Snapshots From Acts, Number Two - How the Church Grew
Snapshots from Acts -Number 2- How the Church Grew.
The Church was established in response to the preaching of the Gospel on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter two. In Acts 2:37-47 on the question of "What must we do" the answer by Peter is recorded; "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." This comes after Jesus had sent his disciples out to all nations with the "Great Commission"; "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you". (Matthew 28:18,19). Luke states it as follows in his Gospel in 24:47; " and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem."
Then follows the account in the Book of Acts of how this was put into action and if one were to describe the early church in one word, perhaps "growth" could be used?
In fact one of the really amazing facts about the early Church was how fast it grew. Let's look at the examples in Acts:
Acts 2:41- Many believed and 3000 saved.
Acts 2: 47 - Every day God added to their number.
Acts 5:14 - Multitudes of both men and women were added to their number.
Acts 6:7 - The word of God spread and the number of disciples multiplied greatly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 9:31 - The church grew in numbers.
Acts 11:21 - The Lord was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Acts 12:24 - The word of God continued to spread and grow.
Acts 16:5 - And so the churches were made stronger in the faith and grew in numbers every day.
Acts 19:20 -The word of the Lord grew mightily or "spreading and growing stronger".
Acts 21:20 Thousands of Jews have believed.
Questions we need to look at include "Why the fast growth then?" "How did they do it?" "What about today?"
The following factors seem to stand out in this rapid growth as recorded in the Book of Acts.
1. Growth in numbers always seemed to come with the spreading of the word. Preaching was mostly done to the lost.(5:42)
2. The Holy Spirit was active and working in the proclamation of the Gospel.(4:8,31)
3. Members were active in the process on a day to day basis. When persecution broke out they took the message with them as they fled. (8:4)
4. Sharing of the message was important. Everyone had a part in the excitement of the "Good News".(5:27-29)
5. The example set by the believers had an impact. People could see they had "been with Jesus".(4:13)
6. When opposition came, the church continued to grow. As the people fled from persecution they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news about Jesus and who He is.(5:42)
7. God was involved through the Holy Spirit working in and through the members. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit as he proclaimed the message. (7:54-56)
8. Prayer was central to their message. The early disciples prayed and preached. (2:42; 4:24; 10:4,9)
What is different today? Are there advantages to being a Christian today? What about disadvantages? Why is it so hard to convince people about the truth.
Obviously the many different teachings and churches today confuse people who are seeking the Lord. Humanism and a general rejection of spiritual reality has confused many and resulted in many rejecting the possibility of eternal life and salvation. While many have accepted the general principles as taught by Jesus, the truth about salvation and forgiveness of sin does not go down well in a world where the idea of absolute truth about right and wrong as revealed in the Bible is rejected. Everyone is a law unto themselves and what feels right must then be right. The law of subjective judgement rules. No one has the power or right to tell me what is right or wrong. The world in the time of the early Church, as described in the Book of Acts, was perhaps simpler in many ways and so people believed easier. That does not mean that the message is any less relevant today than it was then.
Bible quotations are usually from the NIV translation or of my own from the Greek text.