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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles

ANALYSIS

We have an account of the opposition to the preaching of Paul and Barnabas at Iconium (1–5). Their flight to Lystra and Derbe,—the cure of a cripple (6–9). The insane conduct of the multitude who taking them for Gods prepare to offer them sacrifice (10–13). The loud denunciation by the Apostles of such impiety (13–17).

Commentary

1. “Greeks.” Proselytes from Paganism. In next verse, they are contrasted with unbelieving “Gentiles.”

2. “Brethren.” The teachers and their converts. It is a general term for believers.

3. “A long time,” &c., owing to the success of their mission. Not likely that the public authorities took any measures, as at Antioch, for their expulsion (13:50).

“Confidently.” Courageously trusting in the Lord.

“Testimony.” Gave corroborating evidence, “word,” &c, to the truth of what the Apostles preached, aided by Divine grace. “The word” was the means of having interior grace bestowed on them.

“Signs and wonders.” Miracles wrought through their hands.

4. “Apostles.” This is the first time they were called “Apostles” (v. 14), St. Paul being such in the strictest sense of the word, as he is immediately called and saw our Lord (1 Cor. 9, &c.), and deputed to be witness of his Resurrection. Barnabas was not strictly such, like St. Paul and the twelve others; but only in a more general and wider sense (as 16:7; 2 Cor 13:13), because deputed by the Church on a particular message (13:3, 15:26).

5. “Assault.” A violent attack (ὁρμή), the effects of which were averted by flight. Others understand it of an intended assault, which the word “understanding” (v. 6) would seem to favour.

“Rulers.” Probably of the Synagogue, to bring them into contempt, and put them to death, probably on a charge of blasphemy (Acts 7:57–59).

6. “Understanding”. Apprized of their danger.

“Lycaonia.” Belonged formerly to Phrygia. Augustus erected it into a separate province.

7. “Sat.” Allusive to his usual posture, “there lived,” “impotent,” &c., deprived of the use of his limbs.

“A cripple,” &c. His condition being so well-known, the miracle could not, therefore, be gainsayed.

8. “Looking” earnestly “upon him.” Seeing from his voice, gesture, countenance, besides being interiorly enlightened by the Holy Ghost. “Faith to be healed.” The necessary faith for recovering his bodily health (Matthew 9:28; Mark 9:22; Luke 9:42). This is like the miracle of St. Peter, in most of the circumstances (3:6–8).

10. “Lycaonian tongue.” Some say a corrupt sort of Greek; others, an admixture of Greek and Syriac. St. Chrysostom thinks the Apostles did not understand it. Hence, their silence at the blasphemous utterances. It was only when they saw the garlands and preparations for sacrifice (13) they denounced it.

“The Gods are come,” &c. The Pagans fancied the Gods visited in human form the places sacred to them. Lystra was dedicated to Jupiter, who, on descending, was said to be accompanied by Mercury, the god of eloquence.

11. “Barnabas, Jupiter.” “Jupiter,” the supreme God, remarkable for power and prowess, was represented as the most powerful of the Gods among the Pagans. To him all the other Gods were subject. Everything but fate yielded to his sway. Commonly termed the father of Gods and men. St. Chrysostom conjectures that Barnabas was majestic in stature, well built, of a powerful frame, advanced in years. Hence, taken for “Jupiter.” Paul was the opposite. Being the “chief speaker,” no doubt eloquent, he was taken for “Mercury,” the God of eloquence, and messenger of the Gods.

12. “Priest of Jupiter.” Charged with worshipping by offering him sacrifices.

“That was,” &c., viz., Jupiter. “Before the city,” of which he was the tutelary deity. His image or temple was located before the gate of the city, in a prominent position, in accordance with Pagan usage.

“Oxen.” The usual sacrifice to Jupiter. “Garlands.” Ribands, adorning the victims.

13. “Had heard.” At their lodgings, being probably informed by some of their converts.

“Rending their clothes.” A mark of intense grief and abhorrence among the Jews (See Matthew 26:65, Commentary on).

14. How different from the unselfish and noble conduct of the Apostles in rejecting the proferred honour was that of the vain Herod Agrippa (12:22, &c.).

“Like you.” Subject to the same passions and infirmities. (This is conveyed by the Greek.) Having the common feelings and propensities of other men, equally needing food, subject to pain, sickness, and death, altogether opposed to the correct notions of the nature of God.

“Preaching to you,” &c. Far from pretending or claiming to be regarded as Gods, we, on the contrary, exhort you to give up the adoration of “these vain things,” these false Gods, idols, unreal beings, who have no real existence, who can neither see, not hear, nor help us, “oculos habent et non videbunt, aures habent et non audient,” &c. (Psalm 113; 1 Kings 12:21). In several parts of Scripture idols are termed vanities (Deut. 32:21; 4 Kings 17:15, &c.).

“Living God.” As distinguished from false divinities. A God “who made the heavens,” &c., and is, therefore, also entitled to supreme worship from His creatures.

15. “Times past.” During the ages before the Gospel dispensation.

“All nations” of the earth except the Jews (Acts 17:30) having “winked at the times of this ignorance” (17:30).

“To walk in their own ways.” Wicked ways of life, so opposed to the ways that lead to God, withholding from them the lights and spiritual helps conferred on the Jews—no written revelation, no occasional visits from the Prophets—and reserved in a particular way for the children of the New Law. The most polished nations were just as unable to rescue themselves from the prison of sin and infidelity as the most barbarous and least cultivated.

16. While leaving the Gentiles to the errors of their ways, imparting no revelation, God did not leave them without the means of knowing Him, without evidence and a knowledge of His existence, of His attributes and claims on their services. His wonderful benefits bore testimony to him.

“Doing good from Heaven.” Continually conferring benefits on the world, especially giving “rain” (the early and better rain) in due seasons. “Rain” is specially a gift from God (3 Kings 8:35; Job 5:10; Psalms 66:8, &c., 146:8), most necessary for human existence. Without it the earth would be dried up and rendered desolate.

“Fruitful seasons.” The earth rendering abundant fruit by God’s ordination corresponding to the labour of the husbandman.

“Filling our hearts,” viz., ourselves. “Hearts,” by a Hebraism, designates the entire person.

“Food.” Necessary for existence. “Gladness.” Resulting from our daily wants having been supplied.

From this, the Apostle leaves it to be inferred, without expressly stating it, that if the Gentiles did not come to the knowledge of God, it was their own fault.

The discourse at Athens, rather lengthy (17:23, 24) and Rom. (1:20–23) are on the same lines with this.

17. Notwithstanding this address dissuading them; still, on account of the miracles, they could hardly be restrained; or, this discourse, coupled with the miracles, convinced the Pagans the more that they were Gods, and, therefore, these foolish people could hardly be restrained.

18. “Certain Jews.” No doubt from among those who rebelled against the Apostle (13:45; 14:5).

“Antioch,” of Pisidia.

“Persuading,” &c. Likely, ascribing the miracle to sorcery and the black art.

“Stoning Paul.” Who was more obnoxious on account of his eloquence (2 Cor. 11:27).

“Drew him out of the city.” Left him there as unworthy of burial.

19. “Disciples.” His late converts, fancying him dead, and preparing to perform the rites of sepulture.

“He rose up.” Which was regarded by many as miraculous, as happened St. Sebastian under Diocletian. Some conjecture that his rapture into Paradise may have occurred then (2 Cor. 12:2, &c.).

20, 21. “Returned again” courageously to the scene of their former persecution to exhort their converts not to deflect from the right path on account of sufferings, since, “through many tribulations,” &c. It is a fixed law of God’s adorable providence that the road to Heaven is the royal highway of the Cross, the only gate for entering it, the narrow gate of tribulations, which are “many.” It was in this way the Head entered; so must also the members. “All who wish to live piously in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). This life is a time for suffering here; the next, for enjoying the reward of suffering.

22. “Ordained to them Priests.” The Greek word for “ordained” literally means, in classic authors, to choose or elect, by holding out the hands (χειροτονησατες). It was originally applied to the voting of the people in public assemblies in favour of candidates for office. It is clear that here the election, appointment, or ordination, strictly speaking, took place irrespective of any voting on the part of the people. The whole operation, as the context shows, was performed solely by Paul and Barnabas. The threefold action was performed by the same persons, viz., ordaining, praying, with fasting, commending to the Lord.

Who else but Paul and Barnabas “commended their converts to the Lord”? Considering all the actions and circumstances, viz., praying with fasting, which accompanied this “ordaining,” it clearly can refer to nothing else save the conferring of the Sacrament of Holy Orders which was given by the imposition of the hands of Paul and Barnabas.

The word, χειροτονια, is well known to have been employed by the Greek Fathers to designate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, of which it became with them the official designation, probably grounded on this passage. While χειροθεσια, imposition of hands, is the term they used for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

It is also deserving of remark that the conjunction “and” is omitted in Greek before “had prayed.” The passage would then read thus: “And when they ordained to them Priests, praying with fasting,” &c. From this it is clear that all the operations performed together, viz., praying, fasting, imposing hands, manifestly refer to the same sacred rite, whereby the members of the Church were consecrated Priests.”

The word, “Priest,” comprises the clergy as well of the first as of the second order. The term, “Bishop,” by ecclesiastical and Apostolic usage, is applied only to the clergy of the first order, whom we know, as a defined point of faith, to be superior to the Priests in order and jurisdiction (Council of Trent, SS. xxiii. c. 4 canon 7).

“Commended to the Lord.” This was their valedictory farewell on leaving them.

23. “Pisidia” (c. 3:14).

24. “Attalia,” in Pamphylia, on the sea coast.

25. “Antioch” of Syria (11:19; 13:1). “Delivered to the grace of God.” Commended to the Divine protection on entering on the great missionary work, which they brought to a successful conclusion.

26. “Opened the door of faith,” &c. Supplied the means and opportunity of preaching the faith to the Gentiles, which, by God’s grace, they embraced.

27. How long cannot be exactly determined. The next we hear of them is at the Council of Jerusalem (c. 15).








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