Shaping Theme in Acts: Expansion by Communication
We are studying the book of Acts – the history of the beginning of the church – with open eyes, open minds, and open hearts to see what it says about being Christians together. A lot of what we do together is human tradition – many of which can be good. But it’s exciting to revisit scripture to discover anew the foundational principles that guide being the church. What holds true for tiny, country churches in the middle of nowhere, mega churches in urban centers, and medium-type churches? What principles hold true for a church here in Charlotte, NC as well as in Mexico and New Zealand and Malawi?
So far in this study, we have seen that being the church together involves confidence in and obedience to the risen, authoritative Jesus Christ by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we consider a new theme: Expansion by Communication.
Expansion by Communication Throughout Acts
This is what we see as we trace the expansion of the church by communication in Acts:
- The apostles were to be Jesus’ witnesses to a geographically and racially expanding territory (1:8).
- When the Holy Spirit came, He enabled the apostles to share the news with Jews from all over the world so that they could each understand it (2:4-11).
- The Jewish authorities knew that in order to stop the spread of Christianity, they had to stop the communication (4:17, 18).
- The apostles couldn’t disobey God; they had to continue witnessing, and they were filling all of Jerusalem with this teaching (5:28).
- This communication was not restricted to the apostles – Stephen was pouring out Spirit-empowered speech (6:10).
- In fact, this was characteristic of all Christians (8:4).
- Communication caused the church to expand (9:31; 28:30, 31).
Let’s note three important truths from this theme:
Christianity spreads. It is not that it should expand or should spread – it does. It is an historical and theological fact. If Christianity stays isolated and does not expand, it can’t really be Christianity. There is something in the DNA of Christianity that makes it expand and grow.
Christianity Expands by Communication
Christianity spreads through the communication of the gospel, which means “good news.” You cannot proclaim the good news without words. That is the nature of news. There is no expansion of Christianity without speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ.
People communicate – it is part of being human. We are always communicating about something, and usually it’s the thing we’re preoccupied with right then. For Christians who are growing in a genuine love and devotion for God and for people and are being increasingly conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, they’re naturally going to talk about it.
If you study evangelism in the Bible, you’ll see it all through the book of Acts – but when you get to the Epistles, there is virtually nothing about it. There is very little in the Epistles that admonishes Christians to be evangelizing. The clear statements are from a reactive standpoint, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
So does that mean we’re not supposed to be intentionally evangelistic? No, the reason why there is not much about evangelism in the Epistles is because it’s just assumed. Communicating the good news of Jesus Christ is a natural part of being a Christian. Keeping this in mind should save us from guilt-trips about evangelism, and it highlights something that can clarify who truly is a believer: Christians talk about Christ. It’s natural to them. There are those who have no desire to talk about Christ, and they’re called non-Christians.
If you’re a Christian, you may be afraid to speak up, you may feel that you don’t know what to say, but in your heart you want to communicate to people what God has done for you, to tell those in a dark, decaying world the hope that is available through Jesus Christ. Sharing the gospel looks different for different people, but if you’re a Christian, it will somehow come out in words. You have a part to play in the globally expanding kingdom of God.
From the sermon series: Shaping Themes in Acts.
- What is evangelism?
- How have you experienced evangelism?
- Read and discuss Acts 1:8.
- How were the apostles supposed to evangelize?
- Is this applicable to Christians today?
- Do you have a desire to share the gospel with unbelievers?
- Have you shared the gospel with unbelievers?
- What obstacles are faced when trying to communicate the gospel?
- How can you share the good news of Jesus Christ in your current life situation?