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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 10

 

 

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Verse 4

ALMSGIVING

‘Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.’

Acts 10:4

Sermons on almsgiving aim at setting forth the rationale of giving to God; and they are not so frequent as they ought to be, considering the prominence given to the subject in Holy Scripture; because (a) they are unpopular. People who never forget themselves are apt to do so when asked for money. (b) There is a dread lest by preaching upon almsgiving the preacher should not appear to be preaching the Gospel; lest he should seem to attribute efficacy to something else besides the blood of Jesus.

I. Let us appeal to Holy Scripture.—Our Lord taught this duty indirectly by parables, e.g. Dives and Lazarus; the steward; directly, ‘Give alms of such things as ye have’ (Luke 11:41). ‘Sell that ye have and give alms’ (Luke 11:33). In the Sermon on the Mount He alludes to it as an acknowledged duty. St. Paul says, ‘Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him’ (1 Corinthians 16:2). ‘He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. God loveth a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Ephesians 4:28). ‘Charge them that are rich in this world that they do good, that they be rich in good works, read to distribute’ (1 Timothy 6:17-18; Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 13:16). Also, in solemn pictures of the Last Judgment, the virtue of showing mercy, sympathy, unselfishness, that is, in its broadest sense, almsgiving, is extolled by our Lord, and contrasted with its opposite, the vice of selfishness. From these passages we gather three things:—

(a) Our Lord does not command us to give alms, He assumes it as a duty: to assume is stronger than to command, for to command presupposes an indisposition to do what is commanded. ‘When ye do your alms’; ‘When ye pray’; ‘When ye fast’; He assumes these duties and puts forward the pure motive for doing them.

(b) Almsgiving and prayer are mentioned side by side. ‘When ye do your alms’ and ‘When ye pray’; ‘Thy prayers and thine alms’: not the one without the other, but the one as the correlative of the other, the alms as one wing of the prayers.

(c) A certain spiritual force is attributed to almsgiving.—‘Break off thine iniquities by showing mercy’ (Daniel 4:27); ‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven’ (Matthew 6:20); ‘Give alms of such things as ye have, and behold all things are clean unto you’ (Luke 11:41); ‘Provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens which faileth not,’ (Luke 12:33); ‘God loveth a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7); ‘With such sacrifices God is well pleased’ (Hebrews 13:16); ‘Charge them that are rich, laying up for themselves a good foundation’ (1 Timothy 6:19); ‘The prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God’ (Acts 10:4). Thus almsgiving is spoken of as pleasing to God, and had in remembrance by Him, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it, or inasmuch as ye have not done it, ye have done it or not done it unto Me,’ (Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45).

II. How shall I give?—Moved by strong appeals or by personal interest, we give; but why, as a rule, is it necessary to resort to bazaars, entertainments, charity dinners and sermons to raise money for Christian objects? Because too many require to be amused, attracted, aroused, provided with something in return for their money, before they will give.

(a) We must give on principle and not on impulse. We must give systematically.

(b) What rule then shall we adopt in our almsgiving? We ought to give a fixed proportion of our income every year. This proportion will vary according to a man’s means; to his own Master each of us must stand or fall.

(c) How shall I distribute my alms?—First of all, poor relations; then sick and poor in your own parish; then the parochial funds, the Church fund; then the missions of the Church at home and abroad. Then the support of those institutions of the land which care for those who are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other infirmity.

There are two ways by which we can best carry out the duty of almsgiving: through the offertory, in secret, so that our left hand knows not what our right is doing; and by subscriptions, that we may exert the power of example, and stimulate those who are not giving as they should, and induce them to do so when they see our good works.

III. Practise self-examination on this point.—Compare the alacrity with which we buy a new book, a season ticket at the opera, go for a trip abroad, with the halting spirit in which we give to God. There are special needs for almsgiving at the present day. Luxury all round is on the increase. Culture and refinement are to be encouraged, but luxury uncontrolled produces selfishness; its best restraining influence is systematic almsgiving.

—Prebendary J. Storrs.


Verse 38

THE VICTORY OF BENEFICENCE

‘He went about doing good.’

Acts 10:38

Here is a phrase which sums up in five words the remembrance of Christ’s life. ‘He went about doing good.’ ‘Doing good,’ I am afraid of narrowing that word—kindness, help, healing, service of others, help of body, help of soul; all these are in it. Beneficence, the harder Latin word for the same thing, brings a more formal thought. To be beneficient sounds like what only a few can be; but the plain English ‘to do good’ means something which is on a level for all.

I. Here then for us, who belong to Jesus, is another rule to try ourselves by.—‘He went about doing good.’ To do good to others—to be of use, that should be our aim—with that we should be busy and content. It is surprising to think how far this may go in life. For does it not give a new look to daily work? Is there not real help for us in remembering that all which we call work—all that mass and total of hard, weary, and often dull labour—all the drudgery is really doing service to somebody. So is the world made.

II. There are many to whom work is not given in quite this hard, drudging form.—To them Christ’s example seems to say, Find your work, and make your work. Leisure is only good if it means either rest to make work better, or opportunity to choose better work. If it means only passing your time or pleasing yourself, it ranks according to Christ’s scale below drudgery. For it does not do good. Service is the rule for every Christian. If any man will not work, neither let him eat—at least of Christ’s Table.

III. But though Christ’s example puts common work in a new light, it means more than that.—It means something that goes more into the heart of us, and comes out of our heart. For it really changes the bottom thought of life. Perhaps we spend all our money on ourselves, and give a chance penny or shilling or pound to others. Christ teaches us a different way; He shows us how the thought of doing good should be the master-thought of life. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ We say, Why, surely this is too much; I shall have nothing for myself. And Christ is beforehand with us. ‘Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.’ His eye rests with approval on the widow who casts in all her living. But in truth He takes plenty of care of us. He gives us many good things—homes, friends, comforts, health, even pleasures. Only let us set our hearts not on these, but on doing good.

IV. Be sure that if we try thus to go about doing good, our thought of what doing good means will grow higher or deeper.—It would be so anyhow, for we should feel more and more what man’s deepest needs really are. In ministering to others’ smaller wants, we shall find their greater ones.

—Bishop E. S. Talbot.

Illustration

‘There are many who give much time, money, and work that they may serve God in their generation, or as one put it that she might lay up treasure in heaven. The Church of England cannot count her Sunday-school teachers and her district visitors and helps (as St. Paul called them), helps of every kind. If the enemy cannot hinder your active nature from working for God and His power, he will try to spoil it all by unworthy motives or want of consecration. Examine your motive; why are you doing your church work? Your work may be only the natural force of your character. Look and see the motive, and if it is consecrated, if each good act is offered up to God through Christ on the altar of Calvary.


Verse 43

CHRIST AND THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

‘To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.’

Acts 10:43

Here we have an unequivocal testimony to the Divine authority of the Word inspired, and to the Word incarnate as the source of the forgiveness of sin. These twin doctrines are cardinal truths of the Christian faith.

I. Why do I believe the Old Testament to be the Word, the message of God?

(a) Its historical portions receive fresh confirmation from the discoveries that are constantly made by the researches of antiquarians.

(b) Our Saviour ever spoke of the Old Testament with profound reverence. He nowhere casts the shadow of a doubt on its authority.

(c) And as the Master, so the disciples. Their attitude on the Old Testament is identical with His.

(d) And in this as in other things our Church faithfully follows in the footsteps of her Lord and His Apostles. In this our Liturgy bears a striking resemblance to the New Testament. As our Lord in the Gospels and the Apostles in the Acts and the Epistles appeals to the Bible of the Jewish Church, so does our Church to the larger Bible of the Christian Church. Not only is the vastly greater portion of her services made up of the pure Word of God, but in her prefaces and her rubrics, in her articles and her homilies, and especially in her solemn ordination services, she sets forth that Word as the exclusive source of her children’s faith.

II. Remission of sins.—‘That through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.’ This is another essential article of the Christian creed. ‘I believe in the remission of sins.’ It seems to me not a little remarkable that the drift of prophetic utterances in the Old Testament should be thus specifically asserted by an Apostle of Christ to have taught the remission of sins through His Name. His Name includes for us all that He is, and all that He has done, His Person and His offices, His mission and His message, the infinite value and virtue of His vicarious sacrifice on the Cross, His resurrection from the dead and His intercessory pleading at the right hand of God. ‘Through His Name,’ the name that is above every name. Such is the ground on which we are offered remission of sins; the pledge and promise of all other blessings.

III. This is the gospel.—There are other gospels abroad I know. There is the gospel of culture, the gospel of legislation, the gospel of ceremonialism, the gospel of science, of evolution. But they have no good news for the man who is burdened by the guilt of sin and bound by its chains. Their power is limited, their process of education is slow, and sin’s captive is hurrying on to his doom. These cold comforts do but mock his dire needs. They cannot reclaim lost character; they cannot revive lost hopes; they cannot recover lost power; they cannot endow the soul with the moral forces that will rescue it from its bondage. For this you must have the assurance and the help of God. In the name of Jesus, which we preach unto you, infinite love and infinite power are allied in working out the salvation of the lost. ‘Through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.’

Canon David Jones.

Illustration

‘Man, like the grass of morning,

Droops ere the evening hour;

His goodliness and beauty

Fade as a fading flower.

But who may shake the pillars

Of God’s unchanging Word?

Amen: Himself hath spoken;

Amen: Thus saith the Lord.

Death’s shadows fall around us

Our path with storms is rife:

O God, vouchsafe Thy servants

To grasp the word of life,

Until the life eternal,

The life and light of men,

With clouds of glory mantled

Returns to earth again.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 10:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/acts-10.html. 1876.

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