Redemption: or the Teachings of Paul, and his Mission to the Gentiles

Apollos at Corinth

Paul's next scene of labor was at Ephesus. He was on his way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost; and his stay at Ephesus was necessarily short. He reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue, and produced such a favorable impression that he was entreated to tarry there, and to protract his labors among them. His plan to visit Jerusalem prevented him from doing so; but he promised to visit them on his return. He left Aquila and Priscilla to carry forward the good work which he had begun. 8Red 65.3

It was at this time that Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, visited Ephesus. He had received the highest Grecian cultivation, and was a scholar and an orator. He had heard the teachings of John the Baptist, had received the baptism of repentance, and was a living witness that the work of the prophet was not in vain. Apollos was a deep student of the prophecies, and was a powerful expounder of scripture, publicly proclaiming his faith in Christ, as far as he himself had received the light. 8Red 66.1

Aquila and Priscilla listened to this able speaker, and saw that his teaching was defective. He had not a thorough knowledge of the mission of Christ, his resurrection and ascension, and of his Spirit, the Comforter, which he sent to his people. They accordingly sent for Apollos, and the educated orator received instruction from them with grateful surprise and joy. They explained the scripture to him more clearly than he had before understood it, and he became one of the ablest defenders of the Christian church. Thus a deep scholar and brilliant orator learned the way of the Lord more perfectly from the teachings of a Christian man and woman whose humble employment was that of tent-making. 8Red 66.2

Apollos, having seen new light in regard to the way of salvation through Christ, accepted it gladly, and reasoned from the Scriptures with greater power and success than he had ever before done. He felt anxious to visit Corinth, and the Ephesian brethren wrote to the Corinthians to receive him as a teacher who was in full harmony with the acknowledged church of Christ. He accordingly went to Corinth, and labored with the very Jews who had rejected the truth as preached to them by Paul. He urged with them from house to house, both publicly and privately, showing them Christ in prophecy; that he was Jesus whom Paul had preached, and that all their expectations of another Messiah to come were in vain. Thus Paul planted the seed of truth, and Apollos watered it; and the fact of Apollos supporting the mission of Paul gave character to the past labors of the apostle among them. 8Red 66.3

His success in preaching the gospel occasioned some of the church to exalt his labors above those of Paul, while he himself was working in perfect harmony with Paul for the advancement of the cause. This rival spirit threatened to greatly hinder the work. Paul had purposely presented the gospel to the Corinthians in its veriest simplicity. Disappointed with the result of his labors in Athens, where he had brought his learning, eloquence, and ability to bear upon his hearers, he determined to pursue an entirely different course in Corinth. He presented there the plain, simple truth, unadorned with worldly wisdom, and studiously dwelt upon Christ, and his mission to the world. The eloquent discourses of Apollos, and his manifest learning, were contrasted by his hearers with the purposely simple and unadorned preaching of Paul. 8Red 67.1

Many declared themselves to be under the leadership of Apollos, while others composed another party perseveringly adhering to the instructions of Paul. Satan came in to take advantage of these imaginary differences in the Corinthian church, tempting them to draw comparisons between the ministers who taught the way of salvation. Some claimed Apollos as their leader, some Paul, and some Peter. Thus Paul, in his efforts to establish Christianity, met with conflicts and trials in the church as well as outside of it. Factions were beginning to rise through the influence of Judaizing teachers, who urged that the converts to Christianity should observe the ceremonial law in the matter of circumcision. 8Red 67.2

They still maintained that the original Israel were the exalted and privileged children of Abraham, entitled to all the promises made to Abraham. They sincerely thought that in taking this medium ground between Jew and Christian, they would succeed in wiping out the odium which attached to Christianity, and gather in large numbers of the Jews who would not otherwise embrace the true faith. They vindicated their position, which was in opposition to that of Paul, by showing that the course of the apostle, in accepting the Gentiles into the church without circumcision, prevented more Jews from accepting the faith than there were accessions from the Gentiles. Thus they excused their opposition to the results of the calm deliberations of God's acknowledged servants. 8Red 68.1

They refused to admit that the work of Christ embraced the whole world; but claimed that he was the Saviour of the Hebrews alone; therefore they maintained that the Gentiles should receive circumcision before being admitted to the privileges of the church of Christ. After the decision of the council at Jerusalem concerning this question, many were of this same opinion, but did not then venture to push the matter farther. The council had, on that occasion, decided that the Jewish Christians might observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law if they chose, while they should not be made obligatory upon the Gentile Christians. The opposing class now took advantage of this to urge a distinction between the observers of the ceremonial law and those who did not observe it, holding that the latter were removed farther from God than the former. 8Red 68.2

Here Paul was forced into the battle, to argue the question whether the converts to Christianity should be Jews in every respect, save their belief that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, or whether they should discern to the end of that which had been abolished by the death of Christ, and bear evidence that they were children of Abraham, not merely in their bodies, but in their hearts, showing by their righteous lives the merits of the grace of Christ. 8Red 69.1

Paul's indignation was stirred. His voice was raised in stern rebuke: “If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” The party maintaining that Christianity was valueless without circumcision arrayed themselves against the apostle, and Paul had to meet them in every church which he had raised up; in Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. God urged him out to the great work of preaching Christ and him crucified; that circumcision or uncircumcision was nothing. The Judaizing party looked upon Paul as an apostate, bent upon breaking down the partition wall which God had established between the Israelites and the world. They visited every church which he had organized, creating divisions. Reasoning that the end would justify the means, they circulated false charges against the apostle, and endeavored to bring him into disrepute. As Paul, in visiting the churches, followed after these zealous and unscrupulous opposers, he met many who viewed him with distrust, and some who even despised his labors. 8Red 69.2

These divisions in regard to the ceremonial law, and the relative merits of the different ministers teaching the doctrine of Christ, caused the apostle much anxiety and hard labor. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, he thus addresses them on the latter subject:— 8Red 70.1

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” 8Red 70.2

He also explains the reason of his manner of labor among them: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” 8Red 70.3

He thus shows them that he could not, when with them, address them as those who had an experience in spiritual life and the mystery of godliness. However wise they might have been in worldly knowledge, they were but babes in the knowledge of Christ, and it was his work to instruct them in the first rudiments, the very alphabet of Christian faith and doctrine. It was his task to sow the seed, which another must water. It was the business of those who followed him to carry forward the work from the point where he had left it, and to give spiritual light and knowledge in due season, as they were able to bear it. 8Red 70.4

When he came to them they had no experimental knowledge of the way of salvation, and he was obliged to present the truth in its simplest form. Their carnal minds could not discern the sacred revealings of God; they were strangers to the manifestations of divine grace. Paul had spoken to them as those who were ignorant of the operations of that grace upon the heart. They were carnal-minded, and the apostle was aware that they could not comprehend the mysteries of salvation; for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. He knew that many of his hearers were proud believers in human theories, and reasoners of false theologies, groping with blind eyes in the book of nature for a contradiction of the spiritual and immortal life revealed in the Book of God. 8Red 71.1

He knew that criticism would set about controverting the Christian interpretation of the revealed word, and skepticism would treat the gospel of Christ with scoffing and derision. It behooved him to introduce most carefully the great truths he wished to teach them. True Christianity is a religion of progress. It is ever giving light and blessing, and has in resource still greater light and blessing to bestow on those who receive its truths. The illuminating influence of the gospel of Christ, and the sanctifying grace of God, can alone transform the carnal mind to be in harmony with spiritual things. 8Red 71.2

Paul did not venture to directly rebuke the licentious, and to show them how heinous was their sin in the sight of a holy God. His work was, as a wise teacher, to set before them the true aim and object of life, impressing upon their minds the lessons of the divine Teacher, which sought to bring them up from worldliness and sin, to purity and immortal life. The spiritual senses must be matured by continual advancement in the knowledge of heavenly things. Thus the mind would learn to delight in them; and every precept of the Word of God would shine forth as a priceless gem. 8Red 72.1

Paul had especially dwelt upon practical godliness, and the character of that holiness which must be gained in order to make sure of the kingdom of Heaven. He wished the light of the gospel of Christ to pierce the darkness of their minds, that they might discern how aggravating to God were their immoral practices. Therefore the burden of Paul's preaching among them had been Christ, and him crucified. He wished them to understand that the theme for their most earnest study, and greatest joy, should be the grand truth of salvation through repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in the saving merits of his blood. 8Red 72.2

The philosopher turns aside from the light of salvation because it puts his proud theories to shame. The worldling refuses to receive it, because it would separate him from his earthly idols, and draw him to a holier life, for which he has no inclination. Paul saw that the character of Christ must be understood before men could love him, and view the cross with the eye of faith. Here must begin that study which shall be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. In the light of the cross alone can the true value of the human soul be estimated. 8Red 72.3

The refining influence of the grace of God changes the natural disposition of man. Heaven would not be desirable to the carnal-minded; their natural, unsanctified hearts would feel no attraction toward that pure and holy place; and if it were possible for them to enter, they would find nothing there congenial to them, in their sinful condition. The carnal propensities which reign in the natural heart must be subdued by the grace of Christ, before fallen man can be elevated to harmonize with Heaven, and enjoy the society of the pure and holy angels. When man dies to sin, and is quickened to new life in Christ Jesus, divine love fills his heart; his understanding is sanctified; he drinks from an inexhaustible fountain of joy and knowledge; and the light of an eternal day shines upon his path, for he has the light of life with him continually. 8Red 73.1

Paul now sought to impress upon them the fact that he himself, and the ministers who followed him, were only men, commissioned of God to teach them the truth; that they were individually engaged in the same work, which was marked out for them by their Heavenly Father; that they were all dependent upon him for the success which attended their labors. “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” 8Red 73.2

The consciousness of being God's servants inspires the minister with energy and diligence to perseveringly discharge his duty, with an eye single to the glory of his Master. God has given to each of his messengers his distinctive work; and, while there is a diversity of gifts, all are to blend harmoniously in carrying forward the great work of salvation. They are only instruments of divine grace and power. 8Red 74.1

Paul says, “So, then, neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God; ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” The teacher of Christ's truth must be near the cross himself, in order to bring sinners to it. His work should be to preach Christ, and to studiously avoid calling attention to himself and thus encumbering the sacred truth, lest he hinder its saving power. 8Red 74.2

There can be no stronger evidence in churches that the truths of the Bible have not sanctified the receivers than their attachment to some favorite minister, and their unwillingness to accept and be profited by the labors of some other teacher who is sent to them in the providence of God. The Lord sends help to his church as they need, not as they choose; for short-sighted mortals cannot discern what is for their best good. It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect any one church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God sends other ministers to follow him, one after another, each one possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient. 8Red 74.3

The church should gratefully accept these servants of Christ, even as they would accept their Master himself. They should seek to derive all the benefit possible from the instruction which ministers may give them from the Word of God. But the ministers themselves are not to be idolized; there should be no religious pets and favorites among the people; it is the truths they bring which are to be accepted, and appreciated in the meekness of humility. 8Red 75.1

In the apostles’ day, one party claimed to believe in Christ, yet would not give due respect to his ambassadors. They claimed to follow no human teacher, but to be taught directly from Christ, without the aid of ministers of the gospel. They were independent in spirit, and unwilling to submit to the voice of the church. Another party claimed Paul as their leader, and drew comparisons between him and Peter, which were unfavorable to the latter. Another declared that Apollos far exceeded Paul in address, and power of oratory. Another claimed Peter as their leader, affirming that he had been most intimate with Christ when he was upon earth, while Paul had been a persecutor of the believers. This party spirit was in danger of ruining the Christian church. 8Red 75.2

Paul and Apollos were in perfect harmony. The latter was disappointed and grieved because of the dissension in the church; he took no advantage of the preference shown himself, nor did he encourage it; but hastily left the field of strife. When Paul afterward urged him to visit Corinth, he declined, and did not do so until long after, when the church had reached a better spiritual state. 8Red 75.3

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of Apollos as one who had watered the precious seed sown by himself. He made no mention of the false teachers who were sent to Corinth to destroy the fruit of his labor. Because of the darkness and division in the church, he wisely forbore to irritate them by such references, for fear of turning some entirely from the truth. But he called the attention of the Corinthians to his work among them, saying, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 8Red 76.1

Paul, as a champion of the faith, did not hesitate to declare the character of his work. But he did not thereby exalt himself when he asserted that he was a wise master-builder, who had laid the foundation for another to build upon. He had just stated, “For we are laborers together with God.” He claimed no wisdom of his own; but divine power, uniting with his human efforts, had enabled him to present the truth in a manner pleasing to God. He was a co-laborer with Christ, a diligent worker in bringing spiritual knowledge from the Word of God and the works of Christ, to all whose hearts were open to evidence. United with Christ, who was the greatest of all teachers, he had been enabled to communicate lessons of divine wisdom that met the necessities of all classes and conditions of men, and which were to apply to all times, all places, and all people. In so doing, Paul took no glory to himself, as a humble instrument in the hands of God. 8Red 76.2

God gave Paul the wisdom of a skillful architect, that he might lay the foundation of the church of Christ. This figure of the building of a temple is frequently repeated in the Scriptures, as forcibly illustrating the building up of the true Christian church. Zechariah refers to Christ as the Branch that should build the temple of the Lord. He also refers to the Gentiles as helping in this building: “And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord.” 8Red 77.1

Paul had now been working in the Gentile quarry, to bring out valuable stones to lay upon the foundation stone, which was Jesus Christ, that by coming in contact with that living stone, they might also become living stones. In writing to the Ephesians, he says, “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God.” 8Red 77.2

Some ministers, through their labors, furnish the most precious material: gold, silver, and precious stones, which represent true moral worth sanctified and purified by the Spirit of God. The false material, gilded to imitate the true,— that is a carnal mind, and unsanctified character, glossed over with seeming righteousness,—may not be readily detected by mortal eye; but the day of God will test the material. “Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it.” 8Red 77.3

The precious stones represent the most perfect Christians, who have been refined and polished by the grace of God, and affliction which they have endured with much prayer and patience. Their obedience and love resemble that of the great Pattern. Their lives are beautified and ennobled by self-sacrifice. They will endure the test of the burning day, for they are living stones. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” 8Red 78.1

Many, from worldly policy, endeavor, by their own efforts, to become as polished stones, but cannot be living stones, because they are not built upon the true foundation. The day of God will reveal that they are, in reality, only hay, wood, and stubble. The great temple of Diana was ruined; her magnificence utterly perished; those who shouted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” perished with their goddess and the temple which enshrined her. Their religion is forgotten, or seems like an idle tale. That temple was built upon a false foundation, and when tried, it was found to be worthless. But the stones that Paul quarried out from Ephesus were found to be precious and enduring. 8Red 78.2

Paul laid himself upon the true foundation, and brought every stone, whether large or small, polished or unhewn, common or precious, to be connected with the living foundation stone, Christ Jesus. Thus slowly ascended the temple of the church of God. The apostle says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” 8Red 78.3

Paul, in vision, had a view of the city of God, with its foundation of precious stones; and he represents the true Christian converts to be gold, silver, and precious stones. But the Jews made the work of Paul exceedingly difficult. They were continually claiming to be the only true children of Abraham, and therefore the only legitimate building-stones for God's house; and when the Gentiles accepted the truth, and were brought to the true foundation, they murmured about this material. Thus they hindered the work of God; nevertheless, the apostle unflinchingly continued his labors. 8Red 79.1

Paul and his fellow-workmen were skillful architects because they had learned from Christ and his works. They had not only to build, but to tear down. They had to contend with the bigotry, prejudice, and violence of men who had built upon a false foundation. Through the power of God the apostles became mighty in pulling down these strongholds of the enemy. Many who wrought as builders of the temple of Christ's church could be likened to the builders of the wall in Nehemiah's day: “They which builded on the wall, and they that bore burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.” 8Red 79.2

One after another of the noble builders fell at his work by the hand of the enemy. Stephen was stoned; James was slain by the sword; Paul was beheaded; Peter was crucified; John was exiled. And yet stone after stone was added to the building, the church increased in the midst of the terrible persecutions that afflicted it, and new workers on the wall took the place of the fallen. 8Red 79.3

These faithful builders sought diligently to bring precious material to the living foundation. Paul labored to have his own heart, affections, and character correct and in harmony with the law of God; and then earnestly sought to bring about the same result with his converts. He exhorted Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.” This is the duty of every teacher of Bible truth, to illustrate in his own life the active Christian virtues, to be pure in heart, given to holy conversation, to be good, and to do good. 8Red 80.1

God will not accept the most splendid service, or the most brilliant talent, unless it is laid upon, and connected with, the living foundation stone; for this alone gives true value to the ability possessed, and makes it a living service to God. We may look back through centuries, and see the living stones gleaming like jets of light through the rubbish of moral darkness, errors, and superstition. These precious jewels shine with continually increasing luster, not alone for time, but for eternity. Although dead, the words and deeds of the righteous of all ages testify to the truth of God. The names of the martyrs for Christ's sake are immortalized among the angels in Heaven; and a bright reward awaits them when the Life-giver shall call them from their graves. 8Red 80.2