On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 9:28-31.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 341 - October 1884


Chapter 9:28-31

Adequate testimony then to the call of divine grace is the true ground of reception: and the peculiar antecedents of Saul brought it out in high relief. There are very different circumstances now where the world in these lands calls itself Christian. But the principle abides, though profession in an easy-going estate, where corruptions (moral, ecclesiastical, and doctrinal) abound, is as far as possible from calling on the name of the Lord in the face of opposed nature and persecution private or public. It is of the deepest moment that all for each soul should turn on that Name, the only passport which ought to be demanded as thus directly magnifying Him, the best of all safeguards against the world, the flesh, and the devil; for His name is the death-knell of all evil, whatever its varying form. To that Name the highest of earth must bow and be indebted for recognition where every tongue confesses Him Lord to the glory of God the Father; but the same Name introduces the most down-trodden slave into the fulness of grace now with living hope of heavenly and everlasting glory. And though His name solemnly summons every one that names it, to stand aloof from unrighteousness, against none here and at once does it threaten such scathing judgment as when men (no matter what their fame, credit, or pretensions) bring not the doctrine of Christ.

But the assembly, profoundly engaged to care for the common interests of that Name, looks for trustworthy testimony as to each soul that names it. This gives the fullest scope to faith and love in the saints already within, who, seeking the glory of the Lord in those that confess Him, are according to their measure reliable witnesses, whether for receiving a Saul of Tarsus, or for rejecting a Simon Magus. For if all have communion as saints in what is done, and are free, yea bound, to satisfy themselves, the evidence on which they judge practically rests with such as, enjoying the confidence of all, have love enough to ascertain the truth. The church acts on witnesses it believes. So it is shown in the striking instance before us, that we might be guided aright in our own duty, even where the outward features are as unlike as possible. But, the church being a divine institution, and not a mere voluntary society even of saints, there is a holy and wise principle which governs, or at least it ought, and will if done rightly, bringing out the Lord's glory, as in Saul's case. Active love, animated by a single eye to Christ, will see clearly and judge aright.

"And he was with them going in and going out at1 Jerusalem, 2 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord 3; and he was speaking and discussing with the Hellenists4; but they had in hand to kill him. And when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off unto Tarsus" (ver. 28- 30).

Liberty was thus enjoyed whether for fellowship or for testimony. It is indeed essential to Christianity and in contrast with the law which genders bondage. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;" or as He Himself testified, "I am the door; by Me if any one enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out, and shall find pasture." Salvation, liberty, and food are assured by His grace: and so Saul was proving at this time even in Jerusalem. What could be sweeter than to taste it for his soul, where tradition had so lately blinded his eyes, and zeal for the law led him to persecute the way of divine grace unto death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women?

But there was more than this, bold utterance in the name of the Lord, which well becomes the object of grace. If "this day is a day of good tidings," and assuredly it is beyond all that ever dawned, how hold our peace? Not so did the four leprous men, when famine pressed the city of Samaria, and they found the deserted camp of the Syrians full of every good thing for those that were otherwise perishing with hunger. And who in Jerusalem more than Saul, its late emissary of bonds or death for all that called on the name of the Lord, could with godly assurance proclaim His name by faith in it to strengthen the weak and release the captives, to give life to the dead and liberty to the oppressed, or (as he said in a later day) to open their eyes, that they might tarn from darkness to light and from Abe power of Satan to God, receiving remission of sins and inheritance among those that are sanctified by faith in Christ? For free and bold testimony in His name is the fruit of His grace, no less than liberty for one's own soul; and in this order too. We need to be set free from every hindrance and weight and doubt and question, we need the liberty wherewith Christ sets free, before the mouth can open boldly to make known His grace and glory to others. It is not to angels that God subjected the habitable earth to come but to Christ who will give His saints to reign with Him. It is not to angels that He gives the gospel commission but to His servants who were once children of wrath even as others. How soon even Christians forgot His ways and returned to the yoke of bondage, and to fleshly successional order, the rudiments of the world, which played their fatal parts in crucifying the Lord, now to find themselves, if God be believed, set aside and condemned to death in His cross!

But Saul, as he lets us know, when called by grace to have God's Son revealed in him that he might preach Him among the Gentiles, immediately conferred not with flesh and blood, but went into Arabia and returned again to Damascus. Even when he did go up to Jerusalem, it was "to see (or visit) Peter," not to take holy orders, any more than to go through a theological curriculum, for "he abode with him fifteen days,' seeing none other of the apostles save James the Lord's brother. And on this he speaks with impressive urgency, as a matter of the deepest moment for God's glory that the truth of his independent mission should be established for ever and beyond question, bound up as it is with the gospel revealed by him in a fulness and height beyond all others. In Jerusalem too we see his full liberty and his bold testimony to the Lord's name. All was ordered that the truth of the gospel might continue with the Gentiles; but with the Jews also he maintains the same principle and conduct. Alas! it was ill appreciated. For on the one hand, the Gentiles have not continued in God's goodness but throughout Christendom have turned back like a dog to its own vomit; judaizing so egregiously as to give people the impression that the gospel is a sort of half-improved, half-mitigated, law, instead of being the perfect expression of God's grace in justifying ungodly sinners by the faith of Christ in virtue of His death and resurrection. On the other hand, when he turned to the Hellenists, or Greek-speaking Jews, with the loving zeal of one of themselves to impart the truth which had set himself free, seeking not theirs but them, they betrayed how little those are subject to God's law who despise and refuse His gospel, for they went about to kill him. They were but Abraham's seed, not his children (John viii.): if they had been his children, they would have done the works of Abraham. They had really the devil for their father, a murderer and a liar from the beginning; and his works they did.

It is needless to dwell on the error whether of old MS. or of ancient version, which makes the apostle speak and dispute at this early day with the "Greeks " in Jerusalem. In fact it was with the same class which furnished "the seven" who had been set over the daily ministration; of whom Stephen and Philip had been so highly honoured also in the word. Saul was drawn out the more toward them, as being himself a Hellenist, and one who had not only consented to Stephen's death, but had been the prime and most energetic leader in the persecution that followed. Now he himself is exposed to their deadly hatred; "and when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus." It seems clear that this was not C. Philippi, but rather the seat of the Roman governor, whence he readily went by sea. Nor is Gal. i. 21 any real difficulty; for it only intimates that he then came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia, which was easy by ship; and the following verse intimates that he was still unknown by face to the churches of Judæa which were in Christ.

"The assembly5 then, throughout the whole of Judæa and Galilee and Samaria, had6 peace, being edified7; and walking8 in the fear of the Lord9 and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied10 (ver. 31).

There seems no good ground to make this verse the concluding sentence of the paragraph, as the state of the church throughout these districts is not meant to be connected with Saul one way or another, It is rather, while attending to their past trial, an introduction to the account of Peter's visit which immediately succeeds, and it can thereon well stand by itself.



1) εἰς אABCELP &c. ἐν Η. Syrr. Pst. & Hcl. Arm. Æthiοp.

2) אABC Flud. Arm. &c. omit the copulative; EHLP Vulg. Syrr. Cop. &c. insert.

3) T.R. with אcorr HLP &c. add Ἰησοῦ, but אpm ABE and Vv. omit; Ἰησοῦ only, is read by C, Syr. Pet.

4) A is alone of the uncials in reading Ἓλληνας, all others giving Ἕλληνεστάς.

5) 6) 7) 8) 10) The singular is read by it אABC Vulg. Syr. Pst. Sah. Cop Arm. Æthiop. Erp. Arab. &c. as against the plural of Text. Rec. HLP Syr. Hcl. (and E, ἐκκλ. πᾶσαι.)

9) The article is omitted by A, though read by all others.