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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles

ANALYSIS

Addressing the people from the stairs of the Castle, in presence of the Tribune, the Apostle gives them an account, in the Hebrew tongue, of his conversion (1–12). His Divine Commission to preach the Gospel (12–20). The fury of the Jews at his speaking of being sent to the Gentiles (21–23). The Tribune’s anxiety on account of having ordered him to be scourged, when he discovered that he was a Roman citizen (25–29). The Tribune has him set before the Council of the Chief men among the Jews.

Commentary

1. “Brethren,” the Jewish people generally. “Fathers.” Among his audience were some Priests, Levites, Magistrates, whom he addresses in the language of respect, as well as of affection. St. Stephen acted similarly (7:2).

“My account,” my defence in reply to the accusations brought against me.

2, 3. “Hebrew tongue.” (See 21:40). A Jew by extraction, although a Hellenist. He was brought up in the city of Jerusalem, having been sent there to learn the Law fully in the school of Gamaliel, a famous Doctor of the Law. He was taught the Law, in all its exactitude, written and traditional, under that distinguished doctor.

To sit “at the feet” of anyone, conveys the idea of a disciple or listener (Deuteronomy 33:3). The Jewish teachers occupied an elevated chair, the disciples or scholars sitting on benches beneath them.

“Zealous for the Law.” The Pharisees, to whose sect he belonged, professed great zeal for the strict observance of the Law. The Greek has, “zealous towards God,” which is well sustained by MSS. authority, and versions.

“As all you,” &c., zealous, no doubt, but “not according to knowledge,” or properly applied and directed (Romans 10).

4. “This way,” those of the Christian profession, intending to put them to death.

5. “All the ancients,” the entire body of the Sanhedrim or Supreme Council of the nation.

6. “Midday,” omitted (c. 9:3, 4). He mentions it here to show there was no delusion caused by nightly appearances.

7–13. (See 9:4–17).

14. “Pre-ordained thee,” by an Eternal and Immutable Decree which left man’s will quite free.

“That thou shouldst know His will,” in relation to your future destination and His designs regarding you.

“See the just one,” the Messiah, and be qualified to become an Apostle.

15. “Shalt be His witness,” &c. Similar is the commission given the twelve (c. 1:8). These words would seem to constitute Paul an Apostle. Thou shalt testify “to all men,” concerning the Messiah, His advent, His death for the salvation of mankind. In c. 9:15 it is said he was to carry the name of Christ before the Gentiles, the Kings and Children of Israel. Here, addressing the jealous Jews, he only uses general terms, “all men,” and cautiously abstains from speaking of the Gentiles. The storm which the mention of the Gentiles created afterwards (v. 22) fully justified this cautious mode of proceeding.

16. “Why tarriest thou?” This shows Paul was not unduly hurried or precipitate.

“Be baptized and wash away thy sins.” The cleansing from sin was the effect and consequence of the process or rite of Baptism. Although before this, Paul had given himself entirely to God, and, by an act of contrition, had his sins remitted, still, this act of contrition included the purpose of receiving Baptism (Council of Trent c. ss. xiv. c. 4). This Baptism should be preceded by the invocation of the name of Jesus, that is, by a profession of faith in Him.

17. “Was come again to Jerusalem,” three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:17, 18). He remained, during the interval, in Damascus and Arabia.

“And was praying in the Temple.” Like other Jewish converts, he practised the Jewish devotions after the manner of the Jews—a thing not prohibited then. This he states, as a proof that he had not given up the Jewish worship at the time; that he was no enemy of the Jewish religion, as had been laid to his charge.

“In a trance.” In Greek, “ecstasy,” transported out of himself. The Apostle refers to the vision here for the purpose of showing that the same God, who gave him the grace of conversion, had commissioned him in their own Temple, while engaged at his devotions, to preach the Gospel to the far-off Gantiles. The Jews heard patiently, or without murmur, the history of his conversion. It was only when he spoke of his commission to preach to the Gentiles, the storm arose (v. 22).

18. “Saw him” clearly refers to the Lord Jesus (v. 14). “Saying to me.” The verbs for seeing and hearing are frequently interchanged in Sacred Scripture. St. Paul certainly saw Him, and bore testimony to His Resurrection.

“Because they will not receive,” &c. The Jews abhorred him as an Apostate. The Christians feared him (9:26).

19, 20. Paul reverently remonstrates, and means to show, that he would be listened to more readily than anyone else, considering his former hostility to the Christians, exhibited in the occurrences recorded in these two verses. They would, he fancied, respect the sincerity of his conversion, and hear his reasons for this wonderful event in his life.

21. Our Lord pays no heed to his reasoning or remonstrance. He had His own fixed purpose in regard to his destination to preach to “the Gentiles afar off.” His duty was at once to obey the Divine Will. “Unto the Gentiles,” &c. This he adds to show, that the Jews should not blame him, as he had no choice, but to conform to the Divine Will, and obey, by preaching to the Gentiles.

22. “Until this word.” They heard him patiently up to this. But, then fanatical jealousy was roused to the utmost pitch of fury, when they saw a preference given to the Idolatrous Gentiles, whom they held in such contempt.

“Away with such a man.” He is not fit to live. He should be put to death.

23. “Their garments,” the outward garments, as if they meant to inflict summary punishment on him on the spot, and perhaps stone him (7:57). This shows their excited feelings.

“Cast dust,” &c., to express their rage and furious indignation, and impotent resolve to inflict summary punishment on him, if he were not in the hands of the Roman soldiers.

24. “Castle,” Tower Antonia, to be beyond the reach of his murderous assailants.

“Scourged and tortured.” The Tribune, seeing the fury of the Jews, and not understanding their language, nor perhaps, the defence of himself by Paul, thinking that Paul must have been some great malefactor and desperate character, thought fit to subject him to the lash. This, however unjust and barbarous, and against the provisions of Roman Law (Digest, 1–48, Lib. 48), was by no means uncommon at the time, as a means of eliciting the truth from those charged with grievous crimes.

25. “Bound with thongs” to the whipping post, preparatory to the scourging.

A “Centurion” among the Romans usually superintended such a kind of punishment.

26–27. The Porcian and Sempronian Laws secured Roman citizens against the injustice and indignity to which Paul was about to be subjected. At Philippi, Paul did not claim the rights of Roman citizenship, because as he suffered then for the name of Christ, he endured it silently. Here he was charged with a grievous crime, and was about to be punished, as a common criminal, he would not silently submit to it.

28. “The being free,” &c., the freedom of Roman citizenship.

“With a great sum.” Under the earlier Cæsars, it was difficult to secure the rights of Roman citizenship. But, under Claudius and his wife, Messalina, it became a matter of mere traffic. The name of the Tribune, Claudius Lysias, would make it probable he was one of those who purchased it in this way.

“I was born so,” as a native of Tharsus, a free city of the Roman Empire (Pliny 5–27). Appian tells us, Tharsis was endowed by Augustus with the privileges of a free city. As the fact of its being a free city did not confer on all its inhabitants the rights of Roman citizenship. Some conjecture that one of Paul’s ancestors may have obtained this privilege for some military services, or by purchase.

29. “Because he had bound him.” It was against the Roman Law to bind a Roman citizen with the view of scourging him, untried and uncondemned. Cicero against Verres tells us, “it was a grievous crime to bind a Roman citizen”—“facinus est vincire civem Romanum.” However, in case of doubt as to Roman citizenship, or when the accused was to be guarded until he was brought before a legitimate Tribunal to try his case, he might be bound. Thus Paul was kept bound till, on the following day, “he loosed him.”

30. “And all the Council”—the Sanhedrim. “Commanded the Priests,” &c. This convening of a Council by a Roman Military Tribunal shows what little liberty, even in religious matters, the Jews enjoyed under the Roman dominion.

“Bringing forth Paul” from the Castle to the place where the meeting was held, usually, in the house of the High Priest.

“Set him before them,” to plead his cause, and let all see the true state of the case and the nature of the accusations brought against him.








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