How The Lord's Churches Prosper
 Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia Baptist Church
Decatur , Alabama
    Do the Lord's churches prosper, and do they receive the benefits of that prosperity? Is it possible for one, or many of the Lord's true churches to be in a state of poverty? What is prosperity?
    As one would ponder this matter, there are a variety of possible thoughts and considerations that could enter one's mind. And these many meditations could have partial validity, in the sense that some thoughts may be completely valid while other thoughts may be completely invalid and unworthy of further consideration or expression.
    We would ask you to pray now that God would have illuminated my heart and mind to this subject already so that what you read will be truly honoring to Him, and that it will be of great beneficial value to you. Your prayer will not change what I have already composed and now send out, but none-the-less, I solicit your every prayer in my behalf.
    I do not want to send out words to no profit. I do not want to put forth uncertain sounds, nor do I want to declare falsely. I do want the Name, Person, and work of the God of all grace to be properly articulated, and then for reception and benefit to accrue to every reader. I want God to be honored and you and I to be edified.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, {2} And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. {3} And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: {4} And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? {5} And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. {6} And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. {7} And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. {8} And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. {9} And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. {10} And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. {11} And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, {12} And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. {13} Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: {14} And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. {15} But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: {16} For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. {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. {18} And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. {19} And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. {20} And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. {21} But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? {22} But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. {23} And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: {24} But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. {25} Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. {26} And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. {27} But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. {28} And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. {29} And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. {30} Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. {31} Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. (Acts 9:1-31)
    Stop right now if you will please, and read this account that God the Holy Spirit has led Luke to record, and has marvelously preserved for you and me. In the face of all satanic attempts to destroy or to alter God's word, yet it remains and is even at this late hour a "lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path". Read for contextual grasp of God's message to us, and then take special note of verse 31, which text sets forth the beginning point of this message, and is the basis for it.
  "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." Acts 9:31
    Carefully re-reading this text, and being led by God to consider it diligently, we are uplifted as we engage upon the grandeur of these words that have been given us for rest, for edification, and for comfort. And our hearts are also directed to I Corinthians 14:3 where Paul is telling the saints of God of the church at Corinth that those who have been made to be partakers of the gift of telling forth what God has done do so with definite results. "But he that propesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (I Corinthians 14:3.)
    What a remarkable similarity! " Edification," and "exhortation," and "comfort". "Rest", "edification", and "comfort". How wonderful God's word is. How it thrills our hearts as the unity of God's message takes hold upon us and causes us to soar far and away above the deceptions and delusions of satan's message, as well as the uncertainties and imaginations of man's message.
    How do the Lord's churches prosper? The Lord's churches prosper in the Lord! Churches prosper as they are in close fellowship with the Lord, and as they give heed to His word and do His bidding. Churches prosper as they "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen." (II Peter 3:18).
    And churches are bodies of saved sinners who have been Holy Spirit led to follow after the Lord Jesus Christ to be properly baptized. So, as these saved and properly baptized sinners grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, the church of which they are members in particular grows and matures. Therefore, we are correct in declaring that each church of the Lord Jesus Christ is as strong as, and no stronger than the composite strength of the members that constitute that body.
    Churches prosper, we repeat, as they are in close fellowship with the Lord. And this fellowship is not as men often times imagine fellowship to be. Men imagine that human companionship, or social interaction, or good citizenship is fellowship. These, as pleasing and helpful as they sometimes are, do not
constitute fellowship. True fellowship is not established, nor is it maintained on these terms. What is true fellowship? Let's go to the Book and hear God's man say, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. " (I John 1:3).
    This is what God says about fellowship, and where that fellowship is found. If there is no fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, then there is NO fellowship. No matter how pleasing human relations may be, and no matter how far reaching these human relations may extend, God says that they do not constitute true fellowship, nor can they.
    Man mistakenly imagines that he is in fellowship with his neighbor so long as there is no open enmity between them. I say mistakenly, because his natural mind being darkened, he does not comprehend true fellowship. He thinks he understands, but he does not. For God says that "... our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ". And if there is no fellowship between God and man, then there is no fellowship. It is not a matter of his relationship to his neighbor. It is a matter of his relationship to God. Take note of this text: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin." (I John 1:6,7).
    How do churches prosper? When they are in fellowship with God. And what does fellowship mean? Fellowship means to be in agreement with. Fellowship means to be harmonious with. Fellowship means to be of the same mind. Fellowship in these instances is not a verb; rather it is a state of being.
    Is man, in his state of hereditary depravity, in agreement with God who is sinless? To say so is to impugn the character of God. To say so is to seek to bring God down to the same level as man. To say so is to deny Scripture.
    Is man, in his fallen state (he is a sinner), in harmony with God? Is he of the same mind with God? Has he acknowledged that he is God's enemy, and is in fact, in a state of enmity against God? Man has not even admitted that he is a sinner, when God has said that he IS sin. Is man, in his fallen, depraved state acting so as to improve himself, or to bring himself into better relationship with God, or to do anything to alter this state of sin that he is? None of these are man's actions, nor are they his thoughts.
    Now when right relationship exists, there then can be right association. When kinship is reality, then a bond exists that can grow and be nurtured, and bring about a sweetness not otherwise found. When one is a son of the Father, there is then a basis for the joys that accrue to sons. And not until such relationship exists can association and fellowship exist.
    When one is born, then there can be, and will be agreement, and harmony, and oneness of mind. Then, and only then can there be any fellowship. And that then existing state of fellowship can be acted upon by the renewed, born again sinner. Then, and only then can fellowship be in verb form, and action taken by man, as God enables man to act, to demonstrate outwardly what God has constituted inwardly. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13).
    How do churches prosper? When brethren love brethren, there is unequivocal evidence of a kinship. And remember that brethren are brethren because of a relationship that exists between God and each of them. Being, each of them, begotten of the same Father, they are brethren, and upon no other basis are they brethren.
    The apostle John had much to say on this matter, and we call your attention to just a small amount of scripture to verify this point. Note these texts: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (I John 4:7,8). "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." (I John 3:14).
    Churches prosper when brethren are united into a body. And remember that churches are redeemed people who are an assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ, who also are led by the Holy Spirit to execute the commission that they have been given. And when this body is truly united, there are some definite and positive characteristics that are observable, and there are some definite and positive fruits that are borne.
    When redeemed people are united in a body, they are united in relation to God as His children. The Lord Jesus spoke of this relationship when He said to Nicodemus, "... Ye must be born again". (John 3:7), and He said also, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24).
    The apostle Paul, when writing to the churches of Galatia made this clear announcement: "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus". (Gal. 3:26). He said that all that are children, (thus denoting a relationship), are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Thus it is, that all children, be they Jew or Gentile, be they rich or poor, be they master or servant, or whatever their relationship to each other, they are children of God. And this by faith in Christ Jesus.
    When redeemed people are united in a body, they are united in relation to each other, as brethren. Take note, if you please, to the words of Paul again as he writes to the Ephesians: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body, by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (Ephesians 2:11-18).
    When redeemed people are united in a body, they are united in doctrine. That is, they, being led of God to follow the Scriptures, are led to teach what Jesus taught, and to believe what He taught them.
    Did Jesus teach that there is one God, and that God is One? Did He teach that God created all things? Did He teach that man sinned, and that sin is odious in it's nature, and an offense to God who is Holy? Did He teach that the wages of sin is death? Did He teach that God would make sacrifice of Himself to redeem His people from their sins? Did He teach the doctrines of grace? Did He teach that His church was HIS CHURCH, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it? Did He teach that He would call out His saints from the earth prior to His turning against Israel to execute the "time of Jacob's trouble" upon them so as to bring them to acknowledge, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord"? Did He teach that a wedding would take place in heaven, at which time He would take a bride to be eternally wedded to Himself? Did He teach that He would come back, bodily, to this same earth, and that He would reign, physically and literally over the whole earth and all people from the Throne of David in Jerusalem for one thousand years? Did He teach that His saints should anticipate His coming for them as being imminent, and that they should live each day, "till I come", in a God honoring manner? Did He teach that judgment and eternal punishment is the sure portion of all His enemies? Did He teach the preservation and perseverance of His saints so that they would be fitted to dwell with Him eternally?
    Since Jesus clearly taught these truths, and many others besides these, then we ought to teach them. And a body of believers will, as they are properly taught these precious and wonderful truths, show forth that a unity of doctrine does exist between themselves and the Head of the church, Jesus Christ Himself.
    When redeemed people are united in a body, they are united in what they practice. What they do and how they live is indicative of who they are. It is a clear announcement of their relationship to Christ, the only Lawgiver to His church, for as man is in his heart, so speaks he. When we act it is because of the inward working of who we are. Character and conduct are reflective of who we are; character being what we are, and conduct being what we do. Are we true children of God? Then we will act accordingly.
    When redeemed people are united in a body, they are united in purpose. What is our purpose, and what are we commissioned to do? A careful reflection upon this point will reveal something of value that God has said as to what His people are to do, and, what is to be their intent and purpose as they prepare to do whatever it is that they are to do.
    "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:18-20).
    This is the commission that Jesus gave to His church before He departed the earth to return unto the Father. It is the marching orders that He issued, and is the strategy that His church is to employ as she goes forth to the conflict with the enemies of the cause of God and truth. It is His stated purpose that is to become and remain throughout this present age, the purpose of His church; His ambassadors who represent Him upon foreign soil, and among alien people.
    He is the Sovereign, and His church (institutionally speaking), and His churches, each and every one of them, are at His command and disposal, and are duty bound to carry out His orders and directions. His churches are to go when and where He sends. His churches are to go, and they go, they are to scatter His word to all people. They that are caused to come to Christ are to be baptized so as to proclaim their now relationship to Christ, and to declare also that they are counted as dead to the ways of their old man, and are made alive unto the ways of their new man.
    And the promise of victory issues forth from Christ to them so that they can and will know that theirs is not a battle that is not winnable, but rather a battle at which outcome has already been announced. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world", is the promise. And it is sure.
    When redeemed people are united in a body, they are united in the anticipation of the Lord's return. On the day that Jesus left His people and returned to His Father, He also sent messengers to comfort His people and to remind them that He would come back for them. And He will.
    "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11). Isn't this a promise of God? Can we rely upon it? If we can rely upon God, then we can rely upon his promises.
    During the time that Jesus walked among men as the Man, He frequently taught them this same truth. On many occasions, He spoke such comforting words as those that are recorded for us. Hear Jesus as He says, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3).
    Are we ready for His return? Are our lamps all trimmed and burning bright? Are we busy in His vineyard, laboring at His assigned tasks, being assured again and again that we are in His service and He is our Provider and Guarantor? Are we occupying till He come? God help us to be not only hearing His commands but doing His will in all matters now, while we await His soon coming.
    An examination of the sacred record of the early churches will reveal some amazing and wonderful truths. And as we make this examination, let us do so with the desire to learn what God has said to us so that even at this late hour we may still see clearly the path that is set before us. And may we still be enabled to correct our drift in azimuth and alter our elevation of purpose so that our efforts in His Name will be squarely on target.
    This examination of the early churches will originate with the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem and will continue into the region of Judea and to Galilee and into Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth, even unto the Lord's church in Seguin, Texas, and to where you are; in which church you hold membership with its attendant duties and most blessed privileges.
    Christ personally, while He was on the scene, called out a definite people, both in name and in number, and constituted them His ecclesia; His church. They were His because He chose them and claimed them from off the dung heap of depravity and sin. He set them in His church in positions of His choice. He enabled them to hear His words. He commissioned them to go unto men and people of His choice to declare His word, with the assurance that they would meet opposition, but with further guarantee that they would prevail. From Jerusalem where the Lord's church was, the word went out to Galilee; throughout all Judea; into Samaria; and into Damascus, Syria, where the church called Antioch came into being. And in this church at Antioch, God had placed His saints, among whom was Ananias.
    The churches of the Lord, now in the plural, are found to be teaching, preaching, and practicing the same things that Jesus taught, preached, and directed His followers to practice; Himself being the Great Example to them. He told them how to live, and He demonstrated unto them a perfect life of devotion and service to the Father. The churches are preaching the same Christ, and they are declaring to men everywhere that salvation is in Him alone.
    There is opposition to the Lord's churches as they go forth to evangelize, baptize, and indoctrinate. There is great persecution against them and against the message they bear. Is this unexpected? No. Jesus had assured them that they would indeed meet adversity and that men, in general, would not receive their word, but rather, would seek to stop their mouths as they proclaimed His work.
    A prime example of the religious zealots of the day who would oppose the message of the Lord's churches is Saul of Tarsus. "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went into the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." (Acts 9:1,2).
    Saul of Tarsus, though an ultra religionist, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, does not at this time know Jesus as the Christ of God. In fact, he is sure that this Jesus is nothing more than an opportunist who has taken advantage of the poor and unlearned among the Jews. And Saul is incensed with anger and hatred against Jesus and the message that many Jews have been induced to accept. He hates Jesus and His doctrine.
    Are there any of this same stripe in the world today? Are there religionists of many persuasions who reject the teaching of Jesus Christ, and in doing so reject Jesus Christ Himself? Do Muslims reject Christ? Do Buddhists reject Christ? Do not all the religions of men, including the vast majority who profess Christianity, actually reject Christ? The answer to all these questions is a resounding "Yes"! They do reject Christ, and in most instances place themselves, their labors, and their so-called volitional free-will in the position of saviour.
    But take note also that Saul of Tarsus is overpowered by the grace of God, and that this breather out of threats against God and His Christ is converted. He is CONVERTED! And that act of God has rendered him a new creation. He is regenerated and begins to say the things that regenerated souls say, and do the things that regenerated souls do. Enmity is removed and friendship has replaced it.
    Remember also that when Stephen preached the gospel to the council of Jews in Jerusalem, Saul was present and heard the preached word. God exposed him to the gospel through the preaching of the gospel. And Saul was enraged. So much so that he gave his consent to the stoning of Stephen. In fact, the raiment of those who stoned him were laid at Saul's feet. Please read Acts chapter 7 in its entirety. Take particular note of the gospel message that Stephen preached. Take note also to these texts: "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 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." (Acts 7:54; 8:1).
    Before the conversion of Saul, the Lord's churches were under heavy persecution from he and his companions. But after his conversion, there was an immediate change in his attitude and in his actions. He is a new man, and he acts like a new man.
    Notice this sequence of events in the life of converted Saul: He is "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:17). He is baptized by the authority of the Lord's church at Antioch of Syria, of which God's servant Ananias is a member (9:18,19) and Saul becomes a member of that church. He is later sent out on his God ordained missionary journeys from that church. And on occasion, he returns to that church and relates the working of God through him. And as far as the inspired record is concerned, he remains a member of that church until God takes him home at the conclusion of his service to God.
    To continue the sequence of events that immediately and subsequently followed the conversion of Saul, we find that after his baptism and having spent "certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus", he begins to preach in the synagogues that Christ whom he previously had denied and had persecuted is in reality, the "Son of God" (verse 20).
    Sometime later, Saul sought to have fellowship with the saints of God at Jerusalem, but they feared him, and did not believe that he was now one of them. But God used Barnabas to speak to the apostles as to the conversion of Saul and his life and testimony since that time (verses 26-29).
    THEN, there is fellowship. "Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. THEN had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." (Acts 9:30,31).
    Let's look at this again, and see how God ordered and wrought such great benefit to His churches in the land. He brought persecution, and this taught His people to lean hard upon Him. Then He saved the chief antagonist and began to use him. And THEN the churches have rest. THEN the churches are edified. THEN the churches are found to be walking in the fear of the Lord. And THEN the churches have comfort in the Holy Ghost.
    Are these churches prospering? These churches are indeed prospering, for verse 31 also declares that they were "multiplied". So, we must conclude from this that the Lord not only desires that His churches prosper, but He uses the suitable means to insure that they do. He adds to the churches such as are being saved, and He adds spiritual growth and maturity to them, according to His own good pleasure.
    How does THIS church, or the church of which our brother or sister is a member prosper? The same way that each and every church of the Lord Jesus Christ prospers. (1) By being saved and then found to be in fellowship with God. (2) This then puts us into fellowship with this church. (3) This then puts us into fellowship with each brother and sister in Christ.
    As we (this church, being made up of those who claim membership) are led by God the Holy Spirit, we too are: (1) At rest; (2) Edified; (3) Found to be walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost; (4) Multiplied (added unto in spiritual strength and in numbers).
    How does THIS church prosper? (1) In "Occupying till He comes". (2) In the labors assigned to us.
    What labors are assigned to us, as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ? We are to preach the gospel to all those whom God gives opportunity. We are to faithfully assemble ourselves together. We are to live our lives before others so as to proclaim the new man in us. We are to attend to a faithful keeping of the ordinances. We are to support the Lord's church with our lives, and with our enablements, and with the substance that God has provided us.
    I want to call your attention now to Scripture, so that we all may be assured that God has provided good instruction for us, and that He also has led His men to pray for us. And He has recorded these God honoring prayers so that we may learn from them, and be thankful that He has caused them to be offered up in our behalf.
    "Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. for this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:13-21).
    This wonderful prayer was offered unto God by the apostle Paul in the behalf of the Lord's church at Ephesus. It was, and is a prayer that God's churches might be supplied knowledge of God and a fulness in the inner man of each member, and each church. Even unto this day.
    Now, also, the apostle Paul was directed by the Holy Spirit to provide instructions for the saints of God in His churches so that they might attain unto a fuller knowledge of the things of God, and they might lead God honoring lives in this age.
    The design of God and the provision of God in the interest of, and in the behalf of His saints reflects His wondrous love and care for them. God has forever loved His own, and His omniscient counsel has seen to it that they be enabled to love Him and serve Him.
    Listen to these words of God, through Paul, and recognize that they are words of good and wholesome instruction for the church at Philippi specifically, but that they also have import for you and me today. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world: Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." (Philippians 2:12-16).
    Here is God's plan and purpose for us in action. This is what God would have His saints to be involved in during their tenure upon this earth, during this age. And to see how much God would have us to know of His will and His ways, He causes this beloved apostle to not only pray for the saints, but also to teach them God's ways. May we learn from this. May we pray, and then labor. Pray, and then labor. Pray for the saints of God, and then work to help them to grow and become mature, fruitful Christians.
    Again Paul is led to pray for specific believers, and he does so. "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God: Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" (Col. 1:9-14).
    Instruction in God's ways, and in the walk of believers is recorded for our learning again as Paul writes these words to believers in one of the Lord's churches. "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." (I Thessalonians 4:1-7)
    I would now seek your prayers in the behalf of the saints of God everywhere. And then, after you have prayed, and while your prayers are continued, I would solicit your labor in the vineyard where you have been, by Omniscient wisdom assigned. Labor for the glory of God and for the good of God's saints, in His churches.
    "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee ..." (Titus 2:11-15).
    Now to each of you, but especially to the blessed church where God has placed me as a member and as the pastor, I close with these questions: (1) Where is OUR REST coming from? (2) Are we WALKING in the fear and admonition of the Lord? (3) Are we EDIFIED? (4) Are we COMFORTED? (5) Are we MULTIPLIED?
    Let us strive to PROSPER - GOD'S WAY.

(The Baptist Herald - February, 1991)

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