Spreading the Gospel

When Jesus gave the great commission He told the disciples they were to scatter outward from Jerusalem to be witnesses for Him. Because of the Christians being persecuted in Jerusalem, they had little choice. Therefore, persecution became a significant point in the development of the early church. By spreading out to Judea, Galilee, and Samaria they created the second stage of growth of the church as they took the gospel message outside of Israel and into the Gentile world. Whenever we take the gospel outside our sphere, the result is always the same: the church grows. The great commission was not just Jesus’ mandate to the disciples. It is Jesus’ mandate to the church today and we need to be the church.

What is the Church?

We often refer to “church” as the building where we go to fellowship with other believers. But the Church is more than brick and mortar, carpet and pews, choirs and praise teams. The Church is actually the body of believers. In fact, the word “church” in the original language means “crowd.” So, the church, then, is made up of the crowd of people who have surrendered their life to Christ. Therefore, there is only one church. However, within the Church, there are local congregations that meet and gather to worship God and encourage one another. So when we talk about the church growing, we’re not talking about a Building Campaign to build a bigger sanctuary. We’re talking about adding souls into the Kingdom of God.

We often refer to “church” as the building where we go to fellowship with other believers. But the church is more than brick & mortar, carpet & pews, choirs & praise teams. The Church is actually the body of believers-people who have surrendered their life to Christ. Therefore, there is only one church.

From Acts 9:31 we see three things that helped the church grow. We can use these same three principles today so that the church can see substantial growth once again. Acts 9:31 says:

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.

1. They were edified

To edify means to build one another up. The world does a great job at tearing others down, but this should not be true of Christians. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul wrote that the church was to “encourage one another and build one another up. Jude wrote, “you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20). And in Ephesians 4:29, we can see what it looks like to build one another up: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

How much would the church grow today if we edified one another rather than tearing each other down?

2. The early Church walked in the fear of the Lord

Most of us today have been walking in the fear of a pandemic for the past year. But “fearing the Lord” doesn’t mean to be afraid. Simply put, the early church had respect and reverence for the law of God. “To walk in the fear of the Lord” then means they obeyed His laws. God’s laws are not suggestions. They are not meant to be obeyed just on Sunday morning when we dress our best and walk through the church doors. Rather we are to walk in His law and in His truths day and night.

Psalm 1:2 says, “His delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” This means that we dwell on God’s word, taking it into our hearts, and apply it to our lives as the Holy Spirit works within us. Walking in the fear of the Lord isn’t just for when others are watching us. It’s also for when no one is watching.

How would the church grow today, if we walked in the fear of the Lord? How would our lives be different? Would our homes be different? Would our marriages be different? How would our finances be different?

3. They were in the comfort of the Holy Spirit

As a church that was being persecuted, they needed the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit enabling them to be bold and continue telling the gospel message despite the persecution they faced. Most of the apostles were not only persecuted, they were eventually put to death for their faith. As they watched their fellow apostles die, they would have the comfort, strength, and boldness to continue spreading the gospel in the Holy Spirit.

Some parts of the world today still see persecution of Christians. If Satan were to have his way, he’d stamp out all of Christianity and he sure is trying to get his way! But just as the Holy Spirit was the source of comfort in the early church, so He is today and He accomplishes it through the word of God, through inspiring others around us with messages and words that bring us comfort, and He can directly minister comfort to our hearts. Just as His work helped the early Christians be bold witnesses for Christ, so it can help us today.

How would our churches grow if every Christian accepted the comfort of the Holy Spirit so they could boldly proclaim the name of Jesus?

What would the early church have to say about the church today?

I often wonder if the saints of the early church could see the church of today, what would they think of us? Many of them were martyred for their faith – but they told the world of their day about Jesus anyway. They new that to be bold witnesses for Christ it would eventually catch up with them and cost them their lives.

While there are some countries who still live with the same fear the disciples did, today, many Christians’ only fear to spread the gospel is a fear of what others will think about them. We sit within our pretty churches, raising our hands in praise and prayer, but when asked to go and witness, we’d rather hide under the pew. But church – the lost who are dying and going to hell are depending on us to be the church and tell them about Jesus.

It’s time the church today arises and does the work of the church. We need to edify, walk in the fear of the Lord, and dwell in the comfort of the Holy Spirit who enables and empowers us to boldly go forth to tell the gospel message to a lost and dying world.

So church – let’s be the church!

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