The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:24 (Acts 13:24)

His coming ( τῆς εἰσόδου ) ; his entrance upon his ministry, with reference to the ὁδὸς (the way) of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 (for the use of dadoes, see 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:16-41 (Acts 13:16-41)

The New Testament in the Old.

The expositions of the Scriptures of the Old Testament by the writers and speakers of the New Testament are worthy of our deepest attention, Not only do they draw out from those Scriptures particular instruction which of ourselves we should never, perhaps, have found there, but they supply us with irrefragable proofs of the unity of purpose which ordained the long sequence of events themselves, through many centuries, and also ordained that a faithful record of them should be preserved in the sacred archives of the Jewish people. There is probably no evidence of more overwhelming power of conviction, when once it is grasped, that the Scriptures are from God, and that they are a revelation of the very mind of God, than that which is supplied by the continuity of events whose historical truth rests upon a solid basis, and whose meaning and purpose receive their only and full explanation in another set of events whose basis of historical evidence is no less firm and solid than the former. This double testimony to the truth of the gospel, supplied by the direct evidence of those who went in and out with the Lord Jesus, on the one hand, and by the prophetic preparation for those events, and the significant types of them, exhibited centuries before, on the other hand, together form a moral demonstration which, when apprehended, is simply irresistible. It is this which gives such force to those apostolic and other sermons which are recorded in this Book of the Acts. In this sermon of St. Paul's we have the election of Israel to be the people of God, their redemption from Egyptian bondage, their planting in the land of Canaan according to God's promise, first held up to view. Could any one deny the truth of those events? Were not the Jewish people still in actual possession of the land of Canaan? Living in the midst of heathens, were they not, and were not they alone, worshippers of the true and living God? Did they not possess the sacred oracles? And if they went back century by century, did they not come to the time when the seven nations of Canaan possessed the land, and when their fathers dis possessed them of it? If they went further back still, was there not the Egyptian bondage described in their ancient records, living in their traditions and sacred songs, engraved in the monuments and annals of Egypt? Yes; God had dealt with them as he had dealt with no other people. They were the children of miracle, the heirs of Divine promises, the depositaries of a Divine plan, the ordained instruments of a great and eternal purpose. Every page of their history proved it, as that history was slowly unfolded in the course of successive ages. And the purpose itself was partially revealed from time to time. Let them bethink themselves of David and his throne; his humble origin, and his exalted power; the hand which raised him, the promises which surrounded him, the expectations which clung to his name. Did he not live in the hearts and hopes of the people through ages of oppression and wrong? Did not his name still glow on the page of prophecy, as the heir of mercy, as the future prince of Israel, as the founder of Israel's glory? What did all these things mean? What was the hidden truth that swelled and was ready to burst under all these images? What was the womb of time so big with in the days which had come upon them? There was an answer, and one only answer, to these questions. The history of their fathers was explained by one and only one fact, and that was the birth of Jesus Christ, of the seed of Abraham and of the lineage of David, to be the Savior of Israel, and not of Israel only, but also of the whole world. And he Paul was there to tell them of Jesus Christ: how he was born in the city of David; how John the Baptist bore witness of him; how in him was fulfilled all that was written in the Law of Moses and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning the Christ that should come. Let them turn to those prophets and to those Psalms, and see what was there written concerning the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. It had all been fulfilled. The Man of sorrows had been despised and rejected; his hands and his feet had been pierced on the tree; they had parted his raiment among them and cast lots upon his vesture; he had gone to the grave and to hell; he had risen again and seen no corruption; his old companions had seen him many days after his resurrection; they had eaten and drunk with him, and in their sight he had gone up to heaven. What further proof could they have that he was very Christ, the promised Savior, the Son of David, of whose kingdom there should be no cud? Let them believe in him, and he would justify them from all their sins. Let them not by their unbelief bring upon themselves the curse denounced by the prophet upon the despisers of God's Word. Thus it was that the fulfillment in the New Testament of all the types and promises of the Old was as the seal of God to the truth of both. The testimony of nearly two thousand years, in which words, deeds, persons, things, events, pointed with steady consistency to one Person that should come, was all concentrated upon Jesus Christ, who did come in the fullness of time. And the 1850 years which have elapsed since Jesus rose again have added their testimony, too, to all that went before. So that our age will be altogether without excuse if, shutting its eyes to the light of truth, it rejects the Son of God and misses the great salvation which he has brought to our sinful and fallen world.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:14-41 (Acts 13:14-41)

The Christian faith.

The Apostle of the Gentiles goes first to the synagogue of the Jews ( Acts 13:14 ). This partly, perhaps, because he would be most at home there and find a readier audience ( Acts 13:15 ); partly in accordance with the words of the Lord ( Luke 24:47 ). At liberty to speak by the courtesy of his countrymen, Paul preached the discourse which we have in the text concerning the faith of Christ. He shows—

I. ITS BASIS IN HISTORICAL FACT . ( Acts 13:17-22 , Acts 13:31 .) It is a matter of history. That history commences with the call of Abraham and the redemption of Israel from the bondage of Egypt ( Acts 13:17 ); it includes the life in the wilderness ( Acts 13:18 ) and the early years in the land of promise ( Acts 13:19 , Acts 13:20 ); it contains the choice of a monarchy ( Acts 13:21 ) and the elevation of David ( Acts 13:22 ). From beginning to end, the faith of Christ rests on the solid ground of established facts; it does not depend on dreams and visions, nor on logical deductions or intuitions of the human reason; it is built on well-attested facts; "That which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" ( 1 John 1:1-8 ). Not "cunningly devised fables," but facts of which truthful men were "eye-witnesses" ( 1 Peter 1:16 ), are the material on which Christian doctrine rests.

II. ITS CULMINATION IN A LIVING ONE . ( Acts 13:23-37 .) "God raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus ( Acts 13:28 ); One of supreme rank and majesty, whose shoes the great Baptist was "not worthy to loose" ( Acts 13:25 ); One slain by his own people, but raised from the dead by the favor and the power of God ( Acts 13:27-30 ); One whose immortality is the fulfillment of the Divine word ( Acts 13:32-37 ). In Christianity everything gathers round, centers in, Jesus Christ himself. We are not compelled to subscribe to certain profound propositions, nor to conform to a number of minute requirements either in domestic or social life or devotional habit; we are desired to accept a once-crucified and now risen One—"a Savior, Jesus"—as the almighty Savior, living Lord, Divine Friend, he offers to be to us all.

III. ITS CARDINAL DOCTRINE . ( Acts 13:38 , Acts 13:39 .) "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins;" "By him all that believe are justified," etc. There can be no real religious life without the conscious enjoyment of God's favor; and this cannot be attained until sin has been forgiven. The initial step into the kingdom of God is, therefore, the remission of sins, the justification of the sinner before God. This is the cardinal doctrine of the gospel of Christ; "This [he said] is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" ( Matthew 26:28 ). There may come times when this doctrine will be neglected, but to it mankind will continually return; for it is the sense of sin and the consciousness of condemnation which stand between the soul of man and its heritage in God, and it is the forgiveness of sin and the justification of the sinner which open the gates of the kingdom of peace, of joy, of eternal life.

IV. ITS GLORIOUS COMPREHENSIVENESS . " Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience" ( Acts 13:16 ; "Children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent" ( Acts 13:26 ); "By him all that believe are justified" ( Acts 13:39 ). Already the old and narrowing traditions had been broken; already the strong prejudices had melted away; already the hearts of men had been enlarged, and Gentiles and Jews were invited to believe and to be saved. As missionary work proceeded, and as more light from heaven broke in, the world-embracing thought of God became clearer and fuller to the minds of men.

V. THE URGENCY OF ITS CLAIM . ( Acts 13:40 , Acts 13:41 .) A most sad succession of steps—despise—wonder—perish; but one that has been taken by thousands of the children of men. We cannot oppose ourselves to a "great salvation" without being bruised and broken by our folly ( Matthew 21:44 ). The height of blessedness and dignity to which we rise if we accept a Divine Savior marks the depth of shame and woe to which we fall if we reject him.—C.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:13-52 (Acts 13:13-52)

Paul's missionary discourse at Antioch in Pisidia.

We are introduced to one of those synagogue scenes which are of so much interest in connection with the early progress of Christianity. Here the gospel fought its foes and triumphed by the logic of love; here the seeds were sown which sprang up to cover the world with fruit. According to the ordinary practice, the officers of the synagogue invite the strangers to address the congregation. Paul rises. His address falls naturally into parts. It resembles in general argument and tenor that of Stephen before the Sanhedrim. We may gather from it what were the great reasons which convinced and led to the conversion of the Jews.

I. THE PROVIDENTIAL COURSE OF ISRAEL 'S HISTORY .

1. There was the Divine selection of a people, not to be for themselves favorites of God, but to be his light and salvation to the ends of the earth.

2. There was the wondrous deliverance of this people out of the oppressor's hand—from the land of Egypt. On this memory of a surpassing Divine power joined with Divine goodness, the historic Consciousness of the nation was based.

3. There was the desert discipline: the giving of the Law, the enforcement of holiness—chastisement, purification, education in obedience.

4. The expulsion of the Canaanite tribes and the foundation of a settled system of government. This, too, wan a great epoch; and Israel could not refer to it without the consciousness of her high mission as a nation—called of God to supersede the weak, effete idolatrous nations of the land, and to diffuse holier manners, purer laws.

5. The epoch of the kings. The brilliant but erring Saul; the hero David and his glorious era. Every nation has some similar or analogous points in its history on which its memory rests; landmarks of its way; prophetic moments containing the future; sowing-times for future harvests; endeavors towards an ideal. Think of our own Magna Charta, our Civil War, our Revolution, our struggle for existence, our chastisements, and our triumphs. Israel's history is the mirror in which every nation may view its own, and trace the hand of the same world-guiding providence.

II. THE CONSUMMATION OF ISRAEL 'S HISTORY . In Jesus the line of Israel's greatness was continued. He was of the seed of David according to the flesh. There was an echo of glorious memories in him He came to revive the kingdom of David and the ascendency of Israel, although in a far different way from that expected by his countrymen. The testimony of the Baptist was mighty in favor of Jesus. No prophet in these latter days had commanded greater reverence than John the Baptist, the great religious reformer, a preacher of repentance. Now he had distinctly waived his claims to be the Messiah, and had pointed to Jesus; had retired before him with the most lowly confession of inferiority. When we see a great man sincerely willing to take a second place in the presence of a new-comer, it is a witness of the greatest moment to the latter's superiority. The highest human elevation of character—such as John's—can only bend before the Divine. "To you, then," may Paul well say to the Jews, "and that not on the ground of my assertion, but the witness of the greatest man held in honor by you, the second Elijah, is this salvation sent, this good news delivered."

II. THE CONDUCT OF THE SANHEDRIM TO JESUS EXPLAINED . Paul is aware that he has a great prejudice in the minds of his hearers to overcome—the great "scandal of the cross."

1. The ignorance of the rulers. They did not understand the voices of the prophets, nor the meaning of the Scriptures constantly read in their synagogues. But their ignorance was little excuse for them. They ought to have known better. If we choose to look at facts in one light only—that of our wishes or prejudices—we suppress a part of the truth; and when this suppressed truth rises up from an unexpected quarter to confront us, the sense of self-condemnation cannot be overcome. The Sanhedrim saw in Jesus the embodiment of suppressed truth, and they hated him. It was like the uprising of a ghost long thought to have been laid.

2. What they could not meet with reason they tried to quell by violence. Jesus was tried, with the result of establishing his innocence. No crime, no fault, no disobedience to the Law, no rebellion against order, could be proved. Yet he was handed to the Roman governor, and his death was a judicial murder.

3. Thus prophecy was unconsciously fulfilled. A suffering Messiah had been foretold, and had now been revealed in a death of martyrdom. Behind the innocence of the sufferer and the guilt of his murderers a purpose of eternal wisdom and love had wrought and fulfilled itself. It is this insight into Divine thoughts which can alone relieve the dreadful tragedies of human passions and events. While in one point of view the death of Jesus is a scene of horror and of darkness, and the thought of it a scandal to the Jew and a folly to the Greek, in another it is a revelation of a Divine love which conquers hate and forgives even guilty ignorance, and converts a revelation of weakness into a revelation of wisdom and of power.

III. THE RESURRECTION . Without this crowning fact the rest had been incomplete. A suffering Messiah would have been a witness of the peoples' sin; a Messiah rising triumphant over death could alone bespeak the victory of Divine love over human hate and sin. Here, then, comes the core of the message. The apostles can never forget that they are "witnesses of the Resurrection." And this was good news—the fulfillment of a promise made to the fathers in olden time. The apostles found in psalms and prophecies of the past which referred in the first instance to events then passing and persons then living, an ideal or prophetic element. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" these words, perhaps referable in the first instance to Solomon, can only in the apostolic thought be properly satisfied in Christ. And so with the other citation. The promise to continue the Divine covenant in the line of the kings is fulfilled above all in Jesus. We must recollect that the kingdom of Judah and the national life as a whole was ideal; that is, it pointed to meanings not at any time within the visible field of experience. If we grasp this thought, it may help us to understand how the apostles viewed Scripture, and how they quoted it; not so much for its literal and primary as for its spiritual and prophetic meaning. The Holy One of God was not to see corruption. But David passed away and mixed with dust. It is, then, in David's "greater Son" that this prophecy must be fulfilled, of an incorruptible and immortal life.

IV. THE REMISSION OF SINS . Through this risen One the blessed boon is proclaimed. The life, the death, the resurrection, would be simply a grand Divine drama, an object of contemplation, a piece of magnificent poetry, were there no practical result like this flowing from it. But it means victory and release from sin. Surrender to the Divine ideal, affiance in the Anointed of God, means deliverance and peace, not to be obtained by laborious obedience to the moral or ceremonial Law. Faith is whole-hearted surrender to the Divine Object. It is not a mere act of intelligence, nor yielding of the affections, nor decision of the will; but the giving up one's self to Christ. It is this which brings the full blessing of Divine peace upon the heart, and nothing short of this can do so.

V. FINAL WARNING . How shall men escape if they reject so great salvation? Refuse love, and wrath only can be expected. Similarly does Stephen's speech end with a sharp note of warning. Our heart is stirred by contrasted motives. We move between two poles of emotion. To be drawn by love is to be repelled by fear. The one motive or the other may have the greater weight with different minds, or with the same mind in different moods. Let us thankfully recognize that, whether the gospel touches the chord of love or of fear, it aims at our salvation. "Save, Lord, by love or fear!"—J.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:16-43 (Acts 13:16-43)

Paul's sermon in the synagogue at Antioch.

I. The MAIN PURPOSE of it—to prove the Messiahship of Jesus, and therefore to proclaim the gate of life open. History of Divine grace pointing to clay of salvation. The course of thought in Paul's own mind, which led him to faith.

II. The MAIN STRENGTH of the argument—the facts of the Savior's death and. resurrection. Paul could speak with special emphasis, though prudently avoided bringing in at this point his own conversion.

III. The SPIRITUAL APPEAL twofold.

1. You need this salvation; for the Law of Moses will not justify you.

2. How can you escape if you neglect it? resist not the Holy Ghost.

IV. The MARKED EFFECT of sincerity and earnestness.

1. Inquiry. It is much to break through stolid indifference.

2. Devout attention led to faith. Many followed them; that is, declared themselves convinced. Fruit gathered even among the Jews.—R.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:14-41 (Acts 13:14-41)

Another faithful sermon to the Jew.

It is pleasant to observe the traces, in every possible place, of the grace still held out to the Jew. It vindicates with emphasis "the long-suffering" of God, and the continuing force of the dying prayer of him whom those Jews "slew and hanged on a tree." And, though in a less degree, it is pleasant to observe how messengers and apostles, when they reach a new town, pay their first visit to the synagogue. This very thing the Apostle of the Gentiles now does. It has been the order of the two companions since they set out from the former Antioch ( Acts 13:4 , Acts 13:5 ), but now arrived at "Antioch in Pisidia," and Paul distinctly taking the lead, the same course is observed. "Paul and his company" ( Acts 13:13 ) "went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down." They are strangers, and "after the reading of the Law and the prophets," they are invited by the rulers of the synagogue to speak. Sergius Paulus ( Acts 13:7 ) sent for them when they were at Paphos, and "desired to hear the Word of God." And now again they spoke from all the better vantage-ground, in that they were invited to speak. The occasion proved a memorable one. And its memorableness turned on Paul's " word of exhortation" to a Jewish audience. Notice—

I. THE ONE DETERMINED OBJECT OF THIS " WORD OF EXHORTATION ." ( Acts 13:38 , Acts 13:39 .) It is to fix sole, undivided attention on the "Man" ( Acts 13:38 ) Jesus, as the Obtainer of forgiveness of sins for men, though not himself necessarily the actual Forgiver, and as the Justifier of all men who believe in him, from the demands of responsibilities of which they would fain be free. This is the key-note of Paul's preaching, and we hear it distinctly sounded on this the first great occasion of his authoritative pronouncements. It marks the standpoint of his practical theology. And it is the burden of his apostolic mission. Nothing lies nearer his own heart, nothing is spoken more plainly on his lip, whether he converses with himself, a sinner, or would appeal to others, sinners. It is the core of the truth; it is the bone and marrow of the gospel itself. Therefore:

1. Paul preaches the "Man Christ Jesus."

2. Paul preaches him as the only One who obtains forgiveness for the burdened sinner.

3. Paul preaches him as the living, all-efficient Justifier of men before God.

4. Paul preaches him as the "red" ( John 15:1 ), after all the typical and figurative ( Acts 13:39 ).

II. THE STRAIGHT , DIRECT ROAD ALONG WHICH PAUL TRAVELS TO HIS ONE DETERMINED OBJECT . There is no touch of "the Socratic argument" here. Paul takes, it is true, a little while to reach his grand point. But he goes by no covert approach towards it. He paves the way, and may be said to smooth the way, but it is all in full daylight. The brief yet effective historical survey which Paul takes of Israel may be compared, for object and matter and manner, with those of Peter ( Acts 2:1-47 .) and (though in less degree) of Stephen ( Acts 7:1-60 .). Without invidiousness it may be said, however, that Paul's brevity, pointedness, trenchancy in this address, could not be surpassed. He introduces Christ, from the moment of God's election of Abraham to "the raising up Jesus again" from a death and grave which had set not one stigma of corruption on him. And in a moment or two he has confronted his whole audience in that Antioch synagogue with two portraits like life and life-size—the one the portrait of their "own nation and people, the Jews," and the other the portrait of the crucified, "dead, and buried," but risen One. This introductory survey of Paul owns to the greatest fidelity to fact and fidelity to the conscience of those who listened. The evidences of promise sacred to every memory, of genealogy that in point of fact had been as undisputed as it was indisputable, of prophet of old, of that greatest "prophet born of women" ( Luke 7:28 )—John the Baptist, of modern time, and of "sacred psalm," are all marshaled. And at present the effect seemed likely to be irresistible. The "men of Israel, and they that feared God" from happy association with them, and "the Gentiles," or some chance representatives of them, seem to be, not indeed chained to the spot ( Acts 13:42 ), not entranced, not bewitched, but deeply impressed and thoughtful without being embittered.

III. THE FAITHFUL WARNING AND POWERFUL REMONSTRANCE THAT CLOSED " THE WORD OF EXHORTATION ." The word of trumpet-warning is Paul's own. He clenches it, albeit, with quotation from "the Scriptures," which should add the force that comes of sacred reverence's claim. "Repent!" cried John the Baptist. "Beware!" cries Paul, "lest you fail to repent;" as so many had failed to do since John the Baptist's cry. They heard the quotation, and often as they had heard it before and knew it so well, or it would have lost much of its significance and aptness on the lip of Paul, they had never thought of it in this light, they had never dreamt it could have foretold of them or be any description of them. Yet what a wonderful picture it had been of a nation, for at all events some three years, and of their sons and daughters some thirteen years more already! What a true picture of that "highly favored" nation! They had beheld and despised; they had wondered and had—perished, yes, already too many of them—perished. And that from no convulsion of nature, or collapse of heaven, or irremediable pestilence, or sword of conquering foe, but because, though they were given to behold things that kings and prophets and righteous men of their ancestors for centuries had desired in vain, they "despised" what they beheld. So must perish all who will "in no wise believe a work which" Heaven itself works in the very midst of them, and which is "declared" to them with the voice of power, of love, of patient importunity, but is "despised and rejected."—B.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Acts 13:24-25 (Acts 13:24-25)

John Baptist's relations with Christ.

These verses are part of an address which should have peculiar interest for us, seeing it is the first recorded speech of St. Paul the missionary, and gives us intimation of the points which were prominently before his mind as the themes of his ministry. It is singular to find St. Paul from this time more prominent than the eider man, Barnabas. It may be an example of the commonly observed fact that, sooner or later, the man of power and adaptation comes to the front place. St. Paul's power as a speaker is shown in this address. He was not a rhetorician, and was only in the higher sense eloquent. He was too intense to be careful of mere form, and his speech was always liable to sudden breaks and halts, through the rapidity with which new thoughts were suggested and side issues forced into consideration. His power lay in the intensity of his convictions, which gave a dogmatic and convincing force to the expression of his views; and in his strong sympathy with his audience, which made him quick to adapt himself to them, and so to press home his thought. In this address we may notice:

1. His characteristic attitude, standing up and beckoning with the hand ( Acts 17:22 ; Acts 21:40 ; Acts 23:1-35 . 1; Acts 26:1 ).

2. His conciliatory introductions: he always strives first to be sure of a common platform with his audience.

3. His skill in dealing with the early histories; which served his purposes in two ways—

4. His firm handling of the facts connected with the mission of Jesus of Nazareth: his innocence; his death as a victim of ecclesiastical enmity; his resurrection.

5. His simple offer of pardon and life in the name of the glorified, living Savior. It is not conceivable that the gospel, in its very essence, can be more succinctly expressed than it has been by the Apostle Paul, in his missionary speeches (see especially here verses 26, 32, 38, 39).

6. His force of passionate pleading and application of the truth to individuals, as shown in verses 40, 41. It is to be noted that St. Paul always makes his appeal to both the intelligence and the heart, and the verses now before us for consideration show how he offered proofs of his statements which were well within the comprehension of his audience. A sentiment prevailed generally among the Jewish race concerning John the Baptist. St. Paul takes advantage of it, and shows how John gave his indirect and direct witness to the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. It may be true that John's testimony to Jesus was of more value to a Jewish than to a Christian audience, but we question whether sufficient has ever yet been made of it as one of our best evidences to the truth of Christianity. Three things require careful study and efficient illustration.

I. JOHN 'S PROPHET - CHARACTER . In fixing attention on John the Baptizer, men have lost sight of his more important relations as John the Prophet. "All men counted John as a prophet," the last of the line of men whom God was pleased to raise up, for a time, as the expounders to men of his will—the voices that spoke to men his message. It was the very essence of the prophet that he had a message from God to deliver, and a right to arrest men and compel them to listen to it. John's message was his mission, and his baptizing rite was but an accident or mode of expressing and sealing his message. We should ask—What did John say to men in the Name of God? not, What rite did John perform?

II. JOHN 'S PREPARATORY WORK . This St. Paul dwells on. John never assumed that he had a message complete in itself, or that what he demanded was all, or even, the greatest thing, men needed. He was a herald, but his heralding assumed the close approach of the King. He was a mender of ways, but only to get ready for the royal progress. He demanded repentance, but only that men might be ready to receive the forgiveness and life which the King was coming to bestow. To stop with John is on the face of it absurd. There is no going on from John save to Christ.

III. JOHN 'S DIRECT TESTIMONY . There should have been no need for this. And yet it forms a most valuable link, especially to Jews. John witnessed plainly that he had prepared the way for Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Lamb of God to take away sins, and that God had given to him visible and audible testimony that Jesus was the expected Messiah and Savior. Accept John as prophet, we must accept Jesus as Messiah.—R.T.

- The Pulpit Commentary