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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Rise, the Noon, the Sundown of a Great Church

Acts 19; 20:17-38; 20; 2 Timothy; Revelation 2:1-5

Like the glory of a radiant morn, full of promise and blessed portent: like the power, the wealth, the beneficence of noontide, like the passing of a glorious day, the gathering shadows, the fast-approaching night, the sense of decline, loss, and failure; is the story of Ephesus as we have it in the New Testament. It is a story, historically, of abounding promise; of abundant wealth; and of ultimate tragedy.

The Radiant Morn

The story of that glorious beginning is told in Acts 19 and 20:17-38.

First, it is the story of a small beginning with a few disciples, who, having had imperfect instruction and limited light, made a full-hearted response to further enlightenment, and took their stand on the full meaning of the Cross as signified by baptism - death, burial, resurrection in Christ, and the consequent government of the Holy Spirit.

Then it is the inevitable and invariable story of the uprising of the powers of evil and of intense conflict: a real baptism into heavenly warfare and the sufferings of Christ. It was the reaction of "the world rulers of this darkness" against the invasion of their territory by Jesus Christ. Through this conflict the testimony was established and the Church grew strong.

Thirdly, it is the story of an extended period of building up, instruction, during which time the spiritual values spontaneously became extra-local and "all Asia heard the word". The true nature of the Church universal became the nature of the church local; not by organized design, not by committee, machinery, and institutions, but by spontaneous and overflowing spiritual life.

Fourthly, it is the faithful reiteration of all that had been done and imparted at great cost, through much travail, and uncompromising loyalty to Christ and the truth. A final note of prophetic warning closed that epoch; warning that, if the enemy's fierce and vicious assaults from the outside failed to break that Church, its testimony, and its far-reaching influence, he would turn to the inside and "from among your own selves, shall men arise ... to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).

All that makes up to a wonderful and heart=ravishing beginning. How vital and significant a beginning it is! Would that every local church had such a clear-cut and transparent beginning! It was of God, not of man. It was wholly of the Spirit, and not of the flesh. It was of Heaven and not only on earthly ground. Therefore it had all the features of a heavenly calling; there was a heavenly fullness which spontaneously overflowed to distant regions, and a heavenly power which - while things remained true - triumphed over the many-sided insidious assaults of men and evil powers.

While it remained on heavenly ground, Heaven supported it. That it did survive for so long and exercised such a great influence is attributable to the soundness of the beginning.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - (The Noon)

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