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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 19: Meeting with the Elders.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...

"And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly." Thus Luke describes the reception of the apostle to the Gentiles on his arrival at Jerusalem. Although Paul everywhere encountered prejudice, envy, and [p. 208] jealousy, he also found hearts that were open to receive the glad tidings which he brought, and that loved him for the sake of Christ and the truth. Yet, cheering as was the kindly greeting he received, it could not remove his anxiety as to the attitude of the church at Jerusalem toward himself and his work. Their real feelings would be more fully seen in the meeting with the elders of the church, to take place on the morrow.

Paul longed to be fully united with these. He had done all in his power to remove the prejudice and distrust so unjustly excited because he presented the gospel to the Gentiles without the restrictions of the ceremonial law. Yet he feared that his efforts might be in vain, and that even the liberal offerings of which he was the bearer might fail to soften the hearts of the Jewish brethren. He knew that the men whom he was to encounter were persons of great firmness and decision, and he looked forward with considerable apprehension to this meeting with them; yet he could not avoid the ordeal, trying though it might be. He had come to Jerusalem for no other purpose than to remove the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding which had separated them, and which had so greatly obstructed his labors.

On the day following Paul's arrival, the elders of the church, with James at their head, assembled to receive him and his fellow-travelers as messengers from the Gentile churches. Paul's first act was to present the contributions with which he had been intrusted. He had been careful to guard against the least occasion for suspicion in the administration of his trust, by causing delegates to be elected by the several [p. 209] churches to accompany him as joint trustees of the funds collected. These brethren were now called forward, and one by one they laid at the feet of James the offerings which the Gentile churches had freely given, although often from their deepest poverty. Here was tangible proof of the love and sympathy felt by these new disciples for the mother-church, and their desire to be in harmony with the Jewish brethren. Here was evidence also, that Paul had faithfully fulfilled the promise given, when at the council years before he had been urged to remember the poor.

These contributions had cost the apostle much time and anxious thought, and much wearisome labor. They far exceeded the expectations of the Jewish elders, and might have been expected to call forth warm expressions of gratitude and appreciation. But Paul's half-acknowledged fears as to the manner in which the gift would be received were realized. He could only find comfort in the consciousness that he had done his duty, and had encouraged in his converts a spirit of generosity and love.

After the presentation of the gifts, Paul gave the brethren an account of his manner of labor, and its results. He had on former occasions stood before the same assembly, in the same city. It was before the same audience at the apostolic council (Acts 15) years before, that he related his experience in his conversion, and the great work which God had wrought through him among the Gentiles. The Spirit of the Lord then witnessed to the word spoken, and under its influence the council yielded their prejudices, and expressed themselves as in harmony with the position of the [p. 210] apostle, and sent an address to the churches to that effect. But the same battle was again to be fought, the same prejudices once more to be met.

Paul now gave his brethren an account of his labors since he parted with them four years before, and "declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry." As he described the work at Ephesus, which had resulted in raising up that large church in the very stronghold of heathenism, none could listen without interest. But he necessarily touched upon points that would irritate those who had cherished prejudice against him. He could not recount his experience in Galatia without stating the difficulties which he had encountered from those Judaizing teachers who had attempted to misrepresent his teaching and pervert his converts. In describing the work at Corinth, he could but mention those who had spread confusion and strife among the church there. Yet he related all with great gentleness and courtesy, carefully avoiding everything that would unnecessarily wound his brethren, and dwelling especially upon topics where he knew they could harmonize.

The effort was not without good results. The Spirit of God impressed the minds of the brethren and affected their hearts. The tidings of the progress of the gospel, the evidence that the power of God was working with the apostle's efforts, softened their feelings toward Paul, and convinced them that their prejudice against him was unfounded; and they glorified God for the wonders of his grace. At the close of Paul's address, the brethren joined in a season of solemn praise, and the Amen, expressive of their hearty sanction of his work, was swelled by many voices. [p. 211]

But beneath this apparent harmony, prejudice and dissatisfaction were still smouldering. Some in the church were still striving to mold Christianity after the old customs and ceremonies that were to pass away at the death of Christ. They felt that the work of preaching the gospel must be conducted according to their opinions. If Paul would labor in accordance with these ideas, they would acknowledge and sustain his work; otherwise they would discard it.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...

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