and after taking some food, he regained his strength. And he spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
I. THE PLEASANT. Paul had the pleasure of:
1. Congenial fellowship. He was "with the disciples... at Damascus" (ver. 19); "he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem" (vers. 27, 28). Few things shed more sunshine on our earthly path than the genial society of those with whom we are one in thought and aim.
2. Conscious growth in moral and spiritual power in dealing with men. He increased in strength (ver. 22).
3. Fearless action on behalf of the true and right (ver. 29). These are joys, deep and full, to a human spirit - to be growing in influence, and to be playing a brave and noble part in the strife of life.
II. THE PAINFUL.
1. The distrust of those with whom we are in sympathy. Paul "assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were afraid," etc. (ver. 26). It is a very painful wound to the spirit to be distrusted by those to whom we really belong. To have our sincerity doubted, to have our purity questioned, to be looked at askance rather than with kindly and gracious eye, - this is one of the keen, cutting miseries of life.
2. Persecution for conscience' sake (vers. 23, 24, 29). This may go far short of "seeking our life to take it away;" it may not pass beyond the sneering word or the curling lip, and yet it may introduce great bitterness into the cup of life.
3. Humiliation. Paul never seems to have forgotten the incident of his being let down in a basket (ver. 25). He felt the humiliation of it. Anything which wounds our self-respect makes a lasting, often a lifelong, scar on the soul.
III. THE NEEDFUL.
1. Solitude. It is not stated in the text, but we know from his letters that at this juncture (probably between vers. 19 and 20) Paul went into Arabia (Galatians 1:17); there he spent much time alone with God; there he communed with his own spirit, "looking before and after;" there he re-read and read anew the Scriptures which he imagined he understood before, but now found to be other and more than he had supposed. We urgently need this element of solitude. We are not enough alone; more of quiet meditation, of communion with the Father of spirits, of reverent contemplation, would calm, steady, purify, ennoble us.
2. Social activity. (Vers. 20, 22, 29.) Whether or not we "preach Christ," "confounding" and "disputing," we must come into contact, and sometimes into collision with men. We need to know how to do this wisely and rightly, at times showing the fearless spirit, at times the spirit of discretion, at times the spirit of conciliation, always the spirit of Christ.
IV. THE ELEVATED. (Ver. 30.) This chapter simply tells us that the brethren brought Paul to Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus. But Paul himself elsewhere informs us (Acts 22:17, 18) that the Lord Jesus Christ manifested himself to him and desired him to leave Jerusalem. We do not look for such trances and visions now, but we do look, or should do so, for manifestations, indwellings, influences of the Divine Spirit of God, so that we ourselves and our whole human life may be guided and sanctified of God. Of such elements arc all our lives woven. We must gratefully accept and so sanctify the pleasant, meekly and cheerfully endure the painful, wisely employ the necessary, and reverently avail ourselves of the elevated; thus will our lives be blessed of God, thus will they speak his praise and spread his truth, thus will they lead to his presence and glory. - C.
Then was Saul certain days with the disciples...And straightway he preached Christ.
Weekly Pulpit.I. THE TENDENCY TO CHRISTIAN INTERCOURSE IS GENERATED BY THE LOVE OF CHRIST. The love of Jesus in the heart is the magnet. Dr. Doddridge asked his little daughter how it was that everybody loved her. She answered, "I know not, unless it is that I love everybody." It is a great task to reconcile sinners to each other. We love the brethren because He loves us all.
II. CHRISTIAN SOCIAL INTERCOURSE PRESERVES THE BEST ASSOCIATIONS. The tabernacle of Moses, the harp of David, the cross of Jesus, the faith of Abraham, the experience of Paul, are all heirlooms which preserve the family history. Bring all the drops of water together and you have an ocean; so the experiences of the Church when gathered form a great store.
III. CHRISTIAN SOCIAL INTERCOURSE POINTS TO THE LASTING FELLOWSHIP OF HEAVEN. Christians never say, "Good-bye." The last petition in the upper room before the crucifixion was, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am."
(Weekly Pulpit.)I. THE EVENTS INTERVENING BETWEEN DAMASCUS AND CAESAREA.
1. As soon as Saul was baptized he joined the Christian brotherhood, and publicly declared his new conviction that Jesus was the Christ. I do not think that that continued long. Either through the force of external persecution, or by Divine intimation and guidance, probably by both, he was led to leave Damascus. And in Galatians 1 he tells us that he left Damascus and went into Arabia. Arabia lay round about Damascus and my own expression is, that he did not go further from Damascus than would secure safety and solitude. He was not employed in preaching, but in receiving those communications from Christ which were to perfect his knowledge of the gospel. There he studied the Old Testament under a new teacher; reading it by a different light from that which had been held in the hand of Gamaliel.
2. Then, when fully prepared for all that he had to do, he returned to Damascus, and there, with greater boldness and vigour, proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. But the Jews could not stand this, and determined to kill him. And we learn from a passing allusion in 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3, that in their plans against his life they got the cooperation of the political and military powers. But in a basket, let down from the window of one of the houses, which in Eastern cities very often overhang the wall, Saul was placed by his friends, and, descending, so escaped his enemies' hands.
3. He then put into execution what he had cherished as a purpose. He determined to go to Jerusalem to see Peter (Galatians 1:18, 19). It is probable that he had seen Peter before the Sanhedrim He knew that he was one of the foremost men amongst the apostles, and therefore he wished to visit him — not to acknowledge his supremacy, nor to get from him any authority, but as an intimate friend and disciple of Jesus. On his arrival Saul very naturally wished to join himself to the disciples. But they were in doubt and fear about him. But Saul met with Barnabas, who believed Saul, and believed in him, and who introduced him to Peter and James, who were probably the only apostles who happened to be then at Jerusalem. Saul was then received with cordiality and confidence, and had at once accorded to him fraternal recognition.
4. The apostle was only at Jerusalem for a fortnight (Galatians 1:18, 19). He lodged with Peter, who, as a married man, could perhaps best accommodate him. It is rather odd that he should have become representatively the head of a priesthood who are not allowed to marry! It was very natural that Saul should suppose himself peculiarly fitted for preaching in Jerusalem that faith which, a little time before, he sought to destroy. He made the attempt, and, Grecian as he was, did the very thing that Stephen had done before, and perhaps in the very same synagogue using probably many of the martyr's arguments. His hearers were not subdued by his appeals. It was not his work; Christ had something else for him to do. There was a conspiracy, too, against him in Jerusalem, as there had been at Damascus; and, in addition, there was a concurrent Divine intimation urging his departure (Acts 22:17-21.) The apostle was at once "obedient to the heavenly vision," and his friends got him safely out of Jerusalem and "brought him down to Caesarea."
II. THE POINTS WHICH REQUIRE EXPLANATION.
1. In the history there is no mention of the journey into Arabia, a very important event in the life of St. Paul. But note —(1) An omission is not a contradiction. When two writers, referring to the same time, are found to differ only in that the one omits what the other records; the one may he only the supplement to the other.(2) The history in the Acts is so constructed that an actual journey somewhere may possibly underlie it. There are two periods mentioned. "Then was Saul certain days with the disciples at Damascus," giving the idea of a limit to the period. He was "certain days" there with the disciples — well, what then? Why, at the end he was not with them. Then he had left them. Then afterwards — though this is not mentioned, it is implied — he was with them in Damascus again; and this time, after "many days there occurs the conspiracy. Between the certain days" and the "many days" a journey, because an absence from Damascus, may come in, which might be into Arabia as well as to anywhere else.(3) Then, again, the Epistle to the Galatians and the history in the Acts are perfectly independent productions. Neither was written from the suggestions of the other and made to harmonise with it. If the historian had invented this story from reading the letter he would have put in the journey to Arabia; if the letter writer had invented the letter from reading the history he would not have put in the journey. This independence being admitted, all the coincidences rise into strength as evidences of the perfect truth and trustworthiness of both.(4) There can be no doubt that Galatians was written previously to the Acts. Now Paul and Luke were very often "companions in travel," and there is every probability that the historian wrote under the eye of the letter writer, and yet neither of them sees the inconsistency between the account given by the one and the known contents of the letter of the other. Neither of them thinks it worth while with a stroke of the pen to put it all right. It is perfectly evident that they who knew all about it did not see any difficulty in what perplexes us so much.
2. The difficulty of accounting for the way in which Paul was received by the disciples at Jerusalem. Surely they might have had such full information of all that had occurred, as to receive with acclamation the illustrious convert. But observe —(1) That the Jewish way of talking about time is worth recollecting. Fourteen months would be three years, if the first month was the last in one year, and the last month was the first in another, with one whole year lying between. But three years, even thus reckoned, is a long time. Yet the possible compression of the period, in the way indicated, is worth being referred to.(2) But will it not be curious if the visit into Arabia — which is itself a difficulty — should be just the very thing which enables us to explain the more difficult point before us? I will not say that Paul was running before he was sent; but he might be trying to speak before he was fully equipped for his work. Hence it was, that his Master told him to go into seclusion that he might fully learn all that was necessary for him to know. In consequence of this, he disappeared from Damascus. It is quite possible that none of the disciples knew what had become of him. His companions would go back with some story or other of a strange occurrence which had happened on the road. Whatever it was, it had led him seemingly to recant his opinions. But he was gone off. It was impossible to say what it all meant, or in what character he might next appear. Of course the enemies of the truth would know how to make the most of this, and to frighten the faithful by dark insinuations of what their emissary might yet do. Supposing, therefore, that he was not very long in Damascus, even the second time, he might preach in the synagogues, and yet, in the confusion and disorganisation of the period, intelligence of this might not reach Jerusalem in any authentic or reliable form. The disciples would thus necessarily be in the state in which we find them. Fears, which simple ignorance might engender, would be strengthened if their unscrupulous enemies were known to insinuate that Saul was only playing a deep game.
3. The difference between the statement in the text of the circumstances under which Paul left Jerusalem, and the account which Paul gives of it in chap. Acts 22. Luke attributes it to a conspiracy, Paul to a vision. But this is only the two sides of the same event — the Divine and the human. There is the historian naturally confining himself to the outward fact. But Paul is letting you into the interior. In the complete view we get the united action of Divine authority with human love. It is nothing, after all, but the old story over again of the gold and silver shield.
4. Paul told Agrippa that he "showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God." But in the text he went up to Jerusalem, was taken down to Caesarea, and sent forth to Tarsus. In Galatians, he says, that after going up to Jerusalem, he went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ. How is this to be reconciled?(1) When Paul is writing to the Galatians he is confining himself to the period which transpired before his going to Tarsus. Well, the letter and the history perfectly coincide. We find here that he had gone up to Jerusalem, had been there a short time, had gone hurriedly down to Caesarea, and went thence into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. Of course he was unknown to the churches of Judaea, and all that they knew about him would be what they might happen to hear.(2) But when he stands before Agrippa and says, "And then to the Gentiles," he refers to his great distant missions. Now, previous to his doing that, you will find afterwards that he came up from Antioch through Judaea to Jerusalem, and then went back again, perhaps a different way. On this journey he would have an opportunity of preaching in the villages and towns of Judaea, of which, we may be sure, he would fully avail himself, Thus both accounts are perfectly true and consistent, only they refer to different times.
(T. Binney.)I. THE IMPORTANCE AND DUTY OF PROMPTITUDE IN RELIGIOUS MATTERS. This quality standing at the beginning of the new course, and for the carrying out of the new convictions, has much instruction for us.
1. There are many beginnings in the world which stand alone, or which shine out in mocking contrast to all that comes after. Many a rosy morning becomes a cloudy noon, precursor of a stormy night! Many a man who starts in life well, swerves and wavers as he goes on. The divine life has to our eyes the same uncertainties about it. We have to wait for proof, for fruits, and for patient continuance to the end. Yet in some beginnings we can see conditions which, continued, lead to a triumphant issue. One of these, very prominent in the history, of St. Paul, is promptitude.
2. Promptitude is a prerequisite of success. A beginning is only a beginning, and yet much depends on how it is made. Some beginnings are like the spring on the mountainside, gushing into life and flowing clearly; some are like waters from a mossy soil, trickling, oozing, so little visible and so uncertain, that you cannot tell where they begin. But here is a vigorous, clear beginning. As soon as Paul saw his duty he did it. "What wilt Thou have me to do?" had been his prayer. The answer is, "You know Me now. You have persecuted — now preach"; and he did so "straightway." In giving the history of this very time, Paul himself tells us in the Epistle to the Galatians that "immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." If he had so conferred, it is almost certain that his whole course would have been different. Some would have said: "Stay awhile until the memory of your career as persecutor has died away." Others would have said: "Be cautious. Do not commit yourself thus early. Your present convictions may be only transient. It can do no harm to wait." Had he gone to Jerusalem, Peter, who said to the Master, "Not so, Lord," would have been quite as ready to say "Not so" to the servant. And probably all the apostles would have advised caution and delay. But Paul was right, and his promptitude saved him from many difficulties which else would have beset his course. It raised his conversion above suspicion. It opened his way. It confirmed his faith. It enlarged his knowledge. It gave him an advantage against any who might be his enemies. It put him in possession of the ground. It made retreat more difficult. It made him a fit example for all who are beginning the Christian course to the end of time. The first sign of a rectified condition will always be the prayer, "What wilt Thou have me to do?" The next wilt be to do it "straightway."
3. The thing to be done will, of course, be different in different cases. In a sense, everyone who receives the gospel must preach it. There are some who favour reserve in regard to religious feeling and conviction. It is said that such things ought to be felt rather than expressed. That is not the teaching of the Bible. "We believe and therefore speak." "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." "Ye shall be witnesses," etc. — not silent witnesses surely. Such was the original law, and there is no reason to believe that it has ever been changed. Are, then, men who can now speak best on such a subject to speak least? Because thoughtless people sometimes talk not wisely and not well on religion, must thoughtful people seal their tongues in silence and keep all dark till the day of death? Each man ought, in his own measure and way, to preach. For a quiet man to speak in conversation, is as much as for a public man to write. For one man to offer prayer in a house, would be more than for another to preach in a pulpit. Or with some, a change of habit and life may be the most expressive thing they can say or do. The question as to the form which the duty of the new state shall take is a question which one can never settle for another. But the principle is this — that there is to everyone something to be done, by look, or speech, or action, or habit — or all of these together — to be done for Christ as soon as you believe in Him; and that that thing ought to be done without delay.
II. ITS ADVANTAGES.
1. "Straightway!" And your new consciousness will become clear, as it never will do by repression. Doubts gather around the inactive mind, over the slumbering reluctant will, as mists above the stagnant pool. Work in spite of them; work through them on to duty — and they are gone.
2. "Straightway!" And the outer difficulties will be dispersed, and you will see them no more. He who begins on the yielding system will find that the difficulties that hinder the soul's first alacrity will hinder it more and more. There are some animals which will not molest you if you face them, but they will follow you if you flee.
3. "Straightway!" And you will give to your soul one of the first and most indispensable conditions of growth. Children would sicken and die if they were kept in a state of inactivity.
4. "Straightway!" And you will lay the first stones in the great edifice of habit. We are in a large measure the creatures of habit; but would it be better if we were all impulse and emotion? No. It is no small part of our greatness that we can build our life into strength as well as beauty by the stones of habit.
5. "Straightway!" And you will end no small part of the lesser miseries of life. For, not a little is the result of duty undone — a word unspoken, an action postponed.
6. "Straightway!" And the enemies of our true life and of the gospel of Christ are taken at advantage. All their plans are broken, their prophecies of evil are set at nought — by the simple yet sublime plan of going, without hesitation, right on to duty or endeavour.
7. "Straightway!" And timorous friends — the discouraged, the weak, the halting — receive, as it were, a new inspiration.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)Galatians 1:17-24.
1. He states that three years elapsed between his conversion and his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian. The history in the Acts speaks only of "many days." But this is no contradiction. In 1 Kings 2 we read that Shimei "dwelt in Jerusalem many days"; and then the next verse opens thus, "And it came to pass at the end of three years." The expression "many days" is large enough to cover a period of three years. So it is here.
2. In the same passage St. Paul mentions a journey into Arabia, of which we have here no notice. The region intended is differently understood: it may have been that Arabia which borders very closely upon Damascus itself. And the purpose of his journey is not mentioned — whether it was undertaken as a first missionary enterprise, or whether to afford him a season of secluded meditation. St. Luke's account of St. Paul's life is full of omissions, except during that part of it in which he was with him. We are thankful for what he tells, and we are glad to supplement it from the Epistles of St. Paul himself.
3. The same passage tells us the length of his stay at Jerusalem, and with which of the apostles he then became acquainted (Galatians 1:18-20). Why this earnestness of expression? Because St. Paul is vindicating the independence of his own apostleship. He did not receive his gospel at second hand. It was three years before he saw one of the apostles; when he at length visited Jerusalem it was but for fifteen days, and during the whole of that visit he saw but Peter and James the Lord's brother. Thus was verified Galatians 1:1, 11, 12. Notice in the text —
I. PAUL PREACHING (ver. 20). "We preach not ourselves," he said some years afterwards, "but Christ Jesus the Lord." St. Paul never found it necessary to change his subject. It lasted him for his life. But what was it? The dry monotonous repetition of one doctrine? Need I ask this of any reader of his Epistles? Well may he speak there of "the unsearchable riches of Christ"; of "all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Christ bodily." He found in Christ an inexhaustible wealth of comfort, of sympathy, of help, an unlimited supply of grace. And this was what he sought to communicate. That is true preaching; the endeavour to unfold a reality and a happiness first felt within. And he could do this at once — "straightway." He could tell, as a matter of plain proof, that he who had come out to persecute had been arrested by a stronger hand, and constrained to confess that One whom he had scouted as a crucified and dead man was indeed living in the fulness of strength at the right hand of God.
II. PAUL IN SECLUSION. We are not to suppose that St. Paul's knowledge was at once complete, or his spiritual life perfected. Doubtless it was during this interval of three years that he learned many of those things of which he has left the record in his Epistles — many of those "revelations of the Lord," e.g. And may it not have been that that deep experience of the conflict with indwelling sin, which he details so strikingly in Romans 7, was then especially gained? It is a great error to suppose that an apostle, because he was specially called and equipped, was therefore raised out of the ordinary experiences of the Christian life within, was exempted from the trials which other men endure in rising from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. And the same error runs on into a province in which it is not a mere loss of comfort, but a grave and sometimes fatal deception. Men talk as if conversion were the whole of a Christian life. Conversion is a great thing, but conversion must be tried by these tests — first, is it the commencement of a change? and secondly, is it the commencement of a progress? A conversion which begins and ends with itself lacks every sign of that which Scripture so designates. A conversion trusted in as a security for salvation, usurps the very place of the Saviour Himself, and becomes at once a delusion and a snare.
III. PAUL MISTRUSTED. How lifelike are the lessons of Scripture. Which of us cannot understand the shrinking of ver. 26. St. Paul felt heart and soul with the disciples, and longed to exchange with them that sympathy which only Christians know, and which it is misery to them to be constrained to hide. "But they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple." It was natural: the memory of their beloved Stephen, and of many others, hunted down by his relentless rage, could not but rise within them at the sight of him, and make it difficult to believe that the professed change was real. But these things turn to the gospel for a testimony: the thought of what Saul was only increases the miracle of what he is; such a change, so thorough, so astounding, is one of the standing evidences of Jesus and the resurrection. But at the time it was hard to credit. This was the punishment of long hostility to the Saviour. Doubtless he bore it meekly and confessed that it was his due. But ought not the record make us all fearful of discouraging the nascent faith of others? Take heed not to quench the smoking flax.
IV. PAUL ENCOURAGED. How well does Barnabas justify the appellation "Son of Consolation." He knew the whole history of the new disciple, and therefore he lost no time in mediating between him and those who doubted him. He brought him to the apostles, and declared to them his history. Thus, like Andrew, he acted as the encourager and helper of another in coming to Jesus. It is a blessed office this of the peacemaker; more especially when the peace made is not of earth only; when it affects the soul also; whether in its dealings with Christ Himself, or in its relations to Christ's servants. What is the aim of a visitor of the poor, in its highest aspect? Is it not this — to bring to the apostles — in other words, to bring to Christ Himself — those who, but for such aid, might be lost sight of, and be left in disregard, in suspicion, in darkness? How often has the work of Christian charity been privileged to perform this highest office! A Christian care for the body may be made available to save the soul.
(Dean Vaughan.)I. JOYFUL CONFESSION OF CHRIST (ver. 20).
II. WILLING ENDURANCE OF THE ENMITY OF THE WORLD (ver. 23).
III. HUMBLE INTERCOURSE WITH BELIEVERS (ver. 26).
IV. GODLY CONDUCT IN THE SERVICE OF THE LORD (ver. 28).
(J. P. Lange, D. D.)
I. WHAT WAS THERE IN THIS STORY SPECIALLY BELONGING TO SAUL AND HENCE OF NO ESSENTIAL VALUE IN ORDINARY USE NOW?
1. It arrests the imagination to think of such a reception for one who had reasonably supposed he would come in triumph as the Inquisitor-general from Jerusalem. But it is not necessary for anyone now to pass through those personal trials.
2. His intense fright and prostration. The words "trembling and astonished" do not belong to the Bible. Indeed, much more than this is left out of verses 5 and 6 (see R.V.). In his own accounts of his conversion, given before Agrippa, and before the mob, he did use the expression, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks," and he did ask, "What shall I do?" but he never in any instance said he trembled, for he was not that sort of man. He was contrite and submissive, but he was not scared.
3. His vision. We must carefully discriminate between what belonged to this man's commission as an apostle, and what belonged to his conversion as a man. If the Lord ever makes a new apostle, it is possible He may deal with another man in the same way; but it is not necessary to see a luminous sign, nor to hear a supernatural voice, in order to be a faithful, honest, and even an assured follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. His physical catastrophes. The circumstances of any conversion are quite separate from the conversion itself. It cannot be a necessity now to be violently thrown on the ground. Suffering is not necessarily repentance.
II. WHAT WAS THERE WHICH WAS ESSENTIAL AND EXEMPLARY FOR PERMANENT USE?
1. His entire intellectual acceptance of the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the Saviour of men. And that carried the whole Christian creed with it. Jesus Himself pressed this necessity in His name (Luke 6:46). He admitted it to be His own rightful designation (John 13:13). And the apostles made it to be the form of doctrinal confession of Christianity (Acts 2:36). When Saul saw Jesus, he suspected his terrible error, and asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And when the answer came, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest," then he knew the truth, and took it to his heart as he called that Being, knowing Him to be Jesus — Jehovah.
2. His immediate commencement of first Christian duty (ver. 9). The earliest low cry of an infant is the definite evidence of life: it breathes. So we sing, "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath." Paul knew the importance of an evidence like this; for he wrote afterwards about it (1 Timothy 2:8).
3. His change of purpose. Saul's life swung around instantly and entirely both in feeling and in fact. He had loved to persecute Christians: now he loved to love them. He had hated and derided Jesus of Nazareth; now he accepted Him heartily as the promised Messiah. He had been "exceedingly mad"; now he was commensurately humble and penitent. He had been under commission from the chiefs of his bigoted nation; now be said simply enough, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
4. His one ambition. He had been thinking that he verily did God service by his laborious and passionate zeal in persecution; now he kept at work for the mere joy of doing some loving thing for God. He rested by faith in the merits of a Redeemer crucified (Galatians 2:20). He put off the old man, he put on the new (Colossians 3:9, 10). He now desired only to be found in Christ, and to be found like Christ. In one lengthy passage of an epistle, he discloses his clear purpose, his passionate wish, all condensed into a single paragraph which really is worth studying word by word (Philippians 3:7-14).
5. He gave himself at once by public committal to the friends of the Lord Jesus. He told over and over again the story of his conversion (Galatians 1:20-24). At Damascus he was "with the disciples" (ver. 19). Even under cold prejudice at Jerusalem, he "assayed to join himself to the disciples" (ver. 26).
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)I. THE PREACHER AS EVIDENCING THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. What were the moral antecedents of this man? In general terms he was what we all are by nature — the children of wrath, even as others. But in addition to that there was a strong development of the carnal mind which brought out his enmity against God in a most striking light. He was a virulent enemy of Christ and of His Church. Such a sworn foe must have been the last man the Church had supposed would have become not only a convert, but a preacher. One could almost as soon have expected Caiaphas or Pilate. By no previous process of training was this wonderful work accomplished; but in a moment when his heart was bound with enmity against Jesus and the truth, the proud heart and the rebellious will were broken and subdued. To what can you ascribe it but to the power of God? The hand that had just grasped the weapon that was to slay was now clasped in prayer. The knees that never trembled when he stood by Stephen were now smiting for fear. The eyes that had gloated on the agonies of martyr were now overflowing with tears of penitence. I pause to ask you if this is not a fact in evidence which must carry to every ingenuous mind the conviction that the religion that could change such a heart as that of Saul of Tarsus must be Divine?
2. What was his subsequent course? Follow his career from the moment that he said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" till he closed it by a martyr's death, and there is not in the annals of the Christian Church a character so evidencing the truth of the gospel as that shown in Saul.
3. It is of little consequence what may have been our antecedents — whether we have been persecutors of Churches, or Pharisees, wrapping ourselves up in our own righteousness — we must all pass through the same spiritual change that he did.
II. THE PREACHING AS ILLUSTRATING THE NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. "Straightway." He asked no authority from man. He applied for no orders. He passed through no theological training. From the moment of the discovery of Christ he became His preacher. I would not have you infer that a man may devote himself to the ministry apart from a previous training; for the conversion of the apostle was miraculous, and he had been trained in one of the first schools of the times; so that when by the power of Christ his heart was changed, he had all the intellectual discipline that was essentially necessary to become an able minister of the New Testament. And yet, if it please God to convert a man of intelligence, I see no reason why that man, now his heart is glowing with the love of Christ, should not straightway preach Christ. The authority that we receive is not from man. Ordination is but a recognition of the Church; a pledge on the part of our brethren of their prayers, sympathies, and confidence.
2. But what did Saul preach? "Jesus." There may be much preaching so denominated that claims no title to the character. Man may preach theology without God, Churchianity without Christianity, Christianity without Christ, the Bible without revelation, the Cross without atonement. Man may do all this, and not preach Jesus. The theme of this newly awakened convert was all summed up in one precious and Divine name — Jesus Christ.
III. THE PLACE OF PREACHING AS MANIFESTING THE POWER AND TRIUMPHS OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. He had to cope with(1) the pharisaical Jews. There was much that the Jew had to allege in favour of his religion. He could claim the oracles of God's Word as sustaining him. And yet the apostle adapted not his subject to meet the prejudices or objections of the Jews, but he met them by a simple uplifting of Christ and unfolding of the gospel.(2) The Greek philosophers. It was here that his learning came to his help. If God gives a man intellect and furnishes his mind with learning, God intends that he shall employ these powers in the advancement of His truth. But mark, although his reasoning was logical and profound when he confronted the philosophers of Athens, his theme still was Christ.(3) And thus this man, wherever he went, whoever were his audience — whether he confronted the Jews in the synagogue, the sceptics of Athens, or the jailor at Philippi, Christ Jesus was his grand, his only theme; and no theme but this will ever meet and overcome the enemies, the false religions, and the oppositions of the world. Let men go forth, making Christ their great theme, and such is the voice of that, accompanied with the power of the Spirit, that it would silence all the enemies of the Church.
2. What is it so to preach Christ?(1) Saul preached Christ as the Son of God, and we cannot properly preach Christ without in the very foreground placing this grand article of our creed — that Christ is essentially Divine. The whole fabric of Christianity rests upon this. Cut this from under us, and on what do we stand — in what is the sacrifice for sinners? in what our hope for eternity? But if my Saviour is God, then my hope is resting on Deity, and I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I commit unto Him until that day.(2) We must preach the sacrifice, the atonement of Christ, without qualification or reserve. This is a day of much reserve in the statement of those great cardinals of our faith. But the work of Christ is what it ever has been. No change in modern modes of thought or of opinion has altered the essential doctrines of Christianity. We are not to adapt our preaching to the education or the politics of the times. We are to preach the same glorious gospel which Paul preached when he uplifted the Cross of Christ as the only hope of a lost and ruined world. What a grand feature was that in his ministry — Christ the Saviour of sinners! "This is a faithful saying," etc.
(O. Winslow, D. D.)I. THERE IS AN UNOFFICIAL PREACHING OF CHRIST INCUMBENT UPON EVERY ONE WHO IS CONVERTED BY HIS GRACE. As soon as one experiences the renewing power of the Spirit, he is brought under the most powerful constraint to make known the benefits he has received, and to commend ¢o others his Saviour. Saul is a noble example of this generous testimony for Christ.
1. It was prompt. "Immediately." There was no dalliance with duty, no waiting upon frames and feelings. Love, gratitude, joy, a desire to retrieve the wrongs of the past, a yearning to direct others, above all a desire to honour Christ, led him at once to herald forth the name of Jesus.
2. It was brave. He did not simply enter his name upon the roll of the disciples, nor content himself with speaking privately to his former acquaintances, nor open some private apartment where the Jews might hear his testimony; but on the Sabbath day, when the synagogues were thronged, Saul, in the face of friend and foe, made public confession of Jesus.
3. It was uncompromising. He did not undertake to strike a balance between his own convictions and the prejudices of his hearers. He did not confess Jesus as a good man, or as an inspired prophet, or as a supernatural being above angel. He "proclaimed Jesus that He is the Son of God."
II. A HIGHER AND OFFICIAL PREACHING OF CHRIST IS INCUMBENT UPON THOSE, AND THOSE ONLY, WHO ARE DULY CALLED AND QUALIFIED TO ENTER UPON IT. This is the preaching which Saul did after his return from Arabia. A study of his course throws much light upon the prerequisites to the gospel ministry. It must be preceded —
1. By a Divine call. The call of Saul was extraordinary in its method (Acts 26:16), but in essence the same that every minister must have. There must be an impression deeply wrought by the Spirit that it is our duty to serve God in the ministry — a conviction that grows stronger as it is prayerfully deliberated upon, and does not yield in prospect of the sacrifices which such a life entails.
2. By thorough preparation. One would have supposed that Saul, graduate of the school of Gamaliel, a man of broad literary culture, a master of the law, an acute theologian, a ready debater, an eloquent orator, might receive his commission at once. But there were schools for the ancient prophets. The twelve were for three years under the personal tuition of our Lord. Saul must first go into Arabia, and, like Moses and the Baptist, come under the immediate tuition of Heaven. There he received what he so expressively calls "my gospel" (Galatians 1:11). If such tuition were needful for one so thoroughly furnished, what shall we say of those who would have young converts rush into the vows and responsibilities of the ministry?
3. By orderly commission. The usual method then, as now, was through the Church authorities. But with the ordinary office of the preacher Saul was to unite the extraordinary office of the apostle. His commission, therefore, was made an extraordinary one. Instead of going up to Jerusalem to receive ordination from the apostles, he went into Arabia, and there received it immediately from the hands of the Lord (Galatians 1:1). A Divine commission is as necessary now as it was then.
III. THE MATTER, MANNER, AND EFFECTS OF PREACHING CHRIST ARE THE SAME IN ALL AGES. They are strikingly illustrated in the passage.
1. The matter is the same. Saul sounds here the keynote of his whole after-ministry. He preaches "Jesus, that He is the Son of God." Upon His Deity he bases the whole system of doctrines that he proclaims. To this he adds the evidence of His Messiahship. He establishes His claim as the anointed Prophet, revealing the Father; the anointed Priest, making atonement; the anointed King, reigning until all enemies are subdued. This is the gospel which every minister is commissioned to preach, which every layman is under obligation unofficially to teach. Nothing can supersede it. It will bear no admixture of human philosophy, it will submit to no arraignment at the bar of human reason. It, and it alone, goes down to the deep necessities of the human heart, and has power to lift man up into the life of holiness and into the light of hope.
2. The manner is the same. Saul's preaching was(1) Scriptural. He confounded the Jews by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ. He who does this stands upon high vantage-ground. It is the men who are "mighty in the Scriptures" whose teaching is crowned with success.(2) Fearless. "Boldly." He did not hesitate through fear of prejudice or opposition. He did not consult the partialities or caprices of his hearers. Never was such preaching needed more than now. It requires courage to deal faithfully with the consciences of impenitent sinners and worldly-minded church members.(3) Humble. "In the name of the Lord Jesus." He assumed no authority or superiority of his own. He was but the mouthpiece through whom Christ spake. He relied upon the power of Christ to make his message effectual.
3. The effects are the same.(1) The apostle found in Damascus and at Jerusalem what he did everywhere else, "To the one we are the savour of death," etc. In every community two classes will appear — enemies and friends.(a) With the former the enmity of the carnal heart will be aroused, and will lead on to persecution. If the Jews in Damascus and Jerusalem cannot gainsay Saul's arguments, they can at least "lay wait to kill him."(b) But very different are the effects upon another. Saul soon found himself surrounded by a body of disciples — "his disciples," as the R.V. teaches us in ver. 25. Faithful work for Christ will not be left without result.(2) The fruits of faithful teaching are gathered after the teacher is gone. Saul has been "brought down to Caesarea, and sent away to Tarsus," but the Church of God remains, and "has peace, being edified," etc.
(T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)I. THE SOURCE FROM WHICH IT MUST PROCEED. A heart apprehended of Christ and converted.
II. ITS CONTENTS. Christ the Son of God and the Saviour of men.
III. ITS SUCCESS.
2. Blessed fruits.
(K. Gerok.)I. THE CHARACTER OF HIS SPIRITUAL CHANGE.
1. It was radical. He preached Christ as the Son of God, what he had previously given his whole being to deny. Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the apostle.
2. It was genuine. He preached in the synagogues, where he was well known as the High Priest's commissioner — the worst place for an impostor, but the best place for one who wished to make some atonement for his past life.
3. It was startling. The people were "amazed," as well they might be.
II. THE NATURE OF HIS NEW FAITH (ver. 22). It was —
1. Growable — "he increased." The more he examined Christ's claims, and reflected on His truths, the stronger grew his confidence and affection. Christianity is not a dry notion, but a living germ. Once planted, every earnest thought about it will only serve to strike its roots deeper.
2. Discussable. It was a thing Paul felt he could take into the synagogues and submit to competent critics. Christianity is no mystic sentiment that admits of no explanation, nor a musty sentiment that totters on scrutiny; it is intelligible in its facts, and rational in its theories.
3. Demonstrable. "Proving." By manifestation of the truth he commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
III. THE SPIRIT OF HIS FIRST AUDITORS (ver. 23). Their malignity was —
1. Deadly. They sought to kill him. Violence has always been the argument of bigotry, which no man knew better than Saul; but truth ever seeks to kill error by saving the advocate.
2. Deliberate evil as well as good has its plans.
3. Frustrated (ver. 25). In his deliverance we see —(1) The way in which Providence delivers the good. God could have launched a thunderbolt and crushed Saul's enemies; but as is usually the case God saved him by his own caution and the assistance of the disciples.(2) The inevitable doom of evil. God "taketh the wise in their own craftiness."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. II. III. IV. V. (K. Gerok.) 1. Tasks. 2. Joys. 3. Sufferings. (K. Gerok.) (The Quiver.)
II. III. IV. V. (K. Gerok.) 1. Tasks. 2. Joys. 3. Sufferings. (K. Gerok.) (The Quiver.)
III. IV. V. (K. Gerok.) 1. Tasks. 2. Joys. 3. Sufferings. (K. Gerok.) (The Quiver.)
(K. Gerok.) 1. Tasks. 2. Joys. 3. Sufferings. (K. Gerok.) (The Quiver.)