The Berean Expositor
Volume 46 - Page 98 of 249
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The Glorious Liberty of the Children of God
pp. 136 - 140
"Ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond
measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it . . . . . but when it pleased God,
Who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His
Son in me . . . . ." (Gal. 1: 13-16).
If we were addicted to making pilgrimages, we might include Rome and Athens, but
we should certainly visit the little town of Berea, and the site if possible of the synagogue
of the Libertines at Jerusalem. It may be surprising to discover from the Talmud that
there were over four hundred synagogues in Jerusalem, and even though we may suspect
the customary exaggeration here, yet when we read that there were "Jews out of every
nation under heaven" assembled at Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost, and that they
were astonished to hear the apostles speak in the language of the country in which they
had been born, it would be most natural that each would make his way to that synagogue,
however small and remote, where the service would be conducted and the address given
in their native language, and one such would be "The synagogue of the Libertines . . . . .
and of them of Cilicia" (Acts 6: 9). When we read in Acts 6: 9 of the synagogue of the
"Libertines" we must not invest the name with the modern dictionary definition "Loose,
licentious or lewd".  Dr. Wiesler shows from Tacitus and Philo, that great numbers of
Jews of the Provinces had been made slaves during the civil wars, but were afterward
given their freedom, and many of them thus "manumitted" with due formalities became
Roman citizens, and transmitted this freedom to their children. It is highly probable that
Paul himself was a Cilician Libertinus, "a citizen of no mean city", and as he himself said
"Born Free".
Acts 6: 9 could be translated:
"Libertines or freemen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia."
We read of our Saviour, that "as His custom was", He attended the synagogue of
Nazareth, and it would be the most natural thing in the world of Saul of Tarsus, a citizen
of Cilicia to attend "the synagogue of the Libertines . . . . . them of Cilicia", and by so
doing, all unconscious of the heart that had planned and the hand that now guided his
steps, he was to make that epoch making acquaintance with Stephen and the first
principles of the Christian faith, that, ultimately would turn the persecuting self-righteous
Pharisee, into the humblest yet boldest champion of the faith, "which once he destroyed".
Here in this synagogue of free men, it pleased God to awaken in Saul of Tarsus those
prickings of conscience that were only stilled and sanctified by the interposition of the
Lord Himself on that road to Damascus, a spot unmarked by any monument or
inscription, but nevertheless one of the most sacred spots on earth to those who being
Gentiles, aliens and strangers, having no hope and without God in the world, were to owe
under God, the blessed possibility not only of salvation by grace, but of glories