The Preaching of the Gospel
“There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” Acts 4:12.
The first assembly witnessed in the very presence of the murderers of the Savior they preached: Jesus of Nazareth, approved of God, crucified and slain, resurrected, exalted, made both Lord and Christ. They preached with such power that many were “pricked in their hearts,” and “gladly received his word.”
The four gospels form the firm foundation of the New Testament. The reception of the gospel is the foundation of the Christian life. The preaching of the gospel lies at the foundation of assembly testimony. Any assembly that has no heart for the gospel surely is unworthy of the name of an assembly of God. A man who professes to be a “teacher” and does not delight to preach the gospel is not a teacher after the scriptural patterns. Who taught like the apostle Paul? And how he loved to preach the gospel!
Discord, strife, division, and heresy warn us not to follow in the path of those who, slighting the gospel, made it their boast, “We have all the great teachers.” The religious world is full of educated, talented, popular men, but how little do the most of those know or care about the preaching of the gospel. There is not a sect in Christendom that could endure a full-orbed gospel. And we might say that there is not a heresy but has its root in a wrong conception of the gospel. God so honors the cross that He fills the teaching of the New Testament with the gospel. Romans is well called the gospel epistle; Galatians proclaims its anathemas against those who preach another gospel; Philippians is set for the defense and confirmation of the gospel, urges to fellowship in the gospel, and beseeches us to live as becomes the gospel. The Thessalonians were commended for their activity in the gospel. The apostle Paul says, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). To be according to the pattern, assemblies must keep a bright testimony in the gospel. Let us see to it that in this respect we can truthfully say, “We all are His witnesses.”
The Baptism of Believers
“Then they that gladly received his Word were baptized” Acts 2:41.
Baptism is a very important part of our witnessing, signifying the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism saves in figure those who are saved in fact by believing the gospel (Mark 16:16) and it bears witness to the gospel. Baptism witnesses that we are not to continue in sin that grace may abound, but to walk in newness of life (Romans 6: 1-7). It tells us that we have been delivered from the world and brought to God so that being “elect,” “redeemed,” “born again,” “living stones,” “a chosen generation,” “a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” “a people for God’s own possession,” we should, as pilgrims and strangers here, be prepared for suffering (1 Peter 1, 2, and 3). It witnesses as to how we are delivered from the world-system to seek the things which are above where our risen Head is seated (Colossians 2 and 3). It witnesses as to how we have been delivered from the bondage of legal servitude into the liberty of sons and heirs of God (Galatians 3 and 4). It witnesses as to how we are brought into the unity of the heavenly vocation (Ephesians 4:1-6) and the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). In these Scriptures we have the underlying truths from various angles which are acknowledged in our baptism. As dead, buried, and risen with Him, ours is the heavenly calling with its consequent walk in godly separation from the world. How fundamental to true Christianity! Take away these truths and we do not have Christianity, but Christendom, that satanic imitation with its religious self-made Christians. Christening – the invention of Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth – creates a host of false witnesses to all these truths concerning the true Church, the bride of the Lamb.
“They that gladly received his word were baptized,” is the inspired account of the order of conversion and baptism in the model assembly where, full of the Holy Ghost, they said truly, “We all are His witnesses.” A spurious baptism engenders a false conception of the need of repentance and conversion. Those who have been religiously sprinkled imagine themselves to be, in some sense, Christians, and why should they require the new birth? Even those who advocate what they falsely call “household baptism” are usually muddled in the gospel. How few of them have any conversion to tell! Any assembly composed of those who have no conversion to tell and of whom it cannot be said, “They that gladly received his word were baptized,” is not an assembly according to the model. Would the first converts of the Church dispensation ever forget the day of Pentecost or their baptism? Not every one has such a notable day for his spiritual birthday and burial-day, so the calendar date may not be recorded. But the how, when, and where as to the experience surely, cannot be forgotten. Repentance, the new birth with the consequent reception of eternal life, instinct with new affections and impulses, together with the sealing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit: are these such nothings as to make no impression on the memory? Are they not rather a little Pentecost experience all our own?
Nor are we left in any uncertainty as to the mode of baptism. It is plainly given in the eighth chapter of the Acts. Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch, who, having believed, requested baptism. Philip answered, “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest.” How significant are God’s “if’s!” How beautifully simple the eunuch’s answer: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!” Luke records, “And they went down BOTH into the water, BOTH Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” Here we have the one instance, in Scripture, as to the mode of baptism – apart from the meaning of the word itself – and one instance is enough; we need no more. May God lead us on in the simplicity that is in Christ in those matters, so that in baptism as in the gospel we may be able to say truthfully, “We all are His witnesses.”