"If We Believed What They Believed"
In his preface to "Letters to Young Churches," the translator, J. B. Phillips, has the following to say about the New Testament epistles and their writers:
". . . Without going into wearisome historical details, we need to remember that these letters were written, and the lives they indicate were led, against a background of paganism. There were no churches, no Sundays, no books about the Faith. Slavery, sexual immorality, cruelty, callousness to human suffering, and a low standard of public opinion, were universal; travelling and communications were chancey and perilous; most people were illiterate. Many Christians today talk about the 'difficulties of our times' as though we should have to wait for better ones before the Christian religion can take root. It is heartening to remember that this faith took root and flourished amazingly in conditions that would have killed anything less vital in a matter of weeks. These early Christians were on fire with the conviction that they had become, through Christ, literally sons of God-, they were pioneers of a new humanity, founders of a new Kingdom. They still speak to us across the centuries. Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved."
With this observation we are in complete agreement. "Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved." Within a generation after the establishment of our Lord's church, the apostle Paul could write of those who carried the gospel message, that "their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18) ; and of the gospel itself, that it "was preached in all creation under heaven" (Colossians 1:23). This was a marvelous achievement, to begin with a few comptratively unknown and uneducated persons (see Acts 4:13), and to have a message that appealed little to the "wise," the "mighty," or the "noble" according to the flesh, who, from the human point of view, would have been the most able to disseminate the gospel widely. But they had a faith, and a zeal born of the faith, that caused them to launch out bold1y and sacrificially, laying down even their lives for the cause they had espoused; and God gave them success. They were on fire for the kingdom, for the gospel, and for souls, believeing with all their heart in King Jesus the Son of God and Savior of men. Christianity meant everything to them, and they wanted every creature under heaven to share with them its blessings for the present and its hopes for the future.
But their achievements were not easy. Almost from the outset they were not only opposed, but persecuted. When the first of their number was martyred, such a widespread persecution developed that all except the apostles were driven from their homes and scattered abroad. But this did not abate their fervor. Wherever they went, they went "preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). All of them made it known as they had opportunity, not depeding alone on "professional" preachers. Each disciple considered himself both privileged and responsible as a soul-winner for Christ. Their cause was new. They were pioneers. Today with many of us Christianity is commonplace. We do not appreciate it as they did. It is not our life as it was theirs. We are not spending and being spent for it as they were. At least quantitatively, we do not believe what they believed. "Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved." God would give us success too.
(From Chicago Christian)
Truth Magazine III:2, p. 24