Exalting the Cross
[This chapter is based on Acts 15:36-41; 16:1-6.]
After spending some time in ministry at Antioch, Paul proposed to his
fellow worker that they set forth on another missionary journey. "Let
us go again," he said to Barnabas, "and visit our brethren in
every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they
Both Paul and Barnabas had a tender regard for those who had recently
accepted the gospel message under their ministry, and they longed to see
them once more. This solicitude Paul never lost. Even when in distant
mission fields, far from the scene of his earlier labours, he continued to
bear upon his heart the burden of urging these converts to remain
faithful, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2
Corinthians 7:1. Constantly he tried to help them to become self-reliant,
growing Christians, strong in faith, ardent in zeal, and wholehearted in
their consecration to God and to the work of advancing His kingdom.
Barnabas was ready to go with Paul, but wished to take with them Mark,
who had again decided to devote himself to the ministry. To this Paul
objected. He "thought not good to take . . . with them" one who
during their first missionary journey had left them in a time of need. He
was not inclined to excuse Mark's weakness in deserting the work for the
safety and comforts of home. He urged that one with so little stamina was
unfitted for a work requiring patience, self-denial, bravery, devotion,
faith, and a willingness to sacrifice, if need be, even life itself. So
sharp was the contention that Paul and Barnabas separated, the latter
following out his convictions and taking Mark with him. "So Barnabas
took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed,
being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God."
Journeying through Syria and Cilicia, where they strengthened the
church, Paul and Silas at length reached Derbe and Lystra in the province
of Lycaonia. It was at Lystra that Paul had been stoned, yet we find him
again on the scene of his former danger. He was anxious to see how those
who through his labours had accepted the gospel were enduring the test of
trial. He was not disappointed, for he found that the Lystrian believers
had remained firm in the face of violent opposition.
Here Paul again met Timothy, who had witnessed his sufferings at the
close of his first visit to Lystra and upon whose mind the impression then
made had deepened with the passing of time until he was convinced that it
was his duty to give himself fully to the work of the ministry. His heart
was knit with the heart of Paul, and he longed to share the apostle's
labours by assisting as the way might open.
Silas, Paul's companion in labour, was a tried worker, gifted with the
spirit of prophecy; but the work to be done was so great that there was
need of training more labourers for active service. In Timothy Paul saw
one who appreciated the sacredness of the work of a minister; who was not
appalled at the prospect of suffering and persecution; and who was willing
to be taught. Yet the apostle did not venture to take the responsibility
of giving Timothy, an untried youth, a training in the gospel ministry,
without first fully satisfying himself in regard to his character and his
Timothy's father was a Greek and his mother a Jewess. From a child he
had known the Scriptures. The piety that he saw in his home life was sound
and sensible. The faith of his mother and his grandmother in the sacred
oracles was to him a constant reminder of the blessing in doing God's
will. The word of God was the rule by which these two godly women had
guided Timothy. The spiritual power of the lessons that he had received
from them kept him pure in speech and unsullied by the evil influences
with which he was surrounded. Thus his home instructors had co-operated
with God in preparing him to bear burdens.
Paul saw that Timothy was faithful, steadfast, and true, and he chose
him as a companion in labour and travel. Those who had taught Timothy in
his childhood were rewarded by seeing the son of their care linked in
close fellowship with the great apostle. Timothy was a mere youth when he
was chosen by God to be a teacher, but his principles had been so
established by his early education that he was fitted to take his place as
Paul's helper. And though young, he bore his responsibilities with
As a precautionary measure, Paul wisely advised Timothy to be
circumcised--not that God required it, but in order to remove from the
minds of the Jews that which might be an objection to Timothy's
ministration. In his work Paul was to journey from city to city, in many
lands, and often he would have opportunity to preach Christ in Jewish
synagogues, as well as in other places of assembly. If it should be known
that one of his companions in labour was uncircumcised, his work might be
greatly hindered by the prejudice and bigotry of the Jews. Everywhere the
apostle met determined opposition and severe persecution. He desired to
bring to his Jewish brethren, as well as to the Gentiles, a knowledge of
the gospel, and therefore he sought, so far as was consistent with the
faith, to remove every pretext for opposition. Yet while he conceded this
much to Jewish prejudice, he believed and taught circumcision or
uncircumcision to be nothing and the gospel of Christ everything.
Paul loved Timothy, his "own son in the faith." 1 Timothy
1:2. The great apostle often drew the younger disciple out, questioning
him in regard to Scripture history, and as they travelled from place to
place, he carefully taught him how to do successful work. Both Paul and
Silas, in all their association with Timothy, sought to deepen the
impression that had already been made upon his mind, of the sacred,
serious nature of the work of the gospel minister.
In his work, Timothy constantly sought Paul's advice and instruction.
He did not move from impulse, but exercised consideration and calm
thought, inquiring at every step, Is this the way of the Lord? The Holy
Spirit found in him one who could be moulded and fashioned as a temple for
the indwelling of the divine Presence.
As the lessons of the Bible are wrought into the daily life, they have
a deep and lasting influence upon the character. These lessons Timothy
learned and practised. He had no specially brilliant talents, but his work
was valuable because he used his God-given abilities in the Master's
service. His knowledge of experimental piety distinguished him from other
believers and gave him influence.
Those who labour for souls must attain to a deeper, fuller, clearer
knowledge of God than can be gained by ordinary effort. They must throw
all their energies into the work of the Master. They are engaged in a high
and holy calling, and if they gain souls for their hire they must lay firm
hold upon God, daily receiving grace and power from the Source of all
blessing. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared
to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we
should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God
and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might
redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people,
zealous of good works." Titus 2:11-14.
Before pressing forward into new territory, Paul and his companions
visited the churches that had been 6
established in Pisidia and the regions round about. "As they went
through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were
ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were
the churches established in the faith, and increased in number
The apostle Paul felt a deep responsibility for those converted under
his labours. Above all things, he longed that they should be faithful,
"that I may rejoice in the day of Christ," he said, "that I
have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." Philippians 2:16. He
trembled for the result of his ministry. He felt that even his own
salvation might be imperilled if he should fail of fulfilling his duty and
the church should fail of co-operating with him in the work of saving
souls. He knew that preaching alone would not suffice to educate the
believers to hold forth the word of life. He knew that line upon line,
precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, they must be
taught to advance in the work of Christ.
It is a universal principle that whenever one refuses to use his
God-given powers, these powers decay and perish. Truth that is not lived,
that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue.
Hence the apostle's fear that he might fail of presenting every man
perfect in Christ. Paul's hope of heaven grew dim when he contemplated any
failure on his part that would result in giving the church the mould of
the human instead of the divine. His knowledge, his eloquence, his
miracles, his view of eternal scenes when caught up to the third
heaven--all would be unavailing if through unfaithfulness in his work
those for whom he laboured should fail of the grace of God. And so, by
word of mouth and by letter, he pleaded with those who had accepted
Christ, to pursue a course that would enable them to be "blameless
and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked
and perverse nation, . . . as lights in the world, holding forth the word
of life." Philippians 2:15, 16.
Every true minister feels a heavy responsibility for the spiritual
advancement of the believers entrusted to his care, a longing desire that
they shall be labourers together with God. He realises that upon the
faithful performance of his God-given work depends in a large degree the
well-being of the church. Earnestly and untiringly he seeks to inspire the
believers with a desire to win souls for Christ, remembering that every
addition to the church should be one more agency for the carrying out of
the plan of redemption.
Having visited the churches in Pisidia and the neighbouring region,
Paul and Silas, with Timothy, pressed on into "Phrygia and the region
of Galatia," where with mighty power they proclaimed the glad tidings
of salvation. The Galatians were given up to the worship of idols; but, as
the apostles preached to them, they rejoiced in the message that promised
freedom from the thraldom of sin. Paul and his fellow workers proclaimed
the doctrine of righteousness by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
They presented Christ as the one who, seeing the helpless condition of the
fallen race, came to redeem men and women by living a life of obedience to
God's law and by paying the penalty of disobedience. And in the light of
the cross many who had never before known of the true God, began to
comprehend the greatness of the Father's love.
Thus the Galatians were taught the fundamental truths concerning
"God the Father" and "our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave
Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil
world, according to the will of God and our Father." "By the
hearing of faith" they received the Spirit of God and became
"the children of God by faith in Christ." Galatians 1:3, 4; 3:2,
Paul's manner of life while among the Galatians was such that he could
afterward say, "I beseech you, be as I am." Galatians 4:12. His
lips had been touched with a live coal from off the altar, and he was
enabled to rise above bodily infirmities and to present Jesus as the
sinner's only hope. Those who heard him knew that he had been with Jesus.
Endued with power from on high, he was able to compare spiritual things
with spiritual and to tear down the strongholds of Satan. Hearts were
broken by his presentation of the love of God, as revealed in the
sacrifice of His only-begotten Son, and many were led to inquire, What
must I do to be saved?
This method of presenting the gospel characterised the labours of the
apostle throughout his ministry among the Gentiles. Always he kept before
them the cross of Calvary. "We preach not ourselves," he
declared in the later years of his experience, "but Christ Jesus the
Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded
the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:5, 6.
The consecrated messengers who in the early days of Christianity
carried to a perishing world the glad tidings of salvation, allowed no
thought of self-exaltation to mar their presentation of Christ and Him
crucified. They coveted neither authority nor pre-eminence. Hiding self in
the Saviour, they exalted the great plan of salvation, and the life of
Christ, the Author and Finisher of this plan. Christ, the same yesterday,
today, and forever, was the burden of their teaching.
If those who today are teaching the word of God, would uplift the cross
of Christ higher and still higher, their ministry would be far more
successful. If sinners can be led to give one earnest look at the cross,
if they can obtain a full view of the crucified Saviour, they will realise
the depth of God's compassion and the sinfulness of sin.
Christ's death proves God's great love for man. It is our pledge of
salvation. To remove the cross from the Christian would be like blotting
the sun from the sky. The cross brings us near to God, reconciling us to
Him. With the relenting compassion of a father's love, Jehovah looks upon
the suffering that His Son endured in order to save the race from eternal
death, and accepts us in the Beloved.
Without the cross, man could have no union with the Father. On it
depends our every hope. From it shines the light of the Saviour's love,
and when at the foot of the cross the sinner looks up to the One who died
to save him, he may rejoice with fullness of joy, for his sins are
pardoned. Kneeling in faith at the cross, he has reached the highest place
to which man can attain.
Through the cross we learn that the heavenly Father loves us with a
love that is infinite. Can we wonder that Paul exclaimed, "God forbid
that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"?
Galatians 6:14. It is our privilege also to glory in the cross, our
privilege to give ourselves wholly to Him who gave Himself for us. Then,
with the light that streams from Calvary shining in our faces, we may go
forth to reveal this light to those in darkness.