BRIAN A. YEAGER
It was not long ago that a good brother in Christ asked me what I thought others thought on this very subject. I asked some brethren what they thought, based on the scriptures, it meant to hear the gospel. Many answers were received along this line, and my interest in providing an article on this subject increased with some of the answers that I had received. In this article I am going to deal with what hearing the Gospel meant in the first century.
We do know that Christ commanded the Gospel to be preached to the world. (Mark 16:15-16) “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” I do believe that there are many opinions as to what one must hear to be ready to make the commitment to Christ that is found in a true Bible conversion. I would prefer to see what happened in the preaching of a Bible conversion. (Acts 8:12) “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Here we can see that Philip taught not only about Christ, but the Church as well. There was once a question of how one could teach Christ and not teach the Church. I agree with that suggestion. It would be nearly impossible for one to have been taught not knowing about Christ’s body. The Church is his body (Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18). People might ask what they need to know about the Lord’s Church. I believe wholeheartedly that the first century Bible teaching taught about the “ONENESS” of the Church. Christ himself taught of that one Church (Matthew 16:18). Paul reminded the Church at Ephesus about the unity they should have in that one body (Ephesians 4:4). Paul reminded the Church at Corinth about the fact that we are all baptized into one body (I Corinthians 12:12-13).
I believe since we recognize that the Gospel must be preached (Mark 16:15), that if we simply defined some points about the Gospel we might be on the path to a proper understanding of what hearing the word is all about. Paul wrote that the Gospel was the word of truth. (Colossians 1:5) “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” Paul writing to the Church at Rome stated that the Gospel had God’s saving power. (Romans 1:16) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Paul told the Church of Galatia that the Gospel was not his, that not man nor angel could change it, and that we could not serve man and Christ at the very same time (Galatians 1:8-12). Christ taught about the Kingdom in the preaching of the Gospel. (Matthew 4:23) “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” The Grace of God was taught in the preaching of the Gospel. (Acts 20:24) “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
I have often times referred to the Gospel of Christ as an instruction manual, or even as a road map. You see we find the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) through strict instruction and only few there will be that find it. That is why it is so obvious that many do not understand Gospel teaching and how to receive such teaching. People claim that “Old Paths” teaching is harsh or even “too much scripture”. How sad it is when God’s people refer to the preaching of the word as harsh. I often remind my audiences that we must hear the word to obtain faith (Romans 10:17). The word is much more than just the sacrifice of our Lord. Many use this “too much Gospel” theory try to justify a very limited teaching of the lost, prior to conversion, by Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts the second chapter. They claim that Peter did not have much to say on that day. What most fail to recognize is Peter used many other words on that day (Acts 2:40). What these folks fail to remind themselves is that the lost need to know about what they are doing in conversion. Baptizing is not the only step in the plan of salvation, and you will only get wet if you have not completed all required steps properly. In Acts the second chapter Peter taught much about our Lord. You see Peter taught about Christ all the way to verse 37. Then they asked what they had to do to be saved. Peter replied that they must come to repentance and then be baptized (v.38). Notice this was not all that was said. After this Peter did not say OK your ready, he taught them with many other words (v.40), before they accepted this word and were baptized one verse later.
I do believe that if a better teaching occurred prior to baptism a stronger faith would be adapted. The simple fact is that one cannot be half taught and fully converted at the same time. We have a book that allows us to study from examples and learn from other’s mistakes. We simply need to look at teaching the Gospel as planting a garden. This is the parable the Lord gave us in the Parable of the Sower. We need to know that we simply cannot plant and not tend to that seed. We must water it before it can even begin in its growth. The same is the way we should conduct studies with the lost. We should have them develop good roots, then we could guide them more fully through the remainder of the Gospel plan of salvation, and like any other gardening we must then see that they get the proper nutrients to continue their spiritual growth.
I’d like to close this article with some thoughts from
Acts the eighth chapter. First, looking again to verse twelve and
then following down to the conversion of the Eunuch. In the conversion
of (Acts 8:12), Philip properly preached the Gospel. He did this
so that those present would realize the commitment that they were making.
We enter into a marital state with Christ (Romans 7:4). This is something
that we should not take lightly. Consider for one moment a young
couple wanting to get married at first sight. Would anyone in his
or her right mind condone this behavior? The truth is that we would
not allow such a situation to occur. The same should be in our teaching
of the Gospel. We should want folks to consider the cost of discipleship.
In Matthew the nineteenth chapter verse sixteen through twenty-two, a young
man asked Christ what he had to do. Christ replied and told him basically
to keep the commandments. Christ knew that this young man had a hang-up.
The young man said I have done this. Christ then told him to sell
all of his things and give them to the poor, and to follow him. The
young man could not do this. The record states that he had great
possessions. The point is this, folks may know in part, but they
need more than that. To become converted you must understand what
conversion is. You must understand why, and to whom you are being
converted from and to. Lastly, let’s look a little at the conversion
of the Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). The Eunuch was a man that was going
to worship. He was reading of Christ, from the Old Testament prophecy
found in Isaiah the fifty-third chapter. He needed someone to preach
to him about whom he was reading. The record does not give us the
detail of what Philip preached, but we can assume that the same Philip
a few passages earlier that taught about the Church did the same in this
conversion. We can know that Philip taught about water baptism by
immersion because the Eunuch knew that it was necessary (v. 36), and he
did not pick that up in Isaiah chapter fifty-three. If we could simply
teach Christ the way that Philip did, maybe the Church today would grow
as it did in the first century. If we could simply teach the Bible,
and teach the unadulterated counsel of God such as Paul did (Acts 20:27),
we would not have so many part-time Christians today. We need to
teach the Bible with the examples that we have. Let us teach simply
the word of God, and let us teach enough that those whom we convert will
know what they have done! The gospel is given in earthen vessels
(II Corinthians 4:7), let’s not take that responsibility lightly.
Copyright 2001 by Brian
Yeager may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.