Paul in listing the persecutions and trials of his mission concluded, “Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily the care of all the churches.”—2 Cor 11:28. These included churches which he had founded. Yet, even to those churches, he had to constantly defend his apostleship.
If there was anyone who had a right to reject the churches, it was Paul. However, he demonstrated a steadfast love for these assemblies. Even reminding the Corinthians, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you: though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”—2 Cor 12:15.
In our times, Christians tend to think of the early church as being a power house and the example or pattern for contemporary churches. Yet, Paul had to address the sin issue with virtually all the churches, including sexual sins and even perversions. The church at Corinth was especially weak and Paul was concerned that when he visited, he would find “envyings, wrath, strife, backbitings, whisperings, swellings and tumults.”—2 Cor 12:20.
It would have been easy for Paul just to have written them off. Instead, he was extremely patient with their failings.
Among the seven churches which the Apostle John founded in Asia Minor, there was also much sin and bad doctrine and false teachers. John wrote calling them to repentance but not without complementing them when he could. He concluded his letter to each church with an appeal “to hold fast and to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” Each church is promised that everyone who overcomes will be rewarded by Christ.
A case could be made that the church is stronger than it was in the time of the Apostles. Yet, it is constantly being criticized by those who have essentially withdrawn from weekly gatherings of God’s people because the church is not living up to the perfection to which God called her.
Let us all encourage the church (ourselves) all the more as we see the Day approaching. It is easy to be critical from without but it is difficult to challenge and build from within. Let us root for the church that the truth would win out in her. We are to be bringing God’s people together, not tearing them apart or withdrawing from them, because they are not living up to our standards.