It will have been observed that what was accomplished by the founders and first missionaries of the Early Church was done through the normal working of the Holy Spirit. It is often thought that Barnabas, Paul, Luke, Timothy, Titus, Silas and the other New Testament Evangelists just suddenly and miraculously found themselves possessed of the necessary knowledge and experience for the ministry they were called to, that the churches sprang up miraculously, that Elders were found ready immediately and that a special dispensation of the Spirit’s power was manifested at that time in both Evangelists and converts.
That may seem a plausible excuse for the comparative powerlessness evident today, but there is no ground for it in Scripture. We have seen that Paul and his companions had to go through years of preparation in the school of hard experience, becoming thoroughly acquainted with the principles of spiritual life and ministry and with the structure of the local church, before the Holy Spirit sent them forth to the work. It was seven years after Pentecost before the Lord led out to the evangelization of the Gentile world, because Greek-speaking men must first have years of experience to fit them for the work. Those who ministered did so at as great a cost as is required of us today. In the churches, Elders and Deacons were not appointed until ample time had been given for them to be proved. Even in the church in Jerusalem this was so. And the enemy was just as active in just the same way, spreading false doctrine, causing divisions and using every weakness of the human heart.
No, it was not easier in those early days; the work was done then just as it has to be done today. It was done victoriously because it was done in God’s way, in the power of the Spirit, through utter yieldedness, obedience, prayer and faith. Those who are willing to walk in the same way today will reap the same fruit. The whole difficulty is the cost of this walk. It means taking the way of sacrifice that our Lord and the early Evangelists of the Church did not shrink from taking. It means continual death to the flesh with its desires, wisdom and pride. That there are those who are willing for this, there is no doubt. There has always been such a company and there always will be so long as the Spirit of Christ remains among men. The number may not be great, because few will be willing to pay the cost, but the Lord will be with those who do and their labor and testimony will bear eternal fruit.
--Alex R. Hay