by Steven Chan
What is the gospel that we should preach? That is a question that is in the mind of some of us when we want to share our faith with our family and friends. We know that Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel to the whole creation so that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved ((Mark 16:15-16). But what is the gospel? We will know the answer when we examine what the early Christians preached as recorded in the book of Acts.
Let’s start with the preaching of the apostle Peter in Acts 2:14-47. He preached that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the resurrection of Jesus were in fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures (Joel 2:28-32; Psa 16:8-11; 110:1) and he declared to them that because Jesus is Lord and Christ, everyone who repented and is baptized for the forgiveness of sins shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). He taught them to “continue stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
In Acts 3:12-26, the apostle Peter again preached the resurrected Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Deut 18:15-19) and urged them to repent and be converted that their sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19). The “priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees” were sore troubled because Peter had “proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).
In his defense before the “rulers and elders and scribes (who) were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest” (Acts 4:5-6), the apostle Peter preached the resurrection of Jesus and that man’s salvation is only be possible in His Name (and no one else – Acts 4:12).
In his next defense before the Jewish council and the High Priest, the apostle Peter declared thus: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.” (Acts 5:29-30)
In Acts 7, Stephen preached the fulfillment of Jesus of the prophecies of the Old Testament and he declared the resurrection of Christ when he said: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
In Acts 8:4, the Bible tells us that they went everywhere preaching the Word. In Acts 8:12-13: “But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized.” The apostles understood that as meaning that the Samaritans had “received the word of God” (Acts 8:14).
In Acts 8:35-36, the Bible recorded that “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him (the Ethiopian eunuch) Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip “preached the gospel to all the cities” (Acts 8:40).
After Saul’s conversion, he “straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20) he “confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).
In his preaching to Cornelius and his household, the apostle Peter preached that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, that He was raised from the dead and Peter was “charged to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is He who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead” and that those who believe in His name shall receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:34-43) In Acts 11:1, the Bible recorded how this conversion was regarded by the apostles: “Now the apostles and the brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God”. In Acts 11:14, Peter referred to his preaching as God commanding him to “speak words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house.”
In Acts 13:5, Paul and Barnabas “proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews”. At Paphos, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, sought to hear “the word of God” preached by Paul & Barnabas (Acts 13:7) but Elymas the sorcerer sought to turn Sergius Paulus “away from the faith” (Acts 13:8) and Paul charged Elymas with “perverting the right ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10) and after Elymas was blinded by Paul, Sergius Paulus became a believer “being astonished at the teaching of the Lord”( Acts 13:12).
In Acts 13:14-52, when Paul preached to the Jews in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, he preached of Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament Scriptures, that Jesus was raised from the dead, and “that through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins: and by him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (v 38-39). At verse 46, Paul said: “It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” And the word of the Lord was spread abroad throughout all the region (49)
At Lystra, Paul preached by declaring that we “bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is” (14:15).
At Athens, Paul “preached Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). Paul preached thus in Acts 17:30-32: “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked;”
At Ephesus, Paul “entered into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, reasoning and persuading as to the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8) and to idol-worshippers, he “turned away much people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands”(Acts 19:26). In Acts 19:20, the Bible noted: “So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed”.
At Miletus, Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus: “I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ… I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God… And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified.”(Acts 20:20-21, 27, 32)
In Acts 22, Paul defended his faith by declaring how he spoke with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus and that he was chosen to be a special witness of the resurrection of Jesus. In his defense before the Jewish Council and the High Priest, Paul declared that it was “touching the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question” (Acts 23:6).
In his defense before Governor Felix, Paul said: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call a sect, so serve I the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets; having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and unjust… touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question before you this day… he reasoned of righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come”(Acts 24:14-15,21, 25)
In his defense before King Agrippa, Paul said that Jesus charged him to preach so as to: “open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me… declaring to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance… how that the Christ must suffer, and how that He first by the resurrection of the dead should proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:18, 20, 23). In response to Paul’s preaching, King Agrippa replied: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (26:28), to which Paul said: “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day (26:29).”
When in Rome, the Bible recorded that “came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23)
The Book of Acts ends with this observation: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31)
From the above, we note that preaching the gospel involved the following:-
- Preaching that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah;
- Preaching that Jesus was raised from the dead, as was also prophesied in the Old Testament;
- Preaching that Jesus is the only name by which one may receive salvation;
- Preaching that Believers in Jesus who repented and were baptized, shall be saved (as per Mark 16:16);
- Preaching the Word;
- Preaching the Word of the Lord;
- Preaching concerning the kingdom of God;
- Preaching the hope of the resurrection of all men – both the just and the unjust;
- Preaching that Jesus has been appointed to be the Judge on the last day;
- Preaching concerning righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come;
- Teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ; that they “continue steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42); and
Preaching the whole counsel of God.
Are we preaching the gospel just like the early Christians as recorded in the book of Acts? Although Paul described the gospel in terms of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in I Cor 15:1-9, his preaching of the gospel encompassed much more than just those three facts about Jesus. It entails the entrance into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5) and continued faithfulness in the kingdom of God (Rev 2:10) “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11).