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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, March 3, 2024

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47; p. 1152 Scofield).

The explosion of Christianity in the first century is one of the most remarkable events in human history. I have chosen the word “explosion” carefully. Christianity was discharged like a bullet from a gun. It burst upon the pagan world with such force that within a few decades it reached the farthest corners of the Roman Empire, penetrated Africa, and reached as far as India and China.

And yet this vast outreach occurred without most of the trappings and methods associated with evangelism in our time. This was the work of God, not the work of man, as our text so clearly illustrates,

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

Drawing from that remarkable verse, we see that the fruit of evangelism ultimately depends on “the Lord,” rather than man, or man’s ideas, thoughts and schemes. In this message, I will point out (1) what the early Christians did not have in their evangelism, and (2) what they did have.

I. First, what they did not have in their evangelism.

1. They did not have Bibles. Remember that the printing press was not invented until many centuries later. All Bibles were written by hand on scrolls, which were very expensive and were kept in the synagogues. The Christians had no Bibles in their homes or meeting places. Also, remember that most of the New Testament was not even written when the explosion of Christianity began. Yes, I know someone will point out that the Ethiopian Eunuch had a copy of Isaiah (Acts 8:28). But it should be remembered that this man was the rare exception. He was a wealthy man “of great authority” (Acts 8:27). Few if any others would have owned a copy of any book of the Old Testament – and the New Testament had not yet been written!

Why do I make the point that Christianity exploded without printed Bibles? Simply because the modern presupposition is wrong. Today we think that if everyone has a Bible, and is taught the Bible verse by verse, that they will “grow in Christ” and evangelism will occur. But this presupposition is false.

I am not saying that we should discard our Bibles. But I am saying that in China today there is a great movement of millions of people, who are becoming Christians, and yet Bibles are very scarce there. At the same time, the number of true Christians is growing very little (if at all) here in the West. In America, the number of churches is actually declining. And yet there is a copy of a Gideon’s Bible in nearly every hotel room!

They tell us that we need modern translations. That, they say, will help us. But the early Christians had no translations at all! – no Bibles, period!

So, I am simply saying that this explosion of Christianity occurred without printed Bibles. That startling fact is worth thinking about for several hours – at least!

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

This was done without printed Bibles, and without the New Testament – for it had not yet been written. It was done without verse-by-verse teaching, for there were no verses, even in the scrolls in the synagogues! The verses were divided centuries later.

2. Not only were these early Christians without Bibles, they also had no “altar calls.” How can you have evangelism without altar calls – without an “invitation”? That’s a good question – one that is worth thinking about for several hours – at least! And while you are thinking about it, remember that no Baptist church on earth had an altar call before the procedure was introduced for the first time by a man named Jacob Knapp in the 1830s. How did Baptists grow? How were hundreds of thousands of them evangelized without a single altar call? Good questions – worthy of much thought. The Baptists grew by the tens of thousands, just as the early churches did, without ever giving an invitation and an altar call.

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

“Ah, I see where you’re coming from now,” someone says, “you are a five point Calvinist.” No, I’m afraid that your answer is too simplistic – because I am not a five-point Calvinist. So, you are back to facing the question – how did the early Christians and the pre-Knapp Baptists get so many conversions without ever giving an altar call? I am simply saying that you are faced with that question – and it is well worth thinking about for several hours – at least!

3. Also, the early Christians never said a “sinner’s prayer” with anyone. There is not a single incident or even a mention of anyone ever saying a “sinner’s prayer” with anyone in the New Testament. It just is not there! It’s not in the four Gospels. It’s not in the Book of Acts. It’s not in the Epistles. The “sinner’s prayer” is not in the Bible because the early Christians never said such a prayer with any lost person. That’s a fact, and it is a fact worth thinking about for several hours – at least!

4. I could go on, but I will give just one more. The early Christians saw an explosion of their faith without any of the trappings of a modern “worship service.” No overhead projectors. No PowerPoint videos. No snare drums. No “worship leaders.” None of that. It just isn’t there. The early Christians had no Bibles, no “altar calls,” no “sinner’s prayers,” and no trappings of a modern “worship service.” And yet,

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

II. Second, what they did have in their evangelism.

1. They had prayer – and lots of it. Not a “worship service,” mind you! It was “prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). It was “prayers” (Acts 2:42). It was “when they had prayed” that the evangelism was effectual (Acts 4:31). “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church” (Acts 12:5). They did not have a Bible study followed by one or two prayers for one hour on Wednesday night! No, I’m sorry, but the Wednesday night Bible study followed by a couple of short, dry prayers, is not in the New Testament! They had a great deal of prayer, at times “without ceasing.” I believe this to be one of the key elements in effective evangelism. We see it all through the Book of Acts. We see it in China today – where a similar explosion of evangelism is taking place. We simply must have more prayer in the gathered church, or we will go on in a stagnant, dying condition. They depended on God in prayer,

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

They had prayer, congregational prayer, prayer in the gathered local church – and lots of it!

2. Next, they had fellowship – and lots of it! Notice how they were always eating together. You couldn’t get the Christians together without them sitting down to have a meal together. That is one of the outstanding things you will notice if you think about the New Testament when you read it. Those people were always eating together! They “did eat their meat with gladness” (Acts 2:46), literally “eating their meals together with gladness.” You know, those early Christians had a common meal together every time they met. They had a meal together, and then they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. The Apostle Paul did not tell them they were wrong to do that. Not at all! He merely corrected the abuse of it. They had a dinner connected with the preaching service. Dr. John MacArthur, though wrong on the Blood, is correct when he says that the early Christians had a meal together every day (The MacArthur Study Bible, note on Acts 2:46).

You will see this on the mission field, in the Third World, in Asia and Africa. They meet together and have a meal afterwards. Here in America, people want to run home or to McDonald’s. No wonder our evangelism is so weak! People need to be brought together for a meal – the oftener the better. If all we offer is a one-hour service, followed by the Christians rushing away, how can we expect to draw people from the world? What do we have to offer them? How can we expect them to leave the world and join us if we only have one hour for them? What will they do with the rest of their time? So, you see, the early Christians met every day.

It seems strange to me that we spend so much time on little kids in American churches, and then, when they graduate from high school, we just let them go. After they graduate from high school, off they go somewhere – right at the very time we should focus on them most – and bring in others their age. I believe that our main focus of evangelism should be on college-age young people, at secular college campuses. Yet most of our churches neglect this field almost completely. No wonder we fail to reach them – and fail to keep 88% of the college-age young people who are raised in the church. You can’t keep the kids in the church unless there is a constant stream of new kids coming in all the time.

We simply must have more fellowship. We simply must spend more time together, talking, eating, and having fellowship! The local church cannot be a “counter culture” without it!

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

3. And, finally, they had preaching! They had preaching – and lots of it! The Greek word is “kerusso.” Preaching! “To herald (as a public crier)” (Strong #2784). Not more teaching. There’s another Greek word for that – but preaching! You have to cry aloud to do that! That’s what Peter did. He “lifted up his voice” and preached to them (Acts 2:14). And what was the subject of their preaching? Read the Book of Acts. Every recorded sermon but one was centered on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. They could hardly preach a sermon without centering on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ from the dead. And how often do we hear that subject today? No wonder American evangelism is so fruitless!

My assignment every Sunday is to proclaim the gospel – the death of Christ to pay for your sins – the physical resurrection of Christ – to give you eternal life. The crying need of this hour is gospel preaching – preaching on the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus – just like the first century preachers did!

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

When we have prayed, when we have eaten together and fellowshipped together, and when we have preached the gospel of Christ to you – it is still a fruitless effort if God does not move your heart – and draw you to Christ, and draw you in to this local church. May He grant that it be so. Amen.