Special Study: Evangelism in the Book of Acts

New Testament church growth is fascinating and all too foreign to our modern church experience. How did the church grow so quickly and effectively in the book of Acts? Is it merely that we live in a generation of hard hearted and stiffnecked people, or are there strategies or methods that we are failing to follow? What did evangelism under the direct, miraculous, guidance of the Holy Spirit look like and how did it differ from what we see and do today?


Introduction:

  1. Evangelism - the teaching and promotion of the good news of Jesus Christ for the purpose of conversion.
  2. The Acts of the Apostles is the historical account of the initiation of this process. repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem - Lk. 24:47.
  3. Luke reiterates the closing words of his previous treatise of what Jesus began to do and teach up until his ascension: infallible proofs of resurrection, promise of the Holy Spirit, instruction to wait in Jerusalem, and the commission as witnesses.
  4. Jesus gives a four phase plan in which the world would be evangelized. 1:8 - you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth
    1. Jerusalem
    2. Judea
    3. Samaria
    4. Rest of the world
  5. These phases overlap and are interrelated.
  6. Overview of Phases:
    1. Jerusalem
      1. Pentecost - Acts 2
        1. The first episode of evangelistic preaching
        2. The audience included not only locals but also Jews from every nation under heaven. (v. 5)
        3. They were attracted by the sound and were amazed by the miraculous tongues. (v. 6-12)
        4. Peter preached Jesus whom they had crucified as Lord and Christ. (v. 22-36)
        5. Many responded positively to the message and were added to the church (v. 37-41)
        6. Conversion continued on a daily basis. (v. 47)
      2. Solomon's Porch - Acts 3
        1. While going to the temple for prayer, Peter and John got the attention of the
        2. people when they healed a lame man. (v. 1-10)
        3. Peter credited God with the miracle and convicted the multitude of the
        4. crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (v. 12-26)
        5. The apostles were arrested by the temple guard but many more believed.
      3. The apostles were imprisoned and put on trial several times during this period and were released the first time due to the significant miracle and fear of the multitudes and the second time because of Gamaliel's advice. This persecution served only to empower and embolden the apostles and the church. (5:42)
      4. Pattern
  7. The apostles (and church) followed an evangelistic pattern of :

-performing miracles and preaching to the attracted crowd
-teaching in the temple daily (5:42)
-individuals homes (5:42)

  1. They consistently followed a course of civil obedience when restrained.
  2. Their work produced good results.
    -that day three thousand souls were added to them (2:38)

    -the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (2:47)

    -many of those who heard the word believed . . . the number of the men came to be about five thousand (4:4)

    -and believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes (5:14)

    -the number of the disciples was multiplying (6:1)

  1. Chapter 6 indicates a turn to more difficult times for evangelism in Jerusalem.
    1. The resistance to "The Way" and indignation against it had reached a climax. Six men were chosen to help serve the widows in the church and also teach publicly. Stephen preached to the Jews in chapter seven and was subsequently stoned to death. Because of this, a great persecution arose against the church and many christians were scattered to surrounding areas which officially began a new phase of evangelism.
  2. Judea
    1. The initial advent of Christianity for the areas surrounding Jerusalem also began at Pentecost. Some of the converted Jews of chapter two were most likely from Judean cities. Therefore, Pentecost planted the seeds of Christian fellowships all around Judea.
    2. Also, since Jerusalem and all the public work of the apostles and church were so close to these villages, the scriptures indicate that multitudes of them gathered there and were influenced. (5:16)
    3. However, the most pronounced Judean evangelistic effort occurred following the great persecution of chapter eight. The text indicates that some of the scattered christians came to Judea. (8:1)
    4. Immediately after the great persecution, the apostles stayed at Jerusalem.
      1. However, following Paul's conversion, Peter went out and visited all the area including Joppa where many believed on the Lord because of his work. (9:31-42)
  3. Samaria
    1. Samaria probably did not receive new christians from the Pentecost events.
    2. The greatest influx of the gospel occurred following Stephen's death and the persecution. (8:1-25)
      1. Phillip, one of the six, went to the city of Samaria to preach the gospel.
      2. He followed the same pattern of miracles and preaching.
      3. They believed his teaching and were baptized.
      4. Peter and John visited to confer the miraculous ability.
    3. Peter and John left and preached the gospel to many Samaritan villages. (v.25)
    4. Following Paul's conversion, Peter visited all parts of the country. (9:32)
    5. Following the persecution and Paul's conversion, the church enjoyed peace and prosperity - Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified . . . they were multiplied. (9:31)
    6. Then, an extremely important event occurred at the house of Cornelius as God showed Peter and the Jewish Christians that the gospel was for the Gentiles also. - Acts 10. This opened up a brand new evangelistic arena.
  4. Gentiles
    1. The apostle Paul was given the special assignment of taking the gospel to the gentiles,
    2. "apostle to the gentiles". He would ultimately make three evangelistic, missionary
    3. Journeys westward through Asia and southern Europe and finally make a final trip to Rome where he would complete his ministry. The infrastructure for the West Asian and European church had already been laid through the return of the converted Jews from Pentecost back home. (e.g. Aquila and Priscilla)
    4. Mission to Galatia
      1. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned by the Holy Spirit and conferred by their Church in Syrian Antioch to begin an evangelistic trip through Galatia (13:1-3).
      2. With John Mark as their assistant, the team sailed first to Cyprus, the home of Barnabas. The targeted Salamis and Paphos, two principle cities.
      3. As was their usual pattern, they preached first at synagogues where Jews and Gentile God fearers were present. Then they turned to the Gentile public.
      4. This mission focused on large cities such as Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra Derbe. The word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region, 13:49.
        1. However, they found strong resistance from the unbelieving Jews who followed them and stirred up the Gentiles against them even causing Paul to be stoned.
      5. After making many disciples, they backtracked through those same cities and strengthened the souls of the disciples - 14:22. They exhorted the christians and appointed elders in every church. - 14:23
      6. Paul and Barnabas returned to their home-base of Antioch and stayed there a long time.
    5. Aegean Mission
      1. Following the Jerusalem council concerning gentiles and the Law of Moses, Paul and Barnabas delivered the report to Antioch. They decided to go and revisit the places where they had preached on the previous trip and see how the disciples were doing. However, a sharp contention arose over John Mark as he did not complete the first mission with them but returned home. Therefore, Barnabas took John Mark and went back to Cyprus, and Paul chose Silas and went westward into Galatia.
      2. They strengthened the churches as they went (15:41), and returned to Derbe and Lystra. They picked up a young disciple named Timothy and added him to the mission. The churches in this region were strengthened in faith and increased in number daily. (16:5)
      3. The team wanted to preach in "Asia" (the region of Ephesus) and Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. Instead, Paul had a vision of a Macedonian Man calling for them. So, they headed for Phillipi, the "foremost city" of that region.
      4. The following events contain the conversions of such people as Lydia and the Jailer. The team suffered punishment here as they were beaten and placed in prison.
      5. They continued the mission into Macedonia through such places as Thessalonica and Berea convincing many Gentiles and stirring up the jealous Jews who followed them from city to city.
      6. To avoid trouble, Paul went ahead to Athens to wait for Timothy and Silas. While there, he was stirred up by the idolatry and preached the gospel.
        1. He reasoned with them from their perspective finding common ground and even quoting one of their own poets. (Acts 17)
      7. Paul went into Corinth and found Aquila and Priscilla. He stayed their eighteen months teaching. He left went to Ephesus on way back to Syria. (Acts 18)
    6. Third Missionary Journey
      1. This started out from Antioch as a repeat of the second trip. They went through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples. (18:23)
      2. He stayed at Ephesus for a while, then went through Macedonia and encouraged them with many words on his way to Greece where he stayed three months. (20:2) He then returned to Asia with a group of workers from various places.
      3. Paul is bound to return to Jerusalem for Pentecost. (20:15)
    7. Trip to Rome
      1. Paul appeals to Caesar during his trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea. He eventually makes it to Rome where he is allowed to live under "house-arrest" and then in his own rented house as he freely taught the gospel to many visitors.
  5. Principles and Applications:
    1. Strategy:
      1. Strong base of operation
        • Jerusalem
        • Antioch
      2. Launched work in incremental waves
        • progressive extent of the three mission trips
        • concentric areas
      3. Team Effort
        • two by two - Lk. 10:10
        • the general pattern in Acts
        • individually was the exception
      4. Focused on population centers
        • Phillipi, "foremost city" of Macedonia
        • the missions focused around population centers
        • to establish more strong bases.
      5. Reinforced the established work
        • important part of work was to revisit established churches
        • strengthen any weak links in the chain.
    2. Public Teaching:
      1. Exposure to large audiences
        • synagogues
        • public assemblies, i.e. Ephesus and Athens
      2. Reasoned with them
        • description of how Paul approached teaching others
        • simple presentation of the evidence
      3. Taught from their perspective
        • common ground
        • Acts 17 - Athenians - extra-biblical reasoning and familiar literature
    3. Personal Teaching:
      1. Private meetings
        • Paul met Lydia at a place common for prayer (16:13)
        • Phillip met the eunuch through providential meeting (Acts 8)
        • Teaching in homes - (20:20)
      2. Taught Jesus as the ground of salvation
        • Phillip preached Jesus to the Eunuch (8:35)
        • Paul told the jailer "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (16:35)
      3. Became all things to all men
        • Paul submitting to purification rites on return to Jerusalem (21:26)