1. Sincerity does not equal salvation.
In Acts, we see many sincere, religious, but lost people.
- In Acts 2 they were broken, cut to the heart, but still needed "saving" (v.40).
- In Acts 8 the eunuch read the Bible, traveled 1000 miles to worship God, but he still did not understand (vv.30-31).
- In Acts 10, Cornelius was devout and sincere. He prayed, and God heard his prayers. But he still needed to hear the gospel and receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus' name (vv.43,48).
- In Acts 16:13-15, Lydia was a worshipper of God. But her heart still needed to be opened to the gospel.
- In Acts 18:24-28, Apollos fervently spoke about Jesus, but still needed the way of God taught to him more adequately, for he only knew the baptism of John. We can surmise he was re-baptised, because that is what they did to the twelve in Acts 19:1-5 who only knew the baptism of John.
- In Acts 22:6-16, Paul saw Jesus, believed and obeyed him. But he still needed his sins washed away in baptism (v.16).
It is very possible to be spiritual, sincere, and even be a worshipper of God, yet still be lost.
2. The Church is for Every Nation.
Gal 3:28-29 indicates that there are no economic (slave or free), racial (Jew or Greek), or gender differences in Christ.
Mt 28:18-20 says we are to "make disciples of all nations." Yet so often we find groups in a multi-cultural society comprised of mainly one nationality or age group. It is not loving or biblical to have an all-Chinese, Korean, Caribbean, Nigerian, white English, South African, Indian, Greek, etc., church. Only a language difference could allow separate services.
3. True Christians regularly confess their sins.
- Matt 27:1-5 shows how the religious leaders weren't ready to help Judas overcome his sins after he confessed.
- Mk 1:4-5 shows that people confessed sin before their baptisms.
- Heb 3:12-13 talks about being responsible for the souls of all the brothers, and encouraging them daily to prevent hardening from sin.
- Js 5:16 talks about confessing to each other.
As disciples, all of us need to be open about our lives, starting with the preacher, who is open from the pulpit. Has anyone in your group talked to you about your sins in this way? How is it that we who barely know you already are asking you about your righteousness? Could it be that the reason people in the world never asked you is that they also had something to hide?
4. The True Church Is United Worldwide.
When we read the book of Acts, we see the disciples having one church in every city. Paul would always know where the disciples were in each city, and he would stay with them (for example, Acts 21:4, 7, 8, 16). Unity was forged in spite of disagreements-in Acts 15, for example, they all met together to get united on the circumcision issue (Gal 2:11-14, where Paul and Peter disagree, yet in 2 Pet 3:15-16 Peter commends Paul's writings as Scripture). Sometimes we will see isolated, fired-up congregations. But these have one charismatic leader, and are not part of their own, worldwide movement.
The Protestant reformation was doomed from the beginning because the strong-willed, spiritual men who started it were unable to get united as one church. Our movement follows the teaching of Jn 17:20-23, where Jesus says that disciples should be "brought to complete unity to let the world know you have sent me." We have strong, talented leaders, who sometimes disagree, but we work things out according to Mt 18:15-18, and we truly love each other. If someone goes from one city to another, we tell them who to meet.
5. Disciple-Making Is a Mark of God's Church.
Mt 28:18-20 gives us the great commission of Jesus. He promised them he'd always be with them if they made disciples. This is more than handing out tracts. Teaching obedience in others is much harder than getting them to say a prayer and "believe" in Jesus. We do not simply hand out tracts; we patiently walk with people, helping them change their day-to-day lives and become true followers of Jesus. 1 Jn 2:3-6 clearly says that if someone says "I know him" but does not obey his commands, he is a liar and the truth is not in him!
The churches in the book of Acts were growing, disciple-making churches. Their purpose was to save sinners. See Ac 1:15; 2:41; 2:47; 4:4; 5:41-6:1; 6:7; 8:4; 9:31; 16:5, where we find the churches actively evangelising, and growing in numbers. Also 1 Cor 4:15 (10,000 guardians in Christ!) and Col 1:6,23 (fruit all over the world!). Some groups evangelise and are active. Growth does not prove that we are from God. But a lack of growth proves that we are NOT from the Lord.
We have a worldwide vision and plan to help everyone be saved in our lifetime. Most religious people don't really believe Jesus is the only way. If you show them Jn 14:6, Ac 4:12-13, Ac 17:30, it will help them see that all people everywhere must repent. They may ask, "what about people who have not heard-isn't it unfair that they are lost?" Yet Rom 2:14-15 says that when Gentiles do right (without knowing the law), they show it is possible to do right without knowing the law, and yet they (and us) also do wrong, "their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them." Rom 3:9-10 clearly says that Gentiles and Jews alike are all lost. The religious world does not really believe this; if it did, it would evangelise! When religious people see the lack of commitment to true evangelism in their group, it helps them realise they don't really have a deep faith in the gospel.
6. True Christians Are Always Persecuted.
- 2 Tim 3:12 says that anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted.
- Jn 15:20 says that if they persecuted Jesus, they'll persecute his followers.
- Mt 5:10-12 explains that when people "falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me" that we are blessed.
- Indeed, Jesus was slandered, and called "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" in Luke 7:34.
- Similarly, in Ac 17:6, the Christians were accused of causing trouble all over the world.
- Inn Ac 24:5 they called Paul a "ringleader of the Nazarene sect." Paul admitted this in Ac 24:14, "I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect."
- In 1 Pt 4:12-16, Peter told us not to be surprised that we suffer for being Christians. The fact that traditional groups are not persecuted is evidence that they are not from God!
Jesus said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets" (Lk 6:26)