John the Baptist introduced the Lord to the world when he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (See John 1:29) John the Baptist is an example of the early evangelism that took place during Jesus’ ministry on earth and in the days of the early church. In Scripture, we see a chain of evangelism occurring that began with John the Baptist and is continued by Jesus and His first disciples, then continuing in the early church following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. For example, Andrew was found by Jesus first, who then found Peter and brought him to Jesus. Then Jesus found Philip, saying “Follow me,” and shortly after, Philip found Nathaniel. (See John 1:35-51) Philip, ‘the evangelist,’ also found the Ethiopian eunuch and passed the gospel onto him. Peter found Cornelius, and thus Gentiles were brought into the early Christian church. Paul also found Lydia and thus started the first church in Europe. Thus the gospel spread in the early church throughout the modern world through this chain of soul-winning evangelism.
Have you ever led a soul to Christ? Have you ever been a link in the chain of conversion? We are saved to serve God and bring others into His fold. Charles Spurgeon, the well-known pastor and preacher, said that he never knew real joy until he led his first soul to Christ. Failure to witness is a serious matter, and we will suffer loss for our failure to warn others about the truth of the gospel. (See Ezekiel 3:17-19) Proverbs 11:30 says that “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” Daniel 12:3 teaches, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” A great number of people have stepped out of the sphere of soul-winning by claiming, “I am not an evangelist.” Yet we see this command clearly in Scripture and with the biblical authors who were part of the early church. Paul writes to Timothy saying, “Do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Timothy 4:5) Timothy was a pastor, and his gift was feeding and nurturing the sheep, but Paul reminds him that despite his pressures of shepherding, he was not to neglect the work of the evangelist.
Believers might ask themselves, “What help will I get to bring men to Christ?” Let us consider this question by examining Peter before and after his experience at Pentecost. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, we see Peter acting in cowardice at times. For example, Peter begins to sink while walking on water because he doubts the power of the Lord. (See Matthew 14:28-30) We see Jesus identifying him as Satan when he fails to recognize Jesus’ reference to dying on the cross in Matthew 16:21-23. We also know that Peter famously denies Christ three times and weeps for his weakness. (See Matthew 26:69-74) Yet now let us remember the events involving Peter after Pentecost, when three thousand people are saved upon hearing his bold preaching on Jesus and His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. (See Acts 2:14-47)
What made the difference between these very different acts and Peter’s character? We can deduce that the coming of the Spirit filled Peter powerfully and transformed his life and ministry. In Luke 24:49, Jesus has appeared to His disciples immediately before He ascends, and He promises, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Again in Acts 1:8 we see a similar message of Jesus’ teaching when He says to them, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” After Pentecost, what makes the difference in Peter’s life and ministry is that he has been filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.
For believers today, to be led by the Spirit is the answer to our fear in evangelism. If we look at Philip’s situation, when he is prompted by the Spirit to speak with the Ethiopian eunuch, we can be assured that like Philip, the Spirit will prompt and speak to us when we are faced with an evangelistic opportunity. (See Acts 8:29) The result in this specific situation is that the Ethiopian is saved. We should all ask ourselves, “Do I want to be a soul winner? Do I want my heart filled with Calvary love for the lost?” Because if we all truly want these things, Jesus teaches us in Matthew 21:22 that in “whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Every Member Evangelism, Acts 5:42
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” This text culminates the record of a highly significant period in the life of the early church. Despite the trouble from within and the opposition from the outside Roman and Jewish world, the church has filled Jerusalem with its doctrine, preaching the Word of God and the way of salvation through Jesus. In addition, serious sin has been judged, and a “great fear” comes upon the early believers in Jerusalem. (See Acts 5:1-11) As is usually the case, the purging of evil from the midst of God’s people brings such a wave of blessing, as can be seen in the events of Acts 5:12-16, that Satan retaliates with opposition and persecution through arrests and suffering. (See Acts 4) When the apostles preach publicly, they teach about the resurrection of Jesus and consequently, five thousand men are saved. Despite the retaliation, opposition, and persecution, these undaunted warriors of the cross depart rejoicing and cease not to teach and preach Jesus Christ daily in the temple and in every house. (See Acts 5:42) The order of these events is irreversible. First there is the exposure and judgment of sin, then follows the blessing through the activities of a cleansed church, and finally the inevitable opposition from Satan.
The Church’s Vision
The early church had a vision and a burden for the city of Jerusalem. From Acts we know that the early church had a twofold strategy to reach the city with the Gospel: first, through the temple and second, in every house. (See Acts 3, Acts 4:31, and Acts 5:42) While the temple signifies the sphere of an entire worshipping community, the house signifies the smaller sphere of a witnessing community. In our day, this means that first, we should come to the church in order to meet and collectively worship God, and then we should go to private houses to meet men and witness to them about our Lord. Secondly, this means we should also come to the church to be taught the Word of God, and then go to the house to live and dispense the Word to others. Third, we should come to the church to meet for worship, teaching, fellowship and discipline, and then go from the church with hearts touched and full of the Spirit in order to live lives that will affect men and women in every sphere and strata of society. To separate the church from the house and what each represents for the believer is wrong and unbiblical. It is similar to bottling up the salt of the earth or putting the light under a basket. (See Matthew 5:13-15)
How should the early church’s vision and burden for the city of Jerusalem apply to us believers today? In Proverbs 29:18, we are told, “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.” We can understand this loss of vision as a church’s fateful doom. Today, the people of God can either evangelize or fossilize, leading to a renewed church or a church destined for decay. Sometimes the church today is torn between old men dreaming dreams and young men seeing visions. How do we then reach our communities? The church is often looking in vain for better methods, but God is really looking for better men to do the work of evangelism. The church does not always only need more new and improved machinery or even more novel methods, rather it needs holy men and women whom the Spirit can use for His purposes. The Holy Spirit does not come with machinery and methods, but on men who are mighty through prayer. Furthermore, God is not always just looking for men of great talent, learning, or ability. What God is always looking for is men who are clean in life, pure in heart, great in faith and love, and holy in devotion to Him. Such people can mold a community for God!
The Church’s Mission
The mission of the church is to preach and teach Jesus Christ. Every believer is given a command to be a missionary. Whether in private discourse or in public preaching, Jesus teaches us in Matthew 28:19-20a: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” With this command, as believers we should be as zealous of the “Go” command of Christ as we are of the “do” command. Our mission is to make disciples, baptize them, then teach them. And we should always remember the divine promise of the resurrected Lord: “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20b) We should never be fearful that we are going alone, rather we can be assured of His presence with us forever. Every member of a church should be engaged in this work and linked into the “chain of evangelism.”
The Church’s Passion
The bleeding and battered disciples in Acts 5 left the presence of their enemies rejoicing that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41) The men of the early church were filled with passion and courage. Paul even returned to the scenes of his near death for the sake of the gospel going out to men. In 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Paul recalls the hymn of the early martyrs of the church: “For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” These men of the early church and the martyrs of the faith were filled with the Spirit and anointed with power. No one can relegate Christian activity to one day a week at church and claim to be filled with the Spirit as these men were. The witnessing of these disciples was daily, and their passion knew no bounds. The commission of Christ superceded the threats of men around them. As Peter and the other disciples said in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Let us keep fresh in our minds and hearts the words of Jesus in John 20:21 as we remember our calls to be evangelists for the Lord’s glory: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”