Preaching the Gospel… in the Acts of the Apostles (2)
In this series of blogs, we are analysing the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts. Four aspects of the preaching and subsequent response of the hearers are evident. We have already considered the Person of Christ, now to the second – personal responsibility.
Whenever we seek to communicate the gospel it is important to always impress a personal responsibility upon our hearers. They must exercise the hand of faith to reach out and grasp the free gift of salvation. The two terms the apostles emphasised time and again are ‘repent’ and ‘believe’.
Repentance. Acts 17.30: The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. The Greek word for repentance is formed of two words, meta (to change after) and nous (the mind). True repentance is, therefore, to change one’s way of thinking and living after hearing the gospel. This will involve a change of thinking in relation to: God, Christ and sin. In relation to God, the Thessalonians recognised their idolatry and turned to the living and true God. In relation to Christ, the Jews especially needed to recognise that He was not a guilty, cross deserving blasphemer, but in fact Lord of all. In relation to sin, it must be seen in its true character as an offence and rebellion against God.
But, let’s not forget that the Lord Jesus commanded repentance of believers in the seven churches (Rev. 2-3)! Correction of thinking and conduct is just as necessary for a saint as a sinner.
Believe. Acts 16.31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. In Greek, the words for ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ are essentially the same, faith being the noun (pistis) and believe the verb (pisteuo). What is genuine, saving faith? It begins with a firm conviction of the facts of Christ’s person, death and resurrection. This must result in total, personal confidence in the risen Christ as Lord and Saviour. He is the object of faith. In addition, genuine faith will always be in evidence through a believer’s conduct (2 Cor. 5.7). Paul uses Abraham as the consummate example of such faith (Rom. 4). Being childless and over 80 years of age, he abandoned all hope in himself and believed God’s word concerning his seed being made as numerous as the stars and sand. This was total confidence in the God of the impossible which affected his way of life (Gen. 22).
In closing, we should note what the apostles did not say. As far as I can see there is no record of meaningless phrases such as ‘Give your heart to Jesus’ or ‘Invite Jesus into your life’. Let us, therefore, be very careful and clear when telling lost sinners of their responsibility before God. It is heart belief and the cry of confession to God that saves (Rom. 10.9, 13).