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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Acts 14

 

 

Verses 1-28

Acts 14:1. It came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the jews. St. Luke makes here a great leap, and is very laconic, merely naming Perga and Attalia. This great work in Iconium is placed by Usher in the year 46; but the learned Professor Grabe puts it a year later, as in the Greek manuscript on the sufferings of Thecla, related in the preface to this book. It appears from the above manuscript, that Titus had visited Iconium before, and had informed Onesiphorus of Paul’s conversion, and labours. Of this holy man, (and it would seem after his death) Paul says, “The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.” 2 Timothy 1:16. While he was preaching in this good man’s house, so much light, and glory, and unction had descended with his word, that Thecla, the noble virgin and martyr, was converted, as is noted also by Dr. Lightfoot, with a multitude of jews and greeks. Luke uses two Greek words, ‘ ελληνισται, Acts 6:1; and here ‘ ελληνες; by the latter he means Greeks by birth, language, and religion.

Acts 14:5. When there was an assault made by all the city, in fact, of gentiles, jews, and rulers. Tamyris, a prince of the city, being stirred up by the unbelieving jews, brought Paul before the governor, and threw him into prison on account of Thecla’s conversion. Onesiphorus was the same friend to him when in prison, as when at large.

Acts 14:6. They — fled to Lystra, which lies on the road from Iconium to Derbe, as in the map of Paul’s travels; and to the regions round about. This storm, it appears, fell on the tender lambs, as well as on the shepherds. Strabo, liber 12., places Derbe on the sea-coast.

Acts 14:8-10. There sat a certain man at Lystra, begging, as it would seem, and like the man whom Peter healed at the beautiful gate of the temple, chap. 3., a cripple from his birth. The circumstances are very similar. While hearing the word, Paul perceiving that he had faith to be healed, cried with a loud voice, Rise up and walk. He probably, like Peter, used the name of Jesus. The effects on the people were the immediate conversion of very many. They repeated the adage of their fathers, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” In the fable of Jupiter and Mercury, we read that they descended from heaven in human shape, and were entertained by Lacaon, by whose name the people of Lycaonia are called. The whole mythology of the gentiles is built on the belief that the gods have indeed appeared to men. — Herodotus reports, that after Cambyses had lost his army in the deserts, he found the Egyptians rejoicing, because their god, who rarely discovered himself, had recently appeared. See on Exodus 8:26.

Moses says that Jehovah rained from Jehovah fire and brimstone on Sodom. He appeared in human shape with two angels, and was entertained by Abraham, His mission was to announce the birth of the long-promised heir; to deliver just Lot, and destroy the cities of the plain. Genesis 18:30. Joshua 5:13. Similar to this is the belief of India, of Egypt, of Greece, and of Rome. Who doubts of Ovid’s words, that God has often appeared on earth disguised in human figure.

Et Deus humanâ lustro sub imagine tetras. Met. lib. 1:213.

Acts 14:12. They called Barnabas Jupiter, he being more aged, no other reason being assigned; and Paul they called Mercurius, because of his superior eloquence. Mercury is synonymous with Canaan, a merchant; and the Greeks admit that they received letters from Phœnicia or Canaan. Mercury was accounted the servant or ambassador of the gods from the court of heaven. The poets feign him to have taught music to Apollo, and conferred the gift of eloquence on men.

Acts 14:15. Why sirs, do ye these things? Our mission from heaven, sealed by this and other miracles, is to dissuade mankind from the worship of idols, and persuade them to worship God. The Father of all who clothes your fields with smiling harvests, and loads your trees with fruit, is the God you ought to adore. It is true, in times past, he suffered all nations to walk in the vanity of their minds. Yet in no age did he leave them without the most indulgent testimonials of his goodness and care, and tender love in all the succeeding seasons of the year, cold in winter, vernal showers on their grass and corn; ripening heats in summer, and heavier rains in autumn to restore the exhausted earth. Be assured, then, that God has provided richer grace in the gospel which we preach, for the moral maladies of the mind. — This address is a counterpart to the sermon in the Areopagus at Athens: chap. 17.

Acts 14:19. There came jews from Antioch and Iconium. In both those cities they had aimed bloody strokes at the apostle’s life. Now they came with the same sanguinary purposes in their heart; and the civil authorities do not seem to have interfered with what the jews did. Marvellous, that he who had stoned Stephen should now be stoned in the same glorious cause. But how could it be expected that Satan would see the word of the Lord run from city to city, and be gloried, without calling all his allies to war?

Acts 14:23. Ordained them elders in every church. Mr. Burkitt says, “Here we have two farther instances and evidences of the apostles’ care of the newly planted churches. The first was, to settle them in church order, ordaining elders in every church, to be guides and teachers of the rest; and this with fasting and prayer, in regard of the great solemnity and importance of the work. Hence learn, that ordination of ministers is a ministerial act; the officers of the church, and not the people, must separate and set apart, consecrate and ordain, the persons who are to attend upon God and his church in holy things. Paul and Barnabas, it is said, ordained them elders in every church. We also see, that this solemn act ought to be very solemnly performed, with fasting and prayer. They ordained elders in every church, and prayed with fasting. The second instance of this apostolical care was, their commending them to the Lord, on whom they had believed; that is, they committed them, as young converts, to the power of Christ, to strengthen and confirm them; and they committed them as their treasure to the care of Christ, to preserve and keep them. The greatest and best thing that the ministers of God can do, either present with or absent from their people, is to commit and recommend them to the power and care of Christ, who is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”

Dr. Whitby acknowledges that Dr. Hammond and Mr. Selden have fully proved, that χειροτονειν πρεσβυτερους, is not to choose elders by common suffrage, or by lifting up the hands; but he is not convinced that this constituting of elders was making them fixed bishops of those churches. Whoever is not satisfied may farther consult the writings of bishop Beveridge, bishop Potter, Dr. Hicks, Dr. Comber, Dr. Maurice, Dr. Brett, Mr. Mason, Mr. Sclater, and other learned authors, who have treated on this subject professedly, and at large. The Irenæcum of bishop Stillingfleet also contains much information.

Acts 14:27. When — they had gathered the church together, they recited all that God had done by them in a wide circuit of perhaps six hundred or a thousand miles by land, and by sea from Cyprus, and the confines of Galatia. What labours, what wars, what sufferings, what victories! What rejoicings that God had always caused them to triumph in Christ, and had made manifest by them the savour of his knowledge in every place.

REFLECTIONS.

What life was so chequered as that of the apostles? Their soul was wide as the world, and nothing but human frailty could prescribe their bounds. Honoured by their hearers as the first of prophets, condemned by the wicked as the worst of men; all but worshipped to-day, and stoned to- morrow. Assuredly, all the antitheses to the Corinthians were realized in their lives. They proved themselves to be the ministers of Christ, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true, as chastened and not killed, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things. 2 Corinthians 6:8-10.

Their courage is not less remarkable than their zeal. After conflicts, after momentary defeats, they rallied, and returned to the field of battle to claim the victory: we find them again at Antioch, the joy and glory of the church. They recited their travels, their labours, and success; and despised their sufferings as light afflictions which endured but for a moment. How reviving must such rehearsals be! How encouraging the thought, that God who thus preserved his servants, can preserve all his suffering saints.

The prudent care they exercised over the churches, is next to be remarked. They did not leave their children till they could walk alone. They ordained elders in every city, from among the biblical and gifted men, jews and proselytes, the first fruits of their ministry. They gave those elders charge to feed the flock, over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. — When it is said that Paul abode a year in or near such a city, we are to understand that the suburbs of that city extended to the whole province. Thus during the three years he stayed at Corinth we find him making tours through all Achaia. His soul, being a debtor to all men, was too expanded to be localized. The shepherds must not be idle, while the wolves prowl at night. Above all, how wise was the Lord in calling those chosen instruments to bear his name before the gentiles and the rulers of the earth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/acts-14.html. 1835.

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