Memory Text: “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome’ ” (Acts 23:11, NIV).
Soon after Paul’s first missionary journey, it became clear that there was a fundamental disagreement in the church on how the Gentiles were to be admitted into the faith (Acts 15:1-5). Perhaps sensing a growing conflict, Paul conceived a plan to promote unity in the church. Because at the council he was asked to remember the poor (Gal. 2:10), he decided to invite the Gentile churches to provide financial aid to the brethren in Judea, the “collection for the saints” (1 Cor. 16:1), perhaps hoping that it could help build bridges between the two groups.
This could explain his determination to go to Jerusalem at the end of his third journey, despite the risks. On one hand, he had a genuine love for his fellow Jews (Rom. 9:1-5); on the other, he longed for a united church (Gal. 3:28, Gal. 5:6). As Jews and Gentiles were equally saved through faith, not through the works of the law (Rom. 3:28-30), any social alienation between them based on the ceremonial requirements of the law was against the inclusive nature of the gospel (Eph. 2:11-22).
Let’s follow Paul as he enters this new phase of his life and mission.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 15.