17. And it came to pass, that, when I was returned to Jerusalem, and prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18. And saw him say to me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: because they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.19. Then I said, Lord, they know that I did cast into prison, and did beat in every synagogue those which did believe in thee: 20. And when the blood of thy witness, Stephen, was shed, I did also stand by and consented to his death, and kept the raiment of those which slew him.21. And he said unto me, Go: because I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.22. And they heard him unto this word, then they lifted up their voice, saying, Away with such a fellow from off the earth: for it is not meet that he should live.
17. And it came to pass. This had not been the last conclusion, if Paul had not been cut off [stopped short] with their outrageous outcries. Notwithstanding, his drift and purpose doth plainly appear by the former text, [context] for he beginneth to intreat of his ministry, that he may show that he departed not from the Jews of his own accord, as if he withdrew him of malice from taking pains with them; but he was drawn unto the Gentiles contrary to his expectation and purpose. For he came purposely to Jerusalem, that he might impart with his own nation that grace which was committed to him. But when the Lord cutteth off his hope which he had to do good, he driveth him thence. But there was a double offense which Paul goeth about to cure. For they both thought that the covenant of God was profaned if the Gentiles should be admitted into the Church together with them, and nothing did grieve the proud nation so much as that others should be preferred before them, or so much as made equal with them. Therefore Paul's defense consisteth in this, that he was ready, so much as in him lay, to do them the best service he could; but he was afterward enforced by the commandment of God to go to the Gentiles, because he would not have him to be idle at Jerusalem. Whereas Erasmus translateth it, That I was carried without myself, is in Greek word for word, That I was in a trance; whereby he meant to purchase credit to the oracle. Also the circumstance of the time and place doth confirm the same, in that the Lord appeared to him as he prayed in the temple; which was an excellent preparation to hear the voice of God, Concerning the manner of seeing, read that which we touched about the end of the seventh chapter.
18. Because they will not. Though the commandment of God alone ought to be sufficient enough to bind us to obey, yet to the end Paul might be the more willing to follow, Christ showeth him a reason why he will have him depart out of Jerusalem; to wit, because he should lose his labor there; but he was not chosen to that end that he might be idle, or do no good by teaching; though this were a sore trial, and such as we may think did sore shake him. Not long before the function of preaching the gospel was enjoined him, that his voice might sound throughout the whole world; now even at the first entrance he is inhibited; yea, his labor seemeth to be condemned of peculiar reproach when his witness [testimony] is rejected, because his person is hated. But it was meet that the holy servant of the Lord should be thus humbled, that all the preachers of the gospel might learn to give over themselves wholly to obey Christ, that when they be excluded from one place, they may be ready immediately to go to another, and that they may not be discouraged, nor cease off from doing their duty, though they be undeservedly loathed.
19. Lord, they know. By this speech Paul doth testify that he was not beside himself, or brought into perplexity, but that he did assuredly believe the oracle. For without doubt he knew Christ, whom he calleth Lord. And Paul objecteth, that it cannot almost be, but that when they see him so suddenly changed, such a spectacle will move them. Whence he gathereth that he shall not be unfruitful. He thought so indeed; but Christ answereth flatly, that he hath appointed him another charge, and he taketh from him the hope which he had in vain conceived touching the Jews. The question is, whether it were lawful for Paul to object these reasons to Christ; for it is as much as if he did avouch that that is probable, which Christ said could not be. I answer, that God giveth his saints leave, familiarly, to utter their affections before him; especially when they seek no other thing but the confirmation of their faith.
If any man stand in his own conceit, or stubbornly refuse that which God commandeth, his arrogancy shall be worthily condemned; but God vouchsafeth his faithful servants of a singular privilege, that they may modestly object those things which may call them back from the desire to obey; to the end that being free from lets, they may wholly addict themselves to serve God; as Paul, after that he was taught that it pleased the Lord that it should be so, he doth not gainsay nor contend any longer, but being content with that one exception, and making an end there, he maketh himself ready to take his journey, which he seemed to be loath to take. In the mean season, whereas the Jews are not touched with so many miracles, their stubbornness and pride, which cannot be tamed, is discovered. Which upbraiding did undoubtedly cause them to rage.
22. Away with such a fellow. Luke showeth here how outrageously Paul's sermon was interrupted. For they do not only oppress him with their crying, but they desire to have him put to death; where it doth also plainly appear how frenzy [frenzied] pride is. The Jews conceived so great good liking of themselves, that they did not only despise all the whole world in comparison of themselves, but they stood also more stoutly in defense of their own dignity than of the law itself, as if all religion did consist in this, that Abraham's stock might excel all other mortal men. So now they rage against and rail upon Paul, because he said that he was sent to be the apostle of the Gentiles; as if God were bound by his own liberality to suffer the contempt of his power in the wicked and unthankful, on whom he bestowed excellent graces above all other. And it is no marvel if there were such fierceness and fury at that day among the Jews, seeing that being by all means wasted, and accustomed to suffer extreme reproaches at this day, they cease not, notwithstanding, to swell with servile pride. But these be fruits of reprobation, until God gather together the remnant according to Paul's prophecy (Romans 11:5).