And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6: 7)
What strikes me about the early Church is that, they did not have the technology, the informations, the media, the books, the education, the money, and the music that we have today in a post-modern culture. And they didn’t enjoy religious freedom, like we do in a post-modern society. In the midst of severe persecutions by the Roman government and great oppositions from the Jewish religious establishment, it says:
1. The word of God continued to increase.
2. The number of disciples multiplied greatly.
3. A great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
The imagery in the original language points to the vegetation of grain (ηυξανε, it grew, as corn grows; και επληθυνετο, it was multiplied, as the corn is in the full ear). This is in reference to Jesus’ parable of the Sower and his seed; and the seed is the word of God. The seed was liberally sown; and it grew vigorously, and it became greatly multiplied. There is no corruption in God’s Word; and because God watered it and gave the increase, “the number of disciples multiplied greatly.” It wasn’t just a tiny number, but multitudes. God cares about the crowd & large numbers. And so should we in our local churches, especially among the unreached people groups (Japan being 2nd largest). The 1st century Church did not have methodologies or seminars/conferences/booth camps or cleverly devised plans for church growth. They had just two things: Prayer & Preaching! Sobering isn’t it? Nothing fancy or hip as some would like them to be. No fun stuffs! There’s nothing hip or cool about being persecuted! But God takes His word seriously today & He has ordained that His word brings forth blessings: “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants” (Deuteronomy 32:2). Again Isaiah gives us a powerful imagery of the effects that God’s Word brings:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (verse 10, 11).
Unlike man, God has integrity in keeping His word. And He brings people into the kingdom as His word continues to increase. The scripture testifies that “…the word of God continued to increase and spread” (Acts 12: 24). It goes on to say, “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19: 20). God’s Word will prevail in & through His servants. This is God’s primary means of regenerating a sinful generation. Jesus Himself said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). There’s nothing upon which missionary enterprises should put their confidence, except God’s revealed truths. There is no sure foundation other than this. It is an awesome thought to consider that the success of missions & evangelism hangs on the success of His Word declared by weak missionaries. Despite all the seeming set-backs in the church, we can be encouraged that God is faithful to bless His Word and affect great changes in the lives of people we are called to serve.
Finally, the number of the Jewish priests in Jerusalem was very great; but their conversion was an incredible proof of the power of the Gospel (not signs & wonders although there were many being done). Signs & wonders could not convert the religious leaders during Jesus’ earthly ministry. In fact it failed to lead them to repentance, hence Jesus pronounced: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes” (Luke 10: 13). Signs & wonders are not the ultimate eye openers necessarily. It cannot replace the powerful preaching of the Gospel (although signs & wonders may accompany preaching –as the Spirit wills). But here the Gospel, “the power of God for salvation to everyone” became a reality even among the Jewish priests! The Gospel is the “power of God” (Romans 1: 16). It says: “A great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” This is Japan’s great hope. God’s Word can break hearts of stone! “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23: 29). Don’t under-estimate God’s Word. It’s sharper than the surgeon’s scalpel.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Are we ready to see Him work in Japan? Pray for an increase in God’s Word & the good soil (receptive hearts!). Of the seeds that fell into good soil , it says it “produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4: 8). God’s Word can multiply disciples in Japan! Come Holy Spirit! Do as you will!
Watch “Are you a good person?” animated pure Gospel-presentation clip.