THREE articles in this issue deal with the problem of communicating the gospel to the masses. I appreciate the emphasis Authors Beaven, Guy, and Scragg have made in their articles. Your time will be well spent in considering the challenge they present to the Adventist evangelist today.
As I read their articles through prior to publication, my mind turned to a Spirit of Prophecy passage that contains a truth we often overlook. As you read the selection below, remember it is talking about men who lived in a secular and violent age. All the excesses we face in our world not only existed then but, if anything, were excessively excessive! It was a time of unparalleled lust, greed, rebellion, and debauchery. Atheism, humanism, secularism, materialism it was all there if not in name, certainly in practice. It was a formidable world into which the apostles stepped. Yet, some thing happened wherever they went. Churches were raised up, miracles were commonplace, believers were baptized. The work of God expanded rapidly. The world became quickly aware of a faith labeled "Christianity."
How did these plain, simple preachers of the gospel do it? God Himself explains the mystery as follows:
"The arguments of the apostles alone, though clear and convincing, would not have removed the prejudice that had withstood so much evidence. But the Holy Spirit sent the arguments home to hearts with divine power. The words of the apostles were as sharp arrows of the Almighty, convicting men of their terrible guilt in rejecting and crucifying the Lord of glory.
"Under the training of Christ the disciples had been led to feel their need of the Spirit. Under the Spirit's teaching they received the final qualification, and went forth to their lifework. No longer were they ignorant and uncultured. No longer were they a collection of independent units or discord ant, conflicting elements. No longer were their hopes set on worldly greatness. They were of 'one accord,' 'of one heart and of one soul.' Christ filled their thoughts; the advancement of His kingdom was their aim. In mind and character they had become like their Master, and men 'took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.'
"Pentecost brought them the heavenly illumination. The truths they could not understand while Christ was with them were now unfolded. With a faith and assurance that they had never before known, they accepted the teachings of the Sacred Word. No longer was it a matter of faith with them that Christ was the Son of God. They knew that, although clothed with humanity, He was indeed the Messiah, and they told their experience to the world with a confidence which carried with it the conviction that God was with them.
"They could speak the name of Jesus with assurance; for was He not their Friend and Elder Brother? Brought into close communion with Christ, they sat with Him in heavenly places. With what burning language they clothed their ideas as they bore witness for Him! Their hearts were surcharged with a benevolence so full, so deep, so far-reaching, that it impelled them to go to the ends of the earth, testifying to the power of Christ. They were filled with an intense longing to carry forward the work He had begun. They realized the greatness of their debt to heaven and the responsibility of their work. Strengthened by the endowment of the Holy Spirit, they went forth filled with zeal to extend the triumphs of the cross. The Spirit animated them and spoke through them. The peace of Christ shone from their faces. They had consecrated their lives to Him for service, and their very features bore evidence to the surrender they had made." The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 45, 46.
No one denies the fact that our society is difficult to reach. The minds of men are miserably blinded with the things that are seen. The unseen world seems so drastically unreal. But hasn't that always been true? Could it be that our main difficulty in reaching the masses is not antiquated methods but rather antiquated or nonexistent spiritual experiences on our part as ministers?
In the passage under consideration note the thread of living, vibrant relationships between the apostles and their Lord. Independence was gone. Unity was more than a motto. A dynamic confidence in Christ and His power to save surcharged their hearts. Love and zeal motivated these men to uplift Christ and Him crucified! Their response to the Spirit and the Spirit's response to them was so overwhelming that they were affected physically! Their faces radiated peace and surrender. The depth of their attachment to the Lord couldn't have been stronger.
This is how the disciples did it and how we can, too.