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    May 24, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. Acts 6; 7:1-16” The Signs of the Times, 9, 20.

    E. J. Waggoner


    Notes on the Lesson

    “There arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”-We should not confound “Grecians” with “Greeks;” a distinction is made between them in the Bible. The latter term applies to those who were natives of Greece; it is used also as synonymous with Gentile. Romans 1:16. The former term is used to designate those Jews who lived in foreign countries, and spoke the Greek language. The word occurs but two other places in the New Testament-Acts 9:29, and 11:20. In the latter instance the preceding verse clearly shows that this distinction is made.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.1

    The Assyrian and Babylonian captivity had scattered the Jews into various countries. Alexander, it will be remembered, settled many of them in Egypt. These spoke the Greek language, and it was for their use that the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, was made. The Revised Version gives them their proper title-“Grecian Jews.”SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.2

    Between the native and foreign Jews there would naturally exist some of that jealousy that existed between Jews and Gentiles. This adds force to the statement in the second chapter, that “all that believed were together,” and in the fourth chapter that “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” The religion of Christ had broken down all sectional differences; and all classes, both native and foreign Jews, rich and poor, were as one in the belief in a crucified and risen Saviour.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.3

    “The daily ministration” refers to the daily distribution to the poor, for the common fund. Up to this time the apostles had had charge of this business, Acts 4:37, although we cannot suppose that they attended to it in person, as in that case they could hardly have had time for anything else. The fact that the murmuring was against the “Hebrews” instead of against the apostles, shows that others were deputed to do the work. The “neglect” of which the Grecians complained might have happened in one of two ways: The national jealousy between the two parties may have caused some partiality to be shown, perhaps not from deliberate design, but from long habit. But it is probable that this neglect was unintentional. The number of Grecian Jews must have been small in comparison with the natives of Judea, and their widows would be easily overlooked. The fact that they spoke a different language would add to their natural timidity, and would prevent them from coming forward to claim that which was their due. This unintentional neglect of their widows was quickly noticed by the Grecians, and they began to complain. This murmuring would soon have caused a division in the church, if left unchecked. The apostles did not claim the power to “lord it” over the believers, but called “the multitude of the disciples together,” and proposed a remedy for the difficulty. They were not willing that there should be even the appearance of injustice to any one.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.4

    “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.”-The apostles did not intimate that it was inconsistent with their dignity for them to perform this service. They were not above even physical labor, and they remembered the words of Christ, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” But they saw that the care of these matters would detract from their usefulness as ministers of the word. There were others who could do this work, who did not have the important work of preaching to do. The minister of the gospel has to do with high and exalted themes; and while he should be willing to perform any service, he should not allow a round of petty cares to distract his mind.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.5

    The seven who were chosen to have the charge of this business are usually termed “deacons,” although they are not called by that name in the Bible, but are designated as “the seven,” Acts 21:8. And it is worthy of note that in the Greek there is no verbal difference between the “ministration” that was daily, and the “ministry” of the word. Both words are from the same Greek word, the one from which we get our word deacon; it means an “attendant” or “waiter.” The “twelve” and the “seven” had different duties to perform, but both were servants. And so well did the new arrangement work, so well did both classes serve, that “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.6

    It is worth our while also to notice the order of the work which the apostles laid out for themselves: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” First they would get from God, and then they would give to men. They felt the need of constant prayer in connection with their teaching. They had been filled with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, but that would not suffice for all time. They had a daily work to do, and needed to be continually filled with the Spirit; but as the Spirit was given at Pentecost only in answer to fervent and united prayer, so it was necessary that they should “pray always,” in order to keep it with them. And if this was necessary for them, how much more so for us! If the apostles could not teach without constant prayer, what can be expected of the Sabbath-school teacher who does not “pray without ceasing”?SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.7

    “The seven” were also men of prayer, for they were “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” Their business was not merely to act as clerks, to distribute food and clothing, but to visit the poor, especially the sick and afflicted, and to give relief to them whenever it was in their power. Although all the seven were full of the Holy Ghost, Stephen had the pre-eminence in this respect. He was “full of faith and power.” He had unbounded confidence in the willingness of God to answer prayer, and as a consequence, like Jacob he had “power with God.” As he sought the afflicted ones, his heart was drawn out in sympathy for them, and by means of his faith and power, he performed by the miracles. From this we may learn that even those whose duty it is to “serve tables” may attain the greatest piety, and that God can work through any one, the only requisite being that he shall be “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.”SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.8

    This work in which Stephen engaged naturally attracted much attention. As was the case when Peter and John healed the lame man, the people would naturally inquire by what power these miracles were done, and this gave Stephen an opportunity to teach the resurrection of Christ. The foreign Jews who still clung to their traditions “disputed” with him. This does not imply an angry dispute, but simply a discussion of the truth which Stephen taught. But Stephen spoke with wisdom from above, and the Spirit of God. This they could not answer. They were put to silence and forced to confess to themselves that Stephen was right. But there is always one resource left for those who are honestly beaten in argument yet are too set in their ways to yield to the truth, and that is treachery and force. This they used in the case of Stephen. First they “suborned men;” that is they privately caused the idea to go forth that Stephen was a blasphemer. This they did, not by direct means, but in an underhanded manner, by perverting his doctrine. It is very easy to set and evil report afloat. This report stirred up “the people and the elders and the scribes” to bring Stephen before the Sanhedrin. Then to complete their work they hired false witnesses to testify against him. With their testimony before the bigoted members of the council, Stephen was virtually condemned to death before he had uttered a word.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.9

    Stephen’s sermon, while it contained nothing that would show a spirit of fear, was admirably adapted to disprove the charges that were made against him. He spoke of God with the utmost reverence, and proceeded to rehearse the history of the Jewish nation, a history which no Jew ever tired of hearing. And here is a point worth noting, in regard to all these sermons; and that is the use the speakers made of the Old Testament. If they had been as fearful of seeming to indorse all that it said as some of our modern preachers are, they would have been in a bad condition, for they had nothing else from which to preach. Another thing worthy of note is that when these early teachers were put on trial for their lives, they invariably preached Jesus. Their own safety was a secondary matter with them.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.10

    Verse 5 of chapter seven is a very important one. Stephen has told how God called Abraham out of his own country to go into the land of Canaan, and that he finally came into it. But he says, “And he [God] gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promise that he would give it to him for a possession, and to seek after him, when is that he had no child.” God did not forget his promise to Abraham; and Abraham was not disappointed because he did not receive a land. It will not do to say that the promise was fulfilled in giving the land to his descendants, for the promise was that Abraham himself should inherit it; and besides, the land was never fully owned by the Jews. The subject is made plain when we read in Romans 4:13 that it included not merely Palestine, but the world; that the “seed” to whom the promise was made was Christ (Galatians 3:16); and that if we are children of God, then we also are heirs. See also Galatians 3:29; James 2:5. Abraham did not expect to see the promise immediately fulfilled; he received the inheritance through faith. He looked forward to the time when the earth should be made new (Isaiah 65:17); and we are to look forward to the same time for our reward. Till that time, if we are really heirs, we will be content to be merely “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” We expect that “all the earth will yet be filled with the glory of the Lord,” and that the Lord will rule as “Governor among the nations;” but it will not be until he has dashed in pieces the wicked nations of the earth like a potter’s vessel. The Lord will see to this part of the work himself, and will not ask any assistance from men, in the way of votes for political influence. E. J. W.SITI May 24, 1883, page 233.11

    “The Day of the Sabbath” The Signs of the Times, 9, 20.

    E. J. Waggoner

    “Remember the Sabbath day to keep holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but THE SEVENTH DAY is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in IT thou shalt not do any work; ... for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested THE SEVENTH DAY; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed IT.”SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.1

    Language could not be framed so as to express more clearly the fact that the Sabbath of the Lord was permanently fixed upon a definite, specified day. The last charge to be brought against the fourth commandment is that of indefiniteness. If it is not definite, then language cannot be made to convey ideas.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.2

    But among the “inventions” that men have “sought out” is the theory that the commandment does not prescribe the observance of a certain day recurring at regular intervals, but that it enjoins the observance of one-seventh part of our time. The term “sought out” is fitly applied to this intervention, for no trace of this theory appears in the commandment. It was brought to light about two hundred years ago as the only alternative to those who wished to persuade themselves and others that they were keeping the commandment, while at the same time they were observing a day of their own choosing. But this is one of the thinnest disguises ever invented. It is a very easy matter to show its absurdity, as we will demonstrate. Notice carefully the following argument:-SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.3

    If God sanctified an indefinite seventh part of time, he must of necessity have left it optional with man to choose which day he would keep; the only thing commanded with the rest; man could suit his own convenience as to time. It would then follow that whenever a man should choose to rest upon, that would be the portion of time sanctified; and thus the act of the Creator would be dependent on the act of the creature. But it is not at all consistent with the dignity of even a human lawgiver to make the meaning of his enactment contingent on the caprice of the people; much less would such a course reflect honor upon the Government of God.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.4

    But this is not the worst result that would naturally follow. If an indefinite seventh part of time were sanctified, then not only would it be left to men to choose the day for rest, but each individual would be at liberty to rest upon the day which might please his fancy. One man might take the seventh day, and another might take the fourth, and then, according to this theory, not one-seventh but two-sevenths of the time would be sanctified. Or, to suppose a case which would be very likely to happen if men should actually try to put their theory into practice, every day in the week might be kept by different individuals, and then it would appear that in the beginning God had sanctified or set apart all time! But in that case what would become of the theory that he sanctified only a seventh? We submit to any one that this is not a forced conclusion; if the conclusion is absurd, it simply proves that the theory in question is absurd.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.5

    But before men reach this point in their endeavors to evade the law of God, they usually recover their reasoning faculties to some extent, and say that it is necessary for all men to keep one and the same day. The exigencies of business require it. Then we ask, Who shall appoint the day? What man is there whose judgment all will follow? There is no man or class of men whose authority even if a majority of persons will acknowledge, so as to defer to it. In a case that is left open, every man is on an equality with every other. There is positively no way out of this dilemma but to admit what the commandment plainly declares,-that God, in the beginning, decided definitely which day of the week should be observed. So we see that the one-seventh-part-of-time theory is an impossibility when reduced to practice. And even if it were possible for all men to agree upon some day of their own choosing, that day would be their sabbath and not the Sabbath of the Lord, which the commandment enjoins.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.6

    But some will still say, “Granting that a definite day was set apart, how can we tell which one it was?” This must be an easy question to answer, else it were useless to have a definite day appointed. The commandment says, “The seventh day is the Sabbath.” Mark, the seventh day, not a seventh day. The seventh day of what? Not of the month, for that would not meet the demand for a rest after six days of labor. For the same reason it cannot mean the seventh day of the year. It must mean the seventh day of a period of time of which seven days is the sum. But this is the week; and we therefore are shut up to the conclusion that the commandment enjoins the observance of the seventh day of the week. The really candid, thoughtful person could not decide otherwise.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.7

    For further proof that the seventh day of the week is meant, read Luke 23:54-56; 24:1. The sacred historian after describing the crucifixion and burial of Christ, says, “And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath true on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” Now if we can find what day it was on which they rested, we shall know beyond all doubt which day is “the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” The next verse says: “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared.” To avoid any possibility of cavil, we turn to Mark 14:1, and there read that this visit took place “when the Sabbath was past.” Luke, then, has given us in consecutive order the record of three days, as follows; Christ was crucified on “the preparation day;” the day following was the Sabbath, upon which the women rested “according to the commandment;” and the next day was the first day of the week. This proves unmistakably that the Sabbath of the commandment is the seventh day of the week. E. J. W.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.8

    “Contrasts That Do Not Exist” The Signs of the Times, 9, 20.

    E. J. Waggoner

    In a prominent religious journal of recent date, we find the following:-SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.9

    “It is at once the peculiarity and the glory of the New Testament that it enunciates principles, not arbitrary laws. No Sabbath-day’s journey is here laid out, which man may not exceed; his duties are not prescribed in rigid forms or gauged by a yard-stick. Instead, two underlying principles are laid down-love to God first, love to man next. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.10

    The meaning of the preceding paragraph, so far as it has any meaning, is that while the Old Testament binds men to the performance of special duties, the New Testament deals only in vague generalities, leaving men to draw their own conclusions as to what they may and may not do. Such a view as this would commend itself quite readily to the world, who would not find it very difficult to conform to a religion that had no fixed rules. When the development of principles is left to men, there are few things which they may not be made to include.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.11

    But the references which are brought forward in proof of this assertion are very unfortunate. Tit is said of the New Testament that “no Sabbath-day’s journey is there laid out, which men may not exceed;” by which it is implied that such a thing is marked out in the Old Testament. But the fact is that instead of a “Sabbath-day’s journey which men may not exceed” being laid down in the Old Testament, such a thing is not mentioned. The term does not once occur in the Old Testament. The only place in the Bible in which it is found is in the New Testament, in Acts 1:12. So much for that attempt to depreciate the Old Testament.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.12

    Again, of the New Testament it is said that in it man’s duties “are not prescribed in rigid forms, or gauged by a yard-stick. Instead, two underlying principles are laid down-love to God first, love to man next.” What a pity it is that the one who wrote that did not read the Old Testament through at least once, before contrasting it with the New. Had he done so, he would have found in Deuteronomy 6:5 these words: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” There is love to God in its fullest extent. Again in Leviticus 19:18 he would read as follows: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” How much that sounds like Testament language. We hope that none who despise the Old Testament will reject that text when they find that it is original in that book. For our part we do not know of any more appropriate motto to be hung up for constant reference. If a copy were in a conspicuous place in every house, and read carefully every day, it would improve the manners and customs of this world wonderfully.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.13

    Any attempt to find antagonism between the Old and New Testaments, will prove a failure. A house and its foundation are not more closely joined then they. In fact, that is just the relation they bear to each other. The Old Testament is the foundation; the New is the superstructure. There is not a principle laid down in the New Testament that is not in the Old. These statements about love to God and love to man are direct quotations from the Old Testament. See Luke 10:25-28. Our Saviour and the apostles quoted continually from it. Indeed, there was nothing else from which they could quote. If all the references to, and quotations from, the Old Testament were taken out of the New, there would be but little left. The New Testament is the Old Testament explained.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.14

    And now let us make a little investigation to see if it is true that simple principles alone are laid down in the New Testament; to see if it is true that the Old Testament contains only threatenings of judgments against sin, while the New has only mercy and love. In the preaching of the gospel we find a command at the very outset: “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” This is as plain as anything could be. The decalogue itself is nearly all repeated, and instead of any of its provisions being made less definite, they are enlarged and made to appear more strict than ever.SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.15

    And then as to the idea that the New Testament contains only love and mercy. The threats against the sinner are as terrible as any in the Old Testament. In Romans 2 we read that God will render “unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Again Paul says that “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction.” Some of the strongest threatenings in the Bible come from the lips of our Lord himself. In Revelation 14:9-12, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ (chap. 1:1), we read that they who worship the beast, and receive his mark, “shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.”SITI May 24, 1883, page 235.16

    On the other hand, we find in the Old Testament some of the most tender expressions of mercy that are to be found in the Bible. Even in the decalogue itself we learn that God shows mercy to those that keep his commandments.What expression of love could be stronger than this: “Like as if a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him”? Again, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” Psalm 103:17. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.” Psalm 103:8. Nehemiah says that he is “a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” Nehemiah 9:17. And, finally, we have this broad principle laid down as the sum of all duty: “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Micah 6:8. Here is as broad a principle as is found in the New Testament.SITI May 24, 1883, page 236.1

    We do not exalt the Old Testament above the New, but we would place them on a level. They are one; and this is why we protest against decrying the Old. Undermine the confidence of the people in that, and reverence for the Bible and Bible truth will be a thing of the past. And it would not be to the glory of the New Testament if it could be proved that specific duties are not there prescribed. We need rigid rules, that our lives may be correct. When man is left to himself, he invariably goes wrong; now if the Bible dealt in vague terms, leaving us to interpret them to suit ourselves, we would be no better off than if we had no revelation at all. If we but have the principle of love to God in our hearts, we will love all his word, so that we can say with the psalmist: “Thy word is true from the beginning; and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.” E. J. W.SITI May 24, 1883, page 236.2

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