Luk_24:46-47. Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
THE Apostles were to be Christ’s chosen witnesses respecting all that he had said, and done, and suffered in the world. To qualify them for this office, he gave them all needful instruction, not only whilst he sojourned openly among men, but in the interval between his resurrection and ascension. He opened to them more particularly the principal types and prophecies that related to him, and “then opened their understandings also that they might understand them:” and thus, by exhibiting the Gospel more fully to their view, and strengthening their organs of vision to behold them, he prepared them for the ministry which they were now speedily to undertake.
The necessity of the death and resurrection of Christ we have before considered [Note: See Disc. on Luk_24:26.]. We now fix our attention on the direction which he gave them,
To preach the Gospel to all nations—
The Gospel comprehends two points, “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”—
[Repentance is unknown to the law: that says, ‘Do this, and live;’ and in the event of transgression, denounces a curse against us [Note: Gal_3:10.]. Whatever there was of repentance enjoined by Moses and the Prophets, it was altogether from a respect to that sacrifice which was in due time to be offered for the sins of men. That it is an evangelical duty, appears from its comprehending the substance of John’s preaching [Note: Mat_3:2.], and of Christ himself [Note: Mat_4:17.], and of the Apostles also, both at, and after, the day of Pentecost [Note: Act_2:38; Act_3:19; Act_17:30.] — — — and to bring men to it, was the end for which Christ died and rose again. This therefore must be preached as an essential part of the Gospel.
“Remission of sins” also is a distinguishing feature of the Gospel of Christ: it is indeed the glory of the Gospel, that it makes provision for our attainment of that blessing. Not that the remission of sins is bestowed on account of our repentance: repentance prepares the mind for a due reception of it; but it is for the sake of Christ only that it is bestowed: and therefore in our preaching we must particularly mark, that this mercy is the purchase of his blood, and the gift of his grace.]
These are to be preached to all nations—
[The blessings of the Mosaic dispensation were confined to the House of Israel; but those of the Gospel are to be extended to all mankind. They are equally necessary for all, free for all, effectual for all: there is not a human being that does not need to repent and seek remission of sins in the name of Christ; for “there is no name but his, whereby any man can be saved.” Nor is any person excluded from these mercies, if he do not himself thrust them away from him; for “the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Nor shall any have reason to complain that they are not sufficient for him; for “all that believe are justified for all things.” Hence the offer of them must be made to all; “we must go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”]
Our Lord however enjoined his Apostles—
To begin their ministration of it at Jerusalem—
It had been foretold that “the law should go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” But there were also important reasons in our Lord’s mind, why his Gospel should in the first instance be published there. It would be eminently useful,
To confirm his truth—
[If the Apostles had left Jerusalem, and gone at once to the heathen, it would have appeared as if they had despaired of succeeding where their testimony might be inquired into, and were practising an imposition on those who were unable to contradict them. Thus the Gospel would have been universally regarded as “a cunningly-devised fable.” But by beginning at the very place where their Master was crucified, and bearing their testimony respecting his resurrection, in the very place where he had been put to death, and before the people who were most interested in controverting their statements; and being enabled too to confirm their word with signs and miracles; being successful also in convincing hundreds and thousands that Christ was indeed risen, and was the only Saviour of the world; all this carried such conviction along with it, that even to this hour the enemies of Christianity are confounded by it, nor can find any reasonable plea for doubting what is so firmly and incontrovertibly established — — —]
To magnify his mercy—
[When we reflect on all the miracles that Christ had wrought in support of his assertions, and what indignities had been offered to him by all ranks and orders of people at Jerusalem; and at last what a cruel death they had inflicted on him; we might well expect that he should exclude that murderous city from any share of his mercy. He might well have said to his Disciples, Go and “preach repentance and remission of sins to all nations;” but come not near Jerusalem, that wicked city, that has filled up the measure of its iniquities in the murder of its Messiah. But instead of laying any such injunction on them, he commands them to be peculiarly mindful of that city, and to begin their ministrations there: so that, if they should have access to the priests, who demanded sentence against him, or to any of the people, who, in the various ways, by mockings, by scourgings, by nailing him to the cross, by piercing him with the spear, executed it upon him, they might declare to them his readiness to forgive all their trespasses, and, by the blood he had shed, to cleanse them from the guilt of shedding it. What wonderful mercy was here! James and John, upon a small provocation that was offered him, would have called down fire from heaven to consume a whole village: but their Lord, after having sustained the utmost injuries that ingenious cruelty could inflict, was anxious only for the salvation of the persons that had inflicted them. Here was mercy, such as none but God could exercise [Note: Hos_11:8-9.].]
To encourage sinners to the end of time—
[It is common with men, when convinced of sin, to despond, as if they had sinned beyond the reach of mercy: the advantages they have lost, the favours they have abused, the iniquities they have committed, seem to form such a load of guilt as can never be removed from their souls. But who ever lost more advantages, or abused more favours, or committed greater iniquities, than they who “crucified the Lord of glory?” Yet they were the first objects of our Redeemer’s pity and compassion. So then shall it be with all who truly desire to find acceptance with him: “Where sin has abounded, grace shall much more abound;” even as Paul “obtained mercy, that in him, as the very chief of sinners, God might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them that shall hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”]
To improve this subject, we would entreat you,
To embrace this salvation—
[“To you is the word of this salvation sent;” and as ambassadors from Christ, we beseech you to receive it with all thankfulness. Nor think it a hard matter to repent, and flee to Christ, when the remission of your sins is suspended on it, and shall be insured by it — — — O let not Christ shed his blood in vain; nor us, as his ministers, commend to you his grace in vain! — — —]
To imitate this example—
[Do you admire this unbounded love of Christ to sinners? Know that, in this, “he has left you an example, that you should follow his steps.” You have been greatly injured perhaps by a fellow-creature: return not then the injury; but render good for evil, and blessing for cursing. This is to tread in the steps of Christ, and to approve yourselves his true Disciples. “If your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: and labour to heap coals of fire on his head,” to melt him into love. “Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good [Note: This may be made an useful subject for Missions to the Jews, by shewing, that whilst we imitate the example of Christ in love to our enemies, we should follow his direction in seeking with peculiar and unremitting diligence the restoration and salvation of the Jews: for, where and when were we ever authorized to neglect them, as we have done for 1800 years.].”]