14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out
15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,
16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.
tore their clothes (v.14) — a token of horror and distress
we also are men (v.15) — stress is on “we” and “men”
The apostles contrasted the pointless worship of idols and false gods with worship of the one true, living God who made everything. To the pagans, Paul and Barnabas did not refer to, or quote from, the Jewish Scriptures but pointed out God’s work in creation which was evident to all.
“In bygone generations,” says the apostle, the true God, “allowed all nations to walk in their own ways” (v.16). The word nations here (Gr. ethnos) is generally translated Gentiles or heathen, as distinguished from the Jews, and refers to the nations outside of covenant relationship with God: all nations except Israel. It certainly does not include Israel here, for they were given the Law and commanded to walk in God’s way. It was the Gentiles who, since Babel, had been given over to a reprobate mind, since, “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge” Romans 1:28 — Stam, page 230.
did good (v.17) = doing good — continual beneficence
filling our hearts with food and gladness (v.17) — This beautiful figure of speech describes the feeling of well-being that results from being well fed. And in a remarkable combination of tact and power of argument he links himself and Barnabas with them in this. “Filling our hearts,” he says, “with food and gladness.” This would be most apt to win them and at the same time deter them from worshiping him and Barnabas. — Stam, page 231.