Recently, we’ve been working through the introduction of one of the longest (and in my opinion, more difficult) chapters in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15. We’ve seen the foundational importance of the resurrection of Christ, not only in proving the bodily resurrection of believers, but foundational to the Gospel message altogether. In this post, we’ll return to Acts, where we first began with a look at the background for Paul’s missionary journey to Corinth, this time to explore the significance of Christ’s resurrection as it pertains to the development and growth of the early church.
Written by Luke, Acts picks up where his Gospel left off, namely with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the opening verses we read, “ He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.“ Acts 1:3
Later in this same chapter we find being a witness to Christ’s resurrection as a requirement for apostleship, Acts. 1:22. In the latter half of the book, Christ’s resurrection becomes a major stumbling block to Jewish religious leaders and the reason for the Apostle Paul’s trial in Acts 24.
The centrality of the resurrection theme in Acts cannot be understated. Not only is it prominent in the introduction, and boldly proclaimed throughout the missionary journeys of Paul, but it takes a preeminent role in the sermons of Acts which largely connect the book of Acts thematically. Alan Thompson notes,
“In Acts the resurrection is the climax of God’s saving purposes, and it is on the basis of the resurrection that the blessings of salvation may be offered. The reason for this appears to be that in the resurrection of Jesus, the hoped-for resurrection age to come has arrived already, and it is because of the arrival of the age to come that the blessings of that age may now be received.” (Thompson, pg. 79)
In that book, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thompson provides a table of each of the evangelistic sermons from Acts and breaks down the components of each sermon. Common among them is proclamation (preaching) of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every single sermon, if we may call them that, delivered with evangelism in mind, i.e. to an audience of unbelievers contained the components of the Gospel outlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, culminating with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Among those evangelistic sermons identified by Thompson are Acts 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 – Peter; Acts 13, 17 – Paul.
With this intentional focus on evangelistic preaching in mind, we must ask a few questions by way of application.
How often do we hear evangelistic sermons? My experience has been one of two options: 1. The sermon has an evangelistic appeal tacked onto the end 2. The sermon has no evangelism focus at all.
Second, are we to tailor our sermons in our Lord’s Day worship services towards evangelism? If yes, then we run the risk of alienating the brethren who are there to worship and be edified. If no, then where and when are these evangelistic sermons supposed to take place?
This of course is the dilemma of the modern worship service. Should they be broad and attractional with an evangelistic focus or narrow and deeper for the edification of believers?
One thing is clear – the apostolic preaching of the resurrection was central to the growth of the early church. It wasn’t an add-on and it wasn’t altogether neglected.
An affiliate link to Thompson’s book on Christianbook.com may be found below: