Acts 13Observe here, That the city of Antioch being the first Gentile city which entertained the gospel, there were at that time several prophets and teachers in that city to instruct the people, and to lay the foundation of a Christian church amongst them: And amongst others, there was found one very eminent person named Manaen, who was of that high rank and quality, that he was brought up with Herod at court; and, as the learned Lightfoot thinks, was converted there by the preaching of St. John the Baptist: Yet this man, contemning with Moses the pleasures of the court, did think it no disparagement to him to be a teacher at Antioch.
Learn thence, That God is pleased to manifest the freeness of his grace, in effectually calling some of all sorts and ranks of men, to the knowledge and obedience of the gospel, and to a participation of the benefit offered in and by the Lord Jesus Christ: "Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch."
Observe here, How the Holy Ghost takes occasion when the teachers of the church at Antioch were assembled together in God's presence, and about his work, to give them particular instructions and directions concerning his will and their duty.
Observe farther, The solemn charge given by the Holy Ghost, to set apart Saul and Barnabas by solemn imposition of hands, for preaching the gospel to the Gentiles: This was a great work, and not to be undertaken without a special call from God; therefore says the Holy Ghost, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul to the work whereunto I have called them:" Which words prove both the Deity and personality of the Holy Ghost: He who calls ministers to the office, and unto whose service they are separated, is both God and a distinct person in the Godhead; but this the Holy Ghost did: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul."
Here note, 1. That the work of the ministry is a separate work. Ministers must be set apart for the work of the ministry before they undertake it; a call from God is not sufficient without a separation by man.
Note, 2. That this separation ought to be performed by the chief ministers of the church, who have authority from Christ to separate and set others apart for the works of the ministry. The Holy Ghost said to the teachers of the church at Antioch, "Separate me."
Note, 3. That this solemn act and ordinance ought to be performed in a very solemn manner, by fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands.
Note, 4. That when thus performed, it is agreeable to the mind, and according to the institution and appointment of the Holy Ghost: "The Holy Ghost said, Separate, &c."
Note lastly, Though the office of the ministry be an honourable office, yet withal it is laborious work. Separate them for the work whereunto I have called them. It is a work that requires attendance, and zealous application, both in season and out of season. Praying, preaching, administering sacraments; guiding and governing the flock by private admonition, and public censure: These are weighty works, found so now by those that perform them faithfully, and will be found so at the great day, by the slothful and negligent.
How can that be esteemed by any slight and inconsiderable work, unto the faithful performance thereof so great a reward is promised, and to the omission whereof so dreadful a woe is denounced?
If Satan destroy men's souls, he shall answer for them as a murderer only, not as an officer intrusted with the care of them; but if the watchmen doth not warn, if the shepherd doth not feet, if the prophet doth not only for the souls that have miscarried, but for an office neglected, for a talent hidden, and for a stewardship unfaithfully administered.
Lord! how unable shall we be at the making up our accounts, to endure the hideous outcries of distressed souls, saying, Parentes sensimus parricidas: Our guides have misled us, our watchmen have betrayed us, our stewards have defrauded us, and the following of their evil example has undone us.
Observe here, 1. The apostles Barnabas and Saul having received their commission, set forth for their work to which they were designed; and their first journey was from Antioch to Cyprus, an island of the Gentiles, lewd and wicked; where Venus was worshipped: And much filthiness was committed by them in that abominable Pagan worship. Yet the free grace fo God cast a look of pity and love upon sinful Cyprus: The Holy Ghost directs these apostles thither, to reclaim them from sin, and reduce them to the obedience of the gospel.
Observe, 2. That though Saul and Barnabas were sent forth to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, yet they made the first tender of it to the Jews wherever they came; accordingly here in Cyprus, there being a great number of Jews, the apostles went into the Synagogues, and preached to them.
Christ was the minister of circumcision, who was himself "sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" and accordingly sent his apostles out first, to feed and gather those poor scattered sheep; these were accounted the children of the house, and the Gentiles reckoned as dogs; but when those wanton and full-fed children began to waste their meat, and cast it under their table, then did the Gentile dogs gather up their leavings; Acts 13:46. "It was necessary," both by virtue of Christ's command and example also, "that the word of God should be first spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles."
Observe, 3. What an early opposition the devil made against the apostles in their preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; he feared the battering down the walls of his kingdom, and therefore stirs up his instrument Elymas the sorcerer to withstand them, and particularly to endeavour to divert Sergius Paulus, who governed that island, from the faith.
Where note, The character given of this vile man by the apostle, "Oh full of all subtilty and mischief: a child of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness:"
Intimating, 1. That to be subtle to do mischief, is the genius or disposition of the devil's children.
2. That to be an opposer of good is to be conformable to the devil: It is the height of wickedness, not only to do evil, but to oppose good; to be an enemy to, and opposer of goodness, is the very character of Satan and his children. So much as any man opposes goodness, so much he has of the devil's disposition in him: "thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness."
Observe, 4. The judgment inflicted by God on this wicked instrument of the devil, and the suitableness of the judgment inflictd on the sin committed; he wickedly shut the eyes of his understanding against the light of the gospel, and God deprives him of his bodily sight.
Thus the wisdom of God doth oft-times so suit his judgment to the sins committed, that a person may even read his sin in his punishment: Yet how did God temper mercy with the judgment, inflicting blindness upon this vile wretch only for a season? Even the very judgments of God are medicinal and in mercy: When God punishes, it is with a design not to ruin, but reform.
Observe lastly, What success St. Paul's ministry together with the sight of this miracle, had upon Sergius Paulus the governor; he was thereby converted to the fatih: "When he saw what was done, he believed; being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." The word never works more kindly, than when it is received with admiration, where it does not produce faith: Many marvelled who never believed; but this governor was astonished, and believed also.
Here we have an account of another journey which Paul and Barnabas took to preach, plant, and propagate the gospel: Namely to Perga, in Pamphylia; and from thence to Antioch in Pisidia, so called, to distinguish it from the other Antioch in Syria, from whence they were sent forth, Acts 13:1-3, where their colleague and companion John Mark withdrew from them and went no further with them to the work.
This Paul took very ill, as he might, if he left them because of the difficulties and dangers, which he saw did accompany and attend them in the planting and propagating of the gospel; for he that putteth his hand to that plough, and then draweth back, justly deserveth censure and reproof. However, such was the zeal of the two apostles, that they travel on to Antioch without their companion, where entering into one of the synagogues of the Jews on the sabbath day; after the reading some sections in the law and the prophets, as their manner was, the rulers of the synagogues desired a word of exhortation from them.
Where note, How wonderfully God over-ruled the hearts of these rulers of the synagogues, not only to suffer, but to desire the apostles to preach the gospel to them. Hereupon the apostle St. Paul stands up, and makes a most excellent sermon to them in the following verses.
Where note, How readily the blessed apostle embraces an opportunity to preach the gospel: the rulers need not ask him twice: Little importunity will serve to persuade an holy heart to undertake the work of God. The faithful ministers of Christ are forward for, as well as zealous in, their Master's work. No sooner did the rulers of the synagogue request a word of exhortation from the apostle, but immediately, though not unpreparedly, he stands up, and preaches to the people.
This latter part of the chapter containeth an historical and practical sermon, preached by St. Paul at the request of the rulers of the synagogue.
Where observe, 1. His prologue or preface, in which he craves their careful attention: withal intimating, that none of them would attend but only such as truly feared God; Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. That is the proper character of a right attentive hearer.
Observe, 2. The narrative which the apostle gives of the many divine favours, benefits, and blessings, which the Lord bestowed of old upon Israel his people; namely, his free election and chusing them before all nations; his wonderful deliverance of them out of Egypt; his great indulgence towards them for forty years in the wilderness, as a mother bears with a child's forwardness and stubbornness; and his constituting a form of government for them under the judges first, and king afterwards, particularly Saul and David; who is described first by his conformity to the nature of God; he was a man after his own heart.
Secondly, By his conformity to the will of God; He shall fulfill all my will.
Having thus ended the historical part, he next begins the practial part of his discourse; and lays down this grand proposition, That Jesus is the Christ and Saviour of the world.
This assertion he defends and proves, 1. From his stock and family according to the flesh, foretold by God.
2. From the testimony of John the Baptist his forerunner, Of David's seed hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, when John had first preached the baptism of repentance. After this he makes a close application of the whole to them: Men and brethren, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
Learn thence, That the gospel is the doctrine or word of salvation sent by God unto a lost world. The gospel is a message of glad tidings; the glad tidings which the gospel brings, is salvation: and the way and manner how the gospel brings salvation, is threefold;
1. By way of patefaction and discovery; the gospel makes a discovery of salvation exclusively to any other way; no angel in heaven could have discovered it, if God had not first declared it in and by the gospel.
2. By way of tender and offer: Oh this joyful message of salvation is sent to every man's door! free grace falls upon its knees, and begs of every sinner to accept it.
3. By way of efficacy and power. The gospel brings with it a convincing and converting power, to put men into a state of salvation; and hath also an establishing and confirming power, to preserve them in that estate.
Blessed be God, that to us, even to every one of us, is the word of this salvation sent. What monsters then are they who are enemies to the preaching of the gospel? they are enemies to our salvation: The only way to heaven is by Christ, the only way to Christ is by faith, and the only way to faith is by the word. It cometh by hearing.
Observe here, 1. The apostle declares the ignominious death, the glorious resurrection, of the Lord Jesus, whom he proves to be the true and promised Messias.
For his ignominious death, the Jews hanged him upon a tree. The Son of God was not only put to death, but to the worst of deaths, even the death of the cross, by the wicked Jews: yet the apostle acknowledges, that neither the Jewish rulers nor people did understand him to be the Messias, as they might have done, had they considered the predictions of the prophets; and therefore their ignorance would not excuse them; for the ignorance and heedlessness of men enjoying the means and opportunities of knowledge, will certainly bring destruction upon them. To sin blindly without knowledge, or to sin wilfully against knowledge, is a damnable sin: The rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets, have fulfilled them in condemning him.
Observe, 2. To take away the scandal of the cross, the apostle shows, that our Saviour's resurrection was as glorious, as his death was ignominious. God wiped away the reproach of the cross by raising up Christ from the grave; and declared him to be his Son with power, by the resurrection from the dead; and accordingly the apostle applies that prophecy to Christ, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ps 2:7 As if the Father had said, "Now thou hast again recovered thy glory, and thy resurrection-day is to thee as a new birth-day."
Three ways is Christ said to be begotten:
1. Of the essence of the Father before all worlds.
2. When his body was formed of the substance of the Virgin's flesh.
3.When God raised him from the dead: This day have I begotten thee; that is, declaratively, for he was the Son of God before, even from all eternity; but whilst he was in a suffering condition, his divinity was veiled: whereas after his resurrection, it was more apparent, and he was then declared to be the Son of God; not then made the Son of God, but then made manifest to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead.
Learn, That the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God antecedent to his resurrection, even from all eternity; he was declared and manifested, but not made or constituted, the Son of God by the resurrection. Then it was that his divinity brake forth as the sun after it had been shut up under a dark and thick cloud. Christ was the eternal Son of God: but his resurrection was a declaration and full manifestation of it to the world. Declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. Rom 1:4
The Holy Ghost here gives a compendious account of David's life and death. Of his life, He served his generation according to the will of God; Of his death, He fell asleep, and was gathered to his fathers, and saw corruption.
In the account given of David's life, note, 1. His activity and zeal for God; he served as well as reigned. This serving implies not a single or individual act, but a series and succession of good actions throughout the whole course of his life.
Note, 2. The publicness of his activity; he served not himself but his own generation.
Note, 3. The rule of his activity, and that was the will of God; as he served his generation, so he served God in his generation faithfully according to his will.
All our serviceableness for God and our generation, must be guided and directed by the word and will of God. David served his own generation by the will of God. This is the account of his life.
Observe next, The relation of his death, He fell asleep, was gathered to his fathers, and saw corruption. He fell asleep; death to the servants of God is as a sleep, and but a sleep. As a sleep, it gives rest and cessation from labour; and as a sleep, it gives refreshment after labour; and as they that sleep shall certainly awake, so those that sleep in Jesus shall awake in the morning of the resurrection, to see their glorified Redeemer face to face.
Note, 2. No serviceableness to God in our generation can exempt from death; for David fell asleep. This is the lot of the faithful, as well as of the slothful servants.
Note, 3. It is a blessed thing when we fall asleep with our work in our hands; when death meets us after a life spent in the service of Christ. David after he had served his generation, fell asleep: it follows, he was gathered to his fathers; that is, he was buried amongst his ancestors: and saw corruption; that is, his body corrupted in the grave like other men's.
That is Jesus Christ, whom God the Father raised to life the third day; he saw a dissolution, but no corruption. Sin had no inheritance in him; therefore death could have no dominion over him; but he overcame death in its own territories, the grave. Thus the apostle draws the argument home, that the foregoing word could not be meant of David's person, but of the Messias, whom David typified and represented.
The apostle having proved his point, that Jesus was the true, the promised and expected Messias, by his resurrection from the dead, he now applies it to his auditory; and tells them, That by the meritorious satisfaction and prevailing intercession of this Jesus, remission of sins is to be obtained, and deliverance from the wrath of God, from which the law of Moses could not, with all its ceremonial washings and sacrifices, cleanse and free them.
Here note, The impossibility of our being justified by the law, and the certainty of our justification by faith in Christ: By him, all that believe are justified.
Where observe, The procurer of our justification, Christ; the qualification of the subjects justified by him, Them that believe; and the extent and measure of our justification, (not from some, but from all things,) By him all that believe are justified from all things.
Next the apostle exhorts his hearers to take heed, lest by their obstinate rejecting and refusing this way of salvation now preached to them, they bring such a remarkable destruction upon themselves now, as God threatened to bring upon their forefathers of old. The sense is, "If ye reject this Jesus, and the way to life and salvation by him, ye shall be destroyed by the Romans, as your ancestors were by the Chaldeans." Sin is as odious to God at one time as another, and in one people as another: particularly the sin of obstinate infidelity and unbelief, is a God-provoking and a wrath-procuring sin: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.
Observe here, 1. The apostle having ended his sermon to the Jews, the Gentile proselytes desire to hear more of this subject the next sabbath-day. Such to whom the word of God is savoury and sweet, are not soon cloyed with it, but hunger after it. Neither do they loath the heavenly manna because it is rained down frequently about their tents.
Observe, 2. The apostle readily complies with their desire; he preaches again the next sabbath, when almost the whole city came together to hear the gospel. But this angered the devil, and occasioned great envy and persecution to the apostles.
Learn thence, That a crowd of hearers, but especially of young converts, is very hurtful to Satan, and doth usually stir up abundance of rage in his servants against the ministers of Christ: When the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy.
Observe, 3. The instruments Satan makes use of to carry on his fierce persecution against the apostles: He stirred up the devout and honourable women, and chief men of the city.
Learn thence, 1. That the powerful and successful preaching of the gospel usually stirs up violent persecution against the preachers of the gospel.
2. That devout women and great men, nourished up in ignorance, are oftentimes great opposers of the truth, and instruments of persecution: The Jews stirred up the devout women, &c.
Observe, 4. How the apostle with great boldness and courage acquaints them with their sin and danger: Ye judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life. But how so? Not directly and formally, but interpretatively and practically. They thought very well of themselves, no doubt, and judged themselves worthy of eternal life, but their practice pronounced them unworthy, and gave sentence against them, whilst they acquitted themselves; for this their contempt of the grace of the gospel, did declare them unworthy of eternal life.
Observe, 5. The emblematical action performed by the apostles to signify God's rejection of this miserable people; They shook off the dust of their feet against them.
This signified, 1. That the very earth was polluted where such refusers of the precious gospel did inhabit, nad was therefore to be shaken off as a filthy thing.
2. That they were a base people, vile as the dust, and that, as such, God had now shaken them off.
3. That the dust of the apostles' feet there left, might be as a witness against them, that the gospel had been preached to them. This action of shaking off the dust of their feet, was a dismal signification of a forsaken people.
Observe, 6. With what joy and gladness the poor Gentiles entertained the glad tidings of the gospel: When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed. That is, when the Gentiles heard the good news, and understood their own interest in it, they rejoiced exceedingly; and as many as were by the Holy Spirit of God prepared and disposed to seek after eternal life, believed.
That is, "The apostles and disciples in this city were nothing discouraged with the Jews' blasphemies, oppositions, and persecutions, but were filled with spiritual joy that they had embraced the gospel, and went on courageously in the profession of it."
Learn thence, that God's grace, and the church's joy, may and doth increase under the greatest opposition and persecutions of men. Infinite wisdom and sovereign power knows how to overrule the contradiction of sinners, for glory to himself, and good to his church.
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