September 5, 2014

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                

Subtopic A: The First Missionary Journey (Acts 13, 14)                             

                                                                            

Lesson: IV.A.3: Part-1 Pisidian Antioch: Paul's Sermon & the                Reaction (13:13-52)

 

Part 1: verses 14-31

Part 2: verses 32-37

Part 3: verses 38-41

Part 4: verses 42-52

 

 

PART 1: VERSES 14-31

 

Introduction

 

 When we get together for the purpose of worshipping God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The mere reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be explained and sometimes illustrated, and the people should be encouraged by it. This is helping people to do that which is necessary to make the word profitable, that is, to apply it to themselves. Everything mentioned in this sermon, should encourage the Jews to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah. Paul’s message moves from David to the Son of David, and shows that Jesus Christ is his promised Seed; that He is a Saviour who can do for them that which Israel’s judges could not do—save them from their sins. When the apostles preached Christ as the Saviour, they always preached Christ crucified. Our complete separation from sin, is represented by our being buried with Christ. But He rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption: this was the great truth to be preached. And every view of the Lord's dealings with his church, regardless of how brief or vague, reminds us of His mercy and long-suffering, and of man's ingratitude and disobedience.

 

 

Commentary

 

13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.

 

Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos

“Now when Paul and his company”—literally, those around or with the Apostle Paul—Barnabas and John—and perhaps others who had been converted at Paphos; for it was common for many of the converts to Christianity to accompany the apostles in their travels—“Which when the brothers knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus” (Acts 9:3O). 

 

A very obvious change may be observed here in the relations of Barnabas and Paul. Until now Barnabas has always occupied the first rank. It has been "Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; verses 2, 7). But now the whole mission, including Barnabas, is described as “Paul and his company,” and from this day forward it is usually "Paul and Barnabas" (verses. 43, 46, 50; Acts 15:2, 22, 35); though in Acts 14:14 and Acts 15:12, 25, the old order is retained. This phrase—“Paul and his company—was probably chosen to indicate the new position which the Apostle began at this time to occupy as the leader of the mission to the Gentiles. Hereafter the Apostle of the Gentiles becomes the central figure in nearly every scene of the Acts. The beauty of Barnabas's character can be seen in his cheerful acquiescence in this change of relative position, and his single-minded devotion to the success of the work. 

 

“Paphos”(also known as"urbs maritima") was a city on the sea coast of the island of Cyprus; it was on the western part of the island, to the west of which lay the sea of Pamphylia, over which the apostle and his company sailed to the placementioned next, which was in Pamphylia. It is said that one Apollonius Tyaneus, having got a ship at Seleucia, sailed to Paphos in Cyprus; and from there the apostle, and those that were with him, set sail for “Perga in Pamphylia,” which is mentioned in Acts 27:5And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.” [Lycia was a province in the southwestern part of Asia Minor, having Phrygia and Pisidia on the north, the Mediterranean on the south, Pamphylia on the east, and Carla on the west.]

 

Loosed from Paphos”—better “Departed from Paphos.”

 

“They came to Perga in Pamphylia,”which was a country formerly called “Mopsopia; which now, along with Cilicia, is called Caramania; and Perga was one of its cities. A famous temple of Diana was there, consequently, she was sometimes called Pergea; and every year a great feast was held there in honour of her; consequently, many priests and others, whose interest and honor depended upon their maintaining the worship of that idol, and who, no doubt, were very offended by these foreign teachers, for presuming to find fault with the gods of the country, and with the worship that was paid to them. “Perga” was situated between two great rivers, Oestros and Catarctes. Perga was the capital and metropolis of Pamphylia, and was situated about seven and a half miles inland, on the river Cestrus, which is navigable. There was a constant interaction between Paphos the capital of Cyprus, and Perga the capital of Pamphylia, fostered probably by the two famous temples of Venus and Diana. The absence of any record of evangelizing work there is probably due to the fact that there were no synagogues, and that the Apostles in this mission adhered to the plan of preaching at first to the Jews, and making the synagogue, as it were, their base of operations. They did preach in Perga on their return visit, which is mentioned in Acts 14:25And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia.”

 

 

And John departing from them returned to Jerusalem

“And John,” that is, John Mark, whom Paul and Barnabas took with them, and who ministered to their needs. John Mark was probably the same person as the writer of the second Gospel; afterwards, he was an earnest laborer for Christ, and the Apostle Paul speaks of him with affection—“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner salutes you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom you received commandments: if he come to you, receive him.)” (Colossians 4:10). In Paul’s last Epistle, written almost with a dying hand, there is a touch of unusual sadness in the charge which he, left alone in prison with his old companion Luke, gives to Timothy—“Take Mark, and bring him with you: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2Timothy 4:11). Evidently Paul’s old rebuke had done its work, and, if Mark did join him in his last hours, he probably thanked him for the loving sternness of days gone by,more than anything else.

 

Departing from them

At Perga John Mark left them. But what was the reason for his departure? There is almost as much speculation on this matter as there are Bible commentators. Some of these theories are listed below:

(a)  In order to see his mother at Jerusalem. The pressure of the famine at Jerusalem may have fuelled the desire of the son to minister to the mother’s needs.

(b) He had grown weary of the travel, labor, and fatigue associated with accompanying the apostle, and his company.

(c)  He did not want to go among the Gentiles, since he abhorred the thought of going among them, for any reason.

(d)Perhaps his position as Barnabas's cousin was not as pleasant now that Paul took the first place.

(e)Perhaps his courage failed him, now that they had launched out into the heathen world, where, unlike Cyprus, his Jewish kinsmen were a small minority, and the dangers and weariness were great. Pamphylia was now governed by a proprietor, since it was made an imperial province. Its name denotes that it was inhabited by a mixed race—men from all the tribes, Cilicians, Greeks, etc. 

(f)  He may have recoiled from the perils and hardships of the journey into the interior of the country. Perhaps he was terrified by the threatening speeches of the priests and bigots, or discouraged by the difficulty and danger of the undertaking, or from the distress of traveling so far into unknown regions.

 

Although John Mark departed from them, and returned to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were not discouraged by his deserting them; neither were they deterred from their purpose by the little success which they had at Perga: for, after they left that place, they travelled through various countries of lesser Asia; and, as we shall soon see, they made many converts to Christ, both among the Jews and the Gentiles.

 

His departure was resented by Paul, who looked on his reason for leaving as insufficient, and it laid the foundation for a harsh dispute between him and Barnabas, who was John Mark’s uncle (Acts 15:38), and attributed his leaving to extenuating circumstances. It appears from this that it was not at Paphos in Cyprus, but at Perga in Pamphilia, that he left them , therefore the mistake of some interpreters on this text must be corrected. 

 

Returned to Jerusalem

John “returned to Jerusalem—there is no reason given for his departure either here or elsewhere, but the cause was clearly not one which satisfied Paul according to Acts 15:37, 38—“And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. Paul afterwards dogmatically refused to take Mark with him on his second missionary journey, because he "had departed (or 'fallen off') from them and had not gone with them to the work" (Ac 15:38). There can be no doubt that John had either wearied of it or been deterred by the prospect of the dangers which lay before him orthat he returned to Jerusalem out of his affection for his mother, who lived there. In any case, Paul deemed the reason he gave worthy of reproach, and made Paul unwilling to have him as a companion in the future.

 

 

14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

 

But when they departed from Perga

“But when they departed from Perga,” it was with the intention of continuing their important work. It does not seem that they stayed there very long; nor is there any account of what they did there; though it is certain there was a church of Christ in Perga afterwards, which was very likely planted by the apostles. Later on, Paul and Barnabas preached the word in this place—“and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia” (Acts 14:25)—and no doubt, they were rewarded with success.

 

In the third century there were martyrs from this church at Perga, who suffered under the Emperor Decius; and in the fourth century, we read of a famous church in this city, over which Jovinian was bishop or pastor; and in the "fifth" century there was a church there, whose bishop is mentioned in the catalogue of bishops who assisted in the first council at Ephesus; and, in the same century, the church in Perga was the metropolitan church of Pamphilia; and, in the "sixth" century, one Epiphanius was bishop of Perga; and, in the "seventh" century, it is again spoken of as the metropolitan church of Pamphilia; and, in the "eighth" century, we read that Sisinnius was the bishop of Perga. It is amazing that we can trace the progression of Christianity in this city, far back in its past. 

 

They came to Antioch in Pisidia

 “Antioch in Pisidia” was a country situated almost due north of Pamphylia. Pisidia was a mountainous district rising gradually towards the north, and several historians have been quoted as saying that there were many bandits in this area, from which Paul and his company may have been in danger.

 

It was a long journey from Perga in Pamphylia to“Antioch in Pisidia,” and the route went almost entirely through rugged mountain passes, where "rivers burst out at the base of huge cliffs, or dashed down wildly through narrow ravines;" it must have been a perilous one. The whole region was infested with robbers, as ancient history confirms; and there can be little doubt that many years afterwards Paul alludes to this very journey, when he speaks of his "journeying often," of his "perils of rivers" (as the word is), and his "perils of robbers"—“In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2Co. 11:26). Ifthis journey were taken in May—and even earlier, the passes would have been blocked with snow—it would account for their not staying at Perga, whose hot streets are deserted at that time of the year; men, women, and children, flocks, herds, camels, and asses, all ascending at the beginning of the hot season from the plains to the cool basin-like hollows on the mountains, moving in the same direction taken by our missionaries."

 

After traveling due north into the interior for over a hundred miles, they would reach “Antioch in Pisidia,” which was part of the province of Galatia, and now a Roman colony. It would be a difficult and dangerous journey. The direction of their route was probably determined by the location of the Jewish population, which were always their first audience upon entering a new city, and their door of access to the more pious heathen. 

 

They came to “Antioch in Pisidia,” which was given that name to distinguish it from Antioch of Syria, the city that sent them on this missionary journey. There was another Antioch in Mygdania that was previously called Nisibis; but is now named Antioch, in the Apocrypha. These were a couple of the many cities built by Seleucus Nicator, and named after his father, Antiochus. Under Augustus, they had attracted a considerable Jewish population, among whom our missionaries had made many converts; and among the Gentiles many proselytes.

 

And went into the synagogue on the sabbath day

“And went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day” (Paul made it a point in every place he went, to offer salvation to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles); for though the ceremonial law was abolished by the death of Christ, it still was observed by the Jews, who had their synagogues open for religious services, on that particular day; therefore Paul and Barnabas took the opportunity of going in when they were assembled together, in order to preach Christ to them. Though Paul and Barnabas were on a special mission to the Gentiles, yet they availed themselves of every opportunity to offer the Gospel to the Jews first, for the Law of Moses ought to be a better schoolmaster to bring men to Christ than the law of nature.

 

And sat down.

“And sat down” on one of the seats in the synagogue; either to hear the law and prophets read, which were read every Sabbath day in the synagogues; or else to teach the word, expound the Scriptures, and preach the Gospel of Christ. Sitting was the usual position when this was done—“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down . . .” (Matthew 5:1); so this action implied that they were not listeners only, but teachers. Jesus used to sit, and the disciples stand; but before the destruction of the second temple, all used to teach their disciples while they were sitting. On this occasion, Paul and Barnabas at least heard a part of the law and prophets read, since it was the custom of the Jews to feature this part of God’s word—“For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" (Acts 15:21)—and they also gave a word of exhortation to the people. 

 

Most commentators think that Paul sat down on one of the seats belonging to the rabbis, those "chief seats in the synagogues," which our Lord rebuked the scribes for loving—“As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets” (Mark 12:38, 39). Paul, as a former member of the Sanhedrin, and Barnabas as a Levite," had a fair claim to occupy these seats; but it is more likely that they chose to sit with the ordinary worshippers, where, however, the presence of strangers would be noticed at once.  But if the two evangelist did sit on the “chief seats” that would imply that they asked for permission to address the congregation. You may remembered that the organization of the synagogue excluded the priestly element altogether, and that lay-preaching, assuming the speaker had sufficient training, was an established practice.

 

 

15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

 

And after the reading of the law and the prophets

“And after the reading of the law and the prophets,” which was done every Sabbath day (Acts 15:21), “the rulers of the synagogue sent for Paul and Barnabas.” The order of the synagogue service followed a set pattern which was seldom deviated from. The order of service proceeded as follows:

  1. The prayers, were read by the Sheliach, or angel of the synagogue, with the people standing.
  2. The reading of the Law in Hebrew by the reader, and the interpretation by the interpreter, who, outside of Judaea, generally used the version of the LXX[i] (also called the ‘Septuagint’). This reading, or lesson, was called the Parashah.
  3. The reading and interpreting of the prophets, called the Haphtorah, either by the regular reader or by any one invited by the ruler of the synagogue—“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit . . . He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me’ . . . Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down” (Luke 4:14-20).
  4. Then came the Midrash, the exposition or sermon, which Paul undertook to preach at the invitation of the ruler of the synagogue.

 

“The Law” is comprised of the five books of Moses, which were divided into sections: Genesis was divided into twelve, Exodus into eleven, Leviticus into ten, Numbers into ten, and Deuteronomy into ten, which makes fifty three sectionsin all: so, by reading one on each Sabbath, and two on one of them, they read through the whole Law in a year’s time. They arranged the readings so that they finished at the close of the feast of tabernacles; and that day was called "the rejoicing of the law"; it was a day of rejoicing, to celebrate that they had read through the entire Law. Some say there were fifty four sections, and in that case, two of them must be read together, on two Sabbath days, in order to finish the whole Law in a year. In some synagogues, each section was divided into three parts, and as a result, they finished the law in three years; but this custom was less common. The custom of reading the law, the Jews say, was initiated one hundred and seventy years before the time of Jesus Christ; though some say the division of the law, into sections, was made by Ezra; and others assign it to Moses himself: it is certain it was the procedure followed in the times of Christ and his apostles.

 

“The prophets” refers to seventeen Old Testament books. These are generally divided into two categories, "Major" and "Minor"; based upon the length of the books, not the significance of the men or their prophecies. These books are all eponymous (named for the writer), except for Lamentations.     The reading of the prophets was introduced according to the following account.

 

“When Antiochus Epiphanes burnt the book of the law, and forbad the reading of it, the Jews selected some passages out of the prophets, which they thought came nearest in terminology and substance to the sections of the law, and read them instead of the Law; and when the Law was restored, they still continued the reading of the prophetic passages; and the section read on a given day was called "the dismission", because usually the people were dismissed after it was read, unless someone stood up, and preached or explained the word of God to the people.”

 

The rulers of the synagogue sent unto them

“The rulers of the synagogue” were those persons who were in charge of the synagogue and its services; the principal men of the synagogue, the ruler of it, together with the elders; for there was only one ruler in a synagogue. His duties included keeping everything in order, and directing the affairs of public worship. They designated the individuals who were to read the Law; and called on those whom they would like to address the people, and had the power to inflict punishment, and of excommunicating, etc. (See Mark 5:22Mark 5:35-36Mark 5:38Luke 8:49Luke 13:14Acts 18:8Acts 18:17)

 

“The rulers of the synagogue,” having the responsibility of calling up readers and preachers for each Sabbath service, “sent unto them;” that is, sent for Paul and Barnabas.But that raises several questions, such as:

(a)  Why did they send for the apostles, since it cannot be reasonably thought that they allowed just anyone, whether they knew them or not, to teach in their synagogues?

(b)How did they know that they were teachers, since they were strangers? There are several theories which have been advanced in answer to this question. For example:

                                         i.    They might have concluded this from their outward appearance, their dignity and strength of character.

                                        ii.    They may have noticed that the two men sat down when they came into the synagogue, which was the custom followed by teachers.

                                      iii.    They might have had some knowledge of them, and engaged them in a conversation, before they came into the synagogue.

                                       iv.    They could have dressed in the garb of Rabbis. “The rulers of the synagogue,” would naturally offer such persons an opportunity to address the people.

 

Saying, ye men and brethren

“Men and brethren”—an affectionate manner of beginning a conversation, which recognized them as their fellow countrymen, and as having the same religion, so they thought. The Jews used this phrase when speaking with other Jews, and they may have perceived that Paul and Barnabas were Jews.  

 

If ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on

“If ye have any word,” literally, “If there is any word in you:” this is the kind of speech the Hebrews used, by which is meant that the gifts of God's grace are in us, as you might say in treasure houses, and that they are not ours, but God's. In the same way, David says, “Thou hast put a new song in my mouth” (Psalm 40:3).

 

The gist of the clause is, if they were prepared to preach, or had anything on their minds to say to the people; or if they had, as it is in the original text, "any word of exhortation or comfort" in them, as they definitely had a rich treasure in their earthen vessels, they had leave and liberty to speak it to the people. "A word of exhortation" means any doctrine that might be for instruction and comfort, and at the same time agreeable to the tradition and practices of the Jews. Barnabas was called “Son of exhortation,”—And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, the son of encouragement,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus” (Acts 4:36).This was quite a complement for this man, who had the excellent gift and talent of exhorting—“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23)—which he used for the comforting of distressed minds. He was a very excellent companion for the Apostle Paul, because he also possessed the gift of prophecy or preaching the Gospel.

 

The sermon was preached chiefly for the sake of the common people, men and women: and it is said that "the women, and the people of the earth (or the common people), come to hear the sermon, and the preachers ought to draw out their hearts;” that is, speak out their whole mind, and deliver all they know that may be instructive and profitable. 

 

“If ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on;” after the reading spoken of before, there followed a sermon, or exhortation; which the apostles desired to make.

 

“Say on” is the translation of a Greek word meaning, "speak!"

 

 

16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

 

Then Paul stood up

It was not so that he might be heard better; or merely out of reverence and respect for the rulers, and the people; but to show that he accepted the invitation to speak to the assembly, which meant that he must move to the proper place in the synagogue, as custom required, and sit down and teach from God’s word.

 

And beckoning with his hand

The gesture made by the apostle “with his hand” was one that commanded silence and attention from his listeners, rather than what we commonly describe as beckoning. A similar action by the Apostle Paul is described in Acts 21:40And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying.” Peter is said to have used a similar gesture in Acts 12:17“Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. . .” It was, probably like the “fixing of the eye,” in Acts 13:9; just one of the personal characteristics on which Doctor Luke loved to dwell. We may assume with certainty that throughout this journey Paul used Greek as the common medium of communication.

 

Said, men of Israel

Paul “said, men of Israel” by which he meant the Jews, the natural descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel; he was considered a very honorable person; and “men of Israel” was a common way of addressing a group of Jews: “And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? . . .” (Acts 3:12).The audience probably consisted of born Jews and proselytes and perhaps some Gentiles.

 

The aim of Paul’s sermon was to introduce to them the doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. To do this, he employed his usual wisdom and speech. If he had begun immediately to focus on this subject, he would have probably aroused their prejudice and rage. Therefore, he pursued a method of argument which showed that he was a firm believer in the Scriptures; that he was acquainted with the history and promises of the Old Testament; and that he was not of a mind to call into question the doctrines of their ancestors. The passage which had been read had probably provided a favorable opportunity for him to pursue this train of thought. By going over their history in a summary fashion, and describing the former dealings of God with them, he showed them that he believed the Scriptures; that a promise had been given of a Messiah; and that he had actually come according to the promise.

 

And ye that fear God

This was not said to distinguish some among the Israelites from the rest, as if there were some of them that did not fear God; for the words “And ye that fear God” does not refer to Jews by birth, but rather to proselytes, devout and religious men from among the Gentiles; who were proselyted to the Jewish religion, and attended religious worship with them in their synagogues; and we know that there were such in this synagogue, from Acts 13:43—“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas . . .”; and we find that sometimes the Jews distinguish the proselytes from the Israelites by this very attribute. Proselytes were usually those who, though in the synagogue, were of heathen origin, and had not become proselytes in the full sense of the term, but were known as the so-called “proselytes of the gate;”who had not yet been circumcised, but who had renounced idolatry, and were accustomed to worship with them in their synagogues. It is said in Psalm 128:1: “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.” (Also see Acts 10:2; Acts 15:21; 16:14; 17:4, 17; 18:7.)


Give audience

“Give audience”—literally, “hear ye.” Now to both sorts of persons, both to the proper Jews, and to the proselytes of righteousness, the apostle addresses himself, and desires they would listen to what he had to say; which for our benefit is related in the following verses.

 

 

17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.

 

The God of this people of Israel

“The God of this people of Israel”—this implied a belief that He had been for the most part their God; a favorite doctrine of the Jew. It will be observed that Paul, as far as the formulation of his sermon is concerned, follows in the footsteps of the martyr Stephen, and begins with a recap of the main events in the history of Israel. It was a theme which Israelites never tired of listening to. It showed that the Apostle recognized it as the history of God’s chosen people.

 

 

“The God of this people of Israel (the Jews)— who has shown Himself to be the special friend and protector of this nation. Such a commemoration of the blessings of God to their fathers, as he giveshere, was designed to improve the goodwill of the people toward the speaker, to convince them of their duty to God, and to invite them to believe His promise and its accomplishment in Jesus Christ. This passage contains a summary of the events of the Old Testament.

 

God was the God of Israel in a unique manner.He “chose our fathers”— Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their seed after them, to be a peculiar people to Himself; therefore He is often, as here, called their God, and whom He set apart and blessed with many blessings, civil and religious, above all people upon the face of the earth. The apostle seems mainly to address himself to the Gentiles, the inhabitants of Antioch, and the proselytes of righteousness, now in the synagogue—And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles sought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42). 

 

He “chose our fathers” from among all the nations upon the earth, to be His special people, to make Himself known to them, and to be served and worshipped by them—“For you are an holy people to the LORD your God: the LORD your God has chosen you to be a special people to himself, above all people that are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6-7). He chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be the objects of His special favour, and for their sakes He was pleased to promise the most important blessings to their offspring;

 

The resemblance of this oration to that of Stephen's speech in Acts 7 must strike every one. The natural conclusion is that that speech of Stephen’s made a deep impression upon the Apostle Paul when he heard it at Stephen's trial. The common purpose in the two speeches is to placate and gain the attention of the Jewish hearers by dwelling upon the great events of the history of their fathers, of which they were proud, and claiming for Christians an equal heritage in that history. The speeches diverge in that Stephen sought to show in that history instances of the same stubborn unbelief in their fathers which had led the children to crucify the Lord of glory; but Paul wanted to show how the promises made to their fathers had their fulfillment in that Jesus whom he preached unto them, and how the crucifixion of Christ by the Jerusalem Jews was an exact fulfillment of the Law and the prophets which had just been read to them in the synagogue. In both speeches it is a great idea to exhibit Christianity as the bona fide development of Judaism—“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1).

 

 

And exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt

 “And exalted the people”—this refers either to the great honour and luxuriousness Joseph was raised to, and to the goodwill and privileges conferred on Jacob and his family after he was appointed second in the land, behind Pharaoh; to the great increase of the Hebrew population towards the close of their sojourn in Egypt, and it came at the time when they were the most oppressed and afflicted; or to the astonishing miracles done in their behalf, which raised them up from a low and depressed state of bondage, to freedom, and to special privileges as a nation.

 

The word “exalted” is frequently used in the New Testament in the sense of exalting from a low to a high estate (See Matthew 11:23Matthew 23:12Luke 1:52Luke 10:15Luke 14:11Acts 2:33; Genesis 41:52; Genesis 48:19). The word for “exalt” may have cropped up in the lesson that had just been read.

 

 

“When they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt,” as they did for many years, and as the Lord predicted to Abraham they would—And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13). They were always strangers while living in Egypt. It was not their home. They never mingled with the Egyptian people; never became an integral part of the government; never used their language; never adopted their customs and laws. They were a strange, separate, depressed people there. (See Genesis 36:7; Exodus 6:4; Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19.)

 


And with an high arm brought he them out of it

“And with an high arm”—this expression denotes "great power." The arm denotes "strength," because the arm is used to do almost everything. A “high arm,” is an arm lifted up, or stretched out, and denotes "strength exerted to the utmost." The children of Israel are represented as having been delivered with an "outstretched arm" in Deuteronomy 26:8 and Exodus 6:6. In Exodus 6:1, the expression "With a strong hand," refers to the plagues inflicted on Egypt, by which the Israelites were delivered; to their passage through the Red Sea; and to their victories over their enemies, etc.

 

“And with an high arm He brought them out of the land of it” (Egypt), and out of the oppression they were under, which was a wonderful display of His mighty power and great strength, expressed here by an "high arm" for nothing short of that could have brought deliverance for them— In spite of all the efforts of Pharaoh and his host to detain them in slavery. The apostle wanted them to remember that they owed everything which they obtained from their ancestors to the grace and blessing of God only, and that God may do with His own as He pleases.

 

 

18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

 

And about the time of forty years

It was “forty years” from their coming out of Egypt, to their entrance into the land of Canaan: “The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan” (Exodus 16:35; also see Numbers 33:38).

 

Suffered he their manners in the wilderness

“Suffered he their manners,” which were very rebellious and aggravating; such as their murmuring for water, their rebellion against Moses and Aaron, their idolatry and the false report made by their spies against the land of Canaan; and yet the Lord fed them, and led them, and kept them as the “apple of His eye;” He nourished them; rained manna, and gave them quails from heaven, and furnished a table for them in the wilderness: and though there were instances of God's patience and leniency with them, He was also tempted and tried by them. And they grieved Him during the forty years in the wilderness, which often led to Him taking vengeance upon them, by taking the life of great numbers of them; and even the carcasses of all that generation that came out of Egypt fell in the wilderness; and none of them entered into the land of Canaan, except Joshua and Caleb.

 

This clause has been translated in various ways, such as; "He nourished them," and "He blessed them, and nourished them.” It properly means to tolerate, or endure the conduct of anyone, implying that that conduct is evil, and tends to bring about punishment. This is doubtless its meaning here. Probably Paul had in mind the passage in Deuteronomy 1:31, which says, "And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place;” and does afar better job of reflecting the conciliatory drift of Paul’s teaching. Furthermore, it is not probable that Paul would have begun a sermon by reminding them of the obstinacy and wickedness of the nation. Such a tactic would tend to exasperate rather than to conciliate; but by reminding them of the mercies of God to them, and showing them that He had been their protector, he was preparing them for his main purpose—that of showing them the kindness of the God of their fathers in sending a Saviourto them.

 

“In the wilderness”—the desert through which they passed in going from Egypt to Canaan. Forty years is invariably the time assigned to the wandering in the wilderness (See Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:33, 34; Numbers 32:13; Numbers 33:38; Deuteronomy 1:3; Psalm 95:10, etc.). This was to be remembered and admired through all ages; that God was so patient, and a people could be so disobedient; and yet, all that while,  God was providing for this people; carrying them as if they were in His bosom; like a mother bears the sucking child (Numbers 11:12; Deuteronomy 1:31); or as an eagle beareth her young ones on her wings (Deuteronomy 32:11,12). But it seems God did not bear with their fathers for ever, but destroyed them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:5). First, God bear with those that perished for a long time. Secondly, The succeeding generation did not take that warning which God gave them, but chose instead to follow in their fathers’ footsteps; and while one generation was wearing away, and another coming on, the space of forty years passed, because of the abundant compassion of God towards them, who did not consume themin a moment, as they tempted Him to do.

 

 

19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

 

The whole land was called by the name of one of the principal nations, the Canaanites—thus, the land of Canaan. This was the Promised Land; the holy land, etc.

 

“And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan (Canaan)—in Jewish writings these nations are called the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, and Girgashites; and though they were not entirely destroyed; nor was every one of them put to death, or driven out, because the Israelites did not abide by the warning God had given them—“When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you” (Deuteronomy 7:1). These nations had lived in Canaan for many generations; they erected many kingdoms, defended by fortifications of great strength, as well as by numerous forces with many horses and chariots; but, God allowed some of them to remain in the land to be thorns in the sides of the Israelites; but they were so ravaged and conquered, that they could never recover.

 

 “He divided their land to them by lot”—this refers to the command given in Numbers 26:55-56“Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. What each group inherits will be according to the names for its ancestral tribe. Each inheritance is to be distributed by lot among the larger and smaller groups;"which according toJoshua 14-19, it was carried out and put into effect. Every tribe had its portion assignedto it, by lot (see Joshua 14:1). The whole country was divided up and doled out by lot, for an inheritance, and God supported them in it for many generations. The lot was often used among the Jews to determine important questions. Matthias was chosen by lot to replace Judas—“And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). It was only reasonable that God, having miraculously acquired this land, (for the Israelites took possession of it, rather than having to fight for it), and assumed a special right to it, that he should give it to whom he pleased, and in what proportions he thought best.

 

 

20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

 

And after that he gave unto them judges

Some of Israel’s judges were Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, and Eli; Samuel, according to some commentators is considered both a prophet and judge. “He gave unto them judges”—men who were raised up in an extraordinary manner to administer the affairs of the nation, and to defend it from enemies—Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them” (Judges 2:16).These judges were persons appointed by God to govern and deliver Israel; their authority, power and position was usually confirmed by some extraordinary thing they had done, and their power (which came immediately from God) was absolute.

 

About the space of four hundred and fifty years

The statement in the text assigns 450 years to the period of the judges, but the computation of years has been very controversial. I will not attempt to discuss all the theories, but there are two, which seem to be the most probable. Taking the words as they stand in the Greek—"after that, by the space of four hundred fifty years, He gave judges," the meaning may be, that about four hundred fifty years elapsed from the time of the covenant with Abraham until the period of the judges; which is historically correct, the word "about" showing that chronological exactness was not intended. But taking the sense to be as in our version, that it was the period of the judges itself which lasted about four hundred fifty years, this statement also will appear historically correct, if we include in it the interval of subjection to foreign powers which occurred during the period of the judges, and understand it to describe the whole period from the settlement of the tribes in Canaan to the establishment of royalty. Thus, from the Exodus to the building of the temple were five hundred ninety-two years; deduct forty years in the wilderness; twenty-five years of Joshua's rule; forty years of Saul's reign (Ac 13:2); forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 6:1), there remains just four hundred forty-three years; or, in round numbers, "about four hundred fifty years. But this passage by Paul may not intend to show how long the judges ruled, but when it was, or about what time they ruled; or he may have wanted to show what a long time it took for the Israelites to gain peaceful possession of that promised inheritance, their sins were still keeping good things from them.

 

Until Samuel the prophet

“Until Samuel the prophet,” who was also the last of the judges, was frequently given the title “prophet” by Jewish writers. The Apostle Peter called him a “prophet” in Acts 3:24—“Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.”In the previous verse (22) Moses was mentioned as the first in order. The next in order was Samuel. The same mention of Moses and Samuel occurs in Psalm 99:6. The reason why Samuel is mentioned here is probably that he was the first prophet after Moses who recorded a prediction with regard to the times of the Messiah. The Jews, in their divisions of the books of the Old Testament, reckoned the book of Joshua as the first of the prophets. But in Joshua and Judges there does not occur any distinct prediction of the Messiah. The prophecy in Samuel, to which Peter probably had reference, is in 2 Samuel 7:16. From the time of Moses to Samuel, also, it is probable that no prophet arose. God was consulted by Urim, and Thummim Exodus 28:30Numbers 27:21, and consequently no extraordinary messenger was sent to instruct the nation.

 

 

21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

 

And afterward they desired a king

“And afterward they desired a king,” which the Jews say, was in the tenth year of Samuel’s rule over Israel, or of his judging them—“They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have" (1 Samuel 8:5).  It was predicted early in the history of Israel that they would have a king—“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’be sure to appoint over you a king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite” (Deuteronomy 17:14-15). They were foolish for wanting to be like their neighboring nations in that respect, and insensitive to God’s act of kindness in assuming the character and relation of a king to them. Their great sin in desiring a king was that by that desire they rejected God, who had at that very time a prophet (Samuel) by whom He governed them. Compare:

  • 1 Samuel 8:7—And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
  • 1 Samuel 10:19—But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, 'No, appoint a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans."

 

They had been under a theocracy ever since they came out of Egypt, their laws and their leaders being appointed by God. If their condition had been like that of other nations, their desire would not have been so insulting to God.

 

And God gave unto them Saul

Paul had two things in common with this Saul; they had the same name and belonged to the same tribe: Benjamin. This would have been on the apostle’s mind while he spoke on that Sabbath morning in the synagogue.

 

The son of Cis

Saul, “the son of Cis” is the Greek way of writing the Hebrew name “Kish.” In the Old Testament it is uniformly written as "Kish," and it is regretful that this practice has not been retained in the New Testament—“There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel. . .” (1 Samuel 9:1). So, the name of Saul's father was “Kish” in Hebrew, and “Cis” in Greek.

 

A man of the tribe of Benjamin

Saul . . ., “a man of the tribe of Benjamin,” as was the Apostle Paul. It is natural to think of the Apostle as dwelling on the memory of the hero-king of the tribe to which he himself belonged. This is how Paul described himself—“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin . . .” (Philippians 3:5.). The very fact that he had so recently renounced the name and took on his Greek name—Paul—would bring the associations connected with it more vividly to his recollection.

By the space of forty years

The duration of Saul’s reign is not given in the Old Testament, although Paul assigns forty years to the rein of Saul, which may be confirmed in several ways;

(a)  From his wars with many nations, and his long persecution of David.

(b)From the number of high priests which served during his reign, which were no less than three; Ahiah, Abimelech, and Abiathar.

(c)  From his being a young man when he began to reign (1 Samuel 9:2), and yet at the end of his reign, or at his death, he had a son, Ishbosheth, that was forty years of age—“Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David” (2 Samuel 2:10).Ishbosheth was placed on the throne by Abner after his father’s death

(d)Josephus says (Antiq., book 6, chapter 14, section 9) that he reigned for 18 years while Samuel was alive, and 22 years after his death.

 

We may conclude from this that the length of time assigned in the text is correct.

 

 

22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

 

And when he had removed him

“And when he had removed him,” either by death, or by rejecting him from being king while he was still living. Samuel gave Saul the bad news—For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).This was done because he rebelled against God by sparing the sheep and oxen and valuable property of Amalek, together with Agag the king, when he was commanded to destroy everything (See 1 Samuel 15:8-23). He was put to death in a battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:1-6). The phrase "when he had removed him" probably refers to his rejection as a king, and not to his death; because David was anointed king before the death of Saul, and almost immediately after the rejection of Saul on account of his rebellion when dealing with Amalek (See 1 Samuel 16:12-13).God had taken Saul away by death; for he would not permit David to be the cause of his death.

 

He raised up unto them David to be their king

“He raised up David,” who was of the tribe of Judah “to be their king,” He was raised from a very humble condition, from being a keeper of sheep, to sit upon the throne of Israel.

 

To whom also he gave testimony, and said

“To whom also he gave testimony, and said” to whom he gave testimony (or ‘He bore witness’), I have found David; a type of the Messiah. He chose him to be king, sent Samuel to anoint him, and at long last set him on the throne of Israel.

 

I have found David the son of Jesse

“David the son of Jesse” lived at Bethlehem, where the Messiah was to be born, and he was not a great and well-known figure in Israel; but this is mentioned as an illustration of the distinguishing goodness of God to David.

 

The obvious purpose of this opening statement was, as in the case of Stephen’s speech, to capture the attention of his audience by showing that the speaker recognized all the traditional glories of the people of Israel. It is possible that what we have here is sort of a concise summary of essential points, statements, or facts, relating to the removal of Saul and elevation of David to king.

 

It has been observed that this sentence is a combination and adaptation of two separate verses out of the Old Testament. First, “I have found David my servant” (Psalm 89:20);” and “The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people” (1 Samuel 13:14).

 

A man after mine own heart

God took great delight and pleasure in him; in the general course of his life, and in his principles, aspirations, and plans; he was just like He wanted him to be. This expression, “A man after mine own heart” is found in 1 Samuel 13:14. In simple terms it means a man who would not be rebellious and disobedient as Saul was, but would do the will of God and keep His commandments. This refers, without question, to the public, rather than to the private character of David; to his character as a king. It means that he would make the will of God the great rule and law of his reign, in contrast to Saul, who, as a king, had disobeyed God. At the same time it is true that the prevailing character of David, as a pious, humble, devoted man, was that he was a man after God's own heart, and was cherished by Him as a holy man. He had faults; he committed sin; but who is free from it? He was guilty of great offences; but he also expressed, in a degree equally outstanding, repentance (see Psalm 51); and no less in his private than his public character did he exhibit those traits which were conferred with the heart, that is, the earnest desires, of God.

 

Which shall fulfil all my will

In 1 Samuel 13:14, we are told that "the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart;" and because he sought one, he found one, which was His servant David; but then what follows is not recorded there nor anywhere else, in explicit terms, concerning David—"which shall fulfil all my will.”What comes closest to it, are the words of the Lord to Cyrus, "and shall perform all my pleasure" (Isaiah 44:28). Some are of the opinion that the above words are taken from here by the apostle, and applied to David, because of his concern for the building of the temple; his heart was set upon it, and he made great preparations for it according to the will of God, and he did fulfil all that God wanted him to.Saul had not done it. He had disobeyed God in a circumstance where he had received an express command. The distinguishing characteristic of David would be that he would obey the commands of God and do His will. The evidence that he did; that he maintained the worship of God, opposed idolatry, and sought to promote universal obedience to God among the people is expressly recorded in, 1 Kings 14:8-9, "I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes.You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back.”David pleased Godby his governing the people, subduing their enemies, settling the order of divine worship and service, and preparing things for the building of the temple; and he also had a regard for all the commandments of God, and walked in them, though he was not without his sins and weaknesses.

 

The person who is in harmony with God’s heart, fulfils all the will of God, and does nothing out of self-interest; but if it is God’s will for him to do or to suffer anything, he is ready and willing to do it; and he prays daily that the will of the Lord may be done.

 

23 Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

 

The promise of God mentioned here may be the one referred to in 2 Samuel 7:12“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.” (Compare: Psalm 132:11; Zechariah 3:8-9; Isaiah 11:1; Acts 2:30; Romans 1:3)God raised up (sent to), on behalf of the nation Israel a Saviour, Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth), whose name signifies “a Saviour,” who is the son of David, according to the flesh. The sense is, “seeing that God had promised that the Messiah would spring from David's loins, in the fullness of time He had sent Him, or caused Him to come by assuming a human nature and by putting on the flesh of a virgin, who was of the house and lineage of David. He came first to the people of Israel (Acts 13:46), though they for the most part snubbed and rejected Him; however, he was raised up for the spiritual Israel of God, that is, all the elect, whether Jews or Gentiles; and He would be their Saviour from sin, Satan, and the Law, and every enemy, with a spiritual and eternal salvation of both body and soul; and He was a very able, willing, and suitable Saviour, as well as a perfect and complete one.” God, in His infinite wisdom, appointed Jesus Christ to be His salvation, and in His covenant established Him as such; and in the prophecies of the Old Testament spoke of him as the Saviour and Redeemer of His people; and in the fullness of time sent Him, and raised Him up of David's seed, according to the promise he made to David. The first promise of a Saviour was made to Adam and Eve, where He is called “the seed of the woman;” next He was promised to Abraham, that He should be of his seed; and then to Judah, that He would be from his tribe; and after that to David, that He would be of his family; and all this has been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah, who is frequently called David's son (Matthew 1:1Luke 18:38,39).Now, with all this in his mind, the apostle begins his sermon with God’s choice of the Jewish fathers, and relates many of the blessings bestowed upon the people of Israel; his idea was to guide them to comprehend this special mercy promised them, and now fulfilled in Christ, which he intended to enlarge upon as he develops the theme of his discourse.

 

This verse leads to the great announcement which Paul had to make regarding the next great step in God's dealings with Israel, for the preceding ones; the redemption from Egyptian bondage, and the kingdom of David, were preparatory to the actual coming of the Son of David, the Messiah, to save his people, Israel. His personal name "Jesus" was designed to express His character as Savior—“And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It is, of course, probable that the names of Jesus and of Paul were not entirely unknown, even in those remote regions of Pisidia. No Jew could have gone to Jerusalem to keep a feast in the recent past without having heard something of the one or of the other. Paul’s tone is clearly that of one who assumes that their story is already vaguely known, and who comes to offer knowledge and clarity.

 

 

24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

 

When John had first preached before his coming

“When John had first preached before his coming,” or rather, "before He had begun His public ministry;” for John did not preach before the coming of Christ in the flesh, since he was born a mere half a year before Him; but before He surfaced and was made known to Israel; before he began His work as a prophet and teacher of the people: and this reveals the business of John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Christ, and went before Him to prepare the way for Him, to give notice of His coming, and to give testimony of Him; and here, the apostle presented John’s testimony, as something which the Jews could not reject and deny, since he was acknowledged by all the people as possessing so much godliness and integrity, and of being such a great prophet. John prepared the people for the reception of the Messiah, by preaching, “the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.”

 

John the Baptist did not speak of Christ’s coming, as the other apostles had done, as a thing which was still a great way off; but he spoke of it as if it was here and now; something they would experience and observe with their own eyes. The Apostle John reported what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus coming—The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29, 36).

 

The baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel

John not only administered the ordinance of baptism, but he preached the doctrine of it, and required repentance, in those who came to have it administered to them: for that reason it is called the “baptism of repentance;” and he did it publicly before all the people, when the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, came to him. Mark 1:4 states, "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." One commentator wrote that John “baptized in water all who repented and came for water baptism. That is all there is to it." If that had been "all there is to it," we would be done with this verse, but I cannot resist making a few comments on Mark 1:4. Notice, that it says, “. . . baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” The word “for” as used here frequently means "because of" instead of the other way it may be used. For example, verse 44 of the same chapter says, “And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” Here the leper, who is already cleansed, is told to offer “for thy cleansing.” Now, did he offer in order to be made clean, or because he was already clean? Well, Jesus had already cleansed him of leprosy and after cleansing told him to offer “for” it. How do we know this is the proper use of the word “for” in the clause “. . . baptized for the remission of sins,” (Mark 1:4)? Because those who repent of sin have everlasting life, are saved, born again, sons of God, in the family of God, etc. (See Acts 11:18; Gal. 3:26, and other Scriptures). He point is, baptism is for the remission of sins, but the ones repenting, and only those, were baptized by John the Baptist; therefore, we must conclude “for” as used here means “because of” and not in order to obtain remission.

 

 

25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

 

And as John fulfilled his course

“And as John fulfilled his course”—better “was fulfilling;” the tense implying continuous action, which is currently in progress. In other words, “As he was engaged in completing his work.” His ministry is called a course or race, that which was to be run, or completed.

 

John the Baptist “fulfilled his course;” that is, the course of his ministry, or of his life: in either case, he ran as one in a race. His course or race was the work of the ministry which he was called to; and his preaching and baptizing, which were the race set before him to run, and in which he ran well, were proof enough of the success of his ministry. The life of every Christian is a race, and this is especially true of a minister of the Gospel, and it requires strength, courage, agility, patience, and perseverance. This world is the place where they run; and this is the only place where they will run; in heaven they will sit down on the throne with Christ. And how do they run? They run to fulfil their duty, and according to the rules given in God's commandments. At the finish line, the mark they have in view, which they keep their eye on, and to which they direct all their efforts, is Christ; and glory is the incorruptible crown they run for, and when they have finished their course (race), it will be given to them by the chief shepherd and righteous judge—I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)

 

He said whom think ye that I am? I am not he

“He said, whom think ye that I am? I am not he.” These may not be the precise words which the evangelists have recorded, but the sense is the same. Compare:

  • John 1:20: “And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.”
  • Matthew 3:11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
  • Mark 1:7: “And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.”
  • Luke 3:16: “John answered , saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

 

“I am not he,” that is, the Messiah;which they were in such expectation of, and so inquisitive about. The apostle seems to refer to John 1:19 when the Jews asked him who he was, and he freely declared he was not the Christ; there the question is put to him by them, and here it is put to them by him; on both occasions the sense is the same, that he was not the Messiah, but he bore testimony to him.

 

But behold there cometh one after me

“But behold there cometh one after me,”meaning Jesus, who was the Messiah. Christ began His life (as to the flesh) after John, and He began His ministry after him, and in that respect may be said to come after him. When John spoke these words, Jesus was coming after him from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by him, and who in a little while after that began His public ministry of the word. John was to embark first, and then Jesus after him, because he was the harbinger of the Messiah, whose coming he was to proclaim and prepare men for, and whose person he was to point out; for though He is said to be after him, He was not in any sense inferior to him: John was born into the world before Christ, yet he as the eternal Son of God was before John, was from the beginning, even from eternity; John initiated his ministry before Him, but Christ was not below him in the dignity of His person, nor in the nature and excellency of His office; and John was careful to secure the honour and glory of Christ, and to prevent any low opinion that might be attached to Him because of what he had said.

 

Whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose

“Whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose;” a well-known expression, suggesting that he was unworthy to be His servant, or even to perform the lowliest service for Him that could be imagined; so far was he from assuming any preference to him on account of his being before Him, as His forerunner. (See Matthew 3:11;John 1:20, 27.)

 

 

26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

 

Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham

“Men and brethren” is how the apostle addressed thosein the synagogue, who were Jews by birth; and it was very pleasing to them. Perhaps he calls them "men,” not only for the reason that they shared the common nature of mankind, but because they took this name exclusively to themselves, and denied it to the nations of the world; which they may have deduced from Ezekiel 34:31“And you my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, said the Lord GOD.”

 

He uses the most respectful and fraternal language when he addresses them as “brethren;” because they were his countrymen; and "children of the stock of Abraham,” with respect to their lineage and descent, for they gloried in being the children of God, and descendents of great and godly men; men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc.; to the Jews he became as a Jew. 

 

“Children of the stock of Abraham,” or rather, descendants of Abraham; you who regard Abraham as your ancestor. He means here to address particularly the native-born Jews; and this designation is used because they highly valued themselves on account of their descent from Abraham—“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. (Matthew 3:9); and because the promise of the Messiah had been given specifically to Abraham.Christ was promised and sent appropriately to the Jews.

 

Whosoever among you feareth God

“Whosoever among you feareth God” (Better: “those among you that fear God”)is how Paul addressed the proselytes among them. (Compare Acts 13:16); however, some think the devout Pisidians, or men of that country, are meanthere; but it may indicate the apostle’s hope concerning these Jews, that they were men who feared God.

 

To you is the word of this salvation sent

“To you is the word of this salvation sent (or, sent forth). The Apostle through the whole speech avoids, as much as possible, offending any Jewish prejudice, and he classifies himself with his hearers where the subject allows him to do so. “The word of this salvation” refers to the message of salvation. It was sent chiefly to the Jewish people. The Saviour was sent to that nation—“Then Jesus said to the woman, "I was sent only to help God's lost sheep—the people of Israel" (Matthew 15:24);and it was God’s intention to offer the message of life to them first—Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). “The word of this salvation” can be taken two ways; it can be applied to Jesus Christ as Savior (1), or to the Gospel message (2).

 

  1. Jesus Christ as Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ himself, the essential and eternal "Logos;"[ii] Christ, who is the incarnate Word, or the Word made flesh—The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He is the author of salvation, and he went first to the Jews, who were His people. Jesus is also called the Word in John 1:1—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
  2. The Gospel message. The Gospel is the glad tidings of salvation; and the apostle had reminded them that he was not speaking about something that belonged to others, but of things pertaining to their personal salvation. He spoke of a marvelous salvation (this salvation); of which, there has never been one that is better or greater, nor will a greater one ever be published. The Gospel, which gives an account of the author of spiritual and eternal salvation, of His person, and of His manner of obtaining it, and of the nature of salvation, and who the persons are to whom it belongs. Certainly, we are concerned for the salvation of our own souls, and if we accept or neglect this salvation, it is for ourselves we do it. Oh, I pray with all my heart that in this respect, our self-interest would prevail!

 

The Gospel is not a set of rules, which by complying with, men may be saved, which is true of faith, repentance, and good works, which are not terms of salvation, but either blessings, or parts or fruits of salvation. The Gospel is a declaration of salvation itself, and of it being a thing done by Christ alone; it declares him to be the only able, willing, and all sufficient Saviour, and the salvation he has crafted at Calvary to be a great one, complete, spiritual, and everlasting; and that those that believe in him shall be saved with it.

 

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

 

For they that dwelt at Jerusalem, and their rulers

“For they that dwelt at Jerusalem, and their rulers,” that is to say, both the inhabitants (or, ‘common people’) of that city, and the great Sanhedrim which met therehad a hand in our Savior’s death: because they did not know Jesus the Saviour, whom God had raised up of the seed of David, and to whom John the Baptist bore witness—they had rejected and murdered Jesus; but, it must be understood that this does not apply to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and members of the Sanhedrim.

 

There is a contrast that can be made between the Jews addressed by Paul and the Jews at Jerusalem—the Jerusalem Jews have rejected Christ; and in consequence of their rejection, you (those Jews who were listening to Paul), who had no part in crucifying the Lord of glory, are invited to take their place. However, his words may be taken as expressing the reason why this salvation is complete and capable of being offered to them. The view which the apostle expresses here is that the more immediate guilt for Christ's death lay with the rulers and people of Jerusalem, and he lovingly hoped that the people of Antioch would not reject Jesus and the Gospel of salvation, since Antioch was a great distance from Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem had acted out of ignorance, since they knew neither Christ the Word, nor the word (of the Gospel) concerning Christ; but in this case, ignorance was not an acceptable excuse—it was their sin, since they had the means by which they might have come to the knowledge of Christ. 

 

Because they knew him not

“Because they knew him not,” that is, though some in Jerusalem were ignorant of the fact, yet there were others that knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and rejected him anyhow; but the apostle chose to not mention them, because he did not want to irritate and provoke the Jews at Jerusalem; but rather he spoke to his listeners, who were really ignorant of Christ: or else this may be understood as referring to the Gospel, the word of salvation, which the Jews knew nothing about. 

 

This verse is designed, not to reprimand the Jews at Jerusalem, but to introduce the fact that Jesus had died, and had risen again. With great wisdom and tenderness, Paul speaks of the murderers of the Saviour in such a manner as not to infuriate, but, as far as possible, to diminish their crime. There was sufficient guilt in the murder of the Son of God to fill the nation with alarm, even after all that could be said to tone down the deed—"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:36-37).When Paul says, "They knew him not," he means that they did not know He was the Messiah—“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8); they were ignorant of the true meaning of the prophecies of the Old Testament; they regarded him as an impostor—“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders” (Acts 3:17).

 

Nor yet the voices of the prophets

“Nor the voices of the prophets” is better; "nor the writings (or, their propheciesconcerning the Messiah) of the prophets,” is even better. They expected a prince and a conqueror, but did not expect a Messiah that was poor and despised; that was a man of sorrows and that was to die on a cross.

 

Which are read every sabbath day

The Apostle appeals to the synagogue ritual from which the discourse started, which in itself bears witness, not to the popular notions of a conquering Messiah, but to the true idea of Christ as the chief of sufferers, which had been realized in Jesus. “Which are read every Sabbath” in the synagogues, is better. But though the Scriptures were read constantly, yet they were ignorant of their true meaning. They were blinded by pride, and prejudice, and preconceived opinions. People may read the Bible most of their lives and never understand it.

 
They have fulfilled them in condemning him

All things came to pass in Christ, which the Prophets foretold concerning the Messiah: so that by this also it appears that He is the true and only Savior: and yet, those who refused to receive Him, and went on to persecute Him most cruelly, and eventually murder Him, even though he was innocent—they are not to be excused. The prophets told of the place where he would suffer, and the method of His suffering and death.By putting him to death they have accomplished what was foretold. Compare:

  • Acts 4:28: “But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will.”God's decrees are from eternity; there is nothing that comes to pass, except what he has determined beforehand should be done, either by Him causing it to happen, or doing it through others, or allowing it to be done. Whatever was done to Christ, either by Jews or Gentiles, by Herod or Pontius Pilate, was according to the secret will of God, and the covenant He made with Christ,
  • Luke 24:25, 26: “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"


28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

 

And though they found no cause of death in him

“And though they found no cause of death in Him,” that is, no crime that deserved death; they tried to find one, but could find none; they bribed false witnesses, who brought charges against Him, but could not support them; therefore, Pilate, His judge, declared His innocence several times, and wanted to let Him go. Technically, the Sanhedrin had condemned our Lord on the charge of blasphemy—What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death” (Matthew 26:66); but they had been unable to prove the charge by providing adequate evidence (Matthew 26:60), but finally they condemned Him by extorting words from His own lips. When they came before Pilate they shrank at first from promoting that accusation, and contented themselves with stating in general terms that they had condemned Him as a malefactor[iii] (John 18:30).

 

After all their efforts; after the treason of Judas; after their employing false witnesses; still He was not charged with a crime. The Sanhedrin condemned him for blasphemy; and yet they knew that they could not substantiate the charge before Pilate, and therefore, they endeavored to obtain his condemnation on the ground of sedition—Then said they all, Are you then the Son of God? And he said to them, You say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth” (Luke 22:70-71).He was a Lamb without blemish; neither had he offended the rabble that was so slanderous against him, unless by such vast goodness and kindness towards them he associated them with ingratitude. 


Yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain

“Yet asked they of Pilate that he should be slain” is better. When the governor appeared to be wavering, they became more persistent in demanding the Lord’s death, and attempted to terrify him, saying that by their law He ought to die because He made Himself the Son of God (John 19:7), and that by making Himself a king He spoke against the emperor (John 19:12). The power of life and death was, at that time, in the hands of the Romans; and in this case, the power of putting him to death rested with Pilate, and not in them: and therefore they were pressuring him to order His execution, in spite of his innocence—“Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place” (Luke 23:4-5).

The narrative of this verse is exactly the same as Luke 23:4, 5, 14-23.

 

 

29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

 

And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him

“When they had fulfilled all that was written of him”— Paul had studied in the same school of prophetic interpretation as the writers of the Gospels, and saw as they did, in all the details of the Crucifixion, the fulfilment of that which had been written beforehand.

 

When they had vilified and reproached Him in the most contemptuous and degrading manner; struck and scourged Him, and pierced His hands and His feet, by nailing Him to a rough wooden cross; when they had given Him vinegar to drink—“They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21);when they had crucified Him between two thieves, and parted His clothing and cast lots on His robe; when they had pierced His side; the various prophecies which received their fulfilment in the betrayal, harsh treatment, and the other circumstances that followed the death of Jesus. When they had pierced His side, and it was sufficiently evident that His life had left Him; all that had been written of Him in the Psalms and Prophets was fulfilled.

 

Theytook him down from the tree

“The tree” was the cross, on which He was crucified. Those who “took him down from the tree,” were not the same persons that pressured Pilate to have Him crucified, but others; and though they were some of the rulers; Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, who were Jews and secret disciples of Jesus, they did not give their consent for His death—Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds” (John 19:38-39).

 

And laid him in a sepulcher

“And laid him in a sepulcher,” in a new one, in which never man lay; a sepulcher which Joseph had hewed out of a rock for himself, and which was both sealed and guarded. Though the burial of Christ was an act of honor and love to Him by the disciples to whom the body was committed, yet, His enemies obtained a guard of soldiers to keep watch over it in order to prevent someone stealing the Savior’s body, which they believed was a possibility. The apostle regards this as the last manifestation on their part of hate for the Saviour, but God laughed at all their precautions by "raising Him from the dead." “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; HE HAS RISEN, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay’” (Matthew 28:5, 6).

 

 

30 But God raised him from the dead:

 

Though Christ’s life was taken away by man, and it was clear that He was dead when His body was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb; yet, the cords of death could not hold Him, when God the Father raised him from the dead by His power, andlaughed at all their precautions. This was the proof that God had now fulfilled the promise made unto Abraham and to David, that One would come from their seed, in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, by being justified through faith in Him, in contrast to the Law of Moses, which was not able to justify anyone. And elsewhere, in Romans 1:4, the Apostle says this about Jesus “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

We must set the glory of the resurrection against the shame of the cross, and the grave. And the resurrection is proved by the witnesses who saw it, and by the testimonies of the Prophets.The resurrection was necessary, because it put a stop to people being offended by our Savior’s dying so shameful and cursed a death, and it took away the scandal of the cross. Paul shows that His resurrection was as glorious, as His death could be humiliating, since by it Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4).

 

 

31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

 

And he was seen many days

“And he was seen” for “many days,” is better. He was seen, at certain times, for the forty days between His resurrection and ascension—“To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Christ was seen, not only by the apostles, but by the Galilean women who traveled with him to Jerusalem—“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher . . . And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” (Matthew 28:1, 9)—and by more than five hundred at once—“After that, he was seen of above five hundred brothers at once; of whom the greater part remain to this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6)—which shows how very much God desired this great article of our faith and object of our hope to be corroborated and confirmed to us.

 

The language of this verse is reminiscent of one who had conversed with the witnesses, and had convinced himself of the truth of their testimony. We find what the Apostle had in mind in a more expanded form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

 

Of them which came up with him from Galilee

 The risen Lord was seen many days “of them which came up with him from Galilee” to Jerusalem, and though this is true of several women who followed Him from Galilee, and to whom He appeared after His resurrection, such as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome the mother of Zebedee's children, and others; however, this was chiefly a reference to the apostles of Christ, who were Galileans, who had traveled with Christ from that country to Jerusalem, when he went there to suffer and die. The Apostles, and the body of Christ’s followers, were drawn from Galilee, insomuch that, before the Crucifixion, Galileans was a name by which they were known (Mark 14:70). He was seen by others; but the apostles are especially mentioned, since they were chosen for this purpose, to bear witness to Him, and they were very qualified to do it. They had gone from place to place with Him, and had a close relationship with Him during all His public ministry, which was chiefly among the people in Galilee. His apostles, having accompanied Him on His last journey to Jerusalem, could not possibly be mistaken when they identified Him as the risen One; therefore, they were unobjectionable and sufficient witnesses.

 

Who are his witnesses unto the people

“Who are his witnesses unto the people,” not only of His resurrection, though that was the most significant event, but of all that he did and suffered in Galilee and Judea, and his miracles and teaching. The phrase “Unto the people,” is applied to those who were the people of God. Compare:

  • Acts 26:17: “Delivering you from the people, and from the Gentiles, to whom now I send you.”The commission of the Christian is not to create experience or create the message, but to witness it and experience it.
  • Acts 26:23: “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light to the people, and to the Gentiles.”All the word of God is light; but especially the Gospel, which discloses a plain and open way unto salvation.

 

 

“Who are his witnesses”—more accurately, who are now His witnesses. Paul has not mentioned the ascension of Jesus, but the addition of the word “witnesses,” implies that He was no longer on earth, thus men could no longer see Him, and must look to the written witness of men who had actuals seen Him alive after his resurrection. Thus the Apostle also points out the special work of those who had been with Christ during His life, who are his witnesses unto the people.”

 

 

 


[i] An ancient document called "The Letter of Aristeas" revealed a plan to make an OFFICIAL translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) in Greek. This translation was to be accepted as the official Bible of the Jews and was to replace the Hebrew Bible. Supposedly this translation work would be performed by 72 Jewish scholars (?), six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The supposed location of the work was to be Alexandria, Egypt. The alleged date of translation was supposedly around 250 BC, during the 400 years of silence between the close of the Old Testament in 397 BC and the birth of Christ in approximately 4 BC (due to a four year error in the calendar).

     [ii] The divine word or reason incarnate in Jesus Christ. John 1:1–14.

    [iii] Someone who is guilty of a crime or offense : a person whose behavior is wrong or evil

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