From Trials to Triumph


Chapter 19—Thorny Problems Settled by the Holy Spirit

This chapter is based on Acts 15:1-35, RSV.

On reaching Antioch in Syria, Paul and Barnabas assembled the believers and rehearsed “all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27. The large, growing church at Antioch was a center of missionary activity and was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. TT 100.1

While the apostles united with lay members to win souls, certain Jewish believers from Judea “of the sect of the Pharisees” (KJV), succeeded in introducing a question that brought consternation to the believing Gentiles. These Judaizing teachers asserted that in order to be saved, one must be circumcised and keep the ceremonial law. TT 100.2

Paul and Barnabas opposed this false doctrine, but many of the believing Jews of Antioch favored the position of the brethren recently come from Judea. Many of the Jews who had been converted to Christ still felt that since God had once outlined the Hebrew manner of worship, it was improbable that He would ever authorize a change in it. They insisted that the Jewish ceremonies be incorporated into the Christian religion. They were slow to discern that the sacrificial offerings had prefigured the death of the Son of God, in which type met antitype, and were no longer binding. TT 100.3

Paul had gained a clear conception of the mission of the Saviour as the Redeemer of Gentile as well as Jew and had learned the difference between a living faith and a dead formalism. In the light of the gospel, the ceremonies committed to Israel had gained a new significance. That which they foreshadowed had come to pass, and those who were living under the gospel dispensation had been freed from their observance. God's unchangeable law of Ten Commandments, however, Paul still kept in spirit as well as in letter. TT 100.4

The question of circumcision resulted in much discussion and contention. Finally, the members of the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas, with some responsible men from the church, to Jerusalem to lay the matter before the apostles and elders. A final decision given in general council was to be universally accepted by the different churches. TT 101.1