The Book of Acts in the New Testament explains how the Holy Spirit spread the gospel and expanded the Church through the ministry of the Apostles and first believers. I would like to take a tour of the book of Acts and observe the expressions of faith we see. Since it records the beginning of something new in God’s plan for his people, some of the miraculous events were necessary at the time to help the early church understand what the Holy Spirit was doing. Many of these miraculous events have not continued in our day because they are no longer necessary, but we can still learn from the evangelism and conversions described in this book. So I would like to pay attention to the environments in which the Holy Spirit brought about amazing revival and church growth. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two.
Acts 2 describes the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the Church. With this new beginning, the Holy Spirit starts with a bang, granting the first followers of Christ the miraculous ability to speak in the various languages of Jews who lived all over the Roman empire. The Jews who had been living in Rome heard the Christians speaking in Latin, and Egyptian Jews heard them speaking their language. Then Peter got up and explained that a new era in Israel’s history had begun; the promised Messiah had come, even though the nation had rejected and crucified him. As Peter spoke to the crowd that day, three thousand people believed and were added to the Church.
The Church immediately began meeting regularly, sometimes in the Temple area as a large group and at other times in individual homes in smaller groups. As they gathered, they were committed to activities that benefited and strengthened believers, and they went out to tell others the good news of Jesus. In Acts 3, Peter and John were apparently on their way to a gathering at the Temple. Before they arrived, they proclaim the good news, and the Church grew to five thousand that day (Acts 4:4).
After Stephen was stoned, the Church was scattered, and the gospel spread to new regions. Philip went to Samaria and told the people there about Jesus. Many believed, and the Holy Spirit confirmed that he was saving Samaritans too. Then the Holy Spirit took Philip to a road where he met an Ethiopian eunuch. In this deserted location, the Ethiopian believed the gospel and was saved.
In Acts 10, the Gentile mission is officially started with Cornelius and his family hearing and believing the gospel in their house. Later on, Paul and his co-workers began to share the gospel throughout the Roman world. Paul’s practice was to find Jewish synagogues, where unbelieving Jews could hear the good news. When the majority rejected his message, he proclaimed the message to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). In Philippi, the gospel spread in a prison (Acts 16:25ff.), and in Athens, it spread in a shopping center (17:17).
We see in Acts how Paul and others used the situations in which God placed them to spread the gospel. If they were in court on trial, they shared the message about Christ. If there was a crowd ready to listen, they spoke up. However, what is equally clear throughout Acts is that not a single story of conversion took place in the context of a Sunday church gathering. Now that doesn’t mean this never happened, nor does it mean we shouldn’t invite the unsaved to church. Still, it does show us that the Holy Spirit primarily used efforts outside the Sunday gathering to grow the church. We would do well to follow this example and speak up in the circumstances in which God has placed us. Like the early church, we must proclaim the gospel where unbelievers normally are. The Holy Spirit will continue his work as we share the gospel, and more and more people will turn from their sin and trust in Christ.