APOSTOLIC EVANGELISM

APOSTOLIC EVANGELISM 

Our text-book upon this subject is the entire Book 
of Acts. This is the historical book of the New Testa- 
ment. It deals with the preaching of the apostles and 
the establishment of the church. It shows what the 
apostles preached, and what they required sinners to 
do to be saved, in each instance of conversion. Some 
of the most important cases of conversion under the 
ministry of the apostles are put on record in this one 
book, as examples for all time to come. Let us study 
the evangelism of the apostles carefully, and compare 
it with the modern type of evangelism. We will draw 
this comparison between apostolic and modern evan- 
gelism under three general headings: 1. Message; 
2. Method; 3. Results. 

1. Message. The only message known to the apos- 
tles was the gospel of Christ. Every sermon recorded 
in Acts set forth the gospel as it was given to them 
by the Holy Spirit. The gospel consisted of three 
facts to be taught, three commands to be obeyed by 
those who heard, and three promises to be enjoyed by 
those who obeyed. 

(1) They preached the facts of the gospel. The 
facts of the gospel are three in number: the death, 
burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). 

These facts constituted Peter's sermon on Pentecost 
(Acts 2:14-36); his sermon from Solomon's porch 
(Acts 3:12-26); his reply to the charge of the high 
priest (Acts 4:8-12), and his sermon to Cornelius and 
his household (Acts 10:34-43). These facts formed 
the body of Paul's discourse to the Jews at Antioch 
(Acts 13:14-41); the basis of his discourse on Mars' 
Hill (Acts 17:22-31); the foundation of his defense 
before the Jews at Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-21), and the 
basis of his wonderful appeal before Agrippa (Acts 
26:1-23). The preaching of the apostles, whether 
defense, exhortation or argument, always centered in 
the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. 

(2) They stated the commands of the gospel 
(Rom. 10:16). The gospel can not be obeyed unless 
it contains specific commands. These commands also 
are three in number: believe (Acts 16:31), repent 
(Acts 2:38; 3:19) and be baptized (Acts 2:38; 
10:48). The apostles required unconditional obedi- 
ence to these commands because Christ is King. It 
never occurred to them that obedience to Christ would 
be called "legalism." The man who really accepts 
Jesus as his Christ is ready to obey Him without ques- 
tion. 

(3) They stated the promises of the gospel (Col. 
1:23). These are likewise three in number: remission 
of sins (Acts 2:38), the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 
2 : 38 ; 1 Cor. 3 : 16 ; 6 : 19) and eternal life (1 Pet. 1 : 3, 
4; Tit. 3:7). They made these promises, in the name 
of Christ, to those who were faithful unto death (Rev. 
2:10). 

The modern evangelistic message tends to overlook 
the sovereignty of Christ; to dwell more upon the 
ethical value of Christianity than its saving value; to 
underestimate the word of God by substituting human 
philosophy and phraseology. Modern evangelism 
dwells upon faith and repentance, but overlooks bap- 
tism to a great extent. The modern " union " meeting, 
so called, is deceiving in the fact that the third specific 
command of the gospel is omitted altogether because it 
is somewhat obnoxious to certain denominationalists. 
When our evangelism begins to weaken from the apos- 
tolic message, in order to cater to sectarianism, it will 
lose its positiveness and its power. We should teach 
the facts of the gospel, and require obedience to the 
commands of the gospel because Christ is King. We 
should let people understand that the promises of the 
gospel are only made to those who obey its commands. 

2. Method, There were three distinct steps in the 
evangelism of the apostles. These steps were definitely 
outlined in the commission under which they worked 
(Matt. 28: 18-20). They were loyal to this commission 
because it was positively stated by Him unto whom all 
power had been given in heaven and upon earth. They 
obeyed Him implicitly because they realized that He 
is King. 

(1) Teaching, the first command of the commission 
— "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations," as stated 
by Matthew (28:19); or, "Go ye into all the world 
and preach the gospel to every creature," as stated 
by Mark (16:15). They taught the facts, commands 
and promises of the gospel. Teaching is preaching, 
and preaching is teaching. They taught the Jew that 
Jesus is the Christ because He fulfilled Old Testament 
prophecy. They taught the Gentiles that He is Christ 
because of His mighty works, His perfect humanity 
and His resurrection from the dead. As a result, 
many of those who heard the message, believed it 
(Acts 2:37; 8:12; 18:8). Their method of instruc- 
tion was sane and practical. They appealed absolutely 
to the understanding of those who listened. They 
showed positively that there is but one way of recon- 
ciliation, and that the one way is through Christ. 
Those who believed the gospel were told what to do, 
in a clear, concise statement (Acts 2:38). They 
obeyed the commands of the gospel, and were added to 
the "one body" by the Lord (Acts 2:47). To the 
apostles, there was but one body, one Spirit, one Lord, 
one faith, one baptism, and one Father of all (Eph. 
4:4, 5). 

(2) Baptizing, the second command of the com- 
mission (Matt. 28:19) — "baptizing them in the name 
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." 
They baptized those who had heard, believed and 
turned to God (Acts 8:12, 37; 16:33; 18:8). In all 
the cases of conversion on divine record, those who 
believed and repented were baptized into Christ. 
This institution is the only one on divine record con- 
nected with the name of the Father, Son and Holy 
Spirit. It is the ordinance which symbolizes the death, 
burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-5); an 
outward representation of the death of the old man 
of sin, and the resurrection of the new creature in 
Jesus Christ (Eom. 6:6-10), by the working of that 
same power by which Christ was raised from the dead 
(Col. 2:12). Baptism is the visible line between the 
kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God. Bap- 
tism was an absolute command of the commission 
under which the apostles ministered. Hence we search 
in vain in the divine record for a single person who 
was recognized by the apostles as a child of God, or a 
Christian, until he had been baptized into Christ (Gal. 
3:27) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). 

(3) Nurturing, or the third command of the com- 
mission (Matt. 28:20) — "teaching them to observe all 
things whatsoever I have commanded you." The 
apostles did not stop with the baptism of sinners into 
Christ, but continued to manifest the same solicitude 
over those who had obeyed the gospel, as a mother in 
watching over her children. Paul called this "the care 
of all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:28). They ordained 
elders to look after the spiritual interests (Acts 20: 17, 
28), and deacons to look after the material interests of 
the congregations which they established (Acts 6:1-6). 
All of the twenty-one letters of the apostles were writ- 
ten to Christians, to those in Christ, telling them what 
to do to lead Christian lives and gain the promises of 
the gospel. These letters contain doctrine, reproof, 
correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 
3:16). 

Modern evangelism fails in loyalty to the commis- 
sion of our Lord. It is unsane, unscriptural and sen- 
sational to a great extent. It strives to appeal to the 
emotions rather than the understanding. In many 
instances it is not positive in pointing out the one way 
of salvation; in many instances, overlooks baptism 
altogether ; and, in most instances, pays but little atten- 
tion to the care of all the churches. It fails to the 
same extent that it falls below the standard of the 
commission. Let us remember that if we faithfully 
teach, baptize and nurture, Jesus has promised to be 
with us "even unto the end of the world"; and unless 
we are true to His specific commands, we can not claim 
the benefit of His promise. 

3. Results. The evangelistic methods of the apostles 
brought three distinct results: 

(1) It led multitudes to obedience. Three thousand 
heard and obeyed on Pentecost. This number was 
increased to five thousand within a few days. When 
the church at Jerusalem was scattered by persecution, 
the word of the Lord spread over all Judea. Philip 
preached Christ in Samaria, and a great multitude 
believed and obeyed. Paul took the gospel all over 
Asia Minor, and across the Hellespont into Macedonia 
and Greece. Within a single century after Pentecost, 
the gospel had been preached in Jerusalem, in Judea, 
in Samaria, and over all the civilized world, even to 
distant Rome ; and great multitudes had lived and died 
in the faith. The gospel, when faithfully presented, 
will accomplish wonderful things. 

(2) It led people into Christ. There is a distinc- 
tion between reformation and salvation. The tendency 
of modern evangelism is to reform rather than to save. 
It is indeed splendid to make a good man like Corne- 
lius; but it is better to make a saved man like Corne- 
lius after he had obeyed the gospel. The apostles 
taught that Jesus Christ wanted all men to be saved. 
Righteousness is doing the will of God, and includes 
obedience as well as morality. A man must be "born 
again" before he can expect to enter the kingdom of 
God (John 3:3-5). Just as many as have been bap- 
tized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). The 
evangelism that merely makes men moral is not apos- 
tolic; to be apostolic, it must lead men into Christ. 
The true object of evangelism is something more than 
reformation; namely, salvation. As there is no salva- 
tion outside of Christ (Acts 4:12), and only those 
who have been baptized into Christ are in Christ (Gal. 
3:27), it follows that the evangelism which overlooks 
baptism does not save, but merely reforms. Jesus 
Christ has said: "He that believeth and is baptized 
shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Dare any one say: 
"He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved"? 

(3) It was permanent in its results. The seed 
sown during the ministry of the apostles has never 
been uprooted. It was sown for time and eternity. 
Christianity met and overcame Judaism, paganism and 
Gnosticism. It weathered the ignorance and supersti- 
tion of the Dark Ages. It has emerged from the creed- 
bound cells of Protestantism, after a lapse of eighteen 
centuries, in its primitive form. To-day the perfect 
law of liberty exists as in the days of the apostles. It 
will overcome rationalism, criticism and higher learn- 
ing of to-day, as it has triumphed over all false sys- 
tems in the past. And we are told that, in the end, 
every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess 
that Jesus is the Christ (1 Cor. 15 : 25 ; Phil. 2 : 10, 11). 

The modern sensational species of evangelism does 
not get permanent results. It fails in this respect 
because it does not instruct, and because it appeals to 
the emotions rather than the understanding. Just 
because a person comes forward and signs a card is 
no evidence that he is converted or pardoned. We 
often hear of two or three thousand "converted" in a 
single meeting, when there has not been a single con- 
vert in the New Testament sense of the term. The 
majority of these so-called converts, not having been 
taught, and having no conception of Christianity, soon 
lose all interest in it, and many of them drift into 
utter indifference or skepticism. Because of this type 
of evangelism, churches of Christ are being filled with 
people who have no understanding of the Bible, no 
realization of the distinction between denominational- 
ism and the one body of Christ; of people who, having 
no religious convictions, stand for everything in gen- 
eral and nothing in particular. We must get back to 
the sane, Scriptural evangelism of the apostles — or 
perish ! 

We do not need a twentieth-century system of 
religion, as some overeducated propagandists would try 
to make us believe; but we do need the primitive 
system of the first century for the twentieth century. 
We do not need a new evangelism for the twentieth 
century, but we need, as never before, the evangelism 
of the first century. We do not need a new church 
for the twentieth century, but we do need a complete 
restoration of the church of the first century. Why do 
men make the oft-repeated mistake of trying to change 
the Bible, as they think, to meet the conditions of the 
age, when the Bible is positive, unchangeable and 
divine, the same yesterday, to-day and forever, as its 
Author! When will men learn that the New Testa- 
ment is adapted to the ideals of all ages! Do not the 
errors of the past warn us to refrain from similar mis- 
takes in the present? Let us remain true to the plea 
for the restoration of primitive Christianity, its organi- 
zation, its ordinances and its fruits.