A person cannot read the book of Acts with open eyes and open heart and not
be amazed at the actions and activities of men and women who were the first
Christians. Can you imagine people so converted to Christ on a pilgrimage that
they refused to return home when their money ran out because they wanted to
understand the good news about Christ in completeness? That occurred with some
converts who heard the good news on Pentecost. Can you imagine a congregation so
close to each other that they met every day to encourage each other as they
praised God? Can you imagine finding so much joy and fulfillment in Christ that
we would meet every day voluntarily, without command, to glorify God? Can you
imagine having an a community who where not Christians acknowledging the
Christians were a beneficial part of the community? That describes the earliest
congregation in Jerusalem. Can you imagine willingly selling private possessions
to help people you do not know but who believe in Christ? That is what
Christians did in Acts 4:32-37.
One of the most amazing qualities of early Christians was their evangelistic
fervor. In about 70 years, those Christians took the good news concerning Jesus
Christ throughout Palestine, to Syria, throughout Asia Minor, to Europe, to
North Africa, with plans to go to Spain--and that is just where we know about!
They commonly did this in pagan societies that were more immoral than today's
world. They often did it as they faced personal sacrifice and persecution for
their faith in Jesus Christ. They did not have missionaries and
evangelists--they were what we call missionaries and evangelist.
Look at what Acts says about the activities of some of these first Christians:
Acts 8:1-5, "Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that
day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all
scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some
devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began
ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women,
he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about
preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began
proclaiming Christ to them."
Acts 8:25 says of Peter and John, "So, when they had solemnly testified and
spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching
the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans."
Acts 8:40 says of Philip after he baptized the eunuch, "But Philip found himself
at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the
cities until he came to Caesarea."
Acts 9:32 says of Peter, "Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions,
he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda."
Acts 11:19-21 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that
occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and
Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some
of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the
Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them,
and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
The outreach work of early Christians was in no way limited to the activities of
Paul and Barnabus. Evidence indicates the joyous fervor was characteristic of
many converts to Christ. Indications are the congregations in places like
Colosae and Laodicea existed because Christians from other places taught the
people of those places.
To me one of the sad facts about today's Christians is that many of us take the
outreach of the church for granted. To often our attitude is, "So they shared
their faith in Christ with others. Fine. But so what?" We are not touched by
their incredible expression of faith and commitment. Their joy in Christ was too
real not to share!
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