Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.God Shaping Man's Course
There is one word in this passage which is of supreme importance. It is the keyword of the passage, and all the meaning of the passage depends on it. It is an unusual word in the New Testament in the original, though we are familiar with the word by which it is translated. It looks a simple word, but it is very broad, and deep and full.
'Chosen 'is the word. If it meant only what we are accustomed to read in it, it would mean a great deal. Here was a man who had been miraculously intercepted on his wilful way, had seen visions and heard voices which others had not seen and heard. After three days of absolute darkness one comes to him, inspired of God to come—and this is the authoritative explanation which he brings of all that has happened: 'The God of our fathers hath chosen thee. The God who called Abraham, and blessed Isaac, and multiplied Jacob, and trained and raised up Moses, hath chosen thee.' There is not a person here whose heart would not be unspeakably thrilled if a voice should come from the unseen, a voice authoritative and absolute, saying—'The eternal God, in whose hands all things are, in whose existence thou hast dimly, faintly believed, hath chosen thee for this or that particular task. He calls thee now, to undertake it'
I. God calls thee; requires thee; and this or that event in life—the breaking down of health, the disturbance of friendship, the failure of thy plans, the hedging up of thy path—is God's way of arresting thy attention, directing thy mind to the fact of His reality and His thought of thee, and His purpose for thee. It is a wonderful fact, a fact to which we are often blind—which, if we were alive to it, would greatly solemnize and dignify and sanctify life—that God is always choosing and calling people, this man for that position, and that for the other: one to know the perils of outward success, another those of outward failure; one to know the bliss and pain that belong to family relationships of wife, husband, and parent, of union and separation—the health and sickness, the coming and going of those dearer than life—another to know the different pain of solitude and its compensating freedom for the service of others; one for the high and public place, with its excitements and burdens, another for the lowly position, with its peculiar trials and delights; one to go abroad, another to stay at home.
II. The Word means more than calling and choosing at the moment. It refers to the past as well as the present It does not mean that Paul grew mischievous to the Church, and had to be stopped. It does not mean that the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro in the earth, saw this man—the product of circumstances—this man of extraordinary power and enthusiasm; saw how useful he would be in the service of the kingdom, and because of what he was chose him then and there, as a Church chooses and calls one minister out of a number whom it has never seen before. It means that Saul had never been out of the sight of God. That the Divine Disposer of events had been looking for ward to that hour on the way to Damascus from before the birth of the babe into the Jewish family at Tarsus. A literal translation of the word would be, 'The God of our fathers hath had thee in hand' for this very thing. While the Holy Child was growing up in the home of Nazareth, this child was born in the home at Tarsus, and as truly as the Most High God had His purpose for the One, He had His purpose for the other also.
II. The great lesson coming from this example—the lesson that puts so many of us to shame—is that of being ready to embrace the Divine Will when it is made known to us.
—Charles Brown, Light and Life, p. 9.
References.—XXII. 14.—H. Drummond, The Ideal Life, p. 257. XXII. 14, 15.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 103. XXII. 15, 21.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 236. XXII. 16.—F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 83. XXII. 17.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 359. XXII. 17, 21.—Ibid. vol. viii. p. 231. XXII. 21.—T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 284. XXII. 23.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 222. XXII. 25.—H. S. Holland, Old and New, p. 101. XXII. 27.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 426. XXII. 28.—E. M. Geldart, Echoes of Truth, p. 66. J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son, p. 189. XXIII. 1.—G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 174. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches, p. 210. XXIII. 2.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 99. XXIII. 3.—Ibid. p. 301. XXIII. 6.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 415; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 40. XXIII. 8.—T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 146. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 384; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 444. XXIII. 11.—H. S. Holland, God's City, p. 251. H. Bailey, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 131.
(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.
And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,
The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.
And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.