by Steven Chan
After Saul the persecutor had been converted, the Bible recorded its effect on church growth in Acts 9:31:
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
While it is true that the preaching of the gospel must go on “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2) and the efforts to persecute the church in Jerusalem did not stop the disciples from continuing to preach the Word (Acts 8:4), it is nonetheless true also that when churches have peace and are edified as they walk in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the churches will grow (Acts 9:31).
As we earnestly desire to be a growing and God-glorifying church, let us strive to possess the same qualities that characterised the multiplying churches of the first century.
1. Churches need to have peace.
When churches are embroiled in contentions with efforts to persecute them or to trouble them, then efforts will be devoted towards addressing such threats. As a result, efforts to preach the Word may be affected.
Similarly, when the churches are also embroiled in internal strife, effort to win souls may be affected. In Acts 6, the early church was faced with internal strife. But the apostles had the wisdom to counsel thus:
”It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-5)
We need to ensure that the practice of prayer and the preaching of the Word of God should never be neglected as we seek to meet the internal needs of the brethren within the church. Too often almost 100% of a church effort is expended on matters internal to the church while there are negligible efforts to preach the gospel to outsiders. This ought not to be the case.
There may also be situations where there is no peace within the church because brethren are embroiled in personal fights within the church. The apostle Paul warned the brethren at Galatia in Gal 5:15:
”But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”
Brethren, we must seek to truly love one another and be willing to forgive one another so that peace, unity and harmony may prevail within the church. Indeed the Bible says: “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”(James 3:18). Only the peacemakers may powerfully sow the seed of the gospel which is the means by which Go reconciles the world to Himself and also through which there is peace in the one body of Christ (Eph 2:14-18)
Let us make every effort to ensure that there is peace among brethren as was the exhortation of the apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica: “Be at peace among yourselves.”(1 Thess 5:13).
2. Churches need to be edified.
In the church, brethren need to be encouraged, their spirit uplifted, their faith strengthened, and stirred up unto further love and good works (Heb 10:24) The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
”How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Cor 14:26-27). The Bible says in Heb 3:13: “exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” In Eph 4:15-16, the Bible says that “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
The church needs to be edified whenever the brethren come together and it is important to realize that each and every Christian in the assembly needs to contribute towards the edification of the church. It is not just the work of the song leader or the preacher. We need to ask ourselves: what are we doing to edify the brethren whenever we come together?
3. Churches need to walk in the fear of the Lord.
The Bible says in Eccl 12:13-14: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Psa 111:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;” 1 Peter 2:17: “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
We are told to fear God; give Him due respect as the Creator and the one to whom we are accountable. That fear and respect for God should be evident in how we live or conduct our lives. Some conduct their lives without any thought as to what God has to say about their lives. They do not feel accountable to Him. Do we really care about what God says about our lives? Do we fear and respect Him?
In 2 Cor 5:10-11, the apostle Paul wrote that the fear of the Lord is a motivating force in persuading men to obey the gospel:
”For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”
We need to respect God in our conversation and speech, our conduct, our dressings, as well as our actions. Until we fear God, the churches would not be able to multiply – for the Word of God is unlikely to be preached by those who do not fear God.
4. Churches must walk in the Comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised to give us another Comforter who would abide with us. He Himself will also be with us.
John 14:16-18: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
In this world, we are troubled by many things. But Jesus comforts us through His many promises that He would help us in every situation:
John 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” 1 Cor 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Heb 2:18: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Heb 4:15-16: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Rom 8:26-28: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
2 Cor 12:9-10: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Until churches and Christians learn to walk in the Comfort of God’s Grace and Mercy, it would be difficult to envisage that the churches would multiply – for the just shall live by faith (Heb 11:6; Rom 1:17).
Let us therefore seek to be at peace with one another, be edified by one another, each learning to walk in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Then we will truly multiply.