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    December 12, 1906

    “The Church of Christ—Her Guidance” The Medical Missionary, 15, ns, 24, pp. 196-200.

    ATJ

    ALONZO T. JONES

    THE Holy Spirit is the guide and the only guide of the Church of Christ, as he is of each individual member of that Church, which is his body.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.1

    We have seen that in all the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the sovereign guide in all the work of the church. He is likewise the guide of the church into all truth.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.2

    Among the thousands of Jews in Jerusalem and Judea that believed, there were some of “the sect of the Pharisees.” These thought to hold and confine Christianity within the narrow limits of their own concentric exclusiveness.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.3

    The whole nation of the Jews from away back were of this narrow and exclusive spirit; the sect of the Pharisees were only the extremists in it. Thus all Jews were brought up under the influence of this narrow and exclusive spirit, so that this was their natural element.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.4

    The disciples of Jesus, being Jews, were of course filled with it. His teaching and his work were intended to deliver them from it; but they were so filled with this thing that it obscured all His teaching, and all His efforts fell almost as upon a leaden shield.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.5

    At Pentecost the apostles were enlightened; and their speaking by the Spirit in the tongues of all the nations was a wonderful object lesson to them of what was the mind and purpose of the Spirit concerning them and their work. Yet even from all this they were very slow to learn the truth. Then after several years, the Spirit, by an angel to Cornelius, and by a vision and plain words to Peter, showed to Peter that they were not to recognize any distinctions among men; that the gospel is not exclusive but inclusive, and is for all alike.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.6

    Peter accepted the instruction, and when he reached the home of Cornelius, “he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.7

    “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing”; more literally, “Ye know how unlawful a thing it is,” or “what an unlawful thing it is.” But the truth is, and always was, that it was not unlawful in any sense whatever; except by their own selfish traditions, and tradition-made “law.” Yet Peter accepted the lesson. He was willing to let traditionalism go, and to receive the instruction of the Spirit: “God hath shown me that I should call no man common or unclean.” He therefore preached to them the true, free, open, and inclusive gospel: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.8

    And the Holy Spirit witnessed to this; for even while he was speaking “the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word, and they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.9

    The report reached Judea, “that the Gentiles had also received the Word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him saying, Thou wentest unto men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.10

    “But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning and expounded it by order unto them;” and then upon the whole story appealed to them in the words, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift that he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.11

    The “six brethren” who had accompanied Peter from Joppa when, in obedience to the Spirit, he went from there to Cesarea to Cornelius, and who had seen the power of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles there assembled, had accompanied Peter also to Jerusalem and witnessed now to Peter’s statement of the case to those who had called him to account. And when upon all this, they had “heard these things, they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 10, 11.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 196.12

    Meanwhile, from amongst the Pharisees themselves, there had been converted one of their “most straitest sect” who was now a most active Christian. And in his active Christianity he was a preacher of the gospel to the Gentiles. The day that he was converted the Lord said to him, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose; to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles unto whom now I send thee.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.1

    When Saul had been led into Damascus and had waited three days, the Lord said to Ananias of Damascus, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the Children of Israel.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.2

    As we have seen in a former study, it was from Antioch, and with the ordination of the Church of Antioch, that the Holy Spirit sent forth Saul with Barnabas, to the work unto which he had been called. This preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles everywhere by a Christian who had been of the “most straitest sect” of the Pharisees, was a hard blow and a most serious embarrassment to the Pharisaic element among the believers at Jerusalem and at Judea. Therefore, some of these went to Antioch where Paul then was, there, and for all, to put the whole cause of Christianity upon the Pharisaic basis. They “taught the brethren, Except ye be circumcised ye cannot be saved.” This to a people who were already saved by the faith of Christ!MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.3

    Paul and Barnabas, therefore, “had no small dissension and disputation with them.” But it all availed nothing, because these who had come from Judea claimed that they, having come straight from Jerusalem, were teaching just what was held and taught by the apostles and elders there. Therefore, the Church at Antioch “determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.4

    When they arrived at Jerusalem, “They were received of the Church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.” But those who had caused the difficulty, feeling perfectly secure in their position, especially there in Jerusalem and with the apostles and elders, urged anew their contention “that it was needful to circumcise and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Then “the apostles and elders” and “the whole Church” “came together to consider of this matter.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.5

    When there had been “much disputing,” Peter spoke and cited what God had already done, even “a good while ago,” in giving to the Gentiles the gospel and the Holy Spirit. He said, “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.6

    When Peter had thus spoken, “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.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.7

    When Paul and Barnabas had finished speaking, James spoke. He first cited Peter’s statement of the fact that God had given to the Gentiles the Gospel; then he showed by the Scriptures of the prophets that the very word and message of God for that time was that “all the Gentiles” should have the gospel as God had already given it to those who had received it; and then said, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles are turned to God; but that we write unto them, etc.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.8

    And in order that the church at Antioch might know the truth of the matter, direct from the apostles and elders and the Church at Jerusalem, and might know that the men who had gone down to Antioch at the first had misrepresented them and the truth, “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them,” in which they distinctly repudiated both the men and the words of the men, who, from Judea, had raised this question in Antioch—“after this manner:”—MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.9

    “The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment; it seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” Acts 15.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.10

    Yet even all this did not end that matter with the “Pharisees which believed.” They still persistently pushed their contention; and with such plausibility that they gained the sympathy of James the Lord’s brother; and with this leverage caused even Peter to swerve.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.11

    The story of it is this: After the meeting at Jerusalem that considered the question; and after the letter and the chosen men were sent out repudiating those Pharisees and their doctrines as “subverting your souls,” Peter himself, in one of his journeys, came to Antioch. According to the instruction of the Spirit to himself, and the recognition of this instruction by all in the meeting at Jerusalem on the question, and according to the letter sent to Antioch and other places, Peter made no distinction among men and “did eat with the Gentiles. But while Peter was yet at Antioch “certain came from James;” and these were of that same sort of “Pharisees which believed.” These having come “from James” pressed that fact for all that they could make of it. And they were able to make such use of it that whereas “before that certain come from James,” Peter “did eat with the Gentiles, but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.12

    Nor did the evil tide stop with Peter’s swerving. “The other Jews likewise dissembled also with him.” It is not so remarkable that Peter’s swerving should thus influence those “other Jews;” but that the tide should prove so strong that even “Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation,” that is remarkable. Barnabas was the first one from Jerusalem to visit Antioch when the first Gentiles there received the gospel. When he came there at the first, and had seen the good work of the grace of God on the Gentiles, he “was glad” and went over to Tarsus “to seek Saul” and found him and “brought him unto Antioch.” He had stood with Paul at Antioch for the truth and liberty of the Gospel, against this which was subversive of the gospel, and of souls. He had been through the meeting at Jerusalem with Paul and the others from Antioch. And now at Antioch, of all places in the world, not only Peter, but Barnabas also goes back on this whole experience. And, to a certain extent at least, James is in it; for this crisis was brought about by certain which “came from James.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 198.13

    But thank the Lord there was one man who so well knew both the truth and the liberty of the gospel, that he could not be moved by the swerving of Barnabas, nor by any who come from James, not by the influence of Peter; nor yet by all of this together. Paul spake out openly to Peter before them all, “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 199.1

    This settled the matter so far as the Gentiles were concerned. But still “the Pharisees which believed” insisted that at least the Jews who believed must be circumcised and keep the law. And in this they still had with them the influence of James. For when Paul came to Jerusalem, on what, because of this very lingering element of the controversy, proved to be his last visit there, “the brethren received us gladly. And the day following, Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they had heard it, they glorified the Lord.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 199.2

    Yet they could not be satisfied with that: They must push their old traditional, legalistic, and Pharisaic notion for the Jews who believed. Therefore they said unto him: “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law; and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together; for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles whichMEDM December 12, 1906, page 199.3

    (Continued on page 200)

    (Continued from page 199)

    believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing,” etc.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 200.1

    Out of deference to James, the Lord’s brother, Paul yielded to this persuasion so far as to enter into the temple with these men. But before the time was expired, “the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.... And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar: who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them” and took Paul out of their hands. Acts 21.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 200.2

    From that day to the day of his death, except only a short interval, Paul was in the hands of the Gentiles, a prisoner; because he was safer there, and the cause of Christ was safer with him there, than for him to be amongst even his Christian brethren.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 200.3

    Yet in this time that he was a prisoner in the hands of the Gentiles, he bore the message of Christ to nobles, to governors, to kings, and to the emperor himself. The Jews who believed would not receive from him, by his preaching, the Gospel in its clear truth and perfect liberty; but in the time of his captivity he wrote it for the Church, in the Book of Hebrews, where it lived and instructed and guided the Church into the truth only. James wrote his epistle, and Peter his two epistles, all of which ring true to the truth and liberty of the gospel without a shade of traditionalism, legalism or Pharisaism.MEDM December 12, 1906, page 200.4

    And thus it stands demonstrated that, in spite of perverse notions of selfish and ambitious men, in spire of hereditary and cultivated tendencies, in spite of party and partisan influences, in spite of the mistakes and failures of even leading apostles, the Holy Spirit, the Sovereign and guide of the Church, and of each member of the Church, fulfilled then, and will fulfil forever, the divine word “He will guide you into all truth.”MEDM December 12, 1906, page 200.5

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