1. THE TIMING OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE
a. Which area (of relatively little mention in the book of Acts) had been included within the scope of Paul’s missionary journeys? Acts 16:6; 18:23.
b. Where had Paul been forbidden to go? Acts 16:7. What shows there was eventual success in that area—and what does this teach us? 1 Peter 1:1, 2.
“True workers walk and work by faith. Sometimes they grow weary with watching the slow advance of the work when the battle wages strong between the powers of good and evil. But if they refuse to fail or be discouraged they will see the clouds breaking away and the promise of deliverance fulfilling. Through the mist with which Satan has surrounded them, they will see the shining of the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
“Work in faith, and leave results with God. Pray in faith, and the mystery of His providence will bring its answer. At times it may seem that you cannot succeed. But work and believe, putting into your efforts faith, hope, and courage. After doing what you can, wait for the Lord, declaring His faithfulness, and He will bring His word to pass. Wait, not in fretful anxiety, but in undaunted faith and unshaken trust.”—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 245.
2. DEALING WITH DIFFERENT MINDS
a. With what sharp words did Paul attack head-on a spiritually fatal crisis among the Galatian believers? Galatians 1:6–9; 3:1–3; 4:9. Why did Paul treat them differently than he did the Corinthians?
“The Corinthians had been overcome by temptation and deceived by the ingenious sophistry of teachers who presented errors under the guise of truth. They had become confused and bewildered. To teach them to distinguish the false from the true required great caution and patience in their instructor. Harshness or injudicious haste would have destroyed his influence over those whom he sought to benefit.
“In the Galatian churches, open, unmasked error was supplanting the faith of the gospel. Christ, the true foundation, was virtually renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism. The apostle saw that if these churches were saved from the dangerous influences which threatened them, the most decisive measures must be taken, the sharpest warnings given, to bring them to a sense of their true condition.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 189, 190.
b. In our desire to witness and win others to the Saviour, what distinction should be clear in our mind? Jude 21–23.
“In all true teaching the personal element is essential. Christ in His teaching dealt with men individually. It was by personal contact and association that He trained the Twelve. It was in private, often to but one listener, that He gave His most precious instruction. To the honored rabbi at the night conference on the Mount of Olives, to the despised woman at the well of Sychar, He opened His richest treasures; for in these hearers He discerned the impressible heart, the open mind, the receptive spirit. Even the crowd that so often thronged His steps was not to Christ an indiscriminate mass of human beings. He spoke directly to every mind and appealed to every heart. He watched the faces of His hearers, marked the lighting up of the countenance, the quick, responsive glance, which told that truth had reached the soul; and there vibrated in His heart the answering chord of sympathetic joy.
“Christ discerned the possibilities in every human being.”—Education, pp. 231, 232.
3. CEREMONIES OR A CHANGED HEART?
a. What must all realize to be saved? Galatians 3:7–9, 27–29.
“In the Galatian churches, open, unmasked error was supplanting the gospel message. Christ, the true foundation of the faith, was virtually renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism. . . .
“The apostle urged the Galatians to leave the false guides by whom they had been misled, and to return to the faith that had been accompanied by unmistakable evidences of divine approval. The men who had attempted to lead them from their belief in the gospel were hypocrites, unholy in heart and corrupt in life. Their religion was made up of a round of ceremonies, through the performance of which they expected to gain the favor of God. They had no desire for a gospel that called for obedience to the word, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3). They felt that a religion based on such a doctrine required too great a sacrifice, and they clung to their errors, deceiving themselves and others.
“To substitute external forms of religion for holiness of heart and life is still as pleasing to the unrenewed nature as it was in the days of these Jewish teachers. Today, as then, there are false spiritual guides, to whose doctrines many listen eagerly. It is Satan’s studied effort to divert minds from the hope of salvation through faith in Christ and obedience to the law of God. In every age the archenemy adapts his temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of those whom he is seeking to deceive. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law and reject Christ; at the present time he induces many professing Christians, under pretense of honoring Christ, to cast contempt on the moral law and to teach that its precepts may be transgressed with impunity. It is the duty of every servant of God to withstand firmly and decidedly these perverters of the faith and by the word of truth fearlessly to expose their errors.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 385-387.
b. As many get caught up today in keeping ceremonial feast-days, what should we remember? Galatians 5:1, 2, 16–26.
“It was Christ’s desire to leave to His disciples [the] ordinance [of feet washing] that would do for them the very thing they needed—that would serve to disentangle them from the rites and ceremonies which they had hitherto engaged in as essential, and which the reception of the gospel made no longer of any force. To continue these [ancient Jewish] rites would be an insult to Jehovah.”—The Review and Herald, June 14, 1898.
4. LABORS IN EPHESUS
a. Why did Paul need to rebaptize some disciples in Ephesus? Acts 19:1–7. Why was this appropriate?
“When [the twelve Jewish brethren at Ephesus] received baptism at the hand of John, they were holding serious errors. But with clearer light they gladly accepted Christ as their Redeemer; and with this advance step came a change in their obligations. As they received a purer faith, there was a corresponding change in their life and character. In token of this change, and as an acknowledgment of their faith in Christ, they were rebaptized, in the name of Jesus.
“Many a sincere follower of Christ has had a similar experience. A clearer understanding of God’s will places man in a new relation to Him. New duties are revealed. Much which before appeared innocent, or even praiseworthy, is now seen to be sinful.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 132.
b. Describe Paul’s task in Ephesus. Acts 19:8–10.
“The Spirit of God had wrought with and through Paul in his labors for his countrymen. Sufficient evidence had been presented to convince all who honestly desired to know the truth. But many permitted themselves to be controlled by prejudice and unbelief and refused to yield to the most conclusive evidence. Fearing that the faith of the believers would be endangered by continued association with these opposers of the truth, Paul separated the disciples as a distinct body, and himself continued his public instructions. . . .
“Paul saw that ‘a great door and effectual’ was open before him, though there were ‘many adversaries.’ Ephesus was not only the most magnificent, but the most corrupt, of the cities of Asia. Superstition and sensual pleasure held sway over her teeming population. Under the shadow of her idol temples, criminals of every grade found shelter and the most degrading vices flourished.
“The city was famed for the worship of the goddess Diana and the practice of magic. Here was the great temple of Diana, which was regarded by the ancients as one of the wonders of the world. Its vast extent and surpassing magnificence made it the pride, not only of the city, but of the nation. Kings and princes had enriched it by their donations. . . . The idol enshrined in this sumptuous edifice was a rude, uncouth image, declared by tradition to have fallen from the sky.”—Ibid., p.134.
5. CHALLENGES IN EPHESUS
a. Seeing that the teachings of Paul had hurt his financial enterprise as a manufacturer of portable “Diana” statues, what did Demetrius the silversmith do? Acts 19:23–27. How did the people react to this charge? Acts 19:28, 29.
b. Although Paul was willing to face grave danger to gain yet another chance to present the gospel, what did his brethren urge him to do? Acts 19:30–32. What role did Alexander the coppersmith play—and why did his attempt to oppose the apostle’s work prove a failure? Acts 19:33–41; 2 Timothy 4:14.
c. How did Paul summarize his work in Ephesus? Acts 20:17–21, 25–27, 33–35. What should we learn from the foresight of his final words—and the response that followed? Acts 20:22–24, 28–32, 36–38.
“By his fidelity to the truth, Paul inspired intense hatred; but he also inspired the deepest and warmest affection. Sadly the disciples followed him to the ship, their hearts filled with anxiety, both for his future and for their own. The apostle’s tears flowed freely as he parted from these brethren, and after he had embarked there came to him from the shore the sound of weeping. With heavy hearts the elders turned homeward, knowing that they could expect no further help from him who had felt so deep an interest and labored with so great zeal for them and for the church under their care.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 202, 203.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What should we always consider about the timing of God’s providence?
2. Explain the character distinction between Corinthians and Galatians.
3. Why are people so prone to fall into ceremonialism and Judaization?
4. In what ways was Ephesus similar to our society today?
5. What can we learn from the way Paul handled this difficult mission field?