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 In the day of Thy Power



IN THE DAY OF THY POWER
The Scriptural Principles of Revival
By Arthur Wallis


Chapter 15
THE SOLEMN ALTERNATIVE

”For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).

The Divine Purpose
God has a grander and greater purpose for this age than simply saving souls from hell; He is bringing ”sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10). He is not now concerned with improving the world, but with gathering out of it a people for His Name. He is forging an instrument, glorious and holy, that shall rule and administer the world in the coming age under the sovereignty of His Son.
In this age it is the angels, ”sons of God” by creation, who govern the universe. In the age to come it will be the saints, ”sons of God” by redemption, who shall judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Heb. 2:5). Thus God is now displaying through the church His manifold wisdom to those heavenly powers soon to be replaced by the church (Eph. 3:10). We can hardly contemplate these tremendous events without realizing that something radical must take place in the church as we see it today, if it is ever to be worthy of association with the Son of God in such a capacity, if in fact it is to be ”a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but . . .holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

If an exiled monarch had hopes of returning in power to judge the usurper, claim his throne, and set up again his kingdom, he would surely choose his ministers and administrators from among those who had shown unswerving loyalty towards him, and where possible he would train them in advance to fulfil their future functions. How could he promote to such executive positions those whose devotion to his cause had been lukewarm, who had been ashamed to side openly with him in his rejection, or who had been more concerned in his absence to serve their own selfish interests than his? It is such a picture that Christ paints in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11), in which He teaches us that His servants are on probation in this age, being trained and fitted for their function in the age to come. With Christ ”the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom” (Dan. 7:18, 22). But how are they to be made fit? There must of necessity be a purifying, a making white, a refining, as Daniel also foretold (Dan. 12:10). In the larger scheme of things, God has commonly effected this purifying by:


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Revival or judgment
2. Strange though it may seem, there are distinct similarities between the ways of God in revival and in judgment. Throughout the prophets the thought of a divine visitation is used to describe blessing and revival on the one hand (Jer. 27:22) and a season of judgment on the other (Jer. 50:31). Likewise the overflowing rain could picture a time of spiritual revival (Ezek. 34:26) or of divine judgment (Gen. 6:17). Another figure used of the mighty operation of the Spirit in revival is fire from heaven (I Kings 18:38; Acts 2:3), but it is also typical of the judgment of God (2 Kings 1:10). All this may be partly explained by the fact that there is an element of judgment present in every revival.
But it is also true that judgment is the solemn alternative to revival. The purifying and quickening of the people of God are a moral and spiritual necessity. Because of His very nature, God cannot and will not permit spiritual decline to continue unchecked. He is ever halting and reversing the trend of the times by means of revival - or judgment. Where His people are not prepared for the one, they shut themselves up to the other.

Some may wonder whether there can be any question of divine judgment upon a true child of God or a true church of God, since the Saviour declared that a believer ”hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). There can certainly be no question of judgment for being dead in trespasses and sins, because those who believe have passed once for all out of the realm of death into that of life, and there is ”no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Subsequent unbelief and disobedience are another matter, and if persisted in must sooner or later evoke the chastisement of the Father.

The Egyptians did not hear Moses’ word, nor did they believe on Him who sent him, therefore they came into judgment culminating in the death of the firstborn. The Israelites who heard and believed did not come into judgment, but passed out of death into life. Once redeemed, however, God began to deal with them as a father with his children, and thereafter they suffered chastisements and judgments, some of them severe, at His hands. The apostles drew valuable lessons from this for the warning of the church (Jude 5; 1 Cor. 10). Paul showed that not only the sins of redeemed Israel (1 Cor. 10:6), but the judgments that befell them were ”by way of example; and they were written for our admonition”(verse 11). There are also New Testament illustrations of the truth that ”the Lord shall judge His people” (Heb. 10:30).
We see from the history of Israel, in Canaan as well as in the wilderness, that God has always worked in His people through revival and through judgment. A time came, however, when there was no remedy and God could revive them no longer as a nation, but shut them up to the overwhelming judgments of the captivities. Even in the midst of these desolations of Zion we hear the cry of the faithful remnant, ”Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South” (Ps. 126:4), and we witness the mercy of God in granting to a few under Ezra and Nehemiah ”a little reviving in [their] bondage” (Ezra 9:8).


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3. The close of the New Testament revelation brings again the message of revival or judgment. Before Paul laid down his pen and sealed his faith with his blood, that great sweep of the Spirit that began at Pentecost had begun to wane, with accompanying signs of spiritual decline. John, writing at the close of the first century, conveys to a small circle of seven churches a personal message from the risen Christ (Rev. 2 and 3). Five of them are charged by the Head of the church with sins of departure and commanded to repent. The ”germs” which Paul had diagnosed years before, and about which he had faithfully warned the churches (Acts 20: 29), were now an epidemic.
The Lord showed these five churches that there could be no reviving without repentance, and if they were unwilling for this, the alternative was judgment. Doubtless then, as now, the Lord longed to pour out His Spirit, but how could He do this greater thing until they were willing for personal reviving? In these five letters the need of this reviving is laid bare, the way to it is marked out, and the solemn alternative is set forth; it is only these points in the letters we need now consider. If ever there was a message to the churches of today it is here in Revelation 2 and 3.


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Love
4. ”I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). The Lord’s contention with His people at Ephesus centered in this terse and pointed accusation.
The life of God that comes into the center of a newborn soul does not always or at once influence, as it should, the whole circumference of the outer life; hence the exhortations to true believers not to lie, steal, commit fornication, bite and devour one another, etc. Conversely, spiritual decay may be at work in the heart of a believer or a church without the signs of decline being at once manifest.
The rosy apple with unblemished skin may be rotting at the core. It was so with Ephesus. The glowing commendation of verses 2 and 3 might lead one to suppose that here was a church that left nothing to be desired. This was no doubt man’s verdict, but it was not God’s; ”for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Those eyes which were as a flame of fire, piercing through every veneer and searching the hidden depths, had perceived in this church, despite its orthodoxy and its activity, the symptoms of spiritual decline. Ephesus, to whom Paul had declared ”the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), to whom had been committed the sublimest truths in the New Testament regarding the church as the bride to be of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32), had declined in that very relationship: she had left her first love.

How true is the saying, ”Christianity is a religion of the heart.” It is not a religion of the head, though it is essentially rational. It is not a religion of the hand, though it is essentially practical. It is a religion of the heart: for what a man is in his heart that is he in the sight of God. Christ taught that the thoughts, words, and actions that go to make up the life, proceed from the heart (Matt. 12:34; 15:19). Since the heart is the very fountain of man’s personality, it is ever the object of Satan’s attack. If he can but corrupt the heart he will soon defile the whole life. Solomon was wise to warn us, ”Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). He would have been wiser still had he practiced what he preached. Implicit in this heart condition of Ephesus were solemn possibilities that only Christ could see. He had diagnosed in the heart of this church that deadly germ which is responsible for all spiritual decline. Such a condition, threatening as it did the very life of the body, called for drastic action by the Surgeon. Hence the sternness and solemnity of Christ’s words to these believers.


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5. What is this ”first love” that Ephesus had forsaken? It is the love of her whose every fear and prejudice and reserve have been broken down; whose heart has been utterly captured, she knows not how; and who presents herself to her beloved as his, and his for ever. It is the love of betrothal. It was this love that drew Israel out of the bondage of Egypt into a covenant relationship with the Lord, anticipating a day when He should say to them, ”thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name” (Isa. 54:5). Alas, they too left their first love, and sorrowfully God had to remind them of it: ”I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. . . My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. . . My people have forgotten Me days without number” (Jer. 2:2, 13, 32). Thus this church of the New Testament, heedless of that which had been recorded for her admonition, was repeating the sin of ”the church in the wilderness.”

Not only is a first love towards Christ one of the most precious and sacred and beautiful things under heaven, but it is vital to a deeper life and growth in the things of God. When the love wanes, the life will soon decline. Is this the reason why the life of the church today is so low, and the need for its reviving so great? As we consider some of the characteristics of ”first love,” let us ask ourselves whether the church, whether we ourselves, are guilty of the sin of having left it, or the greater sin of never having had it.
It is pure love, without the taint of worldly attraction, and unweakened by ulterior motive. It is the love of the ”pure virgin,” uncorrupted ”from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2, 3). It is a tender love, sensitive to the smallest thing that might bring grief or displeasure to the Beloved, ever seeking to be well pleasing unto Him who said, ”If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). It is a supreme love that has conquered all other loves and brought them into subjection, according to His own word, ”He that loveth father or mother, etc. . . more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). It comes from a heart that can sing:
Jesus, Thy boundless love to me,
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Oh, knit my thankful heart to Thee,
And reign without a rival there.
P. GERHARDT.


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6. It is a sacrificial love, because it partakes of the very nature of the love of God and of Christ. ”God so loved. . . that He gave His only begotten Son.” ”Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it.” And this ”first love” is but the offspring of the divine love, which ever brings forth after its own kind. It is a love that gives itself up and pours itself out. This had once been the love of the Ephesian church. This was the love she had forsaken.

These are not so much the words of an offended Lord as of a wounded Lover, ”I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love.” The toil, the zeal, and the orthodoxy of this church could never compensate for the loss of that first love. Her need, more desperate and urgent than she could know, was for a revived love. Is it not the need of the church today? Is it that many believers have lost, or is it that they have never known the freshness and fervency of ”first love?” How easy it is to be deceived over this matter. One may perform the same exercises, pray with the same words, sing the same hymns, as one has always done, and yet the whole be no longer an exercise of the heart, but simply a matter of form or of duty. Said Christ, ”This people honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8).

John in his first epistle brings the matter of love for the Lord down to a very practical issue by showing that the measure of a believer’s love for God is the measure of his love for his brother, that much and no more (1 John 4:11-21). The Saviour said that His disciples were to be known by their love for each other (John 13:35); instead they have become marked before the world by their strife and division. Is there any need for further evidence that the first love of the early church, who were of ”one heart and one soul,” and of whom men had to exclaim, ”Behold how they love one another,” has been largely lost by the church of today?

Compassion for the perishing is another expression of this first love. Most are prepared to pay lip service to the need of the lost, but with how many is there practical indifference? How few are the churches today with a heart like the church of the Thessalonians, to whom Paul said, ”From you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord. . . in every place. . . so that we need not to speak anything” (1 Thess. 1:8). Is it not evident that we need a revived love?

The One who still walks in the midst of the lampstands, and before whose eyes every heart is laid bare, not only reveals the condition, but also the cure. Here are the three steps to a revived love: ”Remember. . . repent. . . do the first works” (verse 5). ”Remember from whence thou art fallen.” Christ is not addressing the individual; He is addressing the church. There had been corporate failure, and the Lord calls for corporate action. As a church they had lost their first love; as a church they had fallen; and therefore as a church they needed to remember, that is to go back in thought to their beginning, and realize how great their fall was.
The church of today must do the same. Only through an honest comparison of the love of the early church with the love of the church today can we appreciate the greatness of our fall. Then ”Repent.” Long have we urged the sinners to do it: now the Lord commands us to do it ourselves. This involves a change of attitude, a change of heart, a humbling before God, who has promised to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Finally, ”Do the first works.” The church must go back to the beginning, and tread again the pathway of the first love. Of the Macedonian churches we read, ”First they gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). This in a phrase is doing the first works. There must be a renewed dedication, presenting ourselves afresh to our Beloved as ”in the day of His espousals, and in the day of the gladness of His heart” (Song 3:11).

If the church was not willing to pay the price of a revived love, there could be but one alternative - He would visit her in judgment: ”Or else I come to thee, and will move thy lampstand out of its place, except thou repent.” The lampstand is the proper place for the light. ”Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand [or lampstand]; and it shineth unto all that are in the house” (Matt. 5:15). The threatened judgment upon Ephesus was that of having the lampstand removed, so that the lamp of corporate testimony would cease to shine. Her organization, her activities, and even her form of witness might continue, but there would be no light there. Can any greater tragedy overtake a church than to lose its testimony? Souls would stumble and perish in the darkness because the light was not shining where it ought to be. Ships that might have found the haven of this church would make shipwreck because the harbor light was not in its place. They shall perish in their iniquity, but their loss God will require at the church’s hands - the church that lost her light because she lost her love.

”He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” today. If the church is not willing to return to her first love, can we expect God to pour out His Spirit? - can we expect Him to withhold His judgment? As we face the alternatives, let us pray individually:
Oh, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone;
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown:
All coldness from my heart remove;
May ev’ry act, word, thought, be love.
P.GERHARDT.


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Truth
7. ”I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam. . . of the Nicolaitans. . . thou sufferest the woman Jezebel. . . and she teacheth and seduceth my servants” (Rev. 2:14-20). These were the charges Christ brought against the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira. Since they had much the same condition and need, they can be considered together. Their spiritual decline was manifest in an attitude of complacency towards the truth.
Where Ephesus had stood firm, intolerant of evil men and judging those who posed as apostles (2:2), these two churches had slipped. They had not apostatized as a whole, in fact Pergamum earned the commendation, ”Thou holdest fast My Name, and didst not deny My faith” (2:13), but both were guilty of an easygoing attitude towards false teaching within the fellowship. Unlike Ephesus, these churches had become tolerant where their Lord was intolerant (2:6). They were treating those teaching error with weak indulgence, when they had been told to ”contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). By failing in the exercise of discipline, they revealed that they were no longer jealous for the truth. They were busying themselves about ”the house of God, which is. . . the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), unconcerned about the men who were tampering with its foundations.

What was this error that had reared its head in these churches? It was the teaching of Balaam that led those holding it ”to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev. 2:14, 20). Nothing definite appears to be known about the teaching of the Nicolaitans, but the fact that it was linked with the teaching of Balaam, and that there were those holding it ”in like manner” (verse 15), is an indication that it may have been the same evil, though perhaps in a different form. Similarly with the self styled prophetess in the church at Thyatira; Jezebel was probably a figurative name which described her character, but her teaching was that of Balaam (cf. verses 14, 20).
In Numbers (chaps. 25 and 31:16) the origin of the teaching is recorded. It began in the heart of a covetous man who loved the hire of wrongdoing; thus the motive was evil gain. Balaam, whom God had compelled to bless Israel instead of cursing them, counselled the Moabites to seduce the Israelites into the licentious idolatry of Baal Peor. It was a teaching of guile (Num. 25:18) that succeeded all too easily in seducing a people whose strength lay in being separate and undefiled in comparison with the other nations. Balaam himself had testified of this: ”It is a people that dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9); and again, ”He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” (Num. 23:21).


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power


8. The epistles disclose that two principal threats to the life of the New Testament churches were: firstly, the teaching of Judaism with its return to the bondage of ceremonies and rituals; and secondly, this teaching of Balaam in various forms, with its return to the bondage of the world.
The council at Jerusalem (Acts15) had the delicate task of marking out for the guidance of the churches the middle path between these two extremes of error. It refused to put the yoke of Judaism upon the neck of the disciples by insisting on circumcision and the keeping of the ceremonial law. But it warned them to abstain from that which would lead to the bondage of the world, such as, ”things sacrificed to idols. . . and fornication,” which was the teaching of Balaam.

This doctrine of worldliness under the guise of Christianity was gaining momentum in the latter part of the first century. In his second epistle, Peter devotes almost the whole of chapter 2 to those teachers who ”followed the way of Balaam,” and it is the burden of Jude’s whole epistle. These two give us a clear view of the character of the teachers and their doctrine. They despised dominion. They were revelers, adulterous, and covetous. They enticed unsteadfast souls. As Balaam may have justified his evil counsel by arguing that, since God had promised to bless Israel and no one could reverse it (Num. 23:19), therefore they could sin with impunity, so were these Balaam teachers of the New Testament guilty of ”turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).
In other words, they followed and taught a worldly policy of self-indulgence under the cloak of grace, denying thereby the Lordship of Christ. They argued that they were no longer under the bondage of the law, and therefore could do as they pleased. Their motto might have been, ”Let us continue in sin that grace may abound,” or ”Let us do evil that good may come.” They held out a way of escape from the strait gate and the narrow way, offering the wavering believer a new ”liberty,” while they themselves were ”slaves of corruption” (2 Pet. 2:19).

Down the centuries all the seductive skill of Satan has been employed in seeking to break down the fence that God has placed around His people. He has used his evil genius to thwart those glorious purposes that can only be achieved through ”an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2: 9). Paul told the Corinthian believers, ”I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). No wonder James addresses the worldly Christians thus: ”Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4).
Let us face it now: a teaching that encourages conformity to the world, though it takes to itself the name of Christian, and though it works under the orthodox evangelical phraseology, is a doctrine of Balaam. ”For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first” (2 Pet. 2:20). It were better never to have had opportunity to be espoused to the Lord, than having been betrothed to play the harlot with the world.

The woman who has lost her first love for her husband is the one most open to the temptation of being unfaithful. It is not such a big step from the sin of Ephesus to that which threatened the life of Pergamum and Thyatira. Who can estimate the devastating effect upon the church today of the teaching of Balaam? It is finding its way into circles which one might have thought were forever immune. This modern form of the pollution of idols and committing fornication with the world is one of the greatest scourges among the people of God. As with these two churches, God holds responsible those who, though they have not been deceived and do not follow the teaching, countenance it being taught, and with a criminal indulgence allow it to be followed. The Lord is here contending with those who tolerate that which He has specifically stated He hates (Rev. 2:6). It is they who are commanded to repent. It is they who must judge this evil thing. The reviving of the truth that the church is set apart as holy for her Lord is in their hands.


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



9. ”Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (verse 16) ”And I gave [Jezebel] time that she should repent; and she willeth not to repent of her fornication. Behold, I do cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works” (verses 21-23).
Once again the alternatives are clear. The Lord was calling these churches to repentance with a view to their being purified and revived. They must deal with this complacency towards worldliness in their midst and the teaching that fostered it. If they refused to exterminate this evil the Lord would visit them, not in revival but in judgment. What the Lord said to His people long ago in the visions of Patmos, He is saying to His people today, ”If you will not purge away the harlotry of the church, I will do it in judgment.”

Pergamum and Thyatira were guilty of the sin of Eli, whose covetous and licentious sons made themselves vile in the priesthood and he restrained them not, concerning whom the Lord said, ”I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew” (1 Sam. 3:13), and because he refused to repent at the warning of God. But when the time came for judgment to begin, the thing was not done in a corner, but before all Israel. God was fulfilling His word, ”Behold I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of everyone that heareth it shall tingle” (1 Sam. 3:11). So the Lord warns these New Testament believers, ”I will deal with this thing,” and ”all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts.” His visitation in judgment would be vindicated before the eyes of all.

When, through the counsel of Balaam, Israel began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab, there was one in the camp of Israel who saved the situation by drastic discipline. Phinehas felt as God did about the matter: ”He was jealous with My jealousy among them,” declared the Lord, therefore ”behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace. . . the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his God” (Num. 25). The God who cut off the house of Eli because of his tolerance of this evil, perpetuated for ever the house of Phinehas because of his holy intolerance. The truth must be revived that a holy God requires a holy people. Where are they who may, like Phinehas, save the churches of today from the wrath of the Lord’s jealousy?

There was another in a similar day of apostasy, who was ”very jealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts” (1 Kings 19:10). He acted as drastically as his forebear to purge out the idolatry and fornication from the midst of God’s people. In his jealousy for the Lord Elijah averted the fire of divine wrath and brought down the fire of revival. He slew the worshipers of Baal and opened the windows of heaven. ”The God that answereth by fire” is still God. Shall it be the fire of judgment or of revival?


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



Life
10. ”I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead” (Rev. 3:1). This was the divine estimate of the church in Sardis. Since Scripture clearly teaches that a church is composed only of ”living stones,” those who have been spiritually quickened and possess life in Christ, how could Christ say of this church, ”Thou art dead?”. . . Clearly it was meant in a relative sense, not in an absolute sense. If this company had never possessed life Christ would never have exhorted them to ”stablish the things that remain.” Since He obviously addresses them as believers, He teaches us that there is a sense in which believers may be dead. Christ’s statement follows from His absolute knowledge of their works, ”I know thy works, that. . . thou art dead.” In essence they had life, but when it came to manifestation or ”works,” they were dead. This church was like the boy whom the Lord delivered from an unclean spirit of whom it is recorded, ”the child became as one dead; insomuch that the more part said, He is dead” (Mark 9:26). The life was there, but it was not being manifested.

There is no suggestion that these believers were dead because of an absence of works. Here is not the deadness of inactivity, for Christ clearly stated that they had works, that He knew them, and that He had found them unfulfilled. Nor is there any suggestion that they were dead because they held heterodox teaching, for though Christ had many things to judge of them, He never implied that they had departed from the faith. Here, then, we are faced with the anomaly of a church which is evangelically orthodox, manifestly active – but dead in the estimate of the Lord. In His address to these believers, the Lord discloses the reasons for their state, and marks out the way whereby the life of the church may be revived.


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