Sabbath, November 17, 2007

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Galatians 6:17

• To study the depth of Paul’s zeal for the cause of Christ
• To learn from Paul the need for improving our fitness for the gospel minis­try, as did Mark
• To see how divine manifestation accompanies our ministry as we depend on the leading of the Holy Ghost

A new co-worker

1. After spending a considerable amount of time strengthening and encouraging the church in Antioch, what was Paul’s next plan of action? What caused a separation between him and Barnabas?
Acts 15:36-39 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

“Mark did not apostatize from the faith of Christianity; but, like many young ministers, he shrank from hardships, and preferred the comfort and safety of home to the travels, labors, and dangers of the missionary field….

“… He had, as the companion of the apostles, rejoiced in the success of their mission; but fear and discouragement overwhelmed him in the face of privation, persecution, and danger; and he sought the attractions of home at a time when his services were most needful to the apostles.

“At a future period there was a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas concerning Mark, who was still anxious to devote himself to the work of the ministry. This contention caused Paul and Barnabas to separate, the latter following out his convictions, and taking Mark with him in his work. Paul could not, at that time, excuse in any degree the weakness of Mark in deserting them and the work upon which they had entered, for the ease and quiet of home; and he urged that one with so little stamina was unfit for the gospel ministry, which required patience, self-denial, bravery, and faith, with a willingness to sacrifice even life if need be.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, pp. 46-48.

2. Did Mark overcome his cowardice in the face of privation? How did Paul regard Mark later in his ministry?
Colossians 4:10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
Philemon 1:23, 24 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

“Paul was afterward reconciled to Mark, and received him as a fellow-laborer. He also recommended him to the Colossians as one who was a ‘fellow-worker unto the kingdom of God,’ and a personal comfort to him, Paul. Again, not long prior to his own death, he spoke of Mark as profitable to him in the ministry.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 48.

3. Whom did Paul choose as his companions after his dispute with Barnabas?
Acts 15:40, 16:1-3 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

“In company with Silas, Paul again visited Lystra….
“ Paul found that Timothy was closely bound to him by the ties of Chris­tian union. This man had been instructed in the Holy Scriptures from his childhood, and educated for strictly religious life. He had witnessed the sufferings of Paul upon his former visit to Lystra, and the bonds of Christian sympathy had knit his heart firmly to that of the apostle. Paul accord­ingly thought best to take Timothy with him to assist in his labors.

“Paul, with his usual good judgment, caused Timothy to be circumcised; not that God required it, but in order to remove from the minds of the Jews an obstacle to Timothy’s ministration.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, pp. 72, 73.

The cross in Europe; God’spower

4. As they were led by the Holy Ghost on their first journey to Europe, where did they set up a center for their work?
Acts 16:4-15 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

“The time had come for the gospel to be proclaimed beyond the confines of Asia Minor. The way was preparing for Paul and his fellow workers to cross over into Europe. At Troas, on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, ‘a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.’

“The call was imperative, admitting of no delay. ‘After he had seen the vision,’ declares Luke, who accompanied Paul and Silas and Timothy on the journey across to Europe, ‘immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony.

“… Lydia received the truth gladly. She and her household were con­verted and baptized, and she entreated the apostles to make her house their home.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 211, 212.

5. Seeing that his kingdom was being invaded, how did Satan work through his special agents to attack the work which was just beginning in Philippi? What was Paul’s reaction and its aftermath?
Acts 16:16-24  And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

“The apostles endured this opposition for several days; then Paul, under inspiration of the Spirit of God, commanded the evil spirit to leave the woman. Satan was thus met and rebuked. The immediate and continued silence of the woman testified that the apostles were the servants of God, and that the demon had acknowledged them to be such, and had obeyed their command.

“Satan stirred up a frenzy among the people. A mob spirit prevailed, and was sanctioned by the authorities, who, with their official hands, tore the clothes from the apostles, and commanded them to be scourged. ‘And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely; who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.’

“The apostles were left in a very painful condition. Their lacerated and bleeding backs were in contact with the rough stone floor, while their feet were elevated and bound fast in the stocks.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, pp. 74, 75.

6. In their terrible ordeal and suffering, what did the apostles do? How was God’s power manifested in answer to their earnest prayers and praise?
Acts16:25, 26  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

“… In this unnatural position they suffered extreme torture; yet they did not groan nor complain, but conversed with and encouraged each other, and praised God with grateful hearts that they were found worthy to suffer shame for His dear name. Paul was reminded of the persecution he had been instrumental in heaping upon the disciples of Christ, and he was de­voutly thankful that his eyes had been opened to see, and his heart to feel, the glorious truths of the gospel of the Son of God, and that he had been privileged to preach the doctrine which he had once despised.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 75.

7. Who was most affected by God’s amazing intervention? What was he ready to do because of fear and confusion?
Acts 16:27, 28  And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

“The keeper of the jail heard with amazement the prayers and songs of the imprisoned apostles. When they were led in, he had seen their swollen and bleeding wounds, and had himself caused their feet to be fastened in the stocks. He had expected to hear from them bitter groans and imprecations, but he heard instead songs of joy and praise. With these sounds in his ears the jailer had fallen into a sleep from which he was awakened by the earthquake and the shaking of the prison walls.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 215.

8. How was the jailer’s life changed by this miracle and the conduct of the apostles? Acts 16:29-34.

“The jailer had trembled as he beheld the wrath of God manifested in the earthquake; when he thought that the prisoners had escaped he had been ready to die by his own hand; but now all these things seemed of little consequence compared with the new, strange dread that agitated his mind, and his desire to possess the tranquillity and cheerfulness shown by the apostles under suffering and abuse. He saw in their countenances the light of heaven; he knew that God had interposed in a miraculous manner to save their lives; and with peculiar force the words of the spirit-possessed woman came to his mind: ‘These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.’ ” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 216.

9. Later, in writing to the Philippians, of what did Paul re­mind them?
Philippians 1:3, 4, 27-30 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy … Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;  Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

“The apostles did not regard as in vain their labors in Philippi. They had met much opposition and persecution; but the intervention of Providence in their behalf, and the conversion of the jailer and his household, more than atoned for the disgrace and suffering they had endured. The news of their unjust imprisonment and miraculous deliverance became known through all that region, and this brought the work of the apostles to the notice of a large number who otherwise would not have been reached.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 218.

For further study and meditation

• After facing a severe challenge from Paul, Mark later changed and became a very useful instrument for God’s cause and also the author of the Gospel of Mark. How do we react when we face a similar situation of being rejected? 2 Peter 1:10, 11; 1 Peter 5:10.
• In this lesson, we learned that Paul, Silas, and Timothy, heeding the divine call, became the first missionaries to take the gospel message to Europe. How much do we yearn to be led by the Holy Spirit into foreign missions? See Matthew 9:35-38; Isaiah 6:8.
• How did the apostles view the persecution they suffered for Christ’s sake? 1 Peter 4:1, 12-15, 19; Matthew 5:11, 12; Acts 5:40, 41. –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 27-33.