on Acts 17 :30
The times of this ignorance God winked at - He who has an indisputable right to demand the worship of all his creatures has mercifully overlooked those acts of idolatry which have disgraced the world and debased man; but now, as he has condescended to give a revelation of himself, he commands, as the sovereign, all men every where, over every part of his dominions, to repent, μετανοειν, to change their views, designs, and practices; because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness; and, as justice will then be done, no sinner, no persevering idolater, shall escape punishment.
The word ὑπεριδειν, which we translate, to wink at, signifies simply to look over; and seems to be here used in the sense of passing by, not particularly noticing it. So God overlooked, or passed by, the times of heathenish ignorance: as he had not given them the talent of Divine revelation, so he did not require the improvement of that talent; but now, as he had given them that revelation, he would no longer overlook, or pass by, their ignorance or its fruits.
on Acts 17 :30
And the times of this ignorance - The long period when people were ignorant of the true God, and when they worshipped stocks and stones. Paul here refers to the times preceding the gospel.
God winked at - ὑπεριδὼν huperidōn. Overlooked; connived at; did not come forth to punish. In Acts 14:16 it is expressed thus: "Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways" The sense is, he passed over those times without punishing them, as if he did not see them. For wise purposes he suffered them to walk in ignorance that there might be a fair experiment to show what people would do, and how much necessity there was for a revelation to instruct them in the true know edge of God. We are not to suppose that God regarded idolatry as innocent, or the crimes and vices to which idolatry led as of no importance; but their ignorance was a mitigating circumstance, and he suffered the nations to live without coming forth in direct judgment against them. Compare the notes on Acts 3:17; Acts 14:16.
But now commandeth - By the gospel, Luke 24:47.
All men - Not Jews only, who had been favored with special privileges, but all nations. The barrier was broken down, and the call to repentance was sent abroad into all the earth.
To repent - To exercise sorrow for their sins, and to forsake them. If God commands all people to repent, we may observe:
(1) That it is their duty to do it. There is no higher obligation than to obey the command of God.
(2) it can be done. God would not command an impossibility.
(3) it is binding on all. The rich, the learned, the great, the frivolous, are as much bound as the beggar and the slave.
(4) it must be done, or the soul lost. It is not safe to neglect a plain Law of God. It will not be well to die reflecting that we have all our life despised his commands.
(5) we should send the gospel to the pagan. God calls on the nations to repent, and to be saved. It is the duty of Christians to make known to them the command, and to invite them to the blessings of pardon and heaven.
on Acts 17 :30
17:30 The times of ignorance - What! does he object ignorance to the knowing Athenians? Yes, and they acknowledge it by this very altar. God overlooked - As one paraphrases, The beams of his eye did in a manner shoot over it. He did not appear to take notice of them, by sending express messages to them as he did to the Jews. But now - This day, this hour, saith Paul, puts an end to the Divine forbearance, and brings either greater mercy or punishment. Now he commandeth all men every where to repent - There is a dignity and grandeur in this expression, becoming an ambassador from the King of heaven. And this universal demand of repentance declared universal guilt in the strongest manner, and admirably confronted the pride of the haughtiest Stoic of them all. At the same time it bore down the idle plea of fatality. For how could any one repent of doing what he could not but have done?