6. Keeping Ourselves in the One Flow of the Lord’s Work for the Spreading of the Church, and Receiving the Lord’s Mercy to Be Saved from Satan’s Schemes
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Scripture Reading: Acts 1:8; 5:20; 6:4, 7; 9:31; 12:24; 19:20

I.     The flowing of the divine life, which started on the day of Pentecost and has been flowing throughout all generations to this day, is just one stream for God’s goal to build up the church for His corporate expression—Matt. 16:18; cf. Ezek. 47:1-12:

A.     When we give the Lord the preeminence in our entire being, making Him our first love, He becomes the divine stream to us, flowing within us and out of us as the first works; the first works are works that are motivated by, issue from, and express the Lord as our first love—John 4:14b; Rev. 22:1; 2:4-5.

B.     Only works that are motivated by the first love are gold, silver, and precious stones—1 Cor. 2:9; 3:12.

 

II.   The basic principle of the church is that it is eternal and universal, so the church must constantly spread on the earth; the growth of the church and the building up of the church are based on spreading—Acts 1:8; 8:1; 9:31:

A.     The spreading of the church is brought about by the growth in the Lord’s life and the flowing out of the Lord’s life, the overflow of life—Eph. 4:16; John 7:37-39; Acts 2:42, 46-47; 5:20; 6:4, 7; 12:24; 19:20.

B.     When the church begins to spread, erroneous concepts are shattered, regardless of whether the concepts are regional, racial, or mutually discriminatory; it is through spreading that all our close-mindedness is eliminated—cf. 1 Cor. 12:24; Col. 3:10-11.

C.     Acts 8 shows that the first step in the church’s spread was to Samaria (vv. 1-25), and the second step was to Ethiopia, to Africa (vv. 26-39); this shows that we must preach the gospel to every tribe and tongue and people and nation, because the church is universal and needs to spread (Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9).

D.     Acts 9 shows God’s choosing of Saul (later Paul), which is against the human concept; our narrow, erroneous human concept needs to be broken and shattered through the spreading of the church; we must believe that a person can be persecuting the church one hour and preaching the gospel the next hour—vv. 10-22.

E.      Acts 10 indicates that the Lord’s evangelistic move on earth is under His administration on the throne in heaven and that the gospel needs to be spread to the four corners of the inhabited earth to collect all kinds of unclean (sinful) people, cleansing them with the redeeming blood of Christ and washing them with the renewing Holy Spirit—vv. 11-12, 15, 28; cf. Heb. 8:1; Acts 7:56.

F.      Acts 13 reveals that in the church in Antioch, the five prophets and teachers who were ministering to the Lord were composed of Jews and Gentiles, each having a different background, education, and status; this indicates that the church is composed of all races and classes of people regardless of their background and that the spiritual gifts and functions given to the members of the Body are not based on their natural status—v. 1; 4:36; Rom. 16:21; Luke 9:7-9; Acts 22:3:

1. Through these five faithful and seeking members of the Body of Christ, the Lord took a great step to set apart Barnabas and Saul for His work and move to spread the gospel of the kingdom to the Gentile world.

2. It was absolutely a move by the Spirit, in the Spirit, and with the Spirit through the coordination of the faithful and seeking members of the Body of Christ on earth with the Head in the heavens—13:1-4.

G.     On the apostle Paul’s first trip to spread the gospel, he went to Cyprus and then to Asia Minor to establish many local churches—v. 1—14:28; Rev. 1:4.

H.     After Paul separated from Barnabas, he went out on his second ministry journey to Europe (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and returning through Ephesus back to Antioch)—Acts 15:35-40; 16:6—18:22.

I.       Paul’s third journey was from Antioch to Galatia, Phrygia, Ephesus, Macedonia, and Greece to Jerusalem—v. 23—21:17.

J.       Paul’s fourth journey was from Caesarea to Rome—27:1—28:31.

III.  We must receive the Lord’s mercy to be saved from Satan’s schemes to frustrate the spreading and building up of the church, keeping ourselves in the flow of the age for the building up of His Body—cf. Heb. 4:16; Lam. 3:22-25:

A.     We must be saved from outward and dead ordinances, human opinions, and the self with its old concepts; whoever receives mercy from the Lord will be saved in these matters; the degree to which we are saved is the degree to which the church can be built up—Rom. 5:10; Phil. 1:19-21a; 2:12-16; Acts 15:1-12; Gal. 2:21; 5:1; 2:4.

B.     We must learn from the lesson of Peter to be saved from the veils of our religious traditions and old background so that we may see and live under the vision of God’s eternal economy to hold the truth of the gospel—Acts 10:9-16; Gal. 2:11-14.

C.     We must learn from the lesson of Barnabas to be saved from human opinions and natural relationships—disputes that arise among the co-workers because of personal relationships are terrible; remember this well—Acts 13:13; 15:35-40; Col. 4:10.

D.     We must learn from the lesson of Apollos to be saved from a ministry that lacks a complete revelation of God’s New Testament economy and from not being fully one with the ministry of the age—Acts 18:24—19:2; 1 Cor. 1:12; 16:10-12.

E.      We must learn from the lesson of Paul in Acts 16:6-12; these verses indicate the problem of workers coming to a place and tending to become set and settled down, not wanting to move; old relationships, old affections, old inclinations, and old concepts keep us from following the inner leading of the indwelling Spirit:

1. The Holy Spirit forbade Paul and his co-workers, and the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; the Holy Spirit’s forbidding separates us, sanctifies us, and the Spirit of Jesus either allows us or does not allow us.

2. The Holy Spirit says “no” to sanctify us, and the Spirit of Jesus says “go” to send us out in the humanity of Jesus to accomplish the will of God under the cross.

F.      We must learn from the lesson of Paul to practice the Body life and to take the word of the Spirit through the members of the Body, obeying it as a word from the Head—20:23; 21:4, 7-8, 11-14.

G.     We must learn from the lesson of the mistake of James and the devastating mixture of the church in Jerusalem—vv. 18-26; Matt. 22:7; 24:1-2:

1. Jeremiah spoke of the law of life that could be written upon our hearts (Jer. 31:31-34), and Paul spoke of the law of the Spirit of life in our spirit (Rom. 8:2, 4, 6), but James treasured and uplifted the law of letters (Acts 21:20).

2. Paul spoke of being crucified with Christ and being conformed to the death of Christ by the power of Christ’s resurrection; it is this life that produces the Body life that consummates in the New Jerusalem—Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10.

3. In the light of the divine revelation, the greatest lack of James is the cross of Christ; self-cultivation does not carry out God’s economy, but self-denial does.

4. James boasted that there were thousands of believing Jews in the church in Jerusalem who were zealous for the law, but Paul was zealous to gain Christ, be found in Christ, know Christ, lay hold of Christ, pursue Christ, and uplift only Christ for the fullest enjoyment of Christ—Acts 21:20; Phil. 3:6-14; Col. 1:18b.

H.     We must learn from the lesson of Paul to be saved from the mixing of Judaic practices with God’s New Testament economy, which is not only erroneous but also abominable in the eyes of God—Acts 21:18-27, 31, 36; Heb. 10:29.

I.       We must learn from the lesson of Paul’s appealing to Caesar, utilizing his Roman citizenship to save himself from his persecutors so that he might fulfill the course of his ministry—Acts 22:25-29; 23:10-11; 25:8-12; 26:32:

1. Paul was willing to sacrifice his life for the Lord, but he still endeavored to live longer that he might carry out the Lord’s ministry as much as possible—20:24.

2. God in His sovereignty rescued Paul so that He might separate him from all the dangerous situations and entrapments and sent him to a quiet prison; this was to afford him a quiet environment and give him time, whether in Caesarea (24:27) or in Rome (28:16, 23, 30), so that through his last Epistles he might release exhaustively to the church throughout the generations the revelation of the mystery of God’s New Testament economy that he received from the Lord.

3. The benefit and profit that the church throughout the generations has received from these Epistles will take eternity to measure (see Acts 25:11, footnote 1).

 IV.     All of us should follow the pattern of the apostle Paul to do the same one work universally for the unique Body—1 Cor. 3:12; 15:58; 16:10; Eph. 4:11-16:

A.     The work in the Lord’s recovery is for the building up of the local churches unto the building up of the universal Body of Christ—2:21-22; 1 Cor. 16:10.

B.     Today there are four kinds of workers:

1. The first kind is the co-workers who match the need of the ministry of God in the present age; this is a small group of people who have been dealt with by the Lord and who are in one accord.

2. The second kind is the younger co-workers; they are willing to receive the direction and to come under the coordination of the older co-workers, and they are willing to follow and to learn in humility.

3. The third kind is those who are unwilling to submit to the senior co-workers, who do not belong to the denominations, yet who are happy to remain in fellowship with us.

4. The fourth kind is the preachers and free evangelists among the denominations.

C.     What we need today are the first and second kind of co-workers; concerning the third and fourth kind of co-workers, we can only let them choose their own pathway; with some people God has not assigned them to take the same way as we do, and we dare not say anything to them.

D.     Whatever the situation may be, we are here to do the work that God has committed to us; we cannot interfere with others’ work, and we are not here tearing down others’ work.

 

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