We all desire to see the church grow. We want Romans 8:29 to be true, namely that Christ “would be the firstborn among manybrethren.” This means that we desire to see growth on two levels: the universal church (all believers from all time, also known as the kingdom of God) and the local church (Greenbrier First Baptist). I believe that Christ will be faithful to build His universal church as He promised in Matthew 16:18, and I believe that we will see growth in the near future locally as well. As we expect growth and prepare for it, let us notice a couple of things about the growth of the church in Acts 9.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace,
being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,
it continued to increase. (Acts 9:31)
A healthy church will grow. In fact, no one will really be able to stop it. This is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 when He promised, “the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Acts 9:31 says the church continued to increase. That means that the increase was not seasonal, but continual. People were believing and being added to their number day by day (Acts 2:47).
What was causing them to be in a position to increase? They were “going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” That’s an interesting combination: fear and comfort. Typically those are opposed to one another, not in union with one another. What we have here is a full picture of the trust that the church puts in God. We are to have a healthy, robust fear (respect) for Him that does not drive us away but brings us close. He is to be the only One we fear, but He is also to be the only One in whom we find comfort.
To put it negatively, the church did not fear people or institutions, nor did they find comfort in anyone or anything other than the Holy Spirit. Because they did not fear man, they were filled with boldness, and because they did not find comfort in the world, their message was pure and their joy undiminished. They were solid, joyful witnesses who were unwavering in their devotion to Christ, and the church grew because of it.
As we look forward to the growth I believe that God is stirring up here, let us prayerfully prepare to be a people who fear the Lord and find comfort in His Spirit.