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Arno Clement Gaebelein

In the Public Domain

                           THE BOOK OF THE ACTS
                              OF THE APOSTLES


     The book known by the name "The Acts of the Apostles" (The oldest
manuscript, the Sinaiticus, dating from the 4th century, given the title
simply as "The Acts," which is no doubt the better name for the book(,
follows the four Gospel records. This is its proper place. The books of the
New Testament have been correctly divided into five sections, corresponding
to the first five books, with which the Bible begins, that is the
Pentateuch. The four Gospels are the Genesis of the New Testament. Here we
have the great beginning, the foundation upon which the subsequently
revealed Christian doctrines rest. The Book of Acts is the Exodus; God
leads out from bondage a heavenly people and sets them free. It is the
great historical book of the New Testament given by inspiration, the
beginning of the church on earth. The Pauline Epistles are the Leviticus
portion. Holiness unto the Lord, the believer's separation and standing in
Christ; what the believer has and is in Christ, by whose blood redemption
has been purchased, are the core truths of these Epistles. The Epistles of
Peter, James, John and Jude, known by the name of the Catholic Epistles,
are for the wilderness journey of God's people, telling us of trials and
suffering; these correspond to the Book of Numbers. The Book of Revelation
in which God's ways are rehearsed, and, so to speak, a review is given of
the entire prophetic Word concerning the Jews. the Gentiles and the Church
of God has therefore the same character as Deuteronomy.

                       By Whom was this Book Written

     There is no doubt that the writer of the third Gospel record is the
one whom the Holy Spirit selected to write this account of the
establishment of the Church on earth and the events connected with it. This
becomes clear if we read the beginning of that Gospel and compare it with
the beginning of Acts. The writer in the third Gospel says: "It seemed good
to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the first,
to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest
know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed"
(Luke 1:3-4). The Acts of the Apostles begin: "The former treatise have I
made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." The
former treatise known to Theophilus is the third Gospel, called the Gospel
of Luke. The writer of that Gospel must therefore be the penman of the Book
of Acts. Though we do not find Luke's name mentioned in the Gospel, nor in
the second Book, he was entrusted to write by inspiration, there is no
doubt that he wrote them both. We find his name mentioned a number of times
in the Epistles, and these references give us the only reliable information
we have. In Colossians 4:14 we read of him as "the beloved physician." In
the Epistle of Philemon he is called a fellow laborer of the Apostle Paul,
and from the last Epistle the great Apostle wrote, the second Epistle to
Timothy, we learn that Luke was in Rome with Paul and was faithful to him,
while others had forsaken the prisoner of the Lord. From Colossians 4 we
also may gather that he was not a Jew, but a Gentile, for with the eleventh
verse Paul had mentioned those of the circumcision. Epaphras was one of the
Colossians, a Gentile, and then follow the names of Luke and Demas, both of
them undoubtedly Gentiles. The reason that the Holy Spirit selected a
Gentile to write the Gospel which pictures our Lord as the Man and the
Saviour and the Book of Acts, is as obvious as it is interesting. Israel
had rejected God's gift, and the glad news of salvation was now to go to
the Gentiles. The Gospel of Luke addressed by a Gentile to a Gentile
(Theophilus) is the Gospel for the Gentiles, and Luke the Gentile was
chosen to give the history of the Gospel going forth from Jerusalem to the

                            Internal Evidences

     There are numerous internal evidences which show likewise that the
writer of the third Gospel is the instrument through whom the Book of Acts
was given. For instance, there are about fifty peculiar phrases and words
in both books which are rarely found elsewhere: they prove the same author.

     Then we learn from the Book of Acts that Luke was an eyewitness of
some of the events recorded by him in that book. He joined the Apostle
during his second missionary journey to Troas (chapter 16:10). This
evidence is found in the little word "we." The writer was now in company of
the Apostle, whose fellow laborer he was. He went with Paul to Macedonia
and remained some time in Philippi. He was Paul's fellow traveler to Asia
and Jerusalem (chapter 21:17). He likewise was with him in his imprisonment
in Caesarea, and then on to Rome. There is no doubt that Luke had
completely written and sent forth the Book of the Acts of the Apostles at
the end of the two years mentioned in Acts 28:30, though the critics claim
a much later period.

                    The Contents and Scope of the Book

     The first verse gives us an important hint. The former treatise, the
Gospel of Luke, contains that Jesus began to do and teach. The Book of Acts
contains therefore the continuation of the Lord's actions, no longer on
earth, but from the Glory. The actions of the risen and glorified Christ
can easily be traced through the entire Book. We give a few illustrations.
In the first Chapter He acts in the selection of the twelfth Apostle who
was to take the place of Judas. In the second chapter He himself poured
forth the Holy Spirit, for Peter made the declaration "therefore, being by
the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the
promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which ye behold and
hear." And in the close of the second chapter we behold another action of
the risen Lord, "the Lord added to the assembly daily those that were to be
saved." In the third chapter He manifested His power in the healing of the
lame man. Throughout this Book we behold Him acting from the Glory,
guiding, directing, comforting and encouraging His servants. These
beautiful and manifold evidences of Himself being with His own and
manifesting His power in their behalf can easily be traced in the different

     Then on the very threshold of the Book we have the historical account
of the coming of that other Comforter, whom the Lord had promised, the Holy
Spirit. On the day of Pentecost the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy
Spirit, came. His coming marks the birthday of the Church. After that event
we see Him present with His people as well as in them. In connection with
the Lord's servants in filling them, guiding them, fitting them, sustaining
them in trials and persecutions, in the affairs of the church, we behold
the actions of the Holy Spirit on earth. He is the great administrator in
the church. Over fifty times we find Him mentioned, so that some have
called this Book; "the Acts of the Holy Spirit." There are no doctrines
about the Holy Spirit and His work in the Book of Acts. But we find the
practical illustrations of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit found elsewhere
in the New Testament.

     In the third place another supernatural Being is seen acting in this
Book. It is the enemy, Satan, the hinderer and the accuser of the brethren.
We behold him coming upon the scene and acting through his different
instruments, either as the roaring lion, or as the cunning deceiver with
his wiles. Wherever he can, he attempts to hinder the progress of the
Gospel. This is a most important aspect of this Book, and indeed very
instructive. Aside from the human instruments prominent in this Book of
Acts, we behold three supernatural Beings acting. The risen and glorified
Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Satan.

     Another hint about the contents of this Book and its scope we find at
the close of the Gospel of Luke. There the risen Christ said "that
repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name to all the
nations beginning at Jerusalem." In the first chapter of Acts the Spirit of
God reports the commission of the Lord, about to ascend, in full. "Ye shall
be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the
end of the earth." The Book of Acts shows us how this mission, beginning in
Jerusalem, was carried out. The witness begins in the City where our Lord
was crucified. Once more an offer was made to the nation Israel. Then we
behold the Gospel going forth from Jerusalem and all Judea to Samaria. and
after that to the Gentiles. and through the Apostle Paul it is heralded in
the different countries of the Roman empire. The parable of our Lord in
Matthew 22:1-10 gives us prophetically the history of these events. First
the guests were called to the wedding and they would not come. This was the
invitation given by the Lord to His earthly people when He moved among
them. They received Him not. Then came a renewed offer with the assurance
that all things are ready. This is exactly what we find in the beginning in
the Book of the Acts. Once more to Jerusalem and to the Jewish nation is
offered the kingdom, and signs and miracles take place to show that Jesus
is the Christ risen from the dead. In the above parable our Lord predicted
what the people would do with the servants, who bring the second offer.
They would ignore the message and treat the servants spitefully and kill
them. This we find fulfilled in the persecution which broke out in
Jerusalem, when Apostles were imprisoned and others were killed. The Lord
also predicted in His parable the fate of the wicked City. It was to be
burned. Thus it happened to Jerusalem. And after the second offer had been
rejected the servants were to go to the highways to invite the guests. And
this shows that the invitation was to go out to the Gentiles.

     Jerusalem is in the foreground in this Book, for the beginning was to
be in Jerusalem "to the Jew first." The end of the Book takes us to Rome,
and we see the great Apostle a prisoner there, a most significant,
prophetic circumstance.

                     The Division of the Book of Acts

     "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon
you, and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in
Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). This verse in
the beginning of the book is the key to the historical account it contains.
The Holy Spirit came on the day of pentecost and the witness to Christ
began. We make a threefold division.

     I. The Witness to Jerusalem. The Advent of the Spirit and the
Formation of the Church. The Offer to Israel and its Rejection. Chapter

     II. The Witness to Samaria. Saul's Conversion and Peter's Witness in
Caesarea. Chapter 8-12.
     III. The Witness to the Gentiles. The Apostle to the Gentiles, His
Ministry and Captivity. Chapter 13-28.

     While undoubtedly all witnessed, the book of Acts reports mostly the
acts of Peter and Paul. The Apostle Peter is in the foreground in the first
part of the book. After the twelfth chapter he is mentioned but once more.
Then Paul comes upon the scene with His great testimony concerning "The
Gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth." Jerusalem is Prominent in the start. Antioch, the Gentile
center of Christian activity, follows, and Rome is seen at the close of the
book. The witness of which the risen Lord spoke was therefore given to
Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria. Then to the uttermost part of the
earth. Africa received a witness in the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Then followed the witness to Asia and Europe. The book of Acts ends, so to
speak, in an unfinished way.

                         Analysis and Annotations

                                  Part I

     The Witness to Jerusalem.
     The Advent of the Spirit and the Formation of the Church.
     The Offer to Israel and its Rejection.

                               Chapters 1-7

                                 CHAPTER 1

     1. The Introduction (verses 1-3).
     2. The final words of the risen Lord (verses 4- 8).
     3. The ascension (verses 9-11).
     4. The waiting company (verses 12-14).
     5. Matthias chosen in the place of Judas (verses 15-26).

     The introductory words prove that Luke is the writer. In the former
treatise, Luke had addressed to Theophilus (the Gospel of Luke) the
beginning of the teaching, and acts of our Lord were reported. The Book of
Acts reveals the same wonderful person witnessed to by the Holy Spirit.
Eight things are mentioned concerning our Lord in the beginning of this
book. 1. His earthly life of doing and teaching. 2. He gave them
commandment. 3. He had suffered. 4. He had showed Himself after His passion
by many infallible proofs. 5. He was seen by them for forty days. 6. He
spoke of the things which concern the Kingdom of God. 7. He was taken up.
8. He will come again. Once more He gave to them the promise of the coming
of the Holy Spirit. In verse 5 we read "ye shall be baptized with the Holy
Spirit not many days hence." John the Baptist had spoken also of a baptism
with fire. The Lord omits the word fire, because the baptism with fire is a
judgment act linked with His second coming (See Matthew 3:12). The question
they asked of Him concerning the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel was
perfectly in order. This is the Hope of Israel; the Hope of the church is
not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly glory; not to be subjects in the
kingdom on earth, but to reign and rule with the King. The answer they
received assured them that the kingdom was to be restored to Israel; the
times and seasons for that, however, rested with the Father.

     Then they saw Him ascending. What a sight it must have been! Their
Lord was "received into Glory." Gradually in majestic silence He must have
been lifted out of their midst. Lovingly His eyes must have rested upon
them, while their eyes saw only Him. Then a cloud received Him out of their
sight. "And then a cloud took Him in (literal rendering) out of their
sight." The cloud was not a common cloud of vapor, but the glory-cloud. It
was the cloud of glory which had filled Solomon's temple, which so often in
Israel's past history had appeared as an outward sign of Jehovah's
presence. Then angels announced His coming in like manner. And thus He will
come, even back to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).

     However, we must beware of confounding this event given here with that
blessed Hope, which is the Hope of the church. The Coming of the Lord here
is His visible Coming as described in the prophetic books of the Old
Testament; it is His coming to establish His rule upon the earth. it is the
event spoken of in Daniel 7:14 and Revelation 1:7. When He comes in like
manner as He went up, His Saints come with Him (Colossians 3:4; 1
Thessalonians 3:13). The Hope of the church is to meet Him in the air, and
not to see Him coming in the clouds of heaven. The coming here "in like
manner" is His Coming for Israel and the nations. The Coming of the Lord
for His Church, before His visible and glorious manifestation, is revealed
in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. It is well to keep these important truths in
mind. Confusion between these is disastrous. He left them to enter into the
Holy of Holies, to exercise the priesthood which Aaron exercised on the day
of atonement, though our Lord is a priest after the order of Melchisedec.
And when this promise of the two men in white garments is fulfilled, He
will come forth to be a priest upon His throne.

     Then we see them as a waiting company. They are not the church. Their
waiting for the Coming of the Holy Spirit ended ten days after, when the
Holy Spirit came. Since then He is here. To wait for another outpouring of
the Holy Spirit, as so often done by well meaning people, is unscriptural.
Among the waiting ones were "Mary the mother of Jesus and His brethren."
The one chosen by God's grace to be the mother of our Lord; Mary, who had
conceived by the Holy Spirit, is waiting with the other disciples. This
proves that she has no place of superiority among God's people. When the
Holy Spirit came she too was baptized by the Spirit into the one body of
which, through the Grace of God, she is a member like any other believer in
our Lord. After this she is not mentioned again in the Word of God. Mary,
the mother of Jesus, has absolutely no relation with the redemption work of
the Son of God. His brethren, according to John 7:5, were unbelieving.
Since then they had also believed on Him.

     The action of Peter in proposing to place another in Judas' place was
not a mistake as some claim. Peter acted upon the Scriptures and was guided
by the Lord. Some hold that Paul was meant to be the twelfth apostle. This
is incorrect. Paul's apostleship was of an entirely different nature than
that of the twelve. Not till Israel's complete failure had been
demonstrated in the stoning of Stephen was he called, and then not of men,
but by revelation of Jesus Christ. There is positive proof that the Holy
Spirit sanctioned this action of the disciples. See 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.
Furthermore, twelve apostles were needed as a body of witnesses to the
entire nation. How strange it would have been if Peter and the ten, eleven
men in all, instead of twelve, had stood up on the day of Pentecost to
witness to Christ in the presence of the assembled multitude.

                                 CHAPTER 2

     1. The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (verses 1-4).
     2. The Immediate Effect of His Presence (verses 5-13).
     3. Peter's Address (verses 14-36).
     4. The Result of the Witness (verses 37-41).
     5. The Gathered Company in Fellowship (verses 42-47).

     This is an important chapter. The Promise of the Father was fulfilled,
the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity came down to earth, to be
the other Comforter. He came on that blessed day.

     Two things are at once apparent. He came upon the assembled believers
individually, and also did a work in a corporate way. Each believer on that
day was filled with the Holy Spirit. He came as the indweller to each. But
He also was present as the mighty rushing wind which filled all the house.
He did not only come upon each, but all were baptized with the Holy Spirit,
and united into a body. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 the more complete revelation
is given concerning this fact. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into
one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and
have been all made to drink into one Spirit." The One Spirit is the Holy
Spirit as He came on the day of Pentecost, the One Body is the church. All
believers were on that day united by the Spirit into the one body, and
since then, whenever and wherever a sinner believes in the finished work of
Christ, he shares in that baptism and is joined by the same Spirit to that
one body. A believer may be in dense ignorance about all this, as indeed a
great many are; but this does not alter the gracious fact of what God has
done. The believing company was then formed on the day of Pentecost into
one body. It was the birthday of the church.

     There is an interesting correspondence between the second chapter of
Luke and the second chapter of Acts which we cannot pass by. In the first
chapter of Luke we have the announcement of the birth of the Saviour. In
the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke we read of the accomplishment of
that Promise given to the Virgin. And so the second chapter of Acts
contains the fulfillment of a similar promise. The Holy Spirit came and the
church, the mystical body of Christ, began.

     But the truth concerning the church was not revealed on the day of
Pentecost. The twelve apostles were ignorant of what had taken place, and
that the church formed would be composed of believing Gentiles as well as
believing Jews; nor did they know anything of the different relationships
of the church. Through the Apostle Paul the full truth concerning the
church was made known.

     The Coming of the Holy Spirit was accompanied with visible signs. A
new dispensation was inaugurated with outward signs, just as the giving of
the law for that dispensation was accompanied with similar signs. (Hebrews
12:18-19.) The rushing mighty wind filled the house, "and there appeared
unto them cloven tongues like as of fire and it sat upon each of them." The
filling of the house indicated the fact that His abode would be the house;
the church and the parted tongues upon each head testified to the fact that
each had received Him. The Person, not a power or influence given by
measure, had filled each believer. He came as the gift of God.

     Then they spoke in different languages. The speaking in other
languages was a miracle produced by the Holy Spirit, who had come upon them
in mighty power. These Galileans spoke in different tongues, sixteen at
least, if not more. "By a sudden and powerful inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, these disciples uttered, not of their own minds, but as mouthpieces
of the Holy Spirit, the praises of God in various languages hitherto, and
possibly at the time itself, unknown to them" (Dean Alford in Greek

     The significance of this miracle speaking in other tongues is not hard
to discover. It was the oral manifestation of the parted tongues of fire,
which had come upon each. Besides this it proclaimed the great fact that
the Holy Spirit had come to make known the blessed Gospel to all nations
under heaven, and though no Gentiles were present when this took place, the
languages of the Gentiles were heard, and that from Jewish lips, showing
that the Gospel should go forth unto the uttermost part of the earth. But
did they utter all an orderly discourse, preaching the truth concerning
Christ, or was their speech of an ecstatic nature, in the form of praising
God? We believe the latter was the case. We look in vain through this book
for the evidences that these believers continued speaking these different

     Now, while it is true that there was such a gift as speaking in an
unknown tongue in the apostolic age, and no Christian believer would doubt
the power of God to impart to a person the gift to preach the Gospel in a
foreign tongue, we do not believe that this gift of speaking in an unknown
tongue was to abide in the church. Repeatedly claims were made in years
gone by that it had been restored (for instance during the Irvingite
delusion in England), but in every case it was found to be spurious or
emanating from the enemy. The present day "apostolic or pentecostal
movement" with its high pretensions and false doctrines, lacking true
scriptural knowledge and wisdom, creating new schisms in the body, with its
women leaders and teachers, has all the marks of the same great
counterfeiter upon it. (For a closer examination of the speaking in tongues
see our larger work on Acts.)

     Then Peter stood up with the eleven and gave his great testimony. What
boldness he manifested! What a change from the Peter before Pentecost! It
was the result of the Holy Spirit he had received. His address dealt with
the great historical facts of the Gospel, bearing witness to the
resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. In its scope and pointedness
it is a remarkable production. It has three parts. 1. He reputes the charge
of drunkenness and quotes from Joel, avoiding, however, the statement that
Joel's prophecy was fulfilled (verses 14-22). (Joel's Prophecy will be
fulfilled in connection with the second Coming of Christ. Then the Holy
Spirit, after the predicted judgments are passed, will be poured out upon
all flesh. To put the fulfillment in our day is erroneous. See our
Exposition of Joel.)

     2. Next he gives a brief testimony of the life and the resurrection of
the Lord Jesus. He quotes from the sixteenth Psalm (verses 23-28). 3. The
last part of his address shows that the Holy Spirit had come as the result
of the resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The briefest
but deepest Messianic Psalm is quoted in this section (Psalm 110). The
address as reported closes with the significant word: "Let the whole house
of Israel, therefore, assuredly know that God has made Him, this Jesus whom
you have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (verses 29-36). Notice how the
Holy Spirit uses through Peter the Word of God. The Holy Spirit testifies
in and through the written Word. The aim of Peter's address was to prove to
the house of Israel that the crucified One is raised from the dead and that
God made Him Lord and Christ, witnessed to by the presence of the Holy
Spirit. The Person of Christ and His work is still the great theme.
Whenever He is preached the power of God will accompany the message.

     Wonderful results followed. The Word had been preached and the power
of the Holy Spirit brought the great truths to the hearts and consciences
of the hearers. Their guilt in having crucified Jesus had been fully
demonstrated, and now they asked, "Now, brethren, what shall we do?" Peter
gives the needed answer. Repentance and baptism are the conditions. If
these are fulfilled remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit are
promised to follow. Peter's words wrongly interpreted have led to much
confusion. Upon these words doctrines, especially concerning water baptism,
have been built, which are not alone nowhere else taught in the Bible, but
which are opposed to the Gospel. The words of Peter to his Jewish brethren
have been used to make water baptism a saving ordinance, that only by
submission to water baptism, with repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus,
can remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit be obtained. We do
not enlarge upon these unscriptural conceptions nor answer the utterly
false doctrine of "baptismal regeneration", but rather point out briefly
what these words of Peter mean. We must bear in mind that Peter addressed
those who had openly rejected Jesus. They had, therefore, also openly to
acknowledge their wrong and thus openly own Him as Messiah, whom they had
disowned by delivering Him into the hands of lawless men. Repentance meant
for them to own their guilt in having opposed and rejected Jesus. Baptism
in the name of Jesus Christ (in which it differs from the baptism of John)
was the outward expression of that repentance. It was for these Jews,
therefore, a preliminary necessity. And here we must not forget that
Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost had it still to do with the
kingdom, as we shall more fully learn from his second address in the third
chapter. Another offer of the kingdom was made to the nation. The great
fact that the Holy Spirit had begun to form the body of Christ, the church,
as stated before, was not revealed then. In this national testimony the
word "repent" stands in the foreground, and their baptism in the name of
Him whom they had crucified was a witness that they owned Him now and
believed on Him.

     About three thousand souls were added, who repented and were baptized.
Then we behold them in blessed fellowship. Doctrine stands first. It is the
prominent thing. They continued steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine. In
the doctrine of the Apostles they were in fellowship together, and that
fellowship was expressed in "the breaking of bread." It was not a common
meal, but the carrying out of the request the Lord had made in the night He
was betrayed, when He instituted what we call "the Lord's supper." Prayer
is also mentioned. They had all things in common. They were like a great
family, which in reality they were through the Grace of God.

     And how happy they were! They had Christ, and that was enough. No
system of theology, creeds, set of forms or any such thing, with which
historical Christianity abounds--"Nothing but Christ." They received their
food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor
with all the people. Joy and singleness of heart are two great
characteristics of the true believer.

                                 CHAPTER 3

     1. The Healing of the lame Man (verses 1-11).
     2. Peter's address and appeal (verses 12-26).

     The lame man, forty years old, at the gate called Beautiful is the
type of the moral condition of the nation, like the impotent man whom the
Lord healed (John 5). Israel with all its beautiful religious ceremonies
was helpless, laying outside with no strength to enter in. Peter commands
the lame man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to rise up and to
walk. He is instantly healed. He then walked and leaped and entered through
the gate as a worshipper into the temple, praising God. This great miracle
was wrought as another evidence to the unbelieving nation that Jesus of
Nazareth, whom they had rejected and crucified, is their Messiah and King.
It was a proof that the rejected One, who had died on a cross and had been
buried, is living in Glory, and that God's omnipotent power had been
revealed in answer to that name. The miracle also denoted that the promised
kingdom was once more offered to the nation. Concerning that kingdom, when
it comes, it is written that "the lame man shall leap as an hart." (Isaiah
35:6.) But the lame man, so wonderfully healed, leaping and praising God,
is likewise a picture of what the nation will be in a future day, when they
will look upon Him whom they have pierced (See Zechariah 12:10; Ezekiel
36:27; Isaiah 12:1-6; 35:10). Peter delivers his second address.
Interesting and of much importance are verses 19-21. They can only be
understood in the right way if we do not lose sight of the fact to whom
they were addressed, that is to Jews, and not to Gentiles. They are the
heart of this discourse, and as such a God-given appeal and promise to the
nation. If this is lost sight of, the words must lose their right meaning.
The repentance which is demanded of them is an acknowledgment of the wrong
they had done in denying the Holy and righteous One, a confession of their
blood-guiltiness in having slain the author of life. This, of course, would
result in their conversion and the blotting out of their sins as a nation.
This God had promised before to the nation (Isaiah 44:22-23).

     The "times of refreshing" and "restitution of all things" are
expressions in which the Holy Spirit gathers together the hundreds of
promises He gave through the different prophets of God concerning a time of
great blessing for His people, and through them for the nations of the
world. It would be impossible to mention all these promises and in what the
times of refreshing and restoration of all things consist. These days of a
coming age, the kingdom age, or as we call it because its duration will be
a thousand years, the Millennium, are fully described on the pages of Old
Testament prophecy. Not alone will the nation be blessed, but Jerusalem
will be a great city; the land will be restored and become the great center
for blessing; the nations of the earth will receive blessings, and groaning
creation will be delivered from its groans and the curse which rests upon
it. If we interpret the Word of Prophecy literally and cease spiritualizing
it, we shall have no difficulty to behold the full meaning of the times of
refreshing and the restitution of all things. The latter word does not
include a restoration of the wicked dead, a second chance for those who
passed out of this life in an unsaved condition. And these glorious times
cannot come till the Lord Jesus Christ comes again.

                                 CHAPTER 4

     1. Their Arrest (verses 1-3).
     2. The Result of the Testimony (verse 4).
     3. Peter and John before the Rulers and Elders (verses 5-7).
     4. Peter's bold witness (verses 8-12).
     5. The astonished Sanhedrin and their Release (verses 13-22).
     6. With their own company (verses 23:31).
     7. The saved multitude (verses 32-37).

     The enemy begins now his acts, and the first indication is given that
the offer God's mercy was making to the nation would not be accepted. The
Holy Spirit was acting mightily through the spoken Word, but these
ecclesiastical leaders were hardening their hearts against the Word and the
Spirit of God. The hate against that blessed Name broke out anew under the
satanic power to which they had yielded. And the Sadducees came too. Though
not much had been said on the resurrection, yet these rationalists, or as
we would call them today, "higher critics," were much distressed because
they preached Jesus and the resurrection. The next step is the arrest and
imprisonment of the two apostles. Rough hands seize them. Of the Apostles
we read nothing else. They submitted. The power of the Holy Spirit now
manifested itself in a new way with them. They could suffer, and perhaps
with great joy; in perfect peace they allowed themselves to be taken away.

     We have here also the first fulfillment of the many predictions given
by our Lord that His own were to suffer persecution (Matthew 10:16-17; Mark
13:9; John 20:20). In Peter'S witness we see the effect of the filling with
the Spirit. What holy boldness he exhibited! He quotes the same Scripture
passage to the assembled Sanhedrin, which the Lord had mentioned in their
presence (See Matthew 22:23-41).

     They knew that the Lord meant them when He quoted that verse, that
they were the builders, who were to reject Him. They had done so in
fulfillment of that prophecy. Peter's words are directed straight at them,
"He is the stone which has been set at naught by you, the builders."

     The rejected stone had become the corner stone. The One whom they had
delivered up and cast out had been given the prominent place of the corner
stone upon whom, as the foundation stone, everything rests, and who unites
the building.

     Peter closes with the statement that salvation is only in Him whom
they had set at naught. There is no other Name given to men by which man
can be saved, and that is the Name of Him who had made this lame man whole.
Salvation they all needed. They, too, rulers, elders, chief priests must be
saved. But only in Him God had procured salvation free and complete for all
who will have it by believing on Him. This salvation was offered to these
rulers, the builders who had rejected the Lord.

     They were then threatened by the astonished rulers and elders and set
at liberty. We find them in their own company and after praise and prayer
new manifestations of the Holy Spirit follow. In the closing verses we have
another glimpse of the assembly in Jerusalem.

                                 CHAPTER 5

     1. Ananias and Sapphira (verses 1-10).
     2. Signs and wonders by the Apostles (verses 11-16).
     3. The second arrest of the Apostles and their Deliverance (verses
     4. Before the Council (verses 26-33).
     5. Gamaliel's Advice (verses 34-39).
     6. The Apostles beaten and dismissed (verses 40-42).

     With this chapter the scene changes. Beautiful is the ending of the
previous chapter, Barnabas having sold his land, laid the money at the feet
of the Apostles. He gave by it a striking testimony how he realized as a
believing Jew his heavenly portion, by giving up that which is promised to
the Jew, earthly possessions.

     Our chapter begins with the significant word "But." It is the word of
failure and decline. All was evidently perfect; nothing marred the precious
scenes of fellowship--"but," and with this little word the story of evil
begins. The enemy seeing himself so completely defeated by his attacks from
the outside now enters among the flock and begins his work within.

     Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the Holy Spirit. Swift judgment
followed as to their earthly existence. They were cut off by death. The sin
they had done was "a sin unto death" and the sentence, physical death, was
immediately carried out. Peter is still in the foreground. We must remember
here the words of the Lord which He spake to Peter, after this disciple had
confessed Him as Son of God. "And I will give unto thee the keys of the
kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth shall be bound
in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven" (Matthew 16:19). The same words concerning binding and loosing the
Lord addressed to all the disciples (Matthew 18:18). The binding and
loosing refers to discipline on earth. It has nothing whatever to do with
forgiveness of sins or eternal salvation. Peter here exercises this
authority, it was the first discipline. We must likewise remember that
these events happened on Jewish, on kingdom ground. The witness was still
to the nation. The sudden judgment which came upon Ananias and Sapphira was
a strong witness to the nation that the Holy One of Israel, Jehovah, dwelt
in the midst of this remnant, who believed in the One whom the nation had
rejected. When the kingdom is established on earth and the Lord Jesus
Christ rules in righteousness, then, no doubt, every sin will be swiftly
judged by death.

     Great things followed. Their habitual place seems to have been in
Solomon's porch. No one dared to join them. They held the position of
authority. Though they had been forbidden the public ministry they are back
in a prominent place. The people magnified them too. Then another result
was that more believers were added. Added to what? The First Hebrew
Christian Church of Jerusalem? The First Jewish Christian Society? No. They
were added to the Lord. The sinner believing is saved, receives the Holy
Spirit, is joined to the Lord, becomes one spirit with the Lord, a member
of the body of which He is the Head. Signs and wonders were done by the
Apostles. The sick were healed, unclean spirits were driven out. Multitudes
of people from the surrounding country flocked to Jerusalem, bringing their
sick, and they were all healed. They waited even in the streets for the
time when Peter walked along so that his shadow might fall on some of them.
These were great manifestations of the power of God. The words spoken by
the Lord were then fulfilled. They did the works He did. These signs and
wonders, however, are nowhere mentioned as to their permanency throughout
this age. They were only for the beginning of this age; after the Gospel of
Grace and the mystery hidden in former ages had been fully made known they

     All the Apostles were then arrested and Put into the common prison.
During the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison door and led them
out. Such a manifestation was perfectly in order at that time, and fully
corresponds with the other kingdom characteristics in the beginning of this
book. But these supernatural manifestations have ceased. Peter once more
with the other Apostles bears witness to the resurrection and exaltation of
the rejected Christ. On the advice of Gamaliel they were released after
they had been beaten. With rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to
suffer shame for His Name, they departed and continued in their great

                                 CHAPTER 6

     1. The Murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews (verses 1-7).
     2. Stephen; His Ministry and Arrest (verses 8-15).

     Another failure is brought before us. The enemy acts again. From
without and from within Satan pressed upon that which was of God. While the
Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit acted in Grace and power, the enemy
came in to disturb. It is still so. Whenever there is a door opened there
are also many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:9).

     The flesh manifested itself in murmuring. The assembly took care of
the poor; widows being specially helpless, were the objects of daily
ministrations. The Jews themselves in connection with the synagogue had
special funds for them. They must have also formed a recognized group in
the early church (1 Timothy 5:9-10). The ministration is the distribution
mentioned in Chapter 4:35, and as the multitude was very great, including,
perhaps, hundreds of widows, this work was quite a task. Murmurings arose
and these were born of jealousy, the result of unbelief. It is the first
indication of weakness and failure. This reminds us of the murmurings of
Israel as recorded in the book of Exodus. The same old thing, the
changeless flesh, shows itself among the saved and united company of
believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The murmurings were on the side of
the Grecians. Their complaint was against the Hebrews that the Grecian
widows were being overlooked. The Grecians were not, as some teach,
Gentiles, but they were Greek-speaking Jews, born in countries outside of
Palestine, and therefore called Hellenists, or Grecians.

     The murmuring is at once arrested. Seven men are chosen under the
direction of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles declared "we will give ourselves
continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word." The Holy Spirit
thus separated the gifts called to minister in spiritual things from those
in temporal matters. Note how prayer is put before the ministry of the
Word. There can be no effectual ministry, no successful preaching and
teaching of the Word, unless it is preceded by prayer.

     The seven chosen ones are then named. While we know little of these
men and the service they rendered, with the exception of Stephen and
Philip, it is an interesting fact that their names are all Greek. In this
the grace of God is beautifully exhibited. The Grecians were the murmurers,
and no doubt they were fewer in number than the Hebrews. A modern day
church meeting would have proposed to elect a committee composed of equal
numbers of the two parties. But not so here.

     Grace and wisdom from above are manifested in this action. The entire
seven were chosen from those who had complained. This was the blessed
rebuke of Grace.

     The seven were then set before the Apostles, and when they had prayed
they laid their hands on them. As this "laying on of hands" is so much
misunderstood, and has been made an act by which authority, power and
blessing is claimed to be conferred, we must say a brief word on it. It is
always proper in reading and interpreting the Word of God, to see if not
elsewhere in the Bible the terms or things to be interpreted are used, so
that through them the right meaning can be ascertained. The laying on of
hands is first mentioned in the Book of Leviticus. In the opening chapters
of that book we read how the offerer was to lay his hand upon the head of
the offering. Thus we read of the Peace offering: "He shall lay his hand
upon the head of his offering" (Leviticus 3:2). This meant the
identification of the Israelite with the offering itself. And this is the
meaning of the laying on of hands from the side of the Apostles. They
identified themselves and the assembly with them in their work for which
they had been chosen. It was a very simple and appropriate act to show
their fellowship with them. All else which has been made of the laying on
of hands is an invention. There is no Scripture for the present day usage
in Christendom, that a man in order to preach the Gospel or teach the Word
of God must be "ordained."

miracles among the people. Certain of the synagogue of
the Libertines and others disputed with Stephen. (It is wrong
to call these "Libertines" free thinkers. Jews had been taken to
Rome as slaves. Their descendants who had been liberated were
called Libertines, that is freedmen. They were known as such
in Jerusalem and hence the name "synagogue of the Libertines.")
And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by
which he spake. Stephen is accused of blasphemy. The
charge is "blasphemy against Moses and against God."
They succeeded in their satanic work by stirring up the
people, the elders and the scribes. Three things are
mentioned by them. He ceaseth not to speak words against this
holy place, against the law, and that he should have said: "This
Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place and shall change
the customs which Moses delivered us." And then they
looked upon him, and behold his face was like the face of
an angel. All eyes were attracted to this wonderful sight.
Steadfastly they looked upon a face of Glory; a face


reflecting heaven's light, heaven's Glory; a face reflecting the
Glory of Him into whose presence he soon would be called. And may not that
young man named Saul also have been
there and seen that face? And that dark countenance of
that young Pharisee of Tarsus was soon to behold that same
Glory-light, and then tell the world of the Gospel of the
Glory and that "we all, with open face beholding as in a
glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image
from glory unto glory."

                                 CHAPTER 7

     1. The Address of Stephen (verses 1-53).
     2. The Martyrdom of Stephen (verses 54-60).

     This is the largest chapter in this book and concludes the first
section. Stephen is the chosen instrument to deliver the final testimony to
the nation. He was not permitted to finish it.

     We notice at once a marked difference between the previous preaching
by the Apostle Peter and the address of Stephen. The testimony of Peter was
marked on the day of Pentecost and at the other occasions by great brevity.
Stephen's address is the longest discourse reported in the New Testament.
The name of Jesus is prominent in all the addresses of Peter. The fact that
He was rejected by the people, crucified and that He rose from the dead,
and the call to repentance, were the leading features of Peter's preaching.
Stephen does not mention the Name of Jesus at all, though he has the person
of Christ and His rejection as the theme of his testimony. (The name
"Jesus" appears in the A.V. in verse 45; but it should be "Joshua"
instead.) At the close of his address he speaks of the Just One of whom
they had become betrayers and murderers.

     Stephen had been accused of speaking against Moses and against God,
also against the temple and the law. These accusations he is asked to
answer. What he declared before the council shows plainly that the
accusations are utterly false. His speech is, therefore, partly apologetic;
but it is also teaching, in that it shows certain truths from the historic
events he cites. And before he finishes his testimony the accused becomes
the accuser of the nation; the one to be judged becomes the judge. Indeed
his whole testimony as he rapidly speaks of past history in his great and
divinely arranged retrospect, is a most powerful testimony to the nation as
well as against the nation.

     The great address falls into the following sections: 1. Abraham's
History (verses 2-8). 2. Joseph and his brethren (verses 9-16). 3. The
Rejection of Moses. The rejected one became their Deliverer and Ruler
(verses 17-38). 4. The Story of the nation's apostasy and shame (verses
39-50. Then Stephen ceased his historical retrospect, he addressed them
directly. The accused witness becomes the mouthpiece of the Judge, who
pronounces the sentence upon the nation. This is found in verses 51-53. His
martyrdom followed.

     Three things are mentioned of this first martyr. He was full of the
Holy Spirit; he looked steadfastly into heaven, seeing the glory of God; he
saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God.

     This is the first manifestation of the glorified Christ, which we have
on record. There are three of them only. He appeared here to Stephen. Then
He appeared unto Saul, who consented unto Stephen's death. Saul beheld Him
in that Glory, brighter than the noon-day sun, and heard His voice. The
last time the glorified Christ manifested Himself was to John in the island
of Patmos. These three appearings of the glorified Christ present to our
view the three aspects of His Second Coming. First He comes to welcome His
own into His presence. He will arise and come into the air to meet His
beloved co-heirs there. This is represented by the first appearing to
Stephen, standing to receive him. Then Israel will behold Him, they who
pierced Him will see Him, as Saul of Tarsus beheld the Lord. Then He will
appear as John saw Him, the One who judges the earth in righteousness.

     And now after this great and glorious vision, Stephen bears testimony
to it. "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on
the right hand of God." He speaks of the Lord as "Son of Man." This is the
only time outside of the Gospel records that we find this title of the Lord
(aside from the old Testament reference in Hebrews 2).

     They stoned him and Stephen, the mighty witness and mouthpiece of the
Holy Spirit, fell asleep.

     God's gracious offer and Christ had now been fully rejected by the
nation. Stephen, who bore this last witness, is a striking evidence of the
transforming power of Christ. How much like the Lord he was!

     He was filled with the Spirit, full of faith and power, and like the
Lord he did great wonders and miracles among the people. Like Christ, he
was falsely accused of speaking against Moses, the law and the temple, and
of being a blasphemer. They brought him before the same council and did
what they did with the Lord, bringing false witnesses against him. He gave
witness to the truth of the confession the Lord had given before the
council, that He was to sit at the right hand of God. He beheld Him there.
The Lord Jesus committed His spirit in the Father's hands, and Stephen
prayed that the Lord Jesus receive his spirit; and like the Lord he prayed
for the forgiveness of his enemies. May the same power transform us all
into the same image.

                                  Part II

     The Witness to Samaria.
     Saul's Conversion and Peter's Witness in Caesarea.

                               Chapters 8-12

                                 CHAPTER 8

     1. The first great persecution (verses 1-3).
     2. The preaching of the scattered believers. Philip in Samaria
        (verses 4-8).
     3. Events in Samaria (verses 9-24).
     4. The Gospel in many villages of Samaria (verse 25).
     5. Philip and the Eunuch (verses 26-40).

     The final testimony to the rulers of the people had been given. It was
rejected, and the Spirit filled messenger killed. The last offer had
therefore been completely rejected. The Gospel is now to be sent to the
Gentiles. The eighth chapter gives the record how Samaria heard the Gospel.

     Saul, the young Pharisee, was consenting unto Stephen's death. Later
he refers to the scene, which must have been impossible for him to erase
from his memory. "When the blood of Stephen was shed, I was standing by and
keeping the garments of them that slew him" (Acts 22:20). Concerning Saul
the Lord said to Ananias, "I will shew him how great things he must suffer
for my name's sake" (9:16). What was done unto Stephen was done unto Saul.
The Jews and Saul with them, as we believe, disputed and resisted Stephen
in the synagogue. The Jews disputed with Paul, resisted him, and rejected
his testimony. Stephen was accused of blasphemy; so was Paul (Acts 19:37).
Stephen was accused of speaking against Moses, the holy place and the
customs; so was Paul (Acts 21:28; 24:6; 25:8; 28:17). They rushed upon
Stephen with one accord and seized him. The same happened to Paul (Acts
19:29). Stephen was dragged out of the city. So was Paul (Acts 14:19).
Stephen was tried before the Sanhedrin; so did Paul appear before the
Sanhedrin. Stephen was stoned and Paul was stoned at Lystra. Stephen
suffered martyrdom; so did Paul in Rome. And yet, with all the sufferings
that Paul had to undergo, he rejoiced. His eyes rested constantly upon that
glorious One, whom Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, beheld in Glory.
Later we hear him crying out from the prison in Rome, "That I may know Him,
and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable unto His death" (Philippians 3:10).

     The first great persecution then broke out against the church in
Jerusalem. Saul was evidently the leader (Acts 26:10-11; 1 Corinthians
15:9; Galatians 1:13). But "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the
church." God permitted this persecution that His Word might now be
scattered abroad by the suffering saints. Philip, the Grecian Jew, one of
the chosen seven, not an Apostle, is mightily used in preaching the Gospel
in Samaria. The first missionary move to extend the Gospel was, therefore,
not brought about under apostolic leadership, nor by the decree of an
apostolic council, but by the Lord Himself. He led Philip to Samaria, where
He Himself had been, yea to the very city of Samaria, Sychar (John 4).
Great results followed the preaching of the Gospel. Miracles took place.
Unclean spirits were driven out, many taken with palsies, and those who
were lame were healed, so that there was great joy in that city. Simon
Magus was a sinister instrument of Satan. He bewitched the people of
Samaria, claiming to be some great one.

     The hour of deliverance came for the Samaritans when Philip preached
the Word, concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. Signs
and great miracles followed, and the Samaritans believed and were baptized.
The miracles were done to show the power of God, to attest the preaching of
the Gospel by Philip, and to expose the counterfeit powers of Simon. And
he, like the sorcerers of Egypt, had to own that this was the power of God.
He was amazed when he beheld the great miracles. But more than that, he
also believed, was baptized, and then continued with Philip. But his faith
was not through the Word of God. God's Word alone can produce faith in man,
for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Simon was
captivated by the miracles he had seen. Philip was deceived by him, but not
Peter, who uncovered his Wickedness.

     That the Holy Spirit had not been given to the Samaritans and that He
was received by them after Peter and John had come from Jerusalem and laid
hands on them, has puzzled many earnest students of the Word. It has also
led to erroneous teachings, as if the Holy Spirit must be received in a
special manner after conversion.

     The Samaritan believers had to be identified with those in Jerusalem,
so much the more because there was a schism between Samaria and Jerusalem.
Samaria had denied both the city of Jerusalem and the temple. This had to
be ended and could no longer be tolerated. It was therefore divinely
ordered that the gift of the Spirit in their case should be withheld till
the two apostles came from Jerusalem. This meant an acknowledgment of
Jerusalem; if the Holy Spirit had been imparted unto them at once it might
have resulted in a continuance of the existing rivalry. And Peter is in the
foreground and uses the keys of the kingdom of heaven here with the
Samaritans as he did on the day of Pentecost with the Jews, and later with
the Gentiles. Nowhere in the church epistles, in which the great salvation
truths and blessings in Christ Jesus are revealed, is there a word said
about receiving the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, or that one who
has trusted in Christ and is born again should seek the gift of the Holy
Spirit afterward.

     The conversion of the Eunuch is full of blessed lessons. Philip was
obedient to the call of the Lord and the Eunuch, the prominent Ethiopian,
Queen Candace's treasurer, who had returned from Jerusalem, an unsatisfied
seeker, believed on the Lord Jesus and went on his way rejoicing. Verse 37
is an interpolation and should be omitted. Philip was caught away and was
found some twenty miles north of Gaza, at Azotus. From there he started out
anew preaching the Gospel. In many cities his voice was heard. These coast
cities were inhabited by many Gentiles and included larger places like
Jamnia, Lydda, Joppa and Antipatris. The day of Christ will make known the
labors and also the reward of this great Evangelist. Then he came to
Caesarea. But did he stop with that? We do not know. Twenty years later we
find him there and Paul was then his guest.

                                 CHAPTER 9

     1. The vision of Glory on the road to Damascus (verses 1-9).
     2. Instructions given to Ananias (verses 10-16).
     3. Saul filled with the Spirit, is baptized and preaches that Jesus
        is the Son of God (verses 17-22).
     4. Saul persecuted and back in Jerusalem (verses 23-31).
     5. Further Acts of Peter (verses 32-43).

     The previous chapter must be looked upon in its main part as a
parenthesis. The record now leads us back to the close of the seventh, and
the person who was connected with the great tragedy enacted there is
prominently brought now before us. The witnesses of the wicked deed had
laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. This is
the first time this remarkable man is mentioned. We also learned that he
was consenting unto Stephen's death; he made havoc of the church and
committed men and women to prison. While the scattered believers had
carried the Gospel throughout Judea, Philip had gone down to Samaria and
with great results preached the Gospel, and during the same time Peter and
John preached in the Samaritan villages, Saul carried on his work of
persecution. This we learn from the opening verse of the present chapter.
"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the
disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest." The conversion of this
great persecutor and his call by the risen and glorified lord to be the
Apostle to the Gentiles is the event which is next described. It is the
greatest event recorded in Acts next to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
on the day of Pentecost.

     Saul was from Tarsus in Cilicia, where he had become acquainted with
Greek life, literature, art and philosophy. The chief industry of Tarsus
was tent making. This trade the young Saul learned. He had a married sister
living in Jerusalem (Acts 23:16). He also was a Roman citizen.

     Saul received his religious education in Jerusalem. We find this from
his own words, "I am verily a man, a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in
Cilicia, yet brought up in this city (Jerusalem) 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 are all this day" (Acts 22:3).

     That Saul was highly respected in Jerusalem and close to the leaders
of the people, is seen by the letters entrusted to him and the commission
to Damascus. He may have been even a member of the council, for "he voted."
"When they (Christians) were put to death, I gave my voice (literally, my
vote) against them" (Acts 26:10).

     And now God's marvelous Grace and Power in salvation is to be
manifested. Israel as a nation had rejected the offer and Stephen's death
marked the end of that gracious offer. But God can manifest even greater
riches of His Grace and display His great Love. Saul not alone belonged to
the nation, which had rejected Christ, but shared in that rejection, but he
was, so to speak, the heading up of all the hatred and malignity against
the Christ of God. He personified the blindness, unbelief and hatred of the
whole nation. He was indeed an enemy, the greatest enemy, the chief of
sinners. Surely only Grace could save such a one, and Grace it is, which is
now to be manifested in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the Grace which
he was to know first by the vision of the glorified Christ, and which he,
ever after, was to proclaim and make known to others.

     The vision itself which burst upon Saul on the road to Damascus is one
of the greatest in the whole Bible. It has baffled unbelief. Infidels of
all descriptions, French rationalists like Renan, reformed rationalistic
Jews, and the worst of all, the advocates of the destructive Bible
Criticism, have tried to explain the occurrence in some natural way.

     Renan said that it was an uneasy conscience with unstrung nerves,
fatigue of the journey, eyes inflamed by the hot sun, a sudden stroke of
fever, which produced the hallucination. And this nonsense is repeated to
this day. Others of the critics have stated that it was a thunderstorm
which overtook him, and that a flash of lightning blinded him. In that
lightning flash he imagined that he saw Christ. Again, others have tried to
explain his vision by some physical disease. Jews and others have declared
that he suffered from Epilepsy, which the Greeks called "the holy disease."
This disease, they say, put him into a state of ecstasy, which may have
greatly impressed his Gentile hearers. In such an attack he imagined to
have seen a vision and heard a voice. All these and other opinions are
puerile inventions. The fact is, the conversion of Saul is one of the great
miracles and evidences of Christianity.

     The ninth chapter does not contain the full record of what happened on
the road to Damascus. The Apostle Paul himself relates twice his own
experience in chapter 22:5-16 and in chapter 26:12-18. He also mentions his
conversion briefly in 1 Corinthians 15:8; Galatians 1:15-16 and 1 Timothy
1:12-13. The three accounts of Saul's conversion are not without meaning.
The one before us in the ninth chapter is the briefest, and is simply the
historical account of the event as it had to be embodied in the Book of the
Acts, as history. The account in the twenty-second chapter was given by
Paul in the Hebrew tongue; it is the longest statement and was addressed to
the Jews. The account in the twenty-sixth chapter was given in presence of
the Roman governor Festus and the Jewish king Agrippa, therefore addressed
to both Jews and Gentiles. But are there not discrepancies and
disagreements in these three accounts? Such has been the claim from the
side of men who reject the inspiration of the Bible. There are differences,
but no disagreements. These differences in themselves are the evidences of
inspiration. The differences, however, are simply in the manner in which
the facts of the event are presented.

     He saw then the glorified One and heard His voice. This great vision
became the great turning point of his life. He received perfect knowledge
and assurance, that the rejected Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. The
great event is prophetic. It will be repeated on a larger scale when the
Lord Jesus comes again and the remnant of Israel sees Him coming in the
clouds of heaven.

     The words which the Lord addressed to Saul:--"Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou Me?" contain the blessed Gospel he was soon to proclaim.
He did not persecute Christ, but those who had believed on Him.

     Every believing sinner is a member of the body of Christ. Christ in
Glory, the Lord, who spoke to Saul in the way, is the Head of that body,
the church. Christ is in each member of His body, His life is there; and
every believer is in Christ. "Ye in Me and I in you." And this great hidden
mystery flashes forth in this wonderful event for the first time "Saul,
Saul, why persecutest thou Me." "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." The
poor, hated, despised Nazarenes, whom the mad, Jewish zealot Saul of Tarsus
had driven out of Jerusalem, put into prison and delivered unto death, were
one with the Lord in Glory. They were identified with Him and He with them.
Their persecution meant His persecution, in their affliction He was
afflicted. They were members of His body and that body was in existence.

     Soon after we see the erstwhile persecutor preaching Jesus, that He is
the Son of God. Persecution soon followed. He also spent a time in Arabia
and then paid a visit to Jerusalem for fifteen days (Galatians 1:17-24).
Further Acts of Peter by divine power conclude this chapter.

                                CHAPTER 10

     1. Cornelius of Caesarea and his Preparation (verses 1-8).
     2. The Trance-vision of Peter (verses 9-16).
     3. Peter with Cornelius at Caesarea (verses 17-33).
     4. Peter Preaching to the Gentiles (verses 3443).
     5. The Interrupted Message (verses 44-48).

     The ending of the preceding chapter tells us that Peter tarried in
Joppa in the house of Simon the tanner. Was he breaking with his Jewish law
and customs? Tanning as a trade was considered unclean by the Jews.

     In Ephesians 2:11-18 we read of the Grace of God to the Gentiles. Up
to this time in the Book of Acts we have seen nothing of this gracious
purpose, the blessed result of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Jerusalem heard the Gospel first. Once more the good news of the Kingdom
was preached with a full offer of forgiveness to the Jews. God was willing
to blot out their transgressions and to make good all He had promised to
the nation. Many signs and miracles had been done in Jerusalem in
demonstration of the resurrection from the dead of the Prince of Life, whom
they had crucified. We have seen how the seventh chapter in this book marks
the close of that special offer to Jerusalem. Immediately after the death
of Stephen, the Gospel was carried into Judea and Samaria. In Samaria a
people heard and accepted the glad tidings. They were a mixed race and
practiced circumcision and obeyed parts of the law. In the ninth chapter
the conversion of Paul is recorded and the Lord makes known that the
persecutor of the church is to be the chosen vessel to bear His name before
the Gentiles. Paul, however, was not chosen to open first the door to the
Gentiles as such, but Peter, the Apostle of the circumcision. A new work is
given him to do, which was indeed a strange work for a Jew. He was to go to
the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered unclean. It was unlawful for a Jew
to join himself to any Gentile; an insurmountable barrier divided them. For
this reason the Jews considered the Gentiles as unclean, common, spoke of
them as dogs, and had no intercourse with them. It is of interest to notice
that Peter tarried in Joppa; from this old city he is to be sent forth to
preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. Centuries ago another Jew
had come to Joppa with a solemn message from his God, which he was
commissioned to bear far hence to the Gentiles. Jonah, the prophet, took a
ship from Joppa and refused obedience to the divine call.

     But here is one who is obedient to the heavenly vision and who is to
bring a higher message to the Gentiles, the good news of a free and full
salvation. That Peter, the Apostle of the circumcision, was chosen for this
great errand, was all important hint that the middle wall of partition had
been broken down and that believing Jews and Gentiles were to form one new

     Cornelius belonged to that class of Gentiles who, illumined by the
Holy Spirit, had turned to God from idols, to serve the true and the living
God. He was therefore a converted man, for God acknowledged him as such. Of
salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessed assurance of that
salvation he knew nothing. His prayers had been heard. The angel who
appeared gave Cornelius the full directions where Peter was to be found.
While the messengers were hastening to Joppa, Peter had his vision.

     And what is the meaning of the vision? The vessel is the type of the
church. The four corners represent the four corners of the earth. The clean
animals it contained, the Jews; the unclean, the Gentiles. But all in that
vessel are cleansed. The Grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ has cleansed
those who are in Christ. "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but Ye
are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God"
(1 Corinthians 6:11). Jew and Gentile believing, redeemed by blood, saved
by Grace, washed and sanctified, are to be put into one body.

     Then Peter reached Caesarea and preached to Cornelius and those who
were gathered together. How different this message from those he delivered
in Jerusalem. There are a few introductory remarks followed by a
declaration of the facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Then he pressed the
message home to their hearts. "To Him give all the Prophets witness that
through His Name whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of
sins." This was his last word to the assembled company. It is the first
time we find the word "whosoever" in this book. He had nothing to say to
this Gentile company about repentance and baptism. His message was
interrupted. They believed and the Holy Spirit fell on them.

     Something new had taken place. On Pentecost it meant water baptism as
a condition of receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and the remission of
sins; in Samaria the Apostles Peter and John, according to the wisdom of
God, had to lay on hands, but here without water baptism and laying on of
hands the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles. Nor was there any process of
seeking, surrendering, examining themselves, giving up, praying for it, but
by hearing of faith, in believing the message of the Gospel the Holy Spirit
fell on them. And to show that every barrier between Jew and Gentile had
been removed, that nothing inferior had been bestowed upon Gentiles, than
that which came upon the believing Jews on the day of Pentecost, Cornelius,
his kinsmen and friends spoke with tongues and magnified God. It was the
conclusive evidence that Gentiles, uncircumcised and unbaptized, received
the Holy Spirit like the Jews.

     Water baptism follows. Up to this chapter water baptism preceded the
gift of the Holy Spirit. This shows the place water baptism holds on the
ground of grace. Water baptism has no place in the proclamation of the
Gospel of Grace. It is not a means of grace, nor a sacrament. Peter,
however, does not slight nor ignore baptism. "Can any man forbid water?"
Then he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

                                CHAPTER 11

     1. Peter's Defense in Jerusalem (verses 1-18).
     2. The Beginning of the Church in Antioch (verses 19-21).
     3. Barnabas sent to Antioch (verses 22-26).
     4. The Prophecy of Agabus (verses 27-30).

     Peter silenced the objections of his brethren in Jerusalem by a
rehearsal of his experience. Verse 19 connects with Chapter 8:4. Antioch
comes now into prominence as the great Gentile center of Christianity. A
great number believed and turned unto the Lord. Then Barnabas was sent to
Antioch to inspect the great work. They wanted to know in Jerusalem if the
reports were true, and if true the assembly had to be recognized as such.
This shows that the Oneness of the church, though not yet fully made known
by revelation, was nevertheless realized through the Holy Spirit. And that
a blessed relationship existed between the assembly in Jerusalem and the
one in Antioch, is seen by Peter's visit in that city, when in the liberty
wherewith Christ has made us free, he ate with these believing Gentiles and
enjoyed fellowship with them (Galatians 2:11-12).

     The movement also attracted the attention of the outsiders. They
called them "Christians." The Jews, it is certain, did not give this name,
but the Gentiles invented it. Antioch was famous for its readiness to jeer
and call names; it was known by its witty epigrams. So they coined a new
word, "Christianoi"--Christians. It is used exclusively by outsiders, as
seen in the case of Agrippa, also see 1 Peter 4:16. Jews and Gentiles alike
were called by this name, "Christians," so that it bears testimony to the
oneness of Jew and Gentile in Christ.

                                CHAPTER 12

     1. The great Persecution by Herod Agrippa I (verses 1-5).
     2. The miraculous deliverance of Peter (verses 6-17).
     3. The Presumption and Judgment of Herod (verses 18-23).
     4. Barnabas and Saul returning to Jerusalem (verses 24-25).

     With this chapter we reach the conclusion of the second part of this
book. Jerusalem had heard the second offer concerning the Kingdom, and
mercy was ready even for the murderers of the Prince of Life. But that
offer was rejected. Stephen's testimony followed by his martyrdom marked
the close of that second offer to the city where our Lord had been
crucified. Then broke out a great persecution, and they were scattered
abroad except the Apostles. From our last chapter we learned that others
who were driven out of Jerusalem preached the Word in Phenice, Cyprus and
Antioch. The twelfth chapter, with which this part of Acts closes, is an
interesting one. It is not only interesting on account of the historical
information it contains, but also because of its dispensational
foreshadowing. Once more we are introduced to Jerusalem and see another
great persecution. The wicked King is reigning over the city. James is
killed with the sword, while Peter is imprisoned but wonderfully delivered;
the evil King, who claimed divine power and worship, is suddenly smitten by
the judgment of the Lord. Then the Word grew and multiplied, Barnabas and
Saul returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, from where the great missionary
operations were soon to be conducted. The events in Jerusalem, James'
martyrdom under King Herod, Peter's imprisonment and deliverance, as well
as the fate of the persecuting King, foreshadow the events with which this
present age will close. After the true church is taken from the earth, that
is when 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is fulfilled, the great tribulation will
take place. While great tribulation and judgment will come upon the whole
world, the great tribulation will come upon the Jewish people who have
returned in part to their own land. In the midst of the masses of
unbelieving Jews, there will be found a remnant of God-fearing Jews, who
are converted and bear testimony to the truth. A wicked King, the man of
sin, the false Messiah, will then be in power in Jerusalem. Part of that
Jewish remnant will suffer martyrdom; these are represented by James, whom
Herod, the type of the Antichrist, slew. Another part will be delivered as
Peter was delivered. Herod's presumption and fate clearly points to that of
the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). All this may well be kept in mind
in the study of this chapter in detail.

     Interesting is the account of the prayer meeting held in behalf of
Peter. When God had answered their prayers they were reluctant to believe
it. Not one of the company believed that Peter had been released. Rhoda was
the one who believed that it was Peter. And this is undoubtedly the reason
why her name is mentioned in this book. The poor maid, perhaps a slave
girl, pleased God because she had faith. While there was great earnestness
in that prayer meeting, when the prayer was answered, unbelief manifested

                                 Part III

     The Witness to the Gentiles.
     The Apostle to the Gentiles; his Ministry and Captivity.

                              Chapters 13-28

                                CHAPTER 13

     1. The Divine Choice. Barnabas and Saul separated unto the work
        (verses 1-3).
     2. The Beginning of the Journey and the events in Cyprus
        (verses 4-12).
     3. The Gospel in Galatia. Paul's Address (verses 13-41).
     4. The Gospel rejected by the Jews (verses 42-52).

     The thirteenth chapter is the beginning of the third part of this
book. The second great center of Christianity comes to the front. It is no
longer Jerusalem, but the city of Antioch. The gospel which had been
preached in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, which Cornelius and his house
had heard and accepted, is now in a special manner to go far hence to the
Gentiles. The city in which the first great Gentile church had been
established is the starting point. Peter, so prominent in the first twelve
chapters of our book, is no longer the leading actor. He is mentioned only
once in this second part of the Book of Acts. In the fifteenth chapter, in
connection with the council in Jerusalem, his voice is heard once more. The
special work in connection with the kingdom of heaven, in opening the door
to the Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2 and chapter 10) had been accomplished by
him. Now he disappears from our view, though he continued to exercise his
apostleship in connection with the circumcision (Galatians 2:7). Paul, the
great Apostle of the Gentiles, instead appears upon the scene, and his
wonderful activity is described in the remaining part of the book. The
opposition and blindness of the Jews in a continued rejection of the gospel
becomes fully evident throughout this section, and the book itself closes
with the testimony against them: "Be it known therefore unto you, that the
salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it"
(Acts 28:28). Besides this we shall find in these chapters the acts of the
Holy Spirit in the call and sending forth of the chosen instruments in the
way He guided them, how He filled them, opened doors, and manifested Ills
gracious power in the salvation of sinners.

     The beginning of the great movement to send now the Gospel far hence
to the Gentiles was inaugurated by the Holy Spirit. The assembled prophets
and teachers ministered to the Lord in praise and prayer, when the Holy
Spirit's voice was heard demanding the separation of Barnabas and Saul unto
a work He had called them. The personality of the Holy Spirit is here fully
demonstrated. They were thus sent forth not by the church, nor by a
missionary society or committee, but by the Holy Spirit.

     Accompanied by John Mark as a helper they sailed to Cyprus. Here at
Paphos they found a Jew, a sorcerer and false prophet by name of Bar-Jesus
(Son Jesus). Such evil persons, special instruments of Satan, appear
repeatedly in this book, and generally when the Gospel was carried into
some new regions. In Samaria it was Simon Magus; in Macedonia the damsel
with the familiar spirit, and here this demon-possessed Jew. He was an
enemy of all righteousness. He tried to keep the Word from the Roman
Sergius Paulus. Thus the Jews tried to keep the Gospel from reaching the
Gentiles. The judgment which fell upon this wicked Jew is typical of the
judicial blindness which has come upon the Jews. But as this sorcerer who
opposed the Gospel was not to see the sun for a season, even so, the
blindness of the Jews is not permanent.

     For the first time, and that in connection with this incident, the
name of Paul is mentioned. Some have suggested that he took the name in
honor of Sergius Paulus, but that is incorrect. Paul is a Roman name, and
means "little." Later he writes of himself as "less than the least of all
saints." He took the lowest place, and the name which signifies this comes
now into prominence. Barnabas is taking the second place; not Barnabas and
Saul, but Paul and Barnabas is now the order.

     John Mark left them when they had come to Perga in Pamphylia. It was
on account of the work (chapter 15:38). It was a failure and for a time he
was unprofitable. See 2 Timothy 4:11 where we read of his restoration. He
is the one who wrote the Gospel of the obedient servant, the Gospel of

     In verses 16-41 Paul's great address in Antioch of Pisidia is
reported. Then the Jews rejected the Gospel, and when they preached to the
Gentiles they contradicted and blasphemed.

                                CHAPTER 14

     1. The work in Iconium and the persecution of the Apostles (verses
     2. In Derbe and Lystra; the Impotent Man healed (verses 7-18).
     3. The Stoning of Paul and further ministries (verses 19-24).
     4. The Return to Antioch (verses 25-28).

     Iconium was a Phrygian town, bordering on Lycaonia. Here again the
unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles. They abode there a long time, and
in spite of opposition and persecution they spoke with much boldness the
Word of God. Signs and wonders were also done by their hands. When their
lives were threatened by the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, they fled to
Lystra and Derbe.

     Derbe was the home of a pious Jewess by name of Eunice. She had
married a Greek, who had died. Her son was Timotheus and she lived with her
mother Lois (Acts 16:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:5). In Lystra another lame man is
healed by the power of God. The ignorant heathen, seeing the miracle,
thought the two apostles were gods and attempted to worship them. They
abhorred their proceedings and refused the honor of men.

     The enemy lurked behind this, no doubt, but the grace of God gave to
the apostles the power to act as they did. How much of such idolizing is
going on in modern days; how men, professedly the servants of the Lord,
seek and love the honor and praise of men, is too evident to be mentioned.
Seeking honor from men and having delight in the applause of the "religious
world" is a deadly thing, for it dishonors Christ, to whom all honor and
glory is due. And how much of all this there is in the present day! It is
but the result of not giving the Lord Jesus Christ the preeminence.

     Jews then appeared coming from Iconium and Antioch and stirred up the
people against them. The mass of people who were ready to worship Barnabas
and Paul changed quickly and stoned Paul. Most likely the fury turned
against him because he had been instrumental in healing the crippled man.
As the stones fell upon him, must he not have remembered Stephen? And may
he not have prayed as Stephen did? And after they thought him dead, they
dragged his body out of the city. But the Lord, who had announced such
suffering for him, had watched over his servant. He was in His own hands,
as every child of God is in His care. The enemy who stood behind the
furious mob, as he stood behind the attempt to sacrifice unto them, would
have killed Paul. But he could not touch Paul's life, as he was not
Permitted to touch the life of another servant of God, Job (Job 2:6). His
sudden recovery was supernatural. He refers in 2 Corinthians 11:25 to this
stoning, "Once I was stoned." Another reference to Lystra we find in his
second Epistle to Timothy: "Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me
at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; but out of
them all the Lord delivered me" (2 Timothy 3:11). Blessed be His name, He
is the same Lord still and Will deliver them that trust in Him.

     Then after additional testimony in Lystra and a visit to Iconium and
Antioch in Pisidia, to build up the disciples and to strengthen them, they
terminate this first great journey by returning to the place from which
they had started.

                                CHAPTER 15

     1. The false teachers from Judea. Paul and Barnabas sent to Jerusalem
        (verses 1-5).
     2. The Council in Jerusalem (verses 6-21).
     3. The Result made known (verses 22-29).
     4. The Consolation brought to Antioch (verses 30-35).
     5. Paul and Barnabas separate (verses 36-41).

     A very critical time had now arrived for the church. An important
question had to be settled. That Gentiles can be saved and salvation must
be extended to the Gentiles had been fully demonstrated. The Apostle of the
circumcision, Peter, had been used to preach the Gospel to a company of
God-fearing Gentiles. Evangelists had gone to Antioch and the great Gentile
center had there been founded. Paul and Barnabas had completed their great
missionary journey and numerous assemblies of Gentiles, saved by Grace,
were formed. The question of the salvation of Gentiles could no longer be
raised. But we remember from the eleventh chapter of this book, that when
Peter returned to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended
with him. They objected to Peter going to men uncircumcised and eating with
them. But those of the circumcision had not been fully satisfied with the
status of the believing Gentiles. What about circumcision in their case?
Should they not also keep the Law? In other words, the question of the
relation of the believing Gentile to the Law and to circumcision had to be

     These teachers which taught that Gentiles, in order to be saved, had
to be circumcised after the manner of Moses, disturbed greatly the church
in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas with others were therefore delegated to go
with this question to Jerusalem. Galatians 2:1-10 must be carefully read
for interesting and additional information. The question was settled in
favor of the Gospel Paul had preached. James declared: "Wherefore my
sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are
turned to God." They were to abstain from pollution of idols, from
fornication, from things strangled and from blood. Of great importance are
the words which James uttered by inspiration at this occasion. It was the
first church-council, and here the Holy Spirit revealed God's gracious
purposes concerning the age that is and the age to come.

     Note in verses 14-18 the four important steps: 1. God visits the
Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name. This is the purpose of
the present age. The called people constitute the church, the body of
Christ. 2. After this I will return. This means the second Coming of
Christ. When the Church is completed and all the members added to that
body, Christ comes again, first, as subsequently revealed, for His saints
and then with them. 3. The Restoration of Israel follows after His Return.
The Tabernacle of David will be built again and will be set up. 4. Then all
the Gentiles will seek after the Lord. This is the world-conversion. How
strange that this divinely revealed program should be entirely ignored by
all church-councils at the present time.

     Then after the results of the council and the decision concerning the
Gentiles had been made known by a letter, Antioch received consolation.

     The beginning of the second missionary journey of Paul is described in
the closing paragraph of this chapter. We read nothing of prayer or waiting
on God for guidance. Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go again." He wanted to
go over the same territory. This was not the plan of the Spirit. Failure
follows on account of self-will and self-choosing. Paul and Barnabas
separate on account of John Mark. Barnabas took Mark and Paul chose Silas.

                                CHAPTER 16

     1. In Derbe and Lystra again. Timotheus (verses 1-,5).
     2. The Preaching forbidden in Asia (verses 6-8).
     3. The Vision of the Man from Macedonia (verses 9-12).
     4. The Gospel in Europe (verses 13-40).

     Read in connection with the first verses of this chapter 1 Timothy
1:18, 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:5-6, 3:15. The circumcision of Timothy, the
offspring of a mixed marriage, was not demanded by the law. Paul in
circumcising Timothy manifested his liberty; he acted graciously, not
wishing to put a stumbling block in the way of the Jews (see 1 Corinthians

     They travel on through Phrygia and Galatia but were forbidden to
preach in Asia. This was at that time a large province in Asia Minor with
many flourishing cities. It was not God's purpose to have work done at that
time. They followed divine guidance obediently. Later Paul spent three
years in Ephesus, the capital of that province, and all Asia heard the
Word. They also wanted to visit Bithynia, but were not allowed to do so.
Bithynia heard the Word at another time perhaps through Peter (1 Peter
1:1-2). All this shows clearly how the Holy Spirit is an infallible guide
in Christian service. He must point out the way and the places as well as
the time when and where the Word is to be spoken. Then follows the vision
of the Man from Macedonia. This Macedonian cry is answered at once. From
the tenth verse we learn that Luke, the author of this record, joined the
party. This is seen by the changed pronoun from "they" to "we." Then they
reached Philippi. On the small river Gangites the first opportunity to
minister is given. We wonder if Paul looked for the man he had seen in his
vision. There was no man present. A company of women had gathered in the
place "where prayer was wont to be made." Lydia of Thyatira is the first
convert of Europe. She was a true worshipper of God like Cornelius. And it
was the Lord who opened her heart. Satan's opposition is seen once more in
the demon-possessed damsel. Satan is a cunning being full of wisdom. He
tried through this damsel to establish a friendly relation with the
servants of the Lord. But the Gospel does not need such support. After her
conversion Satan changed his tactics. They were beaten with many stripes
and cast into prison, their feet held in the stocks. What followed is
familiar to all. God had worked in mighty power delivering His servants and
saving the jailer and his household.

                                CHAPTER 17

     1. The Gospel in Thessalonica (verses 1-9).
     2. The Gospel in Beroea (verses 10-14).
     3. Paul in Athens (verses 15-34).

     Three cities in which the Gospel is next preached are before us in
this chapter. But there is a marked difference between these three places.
In Thessalonica there was much hostility, the result of the success of the
Gospel. In Beroea a more noble class of Jews were found. Their nobility
consisted in submission to the Scriptures, the oracles of God, and in a
ready mind. There was a still greater blessing among the Jews and the
Gentiles. In Athens the Apostle Paul met idolatry, indifference and

     An interesting fact is learned concerning the activity of the apostle
in Thessalonica from the two Epistles, which he addressed some time after
to the Thessalonians. These were the first Epistles Paul wrote. From these
we learn that the Apostle not only preached the Gospel, but also taught the
Thessalonian believers prophetic Truths and emphasized the Second Coming of
Christ and the events connected with it. In the Second Epistle he reminds
them of his oral teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:5).

     The address Paul gave in Athens has three sections: 1. The
Introduction (verses 22-23) in which he refers to the altar with the
strange inscription "to the unknown God." Then he uttered the words, "Him I
declare unto you." 2. Who the unknown God is (verses 24-29). He is a
personal God who made the world and all that is in it. He answered the
Epicurean and Stoic schools of philosophy. Materialism and Pantheism were
thus swept aside. 3. He closes with the message from God (verses 30-31).

     He aims at their conscience to awaken them to the sense of need to
turn away from idols to the true God. God sends to all One message, be they
Jew or Gentiles, Greeks or Barbarians, to repent. And then he states the
reason. A day is appointed in which He will judge the world in
righteousness. The one through whom God will judge is a Man ordained by
Him; then follows the declaration of the resurrection of this Man. The day
of judgment here does not mean a universal judgment (a term not known in
Scripture) nor the great white throne judgment. The judgment here does not
concern the dead at all, but it is the judgment of the habitable world. It
is the judgment which will take place when the Man whom God raised from the
dead, our Lord Jesus Christ, comes the second time. His resurrection is the
assurance of it.

                                CHAPTER 18

     1. In Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla. His Testimony and
        Separation from the Jews (verses 1-8).
     2. Encouragement from the Lord in a vision (verses 9-11).
     3. Paul and Gallio (verses 12-17).
     4. From Corinth to Ephesus and Antioch. The second journey ended
        (verses 18-22).
     5. Establishing disciples in Galatia and Phrygia (verse 23).
     6. Apollos, the Alexandrian (verses 24-28).

     Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned here for the first time. This
interesting couple had established themselves in Corinth, and what a joy it
must have been to the Apostle when he was led to their home. How sweet
their fellowship must have been as they toiled together in their trade as
tent makers and spoke one to another about the Lord. From the same chapter
we learn that after Paul's ministry had terminated they went to Ephesus
(verse 19). From 1 Corinthians 16:19 we learn that they were still there
when that epistle was written. But in writing to the Romans Paul says,
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus" (Romans 16:3), so
that they had wandered back to Rome and were in happy fellowship with the
Roman assembly. 2 Timothy 4:19 tells us that once more they were back in
Ephesus where Timothy had his abode. "Salute Prisca (an abbreviation of
Priscilla) and Aquila." They were indeed strangers and pilgrims, but
blessed to know that their wanderings were by the Lord. Priscilla is mostly
mentioned before Aquila, from which we may learn that she, like other
notable women of apostolic days, "labored for the Gospel."

     It seems that Paul followed the same method of work as he did in
Thessalonica. First, he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and
persuaded the Jews and the Greeks (verse 4). This must have been altogether
on Old Testament ground, showing the divine predictions concerning Christ.
When Silas and Timotheus arrived, then he was greatly pressed in spirit and
testified to the Jews more fully that Jesus is the Christ. That there was
blessed fruit we learn from his epistles to the Corinthians. He himself
baptized Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians
1:14-16). And he was with them in weakness, and in fear, and in much
trembling. His speech was far different from the one he had used in
addressing the philosophers of Athens. "My speech was not with enticing
words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1
Corinthians 2:3-4). His presence was base unto them "Who in presence am
base among you" (2 Corinthians 10:1). His bodily presence, these
Corinthians said, is weak, and his speech contemptible (2. Corinthians

     The Lord encouraged His servant in a vision. The Jews' attempt to harm
Paul through Gallio failed. Sosthenes the chief ruler received a beating
instead of the apostle.

     If the Sosthenes who is mentioned in the opening verse of the first
Epistle of the Corinthians is the same, then he profited immensely by his
experience. Paul addresses him as a brother. We believe he is the same
person, for the Grace of God delights to take up such characters and show
in them what Grace can do.

     From Corinth he went to Ephesus, then to Jerusalem and back to
Antioch. Thus ended the second missionary journey. After this he
established the disciples in Galatia and Phrygia. An extremely beautiful
incident closes this chapter. A new preacher appeared among the Jews in
Ephesus, Apollos the Alexandrian. He is described as an eloquent man and
mighty in the Scriptures. In Alexandria, Philo, the great Hellenistic
Jewish Philosopher, had flourished. He was born about 20 B.C. and died
after the year 40 A.D. He introduced Platonism into Judaism. In all
probability Apollos was one of his disciples, but he accepted that which
Philo did not believe. He had come most likely in touch with disciples of
John the Baptist, and had been baptized with John's baptism unto
repentance. He knew that Jesus is the Messiah, knew the facts of His
earthly life and the miracles He did. Of the meaning of His death and
resurrection Apollos knew nothing, nor had he any knowledge of the Holy
Spirit. The entire truth of the Gospel of Grace was unknown to Him. The
text in the authorized version that he "taught diligently the things of the
Lord" is incorrect. The correct translation is "he taught diligently the
things concerning Jesus."

     Aquila and Priscilla were then used to expound unto him the way of God
more perfectly.

                                CHAPTER 19

     1. The second visit of Paul to Ephesus. The twelve disciples of John
        (verses 1-7).
     2. The Apostle's continued labors. The separation of the disciples.
        The Province Asia evangelized (verses 8-10).
     3. The Power of God and the Power of Satan (verses 11-20).
     4. Paul plans to go to Jerusalem and to visit Rome (verses 21-22).
     5. The opposition and riot at Ephesus (verses 23-41).

     The disciples whom Paul found at Ephesus were disciples of John. The
question the Apostle asked them has often been made the foundation of wrong
teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. It is claimed that the Holy Spirit
must be received in a special manner after conversion. The little word
"since" in Paul's question must be changed into "when," for it is
mistranslated. "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?"

     Paul makes the gift of the Spirit a test of true discipleship. If they
were true believers they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, that
is when they accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. If they did
not receive the Holy Spirit then it is an evidence that they did not
believe. "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His"
(Romans 8:9).

     They heard next the full truth of the Gospel and believed, therefore
they received the gift of the Spirit. Ephesus was the stronghold of Satan.
When the power of God was manifested in the special miracles of Paul and
the demons were driven out, then Satan also began to work. A great victory
over the power of darkness followed.

     Then Paul purposed in the spirit (verse 21) to go to Jerusalem. This
verse marks an important change, which introduces us to the last stage of
the recorded acts of Paul in this historical account. Rome is the goal
which looms up before him. "I must also see Rome." And he saw Rome, but not
in the way as he purposed in his spirit, but as the prisoner of the Lord.
His journey begins now towards that great city, and at the close of the
book we find him there a prisoner. The story of his journey to Jerusalem, a
journey in which he perseveres though repeatedly warned by the Spirit of
God, his arrest in Jerusalem, his trials and addresses before the Jews,
before Felix, Festus and King Agrippa, his voyage to Rome and shipwreck and
arrival in Rome, are the contents of the remaining part of our book.

     The question has often been raised how the purposing of Paul in the
spirit to go again to Jerusalem is to be understood. Is the word "spirit"
to be written with a capital "S" or not? In other words, did he purpose in
the Spirit of God, after prolonged prayer, to go up to Jerusalem? Did the
Holy Spirit guide him to take up to the city of his fathers the
contributions from Achaia and Macedonia for the poor saints? (Romans
15:25-26). It could not have been the Spirit of God who prompted him to go
once more to Jerusalem, for we find that during the journey the Holy Spirit
warned him a number of times not to go to Jerusalem.

     He was called to evangelize; to continue to preach the glorious
Gospel, and it was a turning aside from the great ministry committed unto
him. But behind his burning desire to go up to Jerusalem stood the mighty
constraint of love for his own beloved brethren. How he did love them and
how his heart, filled with the love of God, yearned over them! This love is
so fully expressed in his epistle to the Romans. "I say the truth in
Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy
Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I
could wish that myself were accursed (or separated) from Christ for my
brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1-2). "Brethren, my
heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved"
(Romans 10:1). This holy love and courage prompted him to say, when once
more his brethren had besought him by the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem,
"What mean ye to weep and break my heart? for I am ready not to be bound
only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts

     In the close of this chapter we read of the great opposition and riot
in Ephesus and the Apostle's persecution.

                                CHAPTER 20

     1. Paul in Macedonia (verses 1-2).
     2. His abode in Greece, the visit to Troas and what transpired there
        (verses 3-12).
     3. The journey from Troas to Miletus (verses 13-16).
     4. The farewell to the Ephesian Elders (verses 17-38).

     The record before us is very brief. Some have thought the reason is
the fact that the Apostle had turned aside from His given ministry, and
therefore the Holy Spirit had nothing to report. We believe that this is
correct. The object of the Spirit of God is now to lead us rapidly forward
to the last visit of the Apostle to Jerusalem, therefore much is passed
over in the untiring service and labors of the great Man of God. After the
uproar was over in Ephesus Paul embraced the disciples and departed to go
into Macedonia. It is the first farewell scene on this memorable journey.
He must have visited Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea and perhaps other
cities. Besides giving them much exhortation. he received their fellowship
for the poor saints in Jerusalem.

     Then there is the record of the blessed scene on the first day of the
week in Troas. They remembered the Lord in the breaking of bread (1
Corinthians 11:23-26).

     The company then took ship to sail to Assos, but Paul made the journey
of over twenty miles on foot. He wanted to be alone like Elijah as well as
others. What thoughts must have passed through his mind! What burdens must
have been upon his heart! what anxieties in connection with that coming
visit to Jerusalem!

     From Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church.
The remaining part of this chapter contains his great farewell address to
the Ephesian elders and through them to the church located there. Two great
speeches by the Apostle have so far been reported in this book. The first
was addressed to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:16-41). The second
was addressed to the Gentiles in Athens (chapter 17). The address here in
our chapter is to the church. It is of very great and unusual interest and
importance. He speaks of himself, his own integrity and recalls to them his
ministry. He declares his own coming sufferings and his determination not
to count his life dear, but to finish his course with joy. He warns the
church concerning the future apostasy and the appearance in their midst of
false teachers.

                                CHAPTER 21

     1. The journey from Miletus to Tyre and Ptolemais (verses 1-7).
     2. In Caesarea (verses 8-14).
     3. The Apostle's Arrival in Jerusalem and his visit to the Temple
        (verses 15-26).
     4. The Uproar in the Temple. Paul taken prisoner (verses 27-40).

     Coos, Rhodes and Patara are mentioned. Then they sailed over to
Phenicia and landed in Tyre. Here they found disciples.

     And the Holy Spirit through these disciples warned the Apostle at once
that he should not go to Jerusalem. This, indeed, was very solemn. If these
disciples had spoken of themselves, if it said that they were in anxiety
over Paul's journey to that city, one might say that they were simply
speaking as men; but the record makes it clear that the Holy Spirit spoke
through them. Could then the Apostle Paul have been under the guidance of
that same Spirit in going to Jerusalem? As stated before, the great love
for his brethren, his kinsmen, burned in his heart, and so great was his
desire to be in Jerusalem that he ignored the voice of the Spirit.

     In Caesarea they were the guests of Philip the evangelist. Here
Agabus, who had given a prediction of a great dearth years ago (11:28)
comes once more upon the scene. When he had come he took Paul's girdle and
with it bound his own hands and feet, and then he said: "Thus saith the
Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this
girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." Here then
another warning was given. It was the last and by far the strongest. Did
Agabus really speak by the Spirit? The literal fulfillment of his
predictive action furnishes the answer. The whole company, both his fellow
travelers and the believers in Caesarea, began to beseech him not to go up
to Jerusalem.

     Then they reached Jerusalem. On the next day the company paid a visit
to James, in whose house all the elders had assembled for the purpose of
meeting with Paul and his friends. And now once more the Apostle relates
what no doubt was dearest to the hearts of James and the elders, what God
had wrought through His God-given ministry among the Gentiles. It must have
been a very lengthy account; for he rehearsed particularly, "or one by
one," the things which had happened in His great activity. After Paul had
spoken, "they glorified God."

     All had progressed nicely up to this point. But now the great crisis
is rapidly reached. The meeting had been called in the house of James, and
only the elders had been invited for a very good reason. Reports had
reached Jerusalem that Paul had taught the Jews among the Gentiles to
forsake Moses, and even to deny children the covenant sign, circumcision.
Most likely the Judaizing element in the assembly of Jerusalem, the men who
were so successfully overcome by the bold arguments of the Apostle at the
council in Jerusalem (Acts 15. Galatians 2), the men who so strenuously
taught, that unless the Gentiles became circumcised, they could not be
saved--these men were responsible for the rumors. What could be done to
convince the multitude that all this was incorrect, that Paul after all was
a good Jew?

     The elders suggest to him that there were four men who had a vow on
them. These he should take and purify himself with them as well as pay the
charges. This action, they reasoned, would not only demonstrate that the
reports were untrue, but that he, the Apostle of Gentiles, "walketh orderly
and keepeth the law." To make this temptation stronger, they restated that
which had been agreed concerning the status of the believing Gentiles,
according to the decision of the church council years ago. All was a most
subtle snare. He was by that action to show that, with all his preaching to
the Gentiles, he was still a good Jew, faithful to all the traditions of
the fathers, and attached to the temple.

     And a strange sight it is to see the Apostle Paul back in the temple,
going through these dead ceremonies, which had been ended by the death of
the cross. A strange sight to see him, who disclaimed all earthly authority
and taught deliverance from the Law and a union with an unseen Christ,
submitting once more to the elementary things, as he calls them in his
Epistle to the Galatians,"the beggarly elements!" And has not the whole
professing church fallen into the same snare?

     His arrest followed and he is taken prisoner. A great tumult followed.
They would have killed him if the chief captain had not rescued him. He
then was bound with two chains. Agabus' prophecy is fulfilled.

     Paul gives the Roman officer his pedigree. "I am a man, a Jew of
Tarsus," and then requests the privilege of addressing the furious mob.
This was permitted, and taking a prominent place on the stairs, where he
could be seen by all below, and when after beckoning to the people, silence
had been secured, he addressed them in Hebrew.  The break of the chapter at
this point is unfortunate.  The next chapter contains the first address of
defense of the prisoner Paul.

                                CHAPTER 22

     1. The Address of the Apostle (verses 1-21).
     2. The Answer from the Mob, and Paul's Appeal to His Roman
        citizenship (verses 22-30).

     What a scene it was! On the stairs, midway between the temple-court
and the fortress, stood the Apostle in chains, his person showing the
effects of the beating he had received. Around him were the well-armed
Roman soldiers, and below the multitude, with up-turned faces, still wildly
gesticulating and only becoming more silent when they heard the first words
from Paul's lips in the Hebrew tongue.

     He relates his great experience. They were impatient listeners; the
storm broke with the word "Gentiles." Another great tumult resulted and the
many voices demanded that such a fellow should not live. It was a scene of
utmost confusion.

     The chief captain seems to have been ignorant of the Aramaic dialect.
He gave orders that Paul be now removed into the castle itself, and be
examined by scourging so that he might find out why they cried so against
him. He was led away, and everything made ready for the cruel treatment,
when the prisoner spoke: "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a
Roman, and uncondemned?" The centurion reported this to the chiliarch, the
chief officer, who at once appeared on the scene. When he discovered that
Paul was indeed a Roman by birth, they left their hands off of his person,
and even the chiliarch was afraid. It was a highly illegal act to bind a

     Not a few had pointed to this as a prominent failure in the career of
the Apostle. According to these critics he made a grave mistake when he
pleaded his Roman citizenship; he should have been silent and taken the
unjust and cruel treatment without a murmur. If some of these harsh critics
of the beloved Apostle were placed in the same condition, what would they
do? As one has truly said: "It is easy to be a martyr in theory, and such
are seldom martyrs in practice." He had a perfect right to tell the
ignorant officers of the law who he was, and thus prevent a flagrant and
cruel transgression of the law. And yet his conduct in Philippi was far
different. Why did he not announce his Roman citizenship there? The power
of the Spirit rested then upon him; it is different here.

                                CHAPTER 23

     1. Paul before the Sanhedrin (verses 1-10).
     2. The vision of the Lord (verse 11).
     3. The Conspiracy against Paul (verses 12-22).
     4. Paul taken to Caesarea (verses 23-35).

     And now we find him addressing the Sanhedrin. For the last time the
Jewish council is mentioned in this book. Three times before the Sanhedrin
had been called together in connection with those who believed in the Lord
Jesus (4:5, 5:21 and 6:12-15). Looking straight at the council, Paul did
not wait for the formalities connected with the proceedings, but addressed
the gathered Sanhedrin as men and brethren. And strange are the words with
which he opened his defense: "I have lived in all good conscience before
God until this day." In this he made a public declaration of his
righteousness, which reminds us of his confession as a Pharisee
(Philippians 3:4-6). This self-justification shows that he was not acting
under the leading of the Holy Spirit. This bold language resulted in
stirring up the anger of the high priest Ananias, who commanded that the
bystanders should smite the Apostle on the mouth. And Paul was not slow to
reply with a harsh word, calling the high priest "a whited wall" and
demanding of God to smite him. No doubt the high priest was indeed a
"whited wall" and fully deserved the judgment from God. But did Paul in
speaking thus show the meekness of Him, whose servant he was?

     In a clever way he tries to bring in dissension by his statement of
being a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. A big commotion followed. Some
of the scribes belonging to the Pharisees cried loudly in defense of the
prisoner--"We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has
spoken to him, let us not fight against God." The latter sentence was a
faint echo of the advice given by Gamaliel. The scene which followed
beggars description. The shouting must have been terrific and Paul was in
danger of being pulled to pieces by the council mob. Lysias, the chief
captain, was obliged to interfere. The soldiers, at his command, came down
and rescued Paul and brought him into the castle. The cleverness of Paul
had been the means of liberating him from the hands of the Sanhedrin.

     The night following the Lord appeared unto him and comforted him. No
doubt he had sought before His face in confession and self-judgment. He is
in the Lord's hands. Forty men had made a conspiracy not to eat and to
drink till they had killed him.

     The prisoner of the Lord is now delivered into the hands of the
Gentiles. A large force of soldiers accompanied Paul for his protection.
The danger was great, hence the great precaution the chief officer, whose
name is now mentioned, Claudius Lysias, had taken. Could we have read in
Paul's own heart we would have seen there the peace of Christ; the words of
His Lord still resounded in that faithful and devoted heart--"Be of good

     The letter of Claudius Lysias to the governor Felix is interesting. It
shows how Lysias claims the full credit of having rescued Paul, because he
was a Roman. He declares him innocent, yet delivers him into the hands of
the governor.

     One would also like to know what had become of the forty conspirators.
If they were true to their vow not to eat nor to drink till Paul had been
killed, they must have starved to death, which, we are sure, did not
happen. Caesarea is reached in safety and Paul is delivered into the hands
of the governor, who promised him a hearing as soon as the accusers would
arrive. Jerusalem now laid forever behind him. Rome was before him.

                                CHAPTER 24

     1. The indictment of Paul (verses 1-9).
     2. The defense of the Apostle (verses 10-21).
     3. How Felix disposed of the case (verses 22-23).
     4. Paul addresses Felix (verses 24-27).

     If the Jews, after Paul's removal from Jerusalem, had not pressed the
case against him, he would have been liberated. As he had gone years ago to
Damascus to persecute the Christians there, so now the Jews follow him to
Caesarea to accuse him before the Roman governor. They evidently did not
lose any time. Only a few days had elapsed when a strong deputation from
Jerusalem appeared in Caesarea. The high priest filled with much hatred
against Paul had taken it upon himself to come in person. This must have
been an unusual occurrence for a person of Ananias' standing to leave

     They brought along a certain orator named Tertullus, who accused Paul
in the presence of Felix. The words Tertullus used against the great man of
God are extremely vile and manifest the hiss of the serpent. He calls him a
pestilent fellow," a person whom Society may well be rid of. The indictment
contains three counts. First stands a Political accusation. This, in
presence of the high Roman officer, was of the greatest importance. Any
conspiracy against the Roman government was a capital offense. The charge
of sedition or treason was thus at once laid at the door of the Apostle.
The second offense Tertullus brought against Paul was of a religious
nature. As ringleader of the Nazarenes, presented by him as a sect of the
Jews, he had abetted that which was against the peace of Judaism and
introduced not alone a disturbing element, but had transgressed another
Roman law, which forbade the introduction of an unrecognized religion. The
third charge was the profanation of the temple. Paul answers the indictment
in a masterly way. His address contains a denial of the first charge; a
confession and admission concerning the second, and a complete vindication
of the accusation of the temple profanation.

     Felix knew the accusations were not true, but he refused decision.
Paul should have been set at liberty. Felix defers it till Lysias the
chief-captain came to Caesarea. But he never came, and Paul was kept a
prisoner. Felix and his wife, Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, a
wicked woman, heard Paul and Felix trembled. Later Felix left Paul behind a
prisoner, when Porcius Festus became governor.

                                CHAPTER 25

     1. Festus and the Jews. Paul appeals to Caesar (verses 1-12).
     2. King Agrippa visits Festus (verses 13-29).
     3. Paul brought before the King (verses 23-27).

     The new governor, Festus, had arrived at Caesarea, and then went up to
Jerusalem, the capital of the province. The Jews had not forgotten Paul,
though they had not attempted another accusation before Felix, knowing that
the case was hopeless. But they made at once an effort with the new
governor. No sooner had this official made his appearance in Jerusalem than
the high priest and the chief of the Jews made a report about Paul. Most
likely Festus had not even heard of Paul up to that time. What really took
place in Jerusalem, Festus later relates to Agrippa. When Paul was
presented to Agrippa, Festus introduced him by saying, "Ye see this man,
about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me both at
Jerusalem and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer"
(verse 24). A scene of tumult must have been enacted in Jerusalem when
Festus showed himself. The mob clamored for the life of Paul. When they
noticed the reluctance of the governor, they concocted another plan. They
requested that Paul should be brought to Jerusalem. On the way there they
intended to murder him.

     But Festus was divinely guided in it all, and when he asked Paul if he
would go to Jerusalem, Paul appealed to Caesar. This settled his journey to

     King Agrippa and Bernice paid a visit to the new governor. The father
of this king was known as Herod Agrippa, and died under awful circumstances
(chapter 12) in the year 44. When his father died Agrippa was in Rome. He
was too young to receive the kingdom of his father Herod. Eight years
later, Herod, King of Chalcis, the uncle of Agrippa, died. He had married
Agrippa's sister Bernice, and Caesar gave Chalcis to Agrippa. Later Agrippa
received the title as king. Agrippa I had left three daughters besides this
son--Bernice, Marianne and Drusilla, the wife of Felix. Bernice, who was
the wife of her uncle, after his death joined her brother Agrippa in Rome.
She married a Celician ruler, but deserted him and joined again her
brother, in whose company she paid this visit to Caesarea. And Paul
appeared before the King. A great audience had gathered and much pomp was
displayed. Then the prisoner was brought in. What a contrast! Perhaps they
looked upon him with pity as they saw the chain. But more pity must have
filled the heart of the great servant of Christ as he saw the poor lost
souls bedecked with the miserable tinsel of earth. Festus addressed the
King and the whole company. He frankly states what troubled him and that he
expects the King to furnish the material for the statements he had, as
governor, to send to Rome.

               CHAPTER 26

     1. The Address of the Apostle Paul (verses 2-23).
     2. The Interruption by Festus and the Appeal to the King (verses
     3. The Verdict (verses 30-32).

     The opening words of the Apostle are indeed gracious. Even as he
stands in chains the great Apostle counts himself happy. His happiness
consisted in the knowledge that he was now privileged to bear witness of
His Lord and the Gospel committed to him before such an audience. What an
opportunity it was to him, and how he rejoiced that he could speak of Him,
whom he served. He also honored the King by a brief remark in which he
expressed his delight in speaking before one who was so well acquainted
with Jewish customs and questions. Then he restates his life as a Pharisee.

     At once he touches upon the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why
should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the
dead? The whole history of Israel bears witness to the fact that God can
bring life from the dead. The very origin of the nation demonstrates this,
for Sarah's womb was a grave, and God brought life out of that grave. Many
promises of the past vouched for God's power to raise the dead. The nation
had this promise that spiritual and national death is to give way to
spiritual and national life (Ezekiel 37:1-15; Hosea 6:1-3). The
resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ proved Him to be the Holy One and the
Hope of Israel. In this sense Peter speaks of His resurrection. Blessed be
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant
mercy hath begotten us again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). The grave of the Lord Jesus was for
the disciples the grave of their national hope, but His resurrection from
the dead the revival of that hope. Once more he also relates the sad story
of how he persecuted the saints. Upon that dark background he can now flash
forth again the story of his conversion.

     Then the proper moment had arrived to state the Gospel message before
this company. It is a terse statement of the message which the Lord had
committed unto him. All the elements of the Gospel are contained in the
eighteenth verse. There is first the condition of man by nature. Eyes,
which are blind, in darkness, under the power of Satan. The eyes are to be
opened and through the Gospel man is turned from darkness to light, from
the power of Satan unto God. In Colossians 1:12 the same is stated. Then
the blessings of conversion. Forgiveness of sins and an inheritance. Faith
is the means of all this; sanctification, that is separation, in conversion
"by faith that is in me." One wonders if the Holy Spirit even then did not
bless the message to some heart, and the Grace of God bestowed these
blessings upon some believing sinners. It may have been so. The day will
make it known.

     Festus interrupted him, and when Paul addressed the King directly, he
answered him by saying: "Almost persuadest thou me to become a Christian."
The meaning is rather "by a little more persuasion you might make me a
Christian." No doubt conviction had taken hold on him. In this half mocking
way he answers the Apostle. How many after him have acted in the same way
and rejected the Grace, which stood ready to save.

     The verdict of a private consultation is "This Man doeth nothing
worthy of death." Herod Agrippa said unto Festus "This man might have been
set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar." If Paul had not made
his appeal to Caesar he might have then been freed. We have seen before
that his appeal to Rome was according to the will of the Lord. To Rome then
he goes. All is ordered by a gracious Lord.

                                CHAPTER 27

     1. From Caesarea to Fair Havens (verses 1-8).
     2. The Unheeded Warning. The Storm. Paul's Vision and Assurance of
        Safety (verses 9-26).
     3. The Shipwreck (verses 27-44).

     Much has been written on this Chapter. The voyage of the Apostle Paul
to Rome and the shipwreck is often explained as being typical of the stormy
voyage of the professing church, her adversities and shipwreck.

     However, such an application needs caution. it is easy to make
fanciful and far-fetched allegorical applications. Besides church history
other lessons have been drawn from this narrative. A recent commentator
claims that the keynote to the interpretation is given in verse 34 in the
word salvation. "This and cognate words occur seven times in the chapter:
Hope to be saved; ye cannot be saved; to be completely saved. While the
contrary fate is no less richly depicted--injury, loss, throwing away,
perish, kill and to be cast away. The history, then, is a parable of the
great salvation, by which man is brought through death to life." We shall
not attempt to seek for an outline of church history in the events of this
chapter. The central figure, the prisoner of the Lord, must occupy us more
than anything else. It is said that in all the classical literature there
is nothing found which gives so much information of the working of an
ancient ship as this chapter does. Even the critics have acknowledged that
this chapter "bears the most indisputable marks of authenticity."
"Historical research and inscriptions have confirmed the facts given in
this chapter, while the accuracy of Luke's nautical observations is shown
by the great help he has given to our understanding of ancient seamanship.
None have impugned the correctness of his phrases; on the contrary, from
his description contained in a few sentences, the scene of the wreck has
been identified."

     The Apostle is courteously treated by the Centurion Julius. Paul may
have been in a physically weakened condition. The Lord's gracious and
loving care for His faithful servant shines out in this. How clearly the
whole narrative shows that all is in His hands: Officers, winds and waves,
all circumstances, are under His control. So far all seemed to go well; but
contrary winds now trouble the voyagers. The ship is tossed to and fro. If
we look upon the ship as a type of the professing church and the little
company, headed by Paul, as the true church, then there is no difficulty in
seeing the issue. Winds which drive hither and thither trouble those who
hold the truth and live in fellowship with the Lord, while the professing
church is cast about. Then Myra was reached. Here they took a ship of
Alexandria. Danger then threatened. Most likely a consultation of the
commander of the ship and the owner, who was on board, and the centurion,
was held, and Paul was present. He gives them a solemn warning and cautions
them to beware. This shows his close fellowship with the Lord. In prayer,
no doubt, he had laid the whole matter before the Lord and received the
answer, which he communicates to the persons in authority. They looked upon
it as a mere guess, and the centurion rather trusted in the judgment of the
captain and the owner.

     And here we can think of other warnings given through the great
Apostle. Warnings concerning the spiritual dangers, the apostasy of the
last days, the perilous times, warnings against the seducing spirits and
doctrines of demons. The professing church has forgotten these
divinely-given predictions. The world does not heed them. Like these
mariners, who believed in their own wisdom and disregarded the warning
given, Christendom has paid no attention to these warnings. For this reason
the ship is drifting, cast about by every wind of doctrine and rapidly
nearing the long predicted shipwreck. Then there came the terrific tempest.
Sun and stars were hidden for many days.

     When despair had reached its heights, Paul appears once more upon the
scene. When all was hopeless the prisoner of the Lord spoke the words of
hope and cheer. He reminds them first of their refusal and disobedience.
What had come upon them was the result of having not heeded the warning. He
then assures them that an angel of God had assured him once more that he
would have to stand before Caesar; but God had given to him all that sail
with him. Only the ship is to go down, the lives of all who sail with him
will be preserved. "Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God,
that it shall be even so as it hath been spoken unto me." And now they were
willing to listen to him. They had to acknowledge their disobedience and
believe the message of cheer as it came from the divinely instructed
messenger, assuring them of their ultimate salvation.

     And so, at least in part, drifting Christendom can listen to the
Apostle Paul, and if the mistake, the wrong course, is acknowledged, the
heavenly-sent message is accepted, salvation is assured.

     How calm the Apostle and his companions must have been after this
assurance of their safety. The dreadful winds might continue and the ship
drift still further. They knew they were safe, for God had spoken.
Different it was with the crew of the ship. In great distress they feared
the coming disaster and cast out four anchors. The shipmen attempted flight
by a clever scheme. Paul discovered their plan and said to the centurion
and soldiers, "Except these abide in the ship, ye (not we) cannot be
saved." God had given him all who were in the ship. The work of the sailors
was needed when the daybreak came. And the soldiers believed the word of
Paul, for they cut the ropes, which set the boat adrift the sailors tried
to use. Then Paul exhorted them to eat. Once more he assured them that not
a hair should fall from the head of any one. Before the whole company, two
hundred and seventy-six persons, Paul took bread and gave thanks to God.
The Lord had exalted the prisoner, and he really stands out as the leader
of the distressed company. They all became encouraged by the words and
action. All has its lessons. However the meal has nothing to do with the
Lord's Supper. It tells us typically how necessary it is that we must feed
on the bread of life in the days of danger, the times when everything
breaks up. "And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land."

                                CHAPTER 28

     1. In the Island of Melita (verses 1-10).
     2. The arrival in Rome (verses 11-16).
     3. Paul calling the chief of the Jews and his message (verses 17-29).

     Melita, which means "honey," is the island of Malta. It was even then
a prominent place for navigation where many vessels wintered. Luke calls
the inhabitants Barbarians, a term used by the Greeks for all peoples who
did not use their language. The wrecked company was not plundered by the
people of the island, but instead received much kindness and were made
comfortable in the cold rain which fell.

     It was God who moved the hearts of these islanders to show such
hospitality to the shipwrecked company for the sake of His servants. Paul
is active even then. The shipwreck and privations must have told on the
great man of God physically, yet we see him going about gathering a bundle
of sticks for the fire. This labor must have been difficult, since as a
prisoner he wore a chain on his hands. A viper, which had been benumbed by
the cold and revived by the heat of the fire, fastened on his hand. We
doubt not it was a poisonous viper. This is denied by some critics on the
plea that poisonous snakes are not found in the island of Malta. However,
that is no proof that such did not exist at that time. The inhabitants of
the island expected Paul to fall dead. If it had been a harmless snake, why
such an expectation? God's power was manifested in his behalf. It was a
fulfillment of the promise in Mark 16:18: "they shall take up serpents and
it shall not hurt them." The viper also reminds us of Satan and his fate.
As Paul cast the viper into the fire, so Satan will be cast into the lake
of fire. Then there was a manifestation of the gracious power of the Lord
towards the inhabitants of the island.

     And then they reached Rome at last. What joy must have filled his
heart and the hearts of the believers in Rome! How often they must have
read his words, in the beginning of his letter: "I long to see you, that I
may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both
of you and me. Now, I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that ofttimes
I proposed to come unto you (but was hindered hitherto), that I might have
some fruit among you also, even as the rest of the Gentiles" (Romans
1:11-13). He had never been in Rome. The Roman assembly was not founded by
Paul and certainly not by Peter. The origin of that church is obscure, and
the Holy Spirit has not given us a history of the beginning of the church
of Rome. And now he whom they all loved, whose face they longed to see, was
actually on the way to visit Rome. But in a far different way did he come
than he expected when he wrote his Epistle. He came as the prisoner of the
Lord. What a meeting it must have been!

     And now it is for the very last time in this book, "to the Jew first."
The first service the great Apostle rendered in Rome was not in the
assembly, but he called the chief of the Jews together. He knew no
bitterness in his heart against the Jews. In writing the letter to the
Romans he had written, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience
also testifying with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and
continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed
from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans
9:1-2). "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is, that
they might be saved" (10:1). And now, after all the sad experience he had
made, the treatment he had received from his kinsmen, after he had found
out their malice and deep hatred, the same love burns in his heart and the
same yearning for their salvation possesses him. In Rome he manifests first
of all his loving interest in his Jewish brethren. To these leading Jews he
testified once more that he was innocent of any wrong doing. Briefly, he
rehearsed his whole case and why he had been compelled to appeal to Caesar.
For this purpose--to talk to them about this matter--he had called them.
Then most likely he must have lifted his hands, from which
the prisoner's chain dangled, and said, "because for the
hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." The Jews,
however, wanted to hear more from his lips of--"what thou
thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that 
everywhere it is spoken against." They knew he believed in

     A great meeting took place a short time later. Many Jews assembled in
Paul's lodging. The meeting lasted from morning till evening. Once more he
testified the Kingdom of God to a large company of Jews. He also persuaded
them concerning Jesus both out of the laws of Moses and out of the
Prophets. What a wonderful message must have came from his lips as he
unfolded the prophetic testimony concerning the Messiah in the power of the
Spirit of God! But what was the result? Some believed and some believed
not. They did not agree amongst themselves. The end of God's gracious way
with the Jews is reached. We repeat, for the last time, it was to the Jew
first. The final crisis is reached. Judgment must now be executed upon the
nation and the blindness is now to come, which has lasted so long and will
continue till the fullness of the Gentiles is come in (Romans 11:25).
Stephen, whose death young Saul had witnessed and approved (8:1), had
pronounced judgment upon the nation, in Jerusalem. God's mercy had still
waited. Marvelous Grace, which took up the young Pharisee, Saul, and made
him the Apostle to the Gentiles! Through him, the chosen instrument, the
lord still sought his beloved Israel, even after Jerusalem had so
completely rejected the offered mercy. We have seen how the Apostle's
intense love for his brethren had led him back to Jerusalem, though warned
repeatedly by the Holy Spirit. And now he is used to give the very last
message to the Jews and speak the final word of condemnation.

     The salvation of God is now to go far hence to the Gentiles. A
prisoner in Rome and yet active. He preached the Kingdom of God (not of
heaven, the Jewish, earthly aspect of it), and ever speaking of that worthy
name, that blessed and adorable Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. The ending
of the book is sad and it is joyous. Sad to see the great Apostle a
prisoner, shut up in Rome with his God-given Gospel. Joyous because the
last verse mentions the Lord Jesus Christ and an unhindered ministry of the
Gospel. The Book begins with Jerusalem and ends with Rome. It is a prophecy
of the course of the professing church. The book closes in an unfinished
way, because the acts of Christ, the Spirit of God, and Satan, recorded in
this book, are not finished. We hear nothing more of Paul, though we know
that from the prison the Holy Spirit of God sent forth through him the
blessed Epistles, in which He has been pleased to give us the highest
revelation. And how much more might be written on all this!

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