|Vol. 15 No. 8 August 2013||
Gary C. Hampton
The church does not have a proper name. Instead, there are numerous descriptions applied to it throughout the New Testament. One of my favorite descriptions is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches when he spoke of “the household of faith” (6:10). The word translated “household” means, “belonging to a house or family, domestic, intimate: belonging to one’s household, related by blood, kindred” (Thayer). This particular verse refers to “professors of the (Christian) faith” (Ibid). All of Christ’s followers comprise the family of God. Paul had the same idea in mind when he wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
The actions of the early church are the actions of a sharing family. The nearly three thousand souls who were added to the number shared what they had. Luke reported that they sold their possessions so the money could be given to those in need (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35). Loving family members act when they see other family members in need (1 John 3:17-18).
The Lord’s parable of the judgment depicted him dividing the sheep from the goats. Those bidden to come inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world heard the Master say they fed Him when He was hungry, gave Him drink when He was thirsty, took Him in when He was a stranger, clothed Him when He was naked and visited Him when He was sick and in prison. When they asked when they had ever seen the Lord in those conditions and responded in that way, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34-40).
The Lord’s church is a caring, sharing family. May God help each Christian to grow in actions intended to show our loving concern for each other. Such concern openly displayed will attract people of the world and open doors of opportunity for us to tell them how to become part of the sharing family of God.
When one reads the biblical accounts of some of the true stories of conversions to the Lord, he cannot help but to note that there was great rejoicing. In Acts 2 the people on Pentecost who were baptized “praised God” (v. 47). The man from Ethiopia “went on his way rejoicing” after responding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being immersed (Acts 8:39). In Acts 16:34, we read that the Philippian jailer “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” Earlier, Luke informed us that he and “all his family were baptized.” Many have been the times that people have broken forth with deep emotions by the shedding tears of joy and expressions of gratitude to God whenever their sins had been washed away by the precious blood of the Redeemer. As one who has witnessed such occasions, I know that the joy experienced in the heart is simply wonderful. It may have been a cold winter’s night when an individual was baptized in an unheated baptistery or during the regular worship assembly in the presence of many who were present on that occasion, but the end results were the same – forgiveness and rejoicing. It is indeed significant to notice that true “rejoicing” was experienced following scriptural baptism and not before one was immersed. The reason being, salvation is promised only to those who believe and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
The wonderful thing about the Great Commission given by our Lord to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) is that every Christian can share in this responsibility and privilege. Teaching others of the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not limited to preachers. Luke records how the disciples, when they were being persecuted “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). I know personally men and women who have taught and led others to Christ without ever making a public proclamation of the Gospel from the pulpit. I knew a brother who was responsible for leading 138 precious souls to Jesus Christ during a period of ten years. He was able to accomplish this feat through the study of the Word of God with people on an individual basis.
We all can influence others in the way of the Lord if we care enough to study, pray, visit and teach the Gospel to them. Many times the members in the pew can reach more people with the gospel through contacts at work, school and through their varied relationships with friends and neighbors than the preacher in the pulpit can. This does not lessen the importance of the public proclaiming of the Word of God for such is required of those who have given their lives to be evangelists (2 Timothy 4:1-5). The fact is the teaching of the Gospel publicly and privately complements one another. The apostle Paul declared to the elders of the church in Ephesus that he had taught them “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). If each Christian would lead one soul to Christ in a year’s time, our church buildings could not contain the number of people present for our worship assemblies.
Finally, consider the joy in your heart that you would have when that individual who you had taught obeyed the Gospel and rejoiced because of his or her salvation from sins. It is a feeling that you would never forget. Paul expressed his feelings about the brethren in Thessalonica in this manner, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).