We often think of the apostles as giving their testimony – that is, bearing witness – to what they had seen and heard of Jesus the Christ. And we are right to do so. We should also think, however, about those who believed them. They, too, were bearing witness. These New Testament believers were the jurors who believed the apostles’ testimony. They heard the call of Jesus and responded. For this reason we call them church, which comes from a Greek word meaning “called out.”
The apostles suffered persecution, but so did many of the New Testament believers. Their collective witness strengthens our faith immeasurably. We owe them all a debt.
The very documents we call the New Testament were born of the relationship between the apostles and those who believed the apostles’ testimony. All lived for Christ at great peril to their fortunes, their honor, and their very lives. It’s as if the New Testament pages we read were stained not just in Jesus’ blood (uniquely precious as it was) but also in the blood of the apostles and the saints they served.
This glorious New Testament church did not risk its collective life so that we could attend a worship service on Sunday instead of Saturday. Nor did it lay down its life so that we could divide into tens of thousands of factions. And it certainly did not lay down its life so that we could say that the kingdom’s coming which they saw as imminent has not yet occurred. No, brothers and sisters, it did not lay down its life for any of these things. Rather, it laid down its life to see the kingdom of God come to the earth in untold glory. That kingdom is here now. When we seek it and enter it, we honor their sacrifice.
Forsake the assembling of your separate Christian gatherings. Run to the King. And pray that those who have followed you to this point will follow you to Him.
Where is He? He’s standing before you now.