From the history of the church since the apostolic times until today the church of Christ has been goin thru ups and downs. The ups were times of revivals, refreshments from the Lord, when the people of God lived a normal christian life conformed to the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ and apostles. The downs have been times of backsliding, darkness, religious formality, rituality, of heresies, schisms, legalism ect.
Despite the ups and downs of the church of God, there has been always a consistant faithful godly people who have persevered to the end by the grace of God.
Many of us are very familiar with the New Testament and reformation period or the evangelical revivals. We know about the acts of the apostles but after that we are often ignorant or not intrested enough about the early church history or how christians lived their lives or what are the writings of early church fathers, who were the disciples of the apostles.
Someone called the acts of the apostles, the acts of the Holy Spirit. After the book of acts ended with apostle Paul imprisoned in Rome for the sake of the gosple, the kingdom of God has been advancing thru the faithful ministry of the disciples of Jesus Christ and the apostles. And after the apostles were gone, their message and doctrine was trasmitted faithfully to the next generetions.
I have been readin the history of the early church by Eusebius and early christian writings from the disciples of the apostles. Also The Life of Anthony believed to be the first christian biography written by Athanasius (Athanasius was the one that fought against the heretical teaching of Arius in the 4th century who denied the eternal pre-existence of Christ).
Many evangelicals know about heroes of faith like Luther, Calvin, John Bunyan, John Wesley, George Whitfield, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody and the list goes on and on. But how many know about early church illumiraries and martyrs and godly men of early church history?
For three centuries christians were persecuted and put to death in a cruel way and being a christian it meant literally obeying the sermon on the mount by the grace of God. They did not have elaborated theology as we have today. There christianity was practicle and concerned about holy living, they knew by experience the Way of Life and the Way of Truth and walked in it. They indeed loved their neighbour as themselves not just preached about it. They were concened of confessing sin and keeping a good conscience, of loving their enimies and overcoming evil by good, of living a moral christian life and acquiring virtues and uprooted vices. They observed the discipline of the church, fasted often and prayed much in their daily life. The bishops or elders of the churches were greatly esteemed and obeyed as if obeying the Lord. They knew they were saved by grace but the result of their faith in the living Saviour was good works for the glory of God.
They imitated the life and example of Christ, when they suffered for Jesus Christ they gave glory to him. If you want a good example of a triumphant church read about the early church fathers, martyrs, saints and their writings too.
The primitive evangelists of apostolic succession spread the word among the heathens and the fires of revivals further than the apostles. They went out everywhere as Eusebius church historian said, "sowing the saving seed of the Kingdom of Heaven far and wide through the entire world.....Staying only to lay the foundations of faith in one foreign place or another, appoint others as pastors and entrust to them the tending of those newly brought in, they set off again for other lands and peoples with the grace and cooperaton of God, for even at that late date many miraculous powers of the divine Spirit worked through them so that at the first hearing whole crowds in a body embraced with a wholehearted eagerness the worship of the universal Creator".
We need to dig up the old wells and search for the old cross and path that has been trodden by the saints of God in old times and be encouraged by their heroic example of bold faith and courage in the face of persecution and suffering.
Our western culture is becoming more and more a sophisticated pagan culture and it will even degradate for worse as it rejects gradually its judeo christian values and the God of the bible. As in the days of roman empire, so it will be in the last days before the second comming of Christ.
The saints of old were a percecuted minority and the more the emperors, governors of provinces or the masses persecuted them or put them to death the more their numbers increased. As Tertullian a 2nd century church father said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church". The flames of adversity and persecution did not quench the fire of the Spirit or silence the witness for the Lord but instead its flames spread everywhere to advance the kindgom of God in the hearts of men and the devil was defeated by the word of their testimony.