And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number. (Acts 5:14)
Roland Allen, in his book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church 2, puts forth a clear distinction between the way the apostolic church grew and how our churches in the west grow. The church of the apostles grew exponentially. Is this not clear in Luke’s recording of what was happening after Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead (Acts 5:1-11)? Do we not see this in Paul’s commendation of the church at Rome, where he was able to write that the faith of the Romans was known throughout the whole world (Rom. 1:8), that due to the fervent witness of the Thessalonians and the believers in Achaia Paul need not say anything to anyone in that region (1 Thess. 1:8-9)? And if you believe, as I do, that the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25) largely prophesies a judgment that came in 70 AD, then the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:14, ‘This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come’, lend even more credence to the marvellous propagation of the gospel to the whole world by the first generation church. How did they do it? What does this mean for us?
Every believer witnessed. They all knew they were to evangelize daily (Acts 8:4), speak the truth in love daily (Eph. 4:15, 25), and they were to serve one another daily (Gal. 5:13). Our churches, on the other hand, are woefully weak in propagating the gospel to our neighbours. Very, very few of our church members regularly, intentionally, and boldly share the good news of Jesus. Why not? I can think of three reasons for our unwillingness to speak the gospel to others. First, perhaps those in our churches who do not share Jesus are not truly born again. If one does not have the heart of Jesus in regeneration (John 3:3 ,5; Ezek. 36:26) then he will not have the heart of Jesus for propagation (Matt. 6:10, 28:18-20). Second, perhaps he truly is a Christian, but due to the fact he heard a truncated gospel (justification only and not one that emphasizes regeneration, justification, and sanctification; or one that failed to emphasize the holiness of God and man’s total inability to believe the gospel, meaning that all is truly from mercy and grace) he never has been truly gripped by its saving power. Or third, perhaps it is that he is cold-hearted or hard-hearted at the present time, that due to worldly pursuits he has momentarily lost his zeal for Christ’s kingdom. For whatever reason, we in the western church are woefully lacking in the clear-cut command for every believer to take the whole gospel to the whole world.
What must we do? We must know experientially, from the heart, the remarkable saving work of the Triune God on our behalf. My friend, if you are in Christ Jesus, then you had a cobra heart that loved sin and hated God. Because of that you lived a sinful, disobedient, and wicked life. You had a filthy past of guilt and shame, even the best of you lived in the latrine pit of your sin and its slavery. Consequently you were on the road to destruction. You were on the road to hell with your eyes wide open and you did not fear it. If you had died at any point prior to your regeneration then you surely would have gone to hell. And you lived a poisonous life where bitter jealousy and selfish ambition abounded, bringing disorder and every evil thing to everyone around you. You were like cyanide sprayed indiscriminately on the countryside, killing everything in its path – people, animals, crops, grass, trees, and weeds (James 3:1-16). But God the Father promised you eternal salvation (Eph. 1:4-6), God the Son purchased it (Eph. 1:7-12), and God the Holy Spirit sealed it by his regenerating, converting, and sanctifying power (Eph. 1:13-14). Perhaps you are too familiar, taking for granted the mighty work of God in your eternal salvation. You were an enemy of God, a rebel, and God would have been perfectly justified, when having you in the sights of his judgment gun, to pull the trigger, killing you, and sending you to the eternal hell. But he had mercy, turning instead his judgment gun upon his only begotten Son, pulling the trigger on him, killing him, and sending him to hell on your behalf. You were in the latrine pit of your sin, covered in the vile disease of indwelling and recurring sin, corrupted and infected by it, surely on your way to an eternal death, but the Lord Jesus jumped into the latrine pit of your world, delivering you from the filth and shame of your sin, washing you, not with soap, water, and shampoo but doing so with his precious, undefiled blood shed at Calvary for you and all his people.
Because of this great and glorious work of salvation, everything has changed about you. Instead of living cowardly for yourself, you are to understand that you are a co-labourer with God the Father, given his authority (1 Cor. 3:9). Instead of living selfishly for yourself, you are to understand that you are an ambassador of the Lord Jesus, driven by his love to make his glories known to the un-reconciled (2 Cor. 5:14-21). And instead of living shortsightedly for your favourite team or hobby, placing far too much emphasis on the temporal, you are to realize your privilege to be called an instrument of the Holy Spirit, driven by his power to live with a godly swagger (2 Cor. 3:3, Acts 4:13). You have authority. You have love. You have power.
What would happen, my dear friends, if we took seriously who we are, if we applied the fulness of what has happened to us to our daily living? Would we not be more like the apostolic church? Would we not see spontaneous growth in our churches? I am not suggesting that everyone give up their jobs and become evangelists. No, indeed you are to be hard at your work, all week long, and then come to the church for worship and instruction on the Lord’s Day. Nor am I suggesting that you steal from your employer and witness on the job while he expects you to serve your company, clients, and customers. But if you are filled up with Jesus, if you understand that you are a co-labourer with God the Father, an ambassador of the Lord Jesus, and an instrument of the Holy Spirit; then the Triune God will engineer opportunities for you to speak of the excellencies of the Saviour who died and gave himself up for you.
- The sixth of eight core values for life and ministry. The first five are Scripture saturation and meditation, adoration, supplication and sanctification.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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