Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 3, 1952
NUMBER 47, PAGE 1,11c

"The Beginning"

Roy E. Cogdill

The Book of Acts is a record of "the beginning." The events recorded in the second chapter of that book are referred to by Peter as "the beginning." You will recall how that the first chapter of the book tells of Jesus ascent into heaven from the midst of his disciples, and how a cloud received him out of their sight; how, in obedience to his instruction, the disciples returned into the city and waited there. And while they waited they cast lots and selected Matthias to take the place of Judas, praying that God might govern the casting of lots so as to show his choice of the two men put forward. Matthias, the record says, was "numbered with the eleven."

The second chapter of Acts tells a simple and straightforward story of the day of Pentecost and the great events connected with that day. After Matthias had taken his place among the twelve, "they were all of one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire and sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." The men of Jerusalem were astounded at this phenomenon. Some thought the apostles were drunk.

It was then that Peter stood up with the eleven, and lifted up his voice in that first great sermon in the name of a risen Savior. He said, "Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known unto you and give ear unto my words. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day; but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh." And in dear and simple statements Peter set forth the great and eternal truths concerning Christ; his coming in fulfillment of prophecy, his life, his death, his resurrection and ascension, his triumphant exaltation at the right hand of God to occupy the throne of his father David. "And having been therefore exalted," said Peter, to the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye now see and hear."

It was the Spirit that had been poured forth; but with the Spirit they received also the power, and when the power came, there came also the kingdom. This second chapter of Acts records the very first sermon in which any apostle of Christ was ever allowed to preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It was here and now that they began to preach the gospel in all its fullness — the great facts of the gospel, the commands of the gospel, the promises and warnings of the gospel. The complete gospel message began on this occasion. And some years later we find the Apostle Peter pointing back to this very day and hour and referring to it as "the beginning." (Acts 11:15)

This gospel preaching upon Pentecost, and upon the many other occasions that followed and that are recorded in the Book of Acts, was according to the purpose God had had, and the plan he had made, from all eternity. Paul declared that it pleased God "by the foolishness of the preaching" to save them that believe. (1 Cor. 1:21) The preaching therefore, which started on this Pentecost and continued throughout New Testament history, and is still going on today — this preaching is God's plan for the saving of every man who believes in the Lord.

This was what Paul had in mind when he wrote the Colossians, "whereof I was made a minister according to the dispensation of God which was given me to youward, to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ. (Col 1:25-28)

The very object of gospel preaching, from first to last, is to get people into Christ, to make Christians out of them. In his letter to the Romans Paul sets forth God's plan for the preaching of the gospel. He wrote, "But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?" (Rom. 10:8-15) Then reading right on down into verse 17 we find, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Men cannot be saved without faith in Christ; but how does God put faith into their heart? What is his plan for the planting of faith? Through the preaching of the gospel! That is a part of the eternal purpose of God. That eternal purpose provided not only that the world might be saved through faith in Christ, but that that faith should come through the preaching of the gospel. In keeping with this are Peter's memorable words at that meeting in Jerusalem, "Men and brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe." (Acts 15:7) It was by the "hearing of the word of the gospel" that faith was produced. And the whole Book of Acts is the story of such gospel preaching. It is truly a grand history of gospel preaching in those first years of the kingdom of God. And all of it dates from what Peter called "the beginning." It was a noble "beginning," indeed; and those three thousand guilty ones who were pardoned on that Pentecost are the first fruits of gospel preaching. There have been untold millions who have followed in their path.