Perga in Pamphylia was a noted place, especially for a temple there erected to the goddess Diana, yet nothing at all is related of what Paul and Barnabas did there, only that thither they came (Acts 13:13), and thence they departed, Acts 13:14. But the history of the apostles’ travels, as that of Christ’s, passes by many things worthy to have been recorded, because, if all had been written, the world could not have contained the books. But the next place we find them in is another Antioch, said to be in Pisidia, to distinguish it from that Antioch in Syria from which they were sent out. Pisidia was a province of the Lesser Asia, bordering upon Pamphylia; this Antioch, it is likely, was the metropolis of it. Abundance of Jews lived there, and to them the gospel was to be first preached; and Paul’s sermon to them is what we have in these verses, which, it is likely, is the substance of what was preached by the apostles generally to the Jews in all places; for in dealing with them the proper way was to show them how the New Testament, which they would have them to receive, exactly agreed with the Old Testament, which they not only received, but were zealous for. We have here,
I. The appearance which Paul and Barnabas made in a religious assembly of the Jews at Antioch, Acts 13:14. Though they had lately had such good success with a Roman deputy, yet, when they came to Antioch, they did not enquire for the chief magistrate, nor make their court to him, but they applied to the Jews, which is a further proof of their good affection to them and their desire of their welfare. 1. They observed their time of worship, on the sabbath day, the Jewish sabbath. The first day of the week they observed among themselves as a Christian sabbath; but, if they will meet the Jews, it must be on the seventh-day sabbath, which therefore, upon such occasions, they did as yet sometimes observe. For, though it was by the death of Christ that the ceremonial law died, yet it was in the ruins of Jerusalem that it was to be buried; and therefore, though the morality of the fourth commandment was entirely transferred to the Christian sabbath, yet it was not incongruous to join with the Jews in their sabbath sanctification. 2. They met them in their place of worship, in the synagogue. Note, Sabbath days should be kept holy in solemn assemblies; they are instituted chiefly for public worship. The sabbath day is a holy convocation, and for that reason no servile work must be done therein. Paul and Barnabas were strangers; but, wherever we come, we must enquire out God’s faithful worshippers, and join with them (as these apostles here did), as those that desire to keep up a communion with all saints; though they were strangers, yet they were admitted into the synagogue, and to sit down there. Care should be taken in places of public worship that strangers be accommodated, even the poorest; for, of those of whom we know nothing else, we know this, that they have precious souls, for which our charity binds us to be concerned.
II. The invitation given them to preach. 1. The usual service of the synagogue was performed (Acts 13:15): The law and the prophets were read, a portion of each, the lessons for the day. Note, When we come together to worship God, we must do it not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God; hereby we give him the glory due to his name, as our Lord and Lawgiver. 2. When that was done, they were asked by the rulers of the synagogue to give them a sermon (Acts 13:15): They sent a messenger to them with the respectful message, Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. It is probable that the rulers of the synagogue had met with them, and been in private conversation with them before; and, if they had not an affection to the gospel, yet they had at least the curiosity to hear Paul preach; and therefore not only gave him permission, but begged the favour of him that he would speak a word of exhortation to the people. Note, (1.) The bare reading of the scriptures in the public assemblies is not sufficient, but they should be expounded, and the people exhorted out of them. This is spreading the net, and assisting people in doing that which is necessary to the making of the word profitable to them—that is, the applying of it to themselves. (2.) Those that preside, and have power, in public assemblies, should provide for a word of exhortation to the people, whenever they come together. (3.) Sometimes a word of exhortation from a strange minister may be of great use to the people, provided he be well approved. It is likely Paul did often preach in the synagogue, when he was not thus invited to it by the rulers of the synagogues; for he often preached with much contention, 1 Thess. 2:2. But these were more noble, more generous, than the rulers of the synagogues generally were.
III. The sermon Paul preached in the synagogue of the Jews, at the invitation of the rulers of the synagogue. He gladly embraced the opportunity given him to preach Christ to his countrymen the Jews. He did not object to them that he was a stranger, and that it was none of his business; nor object to himself, that he might get ill-will by preaching Christ among the Jews; but stood up, as one prepared and determined to speak, and beckoned with his hand, to excite and prepare them to hear. He waved his hand as an orator, not only desiring silence and attention, but endeavouring to move affection, and to show himself in earnest. Perhaps, upon the moving of them to give an exhortation to the people, there were those in the synagogue that were ready to mutiny against the rulers, and opposed the toleration of Paul’s preaching, and that occasioned some tumult and commotion, which Paul endeavoured to quiet by that decent motion of his hand; as also by his modest desire of a patient impartial hearing: “Men of Israel, that are Jews by birth, and you that fear God, that are proselyted to the Jewish religion, give audience; let me beg your attention a little, for I have something to say to you which concerns your everlasting peace, and would not say it in vain.” Now this excellent sermon is recorded, to show that those who preached the gospel to the Gentiles did it not till they had first used their utmost endeavours with the Jews, to persuade them to come in and take the benefit of it; and that they had no prejudice at all against the Jewish nation, nor any desire that they should perish, but rather that they should turn and live. Every thing is touched in this sermon that might be proper either to convince the judgment or insinuate into the affections of the Jews, to prevail with them to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah.
1. He owns them to be God’s favourite people, whom he had taken into special relation to himself, and for whom he had done great things. Probably the Jews of the dispersion, that lived in other countries, being more in danger of mingling with the nations, were more jealous of their peculiarity than those that lived in their own land were; and therefore Paul is here very careful to take notice of it, to their honour.
(1.) That the God of the whole earth was, in a particular manner, the God of this people Israel, a God in covenant with them, and that he had given them a revelation of his mind and will, such as he had not given to any other nation or people; so that hereby they were distinguished from, and dignified above, all their neighbours, having peculiar precepts to be governed by, and peculiar promises to depend upon.
(2.) That he had chosen their fathers to be his friends: Abraham was called the friend of God; to be his prophets, by whom he would reveal his mind to his church, and to be the trustees of his covenant with the church. He puts them in mind of this, to let them know that the reason why God favoured them, though undeserving, and ill deserving, was because he would adhere to the choice he had made of their fathers, Deut. 7:7, 8. They were beloved purely for the fathers’ sakes, Rom. 11:28.
(3.) That he had exalted that people, and put a great deal of honour upon them, had advanced them into a people, and raised them from nothing, when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and had nothing in them to recommend them to the divine favour. They ought to remember this, and to infer hence that God was no debtor to them; for it was ex mero motu—out of his mere good pleasure, and not upon a valuable consideration, that they had the grant of the divine favour; and therefore it was revocable at pleasure; and God did them no wrong if he at length plucked up the hedge of their peculiarity. But they were debtors to him, and obliged to receive such further discoveries as he should make to his church.
(4.) That he had with a high hand brought them out of Egypt, where they were not only strangers, but captives, had delivered them at the expense of a great many miracles, both of mercy to them and judgment on their oppressors (signs and wonders, Deut. 4:34), and at the expense of a great many lives, all the first-born of Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his host, in the Red Sea; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, gave men for thee. Isa. 43:3, 4.
(5.) That he had suffered their manners forty years in the wilderness, Acts 13:18; Etropophoresen. Some think it should be read, etrophophoresen—he educated them, because this is the word the Septuagint use concerning the fatherly care God took of that people, Deut. 1:31. Both may be included; for, [1.] God made a great deal of provision for them for forty years in the wilderness: miracles were their daily bread, and kept them from starving: They lacked not any thing. [2.] He exercised a great deal of patience with them. They were a provoking, murmuring, unbelieving people; and yet he bore with them, did not deal with them as they deserved, but suffered his anger many a time to be turned away by the prayer and intercession of Moses. So many years as we have each of us lived in this world, we must own that God has thus been as a tender father to us, has supplied our wants, has fed us all our life long unto this day, has been indulgent to us, a God of pardons (as he was to Israel, Neh. 9:17), and not extreme to mark what we have done amiss; we have tried his patience, and yet not tired it. Let not the Jews insist too much upon the privileges of their peculiarity, for they have forfeited them a thousand times.
(6.) That he had put them in possession of the land of Canaan (Acts 13:19): When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, that were doomed to be rooted out to make room for them, he divided their land to them by lot, and put them in possession of it. This was a signal favour of God to them, and he owns that hereby a great honour was put upon them, from which he would not in the least derogate.
(7.) That he had raised up men, inspirited from heaven, to deliver them out of the hands of those that invaded their rights, and oppressed them after their settlement in Canaan, Acts 13:20, 21. [1.] He gave them judges, men qualified for public service, and, by an immediate impulse upon their spirits, called to it, pro re nata—as the occasion required. Though they were a provoking people, and were never in servitude but their sin brought them to it, yet upon their petition a deliverer was raised up. The critics find some difficulty in computing these four hundred and fifty years. From the deliverance out of Egypt to David’s expulsion of the Jebusites from the stronghold of Zion, which completed the casting out of the heathen nations, was four hundred and fifty years; and most of that time they were under judges. Others thus: The government of the judges, from the death of Joshua to the death of Eli, was just three hundred and thirty-nine years, but it is said to be [os] as it were four hundred and fifty years, because the years of their servitude to the several nations that oppressed them, though really they were included in the years of the judges, are yet mentioned in the history as if they had been distinct from them. Now these, all put together, make one hundred and eleven years, which added to the three hundred and thirty nine, make them four hundred and fifty; as so many, though not really so many. [2.] He governed them by a prophet, Samuel, a man divinely inspired to preside in their affairs. [3.] He afterwards at their request set a king over them (Acts 13:21), Saul, the son of Cis. Samuel’s government and his lasted forty years, which was a kind of transition from the theocracy to the kingly government. [4.] At last, he made David their king, Acts 13:22. When God had removed Saul, for his mal-administration, he raised up unto them David to be their king, and made a covenant of royalty with him, and with his seed. When he had removed one king, he did not leave them as sheep without a shepherd, but soon raised up another, raised him up from a mean and low estate, raised him up on high, 2 Sam. 23:1. He quotes the testimony God gave concerning him, First, That his choice was divine: I have found David, Ps. 89:20. God himself pitched upon him. Finding implies seeking; as if God had ransacked all the families of Israel to find a man fit for his purpose, and this was he. Secondly, That his character was divine: A man after my own heart, such a one as I would have, one on whom the image of God is stamped, and therefore one in whom God is well pleased and whom he approves. This character was given of him before he was first anointed, 1 Sam. 13:14. The Lord hath sought out a man after his own heart, such a one as he would have. Thirdly, That his conduct was divine, and under divine direction: He shall fulfil all my will. He shall desire and endeavour to do the will of God, and shall be enabled to do it, and employed in the doing of it, and go through with it. Now all this seems to show not only the special favour of God to the people of Israel (with the acknowledgment of which the apostle is very willing to oblige them) but the further favours of another nature which he designed them, and which were now, by the preaching of the gospel, offered to them. Their deliverance out of Egypt, and settlement in Canaan, were types and figures of good things to come. The changes of their government showed that it made nothing perfect, and therefore must give way to the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah, which was now in the setting up, and which, if they would admit it and submit to it, would be the glory of their people Israel; and therefore they needed not conceive any jealousy at all of the preaching of the gospel, as if it tended in the least to damage the true excellences of the Jewish church.
2. He gives them a full account of our Lord Jesus, passing from David to the Son of David, and shows that this Jesus is his promised Seed (Acts 13:23): Of this man’s seed, from that root of Jesse, from that man after God’s own heart, hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour—Jesus, who carries salvation in his name.
(1.) How welcome should the preaching of the gospel of Christ be to the Jews, and how should they embrace it, as well worthy of all acceptation, when it brought them the tidings, [1.] Of a Saviour, to deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, as the judges of old, who were therefore called saviours; but this a Saviour to do that for them which, it appears by the history, those could not do—to save them from their sins, their worst enemies. [2.] A Saviour of God’s raising up, that has his commission from heaven. [3.] Raised up to be a Saviour unto Israel, to them in the first place: He was sent to bless them; so far was the gospel from designing the gathering of them. [4.] Raised up of the seed of David, that ancient royal family, which the people of Israel gloried so much in, and which at this time, to the great disgrace of the whole nation, was buried in obscurity. It ought to be a great satisfaction to them that God had raised up this horn of salvation for them in the house of his servant David, Luke 1:69. [5.] Raised up according to his promise, the promise to David (Ps. 132:11), the promise to the Old-Testament church in the latter times of it: I will raise unto David a righteous branch, Jer. 23:5. This promise was it to which the twelve tribes hoped to come (Acts 26:7); why then should they entertain it so coldly, now that it was brought to them? Now,
(2.) Concerning this Jesus, he tells them,
[1.] That John the Baptist was his harbinger and forerunner, that great man whom all acknowledged to be a prophet. Let them not say that the Messiah’s coming was a surprise upon them, and that this might excuse them if they took time to consider whether they should entertain him or no; for they had sufficient warning by John, who preached before his coming, Acts 13:24. Two things he did—First, He made way for his entrance, by preaching the baptism of repentance, not to a few select disciples, but to all the people of Israel. He showed them their sins, warned them of the wrath to come, called them to repentance, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and bound those to this who were willing to be bound by the solemn rite or sign of baptism; and by this he made ready a people prepared for the Lord Jesus, to whom his grace would be acceptable when they were thus brought to know themselves. Secondly, He gave notice of his approach (Acts 13:25): As he fulfilled his course, when he was going on vigorously in his work, and had had wonderful success in it, and an established interest: “Now,” saith he to those that attended his ministry, “Whom think you that I am? What notions have you of me, what expectations from me? You may be thinking that I am the Messiah, whom you expect; but you are mistaken, I am not he (see John 1:20), but he is at the door; behold, there cometh one immediately after me, who will so far exceed me upon all accounts, that I am not worthy to be employed in the meanest office about him, no, not to help him on and off with his shoes—whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose, and you may guess who that must be.”
[2.] That the rulers and people of the Jews, who should have welcomed him, and been his willing, forward, faithful subjects, were his persecutors and murderers. When the apostles preach Christ as the Saviour, they are so far from concealing his ignominious death, and drawing a veil over it, that they always preach Christ crucified, yea, and (though this added much to the reproach of his sufferings) crucified by his own people, by those that dwelt in Jerusalem, the holy city—the royal city, and their rulers, Acts 13:27. First, Their sin was that though they found no cause of death in him, could not prove him, no, nor had any colour to suspect him, guilty of any crime (the judge himself that tried him, when he had heard all they could say against him, declared he found no fault with him), yet they desired Pilate that he might be slain (Acts 13:28), and presented their address against Christ with such fury and outrage that they compelled Pilate to crucify him, not only contrary to his inclination, but contrary to his conscience; they condemned him to so great a death, though they could not convict him of the least sin. Paul cannot charge this upon his hearers, as Peter did (Acts 2:23): You have with wicked hands crucified and slain him; for these, though Jews, were far enough off; but he charges it upon the Jews at Jerusalem and the rulers, to show what little reason those Jews of the dispersion had to be so jealous for the honour of their nation as they were, when it had brought upon itself such a load and stain of guilt as this, and how justly they might have been cut off from all benefit by the Messiah, who had thus abused him, and yet they were not; but, notwithstanding all this, the preaching of this gospel shall begin at Jerusalem. Secondly, The reason of this was because they knew him not, Acts 13:27. They knew not who he was, nor what errand he came into the world upon; for, if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Christ owned this in extenuation of their crime: They know not what they do; and so did Peter: I wot that through ignorance you did this, Acts 3:17. It was also because they knew not the voice of the prophets though they heard them read every sabbath day. They did not understand nor consider that it was foretold that the Messiah should suffer, or else they would never have been the instruments of his suffering. Note, Many that read the prophets do not know the voice of the prophets, do not understand the meaning of the scriptures; they have the sound of the gospel in their ears, but not the sense of it in their heads, nor the savour of it in their hearts. And therefore men do not know Christ, nor know how to carry it towards him, because they do not know the voice of the prophets, who testified beforehand concerning Christ. Thirdly, God overruled them, for the accomplishment of the prophecies of the Old-Testament: Because they knew not the voice of the prophets, which warned them not to touch God’s Anointed, they fulfilled them in condemning him; for so it was written that Messiah the prince shall be cut off, but not for himself. Note, It is possible that men may be fulfilling scripture prophecies, even when they are breaking scripture precepts, particularly in the persecution of the church, as in the persecution of Christ. And this justifies the reason which is sometimes given for the obscurity of scripture prophecies, that, if they were too plain and obvious, the accomplishment of them would thereby be prevented. So Paul saith here, Because they knew not the voice of the prophets, therefore they have fulfilled them, which implies that if they had understood them they would not have fulfilled them. Fourthly, All that was foretold concerning the sufferings of the Messiah was fulfilled in Christ (Acts 13:29): When they had fulfilled all the rest that was written of him, even to the giving of him vinegar to drink in his thirst, then they fulfilled what was foretold concerning his being buried. They took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. This is taken notice of here as that which made his resurrection the more illustrious. Christ was separated from this world, as those that are buried have nothing more to do with this world, nor this world with them; and therefore our complete separation from sin is represented by our being buried with Christ. And a good Christian will be willing to be buried alive with Christ. They laid him in a sepulchre, and thought they had him fast.
[3.] That he rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption. This was the great truth that was to be preached; for it is the main pillar, by which the whole fabric of the gospel is supported, and therefore he insists largely upon this, and shows,
First, That he rose by consent. When he was imprisoned in the grave for our debt, he did not break prison, but had a fair and legal discharge from the arrest he was under (Acts 13:30): God raised him from the dead, sent an angel on purpose to roll away the stone from the prison-door, returned to him the spirit which at his death he had committed into the hands of his Father, and quickened him by the Holy Ghost. His enemies laid him in a sepulchre, with design he should always lay there; but God said, No; and it was soon seen whose purpose should stand, his or theirs.
Secondly, That there was sufficient proof of his having risen (Acts 13:31): He was seen many days, in divers places, upon divers occasions, by those that were most intimately acquainted with him; for they came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, were his constant attendants, and they are his witnesses unto the people. They were appointed to be so, have attested the thing many a time, and are ready to attest it, though they were to die for the same. Paul says nothing of his own seeing him, which was more convincing to himself than it could be when produced to others.
Thirdly, That the resurrection of Christ was the performance of the promise made to the patriarchs; it was not only true news, but good news: “In declaring this, we declare unto you glad tidings (Acts 13:32, 33), which should be in a particular manner acceptable to you Jews. So far are we from designing to put any slur upon you, or do you any wrong, that the doctrine we preach, if you receive it aright, and understand it, brings you the greatest honour and satisfaction imaginable; for it is in the resurrection of Christ that the promise which was made to your fathers is fulfilled to you.” He acknowledges it to be the dignity of the Jewish nation that to them pertained the promises (Rom. 9:4), that they were the heirs of the promise, as they were the children of the patriarchs to whom the promises were first made. The great promise of the Old Testament was that of the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed, and not the family of Abraham only; though it was to be the peculiar honour of that family that he should be raised up of it, yet it was to be the common benefit of all families that he should be raised up to them. Note, 1. God hath raised up Jesus, advanced him, and exalted him; raised him again (so we read it), meaning from the dead. We may take in both senses. God raised up Jesus to be a prophet at his baptism, to be a priest to make atonement at his death, and to be a king to rule over all at his ascension; and his raising him up from the dead was the confirmation and ratification of all these commissions, and proved him raised of God to these offices. 2. This is the fulfilling of the promises made to the fathers, the promise of sending the Messiah, and of all those benefits and blessings which were to be had with him and by him: “This is he that should come, and in him you have all that God promised in the Messiah, though not all that you promised yourselves.” Paul puts himself into the number of the Jews to whom the promise was fulfilled: To us their children. Now, if those who preached the gospel brought them these glad tidings, instead of looking upon them as enemies to their nation, they ought to caress them as their best friends, and embrace their doctrine with both arms; for if they valued the promise so much, and themselves by it, much more the performance. And the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, which was the great thing that the Jews found themselves aggrieved at, was so far from infringing the promise made to them that the promise itself, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in the Messiah, could not otherwise be accomplished.
Fourthly, That the resurrection of Christ was the great proof of his being the Son of God, and confirms what was written in the second Psalm (thus ancient was the order in which the Psalms are now placed), Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. That the resurrection of Christ from the dead was designed to evidence and evince this is plain from that of the apostle (Rom. 1:4): He was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. When he was first raised up out of obscurity, God declared concerning him by a voice from heaven, This is my beloved Son (Matt. 3:17), which has a plain reference to that in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son. Abundance of truth there is couched in those words: that this Jesus was begotten of the Father before all worlds—was the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, as the son is of the father’s—that he was the logos, the eternal thought of the eternal mind,—that he was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin; for upon this account, also, that holy thing was called the Son of God (Luke 1:35), that he was God’s agent in creating and governing the world, and in redeeming it and reconciling it to himself, and faithful as a son in his own house, and as such was heir of all things. Now all this, which was declared at Christ’s baptism and again at his transfiguration, was undeniably proved by his resurrection. The decree which was so long before declared was then confirmed; and the reason why it was impossible he should be held by the bands of death was because he was the Son of God, and consequently had life in himself, which he could not lay down but with a design to resume it. When his eternal generation is spoken of, it is not improper to say, This day have I begotten thee; for from everlasting to everlasting is with God as it were one and the same eternal day. Yet it may also be accommodated to his resurrection, in a subordinate sense, “This day have I made it to appear that I have begotten thee, and this day have I begotten all that are given to thee;” for it is said (1 Pet. 1:3) that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as our God and Father, hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Fifthly, That his being raised the third day, so as not to see corruption, and to a heavenly life, so as no more to return to corruption, that is, to the state of the dead, as others did who were raised to life, further confirms his being the Messiah promised.
a. He rose to die no more; so it is expressed, Rom. 6:9: As concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, that is, to the grave, which is called corruption, Job 17:14. Lazarus came out of the grave with his grave-clothes on, because he was to use them again; but Christ, having no more occasion for them, left them behind. Now this was the fulfilling of that scripture (Isa. 55:3), I will give you the sure mercies of David; ta hosia Dabid ta pista—the holy things of David, the faithful things; for in the promise made to David, and in him to Christ, great stress is laid upon the faithfulness of God (Ps. 89:1, 2, 5, 24, 33), and upon the oath God had sworn by his holiness, Ps. 89:35. Now this makes them sure mercies indeed that he who is entrusted with the dispensing of them has risen to die no more; so that he ever lives to see his own will executed, and the blessings he hath purchased for us given out to us. As, if Christ had died and had not risen again, so if he had risen to die again, we had come short of the sure mercies, or at least could not have been sure of them.
b. He rose so soon after he was dead that his body did not see corruption; for it is not till the third day that the body begins to change. Now this was promised to David; it was one of the sure mercies of David, for it was said to him in Ps. 16:10; Neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption, Acts 13:35. God had promised to David that he would raise up the Messiah of his seed, who should therefore be a man, but should not, like other men, see corruption. This promise could not have its accomplishment in David, but looked forward to Christ.
(a.) It could not be accomplished in David himself (Acts 13:36), for David, after he had served his own generation, by the will of God, who raised him up to be what he was, fell asleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption. Here we have a short account of the life, death, and burial, of the patriarch David, and his continuance under the power of death. [a.] His life: He served his own generation, by the will of God, before he slept the sleep of death. David was a useful good man; he did good in the world by the will of God. He made God’s precepts his rule; he served his own generation so as therein to serve God; he so served and pleased men (as whatever the king did pleased the people, 2 Sam. 3:36), as still to keep himself the faithful servant of God. See Gal. 1:10. He served the good of men, but did not serve the will of men. Or, by the will of God’s providence so ordering it, qualifying him for, and calling him to, a public station, he served his own generation; for every creature is that to us which God makes it to be. David was a great blessing to the age wherein he lived; he was the servant of his generation: many are the curse, and plague, and burden of their generation. Even those that are in a lower and narrower sphere must look upon it that they live to serve their generation; and those that will do good in the world must make themselves servants of all, 1 Cor. 9:19. We were not born for ourselves, but are members of communities, to which we must study to be serviceable. Yet here is the difference between David and Christ, that David was to serve only his own generation, that generation in which he lived, and therefore when he had done what he had to do, and written what he had to write, he died, and continued in the grave; but Christ (not by his writings or words upon record only as David, but by his personal agency) was to serve all generations, must ever live to reign over the house of Jacob, not as David, for forty years, but for all ages, as long as the sun and moon endure, Ps. 89:29, 36, 37. His throne must be as the days of heaven, and all generations must be blessed in him, Ps. 72:17. [b.] His death: He fell asleep. Death is a sleep, a quiet rest, to those who, while they lived, laboured in the service of God and their generation. Observe, He did not fall asleep till he had served his generation, till he had done the work for which God raised him up. God’s servants have their work assigned them; and, when they have accomplished as a hireling their day, then, and not till then, they are called to rest. God’s witnesses never die till they have finished their testimony; and then the sleep, the death, of the labouring man will be sweet. David was not permitted to build the temple, and therefore when he had made preparation for it, which was the service he was designed to, he fell asleep, and left the work to Solomon. [c.] His burial: He was laid to his fathers. Though he was buried in the city of David (1 Kgs. 2:10), and not in the sepulchre of Jesse his father in Bethlehem, yet he might be said to be laid to his fathers; for the grave, in general, is the habitation of our fathers, of those that are gone before us, Ps. 49:19. [d.] His continuance in the grave: He saw corruption. We are sure he did not rise again; this Peter insists upon when he freely speaks of the patriarch David (Acts 2:29): He is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. He saw corruption, and therefore that promise could not have its accomplishment in him. But,
(b.) It was accomplished in the Lord Jesus (Acts 13:37): He whom God raised again saw no corruption; for it was in him that the sure mercies were to be reserved for us. He rose the third day, and therefore did not see corruption then; and he rose to die no more, and therefore never did. Of him therefore the promise must be understood, and no other.
c. Having given them this account of the Lord Jesus, he comes to make application of it.
(a.) In the midst of his discourse, to engage their attention, he had told his hearers that they were concerned in all this (Acts 13:26): “To you is the word of this salvation sent, to you first. If you by your unbelief make it a word of rejection to you, you may thank yourselves; but it is sent to you for a word of salvation; if it be not so, it is your own fault.” Let them not peevishly argue that because it was sent to the Gentiles, who had no communion with them, therefore it was not sent to them; for to them it was sent in the first place. “To you men this is sent, and not to the angels that sinned. To you living men, and not to the congregation of the dead and damned, whose day of grace is over.” He therefore speaks to them with tenderness and respect: You are men and brethren; and so we are to look upon all those that stand fair with us for the great salvation as having the word of salvation sent to them. Those to whom he does by warrant from heaven here bring the word of salvation are, [a.] The native Jews, Hebrews of the Hebrews, as Paul himself was: “Children of the stock of Abraham, though a degenerate race, yet to you is this word of salvation sent; nay, it is therefore sent to you, to save you from your sins.” It is an advantage to be of a good stock; for, though salvation does not always follow the children of godly parents, yet the word of salvation does: Abraham will command his children and his house-hold after him. [b.] The proselytes, the Gentiles by birth, that were in some degree brought over to the Jews’ religion: “Whosoever among you that feareth God. You that have a sense of natural religion, and have subjected yourselves to the laws of that, and taken hold of the comforts of that, to you is the word of this salvation sent; you need the further discoveries and directions of revealed religion, are prepared for them, and will bid them welcome, and therefore shall certainly be welcome to take the benefit of them.”
(b.) In the close of his discourse he applies what he had said concerning Christ to his hearers. He had told them a long story concerning this Jesus; now they would be ready to ask, What is all this to us? And he tells them plainly what it is to them.
[a.] It will be their unspeakable advantage if they embrace Jesus Christ, and believe this word of salvation. It will relieve them where their greatest danger lies; and that is from the guilt of their sins: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren—we are warranted to proclaim it to you, and you are called to take notice of it.” He did not stand up to preach before them, but to preach to them, and not without hopes of prevailing with them; for they are men, reasonable creatures, and capable of being argued with; they are brethren, spoken to, and dealt with, by men like themselves; not only of the same nature, but of the same nation. It is proper for the preachers of the gospel to call their hearers brethren, as speaking familiarly to them, and with an affectionate concern for their welfare, and as being equally interested with them in the gospel they preach. Let all that hear the gospel of Christ know these two things--1st, That it is an act of indemnity granted by the King of kings to the children of men, who stand attainted at his bar of treason against his crown and dignity; and it is for and in consideration of the mediation of Christ between God and man that this act of grace is passed and proclaimed (Acts 13:38): “Through this man, who died and rose again, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. We have to tell you, in God’s name, that your sins, though many and great, may be forgiven, and how it is come about that they may be so, without any injury to God’s honour, and how you may obtain the forgiveness of your sins. We are to preach repentance for the remission of sins, and divine grace giving both repentance and remission of sins. The remission of sins is through this man. By his merit it was purchased, in his name it is offered, and by his authority it is bestowed; and therefore you are concerned to be acquainted with him, and interested in him. We preach to you the forgiveness of sins. That is the salvation we bring you, the word of God; and therefore you ought to bid us welcome and look upon us as your friends, and messengers of good tidings.” 2ndly, That it does that for us which the law of Moses could not do. The Jews were jealous for the law, and because it prescribed expiatory and pacificatory sacrifices, and a great variety of purifications, fancied they might be justified by it before God. “No,” saith Paul, “be it known to you that it is by Christ only that those who believe in him, and none else, are justified from all things, from all the guilt and stain of sin, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39); therefore they ought to entertain and embrace the gospel, and not to adhere to the law in opposition to it, because the gospel is perfective, not destructive, of the law. Note, 1. The great concern of sinners it to be justified, to be acquitted from guilt and accepted as righteous in God’s sight. 2. Those who are truly justified are acquitted from all their guilt; for if any be left charged upon the sinner he is undone. 3. It was impossible for a sinner to be justified by the law of Moses. Not by his moral law, for we have all broken it, and are transgressing it daily, so that instead of justifying us it condemns us. Not by his remedial law, for it was not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin, should satisfy God’s offended justice, or pacify the sinner’s wounded conscience. It was but a ritual and typical institution. See Heb. 9:9; 10:1, 4. 4. By Jesus Christ we obtain a complete justification; for by him a complete atonement was made for sin. We are justified, not only by him as our Judge, but by him as our righteousness, the Lord our righteousness. 5. All that believe in Christ, that rely upon him and give up themselves to be ruled by him, are justified by him, and none but they. 6. What the law could not do for us, in that it was weak, that the gospel of Christ does; and therefore it was folly, out of a jealousy for the law of Moses and the honour of that institution, to conceive a jealousy of the gospel of Christ and the designs of that more perfect institution.
[b.] It is at their utmost peril if they reject the gospel of Christ, and turn their backs upon the offer now made them (Acts 13:40, 41): Beware therefore; you have a fair invitation given you, look to yourselves, lest you either neglect or oppose it.” Note, Those to whom the gospel is preached must see themselves upon their trial and good behaviour, and are concerned to beware lest they be found refusers of the grace offered. “Beware lest you not only come short of the blessings and benefits spoken of in the prophets as coming upon those that believe, but fall under the doom spoken of in the prophets as coming upon those that persist in unbelief: lest that come upon you which is spoken of.” Note, The threatenings are warnings ; what we are told will come upon impenitent sinners is designed to awaken us to beware lest it should come upon us. Now the prophecy referred to we have Hab. 1:5; where the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Chaldeans is foretold as an incredible unparalleled destruction; and this is here applied to the destruction that was coming upon that nation by the Romans, for their rejecting the gospel of Christ. The apostle follows the Septuagint translation, which reads, Behold, you despisers (for, behold, you among the heathen); because it made the text more apposite to his purpose. 1st, “Take heed lest the guilt come upon you which was spoken of in the prophets—the guilt of despising the gospel and the tenders of it, and despising the Gentiles that were advanced to partake of it. Beware lest it be said to you, Behold, you despisers.” Note, It is the ruin of many that they despise religion, they look upon it as a thing below them, and are not willing to stoop to it. 2ndly, “Take heed lest the judgment come upon you which was spoken of in the prophets: that you shall wonder and perish, that is, wonderfully perish; your perdition shall be amazing to yourselves and all about you.” Those that will not wonder and be saved shall wonder and perish. Those that enjoyed the privileges of the church, and flattered themselves with a conceit that these would save them, will wonder when they find their ,,am presumption overruled and that their privileges do but make their condemnation the more intolerable. Let the unbelieving Jews expect that God will work a work in their days which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. This may be understood as a prediction, either, 1. Of their sin, that they should be incredulous, that that great work of God, the redemption of the world by Christ, though it should be in the most solemn manner declared unto them, yet they would in no wise believe it, Isa. 53:1; Who hath believed our report? Though it was of God’s working, to whom nothing is impossible, and of his declaring, who cannot lie, yet they would not give credit to it. Those that had the honour and advantage to have this work wrought in their days had not the grace to believe it. Or, 2. Of their destruction. The dissolving of the Jewish polity, the taking of the kingdom of God from them and giving it to the Gentiles, the destruction of their holy house and city, and the dispersion of their people, was a work which one would not have believed should have ever been done, considering how much they had been the favourites of Heaven. The calamities that were brought upon them were such as were never before brought upon any people, Matt. 24:21. It was said of their destruction by the Chaldeans, and it was true of their last destruction, All the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that the enemy would have entered into the gates of Jerusalem as they did, Lam. 4:12. Thus is there a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity, especially to the despisers of Christ, Job 31:3.
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