Missions and Acts - the Message

Kaitiaki's picture

Basically this is just a "what do we learn about the Church from Acts?" thread. As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole? Robert suggested my original plan was too cumbersome so asked me to create new threads.

Thread Moderator - Kaitiaki

As we study Acts is seems there is a clear difference between the way many Churches today preach the Gospel and the way it was done in Acts. Is this a reality we might ask or is it only an impression? Then too there is a difference in the content of Paul's sermon in Acts 17 when compared with Peter's in Acts 2. We look at the message preached in Acts and its implications for preaching today.

Does the preaching of Acts Chapter 2 (Peter's sermon at Pentecost) provide us with an example of the approach we should be taking with those who have a Judeo/Christian heritage (ie those who know and accept the Bible framework but who don't accept Jesus as the Messiah)? On this view, Acts 17 (Paul on Mars Hill) would provide us with an example of the approach to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible world-life view (and that includes the majority of today's society - those who accept the evolutionary view). What part, if any, do you think the Creation - Evolution debate has to play in Home missions work?

CLARK E. WADE's picture

Some thoughts on modern "preaching".

"According to most preaching today, a person could easily make the judgment that Jesus did not come to give us his life, but to give us principles to live by. Yes, it is fair to say that Christ is not the end of popular preaching today. It could easily be deduced from your nearest pulpit that Christ was a mighty philosopher who has given us morals, values, and principles to follow… that we might find happiness on earth. It is often presented that if we will learn the right formula… all will be well with the soul." The Problem with Modern-Day Preaching" by David D. Flowers

Hello brothers,

It's a bold proposition to compare the church practices of the book of Acts with our own present day. If we are honest to the heavenly vision, we see the chasm between then and now is as far as the east is from the west.

Watchman Nee writes of this chasm in “The Normal Christian Church Life:”

“We must return to the beginning, to the "genesis" of the church, to see what He said and did then. It is there we find the highest expression of His will. Acts is the "genesis" of the church's history, and the church in the time of Paul is the "genesis" of the Spirit's work. Conditions in the church today are vastly different from what they were then, but these present conditions could never be our example, or our authoritive guide; we must return to the "beginning." Only what God has set forth as our example in the beginning is the eternal will of God.”

Alas, much of the church world today uses the present practices and traditions as the authoritive guide rather than return to, and be informed by the NT pattern.

Paul warned us not to be taken in by "human traditions":

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Col.2:8).

Much of the church world today can truly be said to be dependent on "human traditions" rather than the vitality and genius of the apostolic traditions given to us through scripture. In deed, Paul praised those who held to those traditions (2 Thes. 2:15). I think it's a good thing to see what those traditions were, compare to what we have now, and hopefully, return to the primacy of the apostolic traditions in order to recover Christ's heart and mind for HIS church.

The apostles, prophets, and evangelists of the New Testament preached the Person and the Message of Jesus Christ Acts 5:42. One of the main differences I hear between the preaching of today and then is this lack of centrality to Christ. What I often hear being "preached" is not Christ but the bible. Preachers take these stories out of the bible and look for spiritual principles to preach on. They often look at the bible as this cornucopia of moral and spiritual topics. The one thing I always look for in a sermon is Jesus Christ, for all spiritual blessings are hidden in HIM (Eph. 1:3). Christ is the content and the context of the scriptures.

We see this in the way Jesus opened up the scriptures concerning Himself on the Emmaus road (Luke 24). We see it as well in His statement to the Pharisees:

You diligently search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life and they point to Me, but you won't come to Me for that life (John 5:39).

And I love the story of Jesus in the synagogue in Jerusalem. Remember, HE stood up and read the prophet Isaiah concerning Himself. After HE was through reading the passage, HE “closed the book, and every eye was on HIM” (Luke 4:20).

Authentic, apostolic preaching will use scripture to focus the eyes, attention, and devotion on Jesus Christ.

And then there is the "purpose" of preaching in the New Testament compared to today. If we take our queue from Paul, he preached Christ and HIM crucified to anyone who would listen in order to start ekklesias in the locality that was responsive to his preaching. He never set up preaching centers where the brethren that responded to his preaching would sit in pews to listen to his preaching week after week. We never see a one-man ministry in these new congregations, nor do we see the central reason for the brethren assembling to listen to sermons.

The preaching of the gospel belonged to "the work" but the gathering of the ekklesia is for the purpose of edifying "one another" and not for listening to sermons.

There is one passage in the entire NT that speaks of brothers assembling together and it is Hebrews 10:25:

"Do not forsake to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people..."

And then if this verse is read on through, it also gives the reason brothers are to assemble together and no mention is made here of the importance of listening to preachers:

"...but admonish (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."

The NT church is a face-to-face church. The preaching of the gospel is the seed of such churches, but only the seed. The next task of apostolic planters was to equip the saints to build up the body of Christ, to edify one another, without the benefit of a clergy class leading the meetings. The churches today, compared with the book of Acts are more or less "performance-driven." People gather together, not to encourage one another as is exhorted in scripture, but to watch a religious performance and to listen to preachers.

Jesus said, "Whenever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst" (Mat. 18:20).

In my mind, this speaks of the singular Headship of Jesus Christ. To "gather in His name" is to be focused on Christ as the Leader and Pastor and Priest and Preacher. This is what we see in Acts 13:1 that is so missing in today's churches:

"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work in which I have called them."

Now this is a NT church meeting. I believe these brothers knew the Presence of the Lord in a reality that is much hidden to us today. They were in hot pursuit of Jesus Christ. He was the unabashed focus of their meetings together. This kind of meeting wasn't a "bible study" or a "preaching center." It was something much higher. And the Lord invaded that meeting to set apart "Barnabas and Saul" to HIS own work.

Isn't it interesting how God's calling was a public event that took place in the context of a special kind of gathering, "in Jesus' name", a fellowship, a communion around the Lord Jesus Christ by these God-filled, Christ-shaped, Jesus-hungry brothers?

So many meetings today are not "in Jesus' name" but in the name of charismatic preachers, or teachings, or bible exegesis, or in the name of a denomination, but the presence of Christ is plainly absent. Where is the hunger for HIM in our assemblies, for HIS actual Presence in our midst?

And even as important, where is the every-member functioning that was so prominent in the early church that was the fruit of apostolic equipping?

“Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you TEACH AND ADMONISH AND TRAIN ONE ANOTHER IN ALL INSIGHT AND INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts (Col. 3:16). (also see Romans 12:6-8; 15:14, I Cor. 14:26).

You see, in the early church, the ministry of the Word of God came from the whole church and not from the same individual week after week. The purpose of apostolic preaching and teaching was to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, that the church would "build itself up in love" under the Headship of Jesus Christ as the real "leader" and focal point of the meeting (Eph. 4:11-16).

In a NT church, the Headship of Christ is expressed throughout the church, rather than a one-man ministry. So, what is so sorely needed in our time is a restoration of the NT practice of mutual exhortation and mutual ministry as the defining element that expresses Jesus Christ is truly "in the midst" of HIS saints.

My prayer is that brothers and sisters, by two's and three's, would forego listening to sermons as the center-piece of their Christian lives and begin gathering around the presence of Jesus Christ, to again discover and explore the unsearcable riches of Christ, the wonder and beauty of HIS name and Presence in their midst, and to be taken in by HIM, smitten by HIM, and raptured unto HIM.