The gospel meeting I am referring to is not some 1830’s log cabin meeting with Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell, or some other Restoration Era gospel preacher. The meeting I am speaking of predates those men by approximately 1,800 years. The very first gospel meeting was held by twelve men, in the city of Jerusalem in the year 33 A.D.
This gospel meeting was one that had been in the works since the beginning of time. It was a meeting that God had planned and had made preparations for from the moment He first “spoke” the world into existence. In order to make that meeting successful God first prepared a people to bring the Lord Jesus Christ (the object of that first gospel meeting) into the world. Also, He prepared an environment in which that primitive gospel could grow and thrive. Finally, He prepared the message to be preached and the preachers to deliver the message.
A Prepared People
From the very beginning, God selected a family into which His Messiah would be born. This Messiah was born to deliver mankind from sin and reconcile him back to God. After Adam and Eve were forced from the garden, the Lord selected one of their sons as the root from which the Messiah would eventually emerge. That chosen man was Seth, the son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:25). Of the descendants of Seth, the next man selected by God as the progenitor of Messiah was Noah. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Genesis 6:8. Noah, of all his generation, was the only man still faithful in his service to God. Therefore, God saved him and his family and destroyed the rest of mankind. Generations later, Abram was selected by God to bring forth the seed from which all mankind would be blessed. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:2-3.
From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob descended the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. This great nation of people began with just 75 men, women and children, who went down into Egypt in a time of great famine. 430 years later, 603,550 men upwards from 20 years old emerged with their wives and children, numbering approximately 2-3 million. This nation was given a Law at Mount Sinai after their exodus from Egypt. That Law was meant to teach them the importance of sacrifice and service to God and to prepare them to receive the Messiah and to obey His gospel. “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Galatians 3:23-25.
At the close of the Jewish dispensation, God sent John the baptist to restore the Jewish people back to faithfulness under the Old Covenant, so that they would be ready to receive the Messiah and His gospel. John did exactly that. He made “straight the way of the Lord…” (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3). His work as the forerunner to Christ restored faithfulness among the Jews. It was the disciples of John the baptist who, later, made up the bulk of Jesus’ disciples.
A Prepared Environment
God sent His Son into the world, born of a virgin of the Jewish nation. His birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection are the “good news” that embodies the gospel message. However, before that blessed event could occur, God had to allow for the proper environment in which to bring His Messiah and to spread forth His gospel. Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be the city from which the gospel would proceed (Isaiah 2:2-3). In the first century, Jerusalem, Palestine, and the entire Mediterranean region were part of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire provided for the ideal environment into which the Messiah would be born. Under Rome, as never before in human history, was much of the world under the control of one government. Never before had there been so much stability in the world. The Roman Empire provided a framework for maintaining an orderly society, such as a common language (Koine Greek), a common currency and well established code of law. They built and protected a highway system that rivaled even our modern highway systems. These highways made it possible for people to travel around the Mediterranean region quickly and safely, thus furthering the gospel’s spread.
In addition, by this time, the Jewish people had been scattered across the entire Roman Empire. Those who were the most faithful returned to Jerusalem each year for the three feast days as prescribed in the Law of Moses. The aforementioned societal framework the Romans created allowed them the security and ability to make the journey. It was during one of these three feast days, the day of Pentecost, in which this first gospel meeting was held. On that day, it is estimated that there could have been upwards of 3 million Jews on hand to hear those first gospel sermons.
Before that first gospel meeting could be held, preachers were needed. Jesus selected twelve men and named them apostles. Of this first select group, one fell by the wayside (Judas), but another (Matthias) was selected to take his place. Jesus spent three years with these men teaching them the things that they were in turn to go out and to preach. He promised to them that he would send unto them the Holy Spirit Who would, (1) guide them into all truth (John 16:13), (2) teach them all things (John 14:26), (3) remind them of all He had taught them (John 14:26), and (4) speak through them (Mark 13:11).
A Prepared Gospel Message
On the day of Pentecost, these twelve men received the promise of the Holy Spirit with power and began to speak the words of the gospel message to the gathered multitude. It was the apostle Peter who began the gospel meeting with an inspired defense and explanation of the miraculous events that were transpiring that day. This was according to God’s plan, for Jesus had said to Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19. Peter would be the one holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven – the church. He would be the first one to “unlock” the doors and invite those who desired to be saved to enter in. The things that he would “bind” or “loose” on earth that day, would be the things that already had been “bound” or “loosed” by God in heaven. Peter was simply the inspired “doorman” to usher in the church age.
His sermon began with a defense and ended with an invitation to, “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 Ghost” Acts 2:38. This first great gospel meeting resulted in the salvation of 3,000 people! “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:41.
The first gospel meeting was a great success! God had planned it perfectly! He had perfectly prepared the audience, the environment, the preachers and their message. The gospel went forth from that place, on that day, to spread throughout the entire world within 30 years. Many of the gathered multitude of Jews, “out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), “gladly received his word” and “were baptized” (Acts 2:41), and carried that gospel message back to their scattered homes and families abroad. Later, the apostle Paul and others would carry that gospel message unto the gentiles bringing many of them into the church as well.
All this was able to take place because God had scheduled that first gospel meeting! None of the wondrous things that resulted from that meeting would have taken place if no one had been there to hear it! The same can be said of our gospel meeting this week. If you do not attend, members or visitors alike, you will miss out on a wonderful opportunity to be strengthened and encouraged by that Old Jerusalem Gospel that still saves today.