Pisidian Antioch, Paul's Sermon & the Reaction, Part 2, Section 3
by John Lowe
“I will give you the sure mercies of David,” or rather, “I will give you the holy and faithful mercies of David.” There is no word for “mercies” in the original, but the word rendered “holy” is one which is frequently used to represent the Hebrew word for “mercies.” Paul, when addressing the audience at Antioch used the Greek version, but without a doubt, he thought like the Hebrew he was. But having this Greek rendering as an interpretation of the “everlasting covenant” of which Isaiah speaks in the verse he has quoted here; he connects the “holy and faithful things of David” with that verse of David’s Psalm (Psalms 16:10) which tells how God will not give his Holy One to see corruption—“For you will not leave my soul in hell; neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10).
The word rendered "mercies" means “something that gives evidence of divine favor, such as blessings”; while the other word, "sure," points to the certainty with which they would all, through David's Seed, eventually be substantiated. The coming of the Messiah was substantiated by those who saw him as Jesus—God in human flesh—“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). But how do these words prove the resurrection of Christ? They take it as fact; for since an eternal kingdom was promised to David, the Ruler of this kingdom (Christ) could not remain under the power of death.
“The sure mercies of David,” that is, of the Messiah; David is a name frequently given to the Messiah, as in Jeremiah 30:9, seeing that David is a type of Christ, and the Messiah being a son of his; and who must be meant here. The blessings of the covenant are appropriately called "mercies", because they spring from the grace and mercy of God, and wonderfully display it, and are in the mercy shown to his people; and these are the mercies of David, or of Christ, because the covenant was made with David. These blessings were put into His hands for them, and come through his blood shed for them; and therefore they are said to be "sure" ones; they are in safe hands; Christ, who is entrusted with them, and faithfully distributes them; which requires that He must rise again, and live forever, to distribute them, or see that they are made to the persons for whom they are designed: besides, it is one of the sure mercies promised to David, to the Messiah himself, that though he died, and was laid in the grave, he should not remain there, but rise again, as the next verse most clearly shows—Jesus rising after three days, and David rising at the great and final resurrection.
35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm
“Wherefore he saith,” or better yet, “Because he saith.” These words of Psalms 16 which David was inspired to utter cannot refer to David, and Paul proceeds to explain this in Acts 2:29-31—“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”
“He saith”—God says through David, or David declared the promises made by God.
“Wherefore he saith also in another psalm”—Psalm 16:10 or "in another place"; or "in another section"; or "elsewhere." “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). It is remarkable that St. Peter and St. Paul would both quote this sixteenth Psalm, and use precisely the same argument, and to prove the same thing—that Jesus must rise and live forever.
Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption
This clause cannot refer to David, because the term "Holy One" is not applicable to him, since he was a man, and subject to infirmities and the effects of sin; at least not in the sense in which it would be appropriate to assign it to Christ, whose nature was holy, and his life without sin. Besides, David was laid in his grave, and saw corruption, which the apostle subsequently proves. The former part of this verse (Acts 16:10) is not cited here, "thou wilt not leave my soul in hell"; which was not absolutely necessary to mention, because it is clearly implied in the outcome of the resurrection; for if he would not be allowed “to see corruption,” then he could not be left in the grave: moreover, the apostle cites that which he intended to base his argument upon, as he afterwards does, and by it makes it obvious that the words do not belong to David, but to the Messiah, and are a clear and important proof of His resurrection from the dead.
36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
For David, after he had served his own generation
“For David”—this verse is designed to show that Psalm 16:1-11; could not refer to David, and must, therefore, relate to some other person.
“For David, after he had served his own generation”; or the men of that age and generation in which he lived, the subjects of his kingdom: he served them by governing them with good and practical laws, by protecting their rights and properties, by defending them against their enemies, by regulating and promoting the worship of God among them, by yielding himself an instrument for the accomplishment of God's will, and in this respect he was definitely "the man after God's own heart." After this was done, he "fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.”David, therefore (argues the apostle), could not be the subject of his own prediction, which had its proper fulfillment only in the resurrection of the uncorrupted body of the Son of God, who without doubt, was God's "Holy One."
There is an allusion to 2 Samuel 7:12 and 1 Kings 2:1, 10, and it is intimated that God was still caring for David in his death. But there was this vast difference between David and Christ. David’s work was limited to his own generation, and when that work was done he died and saw corruption. But Christ had a work to carry on for eternal generations, and so he rose and saw no corruption. There is, perhaps, a contrast suggested here between the limits within which the work of service to mankind done by any mere man, however great and powerful, is necessarily limited; and the wide, far-reaching, endless ministry to the whole human family which belongs to the Son of Man.But the contrast which most aids the Apostle’s argument is that, while David’s services could benefit only those among whom he lived, and could not be extended to other generations, Christ by His resurrection, never more to die and see corruption, is a Saviour for all generations, and remission of sins through Him can be promised to everyone that believes.
By the will of God
This clause may be read in connection with the preceding one, "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God"; acted according to it, fulfilled it, and did what the Lord declared to him, or what he knew to be the will of God: but there are also those who teach that these words should be connected with the next clause, “By the will of God, fell on sleep.” It was by the will (literally, counsel) of God that David fell asleep when his life’s work was accomplished.