Sketches From The Life of Paul
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 17: Paul Revisits Corinth.
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In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul set forth
the great principles of the gospel which he hoped
to present in person. He stated his position on
the questions which were agitating the Jewish
and Gentile churches, and showed that the hopes
and promises which once belonged especially to
the Jews were now offered to the Gentiles. With
great clearness and power he presented the
doctrine of justification by faith in Christ. While
addressing the Roman Christians, Paul designed
to instruct other churches also; but how little
could he foresee the far-reaching influence of his
words! The great truth of justification by faith,
as set forth in this epistle, has stood through all
the ages as a mighty beacon to guide the repentant
sinner into the way of life. This light
scattered the darkness which enveloped Luther's
mind, and revealed to him the power of the blood
of Christ to cleanse from sin. It has guided
thousands of sin-burdened souls to the same [p. 188] source of pardon and peace. Every Christian
has reason to thank God for that epistle to the
church at Rome.
While Paul looked with interest and hope to
new fields of labor in the west, he had cause for
serious apprehension concerning the fields of his
former labor in the east. Tidings had been
received at Corinth from the churches in Galatia,
revealing a state of great confusion, and even
of absolute apostasy. Judaizing teachers were
opposing the work of the apostle, and seeking
to destroy the fruit of his labors.
In almost every church there were some
members who were Jews by birth. To these
converts the Jewish teachers found ready access, and
through them gained a foot-hold in the churches.
It was impossible, by scriptural arguments,
to overthrow the doctrines taught by Paul;
hence they resorted to the most unscrupulous
measures to counteract his influence and weaken
his authority. They declared that he had not
been a disciple of Jesus, and had received no
commission from him; yet he had presumed to teach
doctrines directly opposed to those held by Peter,
James, and the other apostles. Thus the
emissaries of Judaism succeeded in alienating many
of the Christian converts from their teacher in
the gospel. Having gained this point, they
induced them to return to the observance of the
ceremonial law as essential to salvation. Faith
in Christ, and obedience to the law of ten
commandments, were regarded as of minor importance.
Division, heresy, and sensualism were
rapidly gaining ground among the believers in
Paul's soul was stirred as he saw the evils [p. 189] that threatened speedily to destroy these churches.
He immediately wrote to the Galatians, exposing
their false theories, and with great severity
rebuking those who had departed from the faith.
In the introduction to his epistle, he asserted
his own position as an apostle, "not of men,
neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God
the Father, who raised him from the dead." He
had been commissioned by the highest authority,
not of earth, but in Heaven. After giving his
salutation to the church, he pointedly addresses
them: "I marvel that ye are so soon removed
from Him that called you into the grace of
Christ unto another gospel, which is not another."
The doctrines which the Galatians had received,
could not in any sense be called the gospel; they
were the teachings of men, and were directly
opposed to the doctrines taught by Christ.
The apostle continues: "But there be some
that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel
of Christ. But though we, or an angel from
Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than
that which we have preached unto you, let him
How different from his manner of writing to
the Corinthian church is the course which he
pursues toward the Galatians! In dealing with
the former, he manifests great caution and
tenderness, while he reproves the latter with abrupt
severity. The Corinthians had been overcome
by temptation, and deceived by the ingenious
sophistry of teachers who presented errors under
the guise of truth. They had become confused
and bewildered. To teach them to distinguish
the false from the true, required great caution
and patience in their instructor. Harshness or [p. 190] injudicious haste would have destroyed his
influence over those whom he sought to benefit.
In the Galatian churches, open, unmasked
error was supplanting the faith of the gospel.
Christ, the true foundation, was virtually
renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism.
The apostle saw that if these churches were
saved from the dangerous influences which threatened
them, the most decisive measures must be
taken, the sharpest warnings given, to bring
them to a sense of their true condition.
To deal wisely with different classes of minds,
under varied circumstances and conditions, is a
work requiring wisdom and judgment, enlightened
and sanctified by the Spirit of God. The
minister of Christ should learn the importance
of adapting his labors to the condition of those
whom he seeks to benefit. Tenderness, patience,
decision, and firmness are alike needful; but
they are to be exercised with proper discrimination.
It is only by maintaining a close connection
with God that his servants can hope to meet
judiciously the trials and difficulties that still
arise in the churches.
Paul had presented to the Galatians the gospel
of Christ in its purity. His teachings were in
harmony with the Scriptures; and the Holy
Spirit had witnessed to his labors. Hence he
warned his brethren to listen to nothing that
should contradict the truth which they had been
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