Acts 28:23
Persuading them concerning Jesus. Importance of the crisis. Jerusalem. Rome. A few years, and Jerusalem destroyed. Judaism brought Paul in fetters to Rome. The old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem struggling together. Brief notice of Paul's labors at Rome, and then the book closes. Significant of the fact that the new dispensation was inaugurated. Peculiar population of Rome, representative of the cosmopolitan Roman empire, a fitting ground for the gospel to be sown in.

I. THE MATTER OF THE MESSAGE. "Concerning Jesus." (Compare the Epistles to the Romans and Hebrews.)

1. The righteousness of God set forth, instead of man's righteousness.

2. The priestly office of Christ abolishing ritualism, and opening the gates of the spiritual temple.

3. Jesus the promised King, the Lifter-up of the fallen people, the Desire of all nations, the Renovator of the world. Compare with such a setting forth of Jesus, the state of the Jews and Romans, in faith, worship, and hope, both in the individual and in society, both for time and for eternity.

II. THE METHOD ADOPTED by the messenger. Persuasion.

1. The written Word of God the basis. The Old and the New Testaments harmonized. Faith is an outcome of faith: "Ye believe in God, believe also in me."

2. Personal testimony. "I am a Christian; be such as I am." True persuasion is personal. We must aim at the heart, and not merely at the intellect; and the heart must direct the aim.

3. Those that would persuade must be prepared to use none but spiritual means. Neither sensational excitement, nor ritualistic seductions, nor corrupt appeals to lower natures, are permissible to the Christian advocate. Let truth win its victory. - R.







And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging.
Note —

I. THE INTERESTING CHARACTER OF HIS PREACHING. It was —

1. Evangelical. His theme was the "kingdom of God" — the reign of the Messiah as predicted by the prophets. Christ here, as everywhere, was his grand subject.

2. Earnest. He "expounded," "testified," "persuaded" from morning to evening.

II. THE EFFECT OF HIS PREACHING (ver. 24). They were different, which is such a common occurrence as to excite no wonder. Even the discourses of Christ were far from commanding uniform impressions. This diversity may be accounted for without calling in the unscriptural doctrine of the partiality of the Divine influence. Man's power to think upon the subject presented to him or not, to think upon it in this aspect or that, with this intention or that, is sufficient to explain the diversity.

III. THE TERRIBLE WARNING OF HIS PREACHING (vers. 26, 27). This must not be regarded as teaching that God exerts any influence to morally blind and stupefy men. Such a work would be —

1. Unnecessary. Men are already in that condition.

2. Incompatible with the Divine character. His holiness and love render such a work eternally impossible.

3. Opposed to the whole tenor of Scripture. "Let no man say when he is tempted, he is tempted of God."

4. Denied by universal consciousness. No sinner ever felt that the Creator exerted any influence in making him sinful. On the contrary, universal conscience charges sin on the sinner. All that the passage teaches is —(1) That men may fail into an unconvertible moral condition. They may become so blind, insensitive, and obdurate, as to exclude all hope of recovery.(2) That the ministry of Divine truth may promote this condition. As the heart of Pharaoh grew hard under the ministry of Moses, the hearts of thousands in every age are hardened under the ministry of the gospel, which is either a savour of life unto life or of death unto death.(3) That a ministry that may fail with some will succeed with others. This comes out of Paul's warning, "Be it known unto you," etc.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. Paul had not to make a personal defence, as at Jerusalem and Caesarea. He had to speak of the hope of Israel. It was a subject which had occupied his thoughts for many years, and which he had thoroughly mastered. So he entered on a full exposition of the writings to which all his hearers attached sacred authority.

2. But we find to our regret that St. Luke has not reported the address, just as he has left our Lord's on the same subject unreported (Luke 24:27, 44-46.) This seems to indicate that God did not wish His Church to be furnished once for all with an authorised interpretation of Scripture which should supersede study of the holy oracles by successive generations of Christian scholars. This consideration bears severely on the claim of authority which is made for the voice of tradition and of the Church as entitled to fix the sense of Holy Writ. If it was right to deprive the early Church of any exposition of the Old Testament which was delivered by the Lord Jesus, or by St. Paul, how can it be maintained that an authorised interpretation is good and necessary now? So saying, we do not disparage all traditional interpretation or deny the respect due to Christian antiquity. But neither ancient fathers nor modern clergy have a right to claim such authority for their expositions.

3. Though we have not St. Paul's speech, we know the great themes on which he spoke while supporting all his statements from Moses and the prophets.

I. HE "TESTIFIED THE KINGDOM OF GOD" now and during the "two whole years" of his imprisonment.

1. He was at Rome, the seat of empire. But the spirit of the apostle occupied itself far more with thoughts of a greater kingdom — one which makes very little of the things on which the Roman Empire rested, but very much of "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Caesar's kingdom was soon to dwindle, but the kingdom of God was to extend to "regions Caesar never knew." It was easy for St. Paul to show to his Jewish audience that the prophets had foretold such a kingdom — a reign of God over men, not in little Palestine only, but in every region under heaven.

2. This kingdom the apostle testified and preached. He announced that already it was among men.

II. HE PERSUADED HIS HEARERS "CONCERNING JESUS," and we can easily conjecture the course which the apostle followed. He showed from the Scriptures, as at other times, that the Messiah was destined to be rejected and slain, and thereafter to be raised from the dead. Then he told how all this was fulfilled in Jesus, who was consequently exalted as Lord and Christ. So the earnest apostle taught the livelong day in that primitive St. Paul's cathedral — "his own hired house"; and the day's labour was not in vain. Some of the Jews were persuaded, and cast in their lot with the Christians. But some were not convinced; and in the evening the assembly broke up with discordant views and feelings, not, however, before the apostle pronounced a heavy reproof on the blindness of the Jews, recognising that Israel was surpassing all its former inveteracy by closing its eyes and hardening its heart against the gospel of Christ. The woe he pronounced on his nation has now lasted more than eighteen hundred years. So far as Judaism is religious now, it is a dry, sapless thing, pervaded by a tone of monotony and melancholy, with no power or desire to propagate itself. But, to a large extent, it is an irreligious and unspiritual thing in the modern world — its heart made gross by worldliness, and its influence closely allied with the growth of rationalism. A sad sight this after St: Paul's all-day teaching — hearers going hardened away! A rather mournful close to our study of the apostolic speeches! But it really is a sight which too probably the angels see at the close of every public discourse on the truth of the gospel.

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

He expounded and testified the kingdom of God.
I. ITS SUBJECTS.

1. The kingdom of God — the fulfilment of the Old Testament theocratic hopes. This kingdom —(1) Is spiritual, and must be distinguished from its external manifestations. It would still exist were its buildings, rites, etc., to perish.(2) Rests on the Messiah, who is its sole sovereign, and is invested with all legislative and administrative power.(3) Has conditions which it enforces on all its subjects. The external condition under the Old Testament was circumcision, under the New baptism; but under both the spiritual condition is faith.

2. Jesus. Note that while Paul expounded and testified concerning the kingdom, he persuaded concerning the King. Christ was not merely proposed doctrinally, but urged on their heartfelt acceptance as Saviour and Lord. This persuasion is necessary in view of the —

(1)Sceptical.

(2)The indifferent.

(3)The worldly.

(4)The young.

(5)The despondent.

3. Both as resting on the law and the prophets. He reasoned this out that their faith might rest, not on the wisdom of man, but on the Word of God. The Scriptures are the only rule of faith and conduct.

II. ITS EFFECTS.

1. Believing, some entered into the enjoyment of the privileges of the gospel; and others, not believing, continued in the guilt of their sin.

2. Believing, some admitted the truth and grace of God, and passed into a regenerate state; others, not believing, continued under the dominion of carnal passions.

3. Believing, some possessed the power of obedience; others, not believing, continued in a state of moral incapacity.

4. Believing, some attached themselves to the kingdom of Christ and shared its glories; some, not believing, continued attached to those things that were waning away and perished with them.

(J. Dixon, D. D.)

From morning to evening.
If a subject has a man's heart, he never tires of talking about it. If his soul is bent on convincing others of its truth, he will take time for his work. Merchants will talk all day long about buying and selling; so will politicians about politics. Many a lawyer gives more than one day to his argument in a single lawsuit. Yet how rarely do men give an entire day to the serious consideration of religious truth. It would seem, however, as if one day were not too long a time for the settling of a question which involves the interests of eternity. Paul evidently was of that opinion. So were some of the Jews who came to his lodgings at Rome. Were they mistaken?

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
I. THE GOSPEL ITSELF PREPARES US FOR ITS OWN DISAPPOINTMENT. It is at least remarkable that a religion which speaks so authoritatively, and claims a Divine origin, should yet declare itself to be come into the world, not for triumph, but for division. We say of such a religion that at least it has taken the sting out of the argument from failure, and uttered a true prediction as to the degree and measure of its own success. Here, as elsewhere, we recognise that transparent truthfulness which is one of the distinctive badges of the pure original gospel.

II. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT CANNOT BE SAID THAT CHRISTIANITY REGARDS WITH INDIFFERENCE THIS CHEQUERED RESULT. Some represent the gospel simply as an offer, and speak and act as though it were a good thing to be a Christian if you can, but not a fatal loss to be incapable of that attainment. The gospel is the luxury of the few, not the necessity of all. But the gospel does not thus offer itself as for the equal alternative of acceptance or rejection; does not stand amongst men under the form of an inviting suppliant, having nothing but smiles and caresses wherewith to win the devotion of an admiring but thoughtless multitude. It predicts wrath as well as promises mercy: it misleads if there be not as really an everlasting punishment as a life eternal. The gospel is not indifferent, though it be distinctly prescient, as to this believing and believing not.

III. When we strive to discover WHY ONE BELIEVES AND ANOTHER BELIEVES NOT; why that proof which is equal for all should convince one and fail with another; why it is that God's rain and God's sunshine fertilise this spot and leave that barren; we are in the midst at once of those secret things which belong to the Lord our God. But in the midst of many speculations there is one thing practical. I would ask each whether there is not a close connection between his faith and his life. There are indeed cases in which men of blameless lives, of honest endeavours after truth, nay, even of earnest prayers for the Divine teaching, cannot lay hold — or, worse still, have lost their hold — upon the distinctive revelations of the gospel. But these are cases which do not often occur in common life. They belong to the seclusion of learned study: perhaps that seclusion itself may more than half explain them. Perhaps, if these doubts had been early dragged into action; if they had been brought face to face with the stern realities of a poor man's cottage, still more of sorrow and death; even they might have been dissipated, and the theoretical doubter might have become a practical Christian. This rare case is not yours. You, if you answer the question truthfully, will say this: "There is a connection in me between unbelief and sin. When I am neglecting duty, when I am yielding to some besetting temptation, then it is that I put from me the faith of Christ. In short, when I am not good, then it is that I believe not." If there be this practical connection between faith and virtue, then we may at least understand how, for ourselves, not to believe is to be in peril, and to die unbelieving is to perish and to be condemned.

IV. IN THE FACE OF THESE DIFFERENCES WE COME MORE AND MORE TO REST, SIMPLY AND TRUSTINGLY, UPON THE DECLARATION OF SCRIPTURE THAT FAITH ITSELF IS GOD'S GIFT, the work of His Spirit, and commonly the direct answer to persevering prayer. We believe it to be at present impossible to state or to define to ourselves the logical coherence of the two fundamental doctrines of grace and responsibility. But, whatever may be the logical difficulty, there is little or no difficulty of practice or of the heart. If God gives, man must ask: if God promises to give to him that asks, he who asks not cannot complain if he has not. And thus, for all practical purposes, it is enough to rest the case here. I do not believe in unanswered prayers. I can understand a man's being kept waiting for a bright light and for an assured hope. But I do not believe in a man dying an unbeliever who has constantly and patiently prayed for faith.

V. EVEN AMONG PROFESSED CHRISTIANS THERE ARE STILL BELIEVING MEN AND UNBELIEVING. When the Scripture says, "Some believed," etc., it does not speak of that sort of believing which consists only in an assent of the understanding. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." It is not everyone who does that. Therefore it is still with us, as it was in the first days of the gospel, an anxious inquiry, Do we yet believe? If we do, we cannot sleep in indifference, we cannot rest in the world, we cannot live in sin. To believe is to see ourselves lost by nature, and redeemed by the blood of Christ. To believe is to live no longer to ourselves, but to Him who died for us and rose again.

(Dean Vaughan.)

The only proper way to calculate the results of our ministry is to have an account book ruled with two columns. On one side we must put down the some that believe not, and on the other the some that believe. We must not estimate the good that is done by the number of those —

1. Who listen. Instead of its being of any advantage for the persons who have heard the gospel, but have not believed, it will rather increase their doom.

2. Who have been pleased with our ministry. When a man has to die, this shall give him no comfort. A sermon often does a man most good when it makes him most angry.

3. Who have been impressed with serious convictions.

I. UNDER THE BEST MINISTRY THE RESULTS WILL BE DIVERSE. Paul was a model preacher —

1. As to matter.(1) There are some persons who greatly admire a doctrinal preacher. Mere appeals to the passions they do not care about; they want to have their minds enlightened. Well, a doctrinal preacher is an exceedingly useful man, and the apostle's discourses were full of the most important truth; but even under Paul there were some that believed not!(2) Some prefer an experimental preacher. But Paul was a perfect model in this respect. Be it so, and I can fully approve their choice. Yet even under him there were some that believed not.(3) Then there is the practical preacher, and some men greatly admire him. So do I if he urges holiness upon the people of God from evangelical motives. But who ever did this so well as Paul? Yet under him some believed not.

2. As to manner.(1) He was a bold preacher. He never feared the face of man.(2) He was an eloquent preacher. Perhaps the concluding part of the eighth chapter of the Romans is the most remarkable piece of human language ever known.(3) When occasion required, his thunders could make Felix tremble; and his persuasive appeals could wring confessions from Agrippa; but as a teacher in the Church of God he was proverbially plain spoken. He spoke like a child, and babes in grace were fed under his ministry as with pure milk.(4) Then the apostle was very affectionate. He loved the souls of men. He felt sometimes such a passionate longing to save souls, that he was almost ready to lose his own if he might but save others. "Oh!" says one, "I wish I sat under such a minister!" Yes, but I am not sure that you would be saved if you had Paul himself for a pastor, for with all his boldness, etc., some believed not.

II. THE TWO SORTS OF PEOPLE, AND THE REASON WHY SOME BELIEVED, AND WHY SOME BELIEVED NOT.

1. There were some that believed.(1) Shall I describe them? I will sketch one, and that will suffice for all. He dropped in one Sunday morning and listened; it did not attract his attention much; but all of a sudden the truth dropped right into his heart. He now listened with interest. Another sentence came, and another. He began to tremble. "What must I do to be saved?" was the language that was in his heart. He went home into his chamber, and breathed out living desires after the living God. In the evening he went to the house of God again. It seemed as if the preacher prepared a sermon on purpose for him, and the great hammer of God broke his flinty heart, and he could not help feeling that there was no hope for him. He was very quiet that week; he could not go out with his friends to places of amusement as he had been accustomed to do. I do not know how long it was that this went on; in some cases it is only a few minutes, in others it is a long, long time. But eventually Christ was seen to be accepted cordially as his Saviour. He believed and went on his way rejoicing, From that day all that knew him could but marvel at the change.(2) Why did some believe? It was not any difference in the preacher, for the same preacher addressed both. It was not any difference in the sermon, for the same sermon was preached. It was not the power of persuasion, for there were some that were persuaded and some that were not by the very same address. I only know of one answer: Because God willed it.

2. There were some that believed not.(1) They are of different characters. Some have been brought up at a Sunday School, and have attended a place of worship all their lives; others spend their Sundays in dissipation or frivolity. Some try to quiet their conscience by pretending that they do not believe the Bible to be true; others assent to all the truths of revelation. Some that believe not are very moral; others are debauched and go very far astray. We must put you all down together. There are no third parties. You either do believe or you do not.(2) Why do you not believe? Some will be ready to say, "Hear what contradictory doctrine is preached!" I cannot help it. The only reason why you do not believe in Christ is because you will not. It is not that you have not heard the gospel; nor because it is unworthy of your credence; nor because it does not deserve your faith; nor because you have never been aroused. The reason is contained in Christ's own words, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." If your soul shall perish, it shall perish as suicide. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself." Conclusion: I must close by dividing this house. Suppose this aisle to represent the great division, and that the some that believe had to stand on this side, and the some that do not believe on that side. There would soon be a change of seats. There would be a great number that would say, "Well, I cannot go on this side; I dare not say I do believe in Christ. And yet I cannot go to the other side; let me stand here." No, no; there are only two places, heaven and hell, and there are only two sorts of people, the righteous and the wicked. There is no neutral ground. Think not to halt between two opinions. Now will you do me this favour? I asked it once, and it was blessed to the conversion of several. Take a paper and pencil, and after you have honestly weighed your own condition, if you feel that you are not a believer write down "Condemned," and if you are a believer write down the word "Forgiven." Do it, even though you have to write down the word condemned. We lately received into Church fellowship a young man, who said, "Sir, I wrote down the word condemned, and I looked at it; there it was; I had written it myself — 'Condemned.'" As he looked the tears began to flow, and ere long he fled to Christ, put the paper in the fire, and wrote down "Forgiven." This young man was about the sixth who had been brought to the Lord in the same way. Remember you are either one or the other; you are either condemned or forgiven. Do not stand between the two. Let it be decided, and even if you are condemned today, there is hope yet. Whosoever believeth on Christ shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It makes no difference who is the preacher, or what or how long is his sermon — he cannot make his hearers believe him. The declaration of the truth is his duty; the accepting or rejecting of his message rests with them. We may warn a child of the danger of leaning out of a window, or of going on to thin ice; we may tell a young man of the peril of using intoxicating drinks, or of disregarding the laws of health in his eating, sleeping, or working; we may show plainly to an unwise parent the inevitable consequences of his neglect or mistraining of his children; but unless he whom we address believes us, our words are wasted, and our efforts are of no avail. In the pressing of any truth, we can only make sure of faithful preaching. The belief of the hearers is not for us to force.

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

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