Acts 22

In the earlier part of this Book we had the history of the apostle’s conversion in its historical order, bearing profoundly upon the progress of the gospel and the revelation of Christian truth. Here we have the account of it as a part of his defence before the people of Israel. It has therefore a specific object, marked by the use of the Hebrew language, which accounts for its other peculiarities. Discrepancy there is really none, any more than in other parts of scripture. The appearance of it is due solely to the difference of design, which here is most obvious, as it undeniably is later in the Book. In Acts 26 we have a short account modified by the fact that it was addressed to the king, Herod Agrippa the younger, as well as to the Roman governor. Whatever peculiarities have been observed, they are due to the same cause. The same principle in fact applies to the treatment of every object among men of intelligence. Scripture only adopts the same rule, but in a perfection to which men are unequal. Our place as believers is to learn by that which offends incredulity against all reason.

‘Brethren and fathers, hear ye the defence that I now make unto you (and when they heard that he spake to them in the Hebrew tongue, they were the more quiet, and he saith), I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, and brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to strictness of the law of the fathers, being zealous for God, even as all ye are to-day. And I persecuted this Way unto death, binding and delivering unto prisons both men and women, as also the high priest beareth me witness, and all the elderhood, from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and proceeded unto Damascus to bring those also that were there, bound to Jerusalem that they might be punished’ (vers. 1-5).

There was a providential training in the apostle’s case as in others, but strikingly manifest in him who was a Jew, not a Gentile proselyte. He was born in Tarsus, a renowned centre of letters and philosophy at that day. But he was brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of the most celebrated Rabbi of his day. Yet if Gamaliel was learned and strict as an orthodox Pharisee, we have already had remarkable proof, quite apart from the apostle, of his singular moderation, when the Sadducees began to persecute the faith. It is not often erudite men are equally known for prudence, still less for the wisdom which brought in God, not formally, but with conscience; and God used it completely to turn away the council from their unbelieving and sanguinary thoughts (Acts 5:34-40). At Gamaliel’s feet was he brought up who was to be the Holy Ghost’s witness to the grace of God in our Lord Jesus as no other man was since the world began.

His early training in Jerusalem would have conveyed no such presentiment to mortal eyes: he was instructed according to the strictness of the law of the fathers. If the Pharisees of Jerusalem were zealous beyond all others, he was yet more so; but in truth when faith came, he could all the better realize the complete change from law to grace. Those who never pierced below the surface of the one fail to appreciate the other; they are apt to mingle the two — the great bane of Christianity, whence law is no more law, and grace is no more grace.

Law is the demand of human righteousness. Grace has now revealed God’s righteousness, and this only is what the apostle designates the righteousness which is of faith; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. It is not a question of man’s effort, still less of his performance. He is not called to ascend to heaven any more than to descend into the abyss. It was Christ Who came down. even as Christ risen from the dead is gone up, and we become God’s righteousness in Him. Salvation is wholly of Christ, it is what God loves to do — cannot but do consistently with His character in virtue of the work of Christ. ‘The word, therefore, is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart’, not the word that man prepares for God, but the word which God sends to be preached: ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Rom. 10:8-10). Thus has God indeed dealt, and can afford to deal, with sinners. It is His grace, but it is also His righteousness.

Now the more Saul when quickened studied the law, and entered into its righteous inexorable claims on man, the more were his eyes opened to the impossibility of salvation under law. It was weak through the flesh, and must be bondage, bitter hopelessness could only result when conscience became enlightened. For salvation is altogether a question for God Who, sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. Thus only could there be salvation. The law was able to do nothing but condemn the sinner. The gospel proclaims sin condemned, root and fruit, and the believer saved and set free to walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

It was exactly therefore such a zealot of law, who, when his heart was opened by grace, could to the full see and appreciate the deliverance of the gospel. The same principle applies even now, though there is no doubt an incalculable distance between the apostle and other saints howsoever blest in our day or any other. Still the men who most enjoy and are best fitted to set forth the gospel, are often those who, in the days of their ignorance were deeply attached to law and ordinances, which necessarily gender bondage where there is an exercised conscience.

And this must have told powerfully upon the Jews who weighed the apostle’s address. The apostle had never been a careless light-hearted Israelite! as his training was most strict, so his personal zeal was thorough. Indeed he had given the fullest proof, for he persecuted this Way unto death. None like Saul of Tarsus, who was so active in binding and delivering into prisons both men and women! He was just a sample in the highest degree of those that have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Who therefore could speak like him from personal experience to men ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own? So much the more did he now subject himself to the righteousness of God.

Nor could the high priest himself ignore the fact, but rather bear witness, and all the elderhood too; for they are reminded that he also received letters to the brethren, i.e., the Jews elsewhere, and journeyed to Damascus to bring also those that were there to Jerusalem in bonds in order to be punished. He who was to go out to all the world with the gospel, could not of old rest in his legal zeal within the bounds of Jerusalem or Judea.

The apostle now recounts his own marvellous conversion; and as it was addressed to Jews, it is presented in a way suited to disarm their prejudices, if this were possible.

‘And it came to pass, as I was journeying and drawing near to Damascus, that about midday there suddenly shone out of heaven a great light round about me, and I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus, the Nazarene, Whom thou persecutest. Now they that were with me beheld the light255 but did not hear the voice of Him that was speaking to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Rise up, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which it hath been appointed for thee to do’ (vers. 6-10).

Thus the intimation here is that it was ‘about midday’, still more precisely than we were told in Acts 9:3. This makes the vision far more striking. It was not a trance, but an open fact. The light which shone round about him out of heaven transcended the sun at midday, in the presence of men who were travelling with him. Deception was impossible. As far as we know, he, and he only, was converted thereby. The voice addressed no. other at that time; and here it is particularly said that the rest heard not the voice of Him that was speaking to him. The same historian, who gives this as the distinct statement of the apostle, had himself told us that his fellow-travellers stood speechless hearing the voice but beholding no one. This to a casual reader looks like a discrepancy, but a reader must be careless indeed, or bent on evil, who does not perceive that the two statements are altogether in harmony beneath the surface. In Acts 9 we learn that his companions heard a sound, and no more; and in the present chapter256 we learn that he alone heard the voice of Him that spoke to him. To the others it was inarticulate; to him it was not only intelligible, but the turning point of a life beyond all others rich in testimony to His grace Who spoke to him.

For the time was now fully come for a new step in God’s ways. The heavenly glory of Christ was to be seen by a chosen witness called by Him in sovereign mercy from on high, the persecutor from the midst of his religiously rebellious career. It is grace no doubt in every case where the soul is brought from darkness into the marvellous light of God. But here all the truth shines with the utmost brilliancy. Stephen dosed his testimony with the sight of Jesus in the glory of God. Saul begins his testimony for Jesus with Him seen in the same glory. It reminds one somewhat of the two prophets of old, one of whom ended his course with being taken up to, heaven, whilst the other commenced it from that glorious sight which gave him thenceforth such a mighty impulse. It was none the less remarkable in the present case, because Saul had been privy to the death of Stephen, and had kept the clothes of the false witnesses who stoned him whose spirit went up to the Lord Whose glory he had just seen and testified.

And if a brief interval elapsed after Stephen’s death, it was filled up by Saul still breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. Nevertheless the light out of heaven suddenly shone out round about him now. Smitten to the earth, he heard the voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?’ Embittered though he was with tradition and prejudice, he could not but ask with astonishment, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’ No man was ever more assured that he was rendering service to God in putting out of the synagogue, or even in killing, the disciples. He had a good conscience, according to the law, in the zeal that persecuted the church (Phil. 3:6). As yet he knew neither the Father nor the Son. The True Light had never entered his soul. But now the light which shone round about him was but the harbinger of a better glory invisible to human eyes, ‘the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’. His companions saw the outward brightness, they did not behold that which none can see, unless they are, by the power of God, brought out of darkness into it.

To his amazement he learned that He Who spoke, Whom he could not but acknowledge to be the Lord of all, was the very Jesus Whom he was persecuting. For thus He was known in the persons of His own: Christ and the church are one. Immense discovery! and so much the more in circumstances so unparalleled. The erstwhile enemy, broken down and henceforth obedient to the heavenly vision, has Christ in glory, God’s Son, revealed, not to him only, but in him. See Gal. 1:16. He is life, and the Christian is one with Him. If it was true of the disciples whom he persecuted, it was no less true of their persecutor, now himself a disciple. ‘He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.’ When we see the Lord at His coming again, we shall be like Him, even in body changed into the same image. If we are being transformed now, even as by the Lord the Spirit, we shall be conformed then to the Lord and by the Lord; for we shall see Him as He is (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:3).

These great principles were all involved in the apostle’s vision, though of course it is not meant that they were all unveiled to his spirit at the moment. But in due time no one knew better than he, nor so well; though these truths were thus conveyed, and in the most powerful way, in that great fact, incalculable in its bearing on the church, and even for the world. For who of all men ever made good a commission so unlimited as the apostle’s? It was felt and acknowledged by the twelve that he was the apostle of the uncircumcision as truly as they of the circumcision. This in no way precluded their seeking the good of the Gentiles; still less did it hinder Paul from labours abundant among the Jews, as every place, we may say, testified where there were Jews. But it did not mark the characteristic breadth of his mission. He might seek to build up the church in entire and heavenly separation from the world; but it was his beyond any man to fulfil the word of his Master, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to all the creation.’

What an appeal, too, his own account of his conversion was to the crowd of Jews that were then listening! None could deny the facts; the high priest could not but bear witness, all the elderhood of Israel in Jerusalem would have gladly contradicted if they could. The letters he received to his Jewish brethren could not be gainsaid, any more than his own bitter persecution of the Christian Way unto death, as well as prison. The companions of his journey to Damascus, why were they silent? If they heard not the words of Jesus, they were not deaf to the preternatural sound, and they did see the light above the brightness of the sun shine round about them all.

But all wonders fail to convert the heart to God. It is the voice of Christ that quickens the dead, and now is the hour for quickening souls; as by and by there will come another hour, when the voice of the Son shall summon from the grave those that have done good to a resurrection of life, and those that have done evil to a resurrection of judgment, which last act of Christ solemnly closes the history of this world. But sovereign grace is now awakening the souls that hear the word of the Lord; and as this was in the most extraordinary manner manifested to Saul of Tarsus, so was he called in the highest degree to be a minister of God’s sovereign grace, and of Christ’s heavenly glory. ‘And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lords aid unto me, Rise up, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which it hath been appointed thee to do.’

Here again was a singular break with all the apostolic antecedents. The Lord commanded no return to Jerusalem. Saul must enter Damascus and there, not through a previous apostle, still less the apostolic college, but through a disciple set in no high position, learn what it had been appointed for him to do. So does grace reign: have we really learnt this?

We have already seen in commenting on Acts 9 what an important event took place that day: a distinct and fresh step in the ways of God for bringing out the church (already formed, it is true) into manifestation by his ministry who was then converted so extraordinarily that divines treat it as one of the standing and most striking evidences of the truth of Christianity.

Still all was not yet done even as regards Saul of Tarsus, the basis was laid, but no more. The blindness physically which had come upon him was to be taken away; and assuredly very much more light spiritually was yet to shine into his soul; but the principle that was to be fully developed in due time was already involved in the character of the word of the Lord to him. ‘And as I could not see for the glory of the light, being led by the hand of those that were with me, I came into Damascus; and one Ananias, a pious man according to the law, borne witness to by all the Jews that dwelt there, came unto me, and standing by said to me, Brother Saul receive thy sight, and in the very hour I looked upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know His will and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from His mouth. For thou shalt be for Him to all men a witness of what thou hast seen and heard. And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and get baptized, and have thy sins washed away, calling on His257 name’ (vers. 11-16).

As Paul was to be, beyond all others, a witness of Christ to the Gentiles so God took special care to remove from every fair upright man all suspicion of collusion on the part of any Jew. Outwardly the vision of glory was unmistakable before many witnesses. What passed between the Lord and His servant was necessarily confined to Saul alone of the company. But divine wisdom apprised Ananias of what had happened, independently of Saul and of every other on earth. We are not told here of his fasting for three days and nights, but the fact was patent that by the hand of those that were with him he had to be led into Damascus. That blindness furnished occasion for a fresh display of divine power. The channel of it was a simple disciple, yet was he a devout man according to the law, and well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there. Unsought, he came; and standing by him who was blind he said, ‘Brother Saul, receive thy sight’, and the word was with power: Paul received his sight and looked upon him. In Acts 9 we hear of the vision that Saul had preparing for the visit of Ananias, as the same chapter lets us know that Ananias had a vision in which the Lord sent him, by no means willing, without delay to Saul. For it was well known at Damascus, as well as in Jerusalem, what a zealous persecutor of the church had been the learned Jew of Tarsus — now a man of prayer.

Here, again, we have the beautiful fruit of confidence in the word of the Lord. ‘Brother Saul’ — how refreshing it must have been to the heart of the converted zealot! The key to what is here stated, and to what is omitted, is the design: the apostle is recounting his conversion to the Jews. ‘The God of our fathers’ appears here alone. It was He, as Ananias said, and not another, Who had appointed him to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice out of His mouth. It is much more than the simple fact that the Lord, even Jesus, had appeared to him in the way which he came.

Here we learn, too, that Ananias told the apostle before he was baptized that he should be a witness for Christ unto all men of what he had seen and heard. This ought to have prepared the Jews for the wide scope given to Paul’s ministry. Would they have him resist the ‘God of our fathers’ and His known will? There were two witnesses, by whose mouth every word should be established. In Acts 9 his commission is named to Ananias by the Lord, but the historian does not there mention that this was repeated to the apostle. Here we learn that so it was, for he repeats it himself. Everything comes exactly in place and season.

In Acts 9 we are told that, when he received his sight, he arose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened, as well as the all-important fact that he was then and there filled with the Holy Ghost. There is no apostolic succession in this case assuredly. Ananias was but a disciple. God was acting extraordinarily in the case of Paul. Jewish order was quite set aside for the apostle of the Gentiles; yet none but the enemy of grace and truth could deny that he was an apostle, with a calling at least as high as the twelve, and called to a work incomparably more extensive and profound.

Here also we have the interesting fact of the terms in which Ananias called him to ‘get baptized’ or submit to baptism, on which a few words may be well, as to some there is no small difficulty. The reason of the departure from the Authorized Version, as well as the Revised, however slight, is an endeavour to express the force of the Middle Voice, as it is called, in Greek. This, however, is independent of the (to some) doctrinal difficulty in calling on the apostle to have his sins washed away in baptism. Why should this seem hard? It is what baptism always means, though indeed it means yet more, even death to sin, as the apostle himself treats it in Rom. 6:3, 4. Baptism is the sign of salvation, as another apostle teaches, who carefully lets us know in the same context that the effectual work rests on Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Peter 3:21, 22). Without faith no doubt all is valueless before God; but, however precious may be that which faith receives through the word, the outward sign has its importance. So much is this so, that no one stands on the external ground of a Christian, who has not been baptized with water to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. To refuse baptism is to despise the authority of the Lord, as unbelief slights His grace. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not, even if baptized, shall be damned (or, condemned).

The remarkable vision with which Paul first began was by no means the only one; we learn here of another on his return to Jerusalem. 2 Cor. 12:1-4 speaks of them also in a more general way. But what happened in Jerusalem he himself now proceeds to tell in detail. ‘And it came to pass that when I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Him saying unto me, Make haste and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those that believe on Thee; and when the blood of Stephen Thy witness was shed; I also was standing by and consenting,258 and keeping the garments of those that slew him. And He said unto me, Depart, for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles. And they gave him audience unto this word; and they lifted up their voices and said, Away with such [a fellow] from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live’ (vers. 17-22).

The incident at Jerusalem is full of interest spiritually, because it communicates the perfect ease and intimacy in which scripture sets forth the relations of the servant with the Master. It would have been easy to have suppressed the account, if it had not been of standing moment and general value. The statement of it had the most distressing effect on the Jews who had listened till then. This excited their indignation to the highest. Nevertheless, as we see, the apostle brought it plainly out to vindicate the direction of his labours without limit as apostle to the Gentiles. We may be quite sure that naturally he had as great a reluctance to go at the word of the Lord on such an errand as the Jews had to hear about it. Traditionally the Jew was everything in the matter of religion; all this feeling and the ground of it was overthrown in the cross of Christ. How true, as the apostle wrote to the Corinthians in his Second Epistle (2 Cor. 5:17), ‘The old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God, Who reconciled us unto Himself by Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation’! The power of such a ministry is especially shown, not in abiding at Jerusalem, but in going out toward the Gentiles wherever they may be; for we are not Israelites, nor yet the lost sheep of that house. We are not the people, but rather in comparison ‘dogs’ according to the law. Now, however, all is changed. It is the gospel, and all things are become new. As the mission of our apostle is for heaven, so is his direction towards the Gentiles.

No wonder that he himself shrank even in the presence of the Lord; but so Paul is to learn in his trance at the temple of Jerusalem. ‘Make haste,’ said the Lord, ‘and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning Me.’ This was very painful to the apostle’s heart, others had tasted similar sorrow even before Christianity. Moses knew it in early days, though the stiffneckedness of the Jews then was as nothing compared with what it was proved at the cross. And afterwards Jeremiah and others of the prophets drank enough of this cup to feel the bitterness and grief. But Paul was as remarkable as Moses for the love of Israel, and tasted the bitterness of the Jew more perhaps than any of their prophets. In divine ways he was just the more suited to be sent as Christ’s ambassador to the Gentiles. Had he loved Israel less, he had not been so fit for the new and heavenly mission. In everything it must be above nature to represent grace in any measure aright.

How little those that saw or knew of Paul evangelizing the Gentiles appreciated the feelings with which he had entered on the work! ‘And I said, Lord, themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believe on Thee.’ His heart yearned over Israel, his burning desire was to have laboured in their midst. When the Lord had told him to retire from Jerusalem, because the Jews would not receive of him testimony concerning Christ, he even pleads that he was just the man to go to Jerusalem, that they themselves knew how he had hated the Way, how he had imprisoned and beat in every synagogue the believers. Yea more, he summons up the most terrible tale of persecuting zeal as the crowning reason to be allowed to preach to the Jews, and as a reason why they must surely welcome him if no other preacher of the gospel. ‘And when the blood of Stephen Thy witness was shed, I also was standing by and consenting, and keeping the garments of those that slew him.’ It is evident that Paul used all this as standing him in good stead to labour among the Jews. But He that made the heart knew best, better far than Paul, and He said unto him, ‘Depart; for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles.’

The determining word was thus spoken: whatever might be Paul’s feeling, he now learns the will of the Lord concerning his labours. It was not merely now, Get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, but ‘I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles.’ No Israelite more fervently sought to commend the gospel to the Jews; no servant pleaded for it more earnestly with his Master. The freedom with which he appeals is a standing lesson to us of the liberty into which the gospel brings us. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor. 3:17). But we should also learn that the gospel leaves no uncertainty for the path and the service. The true light shines. Christ is the way, as well as the truth and the life, and He is not more truly the way to the Father than in Paul’s case toward the Gentiles. The gospel is heavenly light shining into the heart and on the path here below.

Early in this Book we had in Peter a beautiful instance of a conscience purged by blood (Acts 3:13, 14). So complete was it that he could openly tax the Jews with denying the Holy One and the Just. Had he not been guilty of this very sin himself in a more direct way than any other? Yes; but this was now wholly blotted out through the blood which cleanseth from all sin; and so conscious was he that it was gone before God, that he could without a blush charge the Jews with the same sin, without a thought of himself save of infinite mercy towards him.

Similarly, in the verse we last had before us the apostle Paul is another instance, if possible more touching, and no less instructive. He says to the Lord in his desire to preach the gospel to them, ‘They themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those that believed on Thee; and when the blood of Stephen, Thy witness, was shed, I also was standing by and consenting, and keeping the garments of those that slew him.’ Not a trace of the guilt remains on his conscience. As Peter proved in preaching to others, so he, Paul, publicly states to the same people how he had spread it personally before the Lord as the ground on which he wished to be sent as a witness to his brethren after the flesh. But the Lord knew all perfectly. Paul was His chosen vessel, not for Jerusalem, but far hence unto the Gentiles. His conscience was perfectly purged; but the mind of the Lord alone is perfectly right and wise; and so here it was soon proved. ‘They gave him audience unto this word, and they lifted up their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live’ (ver. 22).

Intimately familiar as the apostle was with the feelings of the Jews, he was at this time scarcely prepared for their implacable jealousy of the Gentiles. Yet was it what he himself was too conscious of in his unconverted days: the people were now where he was then. The change in him was so complete that he seems to have failed in realizing their condition. Christ was all to him. That they should so abhor the grace of God, rising above all man’s sin, whether Jewish or Gentile, is indeed astonishing, and the clearest proof that man is lost. Hatred of grace is in no way mitigated by intelligence, learning, or religiousness. All these had united in Saul of Tarsus, and they might be found more or less in some of the Jews of Jerusalem. But the same pride of nature and abuse of God’s promises which had led the nation to crucify the Messiah, hardened them now to reject and hate the gospel, above all the sending it to the Gentile no less than the Jew.

‘And as they cried out and threw off their garments and cast dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the castle, directing that he should be examined by scourging, that he might know for what cause they had shouted thus against him. And when they had tied him up with the thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned? And when the centurion heard it he went to the commander and told him, saying, What art thou about to do? For this man is a Roman. And the commander came and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? And he said, Yes. And the commander answered, With a great sum I obtained this citizenship. And Paul said, But I am also [so] born. Then they that were about to examine immediately departed from him, and the commander also was afraid when he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him’ (vers. 23-29).

The exasperation of the Jews is manifest in this striking scene. They were roused to the highest degree of feeling on behalf of their religion as they considered it. It is only the faith of Jesus which gives us to see things in God’s light. Had they measured themselves by this standard, they must have been in the dust themselves, and owned that it was all over with them as a people. It was not only that they had failed in righteousness; they had rejected God come down among them in infinite love. Repentance, there fore, of the deepest kind alone became them. They would then have seen that it was not for a guilty people to judge of God’s ways. They would have learnt how admirably suited was grace, now that they were ruined in the last trial that God could make: Jehovah rejected of old by His own people, the Son come in love rejected, the Holy Ghost with the gospel, all rejected. It is in vain to talk of law, or even promises, before the cross. Yet God is now free to save the lost who believe in Jesus whatever they may be.

Granted that the Jews had exceeding privileges and a distinctive covenant, but the Jew had been foremost in slaying Him in Whom all the promises centre, their securer and their crown. All relationship with God for man on the earth, and we may say for Israel especially, was broken and gone, but grace could shine from heaven, and call to heaven all who believe in Christ, and this is exactly what the gospel is now making good. There is a new head and a new calling; but all is in Christ above; and consequently earthly distinctions, as well as disabilities, are alike vanished away. If man universally, Jew or Gentile, is lost, the Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost. This, by the gospel, is effected for those who believe; and Paul’s mission being both the highest and the widest, was pre-eminently to the Gentile world. It was for this heavenly and indiscriminate task he was really fitted when awakened to see his intensely Jewish zeal, now judged in the light, not only of the cross, but of the heavenly glory of Christ. He was the apostle of the uncircumcision. It was therefore a mistake to put himself forward specially before the Jews in Jerusalem, as before with the Lord in the vision.

But there is another element of interest in the passage. The commandant had given orders to examine the apostle by scourging, in order that the cause of the clamour against him might be found out. Paul has resort to a plea most natural, in order to escape pain and ignominy; for it was a serious breach of law that he, a Roman and uncondemned, should be tied up for scourging. Nothing can be calmer too than the manner in which he put it forward. There was no excitement, still less the smallest approach to the assertion of right, which was not unknown then, but has taken an extreme hold of men in our days. The centurion names it to the commander, who inquires and learns that, whilst he had bought his own citizenship, Paul was a Roman born. This, of course, put an end to all thought of torture, and the commander was afraid because he had bound him. But was it the accustomed height of Christian truth on which the apostle stood? Where do we find an approach to it in his Epistles? And where does heavenly and suffering grace shine as in these? Present oneness with Christ effaces all our natural conditions: Jew or Greek, Scythian or barbarian, bond or free, what matters it? Christ is all, as He is in all that are His.

It would appear that what excited the alarm of the commander and the centurion was the tying up Paul with the thongs. This was a great offence against a Roman citizen. ‘Because he had bound him’, I understand to be for this purpose, for in an ordinary way it appears that he was not absolutely loosed. ‘But on the morrow desiring to know the certainty why he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to come together, and brought Paul down and set [him] before them’ (ver. 30). Whatever Jews might do or wish, the Roman law was equitable enough to insist, that an accused person should have his accusers face to face, and be allowed to answer for himself as to the charge laid against him. First, however, the commander sought to learn what the accusation was.

255 1 Text. Rec. adds on large authority of MSS. et al., καὶ ἒμφοβοι ἐγένετο, ‘and they were affrighted’, but ABH, several cursives, and the best Versions leave the words out.

256 In Acts 9 φωνή ‘sound’ or ‘voice’ is in the genitive, and merely partitive in Acts 22 it is the accusative which has the largest bearing on the object and is not partitive.

257 So the most ancient MSS. and Versions, but HLP and most read τοῦ κυρίου ‘of the Lord,’ as in the Text. Rec.

258 The Text. Rec. adds with many MSS. et al. ‘to his death,’ evidently imported from Acts 8:1, but the best copies (ABE) and versions do not sanction it.