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    September 6, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. Acts 15:32-41; 16:1-34” The Signs of the Times, 9, 34.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Lesson for Pacific Coast.-Sept. 15. Acts 15:32-41; 16:1-34.
    NOTES ON THE LESSON.

    Immediately after the council at Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, accompanied by Judas and Silas, who were prophets and delivered to the church the decision of the apostles and elders. After performing his mission, Judas returned to Jerusalem, but Silas chose to remain in Antioch. “Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.” V. 35.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.1

    Among the others who were at Antioch was Peter. This we learn from Galatians 2. At this time an incident occurred that ill accords with the Catholic dogma of the supremacy of Peter in the church. From Paul’s statement to the Galatians we learn that Peter, in accordance with the decision of the council at Jerusalem, and with his practice before that time (Acts 11:3), mingled freely with the Gentiles, and ate with them. But as soon as some Jews came down from Jerusalem, “he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” Galatians 2:13.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.2

    This was not done for the purpose of saving a weak brother from stumbling, but from fear of the accusations which the Jews might bring against him. It was a slight manifestation of the spirit which had moved him to deny his Lord. His act was contagious, many of the Jews doing likewise, and even “Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” “They walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.” Then it was that Paul “withstood him to the face,” saying before them all, “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Jews, why compellest thou of the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Having thus fully exposed Peter’s dissimulation, he showed that forms and ceremonies are lost in faith in Christ.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.3

    It is not likely that there were any hard feelings on either side. Paul simply did his duty, and Peter readily acknowledged his fault. But how can our Catholic friends harmonize this affair with the theory that Peter occupied the same position in regard to the early church that the pope does to the Catholic Church? Imagine Cardinal Newman addressing Leo XIII. As Paul did Peter. If he should dare to do such a thing it is very certain that the pope would not take it so meekly as Peter did.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.4

    From the account of the dispute between Paul and Barnabas, Dr. Barnes draws the following lesson:-SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.5

    “This account proves that there was no collusion or agreement among the apostles to impose on mankind. Had there been such an agreement, and had the books of the New Testament been an imposter, the apostles would have been represented as perfectly harmonious, and as united in all their views and efforts. What imposter would have thought of the device of representing the early friends of the Christian religion as divided and contending, and separating from each other? Such a statement has an air of candor and honesty, and at the same time is so apparently against the truth of the system that no imposter would have thought of resorting to it.”SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.6

    We have here an opportunity to test the value of mere apostolic example for any custom. Peter dissimulated, and Paul and Barnabas indulged in heated contention. Now many profess to base their observance of Sunday on the example of the apostles. To be sure they cannot prove that any of the apostles ever kept Sunday, since the Bible nowhere intimates that they did, but no matter; that does not affect the popular claim. They can point to one religious meeting held on Sunday, Acts 20:7, and Paul was there. From this they build on the following: “The apostles kept Sunday (as we infer), the majority of the world now keep Sunday, therefore it must be right.” Reasoning on the same scale, we derive this: “The apostles contended (as we know); an overwhelming majority of the world also dispute and quarrel to a greater or less degree; therefore quarreling is right, and we ought to engage in it.” The truth is, it is not the apostles’ practice, but their teaching, that we are to follow; and even their teaching would be invalid if it did not agree with that part of the Scripture that was already written. It is easy to find a precedent for any wrong practice, if that is all that is desired.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.7

    It would seem that one would need only to read the arguments in favor of infant baptism, drawn from verses 15 and 33 of chapter 16, to be convinced that that custom has no solid foundation whatever on which to rest. For instance, Dr. Barnes says on verse 15:-SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.8

    “‘And her household.’ Greek, her house; (ho oikos autes), her family, no mention is made of their having believed, and the case is one that affords a strong presumptive proof that this was an instance of household or infant baptism. For (1) her believing is particularly mentioned. (2) It is not intimated that they believed. (3) It is manifestly implied that they were baptized because she believed. It was the offering of her family to the Lord. It is just such an account as would now be given of a household or family that were baptized on the faith of the parent.”SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.9

    But what right has the Dr. to say, “household or infant baptism”? Is a household necessarily composed exclusively of infants? If “household” and “infants” are, as he implies, synonymous terms, then wherever the word occurs it means only infants, to the exclusion of adults, and that is absurd. A household is simply those dwelling under the same roof; and, although Dr. Clarke says, “We can scarcely suppose that the whole families of Lydia and the jailer had no children in them,” we have known of many households in which there was not a child under ten years of age, and such cases were not considered remarkable. Dr. Clarke seems to have forgotten that although infants are children, children are not necessarily infants. We firmly believe in the right of children to be baptized when they are old enough to express a desire for that ordinance, but this is not infant baptism.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.10

    But, leaving conjecture, what warrant is there for saying of the household of Lydia that since “it is not intimated that they believed, it is manifestly implied that they were baptized because she believed”? Christ in commissioning the apostle said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The apostles placed believing and baptism together, as shown by Acts 2:38 and 8:37. John the Baptist also refused to baptize the unbelieving and unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 3:7-10. To suppose that they baptized any who did not believe, is to claim that they violated their commission. And even if they had done so, what profit would have been to those so baptized? Christ said, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” The mere ceremony of baptism confers no blessing on any. For an unbeliever to be baptized is solemn mockery. Those who do not believe will be lost whether they had been baptized or not. The terrible delusion of the ancient Jews, and of the modern Catholics as well, was in ascribing virtue to a round of ceremonies performed without one thought of that which they symbolize. Protestantism has largely followed in the same path, and as a consequence the church is burdened with nominal professors, who have no just appreciation of the principles of the gospel, and to base their hope of salvation on the mere fact that they have been baptized.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.11

    After all, Dr. Clarke, in his comments on verse 32, dares make no stronger statement in favor of infant baptism than that “it is pretty evident that we have in this chapter presumptive evidence that children were received into the church in this way,“ i.e., by infant baptism, so called. One would hardly expect that that sage conclusion was preceded in the same paragraph by this statement concerning the jailer. “And appears that he and his whole family, who were capable of receiving instruction, embraced this doctrine, and show the sincerity of their faith by immediately receiving baptism. From this we conclude that the Doctor found it difficult to bring his reason and his prejudices into harmony.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.12

    We can only ask, in leaving this subject, Why do the advocates of infant baptism indulgence such absurd conjectures, which, as we have seen, often directly contradict the Scriptures, if they have any direct Bible authority to offer in support of the custom?SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.13

    It is sometimes asked, “Why did Paul rebuke the damsel possessed of the Spirit, since she told nothing but the truth?” We answer: For that very reason. Had she heaped abuse upon the apostles, it would not have been had so damaging to them. For (1) the Jews who were in the city would conclude from her testimony in favor of the apostles that they were moved by the same spirit that she was, and would therefore be hardened against the gospel; and (2) the Gentiles would also naturally conclude that the teachings of both were a part of the same system, and that therefore they had nothing to learn from the apostles. Her testimony was calculated to bring the gospel into bad repute. The truth always suffers more from the professed friendship of wicked men than from there enmity. A man who professes Christianity, and still lives contrary to its teachings, brings reproach upon it; and the more loudly he declares his belief, the more does the cause suffer. Christians may well rejoice when they are the subjects of calumny by wicked men.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.14

    The only record we have of Paul’s singing was when he was in the jail at Philippi, lying on the cold floor, his back bruised and bloody from the “many stripes” it had received. At midnight they “prayed and sang praises unto God.” With what propriety he could afterwards exhort the Philippians to “be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God,” and what weight his testimony must have had. He had set them an example of “rejoicing in tribulation.” Without any misgivings he could say to them, “Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and seen in me, do;” and we are not surprised that the believers at this time were the most faithful of any of Paul’s converts. They prayed for light, before Paul was sent to them, and they did not refuse to accept it when it brought persecution.SITI September 6, 1883, page 401.15

    “The Honor Due to God. No. 6” The Signs of the Times, 9, 34.

    E. J. Waggoner

    We have already noticed the temporal blessings that are promised to those who honor God in the matter of tithes and offerings. It may be said that there are those who have given liberally and yet are in somewhat reduced circumstances. There may be various reasons for this. It must be remembered that the payment of tithes and offerings is only a part of the honor due to God. Those persons may be neglecting some other duty equally necessary. But, more than all, we must remember that God does not settle his accounts every year; neither does he promise to pay entirely in this world’s coin. There is a reward of a more enduring nature, of which we shall speak particularly.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.1

    Notwithstanding the fact that God’s people are often “the poor of this world,” they are never left to suffer in this life. Christ exhorts us not to be anxious in regard to what we shall eat, drink, and wear, significantly adding, “For your heavenly Father knoweth that he had need of these things.” So long as he remembers it, what need have we to fear. Then the Lord says: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:30-33. In the face of this promise, whoever spends time worrying or fretting shows his disbelief in God.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.2

    We should never forget that we are placed on this earth for no other purpose than to glorify God. See Revelation 4:11; 1 Corinthians 10:31. Most people seem to think that the sole duty of man is to provide for himself, leaving God out of the question entirely; and even many who recognize the fact that God has claims upon them, think that “we must make a living.” Not so; we must glorify God, and this must be our first, and, indeed, our only object; and since we cannot provide for ourselves, but must depend upon God for all our temporal supplies, it stands to reason that by serving him faithfully our prospects for a continued supply of at least the necessaries of life, is better than if we ignored him.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.3

    Christ’s parable in Luke 12:15-21, shows what a man will lose by a failure to make the glory of God the first thing in all his calculations. What we have stated above agrees with the words of verse 15, that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” This is illustrated by the cases of the man whose barns were insufficient to contain the abundant produce of his field. After considering the matter, he decides thus: “This will I do; I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine these, eat, drink, and be merry.”SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.4

    “A wise course; a prudent man,” says the worldling, “But God said to him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” Foolishness, in the Bible, is but another name for wickedness. See Psalm 38:4-6; 107:17; Proverbs 1:7, 32; 3:35; 14:9; Romans 1:21-23, etc. What wicked thing had this man then, that he should be thus condemned? He had not defrauded his neighbor, for his wealth was due solely to the fruitfulness of his farm. Without doubt he had been counted an upright man in the community. But Inspiration says that the fool is he that “hath said in his heart, There is no God.” That was just this man’s position. He might not have been an infidel; he may even have been a church member; but in all his plans he acted as though there was no God in the universe. He proclaimed more loudly than by words that he had no faith in God’s power to protect. In his heart he did not believe in a kind, heavenly Father, and therefore he did not show any gratitude.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.5

    But the words of verse 21 are what should startle everyone of us. After telling the fate of the rich man, the Lord says: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” We may not be so successful in laying up treasure as was the rich man, and yet have the same desire. One says, “I am too poor too pay tithes; I am in debt, and it will take all I can possibly turn to meet my expenses.” This is only another way of saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” It comes from a failure to recognize that we are more deeply in debt to God than we ever can be to any man, and that his claim is paramount to all others. There are many other ways in which we can show that we know of nothing better than “getting on in the world” by “looking out for number one;” but we leave each to make the application for himself. But let this Scripture ring in our ears: “So is he that layeth [or striveth to lay] up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The lesson so forcibly taught by this parable is that he who would enter Heaven must first place on deposit there a portion of his earthly gains. The same thing is positively asserted by Paul in 1 Timothy 6:17-19.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.6

    This is more completely shown in the parable of the unjust steward, Luke 16:1-9, to a brief explanation of which we invite the reader’s careful attention. To bring the parable more vividly before the reader, we quote it entire:-SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.7

    “(1) There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. (2) And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. (3) Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. (4) I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. (5) So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? (6) And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. (7) Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. (8) And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. (9) And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of [by means of, R.V.] the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.8

    The force of this parable is usually much weakened by the assumption that the steward provided for his future wants by defrauding his lord of a portion of the various amounts due him. But this is a misapprehension of the text. No lord would commend a servant for embezzling property, nor call him wise for such a simple, easily-discovered piece of rascality. The lord knew what was due him, and would have arrested the steward, instead of complimenting him, if he had done what he is commonly supposed to have done. It was not for this transaction that he is called unjust, but for his unfaithfulness, for which he was discharged. What the steward actually did was this: Having ascertained how much rental was due from one man, he said to him, “You need pay only half of that; I will make up the rest out of my own pocket.” And so he paid a part of the indebtedness to each of his lord’s debtors, putting them all under lasting obligation to him. Here is where his wisdom was shown. He saw that the money which he had saved would support him but a short time, and then he would be destitute. So instead of hoarding up what he had, deriving a scant living from it, and then becoming penniless, he spent it all at once, but in such a way as to ensure his support for the rest of his life; for those whom he thus befriended would gladly receive him into their houses. See verses 4. Now for the application: Our Saviour exhorts us to make to ourselves friends by means of this worldly treasure that we have, so that at last we may be received into everlasting habitations. This will be done by giving to the cause of God, and to the poor. To some it seems the height of foolishness for a man to “give away” his earnings, but the result will prove that it is the only wise plan.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.9

    A little illustration will show how the children of this world that may be in their generation wiser than the children of light. Suppose that A and B have each the same amount of money, and that A knows that he will live forty years, while B has the promise of only ten years more of life. B invests his money in such a way that the principal and interest will keep him just ten years-till his death. A invests his in exactly the same manner, so that it also will last just the same length of time. Now which is the wiser of these two men? You say at once, “B; for although A has pursued the same course, he has not looked far enough ahead, and will finally become bankrupt.” Now Christians have a knowledge of the world to come, a promise of everlasting life. But the worldling knows only of this world, and has no hope beyond this life. If, then, a Christian uses his money just as his worldly neighbor does his, making the same investments, and does not honor God with his substance, is he not by far the more foolish of the two? Certainly; for the worldling makes plans for all the time of which he has any knowledge, while the Christian, expecting to live through eternity, plans only for time, with every prospect of becoming bankrupt at last.SITI September 6, 1883, page 403.10

    Let no one accuse us of teaching that men can gain a home in Heaven simply by the payment of a little money. This alone will avail nothing; but the Bible plainly teaches that without this no one can enter Heaven. And there is reason in this, as in all God’s requirements. Although eternal life is the gift of God through Christ, it will not be bestowed upon us unless we gain the victory over our sins. God could not admit us to Heaven with our sins upon us, nor could we be happy if he did. But selfishness is at the bottom of all sin (See 2 Timothy 3:1-5), and no one can enter Heaven with the least taint of it about him. Christ is our pattern, and he was so unselfish as to give his life for his enemies. It is because we are so saturated with selfishness that we cannot appreciate pure unselfishness, as manifested by Christ.SITI September 6, 1883, page 404.1

    Now the Lord desires to draw us out of ourselves, and lead us to think less of ourselves than of others, to be humble, to have the charity that “seeketh not her own,”-in short, to have us develop characters exactly the opposite of what the world admires. Denying ourselves, making sacrifices, tends to produce just such a character. At the same time, our interest in heavenly things is increased. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” When we give to the cause of God, we have an interest in it, and thus giving quickens us spiritually.SITI September 6, 1883, page 404.2

    In proof of this last statement, we refer the reader once more to the 3rd of Malachi. After God, through the prophet, had denounced the sin of the people in withholding tithes and offerings, and had exhorted them to bring all the tithes into the store-house, and see if he would not increase their earthly store, and pour out a blessing till there would not be room to receive it, he almost immediately added: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” A natural consequence; men who invest in mining stocks, think and talk about mines; those who have their money in the railroad’s stock, have their minds on railroads, and can talk of but little else; and, in like manner, those who have their treasure in the bank of Heaven, cannot do otherwise than talk of the security that is given. If any one will look about him he will become convinced that the zealous ones in the church,-those who can always be depended on as being at their posts, on the right side of every question,-are not those who rob God in tithes and offerings.SITI September 6, 1883, page 404.3

    But while it is a fact that those who do not fear God enough to render to him his due, do not speak “often” one to another, we know that they do sometimes. But to what purpose? Let us read the remainder of verse 16: “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord harkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” Then the Lord does not hear and record the testimony of those who do not fear him, no matter how their lack of reverence is shown. See also Luke 6:46. This is a solemn thought, and should cause us all to search our ways. The last two verses of this chapter, it will be seen, are in harmony with the ideas advanced in this article: “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”SITI September 6, 1883, page 404.4

    We might multiply evidence on these points, but these articles were not designed to be exhaustive on this subject. Enough has been given to show that our substance and the first-fruits of our increase are by no means the least among the means by which we must honor God. Do not think, dear reader, that you can atone for the neglect of one duty by the strictest performance of another, or that God will likely pass by any failure to give him the honor which he is so worthy to receive; and remember that these words of the Lord are as true now as when first uttered: “Them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise thee shall be lightly esteemed.” E. J. W.SITI September 6, 1883, page 404.5

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