A MESSIAH. After reminding them of certain striking facts in their history, showing how wondrously kind God had been to them as a people, extending from vers. 17 to 21, he directs them at once to the great prophetic truth that there was, according to their Scriptures to, come a Messiah. He states —
1. That David was to be the progenitor of that Messiah (vers. 22, 23).
2. That John the Baptist, one of the greatest prophets of their age, was to be His forerunner (vers. 24, 25). This fact, namely, that their Scriptures pointed to a Messiah, they would be prepared, of course, readily to admit. Hence he proceeds to another fact arising out of this which would not be so easily admitted.
II. THAT THE MESSIAH PREDICTED BY THEIR SCRIPTURES HAD ACTUALLY APPEARED ON THE EARTH (ver. 26). He states facts that occurred in the history of the Messiah while here.
1. That He was crucified and buried according to their Scriptures (vers. 27-29). In their Scriptures they would find an account of just the treatment He actually met with on the earth.
2. That God actually raised Him from the dead, also, according to their Scriptures (ver. 31). He states that His resurrection formed the glad tidings which they had to declare unto them (ver. 32). He states that His resurrection was a fulfilment of their Scriptures (vers. 33-35). In quoting these passages he seemed to anticipate that some of his audience would say that they referred to David; but this he declares is impossible, as that David "was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption." The other great fact we discover in this sermon is —
III. THAT THIS MESSIAH IS THE MEDIATOR THROUGH WHOM THE WORLD IS TO BE SAVED. He states —
1. That faith in Him will secure the forgiveness of all sins (ver. 38). That the rejection of Him is of all crimes the most to be deprecated (vers. 40, 41).(1) That sometimes the Divine judgments following the rejection of God's Word have been foretold. It is the principle of the Divine government that punishment shall ever follow unbelief. Numerous instances in the Bible might be cited. The apostle quotes a case here where such punishment had been predicted (Habakkuk 1:5). The original design of the prediction was to proclaim the ruin that would come upon the Jewish nation by the Chaldeans. The reason why that ruin came on them from God was their unbelief.(2) That the judgments that have followed unbelief in past times should be taken as types and warnings of those that will follow the rejection of God's Word in Jesus Christ. Thus the apostle uses Divine judgment here. The passage which he quotes from the Septuagint, not by any means with literal accuracy, he cites to show, not that this particular prophecy will be fulfilled in the experience of the rejecters of Christ, but that something as terrible. From the language we may infer —(a) That the judgment, when it comes, will fill the victim with amazement — "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder." What wild amazement seized the antediluvians, the men of Sodom, etc., when the judgment came.(b) That the judgment, when it comes, will effect utter destruction — "perish."(c) That the judgment that is to come is incredibly tremendous. It is "a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)1. The profound interpreter of Scripture (vers. 17, 33).
2. The large-hearted Apostle of the Gentiles (vers. 16, 26).
3. The truly evangelical preacher of the faith (vers. 38, 39).
4. The undaunted witness of the truth (vers. 40, 41).
1. Cast their net in many places (ver. 13).
2. Suffered not themselves to be hindered in their work, though some went back (ver. 13).
3. Regarded every time of work as opportune (ver. 14).
4. Taken advantage of every place (ver. 14).
5. Disregarded no request in order to testify of the grace of God in Christ Jesus (ver 16).
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