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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 16

 

 

Verses 1-3

THE CALL OF TIMOTHY

‘Then came he to Derbe and Lystra; and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus … Him would Paul have to go forth with him.’

Acts 16:1-3

We now enter upon what is called St. Paul’s ‘Second Missionary Journey.’ Leaving Antioch, in company with Silas, ‘recommended by the brethren to the grace of God,’ St. Paul entered upon his second missionary journey. He had already twice visited Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, and now he proposes to visit them a third time. Assuming that when in Cilicia he would visit Tarsus, his native place, it would take about three days to go from Tarsus to Derbe. This time he reverses the journey, and goes to Derbe first, which was the last visited in the former visit (ch. Acts 14:20-21). But the Apostle did not stay long here, but went on to Lystra, where he was stoned. He would not forget that: would recall the scene, tell it to Silas, and refer to the kindness of the disciples, especially of two Jewish women who belonged to the company. These two Jewish women were Lois and Eunice, the mother and grandmother of Timothy. It was probably to their house that St. Paul went on arriving at Lystra.

I. God’s remedy for St. Paul’s disappointment.—St. Paul had left Antioch oppressed by the separation, oppressed by the illness which for a long season now had hampered his path, but God, in the midst of his weariness, opened His hand and let rich blessing flow from it. He knew too well the struggle which His servant had passed through, knew that a stand for the right, which entails the loss of friendship, is far bitterer than any perils of waters or perils of robbers, and, therefore, He Who had taken away gave yet more richly to His servant. Timothy, who had been but a youth when Paul was at Lystra on his first journey, was now well reported of, not only by the Church of Lystra, but also by that of Iconium, and was recommended to St. Paul for further service. From this time forward St. Paul was accompanied by one who, ‘as a son with a father,’ served him faithfully until the very eve of his martyrdom. Is it not ever so? God sympathises with the disappointment of his servants and, where there is really faithful service, gives strength, grace, and companionship even more richly.

II. Timothy’s characteristic.—From a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, and had thus became wise unto salvation. The greatest leaders in the Church, the men who have inherited the finest type of character, are usually found among those who from their childhood up have been surrounded by the highest influences, have learned the true perspective of life, have seen the vision of eternal truth, and instead of rebelling against it, instead of yielding to the inborn impulse against established order, have apprehended the truth thus put before them, and have moulded their life in accordance with it.

III. ‘All things to all men.’—It is in connection with the call of Timothy that we find a striking illustration of the principle which bids us become all things to all men if by so doing we may save some. St. Paul knew and taught that circumcision was nothing, yet in the present instance, in order that Timothy might minister more efficiently to Jews as well as Greeks, he circumcised him himself and removed what might have been a cause of stumbling. Then having circumcised Timothy he ordained him for the work of the ministry and rejoiced in the special gift of the Holy Ghost, which, as we can see from after references to his ordination, was given him at that time. Thus, St. Paul bids him ‘stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands,’ and again, ‘neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery’ (1 Timothy 4:14). What a strange thrill this echo of a far-away ordination service gives us!

IV. A son in the faith.—Prepared for the willing reception of the Gospel by the godly education of his childhood, Timothy became St. Paul’s ‘own son in the faith.’ From references in the Epistles we see how useful Timothy was to St. Paul. From Corinth he was sent to the Thessalonians, ‘to establish and comfort them in their faith,’ and from Ephesus he was sent to the Corinthians, ‘to bring them into remembrance’ of the truth they seem to have forgotten. He passed through his preparation for the ministry in a loyal and earnest spirit, and afterwards, it is believed, became Bishop of Ephesus.

Illustration

‘No name is so closely associated with St. Paul as that of Timothy. Not only were two Epistles addressed to him, but he is associated with St. Paul in the superscription of five (1, 2 Thess., 2 Cor., Phil., Col.); he was with the Apostle during great part of his second missionary journey; he was with him at Ephesus; he accompanied him in his last voyage to Jerusalem; he helped to comfort his first imprisonment at Rome; he is urged in the Second Epistle addressed to him to hasten from Ephesus and to join him in his second imprisonment before it is too late to see him alive. Some sixteen years had elapsed between the days when Paul took Timothy as his companion at Lystra, and the days when, in the weary desolation of his imprisoned age, he writes once more to this beloved disciple. Yet even at this latter date St. Paul addresses him as though he were the same youth who had first accompanied him to the hallowed work.’


Verse 9

THE VISION AT TROAS

‘And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.’

Acts 16:9

The three earliest missionaries of the Cross are standing on the western shores of Asia Minor. The setting sun was touching with points of gold the tops of the islands of the Gentiles. Shall they go east or west? Shall they go to India or to the great western world? That night St. Paul saw the vision and they crossed over to Europe.

I. Visions.—I think most people have had visions of some kind, they have dreamed that they should be rich or clever, or famous. I dare say many a golden ship has sailed to your door, many a golden pheasant has flown quite near. St. Paul had visions too; they were visions not of earthly riches or honour, but heavenly visions. Like the fisherman he might have said, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’ St. Paul worked for his living, for he had suffered the loss of all things for Christ’s sake. St. Paul’s trade was tent-making. We find that seven visions are recorded, visions which St. Paul saw. Here are the references: Acts 9:5; Acts 9:12; Acts 16:8-10; Acts 18:9-10; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23-24; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. In Acts 9 there is the first vision: the ‘Vision splendid’: the crowning vision that converts the soul. After a vision of Calvary we are never the same again. When by faith I see the ‘Sacred Head surrounded with crown of piercing thorn,’ the ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus which broke for love of me,’ the marks of the nails, the print of the spear, I say that is the crowning vision that transforms the soul.

II. Vision and duty must be joined together.—They were so joined in our text and in Acts 26:16-18. ‘Come … and help.’ As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians—‘We are helpers of your joy.’ What charming words those are, so unselfish, so human. And how wonderful it seems that though St. Paul was poor, and had few friends and weak health, yet he seemed to be constantly thinking not who would help him and comfort him, but how he could help and comfort others. ‘Come … and help.’ There are more than we think, doubting, sorrowful, unhappy—they say, ‘Come … and help.’ ‘It was never giving that emptied the purse, nor loving that emptied the heart.’

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘Many years ago there was a terrible fire in New York which shows the worth of a cheer. The four lower storeys were in flames: the fire was mounting upwards; it was supposed that the inmates had all been rescued. Suddenly, at an open window in the fifth storey, the form of a child was seen, screaming for help. The longest ladder was instantly shot up to the window, and a brave fireman clambered up three storeys through smoke and heat, when flames belched forth from the fourth storey and enveloped the ladder. Pausing, he was questioning whether it were possible for him to proceed. The eyes of the multitude in the street were on him in an agony of suspense. One man, grasping the situation, shouted, “Cheer him! Cheer him!” A cheer that seemed to shake the walls rang out. Up through the flames the fireman shot, wrapped the child in an asbestos blanket, and, though with hair and beard mowed off by the flames, placed her in her mother’s arms.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

A CRY FOR HELP

Every one must have been struck with the beauty, and the tenderness, and the depth, which there is in that word ‘help.’ ‘Help us.’ It at once connects itself with such passages as these: ‘I have laid help upon One that is mighty.’ ‘The Lord is thy helper.’ ‘I will help thee.’ And it is a true and a blessed name for Christ and His truth, ‘Help, help.’

I. The innate desire for help.—It implies that there is, what I suppose there is in every living creature under heaven, a feeling, consciously or unconsciously, which looks out for ‘help.’ Every one has his aspirations; in every one there is a standard higher than he can reach; a sense of something beyond him, which he sees, and admires, and wishes to be, and cannot. It is the immortality of the man—it is the relict of the lost image—it is the cry of the void of a heart which once was filled. Weakness, miserable weakness, is the child of sin; and there are seasons when the hardest and the proudest feel it. You may assume it, every one who has not God sometimes has the thought, though it does not clothe itself in words, ‘Help us.’ It will be a blessed thing to you, if any one ever says to you in life, ‘You have been a help to my soul.’

II. The cry of the heathen.—If we, with all the assistance which we have about us, find it so very difficult to do what is right, and to act out the dictates of our better mind—what must the difficulty be to a heathen, who has none of these, but all the counteracting influences of evil about him? What shall a right-minded or even a pious heathen do? Is not the Gospel practically an essential to that man, to enable him to fulfil the condition, on which condition alone he can escape eternal punishment? Are we not to believe that in very many—why not in all?—the inhabitants of heathen countries, there are the goings out of ardent desire to a higher morality, and a better religion, and a truer happiness? Think you that they have not their sorrows, which yearn for a better comforting than all that is around them can give?

III. What they want is ‘help.’—And if you have ever known what it is utterly to fail of some good resolution, if you have felt the humiliation and the misery of being entirely unable to attain the point that you strove to reach, or rather, if ever you have proved the outstretched arm which stopped the fall, the well-timed word which just met the perplexity, the ordinance which supplied the wisdom, or the patience which the circumstances required, or the grace of God, but for which, then and there, you would have perished, then you may feel the power and the pathos which there is in that cry of heathenism, ‘Come over and help us.’

IV. We have the remedy; and that remedy is the simple truth as it is in Jesus. Before it, in Macedon, Lydia’s heart was opened, and the jailer’s iron-bound soul burst its fetters and was free. To that power the world owes its civilisation, man his true humanity, the Church her beauty, and we each our all. But if, having it, we dispense it not, then I see not how we can escape that ancient malediction, ‘Curse ye Meroz (said the angel of the Lord), curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.’

—Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustrations

(1) ‘The passage of the Gospel from Asia to Europe is so marked an epoch in the early history of the propagation of Christianity, and the results of it have been, and are still, and will yet be, so very important to the Church and to the world, that we cannot wonder at the unusual solemnity which attaches to the incident. It was an occasion worthy of supernatural interposition; and hence probably the fact, that it is the only time, after St. Peter’s mission to Cornelius, when God introduced a miracle to guide the course of missions.’

(2) ‘The call to mission work is sometimes audible and direct, as in the cry from Macedonia; sometimes, and more often, unconscious, and therefore the more plaintive. When Mackenzie, fired by the appeals of Selwyn and of Livingstone, went forth to die in Africa, no Æthiopia had stretched out the hand beckoning him to her shores; he felt no instinctive overmastering spur to the work; only he thought some one must go; if no one else came forward, God might find a use even for him. When three Cambridge professors founded the Delhi Mission, no anxious pundits had expressed discontent with their own traditions or turned to us for truer light. Sixty years ago, when the Church was scarcely known to neglected thousands in London, the very last thing which the disheartened Bishop and sullen masses would have foreseen was that the boys of public schools and the athletes or students of our universities would haste to the rescue. Men were perishing for lack of knowledge, and knew not their need.’


Verse 14

THE RELIGION OF THE HEART

‘Whose heart the Lord opened.’

Acts 16:14

These words have not been selected with a view to dwell upon the incident with which they stand connected, full though it be of tender interest and manifold instruction, We take the words as setting forth the indispensable importance of the heart being engaged in religion, of true spiritual sympathy if there is to be any reality in the religion, either as it regards ourselves or in relation to others.

I. Sympathy with truth.—And, first of all, there is our sympathy with truth, or rather, with Him Who is the Truth. He declared in the most solemn hour of His life that He came into the world to bear witness of the truth, and said that whoever was of the truth would hear His voice. The faith that saves is one, the vitality of which consists in trust in and love towards a personal Saviour. Religious reality is, in fact, to have our hearts in some sense and degree like those of the two disciples at Emmaus, burning within us as He—Christ, the subject of the revelation—interprets to us in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Here, then, is the inner essence of all true religion.

II. Sympathy with goodness.—‘He that receiveth a righteous man,’ says our Lord, ‘in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.’ He admires, in other words, the beauty of holiness, and is not without some hope, trembling though it be, not without some desire, however faint, that it may be seen. These, and such as these, are they whom Jesus called to Him, and continually addressed in the days of His flesh—the weary and heavy laden, they who felt a constant sense of discomfort as they saw something above and beyond them they could not attain, but were dissatisfied to remain where and as they were.

III. Sympathy with others.—We think of our Blessed Lord, of the depth of the force, of the reality of His sympathy. Touched with the feeling of our infirmities, tempted on all points like as we are, made perfect through sufferings, He traversed all the rounds of earthly experience. Sympathy was His, deep as the human heart, broad as human necessity, filling into every thought and feeling, and aspiration and condition, and experience possible or conceivable to us human beings; sympathy, which is the same to-day that it was yesterday, that should be for ever; for it is the sympathy not merely of man but of God, and therefore it cannot be weary or exhausted, not till seven times, but till seventy times seven; full as the fountains of heaven, He ever lives to love, to chasten, to soothe, to bless. Shall not the same mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus?

(a) Some known to you have fallen deeply.

(b) A few may be sadly tried with doubts on religious questions.

(c) Then there is the poverty and misery which abound around us in our great centres of population, the appalling contrasts of modern civilisation—shall not our hearts, brethren, be open to feel it? It is true that we are familiar with it.

—Dean Forrest.

Illustration

‘Alas that there are so many who profess and call themselves Christians who take their very familiarity with suffering as a reason why they should not pause to examine into the appalling fact! The slave-owners of the Southern States of America at one time regarded slavery, with all its attendant atrocities, with all the misery connected with that pitiless traffic in human beings, as almost a kind of Divine institution, or, at any rate, they calmly accepted it as the necessary result, the unavoidable details of a predetermined kind of natural arrangement. But with what changed feelings, as I am given to understand, is slavery thought of now by the population of these States! It is seen in its true colours, and the descendants of the old slave-owners would no doubt feel it almost to be an insult if they were asked to defend what their forefathers regarded as something like sacrilege to attack.’


Verse 30

THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER

‘What must I do to be saved?’

Acts 16:30

The work at Philippi went on successfully. It commenced at a prayer-meeting. It went on quietly. It seemed as if nothing could be better. The first convert was Lydia, a woman of wealth and position; the possessed slave-girl was the medium of proclaiming the power of God. Now came a check. The masters of the girl charged the Apostles with troubling the city, teaching customs which were not lawful for them to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. The Apostles were cruelly treated, thrust into prison, and the jailer was charged to keep them safely. But God intervened, and caused the wickedness of men to praise Him. Let us consider the jailer’s question.

I. The circumstances under which it was asked.

(a) Not in response to any direct verbal teaching or exhortation, St. Paul and St. Silas had not been preaching to him, so far as we know. The pulpit is a great instrument for good, but not God’s only means of awakening souls. Where the prophet has preached in vain, He may reserve many to Himself. There is a still, small voice that does a work which the pulpit may fail to do. Let us thank God, and take courage.

(b) But after a time of trouble. Now it is quite common to see religious interest awakened in a time of trouble. The Christian pastor has learnt that times of sickness and bereavement in his congregation furnish him with his golden opportunities. But it is not, alas! so common, that the interest continues after the trouble is past. The jailer had been assured of the safety of his prisoners before he asked this question.

(c) After observation of the power of Christianity on others’ lives. He had doubtless seen St. Paul and St. Silas scourged the evening before. He had, notwithstanding, heard them singing praises to God in their cell. He had seen that, when they had opportunity to escape, they made no attempt to escape. Their preaching he might have scoffed at, but their lives carried with them a power beyond that of words. And doubtless his question was due more to his observation of their conduct than to anything else.

II. The question itself.—We have no data from which we can expound the spiritual state of this jailer. We cannot tell whether his conviction of guilt preponderated, or his desire to be freed sin’s bondage; or whether his question was called forth by a vague sense of general need—of needs which he could not specify. But what should the question mean? What is it to be saved?

(a) To be delivered from sin’s punishment. To obtain pardon through the atonement of Christ This, indeed, is the only salvation many people care for; but salvation means also, and more emphatically,

(b) To be delivered from sin’s power. To be saved from sin, forsaking it and conquering it through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. It was ‘from their sins’ that Christ came to save His people.

Illustration

‘Dreadful pictures have been drawn of the darkness and foulness of the Roman prisons, into one of which St. Paul and St. Silas were thrust—a dark, underground cell, with damp and reeking walls, and the companionship of the vilest outcasts. The jailer’s first thought was that of suicide. That was the highest point to which heathen culture could rise. The advice of Seneca was: “If life is pleasant, live; if not, you have a right to return whence you came.” St. Paul was moved with compassion for the jailer, just as he had been for the poor girl, and called out with a loud voice, saying, “Do thyself no harm, we are all here.” The jailer realised, partly from the earthquake, partly from St. Paul’s words, that he was in the presence of a mysterious and Divine power, and, falling down before St. Paul and St. Silas, entreated the aid of that power. Then as the members of the household gathered quickly together, trembling, from the different parts of the prison, St. Paul, with the marks of his suffering and degradation still upon him, spoke to them and taught them the first truths about God and Christ. The jailer, whose heart had been touched alike by the character of the prisoners, by their words of love, and by the terror of what he had just passed through, cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” words which have arisen not only to the lips of the jailer, but to every human heart which has been brought face to face with death and judgment and with the Almighty power of God.’

ST.


Verse 31

PAUL’S ADVICE TO THE JAILER

‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt he saved, and thy house.’

Acts 16:31

Some assert that this heathen jailer could know nothing about salvation through Jesus Christ, and that therefore the question he uttered must have referred to bodily safety. But he had just been saved from suicide by the assurance of St. Paul that the prisoners had not escaped. The man had perhaps heard the Apostle preach, or had joined unseen the little company at the place of prayer. It is evident the Apostle interpreted the question as referring to the soul. Thus we see that the good are the counsellors of the distressed.

I. The advice of St. Paul was willing.—The jailer had beaten him, and the marks of the scourge were then upon him. But he harbours no revenge. He takes no advantage of the terror-stricken man. He had saved his body. He now seeks to save his soul. See here the power of piety to endure all things, and to bless its persecutor.

II. The advice of St. Paul was wise.—The Apostle did not advise the man to wait until he was calm and could enter philosophically into the method of salvation. The jailer had called for a light, and St. Paul directed him at once to the true Light of the world. The conversation is only given in summary, much more was spoken than is recorded. St. Paul would explain all about salvation to this awakened sinner, and put a richer meaning into the words of the soothsaying damsel than they originally conveyed.

III. The advice of St. Paul was practicable.—St. Paul told the jailer to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and this he could do there and then. How often we give impracticable counsel to the sick and the sorrowful! It is little better than mockery to inform people of remedies which they cannot obtain or use. But the penitent soul can believe in Christ, however sinful it may have been.

IV. The advice of St. Paul was inspiring.—‘And thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’ What an encouraging hope! The man himself would be saved. The children would be brought into the covenant of God. The prayer of the father has sweet influence upon the entire family circle. It would henceforth be a new home; no longer heathen, it would be Christian. Piety is the beauty and joy of domestic life. Thus we see how piety enables a man to counsel and aid those who appeal to him in distress.

Illustration

‘His mode of address showed deep reverence. And the Apostles answered him partly in the terms which he had used. “Believe,” they said, “on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Deeply impressed, the man at once assembled his household in a little congregation, and, worn and weary and suffering as they were, St. Paul and St. Silas spoke to them of Him by Whom they were to find salvation. Then the jailer, pitying their condition, washed their bruised backs, and immediately afterwards was, with his whole house, baptized in the faith. All this seems to have taken place in the prison precincts.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE WAY OF SALVATION

This is one of the most familiar texts in all the Bible. Yet there is another which I dare say almost every one will have thought of while I was reading it—the passage in the Epistle of St. James where the Apostle asks, ‘Can faith save him?’ and where the Apostle evidently means the answer to be, ‘No: it cannot.’ Some people have been puzzled by these two texts as if they were contrary the one to the other.

I. St. Paul and St. James.—Yet, as a matter of fact, both texts are true. We need to believe both, and not one only, if we are to get the good of believing either. If not, why should God have told us both? The misfortune is that people, as a rule, do not take the trouble to put the two together so as to understand what both teach. But some one will say. Do not these two texts seem to disagree? I answer: No, they do not. Look at them carefully, as carefully as men do at what they really want to understand, and you will see that they do not. Take, first, St. Paul’s answer to the jailer at Philippi. What St. Paul’s says is that he shall be saved: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt he saved.’ In other words, Christ will save you if you will believe in Him. But was this really all? Certainly not. What, then, followed next? Why the jailer and all his house were baptized, washing away their sins, and thereby pledging themselves, by God’s help and grace, to live a new life. If any of you want to know what St. Paul meant by a person being baptized, you may see it in his epistles. He tells you it is dying to sin, he tells you it is rising again to holiness. He tells you that it is putting on Christ, so that you are to be like Christ—just as when you are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness, it means that you are to be righteous. Now suppose that when St. Paul told the jailer to be baptized, he had answered, ‘No, what you said was that if I believed I should be saved. I shall do no more,’ what do you suppose St. Paul would have answered? Do you not think he would have said something very like what St. James writes? Would he not have answered something like this: ‘I promised you that you should be saved if you would believe, but I never said that believing by itself would save you. It is Christ Who saves you, not your faith. If it was your faith that saved you, it would be you that saved yourself.’

II. What salvation means.—And then I fancy that St. Paul would have gone on to tell the man what salvation meant, and that if he fancied that ‘faith could save him,’ he was in danger of never knowing what salvation really was. For salvation really means being delivered from the power of sin and made holy; and Christ alone can do this for us. To be made good is really to be made over again. No one of us can make himself over again. No one of us can deliver himself from the power of sin. Christ only can deliver us from the power of the Devil. Nothing short of the power of God the Holy Ghost can make us holy. And none but those whom the Holy Spirit has made holy can enter heaven and be saved eternally. So St. Paul would tell the jailer again that it was quite true that if he believed on Jesus Christ he should be saved, but then he must understand how that salvation was to be accomplished and what it meant.

III. No man can be saved without faith. Why? It is by God’s power and help alone that any of us can overcome sin or attain to holiness, and no man can make use of God’s help without knowing of it and trusting to it. And faith is trust. But it is not the faith which saves. It is the power of God which saves you—God’s power used earnestly and trusted faithfully, and when a man does use God’s help as he ought, then you see the fruits of it in a holy and a religious life. And when those fruits are borne, then you know that there must be faith in that man’s heart, because without faith he could not have the help of God to enable him to do so. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ are the words of Christ Himself. Let it be our prayer that God will give us the grace of a true and living faith, and also to use faithfully all those means of grace which will enable us to bring forth fruit abundantly to the praise and glory of His Holy Name!

Illustration

‘Faith is trust. Let me give you a simple illustration. Your house is burning. With difficulty you awake your sleeping child. Now you cry aloud, “My boy, throw yourself down; I am ready to catch you in my arms.” “Oh, my father,” your child replies, “Oh, my father, I dare not jump, for I cannot see you, it is so dark.” “My precious child, I am here, though you cannot see me, ready to catch you when you fall. Don’t wait; it is now or never.” Your child believes your word, leaps into your arms, and you clasp him to your bosom with speechless joy. Just so the great Saviour cries, “Oh, sinful man, throw yourself into My arms! I am here—very near—throw yourself now into My arms, the arms stretched out on Calvary!’”

(THIRD OUTLINE)

FAITH: ITS NATURE, OBJECT, AND EFFECT

I. The nature of faith.

(a) It includes (i) knowledge, for we cannot believe what we do not know; (ii) assent, for there is an acceptance with the understanding; (iii) trust, which is an act of the will as well as the understanding.

(b) Faith is therefore more than mere acceptance of Divine testimony concerning Christ. We may believe all facts about Christ, and yet not be saved.

(c) It includes trust, as is implied in the very terms, ‘believe in, or on, Christ.’ It is therefore not merely belief in a proposition, but actual reliance on a Person.

(a) If faith does not include trust, why have we in the Psalms the constant mention of trust, but never of faith?

II. The object of faith.

(a) Not a mere statement, but a Person—Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is the substance of the Gospel.

(b) It is Christ as God-man, as Mediator, as Saviour (prophet, priest, king).

III. The effects of faith.—(a) Justification (Romans 5:1). (b) Adoption (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26). (c) Sanctification (Acts 26:18). (d) Joy and peace (1 St. Peter Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13). (e) Its trial works patience (St. James 1:3). (f) It is the sustaining principle of Christian life (Galatians 2:20). (g) It enables to overcome the world (1 John 5:4).

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

SAVING FAITH

In what does saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ consist?

I. Intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of men.—Thus far saving faith is the same as that faith by which we every day act. We buy, sell, eat, drink, and travel more or less by faith. Sight there no doubt is, but there is also faith. Faith is not a new element or ingredient of the soul-life of man, superadded by God, upon an after thought, to the moral constitution at the time of conversion. What is given then is grace to see, (a) self undone, and (b) Christ sufficient.

II. Trustfulness superadded to intellectual assent.—Not a large percentage of our fellow-men doubt with the head. But heart belief must accompany head belief. We must receive Christ with the affections (Romans 10:10). So self is given to Christ in every case of believing in Him to the salvation of the soul. Much may afterwards be given, but in the first instance self must. Futhermore, faith in Christ as the words of the text denote is—

III. Faith in a Person.—Some people trust in a creed or in a ritual. Why? Because trust in these flatters rather than interferes with self love. ‘My creed is orthodox, my service is ornate,’ is the expression of some men’s faith, etc. Further, faith in Christ is faith in a Divine Person. It is not necessary that we should be able to theorise about the Incarnation or to philosophise about the Atonement; but our trust must be in Christ the Son of God. And it must be borne in mind that we are not saved by our faith as something meritorious, but by Christ; yet, for two reasons, we cannot be saved without faith, because

(a) Remaining in unbelief we make God a liar, we fail to comply with God’s law of love, which is universal in its scope.

(b) Remaining in unbelief we cannot secure, develop that character necessary to fit us for heaven, nor that capacity for the enjoyments of heaven could we get there without the Christ-like character. God cannot give soul calm to a bad man.

Illustration

‘A drowning man cannot be saved by a lifeboat that is within reach simply by believing in its life-saving capabilities; he must trust himself to the boat. He who is in a burning house will not be saved by virtue simply of intellectual assent to the fact that a fire-escape is accessible, and that it is so contrived as to be capable of landing him in a place of safety. He must trust himself to the fire escape, etc.’

(FIFTH OUTLINE)

ILLUSTRATIONS OF FAITH

In considering St. Paul’s answer to the Philippian jailer let us take a few simple illustrations of faith.

I. Faith is the hand that lays hold on Christ. There is a Latin motto which I think very beautiful—Teneo et Teneor: ‘I hold and am held.’ I hold Christ, and am held by Him. Faith is the hand that lays hold on Christ.

II. Faith is the eye that looks to Christ. When the Israelites were bitten by the fiery serpents God appointed a remedy. Every one who looked at the serpent of brass lived (John 3:14-15). So now, as the hymn says, ‘There is life for a look at the crucified One.’

III. Faith is the ear which hears the voice of Christ. ‘My sheep hear My voice,’ said Christ. And, again, ‘The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).

IV. Faith is the mouth that feeds on Christ. Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst’ (John 6:35).

V. Faith is the finger that touches Christ. ‘For she said within herself, If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole’ (Matthew 9:21).

VI. Faith is the key that unlocks the treasures of Christ. You have a precious jewel in a case. But you need a key to open it. So in Christ are hidden blessings beyond all price, pardon, and peace, grace and glory. The question is, How shall they become mine? Faith is the key. But faith is not the jewel. Faith does not save. Christ saves. Yet Christ is mine by faith. Faith unlocks the stores of grace. Faith claims the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Faith is spoken of in the New Testament as a coming to Christ. For coming to Christ is the same thing as believing on Him, as He Himself says in John 6:35, “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst.’ But remember for your great and endless comfort, there is weak faith and there is strong faith. You may not have the strong faith of Abraham, but it is a mercy if you have the weak faith of him who said, ‘Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!’ And be very sure that real faith is as St. Paul says in Ephesians 2—‘The gift of God.’ It is not simply that God assists men to believe, but He actually bestows faith.

—Rev. F. Harper.

(SIXTH OUTLINE)

A FULL SALVATION

‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ ‘Thou shalt be saved’—from what?

I. From the wretchedness of sin.

II. From the power of sin.

III. From the love of sin.

IV. From the guilt of sin.

V. From the accusation of conscience.

VI. From the curse of the law.

VII. From the slavery of Satan.

VIII. From the bitter pains of eternal death.

Rev. F. Harper.


Verse 34

THE JAILER’S CONVERSION

‘And when he had brought them into his house he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.’

Acts 16:34

The jailer was brought near to the unseen world by the danger he had escaped: and as the light shone around he saw his past life, and the Eternal Spirit unveiled that life and made him to see the evil of it. Then his conversion grew out of the further instruction of the Apostle.

What sort of convert was he?

I. He was a believing convert.—He believed promptly, without delay or doubt. He was told to believe, and did. Who will not believe what is true, what the experience of thousands promises to be true?

II. He was an humble convert.—He fell down at the feet of the Apostle. He waited upon them in his house. A convinced soul does not want the highest seat in the synagogue. If good people dispute at all, let it be for a place at the feet of Christ.

III. He was a ready convert.—Hearing—believing—fellowship—all in the midnight hour. When we know what Christ would have us do, any moment of delay is sin.

IV. He was a practical convert.—He washed their stripes. He set food before them. Not easy to get up a feast in the middle of the night. He fetched them the best. He, the right sort of convert, who wants to be doing something for Christ; he can soon find something to do.

V. He was a joyful convert.—Rejoicing in God with all his house. While waiting at table, would not the jailer ask the Apostle to teach him a psalm?

VI. He was an influential convert.—All in his house were converted.

VII. He was a sensible convert.—He still kept on in his position. He did not give up keeping the jail. Who so fit to be a jailer as a man who knows the Lord, and will be humane? We like those who are converted to keep to their business and to glorify Christ in that position.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 16:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/acts-16.html. 1876.

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