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"In the great judgment day, those who have not worked for Christ, who have drifted along thinking of themselves, caring for themselves, will be placed by the Judge of the whole earth with those who did evil. They receive the same condemnation.

To every soul a trust is given. Of everyone the Chief Shepherd will demand, "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" And "what wilt thou say when He shall punish thee?" Jer. 13:20,21.

We don't often think or speak of the sins of omission but they are just as real and serious as the evil acts committed. Here is spelled out in black and white the seriousness of neglecting our brethren in need.

Forgive me Father for opportunities missed to minister to You in service to others. Open my eyes today to be aware of the needs of others and a heart to respond as if we were attending to our Saviour. Amen.
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I submit the thought that God HAS spoken to mankind through Christ, the only begotten Son of the living God. He is to the Father as a word that expresses the thought,—as a thought made audible. Christ is the word of God. Sons and Daughters of God 21

Michael, Jesus Christ, [1 Corinthians 10:4] spoke the words of The Ten Commandments upon Mt. Sinai. Upon hearing that WORD, each Israelite had all one needs to obey: God's spoken WORD. So today, as we read the Scriptures, the vilest SINNER has, in the reading of the WORD, what is needed to be an overcomer. To respond to that WORD with but a thought or whisper of faith, is to receive the GIFT, to be born again. As Paul declares, For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 1 Corinthians 4:15; And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Jeremiah 18:
6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
11 Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.
12 And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.


The only WAY you or I might make [our] ways and [our] doings good is to respond with the motive and thoughts of Rahab: And she said, According unto your words, so be it. Joshua 2:21 And Mary, as the Angel announced that she would conceive by the moving upon her of the Holy Ghost, be it unto me according to thy word. Luke 1:38 She was promised that that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35

that holy thing, the imparted Spirit of God, is to live and grow in each one of us, speaking and acting the very life of Christ.

The Lord Jesus loves His people, and when they put their trust in Him, depending wholly upon Him, He strengthens them. He will live through them, giving them the inspiration of His sanctifying Spirit, imparting to the soul a vital transfusion of Himself. He acts through their faculties and causes them to choose His will and to act out His character. That I May Know Him 78

The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ. Those only who are thus taught of God, those only who possess the inward working of the Spirit, and in whose life the Christ-life is manifested... God's Amazing Grace 212

The Word is made flesh, and dwells among us, in those who receive the holy precepts of the word of God.
God can and will do a great work for every human being who will open the heart to the word of God, and let it enter the soul-temple and expel every idol. Summoned to the effort, mind and heart take in the wonderful disclosures of the revealed will of God. The soul that is converted will be made stronger to resist evil. In the study of the Bible the converted soul eats the flesh and drinks the blood of the Son of God, which He himself interprets as the receiving and doing of His words, that are spirit and life. The Word is made flesh, and dwells among us, in those who receive the holy precepts of the word of God. The Saviour of the world has left a holy, pure example for all men. It illuminates, uplifts, and brings immortality to all who obey the divine requirements. Fundamentals of Christian Education, Page 378

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Amen Pastor Sean. But, this is impossible for man to do....without the Holy Spirit abiding in the heart. It is not good enough to hear the Spirit speaking, we must surrender the whole heart to Christ that the Spirit may take possession of it. Then He comes with great power that we might reveal love to not only those who love us, but to those who despitefully use us. This is the evidence of true conversion. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend [to them] of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." Luke 6:31-36.

When we love God supremely, then we shall be filled with the Holy Ghost and reveal love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, not one of these shall be missing. When we love Jesus with all the heart, then we shall love those in the world for whom He died.

     Those who minister to others will be ministered unto by the Chief Shepherd. They themselves will drink of the living water, and will be satisfied. They will not be longing for exciting amusements, or for some change in their lives. The great topic of interest will be, how to save the souls that are ready to perish. Social intercourse will be profitable. The love of the Redeemer will draw hearts together in unity.
     When we realize that we are workers together with God, His promises will not be spoken with indifference. They will burn in our hearts, and kindle upon our lips. To Moses, when called to minister to an ignorant, undisciplined, and rebellious people, God gave the promise, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." And He said, "Certainly I will be with thee." Exodus 33:14; 3:12. This promise is to all who labor in Christ's stead for His afflicted and suffering ones. 
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Preparation for heaven is really about a heart-and-life change. It is receiving into our souls the very life and character of Christ, which is His unselfish love. This love flows spontaneously from the converted heart that is sanctified by His grace. The old, selfish, carnal thoughts, feelings and ways are dispelled by beholding the exceedingly beautiful loveliness of Jesus' character, and having His love flow out in our hearts to those around us in need. No greater joy can come than in being a channel of His blessings to unite His family in His infinite love!

"Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, 'Love one another, as I have loved you' (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts." {The Desire of Ages, page 641, paragraph 3}
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The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--69--On the Mount of Olives
« Last post by Richard Myers on August 18, 2018, 07:28:20 PM »
I cling to Jesus moment by moment and when I do fall and recognize it I come running back to the shelter of His wings for there is where I find forgiveness, love, security and acceptance. To think that we may have a part in hastening Christ's return should spring us into action for Him.

Amen!!! We do have a part to play that will hasten the soon coming of Jesus. He is waiting in His people to preach the gospel to every nation, kindred, and tongue. The last steps will be rapid ones and will succeed not when the leaders preach the truth, but when the people take the gospel to others there will an exponential growth that will ever increase in speed. Do we want to see and end to suffering and death? Then let us do all we can to hasten the soon coming of Christ!!

    The crisis is stealing gradually upon us. The sun shines in the heavens, passing over its usual round, and the heavens still declare the glory of God. Men are still eating and drinking, planting and building, marrying, and giving in marriage. Merchants are still buying and selling. Men are jostling one against another, contending for the highest place. Pleasure lovers are still crowding to theaters, horse races, gambling hells. The highest excitement prevails, yet probation's hour is fast closing, and every case is about to be eternally decided. Satan sees that his time is short. He has set all his agencies at work that men may be deceived, deluded, occupied and entranced, until the day of probation shall be ended, and the door of mercy be forever shut. 
 

But, we will cling to Christ and look to Him for our wisdom and grace.

A little longer, and we shall see the King in His beauty. A little longer, and He will wipe all tears from our eyes. A little longer, and He will present us "faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." Jude 24. Wherefore, when He gave the signs of His coming He said, "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
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Friday          August 24

Further Study: “The Jewish converts generally were not inclined to move as rapidly as the providence of God opened the way. From the result of the apostles’ labors among the Gentiles it was evident that the converts among the latter people would far exceed the Jewish converts in number. The Jews feared that if the restrictions and ceremonies of their law were not made obligatory upon the Gentiles as a condition of church fellowship, the national peculiarities of the Jews, which had hitherto kept them distinct from all other people, would finally disappear from among those who received the gospel message.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 189.

Some of which were an abomination. Many countries saw their condition which brought reproach upon God and His Word. How does the world look at our church today? Do we rightly represent God?


“The Jewish Christians living within sight of the temple naturally allowed their minds to revert to the peculiar privileges of the Jews as a nation. When they saw the Christian church departing from the ceremonies and traditions of Judaism, and perceived that the peculiar sacredness with which the Jewish customs had been invested would soon be lost sight of in the light of the new faith, many grew indignant with Paul as the one who had, in a large measure, caused this change. Even the disciples were not all prepared to accept willingly the decision of the council. Some were zealous for the ceremonial law, and they regarded Paul with disfavor because they thought that his principles in regard to the obligations of the Jewish law were lax.”—Page 197.


And some of the disciples were fearful of being persecuted by the Jews when Paul came to Jerusalem. They in fearing for themselves, talked Paul into going through the purification rites which led to Paul's imprisonment and death. Thus, the cowardliness of these disciples was responsible for the church's loss of one of its greatest pillars.

“Thou seest, brother,” they said, in response to his testimony, “how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: and they a reinformed 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 which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.”

The brethren hoped that Paul, by following the course suggested, might give a decisive contradiction to the false reports concerning him. They assured him that the decision of the former council concerning the Gentile converts and the ceremonial law, still held good. But the advice now given was not consistent with that decision. The Spirit of God did not prompt this instruction; it was the fruit of cowardice. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem knew that by non-conformity to the ceremonial law, Christians would bring upon themselves the hatred of the Jews and expose themselves to persecution. The Sanhedrin was doing its utmost to hinder the progress of the gospel. Men were chosen by this body to follow up the apostles, especially Paul, and in every possible way to oppose their work. Should the believers in Christ be condemned before the Sanhedrin as breakers of the law, they would suffer swift and severe punishment as apostates from the Jewish faith.

Many of the Jews who had accepted the gospel still cherished a regard for the ceremonial law and were only too willing to make unwise concessions, hoping thus to gain the confidence of their countrymen, to remove their prejudice, and to win them to faith in Christ as the world’s Redeemer. Paul realized that so long as many of the leading members of the church at Jerusalem should continue to cherish prejudice against him, they would work constantly to counteract his influence. He felt that if by any reasonable concession he could win them to the truth he would remove a great obstacle to the success of the gospel in other places. But he was not authorized of God to concede as much as they asked.

When we think of Paul’s great desire to be in harmony with his brethren, his tenderness toward the weak in the faith, his reverence for the apostles who had been with Christ, and for James, the brother of the Lord, and his purpose to become all things to all men so far as he could without sacrificing principle—when we think of all this, it is less surprising that he was constrained to deviate from the firm, decided course that he had hitherto followed. But instead of accomplishing the desired object, his efforts for conciliation only precipitated the crisis, hastened his predicted sufferings, and resulted in separating him from his brethren, depriving the church of one of its strongest pillars, and bringing sorrow to Christian hearts in every land.

On the following day Paul began to carry out the counsel of the elders. The four men who were under the Nazarite vow ( Numbers 6), the term of which had nearly expired, were taken by Paul into the temple, “to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.” Certain costly sacrifices for purification were yet to be offered.

Those who advised Paul to take this step had not fully considered the great peril to which he would thus be exposed. At this season, Jerusalem was filled with worshipers from many lands. As, in fulfillment of the commission given him by God, Paul had borne the gospel to the Gentiles, he had visited many of the world’s largest cities, and he was well known to thousands who from foreign parts had come to Jerusalem to attend the feast. Among these were men whose hearts were filled with bitter hatred for Paul, and for him to enter the temple on a public occasion was to risk his life. For several days he passed in and out among the worshipers, apparently unnoticed; but before the close of the specified period, as he was talking with a priest concerning the sacrifices to be offered, he was recognized by some of the Jews from Asia.
 
With the fury of demons they rushed upon him, crying, “Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place.” And as the people responded to the call for help, another accusation was added—“and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.”  AA 406.


Discussion Questions:

    In class, go back to Monday’s final question. How do we understand the fact that belonging to the “right” church does not guarantee salvation? For example, certainly ancient Israel was the “right church”, but that does not mean everyone in it was saved. If being in the true church does not guarantee salvation, then what is the advantage of being a part of it?

One may have an advantage in not being in it. Many Jews were lost because they followed the false leaders. Many outside of Israel later accepted Christ. I know that it has been a blessing to come into God's church with no false doctrine having cluttered my mind. I appreciate the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy whereas many who were reared in the church follow "Adventist" culture rather than Bible truth,. On the other hand, what opportunities exist for little ones who have converted Seventh-day Adventist parents. They not only have examples of Christian culture, but they are protected from the ravages of diseases that are contracted from eating animals and their eggs and milk.


    How to accept uncircumcised Gentiles into the community of faith was one of the first most important administrative issues faced by the early church. What might be some comparable issues in our church today?

The Christian Church then was relatively pure compared to the church today. We have issues more aligned with Israel at the time of Jesus. If there is prejudice in the church today it comes from not having Jesus in the heart. So it was with the Judaizers who taught a false gospel. We do have doctrinal differences in the church as we read about their problems then. It was resolved by letting the Holy Spirit open minds to the truth. So today we need to listen to the Holy Spirit reveal Bible truth. We need to do as they did, respect the leaders from around the world to prayerfully decide what is Bible truth in those areas where there are differences such as we see in making women leaders over men. What does the church do when the decision made by the world church is not respected by some in the church? Then we see the church leaders acted quickly to decide what to do. But, today, there is no quick action to stem the rebellion. So, it gets worse and worse as the world enters deeper into God's church.

The church will see revival and reformation. This shaking that is happening now will cause much pain, but it is necessary that the separation occurs.
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Thursday          August 23

The Letter From Jerusalem

Read Acts 15:22-29.

 15:22   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: 
 15:23   And they wrote [letters] by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren [send] greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 
 15:24   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: 
 15:25   It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 
 15:26   Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
 15:27   We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell [you] the same things by mouth. 
 15:28   For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 
 15:29   That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 


What additional measures were taken by the Jerusalem church concerning the council’s decision?

The first measure was to write a letter to the Gentile believers in order to inform them of what had been decided. The letter, written in the name of the apostles and elders of Jerusalem, was an official document that reflected the ascendancy of the Jerusalem church—certainly because of the apostles’ leadership—over the other Christian communities. Written in A.D. 49, which is the most probable date of the council, this letter is one of the earliest Christian documents we have.

The Jerusalem church also decided to appoint two delegates, Judas Barsabas and Silas, to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch; their assignment was to carry the letter and confirm its content.

Read Acts 15:30-33. H

 15:30   So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 
 15:31   [Which] when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 
 15:32   And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed [them]. 
 15:33   And after they had tarried [there] a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 


How did the church in Antioch react to the letter?

When the letter was read, the church was filled with great joy because of the encouraging message: circumcision was not to be required from Gentile converts. They also raised no objection to the demands of the letter (the fourfold apostolic decree). The first most serious division in the early church was thus reconciled, at least in theory.

At the close of the council, Paul’s gospel was fully recognized by the church leaders in Jerusalem, who extended to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship as a sign of acceptance and trust (Gal. 2:9). Yet, those Jewish Christians who continued to live by the Jewish law would still find it highly problematic to have table fellowship with the Gentiles, who, for all intents and purposes, did remain ritually unclean.

This issue is shown, for example, by the incident involving Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. “Even the disciples”, says Ellen G. White, “were not all prepared to accept willingly the decision of the council.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 197.

Be honest with yourself: how difficult is it for you to have fellowship with believers from other races, cultures, and even social classes? How can you be purged of this decidedly anti-gospel attitude?

The answer is always the same, we need Jesus. Unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are evil by nature and cannot love those who disagree with us on important points. When self is alive we are biased. When we love Jesus supremely, we will love even our enemies and those who despitefully use us. This is evidence of true conversion. There is great joy in having fellowship with those who love Jesus supremely, no matter what race or social class! The church does no enjoy this fellowship when in a Laodicean condition.

Some of my time I enjoy most is with those of other faiths and races who are open to the truth. This is why we are here, is it not? What is more joyful than sharing the love of Jesus with those who are open to hearing about our Savior? Nothing!!
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Wednesday          August 22

The Apostolic Decree

Read Acts 15:28, 29.

 15:28   For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 
 15:29   That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 


What four prohibitions did the council decide to impose on Gentile converts?

The main issue for which the council had been convened was satisfactorily resolved. Because salvation is by grace, believing Gentiles were exempted from circumcision when they joined the church. Yet, they should abstain from four things: (1) meat offered in sacrifice to idols in pagan rituals and then served in a temple feast or sold in the market; (2) blood consumption; (3) meat of strangled animals, that is, meat whose blood had not been drained; and (4) sexual immorality in its various forms.

Most Christians today treat the dietary prohibitions (prohibitions 1-3) as temporary recommendations. Because those things were particularly repulsive to Jews, the prohibitions—they argue—were intended only to bridge the gap between Jewish and Gentile believers. It is also often claimed that all other Old Testament laws, including the Levitical food laws (Leviticus 11) and the Sabbath commandment (Exod. 20:8-11), which are absent from the list, are no longer binding for Christians.

The so-called apostolic decree, however, was neither temporary nor a new code of Christian ethics that excluded everything else related to the Old Testament. In fact, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28), the apostles and elders of the church reproduced the regulations of Leviticus 17-18 only concerning Israel’s resident aliens.

In the context of Leviticus, these prohibitions mean the renunciation of paganism. Any foreigner who wished to live in Israel had to abdicate those pagan practices to which he/she had grown accustomed (Lev. 18:30). Likewise, any believing Gentile who wished to join the church was required to take a firm stand against paganism.

This, however, was just the first step. Once in, he/she was naturally expected to do God’s will by obeying those commandments that are universal, pre-Mosaic, and not intrinsically ceremonial, such as the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3) and following the differentiation between clean and unclean food (Gen. 7:2).

"Pre-Mosaic"?  Moses was given ceremonial, civil, and moral law besides the ten commandments written with the finger of God. All of the moral law is still binding, but we do not require it all be agreed to before baptism. Neither did the church then. Many today do not understand there is moral law that was placed outside of the ark when Moses wrote down all that God had revealed to him. Not all of this law is ceremonial and civil. There is much that is moral and still binding. But, the church does not require it be followed before baptism. So it was back then. As the light increases, do does the standard for  baptism. Today, we require more than we see agreed to by the first General Conference Session.


That the decree was not temporary is clear, for example, from Revelation 2:14, 20, where the first and the last prohibitions are repeated, implicitly contemplating the other two, as well. In fact, historical evidence shows that the decree was still considered normative by Christians long after the New Testament period.

So then, today we ought to require the same regarding strangled animals, blood, and meat offered to idols. What has happened? Why the laxness? Is meat safer today? Is blood safe today? No. In fact all meat is "unclean" today. It was a matter of safety regarding certain animals being labeled "unclean" and "clean". Today, there is no safety in eating any animal product. We were told over a hundred years ago to teach the people how to prepare healthful meals without the use of eggs and milk, for the time would "soon" come when the increase in disease in the animals would put humans at great risk if they were used as food.

Let the diet reform be progressive. Let the people be taught how to prepare food without the use of milk or butter. Tell them that the time will soon come when there will be no safety in using eggs, milk, cream, or butter, because disease in animals is increasing in proportion to the increase of wickedness among men. The time is near when, because of the iniquity of the fallen race, the whole animal creation will groan under the diseases that curse our earth. God will give His people ability and tact to prepare wholesome food without these things. Let our people discard all unwholesome recipes. Vol 7—Testimonies for the Church, pg. 135, 1902. 


In many countries today much milk is infected with a Leukemia Virus which according to the University of California appears to be connected with Breast Cancer. source


When disputes arise, how can we learn to sit together, to listen to each other, and in a spirit of respect and humility work through the issues?

We surely want to listen to each other's sharing of Biblical truth when we disagree. But, there are some who are not converted and to not present the truth in an effort to work together to come into unity of doctrine. It was just last week we read about Paul's words to one who was perverting the truth. At times we must take a stand and reprove the worker of iniquity when he perverts Bible truth.

 13:6   And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name [was] Barjesus:
 13:7   Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
 13:8   But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
 13:9   Then Saul, (who also [is called] Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
 13:10   And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, [thou] child of the devil, [thou] enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 


But, there is great joy to sit down with converted Christians and discuss Bible truth in hopes of learning more of God and His plan of salvation. We are erring mortals and there is safety in a multitude of counselors. If one loves Jesus and sees the Bible as our source of truth, then there is great joy even when not having a common understanding of a passage of Scripture.


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Tuesday          August 21

The Debate

Read Acts 15:7-11.

 15:7   And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, 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. 
 15:8   And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [he did] unto us; 
 15:9   And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 
 15:10   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? 
 15:11   But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 


What was Peter’s contribution to the debate in Jerusalem?

Luke, of course, does not report all the proceedings of the meeting. It would be interesting to know, for example, the supporting arguments of the Judaizers (Acts 15:5), as well as Paul’s and Barnabas’s responses (Acts 15:12). The fact that we have only Peter’s and James’s speeches shows the importance of these men among the apostles.

In his speech, Peter addressed the apostles and elders, reminding them of his experience with Cornelius years before. In essence, his argument was the same one that he had used before the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 11:4-17). God Himself had shown His approval of Cornelius’s conversion (even though he was an uncircumcised Gentile) by giving him and his household the same gift of the Spirit that He had given the apostles at Pentecost.

In His divine providence, God had used no less a person than Peter to convince the Judean believers that He makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles with regard to salvation. Even if they lacked the purifying benefits of Old Covenant rules and regulations, the believing Gentiles could no longer be considered unclean, because God Himself had cleansed their hearts. Peter’s final statement sounded very similar to what we would expect from Paul: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are“ (Acts 15:11, NIV).

Read Acts 15:13-21.

 15:13   And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men [and] brethren, hearken unto me: 
 15:14   Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 
 15:15   And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 
 15:16   After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 
 15:17   That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 
 15:18   Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 
 15:19   Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 
 15:20   But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood. 
 15:21   For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 


What solution to the Gentile problem did James propose?

This does not say, but the law of God (moral law) was not done away with. If a Gentile murdered someone, they would be removed from the church. Is this hard to understand? While Paul expressed none are saved by keeping the ten commandments, he did not teach they were no longer binding. Some will argue that the moral law was not included because Paul argued against thinking one was saved by keeping the law (all of it both ceremonial and moral). But, if this were the issue, then why would they express the need to abstain from fornication, things strangled, and blood? Gentiles were not saved by following these requirements. But, the requirements were binding. If they did not follow them, they would be removed from the church.


James’s speech suggests he was in a position of authority (compare with Acts 12:17; 21:18; Gal. 2:9, 12). Irrespective of what he might have understood by the rebuilding of David’s tabernacle, which in Amos’s prophecy refers to the restoration of David’s dynasty (Amos 9:11, 12), James’s main purpose was to demonstrate that God had already provided for Gentiles to join, in a sense, a reconstituted “people of God”, and thus they could be incorporated into Israel.

Because of this, his decision was that no further restrictions should be imposed on Gentile converts, other than those which normally would be required from foreigners who wished to live in the land of Israel.

"Normally" would require following the ceremonial laws which were no longer binding. And, we are not discussing Israel any longer. While the leading men were in Jerusalem, they would not be for much longer. Israel was cut off and was not a consideration any longer even though the Judaizers still thought Israel to be the center of the world, even as do many professing Christians do today. None were to move to Israel, and Christianity was a world-wide movement. All were to remain where they were until God led them away.
10
Monday         August 20

Circumcision


One of the great issues in this conflict was circumcision. This was not a human institution (contrast Matt. 15:2, 9). Rather, it had been commanded by God Himself as a sign of His covenant with Abraham’s descendants as His chosen people (Gen. 17:9-14).

Read Exodus 12:43-49.

 12:43   And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This [is] the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 
 12:44   But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 
 12:45   A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. 
 12:46   In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. 
 12:47   All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 
 12:48   And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 
 12:49   One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. 


In addition to born Israelites, who else was supposed to be circumcised?

The blessings of the covenant were not restricted to born Israelites but were extensive to any slave or sojourning stranger who wished to experience it, as long as he were to be circumcised. After circumcision, the stranger would have the same status before God as the born Israelite: “He shall be as a native of the land” (Exod. 12:48, NKJV).

Circumcision, therefore, was indispensable (for a male) to be a full member of God’s covenant community. And because Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, it seemed natural that the Judaizers would insist that no Gentile could benefit from His salvation without first becoming a Jew.

Read Romans 3:30, 1 Corinthians 7:18, Galatians 3:28, 5:6.

 3:30   Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 

 7:18   Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. 

 3:28   There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 
 5:6   For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 


What was Paul’s understanding of circumcision?

That it was part of the ceremonial law. He did not do away with the ten commandments, the moral law, nor did he allow for immorality in his teaching. It was the ceremonial law that was at issue. But, there was more to Paul's teaching than the written law which included the ten commandments. He knew and taught that keeping of the ceremonial and the moral law would not save a soul from perdition. He taught we are saved by grace through faith in the life, suffering, and death of our Savior.

Here is a statement that will help us understand better the situation then and the lesson for us today. We shall have to meet similar obstacles today when men choose to rebel against the truth and the church.

The council which decided this case was composed of apostles and teachers who had been prominent in raising up the Jewish and Gentile Christian churches, with chosen delegates from various places. Elders from Jerusalem and deputies from Antioch were present, and the most influential churches were represented. The council moved in accordance with the dictates of enlightened judgment, and with the dignity of a church established by the divine will. As a result of their deliberations they all saw that God Himself had answered the question at issue by bestowing upon the Gentiles the Holy Ghost; and they realized that it was their part to follow the guidance of the Spirit.
 
The entire body of Christians was not called to vote upon the question. The “apostles and elders,” men of influence and judgment, framed and issued the decree, which was thereupon generally accepted by the Christian churches. Not all, however, were pleased with the decision; there was a faction of ambitious and self-confident brethren who disagreed with it. These men assumed to engage in the work on their own responsibility. They indulged in much murmuring and faultfinding, proposing new plans and seeking to pull down the work of the men whom God had ordained to teach the gospel message. From the first the church has had such obstacles to meet and ever will have till the close of time.  AA 196.


By saying that no Gentile could be saved without first joining Judaism, these men were mixing up two distinct concepts: covenant and salvation. Being a member of God’s covenant community did not guarantee salvation (Jer. 4:4, 9:25). In addition, Abraham himself was saved (justified) by faith, which happened before, and not because, he was circumcised (Rom. 4:9-13). Salvation has always been by faith, whereas the covenant was a gracious provision through which God would make Himself and His saving plan known to the entire world. Israel had been chosen for this purpose (Gen. 12:1-3).

The problem, however, was that by too closely associating covenant and salvation, these believers came to view circumcision as meritorious. God’s saving grace, however, does not operate where human works operate. So, to impose circumcision on believing Gentiles as a means of salvation was to distort the gospel’s truth (Gal. 1:7, 2:3-5), nullify God’s grace (Gal. 2:21), and make Jesus of no benefit (Gal. 5:2). Furthermore, it was a denial of the universal character of salvation (Col. 3:11, Titus 2:11). Paul could never agree to this type of thinking.

The everlasting covenant is the promise of a Savior and salvation. The "old covenant" made at Sinai was not associated with salvation, it was to reveal that none could obey the law of God on their own. It was to reveal their condemnation when they broke the covenant by sinning. It included both the ceremonial law and the ten commandments (moral law).


What’s the danger of thinking that salvation comes from merely being a member of the right church?

One will be lost with such thinking. When one does not understand the plan of salvation, there is very real danger they will believe they are rich and increased with goods, yet know not they are miserable, and wretched, and poor, blind, and naked.
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