Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 6, 1961
NUMBER 47, PAGE 4,14

"Acts Of The Apostles" - An Example Of Teaching By Example


Robert H. Farish, Lufkin, Texas

The title, "The Acts" or "Acts of Apostles," which has been given to Luke's latter treatise is an appropriate heading for the book. It serves as a brief but accurate description of the contents of the narrative. In the book is recorded the examples of action of the apostles in preaching the gospel and teaching the ones who were baptized to "observe all things whatsoever" Christ commanded them to teach. The examples of the individual actions as well as the collective (church) actions of the ones who were baptized occupy a prominent place in the inspired account. The teaching of the book of Acts is largely by example. Much more space is devoted to relating what was DONE than is given to what was thought, felt or even said. In the book of Acts we are SHOWN what to do and how to do it. Truly, the book of Acts is an example of teaching by example.

The examples of conversion in the book of Acts have long been used by faithful gospel preachers as a highly effective means of teaching the alien what he must do to be saved. Brother H. Leo Boles became so thoroughly convinced of the effectiveness of preaching on the cases of conversion that he would sometimes preach on these examples of conversion throughout a meeting. Much credit is due to J. W. McGarvey for pointing up the value of the teaching of the examples of conversion in the book of Acts. In his hands the teaching of those examples was "mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds" of Calvinism with its "direct operation" theory of conversion. In his original commentary on "Acts of Apostles," he successfully refutes the errors of the day with the teaching of the examples of conversion which are recorded in the book.

Early in the present controversy over inter-congregational activities the teaching of the examples of ACTS was "mighty before God to the casting down of strong holds" of "Sponsoring Churchism." But the "truth of God" taught by these examples was hindered by an outbreak of infidelity among some "leading men," which denied the authoritativeness of the teaching of example. Many seem to fail to realize that consistency requires the rejection of the teaching of example in conversion, if the teaching of examples of church action is to be rejected. Now if the teaching of example is to be rejected what is the utility of most of the book of Acts? The book of Acts was formerly neglected by those who advocated a human theory of conversion; it will also have to be ignored by those who advocate a denominational theory of church action. For many, if not all, of the objections, which are now made against the "teaching by example" on the church and its work, prevail with equal force with reference to the "teaching by example" on conversion. Preachers who formerly could answer the sectarian quibbles against the teaching by examples of conversion have lately become unable to deal with those same objections to teaching of the examples of church action. The teaching of the examples of "Acts," on the church and its work, when believed, taught and practiced will eliminate the "sponsoring church" and all "common" things from the church's program of activities, "wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the 'palsied knees: and make straight paths for your feet, that that which is lame be not turned out of the way, but rather be healed." Rather than dropping the hands in despair and allowing the knees to tremble with fear, gospel preachers need to point out the straight, clearly defined path which is taught by the examples of "Acts" in order that the lame may not be turned out of the way and be lost. Confidence in the teaching of examples needs to be restored and the ability to discern between the essential and the incidental needs to be developed. The following quotations from "Commentary on Acts of Apostles" by J. W. McGarvey are well worth careful study.