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STUDIES IN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES, WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULLNESS OF THE GOSPEL. PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
THE GOSPEL AT ANTIOCH
IV. QUAR., LESSON V., OCT. 30, ACTS 11:19-30
Golden Text—”A great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.”—Acts 11:21
This lesson takes us back several years, and reveals the persecution against the Church at the time of the stoning of Stephen—Saul of Tarsus being one of the chief persecutors. It shows us some of the results of that persecution, and illustrates well the fact that the Lord’s work is sometimes prospered by those very circumstances which to human judgment might seem unfavorable, if not disastrous. The persecution scattered the light instead of extinguishing it. Accordingly, years afterward news came to the Church at Jerusalem that the knowledge of salvation through Christ had spread to the third city of importance in the world—for Antioch was such at that time.
VERSES 20,21. Here we see a difference in the Lord’s dealings, as compared with our last lesson, on the opening of the Gospel Door to the Gentiles at the hand of Peter, Cornelius being the first received. That event had been God’s method of drawing the attention of Peter and the other believers to the changed and widened character of the new dispensation. But in this lesson we see how the Lord led others to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, when the due time had come, without visions, etc., such as were proper, and indeed necessary,
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for Peter and others. These Christians had been Jews, born and living in Cyprus and Cyrene, and hence intimately acquainted with Gentiles; and when God’s due time had come to remove all differences between Jews and Gentiles these were easily led into telling the good tidings to their Gentile friends—many of whom promptly accepted it.
VERSES 22,24. The Church, whose chief representatives still resided at Jerusalem, having already learned, through Peter (Acts 11:1-18), of God’s favor having been extended to the Gentiles, were glad to learn of the good work that had been done, and promptly took steps to help the new believers by sending Barnabas, “a good man full of faith and of the holy spirit,” to teach them the way of the Lord more perfectly. And Barnabas, after doing a good work among them, bethought him of Saul of Tarsus, converted some years before, and who probably had meantime been under divine instruction and discipline preparatory to his introduction as the great “Apostle to the Gentiles,” to take the place of Judas as one of the twelve (Rev. 21:14); which place the eleven had unauthorizedly conferred upon Matthias before their anointing with the holy spirit at Pentecost.
VERSES 25,26. Saul—or Paul—was seemingly ready for the opening of this door of service and entered it with his peculiar fervor—yet humbly, remembering his own unworthiness to preach Christ, whom he had persecuted and slain, representatively, in his disciples. Barnabas and Paul, instead of saying to the intelligent people of Antioch, “We must leave you to go and look up some uncivilized peoples, barbarians, cannibals, etc.,” took a different view of the matter, and, seeking the most intelligent auditors they could interest, staid with them a year after they were converted—teaching them. Alas, that so many now feel that teaching is unnecessary. How the actions of the Apostle Paul agree with his teachings.—See Eph. 4:11-13.
“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Whoever may have started this name it matters not: it is the most fitting title that could be conceived of—followers of Christ. What a pity it is that in modern times it is considered a valuable addition to prefix Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. Surely, to all who rightly view the matter, our Master’s name is a sufficient one for all who are his. Let us not only adopt the Apostolic simplicity in practice and in doctrine, but also in name. We do not belong to Wesley, Luther, Calvin or any other man; and we should show that we are Christ’s, and his alone, by refusing the names of others than the Heavenly Bridegroom. Thus, too, we stand where we can have fullest fellowship with all the Lord’s true followers.
VERSES 27-30. The fruits of the spirit are here shown by the willingness of the Christians at Antioch to contribute to the famine-stricken and persecution-spoiled brethren at Jerusalem. It was a noble return in temporal matters for the spiritual favors they had received from the believers at Jerusalem, through Barnabas, and Paul, whom he had brought. And this seems always to be true where the spirit of Christ has operated and dwells richly: each is anxious to serve the other, first with the spiritual and priceless favors, and second with temporal favors as opportunity offers.—See 1 Cor. 9:11.
— October 1, 1892 —