Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #1
“Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles"
July 1, 2017
Before launching into our Sabbath School Insights commentary, let's pause to consider the memory verse for this week:
"When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life' " (Acts 11:18, NKJV).
How long has it been since you've committed the weekly Sabbath School memory verse to memory? I must confess that for me it had been years. As a child, my parents taught me the Sabbath School memory verse from week to week, but as an adult that practice faded long ago. However, this past quarter I revived my old practice of repeating the memory verse with chapter and verse until it was learned. It takes a bit more repetition and review for long term storage now than before, but it's still possible. As an aside, I'd like to appeal to you to help revive the art of memorizing the Sabbath School memory verse each week. The message of our first memory verse this quarter, Acts 11:18, may well undergird our study of Galatians:
God has also granted to non-Adventists -- including New Agers, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, apostate Protestants, atheists -- repentance to life.
If you find the above expansion of Acts 11:18 a bit unorthodox, then recall that Paul clearly taught that Jesus Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). The fruit of the gospel is deliverance from sin. But it's the preaching of the gospel itself that changes hearts and makes this transformation possible. Therefore, if sin reappears in the life, it gives evidence of a falling away from the true gospel to another gospel that accommodates sin in the life of the believer.
In Paul's letter to the Galatians, we can almost sense him wringing his hands in desperation. How was it that these new converts had so quickly fallen back in sin? It was the teaching of a false gospel. To him this was no side issue.
This quarter we have the opportunity of taking front row seats in Paul's classroom, even as our Galatian brothers and sisters in Christ did nearly 2,000 years ago. The Galatians were anciently connected to the Celtic people of Gaul, a territory which covered much of Western Europe, and of which modern day France is more particularly associated. An online word search identifies my own maiden name as originating in Gaul. Perhaps in heaven when the human family chain is reconnected I will discover that one of my ancestors was a member of the Galatian church to which Paul's letter was addressed! But regardless of ethnicity, Paul's main point will be lost unless we can identify how this letter applies personally to us today. When the gospel was preached in Galatia many people gave their hearts to Jesus. Unfortunately, many of the Galatians quickly backslid from their newfound faith. And it was this circumstance that prompted Paul to skip the usual pleasantries and proceed directly to the burden of his heart.
He marveled that they were "turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel" (Galatians 1:6).
Before us this quarter is the opportunity for the worldwide church of Seventh-day Adventists to revisit our own history in which the book of Galatians plays a pivotal part. The Galatians were not the only ones to fall prey to a false gospel. A discussion between General Conference President Elder G. I. Butler and Signs of the Times editor E. J. Waggoner on the role of the law in salvation (as described in Galatians) set the stage for the historic 1888 General Conference session. Brother Waggoner's booklet, "The Gospel in Galatians," http://www.1888mpm.org/files/Studies%20in%20Galatians-Intro.pdf, will serve as an invaluable study aid this quarter for those wishing to understand more fully the application of Galatians to the church today, as will A. T. Jones's book, "Studies in Galatians," available at http://www.1888mpm.org/book/apostle-christ.
We note the following insight from Sister Ellen White:
"The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). In this scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. The law reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ and to flee unto Him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world" (1 SM 234, 235).
In Brother Waggoner's words, the "true gospel is to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. The perverted gospel which the Galatians were being taught, was to keep the commandments of God, and circumcision," and "trusting in circumcision for justification, thus cutting loose from Christ," caused the Galatians to relapse into idolatry. (The Gospel in Galatians, pp. 7, 11).
In closing, we note two points.
First, the condition of the Seventh-day Adventist church is one of spiritual blindness according to the message to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3. That means we are handicapped in our ability to discern where we may have imbibed a false gospel. We are apt to apply Paul's letter to others than ourselves.
Second, the Seventh-day Adventist Church was raised up by God to proclaim "the everlasting gospel," not a false gospel. If our steps have taken us down a different gospel path, we won't discover our mis-steps without retracing our history.
Repentance for our sin and a recognition of the consequent pain that has been brought upon ourselves, the world, and the heart of God will put us in a position where we can again sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him the sweet gospel message. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.
When this repentance is realized and the message is experienced in our hearts and proclaimed throughout the world, the end will come in short order. May the Lord bless our study this quarter as we seek to understand the truth of the gospel as it is in Jesus.
~ Patti Guthrie