The Spreading Word – Evangelism in Acts

1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

If we want to know how we should share our faith, a good place to start is the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. How did the Early Church do their evangelism?
We begin by reminding ourselves how narratives function in scripture. They tell us what actually happened, not necessarily what should have happened. We need to try to work out how the author expects us to understand the events he recorded. Sometimes they are normative -this is what should always happen. Sometimes they are normal- this will happen usually but not necessarily. And sometimes they are only permissible – it is ok if this happens. We look to the book of acts to find out what happened in the early church. As we see the ways they did evangelism that tells us what we might do. Acts doesn’t tell us how we must do evangelism. The first Christians went first to the synagogues and that pattern is not binding on us. Nor does Acts tell us the only ways we can do evangelism. Just because the early church only communicated the good news face to face does not mean we are not allowed to evangelise through newspapers or television or the internet or Facebook Acts just tells us what we might do because if that was acceptable for the early church it will be acceptable for us.
Acts is concerned with how the word of God, the gospel spread around the near East in the decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The word gospel means announcement of good news and acts tells us what the good news was which the apostles and the whole church proclaimed.

WHAT was the good news?

Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Life of Jesus
Death of Jesus
Resurrection of Jesus
Coming of Holy Spirit
Acts 5 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
Warnings of coming judgement
Offer of salvation forgiveness new life
Acts 410 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is
“ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Response expected – faith, repentance, baptism.
Acts 2 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
According to the N. T., evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. Evangelizing, therefore is not simply a matter of teaching, and instructing, and imparting information to the mind. There is more to it than that. Evangelism includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught. It is communication with a view to conversion. It is a matter, not merely of informing, but also of inviting.
J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God,

HOW was the gospel communicated?

Addressing groups of people
Preaching (17 times in Acts)
Proclaiming (10 times)
Discussing (3 times) and Debating (twice)
Acts 18 28 For he (Apollos) vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
Teaching (10 times)
Acts 20 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
Not only large groups but often small groups and even one-to-one conversations.
Explaining (5 times)
17:2 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.
Persuading (3x) and convincing (x1)
Acts 19 8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.
Acts 2823 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
Often the Christians did not even need to initiate the conversations. We find answering or replying (10 times in Acts)
Sharing scripture – reminds us that often what we need to do is to point inquirers to the Bible
Stephen Acts 7
Acts 8 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Acts 17:11 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Tell people about our own experiences of Jesus – being witnesses (9 times) of what we have seen and heard = Testifying (6 times in Acts)
Acts 10 42 (Peter said) He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead
Paul gives his own testimony of meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road inActs 22 to crowds in Jerusalem and in Acts 26 king Agrippa

WHO shared the gospel?

Apostles – notably Peter and John but others of the twelve as well.
Acts 541 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Later also Paul appointed as an apostle by the Risen Christ.

Other church leaders – the first martyr Stephen, the evangelist Philip, also Paul’s companions Barnabas and Silas, and others like Apollos
Some were specifically sent out by the Holy Spirit as missionaries
Acts 13 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

At the same time – a great deal of the witness of the Early Church was done by people whose names we won’t know this side of heaven. Countless nameless believers who spread the Word of God with boldness

Acts 8:1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
All these nameless men and women chatting the good news, gossiping the gospel, in synagogues and marketplaces and with their friends in their own homes – just ordinary Christians like you and me!
Acts 11 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
The Anglican Evangelist Michael wrote, “Witness-bearing in some shape or form is the responsibility of all Christians.” In the Early Church, “every man and woman saw it as his task to bear witness to Jesus Christ by every means at his or her disposal.” The Bishop of Chelmsford evangelist Stephen Cottrell wrote, “According to our different personalities, gifts and circumstances each of us has a part to play in God’s work of evangelism.” As Michael Green says, “It is not until church members have the enthusiasm to speak to their friends and acquaintances about Jesus that anybody will really believe we have got good news to share.”

WHAT was the secret of their success?

The Holy Spirit
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Mark 13:9-11 “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.
Acts 5 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Signs and wonders, prophetic gifts
Acts 3 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.
Acts 4 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Boldness, courage obedience
4:13 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.
Acts 927 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

The outcome of the witness of the first Christians – the word of God spread
Acts 6:7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
12:24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread.
13:49 49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.
19 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring somebody to Jesus, to convict them of sin and to bring them to new life. Our task is simply to let the light of Christ shine through us, and, trusting in God, to take every opportunity to talk about Jesus as it comes along.
The young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he lamented, “I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The manager replied,
“Son, take my advice: your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.”
The evangelist Pete Gilbert puts it this way. “Potentially every good deed that you do, every good gift that you use, every good day that you inhabit, every good conversation that you have, every opportunity recognised and taken is a part of effective evangelism.”
Michael Green wrote, “One of the greatest tragedies in the ossifying Western church is that people do not, by and large, talk about Jesus. That is extremely foolish. Jesus is the supremely attractive one. If we exclude from our conversations the only really winning card that we have, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

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