The Work of the Evangelist
"Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd." (John 10:16) In such terms does the Lord Jesus announce the great change which would be effected consequent upon His death and resurrection. Sheep He had which did not belong to the fold of Israel. He was, He is, in a special sense (Ezek. 34:23; Zech. 13:7), the Shepherd of Israel. But He has other sheep whom He would bring, and they should hear His voice; and thus following Him, as did the believing remnant of Israel, the two would form one flock, owning, and cared for by, the one Shepherd. This explains a passage in I Corinthians 10, where the children of men on the earth are divided now into three classes, the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God. Before the Lords death there were but two classes on the earth- the Jews and the Gentiles. So when the Lord in John 7 stated that whither He would go they could not follow Him, reasoning among themselves the Jews said: "Will He go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?" There were then but Jew and Gentile, on the earth. By and by it will be the same. After the church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air, the human family will again be divided into these two classes, and these only, Jew and Gentile.
Now, this third class exists on the earth, the church of God. It was this class, as distinct from Jews and Gentiles, but composed of those who had been once Jews, that Paul persecuted."I persecuted the Church of God." It was this class, composed of both Jew and Gentiles, that the Jews endeavoured to exterminate. (Thess. 2:14) And it is in the midst of the churches that the Lord Jesus Christ is said to walk as Son of man, taking special cognizance of all that goes on in them. (Rev. 2) Moreover in the church God, in the person of the Holy Ghost, now dwells (Eph. 2:22) It is Gods house. (I Tim. 3:15) Gods temple. (I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 6:16)
In early days the"within" and the"without" (I Cor. 5:12-13; Col. 4:5) were terms understood, and limits clearly defined, by all believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. Within, were all who professed to be, and, as far as man could judge, were, believers on the Lord. Without, were all who had not taken Christian ground. Within, was the sphere in which the Spirit of God ruled and dwelt; without was the region where the god of this world had sway.
Brought out of Judaism by the preaching of the gospel, those who were to be saved of Israel found themselves members of Gods assembly or church on the earth - a position quite distinct from that which the nation had; the church or assembly being spoken of as a company apart from their countrymen, the Jews at Jerusalem. (Acts 5:11) Brought out of heathenism by the preaching of the same word, believers from among the Gentiles found themselves members of the same assembly - the church. A common bond united them, a common interest occupied them. They were partakers of the same life. They owned the same Lord, and belonged to the same Head in heaven. Children of the same Father, indwelt by the same Spirit, they were one with Christ, forming the church of Christ, the house of God, the habitation of the Holy Ghost. And wherever the gospel was preached in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, those who believed formed part of the church. Philip preached in Samaria, the apostles Peter and John evangelized many villages of the Samaritans (Acts 8), and soon after we read of the church existing in Samaria. (9:31) Souls at Antioch in Syria were evangelized by those scattered abroad upon the persecution which arose about Stephen, and shortly afterwards we read of the assembly in that city. (11:19-26) Paul and his fellow labourers visited Thessalonica, the first evangelists in that country, and but little time elapsed before the converts received a communication addressed "to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Wherever souls receive the glad tidings which Paul preached, churches sprang up; and as Paul and Barnabas returned from Derbe to Antioch in Syria, they appointed elders in the churches previously formed by their evangelistic labours. But whilst apostolic power or authority was requisite or the appointment of elders, none being appointed to that office except by the apostles or their delegates in primitive times, it needed not an apostle, nor authority from one, for churches to spring up in different localities. There was a church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla at Rome, before Paul or any other apostle had visited that city. (Rom. 16:5) There were churches at Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, souls gathered out by Epaphras and others whom Paul had never seen. (Col. 2:1; 4:13; Philemon 2) To call souls out of the world into the church was the work of the evangelist. Hence there was a twofold result of his labours. Souls were gathered out of the world, delivered from the power of darkness, rescued from a condition of wrath, having passed from darkness to light through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ; and believers, thus brought out of Judaism, and heathenism, were brought of necessity into the church of God. There could be no other place for them, there is no other division of men on earth recognized of God, but Jew, and Gentile, and Church of God. Ceasing to be a Jew or a Gentile by becoming a Christian, the individual forms part of the church. The evangelist might not teach them much about the church, its composition, its government, its position with reference to principalities and powers in heavenly places now. All that would follow afterwards, being the more direct work of the teacher set by God in the assembly; but his preaching made them take a new place on earth, i.e., brought them openly into Gods assembly. They had heard the voice of Christ, and forthwith became members of the one flock.
To form a church was not their aim. God had formed the church by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. If they laboured in a place where none had laboured before, all the souls called out in that place formed the church of God in that locality. In a country there might be many churches, as in Galatia. (Gal. 1:2) In any locality there was but one church of God, as at Corinth. (I Cor. 1:1) How differently do evangelists often act in these days. We hear of souls brought to the Lord, and then left to shift for themselves, to choose the denomination to which they will be attached. This is called liberality of sentiment, the catholic principle on which the work should be carried on. The salvation of individuals is all that is aimed at here, to bring them to Jesus is the avowed end of such labourers. Blessed be God, however we may fall short of His thought, He never fails His people. Saved by grace through faith, we are, whether conscious of it or not, quickened with Christ, risen with Him, and seated in Him in the heavenlies; we are members of His body, part of His church. But such teaching as is often met with ignores the church of God, and keeps out of sight, or overlooks, some of the distinguishing characteristics of the present interval between the day of Pentecost and the Lords descent in the air.
If by faith in Christ we become members of the one flock, the one church of God, there should be uniformity and harmony of action. Each one of the children of Israel had to observe the same rules, and was bound to worship God in the same way. So each member of Christ should know what are Gods directions and regulations for His church. In ignorance surely of what the church of God is, earnest, godly, souls, feeling the need of uniformity, have devised rules for all such as will agree on some special doctrine or church question with themselves. Hence the formation of so called churches, composed of some, not all the members of the church in any one place. Hence, too, the varied forms of church government and worship. Paul at Corinth would have nothing to do with the divisions there, save only to correct such evils. He did not form a church for all those who followed him, to the exclusion of those who were attached to Apollos, or Cephas, or some other teacher. All who believed at Corinth were members of Gods church there, they were all Gods husbandry, Gods building, the temple of God. Was he indifferent about uniformity in order and worship? He insisted strongly on it. He sent Timotheus to remind them of his ways which were in Christ, as He taught everywhere in every church. (I Cor. 4:17) As regards marriage, he ordained the same in all the churches. (7:17) If the covering of women, order of worship, were in question, he spoke of the customs of the churches of God, and the order of worship in all the churches of the saints. (11:16; 14:33)
To leave souls in ignorance of the place into which they are brought through the labours of the evangelist, is to leave the work entrusted to him unfinished. What disorders would have been prevented, what feuds and troubles would have been averted, if labourers of former days had acted differently. What disorders may now be prevented, and the wanderings of the sheep effectually restrained, if evangelists, whilst leading souls to Christ, shew them that they are, through faith when saved, members of the one church of God, and part of the body of Christ.
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