on Joel 2 :29
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids - The gifts of teaching and instructing men shall not be restricted to any one class or order of people. He shall call and qualify the men of his own choice; and shall take such out of all ranks, orders, degrees, and offices in society. And he will pour out his Spirit upon them; and they shall be endowed with all the gifts and graces necessary to convert sinners, and build up the Church of Christ on its most holy faith.
And this God has done, and is still doing. He left the line of Aaron, and took his apostles indiscriminately from any tribe. He passed by the regular order of the priesthood, and the public schools of the most celebrated doctors, and took his evangelists from among fishermen, tent-makers, and even the Roman tax-gatherers. And he, lastly, passed by the Jewish tribes, and took the Gentile converts, and made them preachers of righteousness to the inhabitants of the whole earth. The same practice he continues to the present day; yet he did not then pass by a man brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, no more than he would now a man brought up in a celebrated seminary of learning. He is ever free to use his own gifts, in his own way; and when learning is sanctified, by being devoted to the service of God, and the possessor is humble and pious, and has those natural gifts necessary for a public teacher, perhaps we might safely say, God would in many cases prefer such: but he will have others, as intimated in the prophecy, that we may see the conversion of men is not by human might, nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. The learned man can do nothing without his Spirit; the unlearned must have his gifts and graces, without which both their labors would be unprofitable; and thus the excellency of the power is of God, and no flesh can glory in his presence. See my sermon on this passage.
on Joel 2 :29
And also upon the servants - God tells beforehand that he would be no respecter of persons. He had said, that He would endow every age and sex. He adds here, and every condition, even that of slaves, both male and female. He does not add here, that they shall prophesy. Under the law, God had provided for slaves, that, even if aliens, they should by circumcision be enrolled in His family and people; that they should have the rest and the devotion of the sabbath; and share the joy of their great festivals, going up with their masters and mistresses to the place which God appointed. They were included in one common ordinance of joy; "Ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye and your sons and your daughters, and (literally) your men slaves and your women slaves, and the Levite which is within your gates" Genesis 17:23, Genesis 17:27; Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14. In the times before the Gospel, they doubtless fell under the contempt in which the Pharisees held all the less educated class; "These people who knoweth not the law" (i. e., according to the explanation of their schools) "is cursed."
Whence it was a saying of theirs , "Prophecy doth not reside except on one wise and mighty and rich." As then elsewhere it was given as a mark of the Gospel, "the poor have the Gospel preached unto them," so here. It was not what the Jews of his day expected, for he says, "And on the servants too." But he tells beforehand, what was against the pride both of his own times and of the time of its fulfillment, that "God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" 1 Corinthians 1:27-30. The prophetic word circles round to that wherewith it began, the all-containing promise of the large out-pouring of the Spirit of God; and that, upon those whom the carnal Jews at all times would least expect to receive it. It began with including the pagan; "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;" it instances individual gifts; and then it ends by resting on the slaves; "and on these too in those days will I pour out My Spirit." The order of the words is significant. He begins, "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh," and then, in order to leave the mind resting on these same great words, he inverts the order, and ends, "and upon the servants and upon the handmaidens I will pour out My Spirit." It leaves the thoughts resting on the great words, "I will pour out My Spirit."
The Church at Rome, whose "faith was spoken of throughout the whole world" Romans 1:8, was, as far as it consisted of converted Jews, made up of slaves, who had been set free by their masters. For such were most of the Roman Jews , "who occupied that large section of Rome beyond the Tiber." Most of these, Philo says, "having been made freemen, were Roman citizens. For having been brought as captives to Italy, set free by their purchasers, without being compelled to change any of their country's rites, they had their synagogues and assembled in them, especially on the sabbath."
Peter, in declaring that these words began to be fulfilled in the Day of Pentecost, quotes them with two lesser differences. "I will pour out of My Spirit, and upon My servants and My handmaidens." The words declare something in addition, but do not alter the meaning, and so Peter quotes them as they lay in the Greek, which probably was the language known by most of the mixed multitude, to whom he spake on the day of Pentecost. The words, "I will pour out My Spirit," express the largeness and the fullness of the gift of Him , "Who is Very God, Unchangeable and Infinite, who is given or poured out, not by change of place but by the largeness of His presence." The words, "I will pour out of My Spirit," express in part, that He who is Infinite cannot be contained by us who are finite; in part, they indicate, that there should be a distribution of gifts, although "worked by One and the Same Spirit," as the prophet also implies in what follows.
Again, the words, "the servants and the handmaidens," mark the outward condition; the words "My servants and My handmaidens," declare that there should be no difference between "bond and free." The servants and handmaidens should have that highest title of honor, that they should be the servants of God. For what more can the creature desire? The Psalmist says to God, "Lo I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid" Psalm 116:16; and God gives it as a title of honor to Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Isaiah (Genesis 26:24; Numbers 12:7; Joshua 1:2; 2 Kings 21:8; Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Job 42:7-8; 2 Samuel 7:5, etc.; Isaiah 20:3), and Abraham and David call themselves the servants of God, Genesis 19:19; Psalm 86:2, Psalm 86:4, and Paul, Peter, and Jude, "servants of Jesus Christ" Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1; Jde 1:1, and James, "the servant of God" (James 1:1; also Titus 1:1); and the blessed Virgin, "the handmaid of the Lord Luke 1:38, Luke 1:48; yea, and our Lord Himself, in His Human Nature is spoken of in prophecy as (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:13; Zechariah 12:8; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25) "the Servant of the Lord."
on Joel 2 :29
2:29 My spirit - Of adoption and sanctification.