And he said to me, Depart: for I will send you far hence to the Gentiles.
I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. In the narrative given in Acts 9:15 this command is said to have come direct to Ananias, and to have been by him communicated to St. Paul. Of the direct message to St. Paul himself subsequently, at Jerusalem, this appears to be our only account (comp. the narrative in Acts 26:17). It is to be noticed that, though St. Paul thus distinctly knew what his mission was, he waited patiently until Divine directions or Divine providence clearly opened the way for him. And, while he waited, he cheerfully did the work which came to his hand. We proceed to dwell on three points:
(1) the sphere to which St. Paul was sent;
(2) the fitness of St. Paul for work in this particular sphere; and
(3) the influence which work in this sphere had upon St. Paul's own apprehensions of the truth. Noticing first what a strain upon his own Jewish feelings it must have involved for him to undertake this work, and how his doing so proves the sincerity and completeness of his conversion.
I. THE SPHERE TO WHICH THE APOSTLE WAS SENT. "The Gentiles." Jews divided the whole world into Jews and Gentiles; so St. Paul's mission was to all outside the Jewish nation. Illustrate how the prevalence of the Greek tongue, and the wide supremacy of the Roman rule, at this time opened the whole world to the gospel. Illustrate what variety of classes and of people the apostle met with in traveling, as he did, from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum. Recall the circumstances under which the apostle came to leave the synagogues and devote himself exclusively to the Gentile populations. And show what preparation there was for the gospel in Gentile spheres,
(1) in the common religious wants of men; and
(2) in the sense of dissatisfaction with idolatry which then so widely prevailed. As representative of the various Gentile spheres, give some account of Lystra, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome.
II. THE FITNESS OF THE APOSTLE FOR WORK IN THIS PARTICULAR SPHERE. Find the fitnesses in:
1. His birth as a Grecian Jew.
2. His knowledge of the Greek language, and partial Greek education. All the other apostles were Aramaic Jews. St. Paul's early associations prepared him to take larger and more comprehensive views of Christian truth, when once his strong Jewish prejudices were overcome.
3. His unquestioning sense of a Divine call.
4. The permanent influence exerted on him by Stephen's death, and probably by Stephen's teachings.
5. The clear apprehension he had of Christian truth, in its distinction from, but full harmony with, the principles of Judaism. 6. Further fitness may be found on a careful estimate of St. Paul's peculiarities of mind, disposition, and character.
III. THE INFLUENCE WHICH WORK IN HIS SPHERE HAD UPON THE APOSTLE'S OWN APPREHENSIONS OF THE TRUTH. This is a difficult subject to treat, and involves a very close study of St. Paul's doctrinal position at different points of his ministry. To open it out wisely, the Epistles must be chronologically arranged and fitted into the record in the Acts, and compared with the apostle's speeches. An illustration may be taken from the Epistle to the Ephesians, which clearly shows that the mystical and superstitious people of Ephesus exercised such an influence on St. Paul as led him to consider some great speculative questions, and, we may say, tended to exercise and develop his mystical faculty. The influence of work among the Gentiles may be illustrated in relation:
1. To doctrine. It led to the first attempts at a philosophy of the Christian religion.
2. To practical Christian life. St. Paul had to find out how to adjust Christian principles to Gentile life and manners, and so he was led to develop a system of Christian ethics. Impress that the work to which God calls us will also be
(1) our service to others; and
(2) our own personal culture. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.