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"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, went down to Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.... But they, passing through from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia; and they went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down."—Acts xiii. 2-4, 14.

"And it came to pass in Iconium, that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.... They sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled."—Acts xiv. 1, 26.

We have now arrived at what we might call the watershed of the Acts of the Apostles. Hitherto we have had very various scenes, characters, personages to consider. Henceforth St. Paul, his labours, his disputes, his speeches, occupy the entire field, and every other name that is introduced into the narrative plays a very subordinate part. This is only natural. St. Luke knew of the earlier history by information gained from various persons, but he knew of the later history, and specially of St. Paul's journeys, by personal experience. He could say that he had formed a portion and played no small part in the work of which he was telling, and therefore St. Paul's activity189 naturally supplies the chief subject of his narrative. St. Luke in this respect was exactly like ourselves. What we take an active part in, where our own powers are specially called into operation, there our interest is specially aroused. St. Luke personally knew of St. Paul's missionary journeys and labours, and therefore when telling Theophilus of the history of the Church down to the year 60 or thereabouts, he deals with that part of it which he specially knows. This limitation of St. Luke's vision limits also our range of exposition. The earlier portion of the Acts is much richer from an expositor's point of view, comprises more typical narratives, scenes, events than the latter portion, though this latter portion may be richer in points of contact, historical and geographical, with the world of life and action.

It is with an expositor or preacher exactly the opposite as with the Church historian or biographer of St. Paul. A writer gifted with the exuberant imagination, the minute knowledge of a Rénan or a Farrar naturally finds in the details of travel with which the latter portion of the Acts is crowded matter for abundant discussion. He can pour forth the treasures of information which modern archæological research has furnished shedding light upon the movements of the Apostle. But with the preacher or expositor it is otherwise. There are numerous incidents which lend themselves to his purpose in the journeys recorded in this latter portion of the book; but while a preacher might find endless subjects for spiritual exposition in the conversion of St. Paul or the martyrdom of St. Stephen, he finds himself confined to historical and geographical discussions in large portions of the story dealing with St. Paul's journeys. We190 shall, however, strive to unite both functions, and while endeavouring to treat the history from an expositor's point of view, we shall not overlook details of another type which will impart colour and interest to the exposition.

I. The thirteenth chapter of the Acts records the opening of St. Paul's official missionary labours, and its earliest verses tell us of the formal separation or consecration for that work which St. Paul received. Now the question may here be raised, Why did St. Paul receive such a solemn ordination as that we here read of? Had he not been called by Christ immediately? Had he not been designated to the work in Gentile lands by the voice of the same Jesus Christ speaking to Ananias at Damascus and afterwards to Paul himself in the Temple at Jerusalem? What was the necessity for such a solemn external imposition of hands as that here recorded? John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage, offers a very good suggestion, and shows that he was able to throw himself back into the feelings and ideas of the times far better than many a modern writer. Calvin thinks that this revelation of the Holy Ghost and this ordination by the hands of the Antiochene prophets were absolutely necessary to complete the work begun by St. Peter at Cæsarea, and for this reason. The prejudices of the Jewish Christians against their Gentile brethren were so strong, that they would regard the vision at Joppa as applying, not as a general rule, but as a mere personal matter, authorising the reception of Cornelius and his party alone. They would not see nor understand that it authorised the active evangelisation of the Gentile world and the prosecution of aggressive Christian efforts among the heathen. The Holy Ghost therefore, as the abiding and guiding191 power in the Church, and expressing His will through the agency of the prophets then present, said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them"; and that work to which they were expressly sent forth by the Holy Ghost was the work of aggressive effort beginning with the Jews—but not terminating with them—and including the Gentiles. This seems to me thoroughly true, and shows how Calvin realised the intellectual weakness, the spiritual hardness of heart and slowness of judgment which prevailed among the apostles. The battle of Christian freedom and of catholic truth was not won in a moment. Old prejudices did not depart in an hour. New principles were not assimilated and applied in a few days. Those who hold nobler views and higher principles than the crowd must not be surprised or dismayed if they find that year after year they have to fight the same battles and to proclaim the same fundamental truths and to maintain what may seem at times even a losing conflict with the forces of unreasoning prejudices. If this was the case in the primitive Church with all its unity and love and spiritual gifts, we may well expect the same state of affairs in the Church of our time.105105   One great lesson which the true expositor will derive from this typical history is this, the long, doubtful, painful strife which the battle of truth and justice ever involves. The struggle for Gentile freedom waged by St. Paul is typical of the battle for freedom of conscience, for freedom of knowledge, for human rights against slavery, and of every other battle against tyranny and wrong which the world has ever seen. The combat has ever been long and wearisome, and the chiefest of God's champions have always been compelled to suffer much for their support of the truth, which must, however, triumph in the long run.

An illustration borrowed from Church history will explain this. Nothing can well be more completely192 contrary to the spirit of Christianity than religious persecution. Nothing can be imagined more completely consonant with the spirit of the Christian religion than freedom of conscience. Yet how hard has been the struggle for it! The early Christians suffered in defence of religious freedom, but they had no sooner gained the battle than they adopted the very principle against which they had fought. They became religiously intolerant, because religious intolerance was part and parcel of the Roman state under which they had been reared. The Reformation again was a battle for religious freedom. If it were not, the Reformers who suffered in it would have no more claim to our compassion and sympathy on account of the deaths they suffered than soldiers who die in battle. A soldier merely suffers what he is prepared to inflict, and so it was with the martyrs of the Reformation unless theirs was a struggle for religious freedom. Yet no sooner had the battle of the Reformation been won than all the Reformed Churches adopted the very principle which had striven to crush themselves. It is terribly difficult to emancipate ourselves from the influence and ideas of bygone ages, and so it was with the Jewish Christians. They could not bring themselves to adopt missionary work among the Gentiles. They believed indeed intellectually that God had granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life, but that belief was not accompanied with any of the enthusiasm which alone lends life and power to mental conceptions. The Holy Ghost therefore, as the Paraclete, the loving Comforter, Exhorter, and Guide of the Church, interposes afresh, and by a new revelation ordains apostles whose great work shall consist in preaching to the Gentile world.


This seems to me one great reason for the prominent place this incident at Antioch holds. The work of Gentile conversion proceeded from Antioch, which may therefore well be regarded as the mother Church of Gentile Christendom; and the apostles of the Gentiles were there solemnly set apart and constituted. Barnabas and Saul were not previously called apostles. Henceforth this title is expressly applied to them,106106   See, for instance, ch. xiv. 4: "Part held with the Jews and part with the apostles"; and again, verse 14: "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it." It must be remembered that the term apostle was one used very freely among the Jews to signify the official delegates of the high priest, the Sanhedrin, or even the smallest synagogue. It has, however, gained a sanctity and special application in the Christian Church which causes a certain amount of mental confusion. At the same time, we must remember that the title apostle was continued in the primitive Church after the age of the Twelve. It was applied to their successors, as we learn from the Didache, xi.; Hermas, Sim. ix.; 15, 16, 25. Cf. Origen on John iv., and Euseb., H. E., i. 12. and independent apostolic action is taken by them. But there seems to me another reason why Barnabas and Saul were thus solemnly set apart, notwithstanding all their previous gifts and callings and history. The Holy Ghost wished to lay down at the very beginning of the Gentile Church the law of orderly development, the rule of external ordination, and the necessity for its perpetual observance. And therefore He issued His mandate for their visible separation to the work of evangelisation. All the circumstances too are typical. The Church was engaged in a season of special devotion when the Holy Ghost spoke. A special blessing was vouchsafed, as before at Pentecost, when the people of God were specially waiting upon Him. The Church at Antioch as represented by its leading teachers were fasting and praying and ministering to the Lord when194 the Divine mandate was issued, and then they fasted and prayed again. The ordination of the first apostles to the Gentiles was accompanied by special prayer and by fasting, and the Church took good care afterwards to follow closely this primitive example. The institution of the four Ember seasons as times for solemn ordinations is derived from this incident. The Ember seasons are periods for solemn prayer and fasting, not only for those about to be ordained, but also for the whole Church, because she recognises that the whole body of Christ's people are interested most deeply and vitally in the nature and character of the Christian ministry. If the members of that ministry are devoted, earnest, inspired with Divine love, then indeed the work of Christ flourishes in the Church, while if the ministry of God be careless and unspiritual, the people of God suffer terrible injury. And we observe, further, that not only the Church subsequent to the apostolic age followed this example at Antioch, but St. Paul himself followed it and prescribed it to his disciples. He ordained elders in every Church, and that from the beginning. He acted thus on his very first missionary journey, ordaining by the imposition of hands accompanied with prayer and fasting, as we learn from the fourteenth chapter and twenty-third verse. He reminded Timothy of the gift imparted to that youthful evangelist by the imposition of St. Paul's own hands, as well as by those of the presbytery; and yet he does not hesitate to designate the elders of Ephesus and Miletus who were thus ordained by St. Paul as bishops set over God's flock by the Holy Ghost Himself. St. Paul and the Apostolic Church, in fact, looked behind this visible scene. They realised vividly the truth of Christ's promise about the presence of the195 Holy Ghost in the Church. They took no miserably low and Erastian views of the sacred ministry, as if it were an office of mere human order and appointment. They viewed it as a supernatural and Divine office, which no mere human power, no matter how exalted, could confer. They realised the human instruments indeed in their true position as nothing but instruments, powerless in themselves, and mighty only through God, and therefore St. Paul regarded his own ordination of the elders whom he appointed at Derbe, Iconium, Lystra, or Ephesus as a separation by the Holy Ghost to their Divine offices. The Church was, in fact, then instinct with life and spiritual vigour, because it thankfully recognised the present power, the living force and vigour of the third person of the Holy Trinity.

II. The apostles having been thus commissioned lost no time. They at once departed upon their great work. And now let us briefly indicate the scope of the first great missionary tour undertaken by St. Paul, and sketch its outline, filling in the details afterwards. According to early tradition the headquarters of the Antiochene Church were in Singon Street, in the southern quarter of Antioch.107107   An elaborate plan of ancient Antioch, accompanied with a description of its various parts and references to the authorities for the same, will be found in Lewin's St. Paul, vol. i., p. 92. After earnest and prolonged religious services they left their Christian brethren. St. Paul's own practice recorded at Ephesus, Miletus, and at Tyre shows us that prayer marked such separation from the Christian brethren, and we know that the same practice was perpetuated in the early Church; Tertullian, for instance, telling us that a brother should not leave a Christian house until he had been commended to God's196 keeping. They then crossed the bridge, and proceeded along the northern bank of the Orontes to Seleucia, the port of Antioch, where the ruins still testify to the vastness of the architectural conceptions cherished by the Syrian kings. From Seleucia the apostles sailed to the island of Cyprus, whose peaks they could see eighty miles distant shining bright and clear through the pellucid air. Various circumstances would lead them thither. Barnabas was of Cyprus, and he doubtless had many friends there. Cyprus had then an immense Jewish population, as we have already pointed out; and though the apostles were specially designated for work among the Gentiles, they ever made the Jews the starting-point whence to influence the outside world, always used them as the lever whereby to move the stolid mass of paganism. The apostles showed a wholesome example to all missionaries and to all teachers by this method of action. They addressed the Jews first because they had most in common with them. And St. Paul deliberately and of set purpose worked on this principle, whether with Jews or Gentiles. He sought out the ideas or the ground common to himself and his hearers, and then, having found the points on which they agreed, he worked out from them. It is the true method of controversy. I have seen the opposite course adopted, and with very disastrous effects. I have seen a method of controversial argument pursued, consisting simply in attacks upon errors without any attempt to follow the apostolic example and discover the truths which both parties held in common, and the result has been the very natural one, that ill-will and bad feeling have been aroused without effecting any changes in conviction. We can easily understand the reason of this, if we consider how the matter would stand with197 ourselves. If a man comes up to us, and without any attempt to discover our ideas or enter into sympathetic relations with us, makes a very aggressive assault upon all our particular notions and practices, our backs are at once put up, we are thrown into a defensive mood, our pride is stirred, we resent the tone, the air of the aggressor, and unconsciously determine not to be convinced by him. Controversial preaching of that class, hard, unloving, censorious, never does any permanent good, but rather strengthens and confirms the person against whose belief it is directed. Nothing of this kind will ever be found in the wise, courteous teaching of the apostle Paul, whose few recorded speeches to Jews and Gentiles may be commended to the careful study of all teachers at home or abroad as models of mission preaching, being at once prudent and loving, faithful and courageous.

From Seleucia the apostles itinerated through the whole island unto Paphos, celebrated in classical antiquity as the favourite seat of the goddess Venus, where they came for the first time into contact with a great Roman official, Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of the island. From Paphos they sailed across to the mainland of Asia Minor, landed at Perga, where John Mark abandoned the work to which he had put his hand. They do not seem to have stayed for long at Perga. They doubtless declared their message at the local synagogue to the Jews and proselytes who assembled there, for we are not to conclude, because a synagogue is not expressly mentioned as belonging to any special town, that therefore it did not exist. Modern discoveries have shown that Jewish synagogues were found in every considerable town or city of Asia Minor, preparing the way by their pure morality198 and monotheistic teaching for the fuller and richer truths of Christianity.108108   Hypæpa, for instance, was a celebrated sanctuary of Diana, between Sardis and Ephesus. Jewish inscriptions have been found there proving that a Jewish synagogue and community existed even in that pagan stronghold: see Revue Archéologique for 1885, vol. ii., p. 111. But St. Paul had fixed his eagle gaze upon Antioch of Pisidia, a town which had been made by Augustus Cæsar the great centre of this part of Asia Minor, whence military roads radiated in every direction, lending thereby the assistance of imperial organisation to the progress of the gospel. Its situation was, in fact, the circumstance which determined the original foundation of Antioch by the Syrian princes.109109   There is a series of plates in Lewin's Life of St. Paul, vol. i., pp. 130-36, depicting the site and ruins of Antioch, and showing the roads which connected it with all the leading towns of the neighbourhood, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Professor Ramsay, in his Historical Geography of Asia Minor, bestows a good deal of attention on Antioch of Pisidia and its position: see pp. 47, 57, 85, 391, 453.

Facility of access, commercial convenience were points at which they chiefly aimed in selecting the sites of the cities they built, and the wisdom of their choice in the case of Antioch in Pisidia was confirmed when Augustus and Tiberius, some few years previous to St. Paul's visit, made Antioch the centre from which diverged the whole system of military roads throughout this portion of Asia Minor. It was a very large city, and its ruins and aqueducts testify to this day concerning the important position it held as the great centre of all the Roman colonies and fortresses which Augustus planted in the year B.C. 6 along the skirts of the Taurus Range to restrain the incursions of the rude mountaineers of Isauria and Pisidia. When persecution compelled the apostles to retire from Antioch they took199 their way therefore to Iconium, which was some sixty miles south-east of Antioch along one of these military roads of which we have spoken, constructed for the purpose of putting down the brigands which then, as in modern times, constituted one of the great plagues of Asia Minor.110110   St. Paul, writing in 2nd Corinthians, speaks of himself as at times in perils of robbers. This danger may well have happened to him in the central districts of Asia Minor. There is an interesting story of St. John and the bandits in Eusebius, H. E., iii., 23. The incidents there told took place in Asia Minor. But why did the apostles retire to Iconium? Surely one might say, if the Jews had influence enough at Antioch to stir up the chief men of the city against the missionaries, they would have had influence enough to secure a warrant for their arrest in a neighbouring city. At first sight it seems somewhat difficult to account for the line of travel or flight adopted by the apostles. But a reference to ancient geography throws some light upon the problem. Strabo, a geographer of St. Paul's own day, tells us that Iconium was an independent principality or tetrarchy, surrounded indeed on all sides by Roman territory, but still enjoying a certain amount of independence. The apostles fled to Iconium when persecution waxed hot because they had a good road thither, and also because at Iconium they were secure from any legal molestation being under a new jurisdiction.111111   Iconium was in St. Paul's day the centre of an independent tetrarchy ruled by native princes. See Pliny's Nat. Hist., v. 27. The site of Iconium has never been uncertain. It was made the capital of their dominions by the Sultans of the Seldjuk Turks, and continued to occupy that position till the conquest of Constantinople. It is still called Konia, a modification of its original name, and still continues to attract a large population on account of the beauty and convenience of its situation, which gives it the title of the Damascus of Asia Minor. According to tradition Sosipatros, one of the seventy disciples, was the bishop of Iconium, and was succeeded by Terentius, another member of the same sacred company; Acta Sanctorum, June 20th, p. 67; Ramsay, Historical Geography of Asia Minor, p. 332. The latest account of Iconium as it is at present will be found in Sterrett's Epigraphical Journey in Asia Minor, printed among the Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Boston, 1884. vol. ii., p. 188-225.

200After a time, however, the Jews from Antioch made their way to Iconium and began the same process which had proved so successful at Antioch. They first excited the members of the Jewish synagogue against the apostles, and through them influenced the towns-people at large, so that, though successful in winning converts, St. Paul and his companion were in danger of being stoned by a joint mob of Jews and Gentiles. They had therefore to fly a second time, and when doing so they acted on the same principle as before. They again removed themselves out of the local jurisdiction of their enemies, and passed to Derbe and Lystra, cities of Lycaonia, a Roman province which had just been formed by the Emperor Claudius.112112   The apostles seem to have acted as in former times persons harassed by legal processes could do in this country. A writ directed to a sheriff only ran within his own county. A man could not be arrested under it if he passed one step beyond the county bounds, till countersigned by the sheriff of the county into which the delinquent had passed. Under the Roman empire the local liberties and jurisdictions were simply infinite, a fact which of course lent much assistance to persons persecuted as the apostles were. Derbe, for instance, was a native city of Lycaonia, and belonged to the Koinon or local assembly of that province. Lystra was situated indeed in Lycaonia, but being a Roman colony had therefore exceptional privileges, and scorned to belong to the local Assembly of native cities. See Ramsay, Hist. Geog., pp. 332, 375, 376.

Then after a time, when the disturbances which the Jews persistently raised wherever they came had subsided, the apostles returned back over the same ground, no longer indeed publicly preaching, but organising201 quietly and secretly the Churches which they had founded in the different towns through which they had passed, till they arrived back at Perga, where perhaps, finding no ship sailing to Antioch, they travelled to the port of Attalia, where they succeeded in finding a passage to that city of Antioch whence they had been sent forth.113113   It is well perhaps to note that the ι in this name is long, representing the diphthong ει, the Greek name of the town being Ἀττάλεια. This brief sketch will give a general view of the first missionary tour made in the realms of paganism, and will show that it dealt with little more than two provinces of Asia Minor, Pisidia and Lycaonia, and was followed by what men would count but scanty results, the foundation and organisation of a few scattered Christian communities in some of the leading towns of these districts.

III. Let us now more particularly notice some of the details recorded concerning this journey. The apostles began their work at Cyprus, where they proclaimed the gospel in the Jewish synagogues. They were attracted as we have said to this island, first, because it was the native land of Barnabas, and then because its population was in large degree Jewish, owing to the possession of the famous copper mines of the island by Herod the Great.114114   See vol. i., p. 216. Synagogues were scattered all over the island and proselytes appertained to each synagogue, and thus a basis of operations was ready whence the gospel message might operate. It was just the same even at Paphos, where St. Paul came in contact with the proconsul Sergius Paulus. The Jewish element here again appears, though in more active opposition than seems to have been elsewhere offered. Sergius Paulus was a Roman citizen like Cornelius of Cæsarea.202 He had become dissatisfied with the belief of his forefathers. He had now come into contact with the mystic East, and had yielded himself to the guidance of a man who professed the Jewish religion, which seems to have charmed by its pure morality and simple monotheism many of the noblest minds of that age. But, like all outsiders, Sergius Paulus did not make accurate and just distinctions between man and man. He yielded himself to the guidance of a man who traded on the name of a Jew, but who really practised those rites of weird sorcery which real Judaism utterly repudiated and denounced. This alone accounts for the stern language of St. Paul: "O full of all guile and all villany, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" St. Paul never addressed a lawful opponent in this manner. He did not believe in the efficacy of strong language in itself, nor did he abuse those who withstood him in honest argument. But he did not hesitate, on the other hand, to brand a deceiver as he deserved, or to denounce in scathing terms those who were guilty of conscious fraud. St. Paul might well be taken as a model controversialist in this respect. He knew how to distinguish between the genuine opponent who might be mistaken but was certainly conscientious, and the fraudulent hypocrite devoid of all convictions save the conviction of the value of money. With the former St. Paul was full of courtesy, patience, consideration, because he had in himself experience of the power of blind unthinking prejudice. For the latter class St. Paul had no consideration, and with them he wasted no time. His honest soul took their measure at once. He denounced them as he did Elymas on this occasion, and then passed on to deal203 with nobler and purer souls, where honest and good hearts offered more promising soil for the reception of the Word of the Kingdom. Controversy of every kind is very trying to tongue and temper, but religious controversy such as that in which St. Paul spent his life is specially trying to the character. The subject is so important that it seems to excuse an over zeal and earnestness which terminates in bad temper and unwise language. And yet we sometimes cannot shrink from controversy, because conscience demands it on our part. When that happens to be the case, it will be well for us to exercise the most rigorous control over our feelings and our words; from time to time to realise by a momentary effort of introspection Christ hanging upon the cross and bearing for us the unworthy and unjust reproaches of mankind; for thus and thus only will pride be kept down and hot temper restrained and that great advantage for the truth secured which self-control always bestows upon its possessor.

There is an interesting illustration of the historic accuracy of St. Luke connected with the apostolic visit to Paphos and to Sergius Paulus the proconsul. Thrice over in the narrative of St. Luke, Sergius Paulus is called proconsul—first in the seventh verse of the thirteenth chapter, where Elymas the sorcerer is described thus, "who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding," while again the same title of proconsul is applied to Sergius in the eighth and twelfth verses. This has been the cause of much misunderstanding and of no small reproach hurled against the sacred writer. Let us inquire into its justice and the facts of the case. The Roman provinces were divided into two classes, senatorial and imperial. The senatorial provinces were ruled by proconsuls204 appointed by the Senate; the imperial by proprætors appointed by the emperors. This arrangement was made by Augustus Cæsar, and is reported to us by Strabo who lived and wrote during St. Paul's early manhood. But now a difficulty arises. Strabo gives us the list of the provinces senatorial and imperial alike, and expressly classes Cyprus amongst the imperial provinces, which were ruled by proprætors and not by proconsuls. In the opinion of the older critics, St. Luke was thus plainly convicted of a mistake and of a flagrant contradiction of that great authority the geographer Strabo. But it is never safe to jump to conclusions of that kind with respect to a contemporaneous writer who has proved himself accurate on other occasions. It is far better and far safer to say, Let us wait awhile, and see what further investigations will reveal. And so it has proved in this special case. Strabo tells us of the original arrangement made about thirty years B.C. between the Emperor Augustus and the Senate, when Cyprus was most certainly numbered amongst the imperial provinces; but he omits to tell us what another historian of the same century, Dion Cassius, does relate, that the same Emperor modified this arrangement five years later, handing Cyprus and Gallia Narbonensis over to the rule of the Senate, so that from that date and henceforth throughout the first century of our era Cyprus was governed by proconsuls alone, as St. Luke most accurately, though only incidentally, reports.115115   The words of Dion are: "Eo tempore Cyprum ac Galliam Narbonensem, quia nihil armis suis indigerent, populo reddidit; atque ita proconsules etiam in istas provincias mitti cœperunt." See the works of Dion, edited by H. Valerius, vol. i., p. 733 (Hamburg, 1750). Valerius, in his note on this passage, notes the inaccuracies into which the older critics—Grotius, Hammond, Baronius—had fallen about Acts xiii. 7. Here, too,205 the results of modern investigation among inscriptions and coins have come in to supplement and support the testimony of historians. The Greek inscriptions discovered prior to and during the earlier half of this century have been collected together in Boeckh's Corpus of Greek Inscriptions, which is, indeed, a vast repertory of original documents concerning the life, Pagan and Christian, of the Greek world. In the inscriptions numbered 2631 and 2632 in that valuable work we have the names of Q. Julius Cordus and L. Annius Bassus expressly mentioned as proconsuls of Cyprus in A.D. 51, 52; while on coins of Cyprus have been found the names of Cominius Proclus and Quadratus, who held the same office. But the very latest investigations have borne striking testimony to the same fact. The name of the very proconsul whom St. Paul addressed appears on an inscription discovered in our own time. Cyprus has been thoroughly investigated since it passed into British hands, specially by General Cesnola, who has written a work on the subject which is well worth reading by those who take an interest in Scripture lands and the scenes where the apostles laboured. In that work, p. 425, Cesnola tells us of a mutilated inscription which he recovered dealing with some subject of no special importance, but bearing the following precious notice giving its date as "Under Paulus the Proconsul"; proving to us by contemporary evidence that Sergius Paulus ruled the island, and ruled it with the special title of proconsul. Surely an instance like this—and we shall have several such to notice—is quite enough to make fair minds suspend their judgment when charges of inaccuracy are alleged against St. Luke dependent upon our own ignorance alone of the entire facts of the case. A wider knowledge, a larger investigation we206 may well be sure will suffice to clear the difficulty and vindicate the fair fame of the sacred historian.

From Cyprus the apostles passed over to the continent, and opened their missionary work at Antioch of Pisidia, where the first recorded address of St. Paul was delivered. This sermon, delivered in the Pisidian synagogue, is deserving of our special notice because it is the only missionary address delivered by St. Paul to the Jews of the Dispersion which has been handed down to us, unless we include the few words delivered to the Roman Jews reported in the twenty-eighth chapter from the seventeenth to the twenty-eighth verses. Let us briefly analyse it, premising that it should be carefully compared with the addresses of St. Peter to the Jews upon the Day of Pentecost and with the speech delivered by St. Stephen before the Sanhedrin, when all three will be found to run upon the same lines. The apostles having reached Antioch waited until the Sabbath came round, and then sought the local meeting-place of the Jews. The apostles felt indeed that they were entrusted with a great mission important for the human race, but yet they knew right well that feverish impetuosity or restless activity was not the true way to advance the cause they had in hand. They did not believe in wild irregular actions which only stir up opposition. They were calm and dignified in their methods, because they were consciously guided by the Divine Spirit of Him concerning whom it was said in the days of His flesh, "He did not strive nor cry, neither did any man hear His voice in the streets." On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue, and took their place on a bench set apart for the reception of those who were regarded as teachers. At the conclusion207 of the public worship and the reading of the lessons out of the law and the prophets, such as still are read in the synagogue worship, the Rulers of the Synagogue sent to them the minister or apostle of the synagogue intimating their permission to address the assembled congregation, whereupon St. Paul arose and delivered an address, of which the following is an analysis. St. Paul opened his sermon by a reference to the lessons which had just been read in the service, which—as all the writers of the Apostle's life, Lewin, Conybeare and Howson, and Archdeacon Farrar, agree—were taken from the first chapter of Deuteronomy and the first of Isaiah. He points out, as St. Stephen had done, the providential dealings of God with their forefathers from the time of the original choice of Abraham down to David. The Jews had been divinely guided throughout their history down to David's days, and that Divine guidance had not then ceased, but continued down to the present, as the Apostle then proceeds to show. In David's seed there had been left a hope for Israel which every true Jew still cherished. He then announces that the long-cherished hope had now at last been fulfilled. This fact depended not on his testimony alone. The Messiah whom they had long expected had been preceded by a prophet whose reputation had spread into these distant regions, and had gained disciples, as we shall afterwards find, at Ephesus. John the Baptist had announced the Messiah's appearance, and proclaimed his own inferiority to Him. But then an objection occurs to the Apostle which might naturally be raised. If John's reputation and doctrine had penetrated to Antioch, the story of the crucifixion of Jesus may also have been reported there, and the local Jews may therefore have concluded that208 such an ignominious death was conclusive against the claims of Jesus? The Apostle then proceeds to show how that the providential rule of God had been exercised even in that matter. The wrath of man had been compelled to praise God, and even while the rulers at Jerusalem were striving to crush Jesus Christ they were in reality fulfilling the voices of the prophets which went beforehand and proclaimed the sufferings of the Messiah exactly as they had happened. And further still, God had set His seal to the truth of the story by raising Jesus Christ from the dead according to the predictions of the Old Testament, which he expounds after the manner of the Jewish schools, finding a hint of the Resurrection of Christ in Isaiah lv. 3: "I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David"; and a still clearer one in Psalm xvi. 10: "Thou wilt not give Thine Holy One to see corruption." The Apostle, after quoting this text, which from its use by St. Peter on the Day of Pentecost seems to have been a passage commonly quoted in the Jewish controversy, terminates his discourse with a proclamation of the exalted blessings which the Messiah has brought, indicating briefly but clearly the universal character of the gospel promises, and finishing with a warning against stupid obstinate resistance drawn from Habakkuk i. 5, which primarily referred to the disbelief in impending Chaldæan invasion exhibited by the Jews, but which the Apostle applies to the Jews of Antioch and their spiritual dangers arising from similar wilful obstinacy.

We have of course not much more than the heads of the apostolic sermon. Five or seven minutes of a not very rapid speaker would amply suffice to exhaust the exact words attributed to St. Paul. He must have enlarged on the various topics. He could not have209 introduced John the Baptist in the abrupt manner in which he is noticed in the text of our New Testament. It seems quite natural enough to us that he should be thus named, because John occupies a very high and exalted position in our mental horizon from our earliest childhood. But who was John the Baptist for these Jewish settlers in the Pisidian Antioch? He was simply a prophet of whom they may have heard a vague report, who appeared before Israel for a year or two, and then suffered death at the hands of Herod the Tetrarch: and so it must have been with many other topics introduced into this discourse. They must have been much more copiously treated, elaborated, discussed, or else the audience in the Pisidian synagogue must have loved concentrated discourse more keenly than any other assembly that ever met together. And yet, though the real discourse must have been much longer—and did we only possess the sermon in its fulness many a difficulty which now puzzles us would disappear at once—we can still see the line of the apostolic argument and grasp its force. The Apostle argues, in fact, that God had chosen the original fathers of the Jewish race. He had gone on conferring ever fresh and larger blessings in the wilderness, in Canaan, under the Judges, and then under the Kings, till the time of David, from whose seed God had raised up the greatest gift of all in the person of Jesus Christ, through whom blessings unknown before and unsurpassed were offered to mankind. St. Paul contends exactly as St. Stephen had done, that true religion has been a perpetual advance and development; that Christianity is not something distinct from Judaism, but is essentially one with it, being the flower of a plant which God Himself had planted, the crown210 and glory of the work which He had Himself begun. This address, as we have already noticed in the preface to the first volume of this work, will repay careful study; for it shows the methods adopted by the early Christian when dealing with the Jews.116116   Cf. vol. i., pp. xi, 300. They did not attack any of their peculiar views or practices, but confining themselves to what they held in common strove to convince them that Christianity was the logical outcome of their own principles.

The results of this address were very indicative of the future. The Jews of the synagogue seem to have been for a time impressed by St. Paul's words. Several of them, together with a number of the proselytes, attached themselves to him as his disciples, and were further instructed in the faith. The proselytes especially must have been attracted by the Apostle's words. They were, like Cornelius, Proselytes of the Gate, who observed merely the seven precepts of Noah and renounced idolatry, but were not circumcised or subject to the restrictions and duties of the Jewish ritual. They must have welcomed tidings of a religion embodying all that which they venerated in the Jewish Law and yet devoid of its narrowness and disadvantages.

Next Sabbath the whole city was stirred with excitement, and then Jewish jealousy burst into a flame. They saw that their national distinctions and glory were in danger. They refused to listen or permit any further proclamation of what must have seemed to them a revolutionary teaching disloyal to the traditions and existence of their religion and their nation. They used their influence therefore with the chief men of the city, exercising it through their wives, who were211 in many cases attracted by the Jewish worship, or who may have been themselves of Jewish birth, and the result was that the apostles were driven forth to preach in other cities of the same central region of Asia Minor. This was the first attack made by the Jews upon St. Paul in his mission journeys. He had already had experience of their hostility at Damascus and at Jerusalem, but this hostility was doubtless provoked by reason of their resentment at the apostasy to the Nazarene sect of their chosen champion. But here at Antioch we perceive the first symptom of that bitter hostility to St. Paul because of his catholic principles, his proclamation of salvation as open to all alike, Jew or Gentile, free from any burdensome or restrictive conditions, a hostility which we shall find persistently pursuing him, both within the Church, and still more without the Church, at Iconium, at Lystra, at Thessalonica, at Corinth, and at Jerusalem. It would seem indeed as if the invention of the term "Christian" at Antioch marked a crisis in the history of the early Church. Henceforth St. Paul and his friends became the objects of keenest hatred, because the Jews had recognised that they taught a form of belief absolutely inconsistent with the Jewish faith as hitherto known; a hatred which seems, however, to have been limited to St. Paul and his Antiochene friends, for the temporising measures and the personal prejudices, the whole atmosphere, in fact, of the Jerusalem Church led the unbelieving Jews to make a broad distinction between the disciples at Jerusalem and the followers of St. Paul.

IV. So far we have dealt with St. Paul's address at Antioch as typical of his methods in dealing with the Jews, and their treatment of the Apostle as typical of that hostility which the Jews ever displayed to the earliest212 teachers of Christian truth, as witnessed not only by the New Testament, but also by the writings and histories of Justin Martyr, and of Polycarp of Smyrna, and of all the early apologists. But we are not left in this typical Church history without a specimen of St. Paul's earlier methods when dealing with the heathen. St. Paul, after his rejection at Antioch, escaped to Iconium, sixty miles distant, and thence, when Jewish persecution again waxed hot, betook himself to Lystra, some forty miles to the south. There the Apostle found himself in a new atmosphere and amid new surroundings. Antioch and Iconium had large Jewish populations, and were permeated with Jewish ideas. Lystra was a thoroughly Gentile town with only a very few Jewish inhabitants. The whole air of the place—its manners, customs, popular legends—was thoroughly pagan. This offered St. Paul a new field for his activity, of which he availed himself right diligently, finishing up his work with healing a lifelong cripple, a miracle which so impressed the mob of Lystra that they immediately cried out in the native speech of Lycaonia, "The gods are coming down to us in the likeness of men," calling Barnabas Jupiter, on account of his lofty stature and more commanding appearance, and Paul Mercurius or Hermes, because of his more insignificant size and more copious eloquence. Here again we have, in our writer's words, an incidental and even unconscious witness to the truth of our narrative. The cry of the men of Lystra, these rude barbarian people of the original inhabitants of the land, who, though they could understand Greek, naturally fell back on their native Lycaonian language to express their deeper feelings,—this cry, I say, refers to an ancient legend connected with their history, of which we find a lengthened213 account in the works of the poet Ovid. Jupiter attended by Mercury once descended to visit the earth and see how man was faring. Some scoffed at the deities, and were punished. Others received them, and were blessed accordingly.117117   See the story of Philemon and Baucis as told in Smith's Dictionary of Classical Biography and Mythology. The wondrous work performed on the cripple naturally led the men of Lystra to think that the Divine Epiphany had been repeated. The colony of Lystra—for Lystra was a Roman colony118118   The site of Lystra and the fact that it was a Roman colony were unknown till 1884, when Sterrett discovered an inscription which ascertained both facts: see Ramsay's Historical Geography of Asia Minor, p. 332, and Sterrett's Epigraph. Journey, already quoted, from "Papers of American School at Athens," vol. iii., p. 142 (Boston, 1888). Artemas, one of the seventy disciples, is said to have been bishop of Lystra: see Acta Sanct., June 20th, p. 67.—was devoted to the worship of Jupiter, in memory doubtless of this celebrated visit. A temple to Jupiter stood before and outside the gate of the city, as the temple of Diana stood outside the gate of Ephesus, lending sanctity and protection to the neighbouring town. The priest and the people act upon the spur of the moment. They bring victims and garlands prepared to offer sacrifice to the deities who, as they thought, had revisited their ancient haunts. They were approaching the house where the apostles were dwelling—perhaps that of Lois and Eunice and Timothy—when Paul sprang forward and delivered a short impassioned address deprecating the threatened adoration. Let us quote the address in order that we may see its full force: "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto the living God, who made the heaven and the214 earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. And yet He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness." How very different St. Paul's words to the pagans are from those he addressed to the Jews and proselytes, believers in the true God and in the facts of revelation! He proves himself a born orator, able to adapt himself to different classes of hearers, and, grasping their special ideas and feelings, to suit his arguments to their various conditions. St. Paul's short address on this occasion may be compared with his speech to the men of Athens, and the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and the various apologies composed by the earliest advocates of Christianity during the second century. Take, for instance, the Apology of Aristides, of which we gave an account in the preface to the first volume of this commentary on the Acts. We shall find, when we examine it and compare it with the various passages of Scripture to which we have just referred, that all run upon exactly the same lines. They all appeal to the evidence of nature and of natural religion. They say not one word about Scripture concerning which their hearers know nothing. They are not like unwise Christian advocates among ourselves who think they can overthrow an infidel with a text out of Scripture, begging the question at issue, the very point to be decided being this, whether there is such a thing at all as Scripture. St. Paul does with the men of Lystra and the men of Athens what Aristides did when writing for the Emperor Hadrian, and what every wise missionary will still do with the heathen or the unbeliever215 whose salvation he is seeking. The Apostle takes up the ground that is common to himself and his hearers. He shows them the unworthiness of the conception they have formed of the Godhead. He appeals to the testimony of God's works and to the interior witness of conscience prophesying perpetually in the secret tabernacle of man's heart, and thus appealing in God's behalf to the eternal verities and evidences of nature exterior and interior to man, he vindicates the Divine authority, glorifies the Divine character, and restrains the capricious and ignorant folly of the men of Lystra.

Lastly, we find in this narrative two typical suggestions for the missionary activity of the Church in every age. The men of Lystra with marvellous facility soon changed their opinion concerning St. Paul. M. Rénan has well pointed out that to the pagans of those times a miracle was no necessary proof of a Divine mission. It was just as easily a proof to them of a diabolical or magical power. The Jews, therefore, who followed St. Paul, had no difficulty in persuading the men of Lystra that this assailant of their hereditary deities was a mere charlatan, a clever trickster moved by wicked powers to lead them astray. Their character and reputation as Jews, worshippers of one God alone, would lend weight to this charge, and enable them the more easily to effect their purpose of killing St. Paul, in which they had failed at Antioch and Iconium. The fickle mob easily lent themselves to the purposes of the Jews, and having stoned St. Paul dragged his body outside the city walls, thinking him dead. A few faithful disciples followed the crowd, however. Perhaps, too, the eirenarch or local police authority with his subordinates had interfered, and the rioters, apprehensive of punishment for their disturbance of the peace,216 had retired.119119   The Romans had a local police in Asia Minor, organised after the manner of our own local police. The chief of the police in each town was called the eirenarch, and was annually appointed by the proconsul. The Romans never made the mistake of placing the police in the hands of discontented subjects. See, on this curious topic, Le Bas and Waddington's Voyage Archéologique, t. iii., pp. 27 and 255. As the disciples stood around weeping for the loss they had sustained, the Apostle awoke from the swoon into which he had fallen, and was carried into the city by the faithful few, among whom doubtless were Timothy and his parents. Lystra, however, was no longer safe for St. Paul. He retired, therefore, some twenty miles to Derbe, where he continued for some time labouring with success, till the storm and the excitement had subsided at Lystra. Then he returned back over the same ground which he had already traversed. He might have pushed on along the great Eastern Road, nigh as Derbe was to the passes through the Taurus Range which led directly to Cilicia and Tarsus. He wished to go back indeed to Antioch. He had been a year or so absent on this first excursion into the vast fields of Gentile paganism. Wider and more extensive missions had now to be planned. The wisdom gained by personal experience had now to be utilised in consultation with the brethren. But still a work had to be done in Lycaonia and Pisidia if the results of his labours were not to be lost. He had quitted in great haste each town he had visited, forced out by persecution, and leaving the organisation of the Church incomplete. St. Paul came, like his Master, not merely to proclaim a doctrine: he came still more to found and organise a Divine society. He returns therefore back again along the route he had first taken. He does not preach in public, nor run any risks of raising riots anew. His work is now entirely of a217 character interior to the Church. He strengthens the disciples by his teaching, he points out that earthly trials and persecutions are marks of God's love and favour rather than tokens of His wrath, he notes for them that it is needful "through many tribulations to enter into the kingdom of God," and above all he secures the permanence of his work by ordaining presbyters after the fashion of the Church at Antioch, with prayer and fasting and imposition of hands. This is one great typical lesson taught us here by St. Paul's return journey through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia. Preaching and evangelistic work are important; but pastoral work and Church consolidation and Church order are equally important, if any permanent fruits are to be garnered and preserved. And the other typical lesson is implied in the few words wherein the termination of his first great missionary journey is narrated. "When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; and thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled."

Antioch was the centre whence Paul and Barnabas had issued forth to preach among the Gentiles, and to Antioch the apostles returned to cheer the Church with the narrative of their labours and successes, and to restore themselves and their exhausted powers with the sweetness of Christian fellowship, of brotherly love and kindness such as then flourished, as never before or since, amongst the children of men. Mission work such as St. Paul did on this great tour is very exhausting, and it can always be best performed from a great centre. Mission work, evangelistic work of any kind, if it is to be successful, makes terrible demands on man's whole nature, physical, mental, spiritual, and218 bodily. The best restorative for that nature when so exhausted is conversation and intercourse with men of like minds, such as St. Paul found when, returning to Antioch, he cheered the hearts and encouraged the hopes of the Church by narrating the wonders he had seen done and the triumphs he had seen won through the power of the Holy Ghost.120120   It has often been argued that the gift of tongues conferred by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was not necessary, as Greek was universally spoken in Asia Minor. The use of the Lycaonian tongue at Lystra, even though a Roman colony, is an important fact on the other side. Mr. Ramsay, in his Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, says; "Greek was not the popular language of the plateau, even in the third century after Christ; the mass of the people spoke Lycaonian and Galatian and Phrygian, though those who wrote books wrote Greek and those who governed spoke Latin." Cf. pp. 98, 99 of Mr. Ramsay's work, and p. 103 of the previous volume of this commentary. This subject of the original languages of Asia Minor and their survival to Christian times is an interesting and novel subject of study, for which materials are gradually accumulating. Thus the ancient Cappadocian language is discussed and a lexicon of it compiled in a monograph which appeared in the Museum of the Evangelical school at Smyrna (1880-84), pp. 47-265. A large number of inscriptions in the Phrygian language have also been recovered. St. Paul, addressing the natives of the central plateau of Asia Minor in Greek, would have been like an Englishman preaching to the inhabitants of Wales or of Connemara in English. I never heard of any powerful results thus following, save in the case of Giraldus Cambrensis who tells us in his Itinerary in Wales of the melting character of his own Latin sermons upon the Welsh people, though they did not understand a word of them. But then Giraldus was, to say the least, an imaginative historian.

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