But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.…
It is pleasant to observe the traces, in every possible place, of the grace still held out to the Jew. It vindicates with emphasis "the long-suffering" of God, and the continuing force of the dying prayer of him whom those Jews "slew and hanged on a tree." And, though in a less degree, it is pleasant to observe how messengers and apostles, when they reach a new town, pay their first visit to the synagogue. This very thing the Apostle of the Gentiles now does. It has been the order of the two companions since they set out from the former Antioch (vers. 4, 5), but now arrived at "Antioch in Pisidia," and Paul distinctly taking the lead, the same course is observed. "Paul and his company" (ver. 13) "went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down." They are strangers, and "after the reading of the Law and the prophets," they are invited by the rulers of the synagogue to speak. Sergius Paulus (ver. 7) sent for them when they were at Paphos, and "desired to hear the Word of God." And now again they spoke from all the better vantage-ground, in that they were invited to speak. The occasion proved a memorable one. And its memorableness turned on Paul's "word of exhortation" to a Jewish audience. Notice -
I. THE ONE DETERMINED OBJECT OF THIS "WORD OF EXHORTATION." (Vers. 38, 39.) It is to fix sole, undivided attention on the "Man" (ver. 38) Jesus, as the Obtainer of forgiveness of sins for men, though not himself necessarily the actual Forgiver, and as the Justifier of all men who believe in him, from the demands of responsibilities of which they would fain be free. This is the key-note of Paul's preaching, and we hear it distinctly sounded on this the first great occasion of his authoritative pronouncements. It marks the standpoint of his practical theology. And it is the burden of his apostolic mission. Nothing lies nearer his own heart, nothing is spoken more plainly on his lip, whether he converses with himself, a sinner, or would appeal to others, sinners. It is the core of the truth; it is the bone and marrow of the gospel itself. Therefore:
1. Paul preaches the "Man Christ Jesus."
2. Paul preaches him as the only One who obtains forgiveness (let him obtain it as he may) for the burdened sinner.
3. Paul preaches him as the living, all-efficient Justifier of men before God.
4. Paul preaches him as the "red" (John 15:1), after all the typical and figurative (ver. 39).
II. THE STRAIGHT, DIRECT ROAD ALONG WHICH PAUL TRAVELS TO HIS ONE DETERMINED OBJECT. There is no touch of "the Socratic argument" here. Paul takes, it is true, a little while to reach his grand point. But he goes by no covert approach towards it. He paves the way, and may be said to smooth the way, but it is all in full daylight. The brief yet effective historical survey which Paul takes of Israel may be compared, for object and matter and manner, with those of Peter (Acts 2.) and (though in less degree) of Stephen (Acts 7.). Without invidiousness it may be said, however, that Paul's brevity, pointedness, trenchancy in this address, could not be surpassed. He introduces Christ, from the moment of God's election of Abraham to "the raising up Jesus again" from a death and grave which had set not one stigma of corruption on him. And in a moment or two he has confronted his whole audience in that Antioch synagogue with two portraits like life and life-size - the one the portrait of their "own nation and people, the Jews," and the other the portrait of the crucified, "dead, and buried," but risen One. This introductory survey of Paul owns to the greatest fidelity to fact and fidelity to the conscience of those who listened. The evidences of promise sacred to every memory, of genealogy that in point of fact had been as undisputed as it was indisputable, of prophet of old, of that greatest "prophet born of women" (Luke 7:28) - John the Baptist, of modern time, and of "sacred psalm," are all marshaled. And at present the effect seemed likely to be irresistible. The "men of Israel, and they that feared God" from happy association with them, and "the Gentiles," or some chance representatives of them, seem to be, not indeed chained to the spot (ver. 42), not entranced, not bewitched, but deeply impressed and thoughtful without being embittered.
III. THE FAITHFUL WARNING AND POWERFUL REMONSTRANCE THAT CLOSED "THE WORD OF EXHORTATION." The word of trumpet-warning is Paul's own. He clenches it, albeit, with quotation from "the Scriptures," which should add the force that comes of sacred reverence's claim. "Repent!" cried John the Baptist. "Beware!" cries Paul, "lest you fail to repent;" as so many had failed to do since John the Baptist's cry. They heard the quotation, and often as they had heard it before and knew it so well, or it would have lost much of its significance and aptness on the lip of Paul, they had never thought of it in this light, they had never dreamt it could have foretold of them or be any description of them. Yet what a wonderful picture it had been of a nation, for at all events some three years, and of their sons and daughters some thirteen years more already! What a true picture of that "highly favored" nation! They had beheld and despised; they had wondered and had - perished, yes, already too many of them - perished. And that from no convulsion of nature, or collapse of heaven, or irremediable pestilence, or sword of conquering foe, but because, though they were given to behold things that kings and prophets and righteous men of their ancestors for centuries had desired in vain, they "despised" what they beheld. So must perish all who will "in no wise believe a work which" Heaven itself works in the very midst of them, and which is "declared" to them with the voice of power, of love, of patient importunity, but is "despised and rejected." - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.