PEACE AND GROWTH = THE IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR ANY NT CHURCH
In any large organization it is necessary to communicate the state of the union via periodic progress reports. We do this at our company where the CEO comes around to each branch location a couple of times a year and delivers an update regarding areas where we have been successful and areas where we need to improve. We might update people regarding the competition or give new information regarding our own products and services. We take our strategic plan and measure our performance so that there is accountability. In our country, our President does this in a formal sense via the State of Union address to Congress and in more of an informal sense via press conferences and opportunities for Q&A.
The church needs to assess itself as well. How are we doing in terms of accomplishing the mission of the church? In Acts, the Holy Spirit delivers periodic snapshots describing the status and growth of the first Christian church. 9:31 is one of those progress reports – but there have already been a number of others: 2:41; 2:47; 4:4; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20
Learning much about the power of the Holy Spirit as He mediates the presence of Jesus Christ who is alive and active in directing the affairs of His church.
2 main verbs in this verse – reflect dual emphasis on peace and growth
Bock: These summaries function like triumphant choral refrains in the book, as they ring out with joy over what God is doing.
PEACE AND GROWTH = THE IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR ANY NT CHURCH
I. THE EXTERNAL RELATIONAL CONDITIONS SUPPORT PEACE AND EDIFICATION
A. The Church’s Solidarity Comes from Unity
“So the church”
Note the use of the singular here by Luke – NKJV wants to translate “the churches” plural; but in the Greek it is singular; Luke uses the singular for a reason
Speaking of the saints — not of any building
B. The Church’s Success Can be Measured Geographically
“throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria”
Picture on a map where these three important regions are;
Remember 1:8 – we have seen the church make inroads into Samaria; but this is the first reference to the spread into Galilee
C. The Church’s Status is Now Peace Rather Than Persecution
No church enjoys an atmosphere of strife –
– Whether conflict from within
– Or persecution inflicted by the world
Jeffery Anselmi: Peace is not just the absence of war or conflict, it is instead something deeper.
Peace involves the presence and positive blessings and spiritual blessings from God.
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace, I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Let’s quickly review some of the more volatile experiences of the early church:
– Had to choose a new apostle because of defection of one of their own
– Peter and John being arrested and threatened and warned
– Then all of the apostles were warned and beaten by religious leaders
– Consider death of Ananias and Sapphira for lying
– Consider opposition from religious leaders
– Tension because of widows being neglected
– Stephen being executed
– Christians displaced and forced to abandon property and home because of mad man on the loose hunting them down = Saul
Stacy Johnson: We have seen the church endure persecution and actually flourish under these difficult conditions. Now that the chief persecutor of the church has been converted there is some relief … but more importantly something else has changed = the political climate because the conditions are now described as peaceful. Not talking here about internal peace with God – but about the external conditions facing the church – circumstances over which they had no control.
Stacy Johnson: a change in the Roman empire – a new emperor arose; he removed Pilate as the governor of this area; also removed high priest Caiaphas; gave authority to Herod Agrippa to rule over Palestine = grandson of Herod the Great; political changes that caused the Jews to temporarily cease their persecutions; God controls human governments;
D. The Church’s Stability Depends on Edification
“being built up;”
image of a house being built up
Ephes. 4 describes how the church works together to promote the building up of itself into maturity in Jesus Christ; strengthening
1 Cor. 12-14 emphasizes the priority of edification; importance of continuing in the apostles teaching – emphasis on the Word of God
Heb. 10:24-25 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near”
Barnabas = “son of encouragement”
Cannot effectively pursue the evangelism of the Great Commission without the building process of discipleship that is inherent in the same Great Commission
II. THE INTERNAL SPIRITUAL DYNAMICS SUPPORT CONSISTENT GROWTH
A. Two Key Internal Dynamics
1. The Fear of the Lord – Keeps You Straight — Accountability
“and, going on in the fear of the Lord”
References from Book of Proverbs regarding the fear of the Lord:
1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”
8:13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.”
10:27 “The fear of the Lord prolongs life; but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
14:2 “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.”
14:26-27 “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.”
16:6 “and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.”
19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”
22:4 “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.”
Don’t be man-pleasers, driven by the fear of men
2. The Comfort of the Holy Spirit – Keeps You Strong – Assurance — Empowerment
“and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,”
We have seen in Acts how important the ministry of the filling of the Holy Spirit is
Calling someone alongside to help; here the Helper is none other than the Paraclete Himself, the Holy Spirit
2 Cor. 1
Cultivate these two resources
B. One Key Measurement: Numerical Growth
“it continued to increase.”
Passive – “was being multiplied” = work of God
Don’t want to focus just on numerical growth – this verse has emphasized some other very important factors and conditions; but don’t want to understate the importance of numerical growth either
Fastest growing denominations in the U.S. church scene: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists
Why isn’t the truth growing as rapidly?
Next week: two examples of church growth in various cities in response to divine miracles
What’s the Progress Report look like for Solid Rock? We certainly have been blessed with conditions of external peace and safety – nothing restricts our privilege of openly worshiping the Lord. We have no physical persecution associated with witnessing. We are challenged by our own prosperity. But we need to move forward in dependence upon the Lord.
How are we doing in terms of our internal spiritual dynamics — walking in the fear of the Lord and leaning on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us? We desire to see the Lord bless by daily adding to His church those He intends to save.