1. SENT OUT ON A MISSION
a. After the one year of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, how did the local church acknowledge their calling in an official way—urging them to enter new fields? Acts 13:1–3. What should this teach us?
“God had abundantly blessed the labors of Paul and Barnabas during the year they remained with the believers in Antioch. But neither of them had as yet been formally ordained to the gospel ministry. . . .
“Before being sent forth as missionaries to the heathen world, these apostles were solemnly dedicated to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 160, 161.
“Place after place is to be visited; church after church is to be raised up. Those who take their stand for the truth are to be organized into churches, and then the minister is to pass on to other equally important fields.
“Just as soon as a church is organized, let the minister set the members to work. The newly-formed churches will need to be educated. The minister should devote more of his time to educating than to preaching. He should teach the people how to extend the knowledge of the truth.”—Pacific Union Recorder, April 24, 1902.
2. CONVEYING AND CONSULTING
a. What could Paul and Barnabas testify about their missionary labors? Acts 14:27. How are we to seek a similar experience today? Zechariah 10:1.
“Decided efforts should be made to open new fields in the north, the south, the east, and the west.”—Evangelism, pp. 19, 20.
“Our ministers are not to hover over the churches, regarding the churches in some particular place as their special care. And our churches should not feel jealous and neglected if they do not receive ministerial labor. They should themselves take up the burden, and labor most earnestly for souls. Believers are to have root in themselves, striking firm root in Christ, that they may bear fruit to His glory. As one man, they are to strive to attain one object—the saving of souls.
“All who know the truth should impart this knowledge to others. We need now to train men, and set them at work, giving them every facility for the impartation of truth. There is at this time a great dearth of laborers. Scores of men and women might be set at work.”—Australasian Union Conference Record, August 1, 1902.
“Soon the time to labor will be past. Who does not want to have a part in this closing work? All can do something.”—Historical Sketches, p. 173.
b. Describe the challenge that eventually came to Paul and Barnabas—and the response they took. Acts 15:1, 2; Galatians 2:1–5.
“Paul . . . describes the visit which he made to Jerusalem to secure a settlement of the very questions which are now agitating the churches of Galatia, as to whether the Gentiles should submit to circumcision and keep the ceremonial law.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1108.
c. What did the general meeting of believers consider—and what example does this also provide for us? Acts 15:4–6.
“Brethren are to counsel together, for we are just as much under the control of God in one part of His vineyard as in another.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 233.
3. ASSEMBLING TO UNITE ON GOD’S WILL
a. How did the general council of believers proceed and what did they conclude? Galatians 2:7–10; Acts 15:7–14, 19, 20.
“[Paul’s visit to Jerusalem] was the only instance in which he had deferred to the judgment of the other apostles as superior to his own. He had first sought a private interview, in which he set the matter in all its bearings before the leading apostles, Peter, James, and John. With far-seeing wisdom, he concluded that if these men could be led to take a right position, everything would be gained. Had he first presented the question before the whole council, there would have been a division of sentiment. The strong prejudice already excited because he had not enforced circumcision on the Gentiles, would have led many to take a stand against him. Thus the object of his visit would have been defeated, and his usefulness greatly hindered. But the three leading apostles, against whom no such prejudice existed, having themselves been won to the true position, brought the matter before the council, and won from all a concurrence in the decision to leave the Gentiles free from the obligations of the ceremonial law.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1108.
b. What response was then sent back to Antioch? Acts 15:22–31.
c. Why are all believers to be vigilant in prayerfully studying and sharing the truths of God’s word? 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2–4.
“In every age the archenemy adapts his temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of the people. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law, and reject Christ; at the present day he induces many professed Christians, under the pretense of honoring Christ, to cast contempt upon the moral law, and teach that its precepts may be transgressed with impunity. It is the duty of every faithful servant of God, to firmly and decidedly withstand these perverters of the faith, and to fearlessly expose their errors by the word of truth.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 192.
4. A LEARNING CURVE
a. What happened when Peter (coming from Jerusalem, where he had to deal with the Jews and their prejudices) visited Antioch? Galatians 2:11–13.
“Jerusalem was the metropolis of the Jews, and it was there that the greatest exclusiveness and bigotry were found. The Jewish Christians living within sight of the temple naturally allowed their minds to revert to the peculiar privileges of the Jews as a nation. When they saw the Christian church departing from the ceremonies and traditions of Judaism, and perceived that the peculiar sacredness with which the Jewish customs had been invested would soon be lost sight of in the light of the new faith, many grew indignant with Paul as the one who had, in a large measure, caused this change. Even the disciples were not all prepared to accept willingly the decision of the council. Some were zealous for the ceremonial law, and they regarded Paul with disfavor because they thought that his principles in regard to the obligations of the Jewish law were lax.
“The broad and far-reaching decisions of the general council brought confidence into the ranks of the Gentile believers, and the cause of God prospered. . . .
“When Peter, at a later date, visited Antioch, he won the confidence of many by his prudent conduct toward the Gentile converts. For a time he acted in accordance with the light given from heaven. He so far overcame his natural prejudice as to sit at table with the Gentile converts. But when certain Jews who were zealous for the ceremonial law, came from Jerusalem, Peter injudiciously changed his deportment toward the converts from paganism. A number of the Jews ‘dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.’ This revelation of weakness on the part of those who had been respected and loved as leaders, left a most painful impression on the minds of the Gentile believers. The church was threatened with division.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 197, 198.
b. How did Paul rectify the matter? Galatians 2:14.
“Paul, who saw the subverting influence of the wrong done to the church through the double part acted by Peter, openly rebuked him for thus disguising his true sentiments.”—Ibid., p. 198.
5. A LESSON FOR ALL
a. What should we learn from the way Peter accepted Paul’s rebuke—and why the correction was done publicly? Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 27:5.
“At Antioch Peter failed in the principles of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to face. This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle. . . .
“May God give every man a sense of his own personal helplessness to steer his own vessel straight and safely into the harbor. The grace of Christ is essential every day. His matchless grace alone can save our feet from falling.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, pp. 1108, 1109.
“Peter saw the error into which he had fallen, and immediately set about repairing the evil that had been wrought, so far as was in his power. God, who knows the end from the beginning, permitted Peter to reveal this weakness of character in order that the tried apostle might see that there was nothing in himself whereof he might boast. Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will err in judgment. God also saw that in time to come some would be so deluded as to claim for Peter and his pretended successors the exalted prerogatives that belong to God alone. And this record of the apostle’s weakness was to remain as a proof of his fallibility and of the fact that he stood in no way above the level of the other apostles. . . .
“The greater the responsibilities placed upon the human agent, and the larger his opportunities to dictate and control, the more harm he is sure to do if he does not carefully follow the way of the Lord and labor in harmony with the decisions arrived at by the general body of believers in united council.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 198, 199.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What should we learn from the seemingly short time Paul was at Antioch?
2. Why does God direct His people to gather at times and scatter at times?
3. What can I learn when a council of believers decides differently than I hoped?
4. How might I be in danger of slipping in the trap into which Peter tripped?
5. What should I keep in mind if reproved as Peter was, even publicly?