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Tubal, and Java, and the isles afar off"—(to Italy and Greece)—" that have not heard my fame, nor seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren"—(your brethren then, inasmuch as they are made partakers of the covenant, children of God by adoption)—"for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations. And I will also take of them for priests and Levites, saith the Lord."
Not a word of this, might the apostles say, has fallen to the ground. We set out from you; and we have been to distant isles, and distant lands, where the true God was no more known than among yourselves three years ago; where, instead of Him, they were ready to worship us his messengers, " men of like passions with themselves." To these we have declared his glory. And many of them have become an offering unto the Lord: they have presented themselves " a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, to the Lord: a reasonable service," instead of senseless vanity. And of these, some have been taken as priests and Levites; we have ordained them elders in every church, God having put grace into their hearts first to learn, and then to teach: so to receive in their own souls the "water of life," that they are able to lead others to the same "wells of salvation." Thus is multiplied, as was written, "the seed of David, and the Levites that minister unto God."9
Thus they would delight to compare prophecy with the things which they had seen and heard, and so to bring the "light from a dark place," and hold it up for the consolation and instruction of the brethren. It would encourage them to look onward towards the fulfilment of that further prophecy, when all the "family in heaven and earth," which is named after the name of Christ, shall meet in heavenly places, and unite in giving "glory to the God of heaven," "saying, Amen; Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever !" *
9 Jer. xxxii. 21.
A DISPUTE CONCERNING THE LAW OF MOSES OCCASIONS PAUL AND BARNABAS TO VISIT JERUSALEM—A. D. 51.
Acts Xv. 1—4.
1. And certain men which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
All was going on favourably at Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas abode long time with the disciples. Meanwhile a question had arisen which threatened much trouble to the christian cause.
The doctrine of the gospel is, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus
1 Rev. xi. 13. vii. 12.
Christ." The Gentiles, therefore, who received the gospel and confessed that Jesus was the Christ, were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and were brought into covenant with God. They were thus placed on a level with the Jews. And now some of the Jews began to feel what is described in the Lord's parable. "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burthen and heat of the day."1 They murmured against this equality, and this neglect of the ordinances of the law: and they asserted that it was necessary for the Gentiles "to be circumcised, and to keep the law of Moses."
Paul and Barnabas resisted to the utmost this new precept. It was a burthen which these Gentiles might refuse to bear: it was a yoke not lightly to be laid upon them. But still farther, it was a contradiction of the gospel; directly opposed to "the truth as it is in Jesus."
The christian doctrine is, that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;" so that "he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life." This was the message entrusted to the apostles: and the promise was clear, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
But now certain men from Judea interfere, and leach the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses ye cannot be saved.
1 Matt. xx. 12.
This would nullify the whole purpose of the gospel. They that were under the old covenant must stand or fall by the law of Moses: but they that were under the new, must stand or fall, according as they believed in Him who was "the end of the law for righteousness."2
With these, we are told, Paul and Barnabas had no small disputation. You assert, (they may have argued,) that except a man keep the law, and comply with the rite of circumcision, he cannot be saved. How then, if that be so, can Christ have done all that is necessary to reconcile man to God? How is the sacrifice of Christ complete, if the rite of circumcision must be added to it? Our doctrine is, "that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."3 This is our doctrine. But your doctrine is, that a man is not justified except he obey the ordinances of the law. This is "another gospel:"4 this is not the gospel which has been committed to us; nor is it any gospel, any glad tidings at all: for it is to shake the foundations of our trust: to remove us from the rock on which the anchor of our hope is fixed, and to build our house upon the sand. "Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing."5 Christ is become of no effect unto you, "whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace." You no longer receive salvation as the
"Rom. x. 4. 3Gal. ii. 16.
4 Gal. i. 7. 5 Gal. v. 2—4.
free "gift of God, through Jesus Christ." You join the works of the law with his work, in the business of justification. And you bring yourselves under that system by which no man can stand. (Gal. iii. 10—14.) "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all the things which are written in the book of the law to do them." "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
To this effect, as we learn from the epistles, would be the disputation of Paul and Barnabas. Still the christian congregations desired to know what was thought upon this question at Jerusalem, where resided James, and Peter, and other pillars of the church. It was agreed that inquiry should be made.
2. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
3. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
0 We learn from Gal. ii. 1, 2, that this visit to Jerusalem was undertaken by divine direction, as well as in accordance with the wish of the church. Titus, it also seems, was one of the party; one of the certain others.