Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 3, 1968
NUMBER 22, PAGE 1-3a

God's College In Action (Second In A Series Of Six Articles)

Lowell D. Williams

Last week we noted that our present apostasy is absolute proof that the church has not been taught "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Regardless of what we have done, or what we say, the church has not edified itself effectively enough to prevent an apostasy. This means our edifying program, teaching program, Bible classes, etc., have failed. It behooves us then to look back to the New Testament churches in this realm to see why they succeeded and we have failed. The purpose of this article is to outline the teaching practice of the New Testament churches as revealed in the Book of Acts. This will show God's college in action.

THE JERUSALEM PRACTICE: The history of the church in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 1 through 8:4, covers approximately four years. It is significant to note that during this, four year period the Jerusalem church was the only congregation in existence. It appears that no attempt was made by the Jerusalem church to leave that city and begin other churches until they were forcibly scattered abroad by a severe persecution (8:4).

Some have charged the apostles with negligence in duty for remaining in Jerusalem during this long period of time. Such men, of course, could not believe those apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit. Those of us who believe the apostles taught by inspiration, in both word and example, cannot level such charges. We who believe should ask only one simple question: Why? A casual examination of the section will reveal these four years to be one of the most fruitful periods in New Testament history. The apostles and the Jerusalem church were engaged in a work of edifying which brought about tremendous results. The church was so taught that once it was scattered abroad, its members were equipped to preach the word (8:4). How many congregations in this generation have so taught the disciples? How many years would a Christian have to attend our present day (twice a week) Bible classes to so equip himself? Many thousands have faithfully attended classes for periods of over twenty years and still remain unable to teach the whole council of God.

The wonderful results of the Jerusalem church didn't just happen. They were planned by the Holy Spirit, and the members worked to achieve them. They engaged in a daily teaching program. Notice the Bible description of this work: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching" (2:42). "And day by day continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple," (2:46; 5:21,25). "And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus as the Christ." (5:42). This was the church in action, working according to the divine pattern. It was truly a "preacher factory" with no by-products. Each member was a gospel-proclaiming disciple. Each disciple knew what he believed and why he believed it. Their success was in the fact that they were prepared for the Master's use, having been taught daily by qualified teachers.

PAUL'S PRACTICE: It has often been said that Paul would establish a church and depart leaving it unaided by any other teacher to carry on the work of edifying. This practice was observed by many pioneer preachers at the turn of this century. They would establish a church during a two week meeting, leaving it with a promise of returning next I year. Time after time they did return to find only a small group remaining faithful. Experience has proved that growth is achieved only to the extent that the child is fed. This is true both in the physical and spiritual realms. The following outline of Paul's journeys will show that he did not leave the churches void of a good teaching program; but rather he carefully followed a set course of leaving good teachers with the new churches so they could be adequately fed. Like the apostles in Jerusalem, Paul built his work on the foundation of a daily teaching program.

In Acts 13 and 14, Paul and Barnabas establish churches in cities where many Jews resided. They were, therefore, able to find God-fearing men who had all the qualifications of elders and teachers with the exception of a knowledge of the New Testament plan. This knowledge was given by the laying on of the apostle's hands (Acts 8:14; I Cor. 12:4-11), and in this manner each congregation was left with competent teachers of God's word.

As Paul went among the Gentiles, beginning in Acts 16, he once again observed a carefully laid pattern of leaving qualified teachers in each city. When Paul left Asia to go into Macedonia on his 2nd journey, Luke joined him at Troas. (This is indicated by Luke, who authored the book, using "We" as they departed from Troas. 16:10). In the remaining part of the 16th chapter Paul established the church at Philippi. When he departs from the city in verse 40, Luke is left behind. (Notice "they" departed.) By a careful reading of the book one observes that Luke remained at Philippi and did not join Paul again until his third journey, some seven years later (20:5-6). Paul certainly left Philippi with a qualified teacher, in the person of Luke.

Leaving Philippi, Paul, Timothy, and Silas came to Thessalonica, where they established a church. A persecution soon caused Paul and Silas to depart from Thessalonica (leaving Timothy: 17:14) and go to Berea. After establishing a church there, Paul left for Athens and Silas remained at Berea (17:14). Paul called for these men to meet him in Athens (17:14) and immediately sent them back to Macedonia. He sent Timothy to Thessalonica which would imply Silas went back to Berea (I Thess. 3:1). Paul later wrote the 1st and 2nd Thessalonian epistles during his 18 month stay in Corinth, which gave this church additional instructions. This shows the churches were supplied with adequate instruction to edify them.

When Paul departed from Corinth, he took Priscilla and Aquila, whom he left at Ephesus (18:18-21). Paul went on to Antioch, but soon came back to Ephesus. In this city he spent two years "reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus." (19:9-10) The result of this teaching program was "that all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks."

It is interesting to note there that Epaphras, not Paul, established the church in Colossae (Col. 1:7; 2:1; 4:12), yet this church was the result of Paul's teaching program in Ephesus. Undoubtedly, Epaphras learned from Paul in Ephesus and then went to Colossae where he established that church.

Once again we see the pattern of the New Testament churches in these Gentile lands. They had qualified teachers engaged in a daily teaching program and the results were outstanding. Preachers were trained and went forth to establish other churches. This is exactly what Paul later commanded Timothy to do (II Tim. 2:2).

After Paul was released from Roman imprisonment, it is possible to follow his activities with a reasonable degree of certainty through one more journey. And once again we read of his careful planning to make sure each church has the benefit of an evangelist to give them the necessary teaching (I Tim. 1:3, Tit. 1:5,3:12, II Tim. 4:10-12).

During our generation almost every "Epaphras among us" has had to leave the congregation where he worships and go to Abilene, Nashville, or Temple Terrace for the Bible education he needs to preach the precious word. The lack of teaching provided by the churches in their local capacity has almost forced every young man, who desires to preach, to come under the influence of liberalism in many colleges. We then cry that the colleges have led us into apostasy. We might fool ourselves, but our heavenly Father knows where the blame lies. In thousands of cities over the nation, we haven't even begun to start to commence to imitate the practice of the churches in the New Testament. When we do, each congregation will be engaged in a teaching program that will soon equip any faithful young man to become a preacher of the gospel.

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