Sketches From The Life of Paul
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 6: Jew and Gentile.
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The next day after the stoning of Paul, the
apostles left the city, according to the direction
of Christ: "When they persecute you in this city,
flee ye into another." They departed for Derbe,
where their labors were blessed, and many souls
were led to embrace the truth. But both Paul
and Barnabas returned again to visit Antioch,
Lystra, the fields of labor where
they had met such opposition and persecution.
In all those places were many that believed the
truth; and the apostles felt it their duty to
strengthen and encourage their brethren who
were exposed to reproach and bitter opposition.
They were determined to securely bind off the [p. 63] work which they had done, that it might not
ravel out. Churches were organized in the
places mentioned, elders appointed in each church,
and the proper order established there.
Paul and Barnabas soon after returned to
Antioch in Syria, where they again labored for
some time; and many Gentiles there embraced
the doctrine of Christ. But certain Jews from
Judea raised a general consternation among the
believing Gentiles by agitating the question of
circumcision. They asserted with great assurance,
that none could be saved without being
circumcised and keeping the entire ceremonial law.
This was an important question, and one which
affected the church in a very great degree. Paul
and Barnabas met it with promptness, and
opposed introducing the subject to the Gentiles.
They were opposed in this by the believing Jews
of Antioch, who favored the position of those
from Judea. The matter resulted in much
discussion and want of harmony in the church,
until finally the church of Antioch, apprehending
that a division among them would occur from
any further discussion of the question, decided
to send Paul and Barnabas, together with some
responsible men of Antioch, to Jerusalem, to lay
the matter before the apostles and elders. There
they were to meet delegates from the different
churches, and those who had come to attend the
approaching annual festivals. Meanwhile all
controversy was to cease until a final decision
should be made by the responsible men of the
church. This decision was then to be universally
accepted by the various churches throughout the
The apostles, in making their way to [p. 64] Jerusalem, called upon the brethren of the cities
through which they passed, and encouraged them
by relating their experience in the work of God,
and the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith.
Upon arriving at Jerusalem, the delegates from
Antioch related before the assembly of the
churches the success that had attended the
ministry with them, and the confusion that had
resulted from the fact that certain converted Pharisees
declared that the Gentile converts must be
circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order
to be saved.
The Jews were not generally prepared to move
as fast as the providence of God opened the way.
It was evident to them from the result of the
apostles' labors among the Gentiles, that the
converts among the latter people would far
exceed the Jewish converts; and that if the
restrictions and ceremonies of the Jewish law were
not made obligatory upon their accepting the
faith of Christ, the national peculiarities of the
Jews, which kept them distinct from all other
people, would finally disappear from among those
who embraced the gospel truths.
The Jews had prided themselves upon their
divinely appointed services; and they concluded
that as God once specified the Hebrew manner
of worship, it was impossible that he should ever
authorize a change in any of its specifications.
They decided that Christianity must connect
itself with the Jewish laws and ceremonies.
They were slow to discern to the end of that
which had been abolished by the death of Christ,
and to perceive that all their sacrificial offerings
had but prefigured the death of the Son of God,
in which type had met its antitype rendering [p. 65] valueless the divinely appointed ceremonies and
sacrifices of the Jewish religion.
Paul had prided himself upon his Pharisaical
strictness; but after the revelation of Christ to
him on the road to Damascus, the mission of
the Saviour, and his own work in the conversion
of the Gentiles, were plain to his mind; and he
fully comprehended the difference between a
living faith and a dead formalism. Paul still
claimed to be one of the children of Abraham,
and kept the ten commandments in letter and
in spirit as faithfully as he had ever done before
his conversion to Christianity. But he knew
that the typical ceremonies must soon altogether
cease, since that which they had shadowed forth
had come to pass, and the light of the gospel
was shedding its glory upon the Jewish religion,
giving a new significance to its ancient rites.
The question of circumcision was warmly discussed
in the assembly. The Gentile converts
lived in a community of idolaters. Sacrifices
and offerings were made to senseless idols, by
these ignorant and superstitious people. The
priests of these gods carried on an extensive
merchandise with the offerings brought to them;
and the Jews feared that the Gentile converts
would bring Christianity into disrepute by purchasing
those things which had been offered to
idols, and thereby sanctioning, in some measure,
an idolatrous worship.
Also, the Gentiles were accustomed to eat the
flesh of animals that had been strangled; while
the Jews had been divinely instructed with regard
to the food they should use. They were
particular, in killing beasts, that the blood should
flow from the body, else it was not regarded as [p. 66] healthful meat. God had given these injunctions
to the Jews for the purpose of preserving their
health and strength. The Jews considered it
sinful to use blood as an article of diet. They
considered that the blood was the life; and that
the shedding of blood was in consequence of sin.
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