When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord, and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
I. MEN NEVER MORE EFFECTUALLY PRONOUNCE JUDGMENT ON THEMSELVES THAN WHEN THEY ARE PRONOUNCING JUDGMENT ON CHRIST. This is true in two leading cases.
1. If men are pronouncing judgment unfavorable to Christ - as, for instance, in supposed answer to such a question as his own, "What think ye of Christ?" - they are pronouncing nothing less than decisive condemnation of themselves.
2. If they are humbly and in the genuine spirit of trying to feel their way, giving out from time to time some testimony of their growing and growingly grateful appreciation of Christ and of his truth, they then are proving their own growth in likeness to him. They are unconsciously giving the measure of how far the "day dawns" with them, and how high the "day-star arises in their hearts," or even how far they have got on that path which is like "the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
II. MEN'S PUTTING FROM THEM THE WORD OF GOD AS NOW GIVEN IN CHRIST IS DOING NOTHING LESS THAN PUTTING FROM THEM THE PROSPECT OF EVERLASTING LIFE.
1. The dogmatic tone of the apostle is to be noted. This is not the personal prerogative of Paul or of any one else; it is the claimed, asserted, demanded right of Christianity. Christianity gives its account of it, and a good and competent account. If this be not so, Christianity must go. But if it be so, he must go who will not have its reign over him.
2. Momentous and awful as is the issue to which Paul leaves now the refusing Jews, he lays the whole responsibility of it upon them. They were "filled with envy," they" spake against the things which were spoken by Paul," they "contradicted and blasphemed," they "put from" them the "Word of God;" and Paul rules that theirs is the undivided folly of forfeiting "everlasting life," as though they seriously "judged themselves unworthy of it."
III. THE SIMPLEST FACTS OF SOME SORTS OF HUMAN CONDUCTS WHEN TRANSLATED INTO WORDS, SOUND LIKE THE PUREST, MOST UNDISGUISED SATIRE. Nothing could be further from the pride and presumption of a Jew, of the type of those who were now before Paul, than to think himself "unworthy of everlasting life," or indeed of any other thing whatsoever, either great or good, which could be had. Yet nothing could be truer than that his conduct amounted to that, ran a terrible risk of ending in it, and, unrepented, unaltered, could in fact end in nothing else. For it may be stated thus - that
(1) the message of Christ,
(2) the credentials of every kind of Christ, and
(3) the deep, incontestable, universal needs of the heart and life of man, are such that, whether a man be Jew or Gentile, so only he be made fairly acquainted with Jesus and "the Word of God" in him, he is "inexcusable" if he "put these away from" him. The thing, it might be supposed, could rationally (though then not rightly) explain the conduct except it were the profoundest humility of a publican of the publicans. But this, we know, would forget the prayer of the publican, though it might commemorate his deepest humiliation of self-reproach and sense of "unworthiness." Yet is this too sadly often found the case with men in matters of religion. Without humility, they pursue a line of conduct which only the extreme of self-reproach could rationally and temporarily account for. Other reason, indeed, in very truth there may be, must be - unutterable folly, blindest infatuation, amazing recklessness, and uncalculating force of passion and envy, and withal guilt's own chosen particular type of hardness; these or their like must at the last be found answerable. But when they are summoned for their last answer, this will be the irony of their situation, that, furthest removed of all from pure and modest and self-upbraiding humility, they counterfeited it, and, in the name of that counterfeit, "would not come to Jesus that they might have life" everlasting. An inspired apostle gave this unexpected interpretation of the state of things in the instance before us; how many more such, alas! will "the day reveal"? - B.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad.
I. WERE GLAD.
1. This should be, but alas is not, the uniform effect of gospel hearing.(1) Some are indifferent, for they feel no need of it.(2) Some are critical. They may feel their need, but are not disposed to receive the gospel as a supply for their need.(3) Some are hostile and reject the gospel utterly as a possible supply for their need, and look elsewhere — to formalism, infidelity, worldliness.
2. These Gentiles were glad.(1) They heard attentively, with candid minds, with eager desire. They were convinced and so they believed, and the Word of God had its proper effect on them; it became "Good tidings of great joy."(2) This gladness was that of conscious pardon, satisfied longing, Divine acceptance, joyful anticipation.
3. If the gospel has not made those who profess to have accepted it glad, it is probably for one or two reasons.(1) They have not received the whole of it. A spoonful of water will not quench thirst, but will only aggravate it.(2) They have received it in an adulterated form.
II. THEY GLORIFIED THE WORD OF GOD. This was the inevitable result of their gladness.
1. They were thankful for it. Thanklessness dishonours the gospel. The least that a man can do who receives a gift is to express his gratitude for it.
2. They praised it. Specimens of such praise we have in the Psalms — notably in Psalm 119. It is refreshing to turn to this record in an age of Bible disparagement. When a man receives a gift he is not only thankful for it, but examines it, or puts it to some use, so that he may properly appraise its value. Every candid examination of God's Word, and self application of its truth, will give it enhanced worth.
3. They made it known to others (ver. 49). The gospel is not meant for its immediate recipients. It is a gift for men. Only as it has "free course" is it fully "glorified." Conclusion: Gladness is the inspiration of true service. It is as steam to machinery. Has the gospel made you happy? Go then and make others glad.
(J. W. Burn.)I. THE FIRST LAST.
1. Who are the first? Those who have earliest experienced the Divine love, and are considered most richly endowed.
2. Why do they become last? Because they do not use to their salvation the love of God, and become proud of their gifts.
3. How do they become last? By receiving, according to the measure of their small fidelity, only an inferior position in the kingdom of God (Matthew 20:10), or, as the reward of their complete unfaithfulness, by being excluded entirely from the blessings of that kingdom (ver. 46).
II. THE LAST FIRST.
1. Who are the last? Those who are called at a later period, and who possess inferior gifts.
2. Why do they become first? Because the knowledge of their defects makes them desirous of salvation.
3. How do they become first? By being themselves in the kingdom of God, and assisting in its wider extension (vers. 49, 52).
(Lisco.)I. OF THE GENTILES — i.e., of those who were hitherto at a distance and strangers to the Word of God (vers. 48, 49).
1. They rejoice in its contents.
2. They praise the grace of God.
3. They receive it by faith.
4. They taste the blessedness of believing.
II. OF THE JEWS — i.e., the self-righteous who will not be saved by grace (ver. 50).
1. They are inflamed with hatred against the evangelical message.
2. They interest others against it.
3. They persecute the messengers of salvation.
III. OF BELIEVERS, who experience in themselves the power of the Word.
1. Their faith is not perplexed by calamity (ver. 51).
2. They experience holy joy (ver. 52).
3. They grow in the grace of God through the Holy Ghost (ver. 52).
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
As many as were ordained to eternal life believed1. The Jews put from them the Word of God, and thus judged themselves. This was not a Divine judgment; that came afterwards to ratify and give effect to what was done already. And the judgment that the Jews by the rejection of Christ passed upon themselves, unconsciously but really, was that they were unworthy of eternal life. Their case is typical. Men who despise the gospel do now for themselves what will be done for them at the Day of Judgment.
2. The Gentiles, on the contrary, accepted the gospel, and thus fulfilled the conditions on which eternal life was given. They thus judged themselves, and were judged worthy — i.e., qualified, ready — for eternal life. "Ordained" is misleading. The original is a military word suggestive of the putting an army in order, drawing it up for battle — the disposition of the troops. "As many as were disposed" — i.e., were in an attitude for — "eternal life, believed," i.e., accepted it. The Jews were in no such attitude — hence their unbelief, and loss of eternal life.
I. ETERNAL LIFE is —
1. A quantitative term — everlasting duration. But this is its lower meaning. This is true of all souls. The wicked as well as the good will live forever. But the life of the former will be "the death that never, never dies."
2. A qualitative term. What sort of life? Not bare existence, but a life of eternal —
(1) (2) (3) II. THE DISPOSITION FOR ETERNAL LIFE. The Gentiles who were so disposed — 1. Heard the Word of God with gladness. Then how indisposed must those be who in our modern congregations are indifferent to it, or who hear it captiously, or only to reject it. 2. Accepted it, and more than that, they glorified it. It met their ease thoroughly, and they felt and acknowledged that it did so. Thus they were in an attitude for eternal life, and so — 3. Believed. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." 4. Enjoyed eternal life. "They were filled with joy" — the evidence of it, "and with the Holy Ghost" — its source. (J. W. Burn.)
(2) (3) II. THE DISPOSITION FOR ETERNAL LIFE. The Gentiles who were so disposed — 1. Heard the Word of God with gladness. Then how indisposed must those be who in our modern congregations are indifferent to it, or who hear it captiously, or only to reject it. 2. Accepted it, and more than that, they glorified it. It met their ease thoroughly, and they felt and acknowledged that it did so. Thus they were in an attitude for eternal life, and so — 3. Believed. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." 4. Enjoyed eternal life. "They were filled with joy" — the evidence of it, "and with the Holy Ghost" — its source. (J. W. Burn.)
(3) II. THE DISPOSITION FOR ETERNAL LIFE. The Gentiles who were so disposed — 1. Heard the Word of God with gladness. Then how indisposed must those be who in our modern congregations are indifferent to it, or who hear it captiously, or only to reject it. 2. Accepted it, and more than that, they glorified it. It met their ease thoroughly, and they felt and acknowledged that it did so. Thus they were in an attitude for eternal life, and so — 3. Believed. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." 4. Enjoyed eternal life. "They were filled with joy" — the evidence of it, "and with the Holy Ghost" — its source. (J. W. Burn.)
II. THE DISPOSITION FOR ETERNAL LIFE. The Gentiles who were so disposed —
3. Believed. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
(J. W. Burn.)