Evangelism in the Early Church

Acts 2 – Pentecost and the new church

Acts 2:1-13 – The indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost came, and the disciples were together, expecting something from God, but they didn’t know what. The disciples waited for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them it would be “in a few days” (vs 5) but they didn’t know anything other than that. As with other major firsts, the first indwelling of the Holy Spirit was astonishing.

We find another interesting piece of information in vs 5. “There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven”. The text doesn’t refer to this as an out-of-the-ordinary circumstance, likely because Jerusalem was a common gathering place for devout Jews during Pentecost. However, it sure seems like God planned that these men would be in the places where they were, so that when the disciples began to speak in tongues, the right witnesses would be in place. For the first outreach of the new church, God gave the disciples the perfect platform and the perfect audience.

Acts 2:14-41 – Peter preaches his first sermon

Peter, seeing the opportunity that God presented, stood up and explained to the crowd what was happening. He knew they didn’t understand, and as humans do, they would draw their own conclusions. He retained their attention and immediately taught regarding Jesus’ lineage and providence as the Christ as foretold by prophecy. Once he gave the foundation for belief, He followed up with what the people should do with that information, and “that day about 3000 were added to the church”.

What does this mean to the New Testament church, and how do we relate this experience to a church today? We can see a few underlying events taking place here:

  1. God provided a divine appointment for the people to hear the message that he had to deliver.
  2. The Holy Spirit went to work by getting the attention of those people and focusing it on what they needed to see and hear.
  3. Peter was aware of his surroundings, he was not wrapped up in his own little world and focused on his Holy Spirit experience.
  4. Peter gave a compelling argument based on scripture and instructions from Christ.

Todays church is capable of producing extreme results as well, if we follow this example in our evangelism. We see this example throughout the new testament. Peter and Paul would both take a given situation and turn it to a reference to scripture or a scriptural event, then relate that event to the life of Christ. This would lead to a call to action, and that action is to believe and be baptized in the name of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Modern churches tend to be successful in evangelizing for one of two reasons: 1) They tell the people what they want to hear, or 2) They follow the New Testament evangelism model.

Telling the people what they want to hear is like building your house on sand. It may look good and produce large numbers, but as soon as the waves come, everything begins to crumble. In this instance, your decision to follow Christ is not based on an urge to recognize his sacrifice. Instead, it’s based on a feel-good experience. In truth, it is a great disservice to the new believer, because the bible teaches us that when we become a follower of Christ, our lives will become anything but a feel-good experience.

Compelling someone to follow Christ because his sacrifice and love demands love in return, introduces them to sacrificial love. Often times, people who have experienced sacrificial love in the past become suddenly aware of that love when they realize what Christ has done for them. You will see lives reconciled as the knowledge of what sacrificial love is and how it acts, dawns on the new believer, who likely has lived a life of self-satisfaction to that point.

Acts 2:42-47 – The behavior of the new church

In the next verse the bible describes and explains something that many churches spend years researching and trying, just to get it wrong in the end. So we have 3000 new believers, what do we do next? Vs 42, “and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers”. That’s it. That’s what happens next, continuing in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship. Everybody was learning scriptural truth and spending time together. They were eating together and praying. It’s that simple, that’s what happens next. Then the bible shows us the response from God when we do these things, vs 43, “Fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles”.


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