Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PAUL'S FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY:
In Company with Barnabas.
LABOR AMONG THE
FORTH BY THE
The first seven chapters of this book might be entitled, The Church
among the Jews; the next five (chapters eight through twelve),
The Church in Transition from Jews to Gentiles; and the last
sixteen (chapters thirteen through twenty-eight), The Church among
the Gentiles [BAUMGARTEN]. "Though
Christianity had already spread beyond the limits of Palestine, still
the Church continued a stranger to formal missionary effort.
Casual occurrences, particularly the persecution at Jerusalem
had hitherto brought about the diffusion of the Gospel. It was from
Antioch that teachers were first sent forth with the definite purpose of
spreading Christianity, and organizing churches, with regular
1. there were . . . certain prophets--(See on
and teachers; as Barnabas, &c.--implying that there were others there,
besides; but, according to what appears the true reading, the meaning is
simply that those here mentioned were in the Church at Antioch as
prophets and teachers.
Simeon . . . Niger--of whom nothing is known.
Lucius of Cyrene--
He is mentioned, in
as one of Paul's kinsmen.
Manaen--or Menahem, the name of one of the kings of Israel
which had been brought up with--or, the foster brother of.
Herod the tetrarch--that is, Antipas, who was himself "brought
up with a certain private person at Rome" [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 17.1,3]. How differently
did these two foster brothers turn out--the one, abandoned to a
licentious life and stained with the blood of the most distinguished of
God's prophets, though not without his fits of reformation and seasons
of remorse; the other, a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus and prophet
of the Church at Antioch! But this is only what may be seen in every
age: "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.' If the
courtier, whose son, at the point of death, was healed by our Lord
was of Herod's establishment, while Susanna's husband was his steward
his foster brother's becoming a Christian and a prophet is something
and Saul--last of all, but soon to become first. Henceforward this
book is almost exclusively occupied with him; and his impress on the New
Testament, on Christendom, and on the world is paramount.
2. As they ministered to the Lord--The word denotes the performance of
official duties of any kind, and was used to express the priestly
functions under the Old Testament. Here it signifies the corresponding
ministrations of the Christian Church.
and fasted--As this was done in other cases on special occasions
(Ac 13:3, 14, 23),
it is not improbable that they had been led to expect some such
prophetic announcement at this time.
the Holy Ghost said--through some of the prophets mentioned in
for the work whereunto I have called them--by some communication,
perhaps, to themselves: in the case of Saul at least, such a designation
was indicated from the first
Note.--While the personality of the Holy Ghost is
manifest from this language, His supreme divinity will appear
equally so by comparing it with
3. laid their hands on them--(See on
--"recommending them to the grace of God for the work which they had to
sent them away--with the double call--of the Spirit first, and next
of the Church. So clothed, their mission is thus described: "They being
sent forth by the Holy Ghost." Have we not here for all time the true
principle of appointment to sacred offices?
PREACH IN THE
BLIND, AND THE
GOVERNOR OF THE
4, 5. departed unto Seleucia--the seaport of Antioch, from which it
lay nearly due west fifteen miles, and five from the Mediterranean
shore, on the river Orontes.
thence sailed to Cyprus--whose high mountain summits are easily
seen in clear weather from the coast [COLONEL
reasons may have induced them to turn in first to this island: (1) Its
nearness to the mainland; (2) It was the native place of Barnabas, and
since the time when Andrew found his brother Simon, and brought him to
Jesus, and "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus," family
ties had not been without effect on the progress of the Gospel. (3) It
could not be unnatural to suppose that the truth would be welcomed in
Cyprus when brought by Barnabas and his kinsman Mark, to their own
connections or friends. The Jews were numerous in Salamis. By sailing
to that city, they were following the track of the synagogues; and
though their mission was chiefly to the Gentiles, their surest course
for reaching them was through the proselytes and Hellenizing Jews. (4)
Some of the Cypriotes were already Christians. Indeed, no one place
out of Palestine, except Antioch, had been so honorably associated with
the work of successful evangelization" [HOWSON].
5. and when they were at Salamis--the Grecian capital of the island,
on the eastern side, and not many hours' sail from Seleucia. At this
busy mercantile port immense numbers of Jews were settled, which
accounts for what is here said, that they had more than one synagogue,
in which Barnabas and Saul preached, while other cities had one only.
they had . . . John--Mark.
to their minister--"for their officer". (See on
With what fruit they preached here is not said. Probably their feeling
was what Paul afterwards expressed at Antioch in Pisidia
6. when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos--on the opposite or
west side of the island, about one hundred miles by land, along the
south coast; the Roman capital, where the governor resided.
they found a . . . sorcerer--one of a numerous class of impostors who,
at this time of general unbelief, were encouraged even by cultivated
7. Which was with the deputy--properly, "the proconsul." This name
was reserved for the governors of settled provinces, which were placed
under the Roman Senate, and is never given in the New Testament to
Pilate, Felix, or Festus, who were but procurators, or subordinate
administrators of unsettled, imperial, military provinces. Now as
Augustus reserved Cyprus for himself, its governor would in that case
have been not a proconsul, but simply a procurator, had not the emperor
afterwards restored it to the Senate, as a Roman historian [DIO
expressly states. In most striking confirmation of this minute accuracy
of the sacred historian, coins have actually been found in the island,
stamped with the names of proconsuls, both in Greek and
Numismatic Illustrations of the New Testament].
BENGEL, not aware of this, have missed the mark here).
Sergius Paulus, a prudent man--an intelligent man, who thirsting for
truth, sent for Barnabas and Saul, desiring ("earnestly desiring") to
hear the Word of God.
8-12. But Elymas--or "the wise."
for so is his name by interpretation--the word is from the Arabic.
withstood them--perceiving, probably, how eagerly the proconsul was
drinking in the word, and fearing a dismissal. (Compare
9. Then Saul . . . also . . . called Paul--and henceforward Paul only;
a softening of his former name, in accommodation to Roman ears, and (as
the word signifies "little") probably with allusion as elsewhere to his
insignificance of stature and appearance
(2Co 10:1, 10)
filled with the Holy Ghost--the Spirit coming mightily upon him.
set his eyes on him and said--Henceforward Barnabas sinks into the
background. The whole soul of his great colleague, now drawn out, as
never before, shoots, by the lightning gaze of his eye, through the dark
and tortuous spirit of the sorcerer. What a picture!
10. full of all subtlety--referring to his magic arts.
and all malice--The word signifies "readiness for anything," knavish
thou child of the devil . . . enemy of all righteousness--These were
not words of passion, for immediately before uttering them, it is said
he was "filled with the Holy Ghost" [CHRYSOSTOM].
wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord--referring
to his having to that hour made a trade of leading his fellow creatures
11. the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind for a
season--the judgment being mercifully designed to lead him to
repentance. The tradition that it did is hardly to be depended on.
there fell on him a mist, &c.--This is in Luke's medical style.
12. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being
astonished at the doctrine of the Lord--so marvellously attested;
What fruit, if any, followed this remarkable conversion, or how long
after it the missionaries remained at Paphos, we know not.
13. they came to Perga in Pamphylia--The distance from Paphos to
Attalia, on the Gulf of Pamphylia (see on
sailing in a northwest direction, is not much greater than from
Seleucia to Salamis on the east. Perga was the metropolis of Pamphylia,
on the river Cestrus, and about seven miles inland from Attalia.
and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem--As Paul afterwards
peremptorily 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"
there can be no doubt that he had either wearied of it or been deterred
by the prospect of the dangers which lay before him. (But see on
14. departed from Perga--apparently without making any stay or doing
any work: compare the different language of
and see immediately below.
came to Antioch in Pisidia--usually so called, to distinguish it
from Antioch in Syria, from which they had started, though it actually
lies in Phrygia, and almost due north from Perga. It was a long journey,
and as it lay almost entirely through rugged mountain passes, while
"rivers burst out at the base of huge cliffs, or dash down wildly
through narrow ravines," it must have been a perilous one. The whole
region was, and to this day is, infested by robbers, as ancient history
and modern travels abundantly attest; and there can be but little doubt
that to this very journey Paul many years after alludes, when he speaks
amidst his "journeyings often," of his "perils of rivers"
(as the word is),
and his "perils of robbers"
If this journey were taken in May--and earlier than that the passes
would have been blocked up with snow--it would account for their not
staying at Perga, whose hot streets are then deserted; "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 with our
15-17. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand--as was his
manner on such occasions
Men of Israel, and ye that fear God--by the latter expression meaning
religious proselytes, who united with the Jews in all acts of ordinary
and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in Egypt--by
marvellous interpositions for them in their deepest depression.
18-22. forty years suffered he their manners--rather, according to what
appears the true reading, "cherished he them" (as a nurse the infant in
20. after that he gave . . . judges . . . about
the space of four hundred and fifty years--As this appears to
various solutions have been proposed. Taking the words as they stand in
the Greek, thus, "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 aimed at.
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 [JOSEPHUS,
Antiquities, 8.3.1]; deduct forty years in the wilderness;
twenty-five years of Joshua's rule [JOSEPHUS,
Antiquities, 5.1.29]; forty years of Saul's reign
forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign
and there remain, just four hundred forty-three years; or, in round
numbers, "about four hundred fifty years."
21. God gave . . . them Saul . . . of the tribe of Benjamin--That the
speaker was himself of the same name and of the same tribe, has often
been noticed as in all likelihood present to the apostle's mind while
forty years--With this length of Saul's reign (not mentioned in the
Old Testament), JOSEPHUS coincides [Antiquities, 6.14.9].
22. I have found David, &c.--This quotation is the substance of
and perhaps also of
23-25. Of this man's seed hath God, according to . . .
promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus--The emphasis on this
statement lies: (1) in the seed from which Christ
sprang--David's--and the promise to that effect, which was thus
fulfilled; (2) on the character in which this promised Christ
was given of God--"a SAVIOUR." His personal name
"JESUS" is emphatically added, as designed to
express that very character. (See on
26-31. children . . . of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God--Gentile proselytes.
to you is the word of this salvation sent--both being regarded as one
class, as "the Jew first," to whom the Gospel was to be addressed in the
27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they
knew him not, &c.--The apostle here speaks as if the more immediate
guilt of Christ's death lay with the rulers and people of the
metropolis, to which he fondly hoped that those residing at such a
distance as Antioch would not set their seal.
28. found no cause of death--though they sought it
(Mt 26:59, 60).
29. they took him down . . . and laid him in a sepulchre--Though the
burial of Christ was an act of honor and love to Him by the disciples to
whom the body was committed, yet since His enemies looked after it and
obtained a guard of soldiers to keep watch over it as the remains of
their own victim, the apostle regards this as the last manifestation on
their part of enmity to the Saviour, that they might see how God laughed
all their precautions to scorn by "raising Him from the dead."
31. he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee
to Jerusalem, &c.--that is, by those who, having gone out and in with
Him in closest intimacy during all His public ministry, which lay
chiefly in Galilee, and having accompanied Him on His last journey to
Jerusalem, could not possibly be mistaken as to the identity of the
risen One, and were therefore unexceptionable and sufficient witnesses.
33. God hath fulfilled the same--"hath completely fulfilled."
in that he hath raised up Jesus again--literally, "raised up"; but
the meaning is (notwithstanding the contrary opinion of many excellent
interpreters) "from the dead"; as the context plainly shows.
as it is written in the second psalm--in many manuscripts "the first
Psalm"; what we call the first being regarded by the ancient Jews as
only an introduction to the Psalter, which was considered to begin with
this day have I begotten thee--As the apostle in
regards the resurrection of Christ merely as the manifestation
of a prior Sonship, which he afterwards
represents as essential, it is plain that this is his meaning
here. (Such declarative meaning of the verb "to be" is familiar
to every reader of the Bible). See
"So shall ye be," that is, be seen to be "My disciples." It is
against the whole sense of the New Testament to ascribe the
origin of Christ's Sonship to His resurrection.
34-37. now no more to return to corruption--that is, to the grave
where death reigns; and compare
"Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more
dominion over him."
I will give you the sure mercies of David--
The word rendered "mercies" is peculiar, denoting the sanctity
of them, as comprehending the whole riches of the new covenant; while
the other word, "sure," points to the certainty with which they
would, through David's Seed, be at length all substantiated. See on
But how do these words prove the resurrection of Christ? "They
presuppose it; for since an eternal kingdom was promised to David, the
Ruler of this kingdom could not remain under the power of death. But to
strengthen the indefinite prediction by one more definite, the apostle
of which Peter had given the same explanation (see on
Ac 2:30, 31),
both apostles denying the possibility of its proper reference to David"
36. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of
God--rather, "served," in his own generation, the will (or "counsel")
of God; yielding himself an instrument for the accomplishment of God's
high designs, and in this respect being emphatically "the man after
God's own heart." This done, he "fell asleep, and was gathered to his
fathers, and saw corruption." David, therefore (argues the apostle),
could not be the subject of his own prediction, which had its proper
fulfilment only in the resurrection of the uncorrupted body of the Son
of God, emphatically God's "Holy One."
38-41. the forgiveness of sins--the first necessity of the sinner, and
so the first experienced blessing of the Gospel.
39. by him all that believe are justified from all things--The sense
requires that a pause in the sentence be made here: "By him the believer
is absolved from all charges of the law." What follows,
from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses--is not an
exceptional but an explanatory clause. The meaning is not,
"Though the law justifies from many things, it cannot justify from all
things, but Christ makes up all deficiencies"; but the meaning is, "By
Christ the believer is justified from all things, whereas the law
justifies from nothing." (Note.--The deeper sense of justification,
the positive side of it, is reserved for the Epistles, addressed to
the justified themselves: and whereas it is the resurrection of
Christ here, and throughout the Acts chiefly, which is dwelt on, because
the first thing in order to bring peace to the guilty through Christ was
to establish His Messiahship by His resurrection, in the Epistles to
believers His death as the way of reconciliation is fully unfolded).
40. Beware, therefore, &c.--By this awful warning of the Old Testament
the apostle would fain "shut them up unto the faith."
41. ye will not believe though a man declare it unto you--that
is, even on unexceptionable testimony. The words, from
were originally a merciful but fruitless warning against the
approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and the
Babylonish captivity. As such nothing could more fitly describe the
more awful calamity impending over the generation which the apostle
42, 43. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles
besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath--rather
(according to what is beyond doubt the true reading), "Now, as
they were going out [of the synagogue], they besought"--that is, not the
Gentiles, whose case comes in afterwards, but the mixed congregation of
Jews and proselytes, to whom the discourse had been addressed, entreated
to have another hearing of such truths; those of them, that is, who had
been impressed. "And after the breaking up of the synagogue, many of"
both classes, Jews and religious; proselytes, followed Paul and Barnabas
(observe, from this time forward, the inverted order of these names;
Ac 14:14; 13:7; 12:25;
These names evidently been won to the Gospel by what they had heard,
and felt a clinging to their spiritual benefactors.
43. who, speaking to them--following up the discourse in the synagogue
by some further words of encouragement.
persuaded them to continue in the grace of God--which they had
experienced through the Gospel. (Compare
44-48. the next sabbath came almost the whole city together to hear the
word of God--the intervening days having been spent in further inquiry
and instruction, and the excitement reaching the Gentiles, who now for
the first time crowded, along with the usual worshippers, into the
45. But when the Jews--those zealots of exclusive Judaism.
saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy--rather, "indignation,"
and broke out in their usual manner.
contradicting and blaspheming--There is nothing more awful than Jewish
fury and execration of the name of Jesus of Nazareth, when thoroughly
46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, &c.--This is in the
highest style of a last and solemn protestation.
It was necessary that the word should first have been spoken to
you--See the direction of Christ in
since ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life--pass sentence
47. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, &c.--These and other
predictions must have been long before this brought vividly home to
Paul's mind in connection with his special vocation to the Gentiles.
I have set thee--that is, Messiah; from which Paul inferred that he
was but following out this destination of his Lord, in transferring to
the Gentiles those "unsearchable riches" which were now by the Jews
rejected and despised.
48. when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad--to perceive that
their accession to Christ was a matter of divine arrangement as well as
and glorified the word of the Lord--by a cordial reception of it.
and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed--a very
remarkable statement, which cannot, without force, be interpreted of
anything lower than this, that
a divine ordination to eternal life is the cause, not the effect,
of any man's believing.
49-52. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the
region--implying some stay in Antioch and missionary activity in its
50. the devout and honourable women--female proselytes of distinction,
jaundiced against the new preachers by those Jewish ecclesiastics to
whom they had learned to look up. The potent influence of the female
character both for and against the truth is seen in every age of the
expelled them--an easier thing than to refute them.
51. shook off the dust of their feet against them--as directed
came unto Iconium--a populous city about forty-five miles southeast
from Pisidian Antioch: at the foot of Mount Taurus; on the borders of
Lycaonia, Phrygia, and Pisidia; and in later times largely contributing
to the consolidation of the Turkish empire.
52. the disciples--who, though not themselves expelled, had to endure
sufferings for the Gospel, as we learn from
were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost--who not only raised them
above shame and fear, as professed disciples of the Lord Jesus, but
filled them with holy and elevated emotions.