Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 3: The Believer's Response to the Holy Spirit's Inworking
The Works of the Spiritual Man
Salvation, sanctification, service is the divine order in spiritual experience. The man who is saved from sin and set apart unto God must serve God and his fellowmen in working to bring them into the same spiritual oneness which he enjoys. The Christian's individual relationship to God merges into a corporate relationship with the other members of God's family and the other citizens of God's Kingdom and then stretches on out toward "the other sheep" whom the loving Shepherd longs to bring into His fold.
Titus 2:14, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
2 Timothy 3:17, "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Titus 3:8, "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."
Works are the natural outcome of faith. Belief in Jesus Christ is not a hollow profession nor a selfish possession. Faith that is real must propagate itself and share its blessing. The apostles Paul and James are not at loggerheads with each other; they are not stating contradictory but complementary truth as they emphasize in turn the necessity of faith and of works. The virility of any true faith is shown in its works.
James 2:17-18, R.V., "Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith."
Works are the natural outcome of love. Love for the Lord Jesus is not shallow sentiment that dissipates itself in words but it is vicarious sacrifice that expresses itself in works. The vitality of true love is shown in service. "Lovest thou me?" "Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." Then, "Feed my lambs."
1 John 3:16, 18, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
Works are the natural outcome of life. The tree is known by its fruits. Life in the tree presumes fruit on the branches. Life in Christ Jesus must reproduce itself in life.
John 15:2, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
Acts 4:20, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
Faith, love and life are not passive but active forces and the proportion in which they exist in the believer will determine the part he takes in the work of Christ's Body, the Church. The spiritual man recognizes that the very possessions and privileges which are his in Christ entail responsibilities and duties in the work which Christ desires done in the world.
But no man of himself should determine the nature of his service any more than he can determine the nature of his salvation or of his sanctification. His works are also foreordained of God. It is only the man who does a divinely determined and directed work who is promised the power of God in its accomplishment.
Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
God works according to a definite plan which is rooted in an eternal purpose. In the eternity of the past He foresaw the tragedy of sin and all of its evil consequences and formed the purpose which determined the plan by which sin and its accompanying evil would be removed. That plan took into account the conditions to be met in every age,, in every century and in every generation of mankind's history, and stretched itself over them all. There is nothing new to God in this twentieth century "modern mind" that either surprises or appalls Him for He has known it all before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 3:11, "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Acts 15:18, "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world."
God's purpose centers in Christ and concerns itself with two things only: the redemption of man and the reconciliation of all things in the universe unto Himself. The salvation of man and the sovereignty of God are the two vital issues at stake and upon their accomplishment God's purpose focuses.
Salvation through a Saviour is God's only plan for the redemption of man. God sent His Son into the world to be a propitiation for its sins.
2 Timothy 1:9-10, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
1 John 4:14, "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."
1 John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God's remedy for the world's revolt against Him and its reconstruction through His restoration to sovereignty over it centers in Christ also; not however in Christ the Saviour but in Christ the King. Through the incarnation He became a Saviour who in the ultimate fulfillment of God's eternal purpose was to become a King of whose Kingdom there would be no end (Luke 1:30-33).
In the fulfillment of His purpose God has a divine order. He accomplishes His task and achieves His goal by stages. The history of God's dealings with man is divided into clearly defined "ages" or periods of time. The scope of this book confines us to the consideration of God's work in this age and the one to come. These two stages are set forth in one passage in the Acts.
Acts 15:14-17, "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things."
In God's plan there are two advents of Christ into this world for two distinct purposes and marking off two distinct ages. In each advent God works through His Son to carry out His purpose for the whole world. In this study we are considering God's purpose in Christ for this age, the period between Christ's first and second advent.
In this age God is not working for the reformation of the world or to put the world right, much as that is needed, but to bring man into a right relationship to His Son. The improvement of conditions in human society has no share in the plan of God for this age. In fact this would run absolutely counter to His purpose in the Saviourhood of His Son, for such a scheme would make this world so comfortable a place in which to live that the natural man in his ease and contentment would feel no need whatever for God and would have no thought for the life to come. God is not working to right the wrongs of a world that still hates and rejects His Son.
Besides, the only possible road to the real reformation of society is through the regeneration of the individual. Sin is the cause of every bit of the suffering and sorrow in the world and the only place where sin is removed is at the cross of Calvary. "The uplift of humanity" depends upon the uplifting of the Christ of the cross. The reformations that have been wrought in the world are the by-product of the work of the Church. Scripture does not tell us that the mission of the Church in this age is the reformation of the world.
Neither is God working in this age for the conversion of the world. God frankly says "that the whole world lieth in the evil one," that Satan is "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4, R.V.) and that it is in the control of "the prince of this world" (John 14:30). Many passages of Scripture show that "the course of this world" is to grow worse and worse in the last days. One needs only to keep in mind what we have learned in previous studies about the world to see how its very nature precludes the thought of its conversion in this age of grace.
The world is "the flesh" in its corporate capacity. The only place God can meet it is at the foot of the cross and the only way in which the world could be converted would be by the cleansing of its sin in the atoning blood of Christ the Saviour.
But nowhere in the Word of God is there intimation that the whole world ever will come to the cross for that purpose. The whole mass of unbelieving mankind is one vast federation under Satan's leadership and will continue so unto the very end of this age.
John 5:19, R.V., "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one."
Ephesians 2:2, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience."
2 Timothy 3:1, 13, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived."
Up to the very end of this age there will be both believers and unbelievers, those who will receive and those who will reject Christ the Saviour. At the end of the age the harvest will reveal both wheat ange the harvest will reveal both wheat and tares in the field; both good and had fish in the net. The parable of the wicked husbandmen, as given by Christ Himself, shows that the attitude of the world throughout this age continues to be one of hatred and hostility.
Acts 28:24, "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not."
Matthew 13:30, "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
Matthew 13:48-49, R.V., margin, "Which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. So shall it be in the consummation of the age: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous."
God in this age is calling out from the world the Bride of Christ that she may he prepared to meet Him at His coming and to reign with Him in the Kingdom age which is to follow. God is calling individuals out of this present evil world, emancipating them from it and crucifying them to it.
John 15:19, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
Galatians 1:4, "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."
God's plan is in line with His purpose. This plan is the evangelization of the world. Through the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the whole world as a witness God wishes to give every creature the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as his Saviour. This is the primary meaning of His last commission.
Luke 24:46-47, "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." John 6:40, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
Having formed this purpose and having fashioned this plan God now has no other way of working. In giving His Son to die God has done all that He can do for this world.
1 Corinthians 3:11, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
God's plan of working throughout the entire course of this age is perfectly outlined in the Acts. Here we see the invisible Head of the Church in the heavenlies determining and directing the work of His visible Body on earth through His Executor and Administrator, the Holy Spirit. Every type of work in which He would have us engage as Christians today is revealed to us there. Let us now consider the nature of the spiritual man's work.
GOD'S WORK IN THIS AGE IS EXECUTED THROUGH A DIVINE-HUMAN PARTNERSHIP
Life in Christ necessarily involves identification with Him in His mission to this world. Real membership in Christ's Body means sharing with Him His compassionate love for the world and going out into it to seek and to save the lost. As Christ was sent into the world by the Father for a definitely specified task even so are we sent by Him.
John 17:18, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
John 20:21, "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
What Christ Jesus began as the incarnate Son, He continues as the exalted Lord, through the divine-human partnership which exists between Him and His Body, the Church.
1 Corinthians 3:9, "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."
2 Corinthians 6:1, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."
Mark 16:20, "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them."
The Christian, then, is not at liberty to choose what his work will be. He is under the direction of the Head of the Body of which he is but one member. As the Father determined the work of the Son and as Christ executed everything according to His Father's will so the Lord Jesus now chooses and calls the workers and then determines and directs the work. From this viewpoint let us study together the work of the first-century Church, that we may discern our part in this divine-human partnership.
The workers were chosen of God. Paul and Peter each had the conviction that they had been chosen by the Lord Himself for their particular task even before receiving His call. Hence the courage of that conviction which was evinced in all their work.
Acts 9:15, "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my namebefore the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."
Galatians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)."
Acts 15:7, "Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my month should hear the word of the gospel, and believe."
The workers were called of God. It is considered somewhat out of date' today to speak of a divine call. The term is well-nigh obsolete. Not a divine call, but a sociological appeal takes many a man into the ministry or to the mission field. But the lack of it quite as often takes him out of the ministry into business or out of the mission field when the romance of an ocean trip and of meeting a new people has given place to the daily routine of hard work in an uncongenial environment. But the ministers and missionaries of that early Church were so sure of their call that they would lay down their lives willingly, if need be, in the pursuit of it (Acts 20:24).
Acts 13:2, "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas andSaul for the work whereunto I have called them."
Acts 13:47, "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."
The workers were appointed by the Lord. The men of the early Church had a direct appointment to a specific task by the Lord Jesus. To them it was a life task to be laid down only when called into a higher ministry in the immediate presence of their Lord. Is not the reason why so many young men abandon their theological studies before completing their course due to the fact that they were not "put into the ministry" by the Lord Himself? The Church suffers today from man-made ministers.
Acts 26:16, "But rise, and stand upon thy feet:" for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee."
Acts 20:24, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
1 Timothy 1:12, "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry."
The workers were sent by the Lord. Having been chosen and called they were also commissioned by the Lord. With the assurance and authority of a sent one these first-century ministers and missionaries went forth. Laymen, also, like Ananias were divinely commissioned for service.
Acts 22:21, "And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
Acts 9:17, "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."
Every Christian is needed somewhere in some kind of work in God's vineyard. Every Christian has been ordained to some task by God. Every member of Christ's Body has been set in his position as an eye, an ear, a hand or a foot so that the Head may work through him for the accomplishment of some particular task. Only as every member of the Body is functioning properly can the work of the Head be perfected.
1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-19, "For the body is not one member, but many. But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. If they were all one member, where were the body?"
Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, and the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
Not even the weakest, the youngest, or the apparently most ignorant and incapable is left without his share in God's work. In fact, God delights to choose those who in themselves are impotent and inadequate in order that the glory of achievement may be altogether His.
1 Corinthians 12:22, "Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary."
2 Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
The Lord Jesus determines and directs the work of those whom He has chosen and called. As we study the various phases of the work of the early Church we shall see that the whole field of Christian activity was adequately covered. In the accomplishment of the evangelization of the world the Holy Spirit gave every believer something to do and He set some apart for tasks which required special gifts.
There were witnesses in the first-century Church. In fact, this was the primary work of each. The Holy Spirit came not upon a select group on the day of Pentecost but upon each one of the one hundred and twenty that each might be a witness.
Acts 2:32, "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses."
Acts 13:31, "And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people."
Who is a witness, and of whom, and of what, does he witness? It is very essential to understand this if one would grasp the importance and the power of this form of Christian work. A witness is one who tells what he has seen and knows.
Acts 22:15, "For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard."
Of whom did those in the early Church witness? The power of the Holy Spirit was given to those who witnessed of Christ Jesus. From the beginning to the end of Acts we see them witnest ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
Acts 23:11, "And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome."
Of what concerning Christ did they witness? Invariably they witnessed not to His work in the flesh but to His work on the cross and from the throne. They told others not of "the Jesus of history" but of the Christ of Calvary.
Acts 3:15, "And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses."
Acts 5:30-32, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
There were preacher-pastors in the first-century Church.
Acts 20:28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
Definite instructions given them regarding what theyhat they were to preach were followed implicitly. They preached the Word of God. Will you glance through the book of Acts and note the number of times it is said that they preached the Word? Will you note also its marvelous power both of attraction and conviction? Multitudes, even whole cities, came to the place of worship, not to see a pageant or to hear a concert or a discussion of some notable book or a moralization of current topics or a rhetorical discourse, but to hear the Word of God. And wherever the Word was preached sinners were convicted, converted and baptized by ones and twos, by hundreds and thousands.
Acts 8:4, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."
Acts 13:44, "And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God."
They preached the Gospel. The Gospel is the heart of the Word of God. Take away the Gospel, which is "that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures," from the Word of God and you have nothing left but the walls of a gutted building. The core of every sermon, the heart of every message delivered by those first-century preachers, was the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was this Gospel that pricked the hearts and consciences of men and made them cry out, "What must I do to be saved?"
Acts 8:25, "And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans."
The preachers of the early Church were not ashamed of the Gospel. They had proved its power in their own lives and knew the miracle it had wrought. They had the compelling conviction that the preaching of the full Gospel of Christ was the only means of changing either the sinful life of an individual or the corporate life of human society.
Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
They preached Christ. If the Gospel is the heart of the Word, Christ is the heart of the Gospel. The men of that day knew the Jesus of Nazareth, Cana and Capernaum far, far better than any theological historian of the twentieth century, and how they could have entranced their audiences with stories out of 1-us earthly life! How sweet and precious must have been their memories of the years of fellowship with Him! What countless sermons Peter and James and John could have preached about the Jesus who healed the daughter of Jairus, who was transfigured on the mount and who prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane! But "the Jesus of history" was not the theme of their sermons. What pain and anguish of heart must have been mingled with every remembrance of Him as they recalled their faithlessness in the hour of His deepest need; of the cowardly denial in the presence of His enemies; of the traitorous desertion at the cross; and of the doubt and disbelief at the tomb. It was not to the incarnate Son but to the crucified, risen, ascended, exalted Son to whom they owed their deliverance from sin, self and Satan. It was this Christ and Him only whom they preached.
Acts 5:42, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
Acts 9:20, "And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God."
Glance again rapidly through the book of Acts to note the result of the preaching of the Christ of the Gospel of the Word of God. The divine record tells of conversions, baptisms, additions to church membership of individuals, of households, of multitudes of men and women from all classes of society.
Let us take but a few illustrations of the marvelous power of such preaching. The Ethiopian eunuch believed and was baptized when Philip preached Christ to him from Isaiah 53:7-8 (Acts 8). The Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus believed when he heard the doctrine from the mouths of Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13). The households of Cornelius, the Gentile centurion (Acts 10); of Lydia, the businesswoman (Acts 16); of the unnamed Philippian jailor (Acts 16) and of Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18), all were convicted of sin, converted and baptized through the preaching of the Christ of the Gospel of the Word.
Acts 6:7, "And the word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Acts 4:4, "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand."
There were evangelists in the first-century Church. Philip was an evangelist and went from place to place preaching the Gospel. Much of the preaching in the early Church was without doubt apologetic, yet there is equal evidence that much of it was evangelistic both in content and in method. The appeal was to the heart and to the will as truly as to the mind and to the conscience, and the audiences were warned and exhorted as well as instructed and edified.
Acts 21:8, "And the next day . . . we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven."
Acts 2:40, "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation."
There were teachers in the first-century Church. The early Church was thoroughly indoctrinated. New converts were taught the Word of God. Not only were the fundamental truths preached but they were taught to the whole Church. Need we any further proof of this than the epistles which were written to these churches?
Paul's conception of the ministry was that it should be a teaching as well as a preaching ministry. He returned to the places where he had won converts in his missionary tours and sometimes stayed one or two years teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus. The last word spoken of him in the Acts tells us he was in his own hired house teaching about Jesus Christ.
Acts 18:11, "And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."
Acts 19:10, "And this continued by the space of two years; so that all which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks."
The apostles of the early Church considered it a definite and essential part of their ministry to establish and confirm the Christians in their faith, to encourage and strengthen them in their work, and to feed and foster their spiritual life.
Acts 16:5, "And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily."
Acts 15:41, "And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches."
Acts 18:23, "And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples."
Not the statistics of church membership but the spiritual status of church members was Paul's concern. He desired passionately that those whom he had begotten in the Gospel might be presented perfect in Christ Jesus. To that end he not only taught them but he warned, reproved and rebuked the Christians under his care.
Colossians 1:28, "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."
There were personal workers in the first-century Church. The passion of the early Church was to win men to Christ. "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" was its slogan (1 Corinthians 9:22). Tremendous emphasis is laid upon the importance of personal soul-winning by the fact that in three consecutive chapters in the Acts wonderful examples of this type of work are given.
The evangelist Philip was taken from a very successful evangelistic campaign in Samaria to the desert of Gaza to win one man. The Ethiopian eunuch was returning from Jerusalem to his home with a scroll of the prophet Isaiah which he was reading eagerly but without understanding. Philip entered his chariot, explained to him the passage and from it preached Christ. And the eunuch believed and was baptized (Acts 8:36-38).
Acts 8:35, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."
Paul had seen the Lord of glory on the road to Damascus and had fallen before Him believing but blinded; emptied but unfilled. In Damascus was Ananias, the layman. His name appears but once in the annals of Scripture but it is in connection with a bit of personal work that shines upon the page of Scripture as the north star shines in the heavens, for through him as God's own sent messenger Paul received his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit. The work of salvation begun by the Lord of glory was consummated by his call to sanctification and to service through Ananias.
Acts 9:17, "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou might test receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."
In Caesarea was Cornelius, the centurion, a man with a devout heart and a deep hunger for God. In Joppa was Peter, a man with a passion for souls and a life surrendered to his Lord for service. And in heaven was God who works at both ends of the line sending a prepared messenger to prepared souls. The result was a whole household won to the Lord (Acts 10).
Personal testimony was another form of work in the first-century Church. Who can estimate the fruitage of Paul's testimony of his conversion before the multitude and before Agrippa (Acts 22, 26).
The ministry of intercession was practiced by the first-century Church. To the first Christians intercession was a working force. When Peter and John were threatened because of the healing of the lame man they gave themselves to prayer. When Peter was imprisoned "prayer was made without ceasing." Through praise and prayer Paul and Silas opened not only prison doors but the fast closed hearts of the Philippian jailor and his household. Through prevailing intercession those feeble men and women defeated and routed Satan and his hosts and again and again gained for the triumphant Lord of glory a visible manifestation of His victory on Calvary. They worked through prayer.
Acts 12:5, "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."
Acts 16:25, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
The grace of giving was manifest in the first-century Church. Filled with the Holy Spirit the first disciples' love for God and their fellowmen led them to lay all they possessed at His feet for His use. The coffers of the early Church were not filled by a finance campaign but by the free-hearted consecration of his material possessions to the Lord on the part of every Christian.
Acts 4:32, "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common."
Administrators of the business affairs of the Church were to be found in the first-century Church. But these men were not chosen because of their social prestige, their financial income, or their executive ability, but they chose men full of honesty, of wisdom, of faith and of the Holy Spirit. It was a spiritual task to which they were called which required spirituality in those who undertook it.
Acts 6:3, "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business."
Good works were part of the activities of the first-century Church. The practical expression of the love of Christ in kindly deeds for the relief of physical and material needs and for the amelioration of suffering is the natural product of vital spirituality. The genuinely spiritual man is the first to feel the touch upon the hem of his garment and to give most liberally of his sympathy and his support to those in need. The early Church had its "Dorcas" and more than once is it recorded that it sent relief to God's children.
Acts 9:36, "Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeed which she did."
Acts 11:29, "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea."
The life of the spiritual man is one full of beneficence because "the fruit of the Spirit is kindness." He delights in playing the part of the good Samaritan, he revels in carrying cups of refreshing water.
Galatians 6:10, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Mark 9:41, "For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."
Titus 2:7, "In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity."
There were missionaries in the first-century Church. No church can lay claim to true, apostolic succession which is not missionary in purpose, passion and program. The early Church was essentially a missionary Church. The power of God was upon it in an exceptional way because it gave itself in obedience to the fulfillment of Christ's last commission to carry the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth. Persecution sent those first Christians everywhere preaching the Word of life.
Acts 8:1, 4, "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."
Acts 11:19-20, "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus."
There were martyrs in the first-century Church. The testimony of Stephen was sealed with martyrdom. How true it was that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." By the laying down of this faithful life in triumphant death Stephen no doubt did more toward winning Saul of Tarsus to Jesus Christ than he ever could have done in a lifetime of preaching. Paul's conscience was seared by the haunting vision of that victorious death and by the remembrance of his part in it Stephen, though dead, continued to speak to Saul.
Acts 7:58, 8:1, "And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at the young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And Saul was consenting unto his death."
Acts 22:20, "And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him."
The work of the first-century Church bears upon it the seal of God and the scars of Satan. The seal was power and the scars were persecution. Loyalty in preaching the Christ of the Gospel of the Word drew down from heaven the supernatural power of God and it raised up from hell satanic persecution. Study the book of Acts and you will see these two invariably in inevitable succession; power in preaching Christ produced persecution of the Christian and persecution of the Christian precipitated power from Christ.
Acts 5:14, 16-18, "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison."
Acts 14:1-2, "And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went back together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren."
The work of the early Church was all-comprehensive. The God-man who inaugurated it knew every need of human life and planned adequately to meet and to satisfy it. Though conditions have changed, the fundamental need of human life does not vary from one century to another. The task of the Church at the very beginning was cast into an agelong mold by Christ Jesus and He has given no indication on down through the centuries of any deviation from His purpose and plan so clearly revealed in Scripture.
But no one can look upon the Church today without seeing that it has departed very far from both the purpose and the plan of God. The leaders of Christendom frankly state that the work of the Church is not to save souls but to salvage society, so they have given themselves deliberately to "the purification of Sodom" rather than to "the proclamation of the Saviour." From pulpit and press they declare that "the mission of the Church is to make the world better," and "to interpret to the world the principles of Christ," so that it may win the world into living by His teachings and into following His principles. The supreme question before present-day Christendom is not man's relationship to God's Son but man's relationship to human society; the paramount issue is not God's sovereign reign in righteousness and peace over a world brought into reconciliation with Him through His Son, but it is the equalizing and solidifying of nations, races and classes through foisting upon them for their acceptance the dogma of the Fatherhood of God, whom they do not acknowledge as Father, and the brotherhood of men, whom they do not accept as brothers.
The leaders of Christendom frankly state that they preach such a "social gospel." And anyone who scans the sermon themes for Sunday in the newspaper or who studies the subjects announced on the church calendar has no reason to doubt their word on this point. The marvel is that with such special emphasis on social betterment themes "the world" is not more rapidly approaching the desired millennium of righteousness and peace. "The world" at heart really does not want to be "made better" so it is not going to the place where it will be coaxed or coerced into a reformation of its conduct. It will greatly appreciate anything which the Church does to make its life in sin more full of comfort and will even assist in the matter by making liberal contributions to financial drives or "community chests." But "the world" is not overtaxing the seating capacity of the churches which preach the "social gospel." When "the world" seeks entertainment it usually prefers to have it in its native haunts and its natural setting rather than to have it adulterated and spoiled by an admixture of religion. The "social gospel" is not filling but rather emptying the churches and many are concerned as to what new attractions can be offered to drag "the world" to church.
Let us honestly face the actual condition of the present day pulpit and pew. God still has His "seven thousand" who have not bowed to the worship of "twentieth-century scholarship," who are not devotees at the shrine of "the modern mind" and who will not deify man and humanize God. Praise God that throughout the whole world there are thousands of preachers, evangelists, teachers and missionaries who still preach the Christ of the Gospel of the Word of God and there are millions of laymen who believe that Gospel and who hold inviolate the whole Word of God.
But on the other hand there is a growing number of preachers, teachers and missionaries who today do not preach or teach the Christ of the Gospel of the Word of God. The Christ they preach is "another" Christ, the gospel is "another" gospel and the Bible is "another" Bible.
The reformation of the whole world which the "social gospel" purposes does not need the Saviour of the cross, for man is to be his own savior. To preach the Christ of the cross and of the throne is to leave the realm of the practical and descend to the plane of the doctrinal, the modern teacher reasons. He declares that the world has outgrown this. But to win the world from its naughty ways and to teach it the right "way of life" he does feel the need of an example to hold up before it and of ethical precepts and principles which it can follow. The preacher of the "social gospel" can find no greater example and no better teacher than "the Jesus of history" so he does make use of Him in this capacity.
The reformation of the world which the modern preacher advocates has no place in it for the Gospel of the Word of God which is a Gospel of salvation from sin through a crucified, risen, ascended, exalted Lord. In fact the "social gospel" decries having any creed. It declares that its emphasis is on love rather than on faith and the important thing is not what a man believes but what he is. It does not concern itself with the building of a solid foundation but only with the ornamentation of the roof. If the structure has a lovely, attractive roof garden with sweet music, fragrant flowers, captivating eloquence and happy companionship why have any anxiety over the fact that the foundation is made of sand? The "social gospel" ignores the fact so plainly revealed in Scripture that the divine order is invariably faith and then love, and that it is an absolute impossibility to build the superstructure of a spiritual life on anything but the solid foundation of a crucified, risen Saviour. So the "social gospel" is plainly not "the Gospel of Christ."
The reformation of the world which the modern pulpit so earnestly advocates has no place in it for the Scriptures as the Word of God. "The modern mind" finds it impossible to accept the Bible as such. The Bible cannot be rejected altogether for then the modern preacher would on the very face of it have to leave the evangelical pulpit immediately. But "the modern mind" finds a middle ground of compromise which it hopes the evangelical church will be tolerant and loving enough to accept. It admits that the Bible "contains the Word of God" and modestly claims that it has been ordained by twentieth-century scholarship to tell the pew what parts of it are the Word of God and what parts are not.
Such an arrogant assumption makes the true believer who loves the Bible and who believes that from Genesis to Revelation it is "the Word of God," as God Himself says it is, seek to know what this "modern mind" really is and where it obtained the authority to handle the Book of books in any such fashion.
So one goes to the Bible itself to see if he can run down this "modern mind" that he may know where and how to classify it. He finds only two types of "mind" mentioned: "the mind of Christ" and "the carnal mind." In Philippians 2:5-11 he finds that "the mind of Christ" believes and accepts Christ as the eternal Son, the One who was equal with God because He was God; the incarnate Son who emptied Himself of His divine glory and humbled Himself by entering into this world through the virgin's womb, thus becoming Man; the crucified Son who in obedience to His Father's will went to the death of the cross; the ascended Son who has been exalted to the Father's right hand and given a name above every name; the kingly Son before whom every knee shall bow someday and every tongue shall confess that He is Jesus Christ the Lord. "The mind of Christ" cannot be "the modern mind" which denies and rejects in whole or in part these glorious truths concerning the Lord Jesus.
Then it must be "the carnal mind." But "the carnal mind" is as old as Eden. The only way we can discover whether the self-styled "modern mind" is really the antiquated "carnal mind" dressed in the disguise of twentieth-century scholarship is to take its fingerprints. That will be adequate proof. "Hath God said?" "Ye shall not surely die." "Ye shall be as gods." Doubt and disbelief of God's Word; denial of God's Word; and deification of man and man's intellect! No further evidence is needed. This threefold fingerprint marks "the modern mind" as "the carnal mind" which is enmity toward God, and His arch-antagonist. The Bible of the modern preacher is "another" Bible and not "the Word of God."
Such an appalling condition in the pulpit inevitably creates an equally appalling condition in the pew. The people in many churches today are starved; they are like the famine sufferers, having to live on shrubs, bark, husks and fodder. Probably the Church was never so perfectly organized as it is today, yet it is pitifully ineffective before its tremendous task. The apostasy in the pulpit has created dwindling congregations, doubting Christians and drifting churches. The Church has drifted so far back toward the world that ofttimes the boundaryline between the two spheres is almost indiscernible. Worldly policies are resorted to in the conduct of the affairs of the Church; worldly methods are employed to attract people to attend its services; worldly entertainments are given them after they come. Whatsoever a church soweth, that shall it also reap. There is a tragic harvest of thoroughly worldly churches in Christendom today.
Let us come back to the individual Christian's responsibility for the kind of work he does as a member of the Body of Christ. The works of every believer in Christ will be judged and he will receive or lose his reward according to the kind of work which he has done. If he has built a superstructure upon the foundation of the pure Gospel that is gold, silver and precious stones, then his work will abide. But, if he has fashioned the superstructure out of the wood, hay and stubble of "another gospel which is not the gospel" (Galatians 1:6-7) then his work will be burned. It will not stand the test of the fire of God's judgment.
1 Corinthians 3:8, "Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour."
2 Corinthians 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
1 Corinthians 3:11-15, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
It is a terrifically solemn thought that in the work which we do we are either the tool of Christ or of Satan and that in the message we give we are either the mouthpiece of Christ or of the devil.
Romans 6:13. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
Matthew 16:23, "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that he of men."
But there is no need for any Christian to be ignorant of the kind of work that abides nor will he have any excuse to present to Christ at the judgment seat if he does the kind that must be burned. God has given us the pattern in His Book and has bestowed upon us the power in His Spirit to accomplish our part in this blessed partnership. If we fail to do it, it will be because we have failed to discern.
GOD'S WORK IN THIS AGE IS ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH SUPERNATURAL POWER
The works of the incarnate Son were supernatural and beyond the power of any man to accomplish in himself. Those who tried to copy or to counterfeit them failed miserably. Yet He told His disciples that they were to do the same works and even greater. It is truly a supernatural task which Christ gives the Christian to do. Bringing spiritually dead men to life and making them into the image of the Son of God is in deed and truth a task beyond human power.
John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that 1 do shall he do also; and even greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
In the last clause of this wonderful promise He gives a clue as to how they were to be empowered for such a work. "Because I go unto my Father." By His return to heaven supernatural power to do supernatural tasks was to be transmitted to them. Let us follow this clue until we find the secret.
After His crucifixion and resurrection and immediately preceding His ascension He gives to His disciples the commission in which He makes mention of this power. He tells them three things: first, that all power in heaven and upon earth resides in Him; second, that they will be endued with this power; third, that they will receive this power through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 28:18, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
Luke 24:49, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
Acts 1:8, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
The crucified, risen, ascended, exalted Lord in whom dwells all power in heaven and upon earth Himself lives in all the fullness of His supernatural power in the believer through the infilling and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Someone has tersely said, "Calvary creates the worker; Pentecost empowers him."
The disciples and apostles of the first-century Church were equipped and energized to do "the greater works" by the limitless power of God through the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4:8, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel."
Acts 13:9, "Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him."
Romans 15: 18-19, "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have freely preached the gospel of Christ."
1 Thessalonians 1:5, "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake."
The same power bestowed by the same Person is open to every disciple of the twentieth-century Church for the accomplishment of the same God-given task. Is that power yours today? Have you been anointed by the Holy Spirit? Are you doing "the greater works"?
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