After the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles set the tone for the principles of evangelism in the early church. They had a part in the prophecy which was spoken in Joel 2; they aided in the spread of the Gospel of Christ. For the Gospel to be spread effectively among the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8), the Apostles had to understand their surroundings and the people who they encountered. There were some who misinterpreted what the promise of the Old Testament meant, but with the teachings of the Apostles those who misinterpreted this promise learned the truth: Christ was that promised seed and He fulfilled the Father's promise. There were others who never heard of Christ and so had to be taught. Some had an idea of the Scriptures, but not enough knowledge of it that they could understand God's plan of salvation. The duty of the Apostles was to evangelize the Good News, illustrate through different evidences that the Messiah once inhabited earth and tell of His suffering on the cross.
Principle of Scripture
In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost came upon the Apostles without warning and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4). When every man in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven heard the Apostles speaking in these different languages which every man heard them in their own language wherein they were born (Acts 2:6), some were amazed when they heard the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11), but others mocked the Apostles and suspected them of being intoxicated with alcohol (Acts 2:13).
However; the Apostles were not drunk as some of the men who heard them speculated. These different tongues, or common languages, the Apostles were speaking was the Word of God. Peter began preaching to the men of Jerusalem that the other tongues were but the beginning of a prophecy that Joel spoke in Joel 2. Peter knew that the Pharisees were familiar with the Old Testament so he took them where they were most familiar with. Though Pharisees were familiar with the Old Testament teachings and prophecies, they failed to fully understand them because they were made blind and ignorant by their own distorted view of what they thought the Messiah would be like-- the Pharisees did not recognize the Messiah when He dwelt among them therefore rejecting Him. Peter reminded them of "that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…" taking them back to what they knew, and explained to them that they themselves crucified the Messiah.
Peter helped them to realize that Jesus was the Messiah whom they crucified when he told them about all the miracles that only the Messiah could do. Peter also referred to Psalm 16 where David puts Christ before him in the sense of priority and superiority. Knowledge of the promised seed was brought to all who heard Peter's message and the message of Peter's sermon was made clear: they crucified the Messiah. Those who had a soft heart were pricked in the heart and asked what must they do to be saved. Peter told them in Acts 2:38 to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…"
Principle of Evidence
Beginning in the books of Acts we read of the miracles that the Apostles performed. The Apostles took advantage of a supreme opportunity to evangelize to the men of Jerusalem-- at the temple at the ninth hour during prayer! At this hour, hundreds, perhaps thousands of men would come to the temple to pray and with this multitude of people together at once, the providence of God presented itself. There was a man at the temple gate called 'Beautiful' who was crippled from birth. Daily this man sat at the temple gate and asked alms of those who entered in. While Peter and John was about to go into the temple, the lame man asked to receive alms from them. However Peter said to him, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering" (Acts 3:6-11).
As the men of the temple stood in awe and looked upon the healed man, Peter took this opportunity, driven by the miracle he performed, and preached Christ. This miracle was not done for the sake of healing the man or so that the Apostles could bring glory unto themselves. This miracle served a higher purpose. The miracle gave Peter the opportunity to teach the Gospel of Christ--repentance and baptism, that those who heard the Word could take the next step toward their salvation. Consider what Jesus said to Thomas after seeing and putting his finger through the holes in Jesus' hand and side after His resurrection: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" John 20:29. Peter reminded these men of what Moses said regarding a prophet being raised up from the midst of them, like unto the Father, and Him being the lawgiver of the New Testament (Deuteronomy 18:15, Acts 3:22), which was the Christ whom they crucified.
Principles of Instruction
After the healing and teaching in the temple, the High Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and many of their kindred asked Peter and John by what power and name did they perform the miracle (Acts 4:7). Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost told them that by Jesus' name the crippled man was healed. This was another opportunity for the Apostles to preach Christ.
Peter quoted from Psalm 118:22 which reads, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner:" Isaiah 28:16 reads, "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." In 1 Corinthians 3:11, we read that "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." The foundation and the stone that the men of Jerusalem rejected was the Messiah and Peter makes this known to them. Acts 4:22 tells all men that "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
The Holy Ghost gave Peter the knowledge that was needed to defend the Gospel. By knowledge of the Scriptures, the Apostles were able to give a ready answer for the things that were asked of him. It is true that the Bible is its own commentary therefore is adequate in defending itself and giving an answer to anyone asking of the faith that lies in us. Being able to answer question to skeptics or answering the questions of those who are truly seeking answers convicts men of the Word. Peter did not give his opinion on any question that was asked of him, but he gave them the Word of God. The principle of evangelism is knowledge. Peter was prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15) and we must be able to do the same today (2 Timothy 3:15).
Next week: Principles of evangelism PT 2