Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 9:15

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Go thy way - He was thus prevented from going farther in his reasoning on this subject.

He is a chosen vessel unto me - The word σκευος in Greek, and כלי Keley in Hebrew, though they literally signify a vessel, yet they are both used to signify any kind of instrument, or the means by which an act is done. In the Tract. Sohar Exod. fol. 87, on these words of Boaz to Ruth, Rth 2:9, When thou art athirst, go unto the vessels and drink, etc., there are these remarkable words. "כלי keley, vessels; that is, the righteous, who are called the vessels or instruments of Jehovah; for it is decreed that the whole world shall bring gifts to the King Messiah; and these are the vessels of the Lord: vessels, I say, which the holy and blessed God uses, although they be brittle; but they are brittle only in this world, that they may establish the law and the worship with which the holy and blessed God is worshipped in this world; neither can this ministry be exercised but by vessels or instruments."

This mode of speech was common also among the Greek and Roman writers. So Polybius, speaking of Damocles, Excerpta, vol. iii. lib. 13, [Edit. Ernesti], says, Ην ὑπηρετικον σκευος, και πολλας εχων εφορμας εις πραγματων οικονομιαν . "He was a useful instrument, and fit for the management of affairs." We find Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, using the same word, σκευος, for the body, agreeable to the expression of Lucretius, iii. 441, Corpus, quod Vas quasi constitit ejus. "The Body, which is the Vessel or instrument of the soul." See Bp. Pearce on this passage.

Chosen vessel. - Σκευος εκλογης is properly a Hebraism, for an excellent or well-adapted instrument. Every reader of the Bible must have noticed how often the word chosen is used there to signify excelling or eminent: so we use the word choice, "choice men," eminent persons; "choice things," excellent articles. So in Jeremiah 22:7; : They shall cut down the choice cedars, ארזיך מבחר וכרתו vecaretu Mibchar arazeyca ; και εκκοψουσι τας εκλεκτας κεδρους σου, Sept. They shall cut the most Excellent of thy cedars; or thy cedar trees, which are the most excellent of their kind, they will cut down. Whoever considers the character of St. Paul, his education, attainments in natural knowledge, the distinguished part he took - first against Christianity, and afterwards, on the fullest conviction, the part he took in its favor - will at once perceive how well he was every way qualified for the great work to which God had called him.

To bear my name before the Gentiles - To carry the ensign of the cross among the Greeks and Romans; and, by the demonstration of the Spirit, to confound their wisdom and learning, and prove that neither salvation nor happiness could be found in any other. Hence he was emphatically called, the apostle of the Gentiles, 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11. See also Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:8, and Ephesians 3:8.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Go thy way - This is often the only answer that we obtain to the suggestion of our doubts and hesitations about duty. God tells us still to do what he requires, with an assurance only that his commands are just, and that there are good reasons for them.

A chosen vessel - The usual meaning of the word “vessel” is well known. It commonly denotes a “cup or basin,” such as is used in a house. It then denotes “any instrument which may be used to accomplish a purpose, perhaps particularly with the notion of conveying or communicating.” In the Scriptures it is used to denote the “instrument” or “agent” which God employs to convey his favors to mankind, and is thus employed to represent the ministers of the gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:4. Compare Isaiah 10:5-7. Paul is called “chosen” because Christ had “selected” him, as he did his other apostles, for this service. See the notes on John 15:16.

To bear my name - To communicate the knowledge of me.

Before the Gentiles - The nations; all who were not Jews. This was the principal employment of Paul. He spent his life in this, and regarded himself as especially called to be the apostle of the Gentiles, Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Galatians 2:8.

And kings - This was fulfilled, Acts 25:23, etc.; Acts 26:32; Acts 27:24.

And the children of Israel - The Jews. This was done. He immediately began to preach to them, Acts 9:20-22. Wherever he went, he preached the gospel first to them, and then to the Gentiles, Acts 13:46; Acts 28:17.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
A good work was begun in Saul, when he was brought to Christ's feet with those words, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And never did Christ leave any who were brought to that. Behold, the proud Pharisee, the unmerciful oppressor, the daring blasphemer, prayeth! And thus it is even now, and with the proud infidel, or the abandoned sinner. What happy tidings are these to all who understand the nature and power of prayer, of such prayer as the humbled sinner presents for the blessings of free salvation! Now he began to pray after another manner than he had done; before, he said his prayers, now, he prayed them. Regenerating grace sets people on praying; you may as well find a living man without breath, as a living Christian without prayer. Yet even eminent disciples, like Ananias, sometimes stagger at the commands of the Lord. But it is the Lord's glory to surpass our scanty expectations, and show that those are vessels of his mercy whom we are apt to consider as objects of his vengeance. The teaching of the Holy Spirit takes away the scales of ignorance and pride from the understanding; then the sinner becomes a new creature, and endeavours to recommend the anointed Saviour, the Son of God, to his former companions.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 159

Paul's labors at Antioch, in association with Barnabas, strengthened him in his conviction that the Lord had called him to do a special work for the Gentile world. At the time of Paul's conversion, the Lord had declared that he was to be made a minister to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” Acts 26:18. The angel that appeared to Ananias had said of Paul, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15. And Paul himself, later in his Christian experience, while praying in the temple at Jerusalem, had been visited by an angel from heaven, who bade him, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21. AA 159.1

Thus the Lord had given Paul his commission to enter the broad missionary field of the Gentile world. To prepare him for this extensive and difficult work, God had brought him into close connection with Himself and had opened before his enraptured vision views of the beauty and glory of heaven. To him had been given the ministry of making known “the mystery” which had been “kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25),—“the mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9), “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof,” declares Paul, “I was made a minister.... Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:5-11. AA 159.2

God had abundantly blessed the labors of Paul and Barnabas during the year they remained with the believers in Antioch. But neither of them had as yet been formally ordained to the gospel ministry. They had now reached a point in their Christian experience when God was about to entrust them with the carrying forward of a difficult missionary enterprise, in the prosecution of which they would need every advantage that could be obtained through the agency of the church. AA 160.1

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 199

I saw that Stephen was a mighty man of God, especially raised up to fill an important place in the church. Satan exulted in his death; for he knew that the disciples would greatly feel his loss. But Satan's triumph was short; for in that company, witnessing the death of Stephen, there was one to whom Jesus was to reveal Himself. Saul took no part in casting the stones at Stephen, yet he consented to his death. He was zealous in persecuting the church of God, hunting them, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them to those who would slay them. Saul was a man of ability and education; his zeal and learning caused him to be highly esteemed by the Jews, while he was feared by many of the disciples of Christ. His talents were effectively employed by Satan in carrying forward his rebellion against the Son of God, and those who believed in Him. But God can break the power of the great adversary and set free those who are led captive by him. Christ had selected Saul as a “chosen vessel” to preach His name, to strengthen His disciples in their work, and to more than fill the place of Stephen. EW 199.1

As Saul journeyed to Damascus, with letters authorizing him to take men or women who were preaching Jesus, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, evil angels exulted around him. But suddenly a light from heaven shone round about him, which made the evil angels flee and caused him to fall quickly to the ground. He heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” Saul inquired, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” And Saul, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And the Lord said, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” EW 200.1

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 222

Notwithstanding all the persecution of the saints, living witnesses for God's truth were raised up on every hand. Angels of the Lord were doing the work committed to their trust. They were searching in the darkest places and selecting out of the darkness men who were honest in heart. These were all buried up in error, yet God called them, as He did Saul, to be chosen vessels to bear His truth and raise their voices against the sins of His professed people. Angels of God moved upon the hearts of Martin Luther, Melanchthon, and others in different places, and caused them to thirst for the living testimony of the Word of God. The enemy had come in like a flood, and the standard must be raised against him. Luther was the one chosen to breast the storm, stand up against the ire of a fallen church, and strengthen the few who were faithful to their holy profession. He was ever fearful of offending God. He tried through works to obtain His favor, but was not satisfied until a gleam of light from heaven drove the darkness from his mind and led him to trust, not in works, but in the merits of the blood of Christ. He could then come to God for himself, not through popes or confessors, but through Jesus Christ alone. EW 222.1

Oh, how precious to Luther was this new and glorious light which had dawned upon his dark understanding and driven away his superstition! He prized it higher than the richest earthly treasure. The Word of God was new. Everything was changed. The book he had dreaded because he could not see beauty in it, was now life, eternal life, to him. It was his joy, his consolation, his blessed teacher. Nothing could induce him to leave its study. He had feared death; but as he read the Word of God, all his terrors disappeared, and he admired the character of God and loved Him. He searched the Bible for himself and feasted upon the rich treasures it contained; then he searched it for the church. He was disgusted with the sins of those in whom he had trusted for salvation, and as he saw many others enshrouded in the same darkness which had covered him, he anxiously sought an opportunity to point them to the Lamb of God, who alone taketh away the sin of the world. EW 223.1

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Ellen G. White
Gospel Workers 1915, 58

Foremost among those called to preach the gospel of Christ stands the apostle Paul, to every minister an example of loyalty, devotion, and untiring effort. His experiences and his instruction regarding the sacredness of the minister's work, are a source of help and inspiration to those engaged in the gospel ministry. GW 58.1

Before his conversion, Paul was a bitter persecutor of the followers of Christ. But at the gate of Damascus a voice spoke to him, light from heaven shone into his soul, and in the revelation that there came to him, of the Crucified One, he beheld that which changed the whole current of his life. Henceforth love for the Lord of glory, whom he had so relentlessly persecuted in the person of His saints, came before all else. To him had been given the ministry of making known “the mystery” which had been “kept secret since the world began.” [Romans 16:25.] “He is a chosen vessel unto Me,” declared the Angel who appeared to Ananias, “to bear My name before the Gentiles, and Kings, and the children of Israel.” [Acts 9:15.] GW 58.2

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