Good News for All People

KEY VERSE: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” —Galatians 5:6

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 15:4-14, 19-21

THE opposition of the Jews against the ministry of Paul and Barnabas continued to grow, but in spite of this, their ministry prospered. While they were still in Lystra, certain Jews who came from Antioch and Iconium were very successful in persuading the people against the Gospel. They finally stoned Paul and drew him outside the city, supposing that he was dead.

But as the disciples stood around him, he stood up, and they took him into the city. The next day both he and Barnabas went to Derbe and preached the Gospel to that city, and after they had taught many they returned again to Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioch. The Apostle Paul, by example, demonstrated to the brethren there, and to us, the true meaning of zeal in the Lord’s work. It would have been an easy matter for him to postpone the witness in Derbe until his bruises and nerves were mended. But he considered the Lord’s work the most important thing in his life. What might we have done under similar circumstances? We think of Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 and 11, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” These are sobering words, especially when we consider the additional expression of Paul in this same context when he said, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” (vs. 17) It was important to Paul that the brethren be not discouraged at the prospect of persecution and suffering while in the Lord’s service. For, it is by these experiences that the footstep followers of the Master develop the necessary fruits and graces of the Spirit. So he exhorted them to continue in the faith saying “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”—Acts 14:22

Then certain men which came down from Judea and taught the brethren that, except they be circumcised after the manner of Moses, they would not be accepted of the Lord and could not enter the kingdom of heaven. When Paul and Barnabas heard about this, they “had no small dissension and disputation with them.” (Acts 15:2) This matter of the Judaizers insisting that the Gentiles must come under the Law Covenant before they could be accepted by the Lord and become prospective members of the body of Christ, generated a crisis in the Early Church. The apostle taught that the Law was no longer effective upon those who came into Christ—upon either Jew or Gentile.

Because of the sharpness of the dispute, the brethren decided to send representatives to the church in Jerusalem where the matter could be discussed with the apostles and the elders there. They decided to send Paul and Barnabas and others, apparently those who were opposing Paul. On the way to Jerusalem they met with several groups of the brethren declaring unto them how the Gentiles had received the Gospel and there was great rejoicing among them.

When they arrived in Jerusalem they were received by the church, and Paul and Barnabas related the wonderful experiences that they had among the Gentiles and how God had poured out his Spirit upon them. But certain of the Pharisees protested, saying that it was needful to circumcise them, and command them to keep the Law of Moses. Then Peter rose and told of his experience with the centurion Cornelius, and how God had made a choice and had instructed him to preach the Gospel to him who was a Gentile. “And God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us. … Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”—Acts 15:8-12

The conclusion of the conference is summarized in Acts 15:28-31, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. … So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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