In the first years after Jesus rose from the dead the Early Church grew at an amazing rate. 3000 new believers on the day of Pentecost. Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. And Acts 4 points us to three reasons for this remarkable growth. The secret of evangelism in the Early Church. And we begin by noticing the gospel they proclaimed.
Acts 412 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Salvation is found in no-one else
The disciples didn’t think of that idea by themselves. That is what Jesus Himself said.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus is the only truth. Jesus is the only source of life. Jesus is the one and only Son of God. Jesus is the only one who died on a cross for the sins of the world because Jesus is the only sinless lamb of God who ever could die on a cross to bring us back to God. And Jesus is the only one who spent three days in the tomb and then was raised from the dead, never more to die. Jesus is the only one who has been exalted to the right hand of God as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No-one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Salvation is found in no-one else. There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
God doesn’t want anyone to be lost! God sent Jesus to save the world and they are saved by believing in him. But anyone who doesn’t believe is trapped in condemnation forever. Salvation is found in no-one else.
Jesus said, Mark 16 15 …. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe:
Those who do not put their faith in Jesus are lost without him. Salvation is found in no-one else.
The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way.
Hebrews 2 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
What the letter to the Hebrews is saying there is that the signs and wonders worked through the apostles, and the spiritual gifts such as prophecy and discernment and words of knowledge and wisdom and speaking in tongues experienced by so many of the first Christians, were all evidence of the salvation which comes through Jesus. How shall anyone escape if they ignore such a great salvation? Salvation is found in no-one else! There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
This is the gospel Jesus entrusts to His church to proclaim. There is a way people can be saved from their sin. There is a way they can be changed from God’s enemies into His friends, more than that, His beloved children. There is a way human beings can enter into life in all its fullness and live eternally. And that way is Jesus. The only way is Jesus. Salvation is found in no-one else.
So that was the message the first Christians proclaimed. But what form did their witness take? Throughout Acts we see a simple pattern. God the Holy did something interesting. The people around asked “how did that happen?” And the Christians would answer, God did it. That is how Peter came to preach on the Day of Pentecost. And that is how Peter and John came to be defending their faith here in front of the Sanhedrin. God had healed a man who had been crippled since his birth, so he went walking and leaping and praising God in the Temple. Everybody asked, “How did this happen?” And Peter and John simply explained that it was God at work! But note what it was that made a particular impact on the Sanhedrin.
These men had been with Jesus
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
They had been with Jesus. Peter and John had been Jesus’s disciples from the very beginning. For three years they had watched him and listened to him. They had seen Jesus work all his miracles of healing and deliverance and they had heard all his sermons. Even more precious, they had been among the twelve apostles Jesus had chosen to be with Him and to receive teaching he never shared with the crowds. And along with James, Peter and John had formed the “inner circle” of those apostles. They had witnessed miracles even the other apostles had not seen. Peter and John had been there at the top of the mountain and seen Jesus in all his glory at the Transfiguration. These men had certainly been with Jesus – and it showed!
Here were unschooled ordinary men preaching to the ruling Council of Jerusalem the Sanhedrin. Expounding the Old Testament to the High Priest himself! Their understanding and their courage were evidence that they had spent time with Jesus. And in fact, in ways the Sanhedrin would never understand and which Peter and John were just discovering, Jesus was still with them. Jesus had been among them, and now Jesus was even closer to them. Jesus was inside them, in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had foretold this day when He had promised his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would come to give them the words to say
Mark 13 9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
In many places Jesus had promised this gift of the Holy Spirit, power from on High, power to be witnesses for Jesus.
John 15 26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
Indeed the Holy Spirit has a vital role in bringing a person to faith in Jesus Christ.
John 16 5 Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
So the Holy Spirit comes to all believers revealing Jesus to us. The Holy Spirit living in us is God’s witness to the world. The witness of the difference it makes in the lives of people who have been with Jesus. And each and every Christian has been given this same Holy Spirit, power from on High, power to be witnesses for Jesus.
Do you want your friends to be saved? Do you want your neighbours to be saved? Do you want your work colleagues or the people down the street to come to know Jesus? Salvation is found in no-one else. Jesus is their only hope! The Sanhedrin took note that these men had been with Jesus. And that will be our witness to the world. The difference it makes when we have been with Jesus. The difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives when we have spent time with God in prayer. When we read our Bibles and let God’s word transform our lives. When we spend time in worship and fellowship. We are only ordinary Christians. But Peter and John were ordinary men.
The gospel they proclaimed and why they proclaimed it. Finally let’s see what motivated those apostles in their evangelism.
We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!
Acts 4 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The apostles had been with Jesus. They had witnessed all the marvellous things Jesus said and did. They had watched him die on the cross for the sins of the world. They had found the tomb empty and the graveclothes folded in the place where Jesus’s body had been laid. And most important of all, they had met with Jesus after He had risen from the dead. They were witnesses to the resurrection. They couldn’t hold in their excitement! They just had to tell everybody what had happened!
Some Christians get nervous when we talk about “witnessing” for Jesus. Some people make “witnessing” sound like something difficult or painful. Society wants us to think that there is something indecent or even immoral about telling other people about Jesus. In this multicultural multifaith society there is tremendous pressure to stay silent about Jesus. People tell you the only thing we can be certain of is that we aren’t allowed to be certain about anything any more. So people tell us we aren’t allowed to talk about salvation. And the one thing we absolutely aren’t say is that Jesus is the only way to God. But the Bible says the opposite. Jesus Himself said He is the only way. Salvation is found in no-one else. There really is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. That is the life-saving message we have been given to proclaim. We have good news. We dare not keep it to ourselves!
The apostles were witnesses to what they had seen and heard. But they weren’t preaching about Jesus just because He had commanded them to do so. They were simply telling everybody what they themselves had seen. The apostles were before the Sanhedrin because God had healed a man who had been lame since his birth. This was what Peter had preached which we heard about last week in Acts 3
15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.
The apostles’ testimony was that the lame man was healed by faith in the name of Jesus. And this in turn was proof of everything else they preached about Jesus and his resurrection. So nobody had to order the apostles to tell other people about Jesus. “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!”
And exactly the same should be true of us. We shouldn’t need anybody to command us to tell other people about Jesus. We should be so excited that we can’t help speaking about what we have seen and heard of God’s love and God’s power in our own lives, in our own experience!
There is song we sometimes sing.
I GET SO EXCITED, LORD, Every time I realise I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
Jesus, Lord, You’ve done it all, You’ve paid the price: I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
Hallelujah, Lord, My heart just fills with praise;
My feet start dancing, my hands rise up, And my lips they bless Your name.
I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
Living in Your presence, Lord, Is life itself: I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
With the past behind, grace for today And a hope to come, I’m forgiven, I’m forgiven.
We have so much to get excited about! Jesus has given us the most wonderful salvation. Our sins are forgiven. We have life in all its fullness, eternal life which not even death can take away. God has made us his beloved children. And God even lives inside us by the Holy Spirit! We should be so excited!
This is how the Early Church grew. Ordinary men and women filled with the extraordinary power of God the Holy Spirit, sharing the life-saving truth they had experienced themselves. Salvation is found in no-one else. There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. People should be able to see the difference Jesus makes – to see that we have been with Jesus.
We should be like those first Christians, who just couldn’t help speaking about what they had seen and heard!