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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 31 - Acts 13:48 - Jewish and Gentile Ears Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


It was Pisidian Antioch that heard Paul's wondrous sermon recorded here, and saw the strange scenes, so briefly narrated. To the Jew the message came first, but being rejected, it passed on to the Gentile: "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life,[3] lo we turn to the Gentiles" (verse 46). It was on Gentiles and Gentile lands that the true light was now rising. Their light was come, and the people long sitting in darkness were now to see this glorious light. Two things was Messiah prophesied to be: (1.) A light of the Gentiles; (2.) Salvation to the ends of the earth—the farthest off among the Gentiles: "Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth."

This prophetic gospel at once awoke the Gentiles of Antioch. It was strange news, but good news to them; and they found it all true,—confirmed by surest evidence "infallible proofs."

I. They listened. They did not close their ears as Israel was doing. They had ears, and they used them. Hear, was God's frequent message to Israel; but they heard not. "Hear, and your souls shall live," but they regarded not. But at the first sound of this divine "Hear," the Gentile roused himself. To him, faith came by "hearing, and hearing by the word of God." So we speak in these last days, "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Listen! is God's message still. Man perishes because he will not listen to God.

III. They were glad. The words contained that which was fitted to make them glad; and it was out of what they heard (not from their way of hearing) that they drew their joy. The news were good; and they were as true as they were, good. Each thing spoken concerning this Messiah suited them. They had never heard such things before; but now when they did hear, they found "glad tidings of great joy" in all that the apostles spake concerning Israel's Messiah. What He was, what He had said, what He had done—these gave them joy; a new joy, unknown and unimagined before.

III. They glorified the word of the Lord. They praised and extolled it as the most glorious word they had ever heard. It was the word of the Lord in two senses, (1.) It came from the Lord—the Lord Jesus; (2.) It was all about the Lord. That word contained the waters of gladness which had now begun to gush into their thirsty souls. What a word! they said. How rich, how full, how precious. What word is like it! Thus they glorified it, not because of its eloquence, or poetry, or learning, or philosophy, but because it contained heavenly gladness. And is it not for gladness that man's wide soul is made? And when he finds that gladness, can he refrain from magnifying that word which has brought it?

IV. They believed. The music itself was gladness; but when they came to know and believe the words to which it was set, their joy overflowed. Each note was joy, still more each word. They believed! This was their terminus, their resting-place. It is all true! It is divinely true. "Now we believe, for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42). Thus faith came by hearing. They listened and believed. How simple, and how blessed. How am I to believe, does any one say? Listen to God! How am I to get a stronger faith? Listen more simply and undividedly to God. How am I to get quit of unbelief? Listen to God! This is the divine cure for man's darkness and distrust. What God says is true. What God says about His Son is joyful. Listen and live! Listen and be glad! In listening to the happy words, joy pours itself in upon us—from the voice, nay, from the very heart of God. For God is love; and the gospel which He speaks to man contains good news about this great love of His to man: "Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

But they did not all believe. Some believed, and some believed not. It is added, "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."[4] They might all have believed unto eternal life. There was no hindrance without. The message was one of truth and gladness equally to all who heard it. God's ambassadors pressed it upon them honestly and truly in the name of that God from whom they came. Yet only some believed. They who were ordained. The non-ordination was not the barrier to the others; but still the ordination was that which led to faith in them who believed.

These few words concerning divine ordination are very striking. In them we see, as it were, the Good Shepherd laying hold of those whom the Father had given Him, and lifting them to His shoulders in order to carry them to the fold. We find the sheep hearing his voice, and following Him, as He goes before. And this ordination is no hard or cruel thing. It is man's only hope—unless he is able to save himself. It is love, not hatred; it is kindness, not cruelty; it is the expression of God's determination, that some at least, in spite of all their desperate resistance and unbelief, shall be saved. It is God saying, "All shall not be lost, though all, if let alone, would destroy themselves, and refuse to be saved."

If there be a God, there must be a divine purpose, a divine pre-arrangement of things and persons, of events and issues. The existence of such a purpose is not so much a part of revelation as a thing resulting from the very being of a God. Election and predestination are just some of the ways in which God, as the creator of the world, and the ruler of the world and the beings created, comes forth into visibility and action. Let us be glad and rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; and that salvation is in such hands as His. Otherwise we could have no assurance of being carried through to the end. It is the Father's eternal purpose, unfolding itself in connection with man as a sinner, that is our security and stronghold for eternity.