Men, brothers, and fathers, hear you my defense which I make now to you.…
We have here -
I. AN ADMIRABLE ARGUMENT. Paul, at the inspiration of the moment, made a powerful defense of his position. He showed:
1. That no one could enter into their feelings more perfectly than himself. Was he not a Jew by birth (ver. 3)? Had he not received a thoroughly Jewish education, at the feet of a Jewish master (ver. 3)? Had he not been absolutely possessed by a devotedness to the Law, and a corresponding hatred of the new "Way" (ver. 4)? Had they not the evidence in their own hands of the bitter and unrelenting persecution of which he had been the eager and active agent (ver. 5)? If, then, he was found advocating this hated "Way," it was not because he did not understand Jewish sympathies, nor because he had always been one of its votaries; quite the contrary.
2. That no one could possibly have weightier reasons for changing his mind than he had. First came a heavenly vision, arresting him in his path of persecution, and forbidding him to continue (vers. 6-11). Then came a powerful confirmation, in a miracle of healing of which he himself was the subject and of which a most honorable and estimable Jew was the instrument (vers. 12, 13); and a further confirmation in the message with which he was charged (vers. 14-16). Then came a third influence of a powerful character in the shape of another manifestation, and a command, against which he vainly strove, to go out and work among the Gentiles (vers. 18-21).
II. A SENSELESS AND SUICIDAL EXASPERATION. (Vers. 22, 23.) Such was the violent antipathy in the minds of his audience to any fellowship with the Gentile world that all Paul's arguments went for nothing. This was such an opportunity as was little likely to recur, of having the facts of the case placed plainly and forcibly before their minds; it was a day of grace to them. But so utterly prejudiced were they that one word filled them with a senseless exasperation which stole from them the golden chance they had of learning the truth, and which riveted the chains of error and exclusiveness they wore upon their souls. This defense of the apostle and this exasperation of his audience may suggest to us:
1. The fullness of the Divine argument. God "reasons with" us. He does so
(1) in proof of his own presence and providence in the world;
(2) in proof of the heavenly origin of the gospel of his grace; and
(3) in furtherance of our personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our soul. The Divine arguments and inducements are very strong, and they are very varied. They include the miraculous and the ordinary; they appeal to the human consciousness, to history, and to daily observation; they are based on well-attested facts; they appeal to our hopes and to our fears, to our sense of what is due to our Creator and of what we owe to ourselves, of obligation and of wisdom. They are mighty, urgent, convincing, one would say - but for sad facts which argue to the contrary - overwhelming.
2. The foolish and fatal anger which it sometimes excites. There are those who, when God speaks to them in nature, providence, or privilege, instead of lending their ear to his word and bowing their spirit to his will, are only angered and exasperated; they go still further away from him in increased alienation, in still more determined rebelliousness of soul. But so doing
(1) they aggravate their guilt; and
(2) they cut down the bridge by which they might cross to the heavenly kingdom. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.