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IN EPHESUS, PAUL "WENT INTO THE SYNAGOGUE, and spake boldly for the space of three months... But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way... he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of Tyrannus... by the space of two years... After these things were ended... there arose no small stir about that way (see Ac.19:23-24). Then "Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed." (Ac.19:1,8,21 ; 23:20:1)
WHEN PAUL WALKED INTO THEIR SYNAGOGUES TO GIVE THEM THE GOOD NEWS, HE CALLED HIS FELLOW JEWS "MEN AND BRETHREN", not wolves and vipers, or he wouldn't have gotten too far with his message! He tried to woo and win them, not blow and blast them; and by such wise behaviour he usually managed to walk off with half their congregation by the time the other half rejected him and threw him out.
HE WOULD THEN MOVE TO THE HOUSE OF ONE OF THE FOLLOWERS and carry on there, teaching and establishing the new brethren and appointing elders over them, until the opposition raised such a stir that he was run out of town, leaving behind him a nice new Colony of believers. Would God we would follow his example!
WITH JESUS, "a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph... was Jesus' disciple", "but secretly for fear of the Jews". (Mat.27:57 ; Jn.19:38) Paul had "certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends" (Ac.19:31).
JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES HAD MANY UNDERCOVER FRIENDS members of the System--a great company of the priests and even some of the Sanhedrin, the rulers and the rich--who were their friends, helpers and protectors, whom God had ordained for this ministry.
IN PAUL'S MINISTRY EITHER "THE DEVOUT AND HONOURABLE WOMEN, and the chief men of the city, raised persecution against Paul," or "many of them believed; also of honourable women... and of men, not a few." (Ac.13:50 ; 17:12) It depended on who he went to first.
WHEN PAUL WENT TO THE POOR ONLY, HE GOT KNOCKED OUT and the officials ran him out of town when they heard about the stir he was making and they didn't know what he was up to.
BUT WHEN HE WENT TO THE POWERFUL FIRST, THEY GOT THE POINT and got Jesus, and they had the power and wealth to finance him.
FOR EXAMPLE, IN ACTS 13, WHEN HE LANDED ON THE ISLAND OF CYPRUS, HE PREACHED TO THE POOR all the way across the island, but he was on his way to see the governor! He won him to the Lord, and as a result Cyprus became the world's first Christian nation, because he won the one with power and authority to permit it and finance his preaching to help the poor.
AT ANTIOCH, THEY HAD A MAJOR PROBLEM because "certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (But) Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension... with them". Then the brethren "determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question."
"AND THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS CAME TOGETHER FOR TO CONSIDER OF THIS MATTER." And after there was much disputing from both sides James said, "My sentence is that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God." This judgement "pleased... the apostles and elders, with the whole Church... with one accord". (Read Ac.15:1-3.)
SO WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM TO HANDLE OR A DECISION TO MAKE, DON'T BE AFRAID TO CALL YOUR LEADERS TOGETHER for prayer, discussion and unanimous agreement. This is the way the Early Church was run, and the way any wise leader will operate.
THE EARLY CHURCH WAS NOT BOUND TOGETHER BY A DICTATORIAL, HIERARCHICAL, CENTRALISED GOVERNMENT, frozen together with formalities, but they were only united by His Spirit, governed by His Word, and melted together in love, with an absolute minimum of supervision by the apostles. Their unity was in the Spirit and in Love and in Doctrine, not in highly technical organisation. Their co-ordination and cooperation were God-made, not man-made and it was a supernatural thing, strictly miraculous, and not manufactured by man's fleshy wisdom.
NEITHER PETER NOR PAUL WERE POPES, DICTATING EVERY MOVE. They were too busy running around doing their own jobs, fighting their own battles, starting their own colonies and winning their own disciples.
THEY COULD ONLY ADVISE AND COUNSEL others from what they themselves had already learned, but the people themselves had to make their own decisions, with the help of the Lord by His Spirit.
AS PETER SAID, "THE ELDERS WHICH ARE AMONG YOU I EXHORT, who am also an elder...Feed the flock of God which is among you... not by constraint, but willingly...Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." (2Pet.5:1-3)
"Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision." (Ph.3:2)
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE CONCISION, AS THESE COMPROMISERS WERE CALLED, WERE THOSE JEWS WHO WERE WILLING TO ACCEPT JESUS as the Messiah, but were not willing to forsake their synagogues, traditions, laws of men and of Moses, or their own self-righteous works.
THEY WERE NOT WILLING TO FORSAKE ALL AND DROP ENTIRELY OUT OF THE BELOVED OLD SYSTEM, whether it was a church or their own set ideas. They were not willing to abandon all of their old ways and commit themselves totally to the new way of Salvation entirely by grace and no self-righteous works and to a life lived totally by faith.
THIS WAS THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM who didn't scatter at the Jewish persecution in Acts 8:1 and eventually were made completely ineffective by compromising with System in order to survive and stay in one place and keep what they had.
THEY TRIED TO TURN A REVOLUTION INTO A REFORMATION, to make it popular to be a Christian; and they succeeded for a while, until the Roman persecution came, which wiped out the half-hearted, the compromisers and System Christians, but only set more fire to the true Children of God who burned even more brightly.
IT WAS THIS COMPROMISING CONCISION THAT CONDEMNED THE RADICAL PAUL, leader of the fanatical Children of God, the real beginners of that Jesus Movement, and tried to corner the whole thing in their synagogues.
AS JAMES TOLD PAUL WHEN HE WENT BACK TO JERUSALEM AGAINST THE SPIRIT'S ORDERS (see Ac.21:4,11), "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe: and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews...to forsake Moses" (which he did-- Gal 5:2).
"DO THEREFORE THIS THAT WE SAY TO THEE:" take a vow "and purify thyself", in the Temple that "all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing." And he did. But, "the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him."
AND "THEY WENT ABOUT TO KILL HIM." (Acts 21:20-31) He was rescued from certain death by the Romans but it resulted in his arrest and imprisonment for many years, from 58 to 63 A.D., and his execution in 67 A.D.
I THINK THE APOSTLE HIMSELF WOULD HAVE LASTED A LITTLE LONGER IF HE HAD USED A LITTLE GREATER WISDOM AND HAD NOT COMPROMISED by going back to Jerusalem at the behest of the Concision to try to please the Jews who were hopelessly incorrigible and totally bound by their Templism, self-righteousness and rigid resistance against the truth.
I BELIEVE GOD LET HIM MAKE THAT MISTAKE TO WARN US NOT TO TRY THE SAME STUNT and to show it's impossible to please some people no matter how much you compromise with them.
THINGS KEPT GOING STRONG UNDER THE DISCIPLES WHO SAT AT JESUS' FEET, BUT THEN THINGS BEGAN TO CHANGE WITH THEIR DISCIPLES who had never seen Jesus. And it took only two generations to do it! 65 Within two or three generations they had slowed down spiritually, stopped evangelising the world, cooled off in their ardour, grown cold in their love and frozen together into the same Roman System from which they had dropped out!
HOW DID THEY GO ASTRAY? Well, it's been sort of an inevitable cycle of history that this is the way all governments and denominations and movements of various kinds revolve!
THEY'RE BORN IN THE WHITE-HEAT OF THE FIRES OF INSPIRATION AND OF THE DESIRE FOR CHANGE, and, led by an anointed leader, they fight and die for the cause until they gain enough followers to come out from among them and be separate and touch not the unclean thing, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness--and a new "Ecclesia" has been formed, the new "called-out ones", the new Church, the new dropouts!
AND THEY REVEL IN THEIR NEW-FOUND FREEDOM, TRUTH AND BEAUTY, LOVE AND PEACE, until a new Pharaoh arises, a new leader and a new generation "which knew not Joseph"--who don't appreciate the freedom or the blessing because they've never known anything else.
THEY BECOME LAZY AND LETHARGIC, SELF-SATISFIED AND SELF-INDULGENT, with a false sense of security, out of touch with the original inspired leader and his teachings, and out of touch with God--asleep, content, "rich and increased with goods and having need of nothing" but actually, "wretched and naked and blind" in the sight of God!
AND THE MOST SHOCKING THING ABOUT THIS CONDITION IS THAT THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW IT! It's like a creeping paralysis which steals up on them and they're dead before they know it!
STAY REVOLUTIONARY--DON'T COMPROMISE WITH THE ENEMY! Try to live as peaceably with him as you can, but don't join him. Don't pull your punches; don't compromise your convictions or water down your message! Stay dropped out!
GIVE GOD ALL THE CREDIT ALL THE TIME AT EVERY TURN FOR EVERY LITTLE THING, and He will never fail to continue to prosper you and empower you and protect you and keep you and multiply you and do all things just like He did for the Early Church!