Preaching the gospel

The arrival of the Holy Spirit was marked by an unusual display of spiritual capability. Luke said, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). Luke’s phrase “as the Spirit gave them utterance” meant that their spirits were completely under the control of the Holy Spirit; the words they spoke were His words, not their own (note on Acts 2:4). The fact that the Holy Spirit enabled these men to speak in languages they had not previously learned might not seem all that impressive, but it had particular relevance here because as a result of this miracle there were numerous people of different nationalities and languages that gathered together afterward who were able to pass on the gospel message they heard more effectively (Acts 2:5-12).

Peter’s Pentecostal sermon was the first instance of anyone preaching the gospel after Jesus’s death and resurrection. His message, which was probably delivered to an audience of at least ten thousand people, focused on the fulfillment of prophecy and the bold declaration that “Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Peter concluded his sermon with this statement, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Although Peter’s cutting remarks may have been offensive to some of the people that were gathered together to listen to him preach, his message resulted in about three thousand people accepting Jesus as their savior (Acts 2:41) and a remarkable transformation began to take place in Jerusalem. Luke described what was happening with a simple formula that is still followed today by some fundamentalist churches. Luke indicated the body of believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). In other words, they gathered together regularly to hear the gospel preached to them, they celebrated communion, and collectively prayed for each other.

An unusual aspect of the early church’s behavior was their communal living. Luke said, “all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:44-45). The purpose of this type of living arrangement may have been to facilitate the preaching of the gospel. Since men were typically the only members of the household to earn a living and they had the primary responsibility of preaching the gospel in the early days of the church, sharing resources enabled more families to survive with less income coming in. Even though people weren’t forced to sell their homes and give the money to the church (Acts 5:4), there may have been a collective movement that made it seem like everyone was expected to. Luke’s account of the situation pointed out that everyone “did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” meaning one of the side effects or end results of preaching the gospel was thankfulness and unity among believers.

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