THIRD QUARTER 2018
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #11
SEPTEMBER 15, 2018
"ARREST IN JERUSALEM"
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Hebrews 12:15 NKJV
The Lord Himself sent Paul as an effective minister of the most precious message, the good news that Gentiles were included in the "all" who were given the gift of salvation in Christ (1 Timothy 4:10, Titus 2:11). His ministry uplifted the crucified Savior of the World, and the "riches of the glory of His mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27.
Like Ellen White, Paul "knew that the members of [the] churches needed a work done for them, in order that they might let their light shine to the world. A formal religion is powerless. Only the religion of the heart, intense and earnest, will move upon the hearts of the careless and world loving." RH, February 11, 1896. Not outward form, but inward repentance and renewal is what every church from Ephesus to Laodicea has needed.
To this end, he rebuked the duplicity of Peter whose separatist behavior reneged on the decision and spirit of the agreement of the Jerusalem council. Peter and those with him "were not straightforward with the truth of the gospel," (Galatians 2:14) showing that they did not really believe that we are justified solely by the "faith of Christ." Galatians 2:16, KJV.
In reality, they were placing the work of circumcision as a covenant sign of "faith in Christ." Galatiains 2:16, NKJV. Isn't it interesting how that subtle change of word leaves the door of legalism open even today?
Now, as Paul returns with gifts from these justified Gentiles to the needy Jews still struggling with legalism, he himself makes the mistake of compromising with the spirit of legalism, trying to overcome the prejudice against him. It was the root of bitterness in his Jewish fellow believers that led to this debacle.
"Had the leaders in the church fully surrendered their feeling of bitterness toward the apostle and accepted him as one specially called of God to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, the Lord would have spared him to them. God had not ordained that Paul's labors should so soon end, but He did not work a miracle to counteract the train of circumstances to which the course of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem had given rise. The same spirit is still leading to the same results. A neglect to appreciate and improve the provisions of divine grace has deprived the church of many a blessing." AA, p. 417.
"The brethren" had given an "assent" to the gospel, but lacking the corresponding heartfelt experience due to harbored bitterness, now were perverting the gospel by requesting this added vow of piety in which Paul was asked to participate. "He was not authorized of God to concede as much as they asked." AA, p. 405. We need to learn from this lesson as we present and live the gospel today. Do we see any such lessons in our own history since Minneapolis? How clear must we be on the gospel today?
God is able to work all things for good, but as our story shows, the path ahead would be even rougher because of this compromise which set Paul up for the false accusation of bringing an uncircumcised Gentile into the temple court. Of course, if the Jews had believed and carefully followed Isaiah 56, the temple would have been open to all who accepted the Sabbath covenant, regardless of circumcision, at least after Jesus had "rolled away" the reproach of all humanity at the cross as He bore our curse. (cf Joshua 5:9, Isaiah 53)
"A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes." Hence the riot based on a rumor. Human nature is to make assumptions and draw early conclusions, often projecting on others our own failings. "Therefore, you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." Romans 2:1. The unconverted Roman Gentile soldiers were more reasoned and law-abiding than the Jews, who raged at Paul's testimony of God's explicit command to minister the blessings of the gospel to the Gentiles.
In a sense, once Paul was before the Sanhedrin, he found his uncompromising footing again, squarely (in a few respects) between the liberal and conservative factions of the Sanhedrin. The pious and studious Pharisees were less offended by the story of the resurrection than by ministry to and associating with Gentiles. The wealthy and Greek thinking Sadducees were less offended by interacting with Gentiles (they were compromisers with the Roman authorities) than with the thought of the spiritual realm and the coming judgment implicit in the reality of the resurrection.
Paul found temporary respite in the liberal/conservative battle of his day by pointing out the elements of his teaching which agreed with theirs. That is not to say his paradigm was the same!
May we speak frankly?
Today, we have Seventh-day Adventists who question the authority of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy, who are more materialistic and focused on the world, denying spiritual realities of the sanctuary and the judgment. We have others who are more focused on the forms of right living and offended by the universal objective reach of the gospel. We can and should appeal to both groups, even though some within them have worked to undermine or destroy the truth of the 1888 Message as it was presented in the Minneapolis era. The zealous ones at times seem committed in print or action to its destruction, even as the zealous Jews who vowed a fast until Paul was killed.
But even as the hand of Providence provided a way of escape for Paul from this death threat, ensuring his path toward Rome as God had promised, so we may count on the promise of God as we faithfully lift up Christ (Read if you can the entire article "Be Zealous and Repent"):
"Then the believers will be of one heart and of one mind, and the Lord will make his word powerful in the earth. New cities and villages and territories will be entered; the church will arise and shine, because her light has come, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon her. New converts will be added to the churches, and those who now claim to be converted will feel in their own hearts the transforming power of the grace of Christ. Then Satan will be aroused, and will excite the bitterest persecution against God's people. But those not of our faith, who have not rejected light, will recognize the spirit of Christ in His true followers, and will take their stand with the people of God."
"Christ says, speaking of the Comforter, 'He shall not speak of Himself;' 'He shall testify of Me;' 'He shall glorify Me.' How little has Christ been preached! The laborers have presented theories, plenty of them, but little of Christ and His love. As the Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love, so the Spirit came to glorify Christ by revealing to the world the riches of His love and grace. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, our work will testify to the fact, we shall lift up Jesus. Not one can afford to be silent now; the burden of the work is to present Christ to the world. All who venture to have their own way, who do not join the angels who are sent from heaven with a message to fill the whole earth with its glory, will be passed by. The work will go forward to victory without them, and they will have no part in its triumph." Mrs. E. G. White. (RH, December 23, 1890)
"Paul said that it was for this 'hope's sake' that he was accused of the Jews, when he made his answer before King Agrippa. But before Paul was brought before Agrippa, he had also stood before Festus the governor; and before that, he had made answer before Felix the governor. And in his word before Felix, he said, I 'have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.' Acts 24:15.
"But even before this, Paul had been obliged to stand before the Sanhedrin and answer; and there 'he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.' Acts 23:6. Of the hope of the dead, and the resurrection of the dead; that is, even the dead have hope, if they be of the righteousness of faith; for it is written: 'The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.' Proverbs14:32 Therefore again it is written: 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.' 1 Corinthians 15:19. Not only in his life, but in his death, he who is in Christ has hope; and, being dead, his flesh rests in hope as did that of Him in Whom all the hope and promises of God are yea and amen.
"The resurrection of the dead is an essential part of 'the hope' which rests on righteousness by faith—this hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers. Indeed, the resurrection is the essential means of receiving 'the hope.' For, though God promised to Abraham the land in which he sojourned, yet 'he gave him none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on,' though 'he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet ye had no child.' Acts 7:5." (August 28, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 552)
"The difference between Paul and the Jews was not one of external ceremony. They hated him because he preached a Gospel which cut at the root of all the self-righteous sophistries of Judaism. They went about to establish their own righteousness, and Paul had declared that in doing this, they showed themselves ignorant of the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3. The gulf between the Jews and Paul was one that could not be bridged over by religious forms, for self-righteousness is the essence of the mystery of iniquity. Righteousness by faith is the Gospel of the mystery of God.
"The true character of the religion of Judaism made itself manifest in an attempt to murder Paul as soon as it found an opportunity. But his testimony was not finished and nothing can kill God's servants till their work is done. 'As they were about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.'
"Paul was snatched from the grasp of the people, and borne by the soldiers up the steps of the castle, but as he was being carried inside, he asked and obtained permission from the chief captain to address the people. Naturally, one would think that he had had quite enough of a Jewish crowd for one day. Raging like wild beasts robbed of their prey, shouting with one voice for the blood of the apostle, who bore the marks of their bloodthirsty violence, Paul might have been excused for feeling that these had no desire for the Gospel, and he had better reserve his strength for more profitable labour. But the Spirit that led Christ to pray for His murderers was in the heart of Paul, and perhaps, too, he remembered that he, the apostle of Christ, had once cried in like manner for the blood of the martyr Stephen. He turned to the people, and beckoned with his hand unto them. The power that had stilled the tumult of the sea was with him, and there came over the mob a great silence. In their own beloved language, he told them of his early days, his persecution of the believers, his conversion, and the command given him to preach the Gospel of Christ.
"The scene is one worthy of study. This was no hireling, whose interest in his work was measured by his wages. Instant in season and out of season, he was told to declare his message. Even when men would not receive it, but tried to take his life, he remembered his commission to give them the Gospel, and faithfully discharged his debt. No opportunity was slighted, nor was any danger able to silence him. Here was a true shepherd of the sheep, who did not flee when the wolf came, but was willing to give his life for the sheep. With such a ministry, the work of the Gospel might even now be resumed in apostolic power, but there never will be such a ministry among those who are hired to preach the Gospel. 'The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling.' John 10:13.
"In Paul's faithfulness, we have evidence that he uttered no idle boast when he spoke of the bonds and imprisonment which the Spirit had told him he would find at Jerusalem, and said, 'None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself.' Acts 20:24. The violence of the mob, and its clamour for his life did not move him. To stand unmoved is the privilege of every Christian. 'Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably.' Hebrews 12:28. With apostolic faith and service there will come apostolic fearlessness. 'Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed.' 'God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.' Psalms 48:1-5.
"In this experience of Paul's, we can also see his unbounded faith in the power of the Gospel. He was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. He could face an angry multitude with the Gospel, knowing that it had power in itself to quiet them and win its own way. The Gospel was not given to him as a theory to be submitted to every people. It was the power of God, fit for the earnest inquiries of the humble seeker, deeper than the wisdom of the learned philosopher, able to hush the clamours of a mob, and to humble the pride of all the earth. It was committed to Paul 'to make the Gentiles obedient,' and 'according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.' Romans 15:18; 16:26 Paul knew how to appreciate the honour of being an ambassador of Christ, and as long as he could be this, he was willing to be counted as the offscouring of all things by the world that had crucified his Master; and he was all the more willing in that his own humiliation made it the more apparent that the excellency of the power was of God, and not of man. 2 Corinthians 4:7." (April 23, 1903 EJW, PTUK 269)
~ Todd Guthrie
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