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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
A lesson given at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Hymn Sung Before the Lesson:
Dr. Timothy Lin was my pastor for 24 years. He was born to a pastor’s family in China, and was converted at the age of 19. After seminary training, Dr. Lin’s early years of ministry included pastoral and administrative duties in Shanghai and Kwangsi. However, theological education in China at that time was very superficial. Therefore, he came to the United States to study Hebrew and Greek in 1940.
During World War II Dr. Lin served God in Shanghai as the head of an orphanage, principal of a high school, and dean of a Bible College. After the war he was called to be the president of East China Theological College in Hangchow. In 1948 he returned to the United States for advanced studies, and earned a Master’s degree in Divinity and Sacred Theology from Faith Theological Seminary (in Delaware). He then earned a Ph.D. in Old Testament Hebrew from Dropsie University. He then taught the following subjects in the graduate school of Bob Jones University in South Carolina – he taught Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Systematic Theology to graduate students. He later taught at the Talbot School of Theology, and Trinity Evangelical Seminary near Chicago. He was also a member of the translation team for the Old Testament section of the NASB (the New American Standard Bible). From 1980 to 1990 he served as the president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan, following the retirement of Dr. James Hudson Taylor III.
For many years, Dr. Lin travelled extensively to teach and preach at different churches in Asia, North America and Europe. He was the author of many books that are still in print and available online, including The Secret of Church Growth.
Many church leaders have been blessed by his wisdom, teaching, leadership and example. He was more than a scholar of God’s Word, for God gave him the authority and power to speak for Him.
Dr. Lin came as the pastor of the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles in 1961. That was where I met him, was baptized by him, was ordained by him, and studied under him for 24 years.
This afternoon I am going to give you what Dr. Lin taught about prayer meetings. Please stand and turn in the Bible to Matthew 18:19-20 (p. 1024 Scofield).
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
You may be seated.
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This lesson is taken from Chapter 7 of Dr. Lin’s book, The Secret of Church Growth. Dr. Lin said, “In our Lord’s [teachings] about the Church, He emphasized only the authority He gave to the Church. Jesus said, “Whatever you [the Church] bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you [the Church] loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven” (Matthew 18:18; p. 1024). Jesus never taught us the methods for establishing and expanding a church, nor the techniques for examining and training a Christian. Such omissions are effectively telling the Church this message of truth: If [a church] is willing to use the authority given to her, and if she appropriates God’s boundless riches, then the wisdom needed for church growth will certainly become her subjective wisdom, instead of [only] an objective knowledge.” The Bible says,
“If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach” (James 1:5).
Also, Christ further promised that,
“…if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst” (Matthew 18:19-20).
The plural form of “you”
“I give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 NASB).
That is the NASB translation.
Dr. Lin said, “Here the Bible uses the plural form of “you.” It is the equivalent of “you all” in this verse. “To you [you all].” “You [all] shall bind” [plural] – and “you [all] shall loose” [plural]. To put it simply, our Lord has not bestowed on Peter, but on His whole church, the authority that binds and looses.”
A Corporate Effort
Dr. Lin said, “People often say that it makes no difference whether you pray individually or with a group, nor does it matter whether you pray alone at home or with brothers and sisters at church. Such a statement is a self-consolation of the lazy, or an explanation of a person ignorant of the power of combined prayer.” See what our Lord says about corporate prayer,
“…if two of you [church] agree about anything they may ask… For where two or three are gathered together in my name…” (Matthew 18:19, 20).
In other words, only when Christians pray in “one accord” in church prayer meetings, can the power of God be obtained.
I was reading a book called These Are the Generations, about a family in North Korea. It is “tough sledding” to be a Christian in North Korea. The lady [telling the story] is the granddaughter of an old man that was a Christian and led the people in his village in North Korea. They learned from the old man to pray with your hands closed – but not in front of people, because they would turn you in and you’d be put in prison. From him they learned the Ten Commandments – the second table of the law, not the first table. They went through terrible times. I thought the Chinese Christians went through terrible times, but for the North Korean Christians it was twenty times as hard as for the Chinese. At last they finally escaped. The woman and her son and one other person – the three of them escaped. The husband – they don’t know what happened to him. They traveled through North Korea. Finally they made it to the border with China in the far north. They escaped, though they were almost caught. It was really scary. She said to the Christian Chinese woman that helped them, “I would like to go to church.” She had heard about big churches. She had never been to one with more than two or three people in it. And Mrs. Bae said this,
“Lights were tinkling everywhere because it was Christmas time. People were singing from hymnals. The praise songs were loud and beautiful. I just followed what everyone did. It felt like I had entered heaven.” (End of These Are the Generations).
She would not have felt that way if she came to our church in the last 45 years because there was total confusion all the time. We were not practicing I Corinthians 1:10. Turn to it (p. 1212).
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).
That is a tremendous passage of Scripture to show us the word “homothumadon.” “That ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you” – that’s “homothumadon.” That means “with the same mind and the same spirit.” “But that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Please stand and turn to James 5:14-20 (p. 1310). Listen carefully as I read this passage.
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:14-20).
You may be seated.
I am lifting out the last part of verse 16: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Elijah’s prayers give us one of the most important examples of the power of prayer in the Old Testament. Elijah prayed and it did not rain for three years and six months. “And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain.”
This is recorded by Christ in Luke 4:25. The lesson is clear, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We could paraphrase that as, “The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.” Elijah wasn’t a perfect man. He was “subject to like passions as we are” (verse 17). But he was a “righteous man.” Why? Because he believed and obeyed God!
My beloved pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, said, “A church that has a beautiful blooming prayer meeting will never be in the midst of a heavy snow storm at the same time. On the other hand, neglect of such prayer will cost us God’s presence and, thus, all efforts put forth will be striving after the wind and grasping for shadows. In the end there is nothing. May God have mercy on us” (The Secret of Church Growth, p. 99).
About four years ago, Dr. Cagan asked our congregation if they thought we were growing. Most of the people said “Yes.” Since we had not won anyone for months, I knew that the people were blinded regarding our situation. It was then that I realized there was something wrong with our church. Most of our people did not read the assigned Bible readings. Most of them did not have private prayers. Most of them could not remember the sermons even though they were given typed out after they were preached. Some of them could not even remember why they needed to trust Jesus to be saved!
That was when I began to see that they were from an inner-city culture and couldn’t even read a newspaper! Very few of them were even trying to win a soul! Later I found out that the senior deacon was having secret meetings with another pastor, deciding how to split our church! Another deacon tried to get in a fist-fight with me! He was so bitter at me because his daughter had left our church! It was his fault (I Timothy 3:12b). His face got red and he tried to get in a fist-fight with me!
It was about this time that I began to meditate on two verses of Scripture:
(1) Matthew 7:6
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6; p. 1003)
and (2) Mark 6:11
“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Mark 6:11; p. 1052).
I had stayed as the pastor of our inner-city church for 45 years. Over time there was one church split after the other. I had preached the Gospel clearly and repeatedly. But the congregation, like those two so-called “deacons,” were too low culturally to remember what I preached.
God began to tell me it was time to stop casting my “pearls” before swine, and it was time to “shake off the dust from my feet” and leave the inner city. Then the chairman of the deacons took dirty photos of himself with his wife before they were married – and put these explicit photos on his website for all the world to see!
“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12; p. 691).
Dr. Lin said, “The world may have a mixture of good and bad, but a church should only be an organization of the citizens of heaven. If any man in the church leads an unruly life, not according to the Bible, we should keep aloof from him (2 Thessalonians 3:6); or not associate with him…It is a lie to claim that you desire good health, prosperity and a bright future for your flock while you allow foxes and wolves to run around freely in the fold!” (ibid., p. 61).