by Steven Chan
6 January 2008
As we begin the New Year 2008, it may be good for us to consider the rapid spread and propagation of the New Way (Heb 10:20) recorded for us in the book of Acts so that we may be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of the early Christians to continue what they had started so well.
According to Heb 10:20, Jesus Christ through His sacrifice on the cross consecrated the “New and Living Way for us”. This is the Way to Heaven where God is: As stated in John 10:9-11, Jesus said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Later in John 14:6, ‘Jesus said, “I am The Way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God’ (Rom 5:1-2). There is no other way to heaven: ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
In Acts 8:1-4 we read the following account: ‘At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.’
Great persecution arose against the church, a leading church leader had just been martyred and there were great lamentation by brethren over this loss, and havoc was wreaked on the church by a zealot who was dragging off men and women and imprisoning them for their faith in Christ. That was really a very difficult period of time for the church. With the exception of the apostles who remained in Jerusalem, members of the church were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria due to the great presecution.
However, as a testimony of the power of God and the perseverance and great faith of the early Christians, the Great Persecution, Great Lamentation and Great Havoc were not able to stop the spread of the New and Living Way as the brethren who were scattered from their home city “went everywhere preaching the Word”! Hey, did they receive any training on evangelism? Did the apostles have time to conduct a Personal Work Training class on how to win souls for Christ? Were the apostles the ones who went everywhere preaching the Word? No, the Bible record states that it was the ordinary members of the church (as the apostles remained in Jerusalem) who exhibited extraordinary evangelistic zeal in preaching the Word everywhere. In Acts 11:19, the Bible continued its observation of their evangelistic zeal: “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word”. Indeed as testified by the apostle Paul in 1 Thess 2:2: “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.” They exhibited Great Courage for their conviction or belief.
No wonder the Word of God spread so rapidly and mightily from Jerusalem. The preaching of the Word was not restricted to the Apostles only or to the full-time Evangelists only, or to some trained men only. Each and every Christian was actively preaching the Word. Truly the professionals were preaching the Word – i.e. those who professed Jesus as Lord of their lives!
The evangelistic fervor of the early Christians is also exemplified by the wonderful Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18:26 who took it upon themselves to ‘take Apollos (an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures) aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately’. Such was the fervent commitment by ordinary men and women in the first century. They exhibited extraordinary courage and conviction. The work was not left to the professionals (full-time workers as we understand it today)!
Brethren, everyone of us need to take up the challenge to preach the Word to those who have yet to obey the gospel – whether they are loved ones, friends, neighbours, colleagues, business associates, or even casual acquaintances or strangers. The commission of Jesus in Matt 28:19-20 is applicable to all of us; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always”
As we begin the New Year, may we all resolve to obey the marching order of our Lord as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20 – may we not delegate this responsibility to someone else or relegate its priority to the lowest level (to be attempted only when we have the time!).
Just imagine how much can be accomplished if each one of us in Klang resolve within ourselves to reach out to just one other person each and every week in 2008. Each Christian would have shared the gospel with 52 people. Multiply that by the number of brethren in Klang, (ie. approximately 150 brethren), and a total of 7,800 people would have heard the gospel by the end of 2008. Is that possible? Yes – if the early Christians could go everywhere preaching the Word without the benefits of the various tools that we possess today such as blogging about Christ on the internet, the Bible Correspondence Courses, the DVDs such as Search for the Truth and printed materials such as tracts on the gospel of Jesus Christ, why would we not be able to reach more today?
Christendom is thoroughly confused today with teachings and traditions of men mixed with the Word of God – just as was the case when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem: Matt 15:9: ‘And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’. We who have known and received the truth which has set us free from sin and the traditions of men (John 8:32), ought to be embolden to share the truth so that people would be similarly freed from sin as well as from the errors of denominationalism. Our plea for unity among believers as desired by the Lord (John 17:20-23) and exhorted by Paul (I Cor 1:10) remain very needful and appropriate. We offer the distinctive pure, unadulterated, un-watered-down Word of God in contrast with the vain philosophies of the world and the superstitious teachings and practices of paganism and pseudo-Christianity. We plead for all believers to return to the Bible for all our teachings and practices and to forsake all teachings which are man-made (Matt.15:14). We urge non-believers to consider the inspired revelation of the Bible as the Word of God (2 Tim 3:15-17; 2 Pet 1:19-21) and the divine claim of Jesus as the Son of God (John 20:30-31) who alone is able to grant us life and immortality through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10). We urge all who “like sheep have gone astray, to return to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25) so that we may receive the leadership of God as our Shepherd (Psa 23).
As we sow the seed which is the Word of God and water it, the Lord will give the increase as we all seek to be fellow workers with God in this great task of seeking and saving the lost (I Cor 3:5-10; Luke 19:10). May God’s rich blessings be upon all of us who seek to put Him and His Kingdom first in our lives (Matt 6:33).