Responses to the Gospel in Acts of the Apostles

Responses to the Gospel

Responses to the Gospel in Acts of the Apostles

Who Responded to the Message of Christ during the First Decades?

Richard Hollerman

As we read through the New Testament book, The Acts of the Apostles, we are impressed to learn the positive response to the preaching of Christ. When Luke wrote this interesting and important account of the outreach of the gospel, a variety of people responded. For example, we read the following:

The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47b).

Many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand (Acts 4:4).

All the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number (Acts 5:14).

When we read these summaries, we may wonder why we don’t see this sort of response in our own day!

As you have read through Luke’s account (Acts 1-28), have you noticed who responded to this preached message of Christ? Let’s go through the book with this question in mind. We know that not all of these little summaries deal with who responded—but some of them do.

Who Responded to the Gospel?

In the few examples we noticed above, we see the following:

Acts 2:47—Various Jews saved

Acts 4:4—about 5,000 Jewish men saved (women not mentioned)

Acts 5:14—both men and women Jews saved

Now let’s proceed to other passages:

Responses to the Gospel in the Acts of the Apostles

Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number… (Acts 6:1).

The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing (Acts 8:5-6).

When they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike (Acts 8:12).

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase (Acts 9:31).

All who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him [healed Aeneas], and they turned to the Lord (Acts 9:35).

It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord (Acts 9:42).

(Account of Cornelius and his household coming to Christ in Caesarea, Acts 10-11. He was a “devout” man—a Gentile worshiper of God.)

And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21). (Jews, v. 19; and Greeks, v. 20)

. . . And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:24).

The word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied (Acts 12:24).

Now when the meeting of the Synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43).

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks (Acts 14:1).

After they had preached the gospel to that city [Derbe] and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch (Acts 14:21).

When they had arrived and gathered the church together [in Antioch], they began to report all things that God had done with them, and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).

[Paul and Barnabas] describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren (Acts 15:3b).

[Barnabas and Paul] as they were relating wheat signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles (Acts 15:12b).

So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily (Acts 16:5).

(Lydia [a worshiper of God] and family, the Jailer and family, and others responded. In Philippi, Acts 16.)

. . . They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women (Acts 17:1b-4).

Therefore many of them believed [from Berea], along with a number of prominent Greek women and men (Acts 17:12).

Some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:34).

Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized (Acts 18:8).

Now he [Paul] himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews (Acts 18:19b).

. . . All who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10b).

Summary of our Evidence

Since we have surveyed the early preaching of the word of the gospel, we are better prepared to see who responded to the message. Let’s summarize these verses as follows:

Acts 5:14—men and women Jews

Acts 8:5-6—Samaritans responded (non-Jews)

Acts 8:12—men and women Samaritans were baptized

Acts 10-11—Cornelius, family, and friends (men and women) responded (Gentiles)

Acts 11:19-21—Jews and Greeks responded

Acts 13:43—Jews and God-fearing Gentiles responded

Acts 13:48—Gentiles in Antioch believed

Acts 14:1—A large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks

Acts 14:27—God opened a door of faith to the Gentiles

Acts 15:3—the conversion of the Gentiles

Acts 15:12—great signs among the Gentiles

Acts 16—various Gentiles were saved in Philippi

Acts 17:1-4—some of Jews in the Thessalonian synagogue were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women

Acts 17:12—At Berea, a number of Jews believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men

Acts 17:34—At Athens, a prominent Gentile man, a woman, and several others believed

Acts 18:8—At Corinth, Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized

Acts 1910—All who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks [presumably many believed the message]

What have we learned?

As we study through the Acts of the Apostles, we can see a number of facts that should be of interest to us. In the first preaching of the gospel, Jews (both men and women) responded to the message. The gospel first went out to non-Jews, then the Samaritans came to Christ through Philip and after this the gospel went to the Gentile Cornelius as well as his family and friends (Acts 10-11). These were not idolatrous non-Jews for the Samaritans had some belief in the Mosaic God and Cornelius was a “devout” man, evidently a “God-fearer” who may have received some influence from the Jewish synagogue.

Paul almost always first went to the Jewish synagogues in the various cities and towns where he was traveling. There would often be a positive response from at least some of the Jews in this context. However, very often Paul encountered an opposition, even a violent reaction, from the Jews in the synagogue. But often there was a “core” group of Jews who did respond.

In the first century, some Gentiles also attended synagogue meetings and were influenced by the Old Covenant Law, Prophets, and Writings (cf. Luke 24:25-27, 44-49). They were sometimes called “God-fearers” or “Worshipers of God.” These Gentiles believed that the Old Covenant was inspired of God, accepted the moral code of the Jews, and rejected pagan idolatry. However, they had not accepted all that was required of proselytes to Judaism, such as circumcision, the kosher food regulations, immersion [baptism], and the like.

It is interesting to realize that the various communities of Christians originated from these people who heard the gospel and responded to it. Thus, as we read the New Covenant [New Testament] letters, from Romans to Jude, as well as Revelation, we can be aware of the fact that some of these assemblies were largely Jewish in makeup (especially in Jerusalem and Judea) and others were partly Jewish (those at a distance from Jerusalem). In some areas, the assemblies that were formed from the first preaching of Christ were largely composed of Gentile members.

It is also interesting to observe that in the synagogues, men were the prominent ones who attended. However, women were also permitted to attend but they were required to sit at a distance from the men and perhaps even behind a barrier. When the gospel when out, we notice that some of those who responded were of the female gender. Perhaps in some or many cases, the women responded to Christ and were saved, but the men remained either in the Jewish fold or in rank paganism. We might cite the following:

  1. Paul is aware that some women were Christians whereas their husbands were unbelievers (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, 39-40).
  2. Peter also knows that some Christian women were married to those who were “disobedient to the Word” (1 Peter 3:1).
  3. Sometimes a woman came to the Lord to be saved and there is no indication that a husband was involved, as in the case of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15).
  4. Paul could write about certain women he knew in Rome, even mentioning names (cf. Romans 16:6-16).
  5. The apostle also wrote of Euodia and Syntyche from Philippi (Philippians 4:2-3).
  6. Phoebe is called a “servant of the assembly which is at Cenchrea” and there is no mention of a husband (Romans 16:1-2).

As we read through Acts of the Apostles, we notice that various women responded to the gospel. Notice these references:

Acts 5:14—both men and women Jews saved

Acts 8:12—men and women Samaritans were baptized

Acts 17:1-4—some of the Jews in the Thessalonian synagogue were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women

Acts 17:12—At Berea, a number of Jews believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men

This shows that not only men but also women responded to the gospel message. This included Jewish women, Samaritan women, some “leading” women in Thessalonica, and a number of “prominent” Greek women in Berea. Could it be that these women from Thessalonica and Berea were “God-fearers” or women who already knew something of the true and living God?

We might also notice that whereas the first preaching occurred in Judea and the first to respond were Jews, eventually the gospel went out to the Gentiles. This would have been in obedience to Christ’s “great commission”: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15; cf. Matthew 28:18-19; Luke 24:46-49).

We can see from this study that both Jews and Gentiles, both men and women, came to Christ Jesus for salvation. The body of Christ eventually was composed of people from “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). We see the beginning of this outreach in the Acts of the Apostles! As the years went by, the gospel outreach included all ethnic groups, both genders, various age levels, Jews and Greeks (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28), and even barbarians and Scythians (Colossians 3:11). All who were willing to humble themselves, admit their sins, repent of their wrongdoing, place their faith in God through Christ, and be baptized into Him were welcome into God’s eternal family!

Let’s read Acts of the Apostles with renewed freshness and encouragement! God was at work in the first century world and He is at work in ours as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.