Who in times past suffered all nations, etc. - The words παντα τα εθνη, which we here translate, all nations, should be rendered, all the Gentiles, merely to distinguish them from the Jewish people: who having a revelation, were not left to walk in their own ways; but the heathens, who had not a revelation, were suffered to form their creed, and mode of worship, according to their own caprice.
Who in times past - Previous to the gospel; in past ages.
Suffered all nations - Permitted all nations; that is, all Gentiles, Acts 17:30. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at.”
To walk in their own ways - To conduct themselves without the restraints and instructions of a written law. They were permitted to follow their own reason and passions, and their own system of religion. God gave them no written laws, and sent to them no messengers. Why he did this we cannot determine. It might have been, among other reasons, to show to the world conclusively:
(1) The insufficiency of reason to guide people in the matters of religion. The experiment was made under the most favorable circumstances. The most enlightened nations, the Greeks and Romans, were left to pursue the inquiry, and failed no less than the most degraded tribes of people. The trial was made for four thousand years, and attended with the same results everywhere.
(2) it showed the need of revelation to guide man.
(3) it evinced, beyond the possibility of mistake, the depravity of man. In all nations, in all circumstances, people had shown the same alienation from God. By suffering them to walk in their own ways, it was seen that those ways were sin, and that some power more than human was necessary to bring people back to God.
Thus persecution followed the teachers of truth from city to city. The enemies of Christ could not prevent the advancement of the gospel, but they succeeded in making the work of the apostles exceedingly hard. Yet in the face of opposition and conflict, Paul pressed steadily forward, determined to carry out the purpose of God as revealed to him in the vision at Jerusalem: “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21. AA 233.1
Paul's hasty departure from Berea deprived him of the opportunity he had anticipated of visiting the brethren at Thessalonica. AA 233.2
On arriving at Athens, the apostle sent the Berean brethren back with a message to Silas and Timothy to join him immediately. Timothy had come to Berea prior to Paul's departure, and with Silas had remained to carry on the work so well begun there, and to instruct the new converts in the principles of the faith. AA 233.3Read in context »
But Satan was stirring up the Jews to destroy Paul, and Jesus bade him leave Jerusalem. In company with Barnabas, he went into other cities, preaching Jesus and working miracles, and many were converted. As one man was healed who had always been lame, the people who worshiped idols were about to sacrifice to the disciples. Paul was grieved, and told them that he and his fellow laborer were only men and that the God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein, must alone be worshiped. Thus Paul exalted God before the people; but he could scarcely restrain them. The first conception of faith in the true God, and of the worship and honor due to Him, was being formed in their minds; and as they were listening to Paul, Satan was urging on the unbelieving Jews of other cities to follow after Paul to destroy the good work wrought through him. These Jews stirred up the minds of those idolaters by false reports against Paul. The wonder and admiration of the people now changed to hate, and they who a short time before were ready to worship the disciples, stoned Paul and drew him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But as the disciples were standing about Paul and mourning over him, to their joy he rose up and went with them into the city. EW 203.1
Again, as Paul and Silas preached Jesus, a certain woman possessed with a spirit of divination followed them, crying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” Thus she followed the disciples many days. But Paul was grieved; for this crying after them diverted the minds of the people from the truth. Satan's object in leading her to do this was to disgust the people and destroy the influence of the disciples. Paul's spirit was stirred within him, and he turned and said to the spirit, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her”; and the evil spirit was rebuked, and left her. EW 203.2
Her masters were pleased that she cried after the disciples; but when the evil spirit left her, and they saw her a meek disciple of Christ, they were enraged. They had gathered much money by her fortunetelling, and now the hope of their gain was gone. Satan's object was defeated; but his servants caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place, unto the rulers, and to the magistrates, saying, “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city.” And the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks. But the angels of the Lord accompanied them within the prison walls, and caused their imprisonment to tell to the glory of God, and show to the people that God was in the work, and with His chosen servants. EW 204.1Read in context »
The greatest of human teachers, Paul accepted the lowliest as well as the highest duties. He recognized the necessity of labor for the hand as well as for the mind, and he wrought at a handicraft for his own support. His trade of tent making he pursued while daily preaching the gospel in the great centers of civilization. “These hands,” he said, at parting with the elders of Ephesus, “have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” Acts 20:34. Ed 66.1
While he possessed high intellectual endowments, the life of Paul revealed the power of a rarer wisdom. Principles of deepest import, principles concerning which the greatest minds of this time were ignorant, are unfolded in his teachings and exemplified in his life. He had that greatest of all wisdom, which gives quickness of insight and sympathy of heart, which brings man in touch with men, and enables him to arouse their better nature and inspire them to a higher life. Ed 66.2
Listen to his words before the heathen Lystrians, as he points them to God revealed in nature, the Source of all good, who “gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17. Ed 66.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on Acts 14:1-26.
From Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium. In this place, as at Antioch, they began their labors in the synagogue of their own people. They met with marked success; “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” But in Iconium, as in other places where the apostles labored, “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.” AA 177.1Read in context »