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EVANGELISM IN THE CHURCH AT JERUSALEM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, July 17, 2011

“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage” (Matthew 22:9).


That’s what Christ told His followers to do in the Parable of the Marriage Feast. Likewise, in the Parable of the Great Supper, Christ said, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). “Bid [invite them] to the marriage.” “Compel them to come in.” The words in these parables are an expression of the Great Commission, given in Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; and elsewhere.

But how are we to accomplish what Christ told us to do when He said, “Compel them to come in”? The answer is given in Acts 2:42, 46-47. Please stand and read those verses aloud.

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”
       (Acts 2:42).

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).

You may be seated.

Dr. John R. Rice said, “The growth of the church in Jerusalem is set up as a model for Christians who have set out to take the Gospel to all the world” (John R. Rice, D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1966, p. 25). In Acts 2:42 we are given four tools that the “model” church in Jerusalem used to add new converts:

1.  The preaching of apostolic doctrine, which today means preaching what the Apostles preached in the Book of Acts – primarily the preaching of the Gospel in all its points and doctrines.

2.  Fellowship. The Greek word is “koinonia.” It means partnership, social intercourse, fellowship enjoyed [W. E. Vine], participation [George Ricker Berry], sharing, comradeship, happy companionship, Christian friendship in the local church.

3.  Breaking of bread. According to Acts 2:46, this means far more than the Lord’s Supper. It means that they ate many meals together in real fellowship, in happy companionship.

4.  Prayers. Notice how often they prayed in prayer meetings in the Book of Acts. Without a great deal of prayer few will be added to the local church.


If we would strip down to those four essentials, I believe our churches would see many people converted and baptized as church members.

We need much preaching on the subjects the Apostles preached on continually – Christ’s death on the Cross, Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the new birth, the judgment to come.

Most pastors today either give fairly dry verse-by-verse Bible studies [which the Apostles never gave in the Book of Acts] or “how to,” self-help sermons [which the Apostles never gave in the Book of Acts]. We need “the apostles’ doctrine” today – more than ever! I have found that I can preach on various aspects of the Gospel of Christ every Sunday morning, year after year, without losing people’s attention, and often on Sunday night as well! As an old song put it,

I love to tell the story, For those who know it best
    Seem hungering and thirsting To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
   ‘Twill be the old, old story That I have loved so long.
I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory
   To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.
(“I Love to Tell the Story” by A. Catherine Hankey, 1834-1911).

And, then, we need to constantly emphasize fellowship. How sad I was many years ago, when I saw a pastor rush the people out of a church I visited. He literally pushed them out, locked the door of the church and drove away – leaving a few lonely people talking for a minute or two on the sidewalk!

One man told me he attended a famous church in the San Fernando Valley for a whole year, every Sunday. No one witnessed to him. No one called or visited him. Only one man even spoke to him – and that was only one time – one time in a whole year! The man no one spoke to is now the senior deacon in our church, Dr. Christopher L. Cagan.

Fellowship in the local church is essential for evangelism to be effective. The church at Jerusalem “continued stedfastly in...fellowship” (Acts 2:42). No wonder they had “favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Jesus said that real affection between Christians in the church would show a lost world that we are His disciples,

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).

In fact Jesus commands us to love each other,

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

My former pastor at the First Chinese Baptist church of Los Angeles put a great emphasis on this commandment. Dr. Timothy Lin said,

      The apostles received this commandment [John 15:12] directly from the Lord, and they later practiced it faithfully and continuously. As a result, ‘Behold, how loving Christians are to one another!’ became a remark of admiration and compliment from [pagans] toward Christians at that time. As for today, ‘loving one another’ is only a slogan the church chants mechanically, but cares little for...When a church does not understand the importance and essence of love...it is impossible for God to be with her. May God have mercy upon us! (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, 1992, p. 33).

When Dr. Lin was the pastor, there was a constant emphasis on “Koinonia” (fellowship) and loving one another. As a result, I saw that church grow, in a few years, from about one hundred people to well over two thousand.

Also, at the Church in Jerusalem, they ate many meals together. They did not rush out of the services to eat at home or in a restaurant. They “continued stedfastly in...fellowship, and in breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). “During the early days of the church, a love feast was held in connection with the Lord’s Supper as an expression of the love of the saints for one another” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995, p. 1588; note on Acts 2:42).

When people showed an interest in Christ, they were brought into the fellowship and warmth of the church “to be fed and encouraged” (MacDonald, ibid.).

Finally, there was a great emphasis on prayer. “And they continued steadfastly in...prayers” (Acts 2:42). The revival at Pentecost began during a united prayer meeting,

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14).

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).

Notice the words “with one accord in prayer and supplication” in Acts 1:14. Dr. Timothy Lin said, “The Chinese Bible translates ‘in one accord’ as ‘with the same heart and the same mind.’...The prayer meetings of many churches today are actually deserted. Encountering such a sorrowful state, quite a number of churches...cancel their prayer meetings altogether...Nowadays, many Christians worship television more than their Lord...This is indeed sad!” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., ibid., pp. 94-95).

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”
       (Acts 2:42).

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

They had no hymnals, no overhead projectors, no church buildings, no tracts and no Bibles! Why? Because there were no printing presses yet! In spite of this, the church at Jerusalem soon grew to five thousand members. But they did have Gospel preaching, deep fellowship, many happy meals together, and great prayer meetings. With these “tools” God blessed them mightily. Dr. Philip Schaff said,

The number of the Christians, or, as they first called themselves, disciples...soon rose to five thousand. They continued steadfastly under the instruction and in the fellowship of the apostles, in the daily worship of God and celebration of the holy Supper with their agape or love-feasts. They felt themselves to be one family of God, members of one body under one head, Jesus Christ (Philip Schaff, Ph.D., History of the Christian Church, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975 reprint, volume I, p. 247).

As Dr. John R. Rice said, “The growth of the church at Jerusalem is set up as a model for all Christians who have set out to take the Gospel to all the world” (Rice, ibid.).

Jesus said,

“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage” (Matthew 22:9).

Let us go forth in prayer, and bid many to the marriage! Let us bring them into our local church to hear the preaching of the Gospel, to experience the love and warmth of Christian fellowship, to have meals together with us, and above all, let us unite in prayer together for their salvation! Listen to Dr. Rice’s beautiful song,

So little time! The harvest will be over,
   Our reaping done, we reapers taken Home,
Report our work to Jesus, Lord of harvest,
   And hope He’ll smile and that He’ll say, “Well done!”
Today we reap, or miss our golden harvest!
   Today is given us lost souls to win.
O then to save some dear ones from the burning,
   Today we’ll go to bring some sinner in.
(“So Little Time” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

Will you go and bring some sinner in? I pray that you will! God bless you as you try to obey the Saviour in this all-important matter of soul-winning!

 Now, I must not close this sermon without giving the Gospel to you.  God sent Jesus down from Heaven to die on the Cross, to pay the penalty for your sin.  Jesus died on the Cross to pay your penalty.  They put Jesus' body into a tomb and sealed it with a huge rock.  It would take several men to move such a stone.  But on the third day Jesus rose again from the dead, physically, bodily.  And Jesus ascended back to Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God praying for you.  Now, how do you become a Christian?  You must repent and come to Jesus by faith.  When you come to Jesus His Blood cleanses you from every sin.  I encourage you to come to Him and trust Him, and be saved by Him.  Amen. 

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 2:42-47.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“So Little Time” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).