Words Are Necessary

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.  (Acts 2:36-41)
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)
Let us imagine that you have a neighbour with whom you have a casual friendship. “How’s it going? Garden’s looking nice, have you picked up a parcel for me?” That sort of thing. To show the love of God to him, you offer to wash his car for him. You end up washing your neighbour’s car once a week for 10 years. You don’t bash him over the head with your Bible and you don’t challenge him on the state of his immortal soul. In fact, car washing aside, your relationship stays the same. You pray for him, but he doesn’t know it. After 10 years, he moves to another country and you lose touch. Have you shared the Gospel with him?

The New Testament is pretty clear on this. It tells us that, no, you haven’t. You’ve certainly blessed, served and loved your neighbour, which is part of what God calls us to, but it’s no replacement for actually sharing Jesus with them. In the same way, at what point do the 3,000 people respond to the gospel in Acts 2? It’s not directly after the Holy Spirit falls. Verses 12 and 13 tell us that, when the crowd could only watch the Spirit-filled Christians, the result was either curious confusion or outright mockery. It is only after Peter preached to them, explaining to them what Jesus has done for us and why that matters, that they were “cut to the heart” and repented of their sin (v37).

When we gather together as God’s church, it’s very easy for us to assume that all we need to do is allow the nonbelievers who are present to witness us at worship and in prayer. If they can witness our experience, then surely we have witnessed to them, right? Well, actually, wrong? Witnesses speak. That’s the very essence of the word. The open-air church service in Acts 2 seeks to prevent us from imagining that “if people can see us worshipping God then they will be attracted to him, without our needing to spell it out to them in words.” If we’re honest, that kind of thinking comes from fear (I’m not sure what to say, and what if they reject our message anyway?) and self-centredness (we want to feed ourselves, rather than others). That’s why I think it’s vital for us to return to the model of Acts 2 as we begin to regather back together in person for worship services after lockdown. Peter models for us here that we need to teach people what the Scriptures say so that nonbelievers can understand and respond to the Gospel. When Peter finishes speaking, it’s pretty obvious how this kind of church gathering gives more glory to God than an inward-looking one. Three thousand new believes are added to their number in a single day!

In the verses that we have read together today from Romans 10, the Apostle Paul teaches us that this still matters in our own churches today. He asks a series of simple questions that culminates in this important truth: Faith comes from hearing God’s Word. Let’s be a church that proclaims the Gospel when we gather to the community in which we live. How beautiful is the church that preaches the good news!
  1. Who are the nonbelievers in your life that you are blessing and serving? Do they know why you’re doing that?
  2. Preaching the Gospel doesn’t have to have to be big or clever. It can be as simple as saying “God loves you and wants you to join his family”. Who is God calling you to share the Gospel with today?
  3. We’re all called to preach the gospel, but we don’t all have a platform like Peter. How can you serve the church today in a way that helps it to fulfil its mission?
Father God, you call your church to preach the Gospel to those around us. As I am part of your church, I accept that that calling is for me personally too. I confess that I don’t always know how to share my faith, so I ask for your guidance and for your Spirit to provide me with the words, the deeds and the courage that I need to do so. Please guide your church to be outward-looking towards the mission you have given us, and help me play my part.  Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Freddie Ingle, who leads our Kingston Venue.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
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