I’ve been reading in Acts for the past several weeks and have been fascinated by all that took place in the beginnings of the early church. There is so much to learn, to apply and to study! But there is a phrase that first caught my attention back in chapter 6, then today as I read chapter 12 I noticed a very similar phrase. There was something that God intended me to see. Something important. A truth that needs to be preached. A truth I needed to remember once again.
Two verses speaking of the word of God spreading, of growing.
Three times we are told that the word of God was spreading. It was prevailing through out the land. People were being saved and the church was growing. What was causing the growth? Why was the word spreading? God showed me two things that brings growth not only in the church but in the individual.
“The first is preaching truth. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42
“…and there they continued to preach the gospel.” Acts 14:7
The Gospel was preached. The name of Jesus was preached. The word of God was preached. They taught and preached the word of God where ever they went.
So for growth to happen we need to preach the true Gospel. We need to speak the name of Jesus. Truth needs to be spoken from the pulpits and into our hearts. I see two things here. One truth needs to be spoken by our pastors and teachers. But we also need to be sure we are putting the truth into our own hearts. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves through careful study of the word of God.
The second thing that causes growth is suffering. In the context of each of the above verses the gospel is being preached in the midst of suffering. Out of that suffering for the gospel the church grows.
In Chapter 8 we have Paul persecuting the church. And in chapter 11:19 "we read “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen” In Chapter James is “put to death with the sword” and Peter imprisoned.
“And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.” Acts 13: 49-50
The word of God is preached. His children suffer. There is growth. I can’t help but think of the increasing hostility toward God here in America and I am forced to ask myself. What if the gospel is preached? The true gospel. What if we stand firm and preach the Name of Jesus regardless of what happens?
What would happen? Most likely we will be persecuted. We may lose our jobs. Be imprisoned, mocked, or worse. But isn’t this the life Christ calls us to? Isn’t this the cost of following Him? As I read the books of Acts I am challenged to live a life that is bold for the gospel. I am challenged to speak truth regardless of the repercussions.
How about you? Are you ready to preach the Name of Jesus even if it means you will suffer?
“…Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:21-22