Snapshots from Acts number 3 - the Message and the Messengers
As we considered the growth of the Church we saw that it was accompanied or preceded by the sharing of the message by men and women. That is how faith comes. Romans 10:17; "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
There were no letters, as we have in the New Testament today, to refer to as the message went out because they were still to be written. What these messengers had was simply the facts about Jesus and that they shared - who he was and what he came to do.
1. Peter on the day of Pentecost - Acts 2:14-41. Here is a great example of a ten minute sermon. Starting in the Old Testament, Peter moved on to the evidence presented by Jesus (his accreditation), the witness to Jesus' resurrection and then he, Peter, convicted the people present of their sin. He also offered a solution namely salvation in the name of Jesus which resulted in the peoples' obedience to the gospel. An important fact that Peter made was that Jesus rose from the dead as testified to all by the empty tomb. It is interesting that no other religious leader can make that claim even today.
2. Peter after the healing of the cripple. Acts 3:11-26. Here again Peter tells about the death of Jesus, linking it with what the Old Testament Prophets taught. Keep in mind these in the audience were Jews. "Repent then and turn to God, so that your sins can be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord" (Acts 3:19 NIV)
3 Peter and John speaking to the people. Acts 4:1,2. The religious leaders were concerned by the message proclaimed by Peter and John, that is that Jesus had risen from the dead. This threatened their religious and political power which was very closely tied together.
4. Peter before the Sanhedrin. Acts 4:8-12; 18-20. It is interesting that the message was courageously taken out by these "unschooled" and "ordinary men". Do we qualify in this way today?
5.Stephen to the Jews. Acts 7:1-56. Sometimes the message evoked and still often evokes such a powerful, if negative, response that the very life of the messenger is put in danger bringing new meaning to the cliché "don't kill the messenger". After all that is exactly what they did to Jesus as he brought the message of love from his Father in heaven and now what happened to Stephen.
6. The people who were scattered by persecution. Acts 8:4-8. Sometimes negative events can lead to positive opportunities and so here again "ordinary" members of the church took the message of salvation with them wherever they went and shared it.
7. Phillip and the Ethiopian. Acts 8:26-40. Someone searching for God meets someone who has the message and with help from the Holy Spirit the messenger with the message meets the man in need. Surely God still works in this way!
8. Saul in the synagogues. Acts 9:20-22; 26-28 (cp.1 Cor. 1:20-25) Every opportunity that Paul identified was an opportunity that he used. The Good News was always on his heart and lips and many heard and obeyed the invitation.
9. Peter to the Gentiles. Acts 10:27-48. Cornelius, a man who prayed, gave alms and obviously wanted to find favour with his God gladly received a messenger. A new step in the spread of the Gospel was taken here as Peter realizes: "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:47,48 - NIV translation) This has been referred to as "the Gentile Pentecost". Compare 1 Peter 3:21"...baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ".
10. The scattered in Phoenicia, Cyprus and Cyrene. Acts 11:19-21. Here again the people "scattered by persecution" shared the message firstly with the Jews and then with the Gentiles, simply described by Luke as "the good news about the Lord Jesus".
11. Saul and Barnabas on Cyprus. Acts 13:1-5. Here the church in Antioch sent out Barnabas and Saul to take the "word of God" to Cyprus and further.
12 Paul in Pisidian, Antioch. Acts 13:13-49. Luke records in some detail the words of Saul, who now has become known as Paul, to the Jews in the synagogue. Again the message started in Old Testament prophecy and ended in the message of the crucified Christ who was raised from death by God.
The second half of Acts chronicles the rest of Paul's missionary journeys and his courage in personally spreading the Good News in the world of his time. Same message but in different settings.
Some basic principles from these messengers and their message.
1. Preaching the message was almost always done to the lost, even if they did not believe they were in that dangerous spiritual situation.
2. The evidence of who Christ was, is emphasised and then the credentials to prove this were presented: Acts 2:22 ".. Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you..." Compare John 20:30,31.
3. The essential proof of the Good News was that of the resurrection. (Acts 13:36-38)
4. The message was presented as good news and offered salvation: Acts 2:38 - Peter replied," Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit".
5. The hearers always understood the message and it brought forth a response. Sometimes negative, but on most occasions it was positive. Preaching about the Good News still has that effect on people today.
References: Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.