For so the Lord commanded us - The apostles could quote a pertinent scripture for every thing they did; because the outlines of the whole Gospel dispensation are founded in the law and the prophets; and they were now building the Church of God according to the pattern shown them in the Mount. In the things of God, no man nor minister should go farther than he can say, Thus it is written, and thus it behoves me to do; and let him see that his quotations are fairly made, and not a detached passage or member of a sentence produced, because it seems to look like the system he wishes to establish.
I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles - This quotation is from Isaiah 49:6, and was most fully in point. The Jews could not resist the testimony of their own prophet; and the Gentiles rejoiced to find that the offers of salvation were to be made so specifically to them.
For salvation unto the ends of the earth - The very name of the Messiah, viz Jesus, announced the design and end of his mission. He is the Savior, and is to be proclaimed as such to the ends of the earth; to all mankind; to every nation, and people, and tongue; and, wherever the Gospel is preached, there is a free, full, and sincere offer of salvation to every soul that hears it. And the offer is proof sufficient, in itself, that there is a power to receive its blessings given to those to whom the offer is made; as it would be of no use to offer them a salvation which it was designed they either should not or could not receive. A son of Satan might be capable of such dissimulation and bad faith; but the holy God cannot.
For so - Paul, as usual, appeals to the Scriptures to justify his course. Here he appeals to the Old Testament rather than to the command of the Saviour, because the Jews recognized the authority of their own Scriptures, while they would have turned in scorn from the command of Jesus of Nazareth.
To be a light - See the notes on John 1:4.
Of the Gentiles - This was in accordance with the uniform doctrines of Isaiah, Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 60:3, Isaiah 60:5, Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 61:6, Isaiah 61:9; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 66:12; compare Romans 15:9-12.
For salvation - To save sinners.
Unto the ends of the earth - To all lands; in all nations. See the notes on Acts 1:8.
Oh, what a lesson is this wonderful story of Bethlehem! How it rebukes our unbelief, our pride and self-sufficiency. How it warns us to beware, lest by our criminal indifference we also fail to discern the signs of the times, and therefore know not the day of our visitation. GC 315.1
It was not alone upon the hills of Judea, not among the lowly shepherds only, that angels found the watchers for Messiah's coming. In the land of the heathen also were those that looked for Him; they were wise men, rich and noble, the philosophers of the East. Students of nature, the Magi had seen God in His handiwork. From the Hebrew Scriptures they had learned of the Star to arise out of Jacob, and with eager desire they awaited His coming, who should be not only the “Consolation of Israel,” but a “Light to lighten the Gentiles,” and “for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” Luke 2:25, 32; Acts 13:47. They were seekers for light, and light from the throne of God illumined the path for their feet. While the priests and rabbis of Jerusalem, the appointed guardians and expounders of the truth, were shrouded in darkness, the Heaven-sent star guided these Gentile strangers to the birthplace of the newborn King. GC 315.2
It is “unto them that look for Him” that Christ is to “appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:28. Like the tidings of the Saviour's birth, the message of the second advent was not committed to the religious leaders of the people. They had failed to preserve their connection with God, and had refused light from heaven; therefore they were not of the number described by the apostle Paul: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 5. GC 315.3
The watchmen upon the walls of Zion should have been the first to catch the tidings of the Saviour's advent, the first to lift their voices to proclaim Him near, the first to warn the people to prepare for His coming. But they were at ease, dreaming of peace and safety, while the people were asleep in their sins. Jesus saw His church, like the barren fig tree, covered with pretentious leaves, yet destitute of precious fruit. There was a boastful observance of the forms of religion, while the spirit of true humility, penitence, and faith—which alone could render the service acceptable to God—was lacking. Instead of the graces of the Spirit there were manifested pride, formalism, vainglory, selfishness, oppression. A backsliding church closed their eyes to the signs of the times. God did not forsake them, or suffer His faithfulness to fail; but they departed from Him, and separated themselves from His love. As they refused to comply with the conditions, His promises were not fulfilled to them. GC 315.4Read in context »
This desertion caused Paul to judge Mark unfavorably, and even severely, for a time. Barnabas, on the other hand, was inclined to excuse him because of his inexperience. He felt anxious that Mark should not abandon the ministry, for he saw in him qualifications that would fit him to be a useful worker for Christ. In after years his solicitude in Mark's behalf was richly rewarded, for the young man gave himself unreservedly to the Lord and to the work of proclaiming the gospel message in difficult fields. Under the blessing of God, and the wise training of Barnabas, he developed into a valuable worker. AA 170.1
Paul was afterward reconciled to Mark and received him as a fellow laborer. He also recommended him to the Colossians as one who was a fellow worker “unto the kingdom of God,” and “a comfort unto me.” Colossians 4:11. Again, not long before his own death, he spoke of Mark as “profitable” to him “for the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11. AA 170.2
After the departure of Mark, Paul and Barnabas visited Antioch in Pisidia and on the Sabbath day went into the Jewish synagogue and sat down. “After the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” Being thus invited to speak, “Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.” Then followed a wonderful discourse. He proceeded to give a history of the manner in which the Lord had dealt with the Jews from the time of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and how a Saviour had been promised, of the seed of David, and he boldly declared that “of this man's seed hath God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not He. But, behold, there cometh One after me, whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy to loose.” Thus with power he preached Jesus as the Saviour of men, the Messiah of prophecy. AA 170.3Read in context »
The servant who brought in the poor and the blind reported to his master, “It is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Here Christ pointed to the work of the gospel outside the pale of Judaism, in the highways and byways of the world. COL 226.1
In obedience to this command, Paul and Barnabas declared to the Jews, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set Thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that Thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:46-48. COL 226.2
The gospel message proclaimed by Christ's disciples was the announcement of His first advent to the world. It bore to men the good tidings of salvation through faith in Him. It pointed forward to His second coming in glory to redeem His people, and it set before men the hope, through faith and obedience, of sharing the inheritance of the saints in light. This message is given to men today, and at this time there is coupled with it the announcement of Christ's second coming as at hand. The signs which He Himself gave of His coming have been fulfilled, and by the teaching of God's word we may know that the Lord is at the door. COL 226.3Read in context »