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THREE WORDS GIVE THE SECRET
OF THE EARLY CHURCH!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, July 12, 2015

“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).


Last Sunday night I told you that our churches are rupturing and dying. They are losing more than 88% of their young people between the ages of 16 and 30. George Barna, the famous pollster, has been telling us that for years. “The Southern Baptist Council on Family Life” said, “88% of children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of [about] 18, never to return” (Baptist Press, June 12, 2002). Also, it is well known that our churches win hardly any young people from the world. Dr. James Dobson said, “80% of church growth results from transfers of memberships” (“Focus on the Family Newsletter,” August 1998). Jen Hatmaker, an evangelical author, said, “Not only can we not draw new people [to church], we can’t keep the ones we have. Approximately half of all American churches did not add one new person through conversion growth last year...94% of churches either were not growing or were losing [people] in the communities they serve...The trend is clearly downward, and at this pace, [the ‘survival’ of Christianity is at stake]” (Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, NavPress, 2014, pp. 79, 80).

Now look at the Southern Baptists. A report by Carol Pipes in the “California Southern Baptist” paper said, “The churches lost more than 200,000 members [last year], the biggest one-year decline since 1881 (Annual Church Profile)...Reported baptisms have fallen eight of the last 10 years, with last year’s the lowest since 1947. Thom Ranier [an SBC official] said, ‘It breaks my heart that the theme of our denomination is... one of decline.’ Dr. Frank Page, [another leading Southern Baptist] said, ‘The truth is, we have less people in our churches who are giving less money because we are [not] winning people to Christ, and we are not training them in the spiritual disciplines of our Lord.’ He went on to say, ‘God forgive us...May God help us to be as serious about...discipleship as were the first-century churches.’” (ibid., p. 4).

These figures give a dismal, depressing picture of the churches in America. They are losing their own members, and gaining hardly anyone from the lost world. Even the super churches are adding very few converts from the lost world.

That is the sad picture of our churches in America and the Western world. Now compare our churches to the early church in the Book of Acts. I will read our text again,

“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).

What a contrast! They were filled with joy! They met together every day! They praised God continually! “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The place to go to is the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Here is the tonic [the strengthening medicine], here is the place of refreshment, where we feel the life of God pulsating in the early church” (Authentic Christianity, volume 1 (Acts 1-3), The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 225). It thrills our hearts to read about the joy, zeal and power of the First Century church! I have been inspired by reading Dr. Michael Green’s book, Evangelism in the Early Church (Eerdmans, 2003 edition). By reading this book, as well as reading the Book of Acts, I find that there are several Greek words in the New Testament that show us a picture of the life of the churches in the first century.

I. First, there is the Greek word “kurios.”

This word means “Lord” in English. It means “Lord,” “master,” “owner,” “ruler.” It is the word that the Apostle Peter used when he spoke of Jesus in Acts 10:36,

“Preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all)” (Acts 10:36).

Listen to Dr. Green as he tells us how the early Christians witnessed and preached about Jesus,

We find them spreading the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, or that through him the ancient promises have been fulfilled. We find them proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus, of the Lordship of Jesus, of the cross of Jesus, of the resurrection of Jesus, or simply of Jesus himself...the early preachers of the good news had one subject and one only, Jesus!... Origen (185-254) said, “One good thing is life: but Jesus is the life. Another good thing is the light of the world: but Jesus is the light. The same may be said of the truth, the door, the resurrection. All these things the Saviour teaches that he is.” Origen “reiterates the Christocentric nature of the [Gospel] both to the original Apostles and to others [who learned from them]”...Origen gave the whole purpose of evangelistic preaching: “To perpetuate the knowledge of Christ’s life on earth and to prepare for his second coming” (Green, ibid., pp. 80, 81).

The early Christians did not hear self-help sermons. They did not hear verse-by-verse “expositions” of the Bible. What they heard constantly was the Gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of the “kurios,” the Lord Jesus Christ! “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).

Someone from another church recently criticized me for ending every sermon with the death and resurrection of Christ. I thought about that a long time. Then I remembered what Spurgeon said, “I take a text, explain it, and then make a bee line [a straight line] to the cross.” Spurgeon, like the very early Christians, was utterly Christocentric – centered on Jesus Christ Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ! The early church could well have sung that chorus,

You are Lord, you are Lord,
   You have risen from the dead
And you are Lord.
   Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.
   (“He Is Lord” by Marvin V. Frey, 1918-1992).

Sing it with me!

You are Lord, you are Lord,
   You have risen from the dead
And you are Lord.
   Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

The first word, “kurios,” shows the centrality of Christ as the main point of their message and the Lord of their lives! No wonder the Apostle Paul said,

“We preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23).

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

We must continually preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead. That must be our main message, ever and always! I know most churches aren’t doing that very much. And that is the main reason they are dying today!

Muslim extremists call people to come with them and die. Thousands of young people in America and the West are doing just that. ISIS has them come and strap bombs on themselves, and go to kill people. This is not what the Lord Jesus Christ does. He calls you to come to Him for the gift of eternal life. Christ said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). And the Lord Jesus Christ calls you to become His disciple. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “If any [one] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Christ is calling you to come into our church and become a soul winner. He calls you to help us bring others in and get them saved!

I am calling on you young people to become radical Christians! Yes, I want you to be a radical! Be a disciple! Be a radical for Jesus Christ - and for the church of Almighty God! Come on Sunday morning. Go out soul winning with us on Sunday afternoon. Come back on Sunday night. Become a radical disciple of Christ! Do it! Do it! Isn’t it about time some Baptist preacher told our young people that? Take up your cross and follow Christ! Be a disciple! Be a soldier in the army of Christ! It’s number 1 on your song sheet. Sing it!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before;
Christ the royal Master leads against the foe;
   Forward into battle, see His banners go.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus, going on before.
(“Onward, Christian Soldiers” by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).

And that leads us to the second Greek word in the New Testament.

II. Second, there is the Greek word “agapē.”

W. E. Vine said that agapē is “the characteristic word of Christianity.” It means self-giving love. Jesus used this word when He spoke to the first Disciples. Jesus said,

“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).

Dr. Timothy Lin was my pastor for many years in the Chinese church. Dr. Lin said,

The Apostles received this commandment of love directly from our Lord, and they later practiced it...continuously. As a result, “Behold how loving Christians are to one another!” became a remark of admiration from [non-Christians]. Today “loving one another” is only a slogan the churches chant mechanically...[thus] it is impossible for God to be with [them]. May God have mercy upon us! (Timothy Lin, S.T.M., Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, p. 33).

Dr. Michael Green, in his book on the Christians of the first and second centuries, spoke of this. Dr. Green said that Christianity appealed to the pagan Romans because of “the power these Christians had to love each other” (Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, Eerdmans, 2003, p. 158).

III. Third, there is the Greek word “koinonia.”

It means fellowship, companionship, good company, friendship. Fellowship is the extension of agape love to each other in the church.

Some preachers have told me that we shouldn’t allow non-Christians to fellowship with us. In a sense they are right. The Bible says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). That verse has confused many people in the other churches. They think it means they should keep the “church kids” away from newer people. Dr. J. Vernon McGee has a good note on this. It is basically the same as what Dr. Thomas Hale said, “Paul says we are to have nothing to do with the [“works of darkness”]; he doesn’t say we are to have nothing to do with [lost people]…after all, Jesus Himself ate with sinners” (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997 edition, p. 780; note on Ephesians 5:11).

I like what Dr. Green says about the early churches of the first century. He said, “There was no hiding of doctrine from enquirers; there was no withholding of fellowship” (ibid., p. 218). "The unconverted pagans were brought right into the church, and to the fellowship, although they were not baptized for about three years" (ibid.).

Our Baptist churches today do it the other way around. They baptize new young people immediately, but they don’t want their children to fellowship with them. The early churches did it the right way.

Jack Hyles even had two buildings. One building was for the new kids who were bussed in. They even had a separate worship service! But the "real" church met in the original building. The “church kids” were kept away from the new kids. They were afraid the new kids would spoil their “precious” church kids!

When I first went to church as a teenager, I found that the church kids did everything possible to spoil me! I heard them talk about doing things far worse than what the lost kids in the world did. So this method of keeping the unchurched kids separate is not in the Bible, and it is not what the early churches did, when they were reaching literally millions for Christ!

I say we need to get rid of some of our “Sunday School” ideas. Bring the unsaved kids right in. Feed them a good meal. Give them a birthday party. Show them a good time – “after all, Jesus Himself ate with sinners” (Thomas Hale, ibid.). Sing the chorus of "Bring Them In!" 

Bring them in, bring them in,
    Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
    Bring the wand'ring ones to Jesus.
("Bring Them In" by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).

The crabby, old religious leaders found fault with Jesus. Matthew was a tax collector. Jesus called him, and Matthew followed Jesus. Then Matthew gave a great banquet in his house. Jesus and His twelve Disciples were there. Many publicans and sinners came in to eat with Jesus. The religious leaders thought Jesus was wrong. They said, “Why does He eat with these sinners?” Jesus answered, “I [have] not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).

Those preachers that are afraid of having too many sinners should think about that! I say, “Bring the sinners in! Bring as many as you can find! The more the merrier!” Bring them right into the fellowship, like Jesus did, like the early church did! "Bring Them In."  Sing the chorus!

Bring them in, bring them in,
    Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
    Bring the wand'ring ones to Jesus. 

Listen to the lively, powerful church of the First Century,

“They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship [koinonia!] and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).

Jack Hyles, and his adulterous son, and his fornicating-with-a-teenager-son-in-law – they are the ones that should have been in the “other” building! Keep them away, they might harm the unsaved new kids! Keep those ministerial “dogs” away from the lost young people! And bring the lost young people right into the main church. That’s right, bring in the lost – and shut out the fornicating Baptist Pharisees, and the spoiled brats in their Sunday Schools! Bring in the lost kids and we’ll have dinner and a birthday party – and watch old Popeye cartoons! Amen! And listen to this old preacher, and sing a few hymns, applaud and shout “Amen” – and have a great time!

Those three Greek words show us a lively, powerful church! “Kurios” – Lord – Christ is our Kurios! He is our Lord. Come back and learn of Christ, and follow Christ, and love Christ with all your heart! “Agapē” – “Christian love! Come back and we’re going to love you. And we are desperate to have you love us. The old Hippies talked about a “love in.” They called Woodstock a “love in.” The real “love in” is here in church! Come back to our love in! It will make Woodstock look like a Sunday School picnic! And then there is the word “koinonia.” It means fellowship, friendship, companionship, good company! Koinonia is fellowship. Fellowship is the extension of “agape” love in the local church!

Here we are! We’re waiting for you! Go soul winning with us this afternoon. Come back tonight! Come back Saturday night! Come and help us bring in others! Come and help us make this the church where young people can come and make good friends; where young people can come to have fun; where young people can come to become disciples of Christ – and soldiers of the cross! Amen! Sing hymn number one - "Onward, Christian Soldiers!"  Sing it! 

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before;
Christ the royal Master leads against the foe;
   Forward into battle, see His banners go.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus, going on before.

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

If this sermon blessed you please send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and
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Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can
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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Acts 2:42-47.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Church’s One Foundation” (by Samuel J. Stone, 1839-1900).


THE OUTLINE OF

THREE WORDS GIVE THE SECRET
OF THE EARLY CHURCH!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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).

I.   First, there is the Greek word “kurios,” Acts 10:36;
I Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; John 10:28; Matthew 16:24.

II.  Second, there is the Greek word “agapē,” John 13:34, 35.

III. Third, there is the Greek word “koinonia,” Ephesians 5:11;
Matthew 9:13; Acts 2:42, 47.