Old barn. Utah.
Saturday, 13 August 2022
And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. Acts 9:29
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
The previous verse noted that Saul (Paul) was with those at Jerusalem, and he was coming in and going out. With that remembered, it now says, “And he spoke boldly.” The verb is a present participle. It says, “speaking boldly.” He spoke and he continued to speak in order to convey the truth of what he now knew. As such, his words were “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Saul had become a defender of the name he once tried to destroy. Many of those in Jerusalem would surely have known him personally, and this would have had a great effect on them in one way or another. Some might have been curious about the change while others may have assumed he had flipped out. No matter what they thought, however, his words were surely based on Scripture. His life as a Pharisee gave him a great and detailed knowledge of the word.
As the word is what reveals Jesus, it is evident that when He came, if He was truly the Messiah, the word would bear out this fact. All Saul needed to do was to show how Scripture foretold what these people had seen firsthand.
This may not have been evident at first. It wasn’t to those who knew Jesus personally. As it says in Luke 24 –
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” Luke 24:44, 45
This is just what Saul is doing with those of Jerusalem who were aware of the things Jesus did. He was attempting to open their minds so that they too might understand the Scriptures. However, people will argue against the obvious. As it next says, Saul “disputed against the Hellenists.” The NKJV, following the error of the KJV, leaves out a word. The Greek reads, “he was both speaking and disputing with.”
Saul would engage the Hellenists, those Jews who spoke the Greek language, and he would dispute with them concerning the matter of Christ. By this time, the Greek-speaking Jews were as much at odds against the issue of Jesus being their Messiah as were the Hebrew-speaking Jews. Saul engaged both in order to reveal to them that Jesus truly is the Messiah who had been prophesied. However, the Hellenists were as unwilling as the Hebrew-speaking Jews to accept the message. Because of this, Luke notes that “they attempted to kill him.”
The Greek word, epicheireó, means “to take in hand,” thus it would rightly be translated as “to undertake.” They set forth a plan to kill him, and then they undertook to follow through with the plan.
The irony here is that Saul stood and guarded the garments of those who stoned Stephen, and now this same man stood defending Jesus as the Christ – just as Stephen did – and he was now facing being killed by his own Jewish brethren as well. This is seen in the use of the word “disputed.” The only other time it is used in Acts is in verse 6:9 –
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.” Acts 6:8, 9
This verse now (9:29) is the last time the word is used in Scripture, and it reveals the truly ironic nature of what has taken place. God’s word will be proclaimed. When Stephen could no longer do so, a man who was on the opposite side of his disputing was called by the Lord to continue with the task.
Life application: There is a time to dispute a matter and then there is a time to let a matter go. Some people simply want to hear themselves speak. It doesn’t matter how cogent of an argument you put forth, they will continue to ignore the truth and spout off the party line of whatever it is they believe.
Stephen and Paul were willing to dispute with their people in order to convince them concerning Jesus, but it cost Stephen his life, and it threatened to do so to Paul as well. There is nothing wrong with dying for what you believe, but there is a time when you might as well just close your mouth and shake the dust off your feet. Until such people decide they could be wrong, they will never give an inch.
A good way to set the parameters for disputing is to ensure you are talking apples to apples. If someone constantly brings in matters that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, then you are truly wasting your time. You must dispute the same issue for there to be any sound resolution.
For example, if you are making a case about Jesus and you are doing so from the Greek New Testament, a person may say, “But Jesus spoke Hebrew. He was actually thinking this…” That is apples to oranges. Greek is what the New Testament was written in. If you cannot agree to have your basis for a dispute by even using the same language, then there is no reason – at all – to continue with your disputing.
Be wise, be discerning, and be patient with those you are speaking to about Jesus. But also, don’t be a time waster with know-it-alls. You will never win your argument, and you will be wasting your own valuable time in the process.
Lord God, help us to be strong in our defense of Your word, but may we never waste time in the process. And so, help us to use wisdom to know when to speak and when to refrain from continuing with our words. Be with us in this, O God. Amen.