Salvation by Grace Alone



     It is interesting to follow up the history of Paul, and note the outward circumstances that caused him to go from place to place. When perse­cuted at Iconium he fled to Lystra and Derbe where he preached the gospel and healed a cripple, but soon he was pursued to this place and stoned and drawn out of the city for dead, whereupon he de­parted to Iconium and Antioch. He knew that bonds and affliction awaited him wherever he went, but these things never moved him. He said, “Neither count I my life dear unto myself.” He was a Bible missionary a worthy pattern to all the ministers of the gospel, in after ages.

     The church at Antioch had dissentions about circumcision. Paul and Barnabas, with others, went to Jerusalem to get the mind of the church concerning the matter, and they were received by the church and the matter was considered at length by the church with the apostles. “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch.” The authority of the church was recognized in this matter and this fact deserves notice. It furnishes no authority for any organization whatever outside of the church to decide matters of dispute among our people. This fifteenth chapter of Acts is full of instruction to our people in many ways. The issue raised involved Arminian principles; that except one is circumcised he cannot be saved. It sought to lay a burden on Gentile converts, and mix law and gospel in our salvation. In this investigation Peter said, “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall he saved, even as they.” This was the doctrine Paul had preached at Antioch and in all his labors. They sent a letter by Judas and Silas to the church at Antioch insisting that they should not mix with idolaters, and avoid forni­cation. No doubt this referred to sins that had pre­vailed in Antioch to a great degree, but Paul’s doctrine was sustained by this letter, and the truth that we are justified alone by the imputed righteous­ness of Christ was established among God’s people.

     Soon after this Paul started on a long journey. This is recorded in Acts xvi. The Spirit suffered them not to go into Bithynia, and by a vision Paul was directed to Macedonia and so he went to Philippi. It was here that Lydia was converted and baptized, after which she took them to her own house. The book says, “She constrained us” to her home and shares her hospitality. Here was Paul and his companion, Silas, over a thousand miles from home, in a heathen land, with no arrangements for support from any board or organization of any kind, yet they are sustained by those whom they serve.

     The great principle, that where the Lord has work for his servants, there they will find friends who will provide for them, was established. “The Lord will provide” was the promise. This was the theory on which Paul relied. Here, too, as every­where else, he found enemies. He and Silas were whipped and cast into prison and their feet made fast in the stocks. Under these circumstances, over one thousand miles from home, in a strange and heathen land, with their poor backs sore from many stripes and their feet fast in the stocks, yet at the hour of midnight they sang praises to God and prayed. Let us pause and ask what spirit is it that dwells in these men? It is a true missionary spirit, one that is swallowed up in the things of God, full of self-denial, full of cross-bearing. We may well ask how much of this spirit do we possess?

     Paul placed the right estimate on all worldly things. He knew that the presence and blessings of God are worth more than all else. It is believed that Paul’s custom was to labor with his hands to provide for his necessities. He labored with Aquila and Pricilla at their trade—tentmaking. Paul abode with these people and reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and I think working at his trade through the week. This was at Corinth. His preaching, as usual, stirred up opposition. While he comforted and instructed the Lord’s dear chil­dren, he also stirred up the hate of false teachers. Paul never learned how to so preach as to have no opposition. He assailed error and false teaching of whatever nature, or wherever he found it. O, what peculiar business is the service of God! We are not to seek to please men. We are warned against the friendship of the world. I have known many of our dear brethren who are gone, who, like Paul, preached so as to expose error in a manner that gave offence. Old Elder Hume said to me when I was but a boy, “I can’t preach without getting on controverted ground and making enemies. I know many others who were the same. Elder Potter came to my home, and some one insisted that be must not fight so in his preaching. He said, “These people oppose truth and our preaching. They do all they can against us and to hold up error. They call us reproachful names, and I think it my duty to show up their inconsistency and false views.” This was Elder Potter’s record. He fought error in its every form in which he met it, and in this he was like the great apostle. Some men can preach with­out seriously crossing any ones path, without especially defending any unpopular feature of truth, or without opposing any serious error and so escape the cross, but Paul was not such a preacher as this.

     Paul became discouraged at Corinth; but the Lord showed him in a vision that no man should set on him to do him hurt, and that he had much people there. Paul remained “a good while” and preached. His ministry was full of suffering and toil; nothing in his life that worldly man should desire his business, but in the midst of all this the Lord blest him and sustained him. The Lord provided for him. When his enemies got hot, his friends got hot, too. Hot enemies—hot friends. So he had much to rejoice over. A true minister will make enemies, but he will have true, sweet friends that will more than make amends for all the losses of honor, riches and friends. “If God be for us here is both our security and happiness; with the presence and approval of the Lord—with this we may smile at the storm—all is well.

     Paul did not seek the honor of men. Ordinarily men love eulogy, or even flattery, not so with Paul. Where the people at Lystra were ready to do homage to him and Barnabas they refuse it with scorn. Worldly honor or financial gain was no part of his object.

I believe the sentiment that, “They that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel.” Those who in the fear and love of God go to this duty will be sus­tained, not enriched. Who is it that has faithfully and humbly tried and found it otherwise? There is no promise that it shall be lucrative or profitable. We may expect too much, we may desire too much, and thus fail, but the principle will stand true that, “The Lord will provide.” J. H. O.

J. H. Oliphant

Submitted by Elder David Montgomery

Salvation by Grace Alone

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