Since the final days of Paul's ministry, the church, the body of Christ has been in ruins. Our history has mirrored the account of Israel's apostasy. Israel never fully lived in all the promises and position that the Lord had given to them. At one point they were even carried away from their divine calling into Babylonian captivity. And when they were given the opportunity to return to their God-appointed land, only a small remnant chose to leave the comforts and familiarity of Babylon and go back home.

So it is with the church. As a whole, our history is that we have long abandoned our position in Christ. In fact, the body of Christ at large has remained satisfied and content in a similar "Babylonian captivity." And those who have been enlightened to their condition of captivity and to their true identity and freedom in Christ, and have taken the journey out of "Babylon," have been but a few. So, when we consider "poor Israel" and their sad and long story of apostasy – we need to take a prolonged look in the mirror, and realize that the body of Christ has done no better!

Paul testifies to this ruin in the book of II Timothy. He states straightforward that, "all they which are in Asia be turned away from me" (1:15). Now, what is so significant about this disclosure, is that Ephesus (which was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia) is where Paul had spent a two year teaching ministry, the result of which was that, "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:10). Quite a contrast of alls is it not?

Between those two passages, Paul had even written an epistle to the Ephesian saints. And this epistle was one in which Paul laid forth the pinnacle of the revelation of the mystery that had been committed to his trust.

Yet these very saints, who had been the benefactors of such a long personal ministry of Paul, and of such a rich epistle, they ALL turned away from him. The body of Christ lay in ruins as Paul lay in a Roman prison about to be executed.

And as we have seen in a earlier section, this ruined condition of the church, the body of Christ, was not limited to the Roman province of Asia. Paul addresses the Asian problem because this was were the recipient of his letter was. This is the ruins of which Timothy was aware. That's why he starts that statement, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." But the truth be known, this apostasy of the body of Christ was throughout the Roman Empire.

Paul said concerning his first trial date, while in this last Roman imprisonment, that "no man stood with me, but all men forsook me" (II Timothy 4:16). There was not one man in Rome who came and stood with Paul! This was after some 22 years of ministry in the Roman Empire. It was after writing a glorious epistle to the saints at Rome. And it was after coming to Roman and having a two year house teaching ministry there (Acts 28:30-31). What happened to all the Roman saints? They ALL forsook him!

When folks inquire, as they often will do, concerning when the problems of the church began, one need not look to various periods of human church history. One need only see the divine record of this apostasy, as recorded in the book of II Timothy. As Paul was in the dark damp dungeon of Rome's prison, waiting his execution, the church, the body of Christ lay in its own prison -- a prison of apostasy and ruin!

Clyde Pilkington

Gladstone, VA

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