GLEN ROSE, TEXAS
Sunday, August 19, 2001
Glen River Chapel
The Power of the Early Church’s Conversions
Bible Reading -
METHODS OF SOULWINNING
There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents and there is great joy among believers when they learn that someone has made a decision to receive Christ as their Savior.
The goal and emphasis of the Church in the last half of the 20th century has been to bring people to the point of salvation. Many thousands have come to Christ in this way.
Those who specialize in follow-up ministries have reported a disturbing condition.
A high number of converts fail to complete any kind of Bible study course or become active in a local church after their decision.
One ministry that specializes in following up on hundreds of thousands of converts reports that the percentage of new converts who have taken further steps to get involved in growth as a Christian ranges between 3% and 5%.
Scripture records a far different response among those who were converted in the 1st century.
- Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:41-42, 46
42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 46And 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,
The test doesn’t say that 10% of them continued steadfastly, but rather the vast majority, if not all of them, continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers.
Not only did they follow through on their decision, but their testimony caused multitudes to be added to the church.
- And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
They were zealous of good works and spread the Gospel everywhere they went.
Soon the world was impacted by their witness, as noted by their enemies.
- And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
This was an unusual people in the early church.
They rejected earthly materialism, smiled in the face of ridicule and rejection, praised God for beatings and persecutions and “took joyfully” the spoiling of their goods.
- Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Acts 5:40-41 - And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Hebrews 10:34 - For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
What was it that made such a difference between the 1st century conversions and modern-day decisions?
1. They based their faith on the Word
The Bible says “then they that gladly received his word were baptized.”
Those in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were devout Jews and proselytes from many cities and nations. They had a thorough knowledge of Old Testament Scriptures and were able to understand Peter’s message when he quoted from these Scriptures.
Faith is necessary for salvation.
We are “saved by grace through faith” and “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God”.
Read the following passage.
Matthew 13:3-8 - 1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 18Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
The secret for lasting decisions is based on clear understanding of the Word of God.
This is illustrated in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch.
He had the Scriptures, but could not understand them until Philip explained how they spoke of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for him.
But when the eunuch understood the message, he eagerly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and was baptized.
The Power of Love was Transferred
The same power of the Holy Spirit that came “upon” the disciples in the upper room was transferred through their lives and message to the multitudes who heard them.
The love of those who were converted was so great that they sold their possessions and distributed the money to other believers and those in need.
Love is most effectively demonstrated through true generosity.
The power of Stephen’s love was demonstrated as he forgave the ones who were killing him in Acts 7:59-60 - And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
The sequence of receiving more love through the power of the Holy Spirit, by properly responding to persecutions and tribulation, is clearly taught in Scripture.
- Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
The Law was Used to Bring Conviction
The goal of the Holy Spirit is to produce genuine brokenness and conviction in the heart of the sinner.
This is accomplished by bringing every person face to face with the holy Law of God.
The Apostle Paul explains how effective the Law is in bringing about conviction of sin.
- What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
The trap is that we think we need better follow-up.
The real need is that when we preach the Gospel, we need to use the Law to awaken the hearers.
According to the Annual Church Ministries Report (of a major denomination in the U.S.) of 11,500 churches, the combined fellowship was able to obtain 294,784 decisions for Christ in 1991. However, they could only find 14,337 in fellowship. That means they could not account for 280,000 of their decisions.
Paul describes the law as a “schoolmaster” that brings us to Christ. In Paul’s day, the schoolmaster was not the teacher, but a trusted slave who was a stern disciplinarian. He was responsible to take a child of nobility to the master teacher.
In an effort to bring people to Christ, man well-meaning believers have assured non-Christians that if they will receive Christ they will have a happier life.
This is only true if tribulation, persecution, trials, temptations and distresses can be defined as happiness.
These circumstances are actually sources of joy, when viewed as the means for receiving greater power from the Holy Spirit.
Most new believers are totally unprepared for trials and tribulations. They become disillusioned with Christianity and turn their backs on it, not realizing that the trials were designed to test their faith and obedience so that the power of the Holy Spirit may come upon them.
Now, going back to the day of Pentecost, the primary thrust of Peter’s message was to prove through the Law and the prophets that Jesus was the anointed One of God, whom they had took and had by wicked hands crucified and slain.
The Scripture says, “when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
4. The Appeal was Made to the Conscience
Appealing to the mind seems logical, but doesn’t work because the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God.
Appealing to the emotions can be done through music that appeals to the soul, and not the spirit, however, when the emotions change, the decision may change also.
An appeal to the will is important but is not from the heart and can be temporary.
An appeal to the conscience involves bringing a person to accept personal responsibility for his own actions.
The entire multitude was cut to the heart as Peter proved from the OT that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 2:36 - Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.)
They “Called Out” For Salvation
While some may think this only a matter of semantics, there seems to be a difference in the Scripture between prayer and “a call”.
Peter said “call” in Acts 2:21 - And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Paul said in Romans 10:12-14 - For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
The very purpose of a “cry” is to signify unconditional surrender and a conquering of pride. It is an acknowledgement of our helplessness and a plea for God’s mercy. It is saying to God, “I cannot do this, God, you must do it”. This not to say that anyone who “prays” for salvation will not be heard. The emphasis here is that the attitude of the heart is in the right condition when one “calls on the name of the Lord”.
6. The Need for Baptism was Taught
This produced a further bond with the believers.
It pictured the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
This means that the focus of baptism is dying to oneself and rising to a new life in Christ.
Without this, carnality can develop in the church.
In the Corinthian church, they developed a loyalty over who baptized them. If they had the right understanding of baptism, this could have been avoided.
See I Corinthias 1:12-15 - Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
The mark of a true believer in Christ is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
But his role is not limited to only renewing our spirit.
He also gives us power to overcome sin, lead us in all truth, comfort us in time of need and renew our mind.
That is why we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit and not to grieve or quench the Spirit. He is the source of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness and faith.
The same power that clothed the disciples and gave them love for the ministry was available to the multitude. It is available today as well.
It is an important decision to be filled with the Holy Spirit (in our soul).
It is a believer’s responsibility to yield his body to the control of the Holy Spirit.
The power of the Spirit is available for the fiery trials and temptations that we will experience and must joyfully welcome.
I Peter 4:12-17 - Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?