Well, there were a handful of people whom the authorities in Jerusalem regarded as ordinary, simple, unlettered, and ignorant men and women. There were just twelve men essentially, and a number of others with them. They had nothing to recommend them, no great names, no degrees, no money, no means of communication or of advertising. They had nothing at all—they were nobodies. And yet what we know to be a fact is that this handful of ignorant and unlettered people “turned the world upside down,” to use Luke’s phrase in chapter 17:6. Within about two centuries Christianity became the most powerful force in the great Roman Empire. By the beginning of the third century it had become such a powerful force that a Roman emperor named Constantine deemed it a wise move to make the Roman Empire officially Christian.
I am not concerned to consider that fact now. All I want to ask is: How was it that this small group of people ever got into a position in which they could shake the whole Roman Empire so that it became officially Christian within such a short space of time? Was it because they preached politics that these people turned the ancient world upside-down?
Christianity is a phenomenon of history. It is a fact. The Christian church is one of the most vital facts in the total history of the world. We cannot understand that history without bringing in the story of the church. But does this modern idea as to what the church is and what her message is account for what has already happened? My answer is that it does not. So not only do honesty and common sense tell us to come back to Acts, but if we really want to have an understanding of what Christianity means, we are compelled to come back here. Only one thing can account for the phenomenon of the Christian church and this amazing history that has continued through the centuries, in spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil and the malignity of men and of hell, and it is the explanation given in this book of Acts.
Therefore I propose to hold the message of Acts before you. I shall not preach systematically through the book, but I shall pick out certain themes that are put before us here. I feel that the modern world is very much in the position of Theophilus. At any rate, anyone considering these things who is not a Christian is in the position of Theophilus. You have become interested. You want to know what Christianity is. Perhaps you are in trouble in your moral life or in your married life. Perhaps you have some running sore of the soul, something that gets you down. And you say, “I’ve tried this and that—I wonder what the Christian church has to offer.”
All right, Theophilus, you want to know, and fortunately we are able to tell you. I am not here to tell you what I think about Christianity. I am not here to tell you what I think the Christian church should do. I am in the position of Charles Wesley, saying, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.” My own personal opinion is that even two services on a Sunday are not enough. How can people be satisfied with but one statement? The world is dying all around us, and it needs to hear the Word of God. These early Christians went everywhere, and they spoke and they preached, and that is the explanation of this tremendous phenomenon of the church.*
Soli Deo Gloria!
*Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2000). Authentic Christianity (1st U.S. ed.) (8–10). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.