Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.…
I. HE BROUGHT A GREAT MESSAGE. It was not an ingenious development of a trivial theme. No doubt the account of the sermon is only the merest outline, but it calls to a living interest in the few great themes of the gospel. A true religious knowledge is not an infinite number of anatomical bits of information about the Bible. He whose heart and mind are filled with the thoughts of God's sovereignty, and Christ's redemption and the resurrection life, has a true knowledge of the revelation. Other things are important only as they throw light on these.
II. HE REINFORCED HIS MESSAGE BY THE POWER OF HIS OWN INTENSE CONVICTION. He was not half persuaded merely of the truth he preached. It was a message to the utterance of which he had given his life, upon the truth of which he had staked his own destiny.
III. THE GOSPEL MESSAGE THUS BROUGHT TO ANTIOCH REVEALED THE HEARTS OF HER CITIZENS.
1. The Jews Were narrow, unteachable, holding what truth they had in unrighteousness: they judged themselves "unworthy of eternal life."
2. The Gentiles awakened to a transient interest in a new religion, in their sudden excitement betokened their lack of thought and earnestness in receiving the grace of God. They were the "stony-ground" hearers.
3. The "devout women of honourable estate" were able to influence the municipal authorities, and to stir up persecution against the apostles. In so doing, they passed judgment upon themselves, separating themselves from the greater number of "honourable women," who elsewhere greatly aided the apostles in their labours.
4. The Roman authorities, tolerant of the Jewish religion because careless about all religion; deprecating excitements, solicitous for peace; easily persuaded, for the sake of quiet, to banish the disturbers — their irreligious nature is disclosed to us. Thus the gospel revealed the hearts of all. It compelled all to take sides. And so now men cannot come into the full light of the gospel without showing what manner of men they are.
IV. THE MESSAGE NOT ONLY REVEALED CHARACTER — IT FORMED CHARACTER. God's Word does not leave men as it finds them. The gospel has power to quicken the conscience; but when the clearer voice of conscience is disobeyed, estrangement from God is deepened. More evident and remarkable was its transforming power upon those that believed. They were "filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost."
V. THE OPPOSITION OF THE JEWS TO THE MESSAGE SUGGESTS THAT THERE IS A LIMIT TO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL AT GIVEN TIMES AND PLACES. Having clearly set before the Jews the claims of the gospel, Paul had discharged his obligation (ver. 46). Every man who has learned from the gospel what the state of the natural heart is, and what the power is by which God renews the heart, and what the channel is through which Divine grace comes to men, has learned enough to be fully accountable for his own salvation. To him the Church has performed her mission and discharged her obligation. When she has set before you the gift of God, which ix eternal life, you must judge yourself worthy or unworthy of it.
VI. THE GOSPEL BRINGS ABIDING AND INCREASING BLESSINGS TO THOSE WHO RECEIVE IT (ver. 52). The persecution of Paul and Barnabas did not shake their faith. By the presence of the Holy Ghost they were freed from shame and fear, and filled with joyous hope.
(W. G. Sperry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.