A person cannot read the book of Acts with open eyes and open heart and not be amazed at the actions and activities of men and women who were the first Christians. Can you imagine people so converted to Christ on a pilgrimage that they refused to return home when their money ran out because they wanted to understand the good news about Christ in completeness? That occurred with some converts who heard the good news on Pentecost. Can you imagine a congregation so close to each other that they met every day to encourage each other as they praised God? Can you imagine finding so much joy and fulfillment in Christ that we would meet every day voluntarily, without command, to glorify God? Can you imagine having an a community who where not Christians acknowledging the Christians were a beneficial part of the community? That describes the earliest congregation in Jerusalem. Can you imagine willingly selling private possessions to help people you do not know but who believe in Christ? That is what Christians did in Acts 4:32-37.
One of the most amazing qualities of early Christians was their evangelistic fervor. In about 70 years, those Christians took the good news concerning Jesus Christ throughout Palestine, to Syria, throughout Asia Minor, to Europe, to North Africa, with plans to go to Spain–and that is just where we know about! They commonly did this in pagan societies that were more immoral than today’s world. They often did it as they faced personal sacrifice and persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. They did not have missionaries and evangelists–they were what we call missionaries and evangelist.
Look at what Acts says about the activities of some of these first Christians: Acts 8:1-5, “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.”
Acts 8:25 says of Peter and John, “So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.”
Acts 8:40 says of Philip after he baptized the eunuch, “But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.”
Acts 9:32 says of Peter, “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.”
Acts 11:19-21 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
The outreach work of early Christians was in no way limited to the activities of Paul and Barnabus. Evidence indicates the joyous fervor was characteristic of many converts to Christ. Indications are the congregations in places like Colosae and Laodicea existed because Christians from other places taught the people of those places.
To me one of the sad facts about today’s Christians is that many of us take the outreach of the church for granted. To often our attitude is, “So they shared their faith in Christ with others. Fine. But so what?” We are not touched by their incredible expression of faith and commitment. Their joy in Christ was too real not to share!
- To attempt to etch their sharing of Christ with others, mentally trade places with them.
- The preacher, elders, and deacons were arrested for preaching the gospel, taken to court, and given a legal injunction against further preaching and teaching as were Peter and John in Acts 5.
- Suppose they defied the injunction, were arrested again, and were publicly beaten for their arrogant rejection of the injunction.
- Then a zealous leader, like Stephen, gets into a religious discussion about the identity of Jesus Christ, is arrested, and is executed for his public religious stand as in Acts 7.
- Then one who hates Christians obtains the legal power to make a house-to-house search for Christians, literally drags them out of their homes, has them jailed and tried, with the result is that some are executed.
- The threat is so real and close that you leave your home and property to find a new place to locate.
- What would you do?
- “I would get out of town just like they did!”
- Then what?
- Would you slip in quietly, go about your business, and avoid mentioning you came from the place that ran Christians out of town?
- Would you weep and complain about all you lost?
- Would you angrily denounce those who ran you out of town?
- Would you resent God for letting such injustice fall on you?
- Or, would you rejoice at the opportunity to suffer for Jesus and tell others about the priceless joy of being a Christian seeking to convert them to Christ?
- Remember, the outreach of early Christians was born in hatred, persecution, and rejection, not in the kindness of open hearts who asked for the good news about Christ.
- Why did they do it?
- “They loved the Lord!”
- I have no doubt they did!
- Do not you, too, love the Lord?
- Would any of you publicly declare you do not love the Lord?
- If they loved the Lord and you love the Lord, that does not seem to be the explanation.
- “They were commanded to do that!”
- Commands emphasize responsibility, but seldom motive that kind of commitment.
- Besides, most of us admit their commands are our commands.
- It seems there was more to their commitment than a command.
- “They had to do it!”
- When I read Acts, it seems obvious they did it out of desire rather the necessity.
- It surely would have been easier to find a quiet place, peacefully settle in, and dedicate yourself to being “Jesus private follower.”
- It seems to involve much more than necessity.
- I submit they discovered something in Jesus Christ that was so valuable, so cherished, so priceless they wanted to share it even in the face of hardship.
- Forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt was a priceless gift!
- Sanctification, justification, and purification were gifts beyond measure!
- The love of God and Christ was (is) beyond comprehension!
- To be children of God, not slaves to a deity is incredible!
- Everything they found in Christ was available to all people!
- I also submit that the first Christians found in Christ something many of today’s Christians never have discovered.
- How long has it been since you deeply, genuinely thanked God for all He did in Jesus Christ?
- How long has it been since you seriously thought about your forgiveness, that God remembers your sin no more, and that he does not impute sin to your life?
- How long has it been since you thought about what Christ contributes to your marriage, your parenting skills, or your personal relationships?
- How long has it been since you appreciated the gift and power of prayer?
- How long has it been since you valued the strength and hope of faith?
- How long has it been since you cherished the fellowship of Christians?
- How long has it been since you were grateful for being a new creation in Christ?
- Can you with hold those precious things from those who struggle because they do not know or have them?
- “They loved the Lord!”
The more you value your salvation, the more imperative it becomes that you share it. You do not seek to force it on someone–you share it. That is the key to evangelistic zeal and fervor. To share it, you must value it.
Never forget because you have Christ you have something to share. May your life and who you are encourage people to want what you have found in Christ.