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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, March 31, 2007
“They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. And in those days…the number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 5:42; 6:1).
The Greek word translated “preach” in verse 42 is “euaggelidzesthai.” The fundamental root word is “euaggelidzo,” literally “to evangelize.” Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said that it is “the full sense of preaching the Gospel” (Lenski, The Acts of the Apostles, Augsburg, 1961 reprint, p. 238). Dr. Ellicott said, “The word for ‘preach’ is literally to ‘evangelize’” (Charles John Ellicott, Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan, n.d., volume VII, p. 32). This shows us the central place of evangelistic preaching in the early church at Jerusalem. “They ceased not to teach and [evangelize, proclaim the good news about] Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
The vast majority of the messages that the Apostles preached were evangelistic sermons. That does not mean they were simplistic sermons. It does not mean that their preaching contained no “meat.” Not at all! The meat of their sermons was Christ! And Christ is strong enough meat to make any sinner into a disciple! The sermons the Apostles preached were Christ-centered sermons. Dr. Gill said,
They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, truly and properly God, the only Saviour of sinners: they preached up the dignity of his person, the grace of his incarnation, the obedience of his life, the benefits of his suffering and death; they preached his resurrection from the dead, and the resurrection of the dead through him; they declared his ascension to heaven, his session at the right hand of God, and intercession for his people; they preached peace and pardon by his blood, atonement of sin by his sacrifice, justification by his righteousness, and complete redemption and salvation by him. And this they did without ceasing (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 8, pages 188-189).
Dr. Gill gave sixteen points of the Gospel that the Apostles preached evangelistically “without ceasing” in that list above. And I think he was right because all sixteen of those points are found in the Apostles’ preaching in the Book of Acts and the Epistles, which describe the subjects of their Christ-centered preaching, their evangelistic preaching. A man would have to preach at least three times on each of those sixteen themes of the Gospel to have people grasp the points and fully understand them. Thus 48 evangelistic sermons or more could be preached on these Gospel themes in a church without losing the attention of the people, and you would then be preaching like the Apostles instead of the way many of those who give "motivational" Bible studies do today! By adding a few sermons on Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming, the local church, a Christmas sermon, an Easter sermon, and a New Year’s sermon, that would fill a year with evangelistic preaching on these great central truths and doctrines of Christ – real Gospel preaching!
We try our best in our church to do exactly what they did. We preach all sixteen of those points of the Gospel repeatedly, as they did, “without ceasing.”
Someone may criticize that and say, “You are not feeding the sheep.” But would they dare to say that the Apostles’ preaching did not “feed” them? And yet a careful study of the Book of Acts will show that the early Christians were “fed” constantly on the sixteen points of the Gospel that Dr. Gill listed.
What was the result of this continual emphasis on evangelistic preaching on the cardinal doctrines of Christ by the Apostles? Was the result weak and underfed Christians? Not at all! The result was given in the very next verse, Acts 6:1,
“the number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 6:1).
The number of disciples multiplied under constant evangelistic preaching, centered on the deep doctrines of the Gospel of Christ. It was the preaching of these Gospel themes about Christ that produced more and more disciples! They heard evangelistic preaching (and little else) and it made many Jews and heathen Romans into strong disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, so strong that they were often willing to die for Christ!
So, I conclude from this passage in the Book of Acts, that the way to produce strong new disciples is to “teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Then the number of the disciples [will be] multiplied!
Disciples are not made by verse-by-verse studies, a method brought into our churches in the late nineteenth century by the Plymouth Brethren movement. There were some good men in that movement, but their verse-by-verse method has failed to produce disciples. It is so evident that it failed to actually make new disciples in the twentieth century that I hardly need to comment. That method should be thrown out on the ash heap of history, and replaced by apostolic preaching – preaching that is centered in the fulness of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ – evangelistic preaching at its best, as the Apostles did it, without ceasing.
Someone may say, “But I am a pastor. A pastor should not concentrate on Gospel preaching, but on teaching the Christians.” I strongly disagree. We are told in the Bible that every pastor should,
“Do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5).
And if a pastor does not do the work of an evangelist, he is untrue to the command of that verse! No wonder so many churches are filled with carnal, unconverted people! The preachers are often trying to turn goats into disciples by “feeding” them! It won’t work. You can “feed” unconverted goats for years and they will still be goats! Only the applied depths of strong Gospel preaching can be used of God to turn them from being goats into true disciples!
And the best place to preach the Gospel is in the local church,
“The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
Let “decisionists” mock you for working with all your might to get lost people under the sound of Gospel preaching in the local church. Let them say that this is an outdated method, and downgrade it. They are wrong. It is the way of all the old preachers before “decisionism” ruined evangelism. For instance the people who were members of Spurgeon’s church worked all week to get lost people to church to hear the Gospel on Sundays at Spurgeon’s Tabernacle. Dr. John R. Rice often said that people called Spurgeon’s church, “a soul trap.” The people who were brought in to hear Spurgeon preach the Gospel (as he invariably did) were caught in the “soul trap” and thousands were converted. So, I say again, let the “decisionists” mock you for working with all your might to get lost people, including friends and relatives and others, in to the local church, “the pillar and ground of the truth,” to hear plain Gospel preaching, evangelistic preaching, centered in the great Christ-centered themes given by Dr. Gill. Let them mock you for continually preaching the Gospel. Meanwhile, our church continues to work with all its might to preach Christ, and then deal at length with those who do not know Christ, until the pastor and deacons are sure that they are converted, until they have a real testimony of salvation in Jesus Christ! Let our church be a “soul trap,” like Spurgeon’s church, a church that gets lost people out of the clutches of Satan and into the hands of Jesus. Let us follow the pattern of the early church at Jerusalem where,
“They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. And [where] the number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 5:42; 6:1).
Let’s make our church an evangelistic “soul trap” for the Lord Jesus Christ!
Please stand and sing this great poem by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, founding pastor of the famous People’s Church in Toronto, Canada. We have set it to the music of “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley. If you sing the first two stanzas as one, and the second two as one, it fits that tune perfectly. Please stand and sing it with gusto!
Give us a watchword for the hour,
A thrilling word, a word of power,
A battle cry, a flaming breath
That calls to conquest or to death.
A word to rouse the church from rest,
To heed the Master’s [strong request].
The call is given: Ye hosts, arise,
Our watchword is, evangelize!
The glad evangel now proclaim,
Through all the earth, in Jesus’ name;
This word is ringing through the skies:
To dying men, a fallen race,
Make known the gift of Gospel grace;
The world that now in darkness lies,
(“Evangelize! Evangelize!” by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, 1889-1986;
to the tune of “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).
And may God help each one of us to do exactly that. Amen.
Click here to read "Let's Do the 'Follow Up' First!"
Click here to read “Continual Evangelism.”
(END OF SERMON)
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