But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers…
Here is Paul's apology; faith at the bottom, hope as the immediate effect and product of it, and an holy conversation as the fruit and consequent. The same method is observed in 1 Timothy 1:5, and 2 Peter 1:5, 6. Note. —
I. THE EXPRESSIONS HERE USED.
1. Concerning faith.
(1) The object," "Things written in the law and the prophets" — all the Scriptures then extant (Matthew 11:13; Luke 16:29). The object of our faith, who have received the rule of faith more enlarged (Ephesians 2:20), is prophets and apostles. The object of faith may be considered — materially, such things as God hath revealed; formally, because God hath revealed them.
(2) The extent, "All things." A believer receiveth all truths which are of Divine revelation, whether precepts, promises, threatenings, doctrines, or histories.
(3) The act, "Believing." It is not enough not to deny or not to contradict, but we must actually and positively believe. The reason why people feel so little force of their faith is because they leap into the Christian faith by the advantage of their birth, but do not consider what nor why they believe. But true faith is a positive, firm assent, excited in us by the Spirit of God. To a sound belief there is necessary —
(a) A knowledge or full instruction in the things which we believe (1 John 4:16); first known and then believed.
(b) A due conviction of the certainty of them (Luke 1:4; John 6:69; John 17:8).
(c) Practical trust and affiance; for Christianity doth not only propound bare truths to be assented unto, but joyful, comfortable truths suitable to our necessity and desires (Hebrews 3:6).
(d) Application, that we may know for our good (Job 5:27).
2. Concerning hope.
(1) Mark that he propoundeth his hope as the immediate product of faith. What good will it do me to believe the doctrines of the prophets and apostles, if I expect no good from thence? Faith would be vain, and religion vain. Only note here that hope is two fold.
(a) The fruit of regeneration (1 Peter 1:3).
(b) Built upon experience (Romans 5:4, 5).
(2) Observe that he pitcheth upon the resurrection as the great thing hoped for, because then is our full and final happiness (1 Timothy 1:16; John 20:31). This is the great thing which we hope, wait, and labour for.
3. Concerning his manners and conversation (ver. 16). Observe —
(1) His encouragement, "Herein."
(a) Interpreters expound this, in the meantime, till faith be turned into vision, hope into fruition (Hebrews 6:12).
(b) Again, by virtue of this faith and hope. Faith and a good conscience are often coupled (1 Timothy 1:5). We cannot keep the one without the other.
(2) The integrity of his obedience, set forth in all the necessary requisites.
(a) Sincerity. For his conscience was in it, and a good conscience; and the goodness of conscience consisteth in its ability to do its office, in its clearness, purity, tenderness, quietness, peaceableness.
(b) Strictness and exactness.He would keep this good conscience "void of offence." It may be understood —
(a) Passively, that conscience be not offended, or receive wrong by any miscarriage of ours, for it is a tender thing. The least dust in the eye hindereth its use, so doth sin offend and trouble the conscience.
(b) Actively, that we offend not, nor offer wrong to others.
(3) Impartiality, "Both towards God and towards men." There are two tables, and we are to take care we do not give offence to God or men, by neglecting our duty either.
(4) Constancy, "Always." A conscience brought forth for certain turns is not a good conscience.
4. The laborious diligence wherewith he carried it on: "I exercise myself." We must make it our constant labour and endeavour —
(1) By a diligent search into the mind of God (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:10, 17).
(2) By a serious inquiry into the state of our own hearts and ways (Psalm 4:4; Jeremiah 8:6).
(3) By a constant watchfulness (Psalm 39:1).
(a) By a serious resistance and mortification of sin (Matthew 5:29, 30; Galatians 5:24).
(4) By the use of means which God hath appointed.
II. THE REASONS WHY THIS IS TRUE CHRISTIANITY.
1. The necessity of it. It is a great question how far obedience belongeth to faith, whether as a part or as an end, fruit and consequent. I answer — Both ways. Consent of subjection is a part of faith, actual obedience a fruit of it.
2. The comfort of obedience to us. We cannot make out our evidence and plea but by a uniform, constant, and impartial obedience.
3. It is for the honour of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12; John 15:8; Philippians 1:1).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
WEB: But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets;