N.B.Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
Probably no book ever had a greater number of free circulars sent out in its interest than MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I. East and West, North and South, dear friends of the truth are continually seeking to put the "meat in due season" before the truth-hungry. Our latest surprise in this direction was the receipt of an order for a copy of the MILLENNIAL DAWN, from a western town, enclosing a circular of which we had not heard until then, a copy of which follows. God bless the dear co-laborers who far and near are seeking in one way and another to feed his "sheep"to proclaim the good tidings of great joy. Your efforts have much to do with the large circulation of the Truth. Over 300,000 copies, of Vol. I., The Plan of the Ages, are already in the hands of readers, and the work is still progressing. God be praised!
Feeling that you must be one who is interested in searching after a knowledge of the wonderful things of our Great Father's creation, and desiring that your steps may be still further directed in the knowledge of things past, present and future, I have taken the liberty of addressing this communication to you, with the special object in view of calling your attention to a wonderful bookone which, perchance, you already have; but if not, one which I, a disinterested and humble servant of the Lord, would counsel you to obtain without delay.
"MILLENNIAL DAWN" is a book which has been to me, and I know to many others, a great source of gladness and inspiration: a "helping hand" indeed to every earnest student of the Word, producing an inward joy which has caused many an one to cry out time and again from an overflowing heart, "Praise the Lord!" If you want to see things "new and old" in God's Word, brought out as you have never before seen them, and to have, as a humble, hungering seeker after truth, "meat in due season," obtain this deeply interesting book and prayerfully read it, comparing it with the Word. It can be obtained from the publisher by remitting the very low price named. Think not, dear friend, that I am in anyway interested in the publication and sale of this book other than from a desire to spread the truth; for such is not the case.
I am sending out this circular (without the knowledge of the author and publishers) as a free-will missionary work of my owna feeble effort on my part to spread the "glad tidings of great joy," and an effort which, please God, may he mightily bless to the praise of his great name, to whom be all the glory, Amen.
Do not forget the Missionary Envelopes. We have a new lot and supply them now at the reduced price of 25 cents per hundred, and $2.00 per thousand. This includes free delivery to you at your Postoffice.r1462 VOL. XIII. NOVEMBER 1, 1892. NO. 21.
r1464 PALESTINE AND THE JEWS.
r1465 CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP.
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR
READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE
LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO
LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
IV. QUAR., LESSON VIII., NOV. 20, ACTS 13:26-43.
Golden Text"To you is the word of this salvation sent."Acts 13:26.
VERSES 14-26. When Barnabas and Saul came to Antioch in Pisidia they spent the first Sabbath day in a synagogue of the Jews. They went in and sat down, trusting that the Lord would open some door for them to speak to the people. They did not force themselves forward or in any way seek to violate the customs of the synagogue, but, looking to the Lord for direction, they simply placed themselves, as best they knew how, in the way of opportunity to serve the Truth. In this alone there is an important lesson for us all. By their very attitude Barnabas and Saul were each saying, "Lord, here am I, use me!" And very soon the Lord did make use of his ready instruments, and used them effectively to his praise. If these brethren had gone about some other business, or listlessly wandered about or waited at home and said they would like to do something for the Master, but would wait for him to hunt them up and to disentangle them from other engagements, they might have waited a long time, and no doubt other instruments would have been used instead. And so may we wait long and unsuccessfully unless we place ourselves in the way of probable opportunity, and thus declare our actual readiness and our waiting attitude.
One cannot but admire the spirit of liberality which prevailed among the Jews, and wish that the Truth had a similarly free course today. In how few congregations of God's professed Christian children is there any opportunity offered at any meeting for any one to speak a word to the people or to call attention to the Lordexcept the pastor, and he is gagged by an elaborate and very restrictive "Confession of Faith" before he is allowed to say a word, and is liable to be deposed if he violates that Confession. How evident it is that the great Adversary has gotten the various Creeds so expressed that they suit his purposes, and has hedged the way so that they cannot be displaced even fragmentarily by truths.
VERSES 16,26. Then Saul, who was called Paul, stood up to bear his testimony for the Lord. With what eagerness he embraced the opportunity is manifest from the stirring discourse which followed, in which, with characteristic skill, he drew the attention of the people to prominent points in their national history, leading up to the reign of David as king; and then, referring to the promise of blessing to Israel through a son of David, he declared (verse 23) that of this man's seed God had, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Savior, even Jesus, whom they had ignorantly crucified; and that this same Jesus was he of whom John the Baptist had said, "There cometh one after me whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose."
VERSE 26. Then we almost catch the tones of his voice floating down the centuries, as with kindling eloquence he declares"Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent." Yes, it was sent to Israel firstto the people whom God had chosen and to whom belonged the promisesto all such as were "Israelites indeed," worthy sons of faithful Abraham who trusted in the promises and were anxiously waiting for their fulfilment; and not only to these, but also to all the worthy Gentiles among them who feared (or reverenced) God. Or, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, it was now sent to all the meek. (Isa. 61:1.) This gospel is not for the proud and high-minded. The proud Pharisee and the dignified Rabbi could not receive it; and those who looked only for Israel's national predominance over the nations of the world, and who figured only this out of the numerous prophecies of Messiah's glorious reign, could not receive it. Nor could the proud or wicked Gentile who had dismissed God from all his thoughts, and given himself over to a life of present ease or pleasure or self-gratification, receive it. It is "good tidings" only to the [R1466 : page 332] meek, who reverence God and who have respect unto his promises. But God assures us that not only the Day of Vengeance, but also the entire Millennial age which will follow it, will have the effect of breaking many stony and proud hearts and bringing all mankind to [R1466 : page 333] so humble a condition that they will be able and willing to appreciate the grace of God which offers salvation (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10)whether they, after the humbling chastisement and greater knowledge of the Lord, submit themselves fully to his gracious arrangements and gain the reward of Life, or whether, when permitted, pride and self-will will again be their choice, and they thus be accounted unfit for Lifedeserving the Second Death.
VERSES 27-31. Then, in reminding them of their national sin in crucifying Jehovah's Anointed, he shows that it was because their rulers did not honor him or recognize him as the one of whom spake Moses and all the prophets; and yet he tells them that even in this sinful act of crucifying the Lord they were unwittingly fulfilling what the prophets had foretold; for Isaiah had declared that he should be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he would not open his mouth to defend himself, for he knew that his hour was come and that his life was to be given a ransom for many. Probably here the Apostle enlarged on the prophetic proofs of Jesus as the Messiah; for we must regard this account by Luke as a mere synopsis of his discourse, showing its general drift. Then he drew attention to the fact of his resurrection, and declared himself one of a number of witnesses of that fact; for "he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem."
VERSES 32-37. Having thus introduced Jesus, the promised Messiah and Savior, the hope of Israel and the world, he then added, "And we declare unto you glad tidings"glad tidings of the fulfilment of prophecy in the resurrection of Jesus, which was in itself, according to the divine plan, an evidence that his sacrifice had been acceptable as our sin-offering and a pledge of the resurrection of all who believe in him as their Lord and Redeemer. Then the Apostle referred to the statement in the Second Psalm"Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee"as applicable to his new resurrection life, which should never again return to corruptiondeathand showed that the promise in Isa. 55:3,4, of "the sure mercies of [or holy things promised to] David"*the dominion and power and glory of the kingdom of God on earth, etc.belonged not to David literally, but to the Messiah, Jesus, whom David in some instances typified; "for," said he, "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." Consequently he argues that the prophecy has not reference to David, but to Christ, whom David here typified.
VERSES 38,39. Having thus securely planted the claims of Jesus of Nazareth upon the testimony of the prophets and of the eye-witnesses of his life and death and resurrection, and having called their attention to the glorious promises for the blessing of Israel and all the world through the expected Messiah, he made to that attentive congregation the startling announcement: "Be it known unto therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you [even you, who in your ignorance and folly despised and slew him] the forgiveness of sins. And by him all that BELIEVE are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
VERSES 40,41 are words of solemn warning in view of the responsibility which the hearing of this truth brings with it. When the truth is presented to us by any of God's messengers, however humble, it is to the end that we may either receive or reject it as we choose. The meek, those who reverence God and desire to know and to do his will, will receive it and be blessed by it; but all the proud and worldly-minded and all those who are wise in their own conceits will reject it. And to such says the Prophet, as quoted by the Apostle, "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you."
A great work was going on in those days; for God was there beginning, by the preaching of the truth, to select from among men and to train and prepare "a people for his name"to be joint-heirs with Christ of his Millennial Kingdom. The despisers indeed wondered at the progress and power of the truth, but they were left in their lost, perishing, unjustified condition, because they would not believe and repent.
The same is true to-day also, the only difference being that we are living in the harvest or end of the age, when the work of selecting the bride or body of Christ, which was there begun, is now being finished. And here as there the truth is manifesting the meek and worthy ones as well as the despisers. Let all heed the Apostle's warning and beware lest that come upon them which is spoken of in the prophets. What is that?A hardness of heart which despises instruction and which will not walk in the right ways of the Lord, but which walks according to its own wilfulness in the way which leads to destruction; for out of Christ there is no salvation. "Behold, ye despisers, and [R1466 : page 334] wonder, and perish." Beloved, let us mark well the responsibility which the testimony of God's truth brings, and be not like those who, denying the possibility of any perishing, proceed further and reject the great salvation proffered only on condition of faith in Christ as our Redeemer, and consequent repentance of sin and reformation of life in harmony with the will of God.
Golden Text"I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles."Acts 13:47.
VERSES 44,45. As a result of Paul's discourse of the preceding lesson, on the next Sabbath day almost the whole city came together to hear more of this gospel. And when the unbelieving Jews observed this evidence of the growing popularity of the doctrines of the crucified Jesus, they were moved with envy and bestirred themselves in opposition to the truth, because they saw that this new religion was calculated to supersede Judaism, around which clustered all their national pride and their selfish sectarian hopes. As a people, they had, because of this very pride, failed to comprehend the true import of their own God-given religion, and to see its transient an typical character; and so its precious promises, misunderstood and perverted, served only to minister to their further pride, while they boasted of being the children of Abraham, the special favorites of God, to whom belonged the promises.
All filled with this spirit of pride were thereby incapacitated to receive the doctrines of Christianity; for there is no room for these in a proud heart: this gospel is pre-eminently the gospel for the meek, and none but the meek ever have continued or ever will continue long to rejoice in it. And as the truths of the dawning Gospel dispensation separated the meek from the proud, and thus gathered out a worthy remnant from the Jewish nation to be joint-heirs with Christ in his kingdom, so the truths due now in the dawn of the Millennium and harvest of the Gospel age are accomplishing a similar selection, and thus completing the elect number from among the Gentiles. And now, as then, the worthy ones are being gathered out of a great organization. Here it is out of the nominal Gospel Church: there it was out of the nominal Jewish Church. In both cases the few are gathered out and the great mass prove themselves unworthy through pride and unbelief.
VERSES 46,47. Seeing the unreasonable prejudice and opposition to the truth on the part of the Jews, Paul and Barnabas boldly withstood them, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you [It was necessary because they were the natural children of Abraham and natural heirs of the covenant made with Abraham]; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles: For so hath the Lord commanded, saying, 'I have set thee [Christ] to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
These Jews did not directly judge and pronounce themselves unworthy of life; but in rejecting the only conditions upon which everlasting life is promised, they in effect rejected life, for it is promised only on the condition of faith in Christ as Lord and Redeemer. However, we do not understand that their rejection of Christ then, blinded and hindered as they were by prejudice and hardness of heart, was a final rejection of life; for the Lord's gracious provision for them is yet to open their blind eyes and to give them a heart of flesh so that they may yet see and believe the truthand that notwithstanding the fact that they died in their sins without faith in Christ; for it is written, "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, [R1467 : page 334] O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live." (Compare Ezek. 37:12-14; Rom. 11:25-32.) None will ever be finally judged unworthy of life (worthy of the Second Death) until they have enjoyed every advantage of a full, fair trial with a clear knowledge of the truth. See Heb. 6:4-6.
"Lo, we turn to the Gentiles; for so hath the Lord commanded," etc. Ah, these words were a joyful message, "good tidings of great joy," to some of the humble Gentiles who heard, and who, Lazarus-like, had long desired to be fed with even the crumbs of divine favor falling from the table of bounties provided for the Jewish Dives.
VERSE 48. "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life [i.e., as many as had that disposition of meekness and trust in God, and a desire to be in harmony with him and to do his will, which disposition God has ordained shall receive the reward of eternal life] believed." And here, too, we may learn a lesson and recognize [R1467 : page 335] God's direction of his own work as the apostles recognized it. While it is as true now as in the days of the apostles that "Not many great," or wise, or learned according to the course and estimation of this world, but only a few (and they often the poor of this world, rich in faith) receive the "good tidings" joyfully, we should never lose sight of the fact that those drawn to and held by the truth are always those of humble hearts, seekers after God and his ways, the very class for whom God has provided and ordained the blessing of everlasting life. But neither should we forget that God has other sheep, not of this flock; and that he has provided that the fullest degree of natural evidence shall be given to those other sheep, the faithful of whom shall have everlasting life also, though on a lower plane or nature than the little flock now being selected, who are required to walk, if at all, by faith and not by sight.
Persecution serves to separate those whose interest is only lukewarm, and who, being unworthy of a place in the "little flock" to which it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom, the Lord desires to separate. Besides, it serves to strengthen and develop the true ones, thus fitting these "overcomers" more fully for the work of God, now and hereafter.
But they rejoiced in the midst of suffering and were filled with the holy Spiritwith a holy zeal and enthusiasm which, while it led them to shake off the dust of their feet for a testimony against that city, turned them to another, to declare the glad tidings to others who still sat in darkness.
CHAPTER 14:1,2. The experiences in Iconium seem to have been very similar to those in Antiocha large congregation of interested hearers, many conversions to Christianity, of both Jews and Greeks, then persecution from the unbelievers and efforts to turn away from the faith those who had believed. Such experiences are not common amongst Christian professors now, because they are drowsy with the wine of Babylon's false doctrine (Rev. 18:3) and are not sufficiently interested and active in the service of Truth; and the devil does not think it wise to persecute for error's sake. But each child of God learns by experience the force of the Master's words, "Whosoever will live Godly [to please God] in this present time [when evil reigns] shall suffer persecution;" and this in proportion as he receives the truth and faithfully declares it.
VERSE 3. On account of the opposition it seemed necessary for the two brethren to remain a long time in Iconium in order to establish the faith of them that believed. And the Lord worked with them, endorsing their testimony by special miraculous giftsprobably of healing, mainly.
VERSES 4-7. By and by the persecutions waxed more severe, so that the whole city began to take sides for and against these witnesses of the Lord, and the excitement grew until it would have resulted in a mob. When they became aware of this, they fled from the city, doubtless recalling the Lord's counsel"When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another." They fled to Lystra and Derbe, and there also they preached the gospel.r1467 ENCOURAGING WORDS FROM EARNEST WORKERS.
N.B.Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
At 3 P.M. in Hardman Hall (Fifth Avenue and Nineteenth Street). Subject, "The Restitution of All Things."Acts 3:21.
Protestants lately seem to be sadly at a loss to account for their nameProtestant. They know from history that there was once a wide difference of religious views between the founders of their sects and the Church of Rome. They know of the rack, the prison and the stake; but they wonder why it all was, and think there must have been some great mistake.
Papacy declares that she never changes; and so Protestants fancy that they have been misinformed, and are seeking union with the very one whose conduct and doctrines their forefathers protested againsteven unto death. The Congregational National Convention at Minneapolis adopted the following in a resolution on the subject:
"The Roman Catholic body is recognized as a branch of the church of Christ, and the report welcomes the opportunity to co-operate with its members, clergy or laity in the advancement of the cause of Christian truth and Christian morals. The attitude of the Episcopal church coming forward in England and America bearing an olive branch is heartily commended."
We are glad indeed to believe that the membership of the Church of Rome contains some noble souls, and that as a whole her multitudes are more enlightened than once they were; but we believe the system to be Satan's handiwork, and as really Antichrist as it was when, with greater power, it "wore out the saints of the Most High," and practiced outward evil, and prospered in it. The same false doctrines still underlie her system; and only opportunity is lacking for the same display of devilish intolerance that during the dark ages marked her pathway with blood.
We respect all decent, honest men as men; and whenever we can we shall be glad to do them good, physically and spiritually. But we reserve the titles of fellowship, "Christian" and "Brother," for those who trust in the Savior and his one sacrifice for all. This as much ignores Roman Catholics, who hold to many, repeated sacrifices for sins (sacrifices of the Mass), as it does to those who deny any sacrifice.
We mentioned in our last our intention of presenting in this issue some evidences that the giving of life and authority to the "Image of the Beast" is not far distant. We did not mean by this that you should expect a review of Rev. 13. The evidences referred to, crowded out of this issue, may appear in our next.r1468 VOL. XIII. NOVEMBER 15, 1892. NO. 22.
r1471 BEAR YE ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS.
r1471 A MIGHTY FORCE.
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR
READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE
LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD
OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
IV. QUAR., LESSON X., DEC. 4, ACTS 14:8-22.
VERSES 8-10. Here again the Lord witnessed to the teaching of Paul and Barnabas by a miracle, thus confirming their testimony, that the people might know they were his messengers. The statement that the lame man had faith to be healed is also worthy of notice. This miracle corresponded closely to the one wrought through Peter and John.Acts 3:7,8.
VERSES 11-13 show that the effect of the miracle upon the people was in harmony with God's design, in that they were impressed with awe and reverence for his chosen witnesses and thus were prepared to hear their testimony concerning the truth. Yet in their ignorance this reverence led them to the foolish extreme of worshiping the messengers of the truth instead of its divine author.
VERSES 14,15 show how the Lord's true messengers regarded such homage. They were prompt and emphatic in discouraging it. They went out quickly to the multitude which had come (probably to their dwelling) with garlands and oxen for sacrifice, and, rending their garments in token of extreme disapproval, cried out, "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto the living God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is."
Had Paul and Barnabas been of a different spirit they might have been overcome by the temptation to accept the praise and homage of men. But they were humble and faithful, and sought only the glory of God and the enlightenment and consequent blessing of their fellow men. Such temptations are common to all public teachers, and therefore they specially need to cultivate the grace of humility. They must humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt them in due time, and, like the Apostle, declare themselves only fallible men, who, by the grace of God, have been permitted to declare the good tidings of salvation; that the glorious message is not theirs, but God's; and that it is now made manifest through his servants, because the due [R1472 : page 348] time for its revealing has come.Dan. 12:4,9,10.
VERSES 16-18. Paul here emphasizes the fact of a great dispensational change having occurredthe closing of the Jewish age and the opening of the Gospel age. In the former, the favor of God was extended to Israel onlyconsisting in a typical justification from sin, reconciliation to God and promises of everlasting life. In the latter, the door of access to God [through Christ] had been opened to all nations, and the dividing wall of the Jewish (typical) covenant had been removed. (Eph. 2:14-22.) "Now [having appointed through Christ a day of trial for all] he commandeth all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30.) The account here is probably only a brief extract of the Apostle's discourse to the people, whereby he restrained their idolatrous worship and drew their attention to the truth.
VERSES 19,20 give another illustration of the incessant opposition of error under Satan's supervision in the name of religion. And the prince of this world in this, as in the majority of cases now, was permitted a large measure of success. Probably most of the Apostle's congregation were either effectually turned from the truth, or else were considerably confused or biased in favor of the error; but the few that did hear and believe were precious. Sometimes the evil-doers are permitted to persecute the Lord's messengers even unto death, as in the case of Stephen; but although Paul was almost killed, the Lord raised him up, that he might yet further bear witness to the truth, in which privilege these faithful soldiers of the cross greatly rejoiced. But observe that they did not remain in the same city to invite further persecution for vain-glorious reasons, neither were they discouraged against further efforts; but with good courage, remembering the Lord's words"When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another" (Matt. 10:23)they left Lystra the next day for Derbe. Seemingly, they used as much prudence as was consistent with their mission of preaching the gospel: and in this we should emulate their example. They did not stay to tantalize their persecutors and to invite a second stoning: another door for preaching stood open and they went to Derbe.
VERSES 21,22. Nevertheless, when it became expedient to return to Lystra to confirm the household of faith, the courage to serve the Lord's sheep was not lacking. The entire course of the apostles shows us that their mission work was very different in object, as well as in method, from that of missions to-day. They went to the principal cities, and to the most religious persons in each. They had no expectation of converting all, but merely of interesting a fewa "little flock." They knew what the majority of missionaries to-day do not know, that the work of this age is the selection and perfecting, in patience, experience and character, of the "Bride of the Lamb," the Churchto be joint-heirs with Christ during the Millennium in the work of breaking the power of Satan over the masses, and of opening the blind eyes and unstopping the deaf ears, and leading all who then will be led, to perfection and lasting life and joy.
The Apostle's care for the souls of his converts is also noteworthy. He was not only anxious to make converts, but he was even more anxious to confirm them in the faith and hope of the gospel, to establish them in the doctrine of Christ, to warn them against error and to encourage them to steadfastness in the midst of persecutions which would surely follow.
IV. QUAR., LESSON XI., DEC. 11, ACTS 15:12-29.
Golden Text"Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."Acts 15:11.
As we saw in the two previous lessons that the envy of the Jews on account of the progress of the doctrines of Christ hindered them as a class from receiving the truth, so in this lesson we see that a measure of that same spirit among some who had accepted the truth was bringing them again into bondage to the Law, and depriving them of their liberty in Christ. And not only so, but some of these were determined to put this yoke upon the whole Church by insisting that all Gentile converts must be circumcised and thus become Jewish proselytes before becoming Christians; and that otherwise they could not be saved.
These Judaizing teachers interfered with the work of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, and a great controversy ensued. The question was a vital one, and one which involved the whole structure of Christianity; for the error struck right at the foundation doctrinethe efficacy of the precious blood of Christ for salvation to all them that believe, whether Jews or Gentiles. These false teachers were claiming that faith in Christ as the Redeemer was not sufficient for salvation, but that this was only an appendage to the Law, which still held dominion over the Jewish converts, and to which the Gentile converts must also submit.
The Church at Antioch was greatly exercised on this question, and Paul and Barnabas were zealous in proclaiming the full value of the precious blood of Christ, as completely abrogating the former covenant of works, which had been proven powerless to save. But the Gentile converts were anxious to know what would be the consensus of opinion on this important subject among the other apostles in Jerusalem. Consequently they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, a distance of about three hundred miles, and have a conference with the apostles and elders there about this question, which they did, probably at the expense of the Church at Antioch. This was the visit mentioned by the Apostle in Gal. 2:1,2, about fourteen years after his conversion. The course of the Church at Antioch in this matter, as well as its former course in sending them out as missionaries to other cities, whence they had returned to minister to it again (Acts 14:28), gives evidence of its zeal and faithfulness, not only to serve the Lord, but also to come to an exact knowledge of the truth.
The early Church, composed first of Jewish [R1472 : page 350] converts, was not in opposition to the salvation of the Gentiles, but having been so long under the Law, it is not at all surprising that even the apostles were slow to follow the leading of the Spirit in turning to the Gentiles, and that all were naturally inclined to trust in some measure to the old Law covenant of works, not realizing that in so doing they were nullifying the covenant of grace in Christ. Paul seems to have been the first to grasp the situation, and his clear declaration in his letter to the Galatians (Chap. 5:2-6) of the all-sufficiency of the atonement leaves no room for doubt as to his position on this subject. He says: "Behold I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing; for I testify again to every man that is circumcised that he is a debtor to do the whole Law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace....For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love."
While God could have quickly made the truth plain to all the Church in various ways, he chose to do it gradually and through agencies. Hence through a vision to Peter he first gave indication of his purpose to begin the blessing of the Gentiles with the gospel. But to Paul God made known the particulars of his plan, and through him comes the clearer understanding to the whole Church, including the other apostles. To him came visions and revelations more than to others.2 Cor. 12:1-7.
VERSES 7-11. When the apostles and elders were assembled together at Jerusalem, there was first a difference of opinion on this subject and much apparently informal disputing, some urging one way and some the other. Then Peter rose up and called the attention of all to the fact of how God had taught him through the vision of clean and unclean beasts that he was not henceforth to call the Gentiles common or unclean, and that he had put no difference between them and the Jews. And so he urged that no yoke of the law be put upon the neck of these disciples, which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear; for, said he, "We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jews] shall be saved, even as they" [the Gentiles].
VERSE 12. Then Barnabas and Paul were heard; and they declared what great things the Lord had been doing among the Gentiles, and how he had been working with them by miracles and signs. (See previous lessons.)
VERSES 13-18. When these brethren had related their experiences among the Gentiles, and after Peter had called attention to his vision and his subsequent experiences, all of which is only briefly stated here, then James, who seems to have been the moderator of the meeting, gave the decision which had been forming in his mind and the Scriptural reasons upon which he based it. He said, "Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simon [Simon Peterverse 7] has declared how God at first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name." Then he shows how this blessing of the Gentiles agrees with the teaching of the prophets, to the effect that the blessing of Israel first is only that through them as a channel [R1473 : page 350] it may flow to the Gentiles also. And so they as Jewish converts to Christ were merely the channels through whom God would send his blessed gospel to the Gentiles also. Yes, he said, this was evidently God's plan from the beginning.Verse 18.
VERSES 19,20. "Wherefore," said he, "my judgment is that we should not trouble them which from among the Gentiles are turned to God"they are justified by faith in Christ, and have already received the spirit of adoption, in uncircumcision, thus showing that faith in Christ the Redeemer is the only requisite to salvation. He further suggested writing to them merely that they abstain from pollutions of idols, i.e., from meats offered to idols (verse 29), and from things strangled and from bloodas by eating such things they might become stumbling blocks to their Jewish brethren (See 1 Cor. 8:4-13)and from fornication. The eating of blood was forbidden, not only by the Jewish Law, but also before the Law. The same command was given to Noah. (See Deut. 12:23; Gen. 9:4.)
VERSE 21. The Apostle's intimation is that Judaism and the Law Covenant were very generally known throughout the world at that time. And this harmonizes with our Lord's words"Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte." Nevertheless these means had not done much to convert the world to God; while the preaching of the gospel by Paul and Barnabas had been signally blessed to the Gentilesthe chief opponents being the Jews. These facts, taken in connection with the words of the prophets which the Lord had just brought to their attention, convinced James that a new dispensation had dawned, of which not the Law Covenant but the New Covenant was the basis.
VERSES 22-29. This advice of James found favor among all the apostles and elders, and they decided to act upon it. So Paul and Barnabas were returned to Antioch with a letter of affectionate commendation, and accompanied [R1473 : page 351] by two of the brethren from JerusalemJudas and Silaswho bore the same testimony to the Church at Antioch.
The opening and closing words of this letter are noteworthyverses 23,28,29. The apostles are represented as a class apart from others of the Church, indicating the distinctness of their office. The elder brethren or elders signify those of largest experience and development. Note also that those addressedviz., Gentilesare called brethren, thus indicating Christian fellowship. The statement: "It seemed good to the holy Spirit and to us," etc., indicates that they judged the mind of the Spirit by the special providences manifested in the cases of Peter, Paul and Barnabas, as well as by the expressions of the prophets.
It will be noticed that nothing is said about keeping the ten commandments, nor any part of the Jewish law. It was evidently taken for granted that having received the spirit of Christ the new law of love would be a general regulation for them. The things mentioned were merely to guard against stumbling themselves or becoming stumbling blocks to others.r1473 "OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT."