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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 25: Arrival at Rome.

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

Since they themselves desired it, Paul bade them set a day when he could present to them the truths of the gospel. At the time appointed, many came together, "to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening." He related his own experience, and presented arguments from the Old-Testament scriptures with simplicity, sincerity, and power. Upon some minds, at least, his words made an impression which would never be effaced. All who were honestly seeking for truth were convinced, as Paul spoke of what he knew, and testified of what he had seen.

He showed that religion does not consist in rites and ceremonies, creeds and theories. If it did, the natural man could understand it by investigation, as he understands worldly things. Paul taught that religion is a practical, saving energy, a principle wholly from God, a personal experience of God's renewing power upon the soul.

He showed how Moses had pointed Israel forward to Christ as that Prophet whom they were to hear; how all the prophets had testified of him as God's great remedy for sin, the guiltless One who was to bear the sins of the guilty. He did not find fault with their observance of forms and ceremonies, but showed that while they maintained the ritual service with great exactness, they were rejecting Him who was the antitype of all that system. [p. 277]

He declared that in his unconverted state he had known Christ after the flesh, not by personal acquaintance, but by the conceptions which he, in common with others, cherished concerning his character and work. He had rejected Jesus of Nazareth as an impostor because he did not fulfill these expectations. But since Paul's conversion, his views of Christ and his mission were far more spiritual and exalted than the Jewish conception of the long-promised Messiah. He asserted that he did not present to them Christ after the flesh. Herod had seen Christ in the days of his humanity; Annas had seen him; Pilate and the chief priests and rulers had seen him; the Roman soldiers had seen him. But these had not seen him with an eye of faith, and discerned him spiritually as the glorified Redeemer. To apprehend Christ by faith, to have a spiritual knowledge of him, was more to be desired than a personal acquaintance with him as he appeared on earth. The communion with Christ which Paul now enjoyed, was more intimate and more enduring than a mere earthly and human companionship.

Some of Paul's hearers eagerly received the truth, but others stubbornly refused to be convinced. The testimony of the Scriptures was presented before them by one who was their equal in learning and their superior in mental power, and who had the special illumination of the Holy Spirit. They could not refute his arguments, but refused to accept his conclusions. The prophecies which the rabbis themselves applied to Christ were a great annoyance to these opposing Jews; for the apostle showed that the fulfillment of these very prophecies required them to accept of Christ. His humble entry into [p. 278] Jerusalem, his rejection by his own people, the treachery of Judas, the paltry sum paid for his betrayal, his death as a malefactor, even the bitter, stupefying draughts offered him in his dying agony, the lots cast upon his garments, his victory over death and the grave by the resurrection on the third day, his final exaltation on the right hand of God,—all these were in direct fulfillment of the words of the prophets. But the more conclusive the arguments presented, the more determined were the Jews in their opposition. Frenzied with malice, they reiterated their assertions that Jesus of Nazareth was a deceiver.

Further argument was useless. Paul closed with a solemn address, in which he applied to them the words of Isaiah, before quoted by Christ himself: "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."

Paul's words had not been in vain. Some fully accepted Jesus as the world's Redeemer, and, despite the opposition of their former brethren, became earnest advocates of the truth.

The people of God living near the close of time should learn a lesson from this experience of Paul's. We should not be disheartened because those who have no love for truth refuse to be convinced by the clearest evidence. We need not flatter ourselves that the formal and world-loving churches of this age are more ready to [p. 279] receive the teachings of God's word than were those of ages past. Paul's worst enemies were among the Jews, who made the highest claims to godliness. It was to this class that Christ said, "Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God." The most bitter opposers of truth to-day are found among those who profess to be its defenders.

God has made his people the depositaries of his law. They must uphold the claims of that down-trodden law against the opposition of ministers of the gospel, against men of learning, position, and authority. The evidence of its binding claims cannot be overthrown; yet its enemies will come again and again to the battle, urging the same arguments, every time refuted, and as often renewed.

Paul was led and taught by the Holy Spirit; but, notwithstanding this, those who were not thus taught were filled with jealousy and malice when they saw him advocating truths which they had not sanctioned. They were determined that he should move no faster than they. Had they, like the noble Bereans, searched the Scriptures with a humble, teachable spirit, they would have learned the truth as Paul preached it; but they studied only to find something to sustain themselves and condemn him.

The truth always involves a cross. Those who will not believe, oppose and deride those who do believe. The fact that its presentation creates a storm of opposition, is no evidence against the truth. The prophets and apostles imperiled their lives because they would conscientiously obey God. And our Saviour declares that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." This is the Christian's legacy.

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


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