Historical Survey of the gospel and the means that God uses to further His Kingdom

Historical Survey of the gospel and the means that God uses to further His Kingdom

 

I.  Introduction

 

Have you ever wondered about all of the different methods people use to evangelize?

 

What about all the different methods churches use to get people in the door?  From giving away TV’s, to incorporating rock bands or coffee shops in their churches, to trying to be relevant by wearing ripped jeans and tattoos and cussing.

 

Have you seen churches that have sold out the gospel to attract people.

 

The prosperity church – Attracts people by promising them the favor of God in material wealth, to be rich, to drive a BMW, to be healthy and never get sick.  This is, of course, dependent on if you give them your money.

 

The environmental church – They talk more about global warming and mother earth than Father God.  They are feminists that ignore the plain teachings of Scripture and go as far as developing their own Bible version which they went ahead and removed all male references concerning God.  So that they can say God doesn’t have gender or is even a girl. 

 

The feel good church – They spend all their time trying entertain people to death and make them leave church with a milkshake sermon sugar buzz.  They never preach the whole will of God but only the easy, feel-good sections of the Bible.  They never talk about sin, wrath or the judgment of God, but only about God’s love and their self-esteem.  In this church a man that just murdered his family could go to church and leave feeling good about himself.  This church is all about man and his comfort and has little to do with God.

 

The cool church -  In it’s hope to be relevant to a pagan culture, this church looks more like a six-flags or rock concert than a church.  No biblical preaching is happening here, just fun games and cool music.  They spend all their time trying to show pagans that Christians are really cool and the same as them, despite the biblical mandate to be opposite of the world.

 

And I could go on and on.  So do you think these methods work?  Have you ever wondered if you should be doing some of the same things?

 

We see some of these churches filling stadiums of people.  So do the ends justify the means?

 

You must understand our role in God’s plan to glorify Himself.  If you don’t understand this, then you will think it is your job to coerce people to make a “decision for Jesus” and you will use every worldly method to do it.

 

Our goal is to be Biblical, whether we have stadium of people or not.  In my opinion some of these mega churches are God’s judgment on a nation that is begging to have their ears tickled instead of begging for the Truth of God’s Word.

 

Our goal is to be Biblical and preach a clear, biblical gospel whether people want it or not.  The Word of God is the means that God uses to awaken people, not super bowl night at the church.

 

Today I want to show you Biblically how the church is grown and the Kingdom of God is furthered so you don’t fall into the same traps as these false churches.

 

The title of this sermon is, “a Historical Survey of the gospel and the means that God uses to further His Kingdom.”  The title alone could mean that this sermon will last about a year and a half, which it would be easy to do, but because of our time line I will only very briefly go through it.

 

I want to give a quick historical survey of how the Kingdom of God has been furthered so we can understand what not to do today and what we should be doing now.

 

II.  The book of Acts

 

Going through the book of Acts we see the methods that the early church has used to advance the Kingdom of God.  We can read about what subjects the early church preached on. 

 

We see that when they preached, they focused on the following:

 

  1. Jesus Christ
  2. Kingdom of God
  3. Word of the Lord
  4. The gospel
  5. Forgiveness of sins
  6. Repentance

 

(Acts 8:5)  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.

 

(Acts 8:12)  But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

 

(Acts 8:25)  So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

 

(Acts 8:35)  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

 

(Acts 9:20)  Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

 

(Acts 13:5)  And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.

 

(Acts 13:38)  Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;

 

(Acts 14:21)  And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,

 

(Acts 14:25)  Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

 

(Acts 15:36)  Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing."

 

(Acts 17:13)  But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.

 

(Acts 17:18)  Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

 

(Acts 14:15)  and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,

 

(Acts 16:10)  Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

 

(Acts 17:3)  explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ."

 

(Acts 5:42)  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

 

(Acts 8:4)  Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

 

(Acts 10:36)  The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ--He is Lord of all

 

(Acts 11:19)  Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.

 

(Acts 11:20)  But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

 

(Acts 14:7)  And they were preaching the gospel there.

 

(Acts 15:35)  Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

 

(Acts 20:25)  "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.

 

(Acts 28:31)  preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

 

From the birth of the church, we see that the founders preached from the Word of God with centered on Jesus Christ, which was the means that God used to save men and further His Kingdom.

 

III.  The revivals

 

The proclaiming of the gospel has always and will always be the means that God uses to save men and further His Kingdom.  He promises that He will gather His people from every tribe, tongue and nation and He will do it through the proclaiming of the gospel.

 

God will build His church and He will do it trough the proclaiming of the Biblical gospel and not by worldly, un-biblical, feel good programs and methodology.

 

Now I want to move on from the birth of the church in the book of Acts to church history so we can see how God advanced His kingdom throughout the last 2000 years.

 

When we look at the great revivals in history we also see the same common theme and means that God used to save men and further His Kingdom.  There is no way I have time to even scratch the surface on the great men of God that have been used to further the Kingdom so I will tell you of only a few.

 

During the Middle Ages Christianity did not cease to spread. The Church was the great civilizing force of the Western world. However, the experience of the Church of the Middle Ages was far removed from the experience of the first century disciples.

 

Sporadically, powerful revival preachers, such as St. Francis of Assisi and Jan Hus would appear and the common people of Europe would once again be swept into the Kingdom at a high rate.

 

For the people of the Middle Ages, the restoration of revival power had lacked one essential ingredient: the written Word of God. Ever since the time of St. Jerome, the fifth century monk who translated the Greek Septuagint and the Greek New Testament into vulgar Latin, the Word of God had remained obscured from the common people.

 

The Reformation of the Church in the 16th century marked the end of the Middle Ages.  At this time the Catholic was so vilely corrupt that it was not the true church of Jesus Christ.  Reformation needed to happen and it did happen through the biblical gospel.

 

God raised up men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli to recover foundational truths of the Christian faith which had been lost for on thousand years.

 

In 1560 the Puritans arose in England.  The Puritans hated the immorality of the Church of England and thought the church still held too many Catholic beliefs. 

 

In the 1600s, James the first harassed the Puritans with laws requiring conformity to the Church of England. During his reign, the most radical Puritans, unwilling to compromise their reform efforts, fled to the New World in a mass exodus.

 

The Puritans who came to America saw the New World as an unconquered kingdom in which to advance the gospel through biblical preaching.

 

The First Great Awakening of the 18th century resembled the awakenings in the book of Acts.

 

From America came its greatest theologian Jonathan Edwards.  At the same time Britain boasted of men such as John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield.

 

Jonathan Edwards

 

Edwards’ passion was for the glory of God, and for the kingdom to be advanced through the preaching of the gospel.

 

Edwards said about this awakening that, “the worst persons in the town seemed to be suddenly seized with a great degree of concern about their souls.”

 

Within the next seven years the awakening had seized the colonies.  As much as one-third of the population of the American colonies had had a salvation experience. The magnitude of the awakening caused Edwards to wonder aloud whether the millennial reign of Christ was not descending on the earth. If another 20 years of awakening passed unabated, Edwards extrapolated, there would be no one left to save.  God accomplished this through the proclaiming of the biblical gospel.

 

John Wesley

In 1736, John Wesley travelled to Georgia in hopes of seeing Indians converted to Christ. After two years of frustrating failure he met the Moravians and truly saw Christ in them.

 

On the trip home Wesley was knew that he was not truly saved and he sought council from a Moravian.  Two months later, God saved him.

 

Soon Wesley was preaching in the open places to tens of thousands of sinners who never frequented a church building. Wesley preached like a great apostle, carefully laying out the foundations of the faith in the hearts of his hearers. Previously he had failed to reach a single soul in America, yet now he reaped a great harvest.

 

George Whitefield

 

After a visit to America in 1738, George Whitefield returned to England to find closed Anglican pulpits because of his powerful Spirit-anointed preaching. The pulpit ban became a blessing in disguise when Whitefield took to open-air preaching. The evangelist described his first open-air preaching in his Journal: 'I hastened to Kingswood [Bristol]. There were about 10,000 people to hear me. The trees and hedges were full. All was hush when I began; the sun shone bright and God enabled me to preach for an hour with great power, and so loudly that all, I was told, could hear me. The fire is kindled in this country and I know all the devils in hell shall not be able to quench it'. Miners, just up from the mines, listened and the tears flowed making white gutters down their coal-black faces. Whitefield's preaching gave birth to the 18th century Evangelical Revival.

 

Whitefield proclaimed Christ and Him crucified and God used it to further His Kingdom.

 

Charles Spurgeon

 

In the middle of the 1800’s entered Charles Spurgeon.  He was called the prince of preachers.  God used him more powerfully to further His Kingdom than anyone else in his day.  The key to God using Spurgeon was that every thread of his preaching led up to the Cross.  He did not preach on moral issues or anything in modern debate.  He simply preached Christ crucified and let everything else fall as it may.

 

When asked once about how he attracted so many people while other churches were dormant or dwindling, he answered:

 

“I did not seek them.  They have always sought me.  My concern has been to preach Christ and leave the rest to His keeping.”


Spurgeon’s New Park Street church went from 232 members when he arrived to more than 5000 about 10 years later.  It was the largest independent congregation in the world.  People swarmed to him to hear the Truth.  No numbers of salvations were kept, because Spurgeon did not use the modern alter call.  He did not request a public decision.  He simply quoted Scripture to believe in Christ and be saved.

 

The latter half of the century gave the world such great revivalists as, D.L. Moody, William and Catherine Booth, Hudson Taylor, George Mueller and many great theologians such as Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield.

 

So there is a historical survey over the last 2000 years of how God advanced His kingdom.  The method was consistent.  God did it all.  The men of God were raised up to proclaim the biblical gospel apart from programs and marketing and God used the simple proclaiming of the Christ centered Word to sweep people into the Kingdom. 

 

 

IV.  The problem with modern day preaching and evangelism.

 

So they preached from the Word of God with centered on Jesus Christ.  Shouldn’t we follow this same example when preaching?  Why do we hear countless sermons from American pulpits on subjects such as:

 

  1. 10 steps to improve your marriage
  2. 5 steps to financial freedom
  3. 3 ways to have your best life now
  4. 8 ways to improve your life

 

How far has the “church” in American fallen away from a Biblical proclaiming of the simple gospel?  And we wonder why the church in America is the way it is.  We wonder why the “church” is more liberal, carnal and worldly today.  The church has conformed to the world.

 

Charles Spurgeon said:

 

Nothing worse can happen to a church than to be conformed to this world.

 

 

We see churches losing numbers and a lack of dedication in the membership and we instantly blame it on discipleship.  Then the “church” tries to revive itself (when God isn’t in it) through secular methods of marketing and programs. 

 

These worldly methods fill their churches up with goats looking for entertainment and a tickling of their ears, which is what they get.  The church spends all it’s time trying to entertain these goats from the pulpit, now stage, by offering up sacrifices of skits, giveaways, and cotton candy motivational speeches while the sheep starve and eventually leave to find real food. 

 

Spurgeon, speaking of the means God uses to save souls, said this:

 

To try to win a soul to Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavor to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-line, or to lure a star with music.  The best attraction is the gospel in its purity.  The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus.  The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound.  Preach it, and preach nothing else.  Rely implicitly upon the old, old gospel.

 

Most of America doesn’t even know what the gospel is.  They may know how to, “ask Jesus into their heart” and “God has a wonderful plan for their life”, but they do not know the gospel.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:

 

This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.  Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different.

 

The reason the church is dead in America is because of the lack of biblical, Christ centered proclaiming of the gospel to all men by all people.  Why do we preach in the opposite way the apostles preached? 

 

Why don’t we just pick up the Bible, expound the text, exalt Christ, and apply it?  How simple is that?

 

Why don’t we just go to our neighbors and simply explain the cross of Jesus Christ to them from the Scriptures?

 

What we need in the world is for real men of God to take a stand and proclaim the gospel!  The plain, straight, not watered down, true gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

If this is done, God will use it to revive the dead church.

 

 

V.  The great need today

 

We need men.

 

We need men who are not ashamed of Jesus Christ and are not afraid to suffer for the Gospel.

 

The Kingdom of God has and always been advanced by the bold proclaiming of biblical truth and suffering for the gospel. 

 

The kingdom of God has never been advanced by motivational speaking, demographic studies, entertaining empires, or marketing methods.

 

The Gospel has always been advanced by men diving into to the trenches and by blood, sweat, and tears, fighting the good fight of Truth.  By proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and Him alone for salvation to a world that hates Him even to the point of suffering and death.

 

1 Peter 2:20-21 says:

 

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?  But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

 

We are to follow the example of Christ, just like the apostles did.  Christ suffered for the gospel and we are called to also.  We are not supposed to suffer for acting like a fool but for proclaiming truth.  When you proclaim truth and confront people with the reality of eternity and if they don’t repent and believe the gospel they will be in Hell, they will hate you.

 

If you don’t think it is possible to suffer for the gospel in America then go knock on every door in your town and explain that Jesus is the only way a man can get to heaven and you will suffer.

 

So what is going to happen if you step out of your comfort zone and share the gospel with you family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers on the street?

 

Your family will think you are crazy.

Your co-workers will think you lost your mind and should be admitted somewhere.

You will lose promotions at work.

You will lose many of your worldly friends.

You will be mocked and made fun of and have rumors spread about you.

You will be hated by people.

 

But rejoice because the same think happened to our example, Jesus.  He said they persecuted Him so they will persecute you.

 

In 1 Peter 4:13-14 says:

 

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

 

What this world needs is men who are men and are not afraid of anything but God.

 

You say to me, “If I walk up to strangers and tell them of God’s holiness, their sin, God’s punishment for sin, and of Christ as their only hope and way out, then they will hate me.”


Probably.  If the Holy Spirit doesn’t intervene and work faith in them, they will hate you.  They always have.

 

This has never been and easy pill for lost people to swallow.  Ever.  The wicked have never and will never take this well.

 

But the fear of men should never determine if we obey Christ in the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples. 

 

We need men to be like John Knox who they said Feared God so much that he was afraid of no man.

 

We need men that fear God.  We need evangelists and missionaries like David Livingstone who cared about being biblical instead of looking for results.

 

Livingstone pushed on no matter how sick he was.  He battled river fever (malaria) for his entire life in Africa

Livingstone would push through the jungles with this fever when others with the fever were incapacitated.  David went through many trials including losing his wife from the fever as well as a child.  He persevered by God’s grace through constant trials. 

The constant trials drained his body.  His lungs were very weak, fever struck off and on, bleeding dogged him, and he lost his front teeth.  Through all this he pushed on to spread the gospel.  He sacrificed all for the gospel and he was able to prove what he said:

Can the love of Christ not carry the missionary where the slave-trade carries the trader?  I shall open up a path into the interior or perish.

 

David Livingstone dies in his hut while praying on his knees.  His last words were a quote by the Apostle Paul:  For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Over a period of thirty-two years in Africa he had walked, crawled, climbed, waded, canoed, boated, ridden, and been carried over 40,000 miles of the “white man’s grave.”  He told every African he saw the good news about Jesus Christ. 

Livingstone only had one convert in his 32 years and he said this, “I feel sometimes as if I am only the first evangelist to attack central Africa, ‘crying in the wilderness,’ and that other evangelists will shortly follow.” 

He was right.  In 1990, the ten modern African countries where he evangelized, there were 125 million natives of which 75 million converted to Christianity.  There are today millions upon millions of African native Christians in the part of Africa that got it’s first taste of the true, biblical gospel from David Livingstone.

Don’t you have a burden for the lost souls of men?  For the glory and fame of the name of Jesus?

 

Does it not bother you that they blaspheme His name on the streets?

 

James Smith said:

 

Friends, do you ever weep over perishing sinners? Is it not astonishing, that we can go to the house of God and pass multitudes of ungodly, careless creatures that throng our streets--and never shed a tear! Is it not more astonishing still that we can preach on the torments of the lost, and the joys of the saved--and see the great mass of the people around us rejecting it, yes, refusing to listen to it--and not weep bitter, bitter tears!
We should feel for sinners--as if we saw them suspended over the burning lake of hell, and one after another falling in! We should feel for sinners--as if we could hear the awful splash, as the lost soul takes its terrific plunge into the liquid flaming brimstone!

 

VI.  Conclusion

 

If you have a burden, then get out on the streets.  Go into the highways and byways.  Go into the mountains and jungles.  Go across the ocean.  Go to your neighbors and family.  Go. Go. Go and proclaim the glory and riches of Christ.  Proclaim the biblical gospel no matter what the results. 

 

We must be biblical instead of pragmatic.  We are accountable for what we do with the knowledge that God gave us.

 

I want to exhort you brothers to press on, suffer and do the work of an evangelist. 

 

I want you to understand how the Kingdom of God has been and always will be furthered:  by the proclaiming of the Truth and the Truth only by the weak and faithful men of God who were willing to sacrifice everything and suffer for the Kingdom.

 

I will end with some encouragement that you can cling to when you start sharing the gospel and are persecuted.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18:

 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not on the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Pray

 

 

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