1. DISCERNING SUPERNATURAL ACTS
a. Explain Paul’s unusual medical missionary acts reminiscent of some of Christ’s miracles. Acts 19:11, 12; Matthew 14:35, 36; Luke 8:43–48.
“The apostles were not always able to work miracles at will. The Lord granted His servants this special power as the progress of His cause or the honor of His name required. . . . On this occasion, garments were made the means of cure to all that believed; ‘diseases departed from them, and evil spirits went out of them.’ Yet these miracles gave no encouragement to blind superstition. When Jesus felt the touch of the suffering woman, he exclaimed, ‘Virtue is gone out of me.’ So the scripture declares that the Lord wrought miracles by the hand of Paul, and that the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, and not the name of Paul.
“The manifestations of supernatural power which accompanied the apostle’s work, were calculated to make a deep impression upon a people given to sorcery, and priding themselves upon their intercourse with invisible beings. The miracles of Paul were far more potent than had ever before been witnessed in Ephesus, and were of such a character that they could not be imitated by the skill of the juggler or the enchantments of the sorcerer. Thus the Lord exalted His servant, even in the estimation of the idolaters themselves, immeasurably above the most favored and powerful of the magicians.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 135, 136.
2. ANCIENT AND CONTEMPORARY SORCERY
a. How was Christ’s name vindicated to the shame of apostate Jews who had actually stooped to sorcery? Acts 19:13–16. How were many impressed by this event? Acts 19:17, 18.
b. What step was taken by the new converts who had been practicing sorcery? Acts 19:19, 20. Why? Matthew 5:29, 30; Ephesians 6:12.
“When the transforming grace of Christ is upon the heart, a righteous indignation will take possession of the soul because the sinner has so long neglected the great salvation that God has provided for him. . . . He will, like the Ephesians, denounce sorcery, and will cut the last thread that binds him to Satan. He will leave the banner of the prince of darkness, and will come under the bloodstained banner of Prince Emmanuel. He will burn the magical books.”—The Youth’s Instructor, November 16, 1893.
c. What must we realize about much that is in print and on many videos, DVDs, and websites? Ecclesiastes 12:12, 13; 1 Timothy 6:20, 21.
“To take up fictitious stories, the fruits of somebody’s imagination, is to lay the mind open to the bewitching power of Satan; and this kind of reading creates an unnatural appetite for fictitious stories, from which no moral strength is derived. Fictitious stories leave the mind and heart as destitute of the grace of God as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. Let everyone who claims to be a child of God burn the magical books. . . .
“Books from the pens of infidels should have no place in the libraries of those who would serve God. They will make better kindling material for your stove, than food for the mind. Infidel books have been a cause of ruin to many souls. Men have studied these books of Satan’s inspiration, and they have become confused in regard to what was truth. Satan stands at the side of him who opens an infidel book, and he will educate the mind that peruses such literature, and so bewitch the soul that it will be almost impossible to break the infatuation.”—Ibid., November 23, 1893.
“All who venture into scenes of dissipation or irreligious pleasure, or seek the society of the sensualist, the skeptic, or the blasphemer, by personal intercourse or through the medium of the press, are tampering with sorcery.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 140.
3. NEW AGE, OCCULTISM, SPIRITISM
a. In God’s sight, how seriously offensive is sorcery? Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:9–12. Name some ways this ancient evil is practiced today under various names and disguises.
“An agent of the great deceiver will say and do anything to gain his object. It matters little whether he calls himself a spiritualist, an ‘electric physician,’ or a ‘magnetic healer.’ By specious pretenses he wins the confidence of the unwary. He pretends to read the life history and to understand all the difficulties and afflictions of those who resort to him. Disguising himself as an angel of light, while the blackness of the pit is in his heart, he manifests great interest in women who seek his counsel. He tells them that all their troubles are due to an unhappy marriage. This may be too true, but such counsel does not better their condition. He tells them that they need love and sympathy. Pretending great interest in their welfare, he casts a spell over his unsuspecting victims, charming them as the serpent charms the trembling bird. Soon they are completely in his power, and sin, disgrace, and ruin are the terrible sequel. Our only safety is in preserving the ancient landmarks.”—Counsels on Health, p. 459.
“Believers in spiritism may speak with scorn of the magicians of old, but the great deceiver laughs in triumph as they yield to his arts under a different form.
“There are many who shrink with horror from the thought of consulting spirit mediums, but who are attracted by more pleasing forms of spiritism. Others are led astray by the teachings of Christian Science, and by the mysticism of Theosophy and other Oriental religions.
“The apostles of nearly all forms of spiritism claim to have power to heal. They attribute this power to electricity, magnetism, the socalled ‘sympathetic remedies,’ or to latent forces within the mind of man.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 210, 211.
“Not a few in this Christian age and Christian nation resort to evil spirits rather than trust to the power of the living God. The mother, watching by the sickbed of her child, exclaims: ‘I can do no more. Is there no physician who has power to restore my child?’ She is told of the wonderful cures performed by some clairvoyant or magnetic healer, and she trusts her dear one to his charge, placing it as verily in the hands of Satan as if he were standing by her side. In many instances the future life of the child is controlled by a satanic power which it seems impossible to break.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 193, 194.
“Every person who cherishes a known error, in faith or practice, is under the power of sorcery.”—The Signs of the Times, May 18, 1882.
4. PAUL GOES TO JERUSALEM
a. Although Paul had always clung to a goal of going to Jerusalem to remove the prejudice of his Jewish countrymen, what did his brethren warn him? Acts 21:3, 4. Why did he still press forward? Acts 21:5; 2 Corinthians 5:7.
“The Holy Spirit had revealed to [a few disciples at Tyre] something of the dangers which awaited Paul at Jerusalem, and they endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose. But the same Spirit which had warned him of afflictions, bonds, and imprisonment, still urged him forward, a willing captive.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 203.
b. What further enlightenment came to Paul at Caesarea, and why were all subdued by Paul’s touching response? Acts 21:8–15. What perspective does Christ give us concerning martyrdom? Luke 12:4, 5.
“The apostle was deeply moved by the entreaties of his beloved brethren. To human judgment he had sufficient reason to relinquish his plan as unwise. But he felt that he was moving in obedience to the will of God, and he could not be deterred by the voice of friends, or even the warning of the prophet. He would not swerve from the path of duty to the right hand nor to the left. He must follow Christ, if need be, to prison and to death. His tears fell not for himself, but in sympathy with his brethren, upon whom his determination had brought so great sorrow.”—Ibid., p. 205.
c. Describe the results upon Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem. Acts 21:17, 18.
“Paul and his companions formally presented to the leaders of the work at Jerusalem the contributions forwarded by the Gentile churches for the support of the poor among their Jewish brethren. The gathering of these contributions had cost the apostle and his fellow workers much time, anxious thought, and wearisome labor. The sum, which far exceeded the expectations of the elders at Jerusalem, represented many sacrifices and even severe privations on the part of the Gentile believers. . . .
“It was apparent to Paul and his companions that even among those before whom they now stood were some who were unable to appreciate the spirit of brotherly love that had prompted the gifts.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 399, 400.
5. PLACED IN DANGER
a. Explain the unwise, unnecessary plan suddenly unveiled to Paul by the elders at Jerusalem, and the human logic behind it. Acts 21:19–25.
“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 Acts of the Apostles, p. 404.
b. What did Paul do about this plan? Acts 21:26. Why did he agree to perform such an act? 1 Corinthians 9:22, 23.
“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.”—Ibid., p. 405.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Under what types of circumstances has God performed unusual miracles?
2. What are some “magical books” that need to be burned right away?
3. To what forms of spiritism may we be in danger of falling prey?
4. Why did Paul go to Jerusalem?
5. What caution should we heed from Paul’s reasoning in Jerusalem?