Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision:
I. THE STRENGTH OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY IS OF GOD. There is an acknowledgment here —
1. That the preservation of life and health is from God. It is very evident that a reference is here made to the wonderful deliverances by which his career had been marked.
2. That the preservation of consistency, faithfulness, and zeal is of God. We know well that that God who imparted spiritual life is alone able to preserve and to consummate and to complete it. One great truth must be remembered here — viz., the great importance of our seeking the help of God in prayer.
II. THAT THE TOPIC OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY IS CHRIST. Note the very careful and emphatic endeavour of the apostle to state the perfect identification of the great subject of his own personal ministry, with the arrangements of the early economy (vers. 5-7; Acts 22:14, 15). The only difference between the law and the gospel consisted not in nature but in degree. That was the type, this was the antitype — that was the shadow, this was the substance — that was the prediction, this was the fulfilment — that was the first fruits, this was the harvest — that was the dawning of the morning, this was the splendour of the day. Now, the one grand topic that is here mentioned is that the excellency of the two united dispensations of Divine mercy is found in the person and work of Christ. In the Mosaic economy, the various arrangements which there were made were all concentrated in Christ; and Moses delivered Codes by which the attention of mankind was to be directed to Him. Ceremonies, sacrifices, predictions, and events were all made to offer one united testimony to Him (Luke 24:25-27, 44). Here is Christ —
1. In His mediatorial humiliation. "That Christ should suffer." It was fixed in the eternal purposes that the Messiah, when He came in the fulness of time, should be given, to suffering and to death, and accomplish the object of the great sacrifice for sin which, through the medium of faith, should be the one ground of pardon and eternal salvation. From the creation of the world this great object was declared. All the victims whose blood was shed upon the Patriarchal and Jewish altars were. only so many signs and symbols of that great offering which, in the fulness of time, was presented on the summit of Calvary. And if we refer to the prophets, did not David speak of the sufferings of Christ? (Psalm 22.). Did not Isaiah speak of Him who was to be wounded for our transgressions? etc. Did not Daniel testify that the Messiah should be cut off, but not for Himself? Did not Zechariah tell of Him who was to be pierced? The great doctrine of the Atonement by the sufferings of Christ is one upon which both men and angels delight to dwell. It is a doctrine which graces all the perfections of Jehovah. It is a doctrine which chases away the clouds of despair, and sheds around the tomb the brightness of life and immortality.
2. In His mediatorial glory. "And that He should be the Firstborn that should rise from the dead." The types of the resurrection of Christ might be found in the ceremonial law, more particularly in the reappearance of the high priest on the great day of annual atonement. That this was one great topic of the prophetic writings must be evident to every person reading Acts 13, and one which occupied much space in the ministry of the apostles. That Christ, in our text, should be said to be the first to rise, cannot be considered in the sense of priority in point of time; for it is well known that several persons were raised before; and therefore it must signify a priority in point of dignity and importance. He is elsewhere called the Firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence, signifying that He was more illustrious and dignified than anyone restored, or to be restored, from the abodes of the sepulchre. With regard to the precise purposes for which Christ's resurrection in His mediatorial capacity was accomplished, He rose —
(1) To testify to the fact of His Messiahship. His resurrection was a proof beyond dispute that He really was all that He professed, and that He really deserved all that He demanded.
(2) To proclaim the acceptance of His sacrifice.
(3) To give a pledge of the resurrection of His people. Christ is the First fruits of them that sleep.
3. In His mediatorial influence. "And that He should show light unto the people," etc. Light, in this application, is a figure frequently used in the Scriptures (Isaiah 49:6). And when Simeon held the infant Redeemer in his arms, he said, Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation,...a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of Thy people Israel." Here, it will be observed, that light is the emblem of knowledge opposed to ignorance, of holiness opposed to impurity, of happiness opposed to misery; and these blessings are held through the administration of our gracious Messiah to be imparted to the nations of the earth.
III. THAT THE OBJECTS OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY ARE ALL MANKIND. "Witnessing both to small and great." This commission was precisely accordant with the general commission which our Redeemer gave to all His apostles, and through them to all His ministers to the end of the world.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: