Following in the footprints of Jesus


Acts 11:22-26

Simply called "the church" from the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklesia), the followers of Christ became known as "Christians", not in Jerusalem where the church had begun on the day of Pentecost following the death of Jesus, but in the Syrian city of Antioch to the north.

At first there was unity under the leadership of the apostles, but before long it was obvious that some teachers within the church were no longer teaching the same doctrines and this was causing division within the church.

Galatians 1:1-24

Today there are hundreds of so-called Christian churches taking parts of the Scriptures and building doctrines quite different from those taught by the apostles in the First Century.

In Galatians 1:11, Paul made the point that the gospel that he preached was not from man. It was the direct revelation and teaching of Jesus Himself.

Remember that Jesus told his disciples that He would build a church that would last for eternity. Matthew 16:18, "... I will build my church – literally, my ἐκκλησίαand the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

Then in the next verse He promised that He would give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the church, to Peter.

We’ve seen how Peter stood up with his brethren on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:14 and preached for the first time about Jesus. The man born to be a fisherman was preaching his first sermon, telling his fellow Jews that they had crucified the Lord and Christ.

This humble, uneducated Galilean, empowered by the Holy Spirit, was convicting men of sin. "Your hands are stained with the blood of Jesus! Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!"

Yes, contrary to the false teachings of thousands of religious leaders, there is forgiveness in the water of baptism. Forgiveness doesn’t come when we first believe. It doesn’t come somewhere further along the road to understanding. It doesn’t come when we "invite the Lord into our lives", as some preachers claim.

It comes when we honour God and choose to become a disciple of His Son just as Jesus taught His disciples before His ascension back into heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20

  • 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Writing about the same occasion, the historian Luke wrote, in Luke 24:45-53,

  • 45 Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.  46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48 And ye are witnesses of these things.  49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.  50 And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.  51 And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.  52 And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:  53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

So Peter brought that same message in Acts 2:38, when he told the Jews gathered that day, that

  • ...God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.  37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

Paraphrasing, Peter got stuck into them, "Brothers, every one of you needs forgiveness for the evil things you have done to Jesus! You must change your attitude towards God and His Word. You need to change your way and become a disciple of Jesus instead of His enemy. God’s promise is to you, but it all starts in the water of baptism! There’s no other way you can obtain God’s gift of salvation!"

So, beginning in Jerusalem as Jesus had said, these men "preached Jesus". Not their own ideas, but the teachings of their friend and Master, just as He had asked them to do in Matthew 28:18-20. "Teach everyone. Make more disciples by baptising others and teaching them to observe everything I have taught you."

And as we see in Acts 10:34, God is no respecter of persons.

Ananias brought the same message to Saul in Acts 9 and Acts 22.

In Acts 22:16, Ananias asked Saul, "Why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

"Saul if you want to be a disciple of Jesus and not a persecutor, you need the forgiveness first that comes at baptism. Then you can go out and be an apostle for Jesus to the Gentiles, to the Roman kings and to your fellow Jews."

You see, baptism is the very beginning of our salvation. Saul wasn’t saved on the road to Damascus, when he suddenly realised God was talking to him. He wasn’t saved when Ananias, by the power of God, put his hands on him and caused him to see clearly again. He wasn’t saved sitting in the house of his friends. At Ananias’ invitation, Saul arose (Acts 9:18, Acts 22:16) and was baptised and washed away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Then he was saved!

While ever he waited, or held back, Saul was still unforgiven, he was still lost, he was still "outside of Christ" and not a part of the Kingdom of heaven or the church.

Remember back in Acts 2, how those who believed and gladly received the teaching of the apostles were baptised? Verses 41 and 42...

  • ...And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Their baptism that day was how the Lord added them to his church – and the beginning of their new lives as the disciples of Jesus. Acts 2:47,

  • ...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:27,

  • For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.

We cannot "put on Christ", we cannot begin our journey as His disciple, without first being baptised into Him.

This is the same message we need to take to the world today.

Unfortunately, we are up against the false teachers, the false prophets and the ear-ticklers of modern religion. We’re up against almost 2000 years of the traditions of men.  But, just as Jesus described the Pharisees’ preaching in His day, any other doctrine is unacceptable to Him. Matthew 15:8-9,

  • 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

And Paul warned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4,

  • 3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;  but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Notice, the King James translation uses the word "heap" – "they [shall] heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears".  What do we do when we're having a clean-out at home?  We heap all the rubbish up to take to the dump.  Likewise, we have this great pile of teachers, none of whom are worth following or keeping, which we need to get rid of.

The only way we can fully please God is if we resolve to "Go back to the Bible" – both in what we teach and practice.  We need to preach the same Jesus that the apostles and early church taught in the book of Acts.


From our meeting held on 12 March 2017