Share This Episode
Truth for Life Alistair Begg Logo

Continuous Evangelism (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 27, 2024 4:00 am

Continuous Evangelism (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1308 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

April 27, 2024 4:00 am

Despite increased persecution, the early church expanded greatly! Is growth like that still possible? What’s our role, and what’s God’s? On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg explores the answers and explains why every Christian church is a missionary church.


• Click here and look for "FROM THE SERMON" to stream or read the full message.

• This program is part of the series ‘Seven Marks of an Effective Church’

• Learn more about our current resource, request your copy with a donation of any amount.

•Clickhereto get your free download of the “Name Above All Names” Ebook and Digital Study Guide.

• If you listened to Truth For Life on Google Podcast, you can now listen to the daily program on YouTube Music.

Helpful Resources

- Learn about God's salvation plan

- Read our most recent articles

- Subscribe to our daily devotional

Follow Us

YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

In Touch
Charles Stanley
Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
Love Worth Finding
Adrian Rogers
The Truth Pulpit
Don Green

Even in the midst of increased persecution, the early church experienced phenomenal experience and expansion.

Is that kind of growth still possible today? And if so, what's our role in building the church? And what's God's?

On Truth for Life weekend, Alistair Begg answers these questions, and he explains why every Christian church is a missionary church. 2 Corinthians 5.11. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God.

If we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation—that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors. As though God were making his appeal through us, we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Thanks be to God for his Word. Now, before we look to the Scriptures briefly, let us pause and pray together.

Let us all pray. Our gracious God and heavenly Father, we thank you tonight that in the Lord Jesus we have a Savior for sin, that the wonder of the gospel is that you justify sinners, that when we were in the most dire situation, without any prospect of escape, Christ came at just the right time and bore our sins in his body on the tree. And as a result of your gracious initiative in our lives, we have come to you in repentance and in faith and in childlike trust. And not only have you granted to us a new status as your sons and daughters, but you have given us a new nature. And we find ourselves new creations, the old gone and the new having appeared. And so we pray tonight that as we think concerning the truth of your Word, that you will teach us from it, and that as a result of being stirred by it, we may live in obedience to it. For we ask these things in Jesus' name and for his sake.

Amen. We have been going through this passage and recognizing that there was a pattern in the developing church which was striking in its day and which gives to us something of a thumbnail sketch of the kind of activities and characteristics which ought to be true of God's people in every place and at all times. And we have been seeing that these early Christians were involved in the context of a relationship with one another and were learning from the apostles' teaching. They were benefiting from their fellowship with one another, and they were engaging in worship as they had been encouraged and instructed to by the Lord Jesus in relationship to the breaking of bread and the prayers, and also in smaller ways in their homes and in more formalized ways when they came together in the temple courts. And what we have come to this evening is the phrase in the second half of verse 47—indeed, the concluding phrase of chapter 2—"And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." So while these early believers were learning and sharing and worshiping, they were not doing so at the expense of evangelism.

And a man by the name of Bohr—an unfortunate name, but that's his name—writes concerning this, Acts is governed by one dominant overriding and all-controlling motif. This motif is the expansion of the faith through missionary witness in the power of the Spirit. Restlessly, the Spirit drives the church to witness, and continually, churches rise out of the witness. The church is a missionary church. Now, he is not simply describing what we are reading here in Acts chapter 2, but he is describing the nature of the church in every generation.

These individuals, as I say, were not so preoccupied with these other elements and these various activities as to forget about witnessing. And a Spirit-filled church—and indeed, anything other than a Spirit-filled church is something less than God intends—a Spirit-filled church is a related community—first of all, related to God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, related to the Scriptures, insofar as the Spirit-filled community submits to the instruction of Scripture—in the case of the developing church submitting to the instruction of the apostles, which of course was in large part to become inscripturated—the Spirit-filled community is related to one another in the bonds of love, related to God in the upward gaze of worship, and related to the world or the community or the culture in which it is set in relationship to witnessing. And these Christians, we discover, were engaged in continuous evangelism. John Stott says, No self-centered, self-contained church absorbed in its own parochial affairs can claim to be filled with the Spirit.

I want to say that again. No self-centered, self-contained church absorbed in its own parochial affairs can claim to be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit, so a Spirit-filled church is a missionary church. And when we think in terms of mission, we are thinking not only of that opportunity to send our resources as export models to any part and all parts of the world, but we're thinking about the fact that when we have dispersed from one another in the gatherings for worship on the Lord's Day, we are dispersed as witnesses to our communities, and we are to go and witness to the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As keen as we may be to talk about all kinds of things that relate to what we enjoy here, our primary emphasis is to do what these early believers did, namely, to talk about the Lord Jesus himself. Now, as a result of their engaging in witnessing, they experienced quite dramatic growth. And, for example—and I won't go through this in detail—but in the fifteenth verse of the first chapter of Acts, we discover that there are about 120 people in the group—120 in the group gathering for prayer. Within just a matter of days, in direct relationship to the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost, by the time you get to the forty-first verse of the second chapter, they had gone up to three thousand one hundred and twenty. When you get to chapter 4 and verse 4, even though Peter and John had been seized and placed in jail, even though the screws were being placed on them, as it were, in relationship to their evangelism, Luke records for us, but many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. So they had gone from 120 to three thousand to five thousand. And when you get to chapter 5 and verse 14, although it doesn't mention a number, but we read again, nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. So you have this explosion of activity, you have this effervescent community of God's people who cannot help but speak of the things that they have encountered in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in their expressions the Lord is adding to their number daily those who are being saved.

Now, we shouldn't pass over this just too quickly. It's good for us to ask the simple question, Who was it did the adding? Who did the adding? How were these people added?

As a result of what? Well, the answer is, as a result of the Lord doing the adding. Who adds to the church? The head of the church. He who sits enthroned maintains the prerogative to admit people to the church's membership. It is Christ, the head of the church, who adds to the church. Now, admittedly, he does so through means, and has made it perfectly clear that by the means of the preaching of the Word, by means of the worshiping of God's people, by means of their wholesale, sold-out endeavors in personal witnessing, he will add people to the community of the faithful. And it is very, very important for us to acknowledge that point, especially when so many endeavors in continuous evangelism, or in any kind of evangelism for that matter, in local communities often are very man-centered. They are often very man-oriented. They have slick methodologies.

They have little programs and little packets and little ideas and little schemes. And it would be possible, not wishing to diminish the rightful usage of these things, but it is distinctly possible for people to get the impression that there is a kind of mechanism, there is a press button A, press button B formula whereby any church can just grow itself. And we really don't need to worry about the Holy Spirit.

If you just apply this methodology, it will all be fine. And so you go different places, and they have all of these mechanisms in place, and it's not surprising. There are many, many people being added to the crowd, but there are, of course, many people being added to those who subscribe to Amway products, using very similar methodologies to those which are employed in a number of churches. Therefore, the fact of an increase in numbers need not give any indication at all of the work of the Spirit of God.

And that, you see, is why it is imperative that a local congregation always keeps its head concerning these things and does not fall into the trap of using numerical growth as some quantifier of effectiveness in ministry or of the outstanding evidence of the Spirit's work. Well, you say, are you not talking out of both sides of your mouth? Are you not, on the one hand, extolling this amazing expansion, and now you're apparently decrying it? No?

It may sound like that. Let me try and clarify things. I am extolling the expansion which comes about as a result of God adding to the church, and I am decrying the kind of numerical preoccupation which says more about man's ability to manipulate other people than it says anything about what God has chosen to do. First Corinthians 3, Paul says—I know that some of you are keen on Apollos, others of you are very strong on myself, some of you are following Cephas—and we all have a part in what God has assigned us. He says in verse 6 of 1 Corinthians 3, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. The man who plants, the man who waters, of one purpose. Each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers, you are God's field, you are God's building. Wouldn't it be a dreadful tyranny to have to waken up in the morning and try and build a church?

Can you imagine the burden? One of my weekly encounters with a fellow this week, he said to me, I know you're trying hard to save me, but you haven't done it yet. And I said, No, and I never will. And he was changing, and he stopped. And I said, Furthermore, I haven't saved anybody ever. Oh, he said, Come now, there are lots of people go down to that place.

I said, Yeah. And God saved every one of them that saved. I don't save anybody.

You don't save anybody. That'd be dreadful, wouldn't it? Can you imagine what your converts would look like? No, you see, this takes and places us where we need to be, on our knees, and understands God to be where he is on the throne, acknowledges our helplessness and our inability to ultimately effectively communicate in a way that would see people's eyes opened and ears unstopped. And so it is wonderful to realize that it is the Lord who does the adding. Who was it that was being added? Well, the answer is those who were being saved.

In other words, Christ did not add them to the church without saving them. He didn't, if you like, have a friends category. He didn't have a sort of nominal group.

I'm going to add some of you to the nominal group, and I'm going to add some of you to the core group. No, every one he added, he added having saved them. Nor did he save them without adding them.

So in the developing church, there was no nominalism. Nobody was added to the group without being saved. In fact, fear was going around the place, especially after Ananias and Sapphira had dropped dead. Any sensible person was going, You don't want to get involved with this group. There's some wild stuff going on there. See, apparently some guy and his wife cooked up some deal that they sold property, and they tried to say it was worth more than it was. I heard the guy dropped dead.

And apparently his wife came in, she lied through her teeth as well, and she dropped dead. You don't want to get involved with that group. So there's no idea, Hey, let's go down to Jerusalem and spin around on the fringes.

No? He didn't add them to the church without saving them, and he didn't save them without adding them to the church. There was no solitary Christianity. There is no such thing as solitary Christianity. There is no such thing as disconnected Christianity. Salvation, baptism, and membership all go together. Read the Bible! So this idea that I can opt in for one package, but not the second part of the package or the third package—it's all a package.

That's all I wanted to say about that. The third question is this. When were they being added? Who did the adding? The Lord. Who was getting added? Those who were being saved. When were they getting added?

All the time. In fact, it's in the imperfect tense. It says, And the Lord kept adding to their number. He kept adding to their number.

The NIV actually translates it with this word daily in order to help us get to the point. Daily, the Lord was adding. Their evangelism wasn't sporadic.

It wasn't occasional. It wasn't they went along for periods of time where they did nothing concerning witnessing, where they were not, as it were, living out their faith, where they were not telling others about Jesus, but they were just living their lives. And as a result of the overflow of a Spirit-filled life, men and women were coming to ask questions of them. Why is it that you go to that place? Why is it that you declare Christ as your Lord? Why is it that you don't say, Caesar is Lord? Didn't I see you in the river getting baptized?

What was that all about? Do you really believe that the Galilean carpenter is alive from the dead and so on, and the people in their homes and in the streets and in the bazaars were simply answering the questions? And as a result, God was adding daily to the community those that he was saving. So don't you think we should ask him to do this? If he, as our heavenly Father, delights to give good things to those that ask him if he works in answer to prayer, if he works in relationship to our unfettered and zealous commitment to let others know that we belong to the Lord Jesus, don't you think we ought to give it a go? You say, Well, we are.

I know. In fact, one of the things that excites me as I travel is, people always ask me, And what is your strategy at Parkside for evangelism? What are you doing?

And I tell the people, I say, Frankly, I don't know. I don't know really what's going on at Parkside. I just get the distinct impression that our people are living out their Christian life on a daily basis. As a result of that, through friendship, evangelism, through the opportunity to engage people in conversation, the chance to come near them in their need, the opportunity to share with people in their joys and in their encouragements, people are actually coming to faith in Jesus Christ. And so we thank God for that. But we want to see it happen more and more. For the sake of numbers? No.

Why? Because Christ's love compels us. Isn't that what Paul said in the reading that we had?

2 Corinthians 5? In fact, he backs it up, and he says, Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try and persuade men. We want to be persuasive.

We're not going to be ashamed. We want to be persuasive. He says in verse 14, it's the love of Christ that compels us, because we're convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. It's this whole matter of what was happening on the cross, he says, which has burned itself into our lives, and so much so that we don't even look at people from a worldly point of view anymore. We're tending not to look at people in terms of what we can get out of them.

We're not looking at them simply as patients, simply as clients, simply as pupils, simply as instructors, but we've now begun to look at them in a whole different way. And what we've discovered, verse 20, is that we've been made the ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it's as though Christ himself is making his appeal through us. Isn't that a staggering thought, that through you Christ makes his appeal? That he appeals to people who are your work colleagues and your school chums and your friends and your family, and he makes his appeal through you? He who could do it in a vacuum if he chose has determined to use the likes of you and me? What a wonder. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend, that is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled Continuous Evangelism.

We'll hear more next weekend. The more you get to know Jesus personally, the more you'll want to introduce others to him. Right now you can download for free an e-book written by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. The book is called Name Above All Names. This is a book that will help you meditate on the incomparable character of Christ and better understand just how great he is. As you read this book, you'll gain a deeper understanding of seven key qualities of Jesus' identity and ministry, including how he fulfills the roles of true prophet, suffering servant, and the lamb on the throne. The free download of the e-book Name Above All Names includes a digital study guide that matches up with the book.

You'll find it online at slash name, or if you're listening on the app or on our website, click on the Name Above All Names image at the bottom of the home page. While you're on our website, be sure to check out a booklet we've been recommending that will help you better understand how Jesus is the Messiah described in the Old Testament. It's titled, simply enough, Does the Old Testament Really Point to Jesus? It's a 45-page quick read that will teach you six different ways to look for Jesus in the Old Testament.

This is the last weekend we're talking about the booklet, Does the Old Testament Really Point to Jesus? To find out more, visit our website I'm Bob Lapeen. Thanks for listening this weekend. Hope you'll join us again next weekend for the conclusion of today's message. We'll learn why being sold out for Jesus doesn't have to be a high-pressure endeavor. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-27 04:07:27 / 2024-04-27 04:15:57 / 9

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime