Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter - The original text is very emphatic, ετι εμπνεων απειλης και φονου, and points out how determinate Saul was to pursue and accomplish his fell purpose of totally destroying the infant Church of Christ. The mode of speech introduced above is very frequent in the Greek writers, who often express any vehement and hostile affection of the mind by the verb πνεειν, to breathe, to pant; so Theocritus, Idyll. xxii. ver. 82:
Ες μεσσον συναγον, φονον αλλαλοισι πνεοντες.
They came into the assembly, breathing mutual slaughter.
Euripides has the same form, πυρ πνεουσα και φονον, breathing out fire, and slaughter, Iphig. in Taur.
And Aristophanes more fully, referring to all the preparations for war: -
Αλλα πνεοντας δορυ και λογχας και λευκολοφους τρυφαλειας,
Και πηληκας, και κνημιδας, και θυμους ἑπταβοειους .
They breathed spears, and pikes, and helmets, and crests, and greaves, and the fury of redoubted heroes.
The figure is a favourite one with Homer: hence μενεα πνειοντες Αβαντες, the Abantes breathing strength. - Il. ii. 536. And how frequently he speaks of his fierce countrymen as, μενεα πνειοντες Αχαιοι, the Greeks breathing strength, see Il. iii. 8; xi. 508; xxiv. 364, which phrase an old Scholiast interprets, being filled with strength and fury. St. Luke, who was master of the Greek tongue, chose such terms as best expressed a heart desperately and incessantly bent on accomplishing the destruction of the objects of its resentment. Such at this time was the heart of Saul of Tarsus; and it had already given full proof of its malignity, not only in the martyrdom of Stephen, but also in making havoc of the Church, and in forcibly entering every house, and dragging men and women, whom he suspected of Christianity, and committing them to prison. See Acts 8:3.
Went unto the high priest - As the high priest was chief in all matters of an ecclesiastical nature, and the present business was pretendedly religious, he was the proper person to apply to for letters by which this virulent persecutor might be accredited. The letters must necessarily be granted in the name of the whole Sanhedrin, of which Gamaliel, Saul's master, was at that time the head; but the high priest was the proper organ through whom this business might be negotiated.
Yet breathing out - Not satisfied with what he had done, Acts 8:3. The word breathing out is expressive often of any deep, agitating emotion, as we then breathe rapidly and violently. It is thus expressive of violent anger. The emotion is absorbing, agitating, exhausting, and demands a more rapid circulation of blood to supply the exhausted vitality; and this demands an increased supply of oxygen, or vital air, which leads to the increased action of the lungs. The word is often used in this sense in the Classics (Schleusner). It is a favorite expression with Homer. Euripides has the same expression: “Breathing out fire and slaughter.” So Theocritus: “They came unto the assembly breathing mutual slaughter” (Idyll. 22:82).
Threatening - Denunciation; threatening them with every breath the action of a man violently enraged, and who was bent on vengeance. It denotes also “intense activity and energy in persecution.”
Slaughter - Murder. Intensely desiring to put to death as many Christians as possible. He rejoiced in their death, and joined in condemning them, Acts 26:10-11. From this latter place it seems that he had been concerned in putting many of them to death.
The disciples of the Lord - Against Christians.
Went unto the high priest - See the notes on Matthew 2:4. The letters were written and signed in the name and by the authority of the Sanhedrin, or written and signed in the name and by the authority of the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the nation. The high priest did it as president of that council. See Acts 9:14, and Acts 22:5. The high priest at that time was Theophilus, son of Ananus, who had been appointed at the feast of Pentecost, 37 a.d., by Vitellius, the Roman governor. His brother Jonathan had been removed from that office the same year (Kuinoel).
This chapter is based on Acts 9:1-18.
Prominent among the Jewish leaders who became thoroughly aroused by the success attending the proclamation of the gospel, was Saul of Tarsus. A Roman citizen by birth, Saul was nevertheless a Jew by descent and had been educated in Jerusalem by the most eminent of the rabbis. “Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,” Saul was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:5, 6. He was regarded by the rabbis as a young man of great promise, and high hopes were cherished concerning him as an able and zealous defender of the ancient faith. His elevation to membership in the Sanhedrin council placed him in a position of power. AA 112.1Read in context »
The great purpose that constrained Paul to press forward in the face of hardship and difficulty should lead every Christian worker to consecrate himself wholly to God's service. Worldly attractions will be presented to draw his attentions from the Saviour, but he is to press on toward the goal, showing to the world, to angels, and to men that the hope of seeing the face of God is worth all the effort and sacrifice that the attainment of this hope demands. AA 484.1
Though he was a prisoner, Paul was not discouraged. Instead, a note of triumph rings through the letters that he wrote from Rome to the churches. “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” he wrote to the Philippians, “and again I say, Rejoice.... Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” AA 484.2
“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.... The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” AA 484.3Read in context »
In the vision that came to Isaiah in the temple court, he was given a clear view of the character of the God of Israel. “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy,” had appeared before him in great majesty; yet the prophet was made to understand the compassionate nature of his Lord. He who dwells “in the high and holy place” dwells “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15. The angel commissioned to touch Isaiah's lips had brought to him the message, “Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah 6:7. PK 314.1
In beholding his God, the prophet, like Saul of Tarsus at the gate of Damascus, had not only been given a view of his own unworthiness; there had come to his humbled heart the assurance of forgiveness, full and free; and he had arisen a changed man. He had seen his Lord. He had caught a glimpse of the loveliness of the divine character. He could testify of the transformation wrought through beholding Infinite Love. Henceforth he was inspired with longing desire to see erring Israel set free from the burden and penalty of sin. “Why should ye be stricken any more?” the prophet inquired. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well.” Isaiah 1:5, 18, 16, 17. PK 314.2
The God whom they had been claiming to serve, but whose character they had misunderstood, was set before them as the great Healer of spiritual disease. What though the whole head was sick and the whole heart faint? what though from the sole of the foot even unto the crown of the head there was no soundness, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores? See Isaiah 1:6. He who had been walking frowardly in the way of his heart might find healing by turning to the Lord. “I have seen his ways,” the Lord declared, “and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him.... Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.” Isaiah 57:18, 19. PK 315.1Read in context »
Our Master was a man of sorrows; He was acquainted with grief; and those who suffer with Him will reign with Him. When the Lord appeared to Saul in his conversion, He did not purpose to show him how much good he should enjoy, but what great things he should suffer for His name. Suffering has been the portion of the people of God from the days of the martyr Abel. The patriarchs suffered for being true to God and obedient to His commandments. The great Head of the church suffered for our sake; His first apostles and the primitive church suffered; the millions of martyrs suffered, and the Reformers suffered. And why should we, who have the blessed hope of immortality, to be consummated at the soon appearing of Christ, shrink from a life of suffering? Were it possible to reach the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God without suffering, we would not enjoy so rich a reward for which we had not suffered. We would shrink back from the glory; shame would seize us in the presence of those who had fought the good fight, had run the race with patience, and had laid hold on eternal life. But none will be there who have not, like Moses, chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God. The prophet John saw the multitude of the redeemed, and inquired who they were. The prompt answer came: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” 1T 78.1
When we began to present the light on the Sabbath question, we had no clearly defined idea of the third angel's message of Revelation 14:9-12. The burden of our testimony as we came before the people was that the great second advent movement was of God, that the first and second messages had gone forth, and that the third was to be given. We saw that the third message closed with the words: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” And we as clearly saw as we now see that these prophetic words suggested a Sabbath reform; but as to what the worship of the beast mentioned in the message was, or what the image and the mark of the beast were, we had no defined position. 1T 78.2Read in context »