Acts 6: A Growing Kingdom

The word of God increased, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem grew by leaps and bounds.  This included a large crowd of priests who became obedient to the faith. (6:7)

This group of 120 sure has grown.  First it was to 3000, then over 5000 men.  Now they are growing by “leaps and bounds.”  Let there be no mistake, God wants His kingdom to grow.

Acts 1:6-8 is considered by many to be a bit of a thesis statement for the book.  Many key themes from the book of Acts launch off from this passage.  We also find here this sentence which also becomes the very structure of Acts:

Then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the very ends of the earth. (1:8)

Think of it like concentric circles spreading out from Jerusalem, where the events of Acts 1-4 took place.  Now we are in the Judea section.  The Jesus movement is still very much a Jewish thing, though now there are “Hellenistic” or Greek Jews in the mix.  Next, with Philip we will see the gospel move to Samaria, a far less palatable place to a good, upstanding Jew.  Paul and Barnabas will take the gospel in the latter half of the book into the pagan Greco-Roman world until the book ends in Rome, the furthest civilized city to the west where the gospel would realistically be expected to go.  We know from Romans that Paul’s greatest desire is to go to the Far West, to Spain, where the gospel has yet to go.  Unto the very ends of the earth, indeed.

God wants His kingdom to grow.  I see nothing in the Bible that indicates God wants to sell the kingdom like a salesperson hawks his wares to one more empty shopper seeking a new trinket or novelty.  No billboards and slick advertising campaign are needed (and if they are, aren’t we admitting we have turned God’s kingdom or at least our churches into one more consumer good?).  Still, we don’t need to glory in being ostracized outsiders whose small numbers are a badge of honor.  God wants growth.

We can be certain that God wants his kingdom to grow spiritually; maturity is always the goal.  God intends for his kingdom to grow numerically, as we are seeing here in 6:7.  As Acts 1:8 makes clear, God is looking for geographical growth too.  That same verse confronts our insular and even prejudicial tendencies and says God is looking for a kingdom that grows ethnically.  The kingdom is going to be a 64-pack of Crayolas, praise God!  But that ethnic growth is what produces a problem in Acts 6 too as the leaders try to deal fairly with both Greek and Jewish widows.  This verse from Acts 6 also indicates he wants the kingdom to become socially diverse; the Jesus movement was now made up of Galilean fisherman and now Jerusalemite priests too.  Next thing you know, we will have ancient politician’s wives joining in (hint, hint).

Of course, God’s desires are no different today.  What would it look like if our Christian circles were growing in numbers and spiritual depth, reaching out into new neighborhoods and countries, and becoming increasingly more diverse ethnically, racially, and socially?

What made you think in today’s reading?

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Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Acts 6: A Growing Kingdom

  1. Eddy Efaw

    “The kingdom is going to be a 64-pack of Crayolas, praise God!” . . . LOVE this! I guess it’s the Artist in me : )

    And how about adding in the diversity of theology??? I’m thinking of Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council here. (Sorry for jumping ahead a bit). Here you have Gentile Christians being told they have to be circumcised to be part of the family of God. Paul and Barnabas can’t handle this and head to Jerusalem to get an “official ruling” from James and other church leaders there. A compromise is reached and everyone goes away happy including “apostles, leaders, all the people.” Compromise to allow everyone to focus on the “majors” of the faith, this is a biblical notion.

    PS. Acts 15:5 says there was at least some of the BELIEVERS belonged to the party of the Pharisees. How’s that for theological diversity!?

  2. Pat

    Again, I am impressed with the prominent place the Holy Spirit plays in the lives of these early Christians. Peter says choose men who are full of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit affected the lives of the new Christians in such a way that it was completely obvious to others. The whole group of chosen helpers were recognized to be full of the Holy Spirit and to have wisdom.

    The Spirit played an important and active part in their lives. For example, Stephen speaks as the Spirit prompts and with such wisdom that his opponents are stymied. Later, the Spirit even seems to affect his appearance.

    In the Christian tradition in which I grew up, the Spirit was severely “quenched.” I find it refreshing to read Acts with a new understanding of the importance of the Spirit in the lives of Christians, then and now. No wonder the kingdom grew as it did; these people welcomed the Spirit into their lives and followed His lead. Wow!

    • Exactly! Well said! More tomorrow on this same wonderful idea.

      Maybe we grew up in a similar tradition, because I totally understand what you are saying. I think for a lot of the people who taught me before college they just didn’t know how to embrace the Spirit without sounding Pentecostal, which we were not. Thank goodness for Donald Perry, one of my Bible teachers when I was a high school senior, who first started to put it together for me in a way that revolutionized my life from that day forward.

  3. v5 – They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit;
    V15 – and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

    Not much theological issue here, but I see certain ideas about Holy Spirit. How to know He have Holy Spirit? How to differentiate between Holy Spirit, and magic.
    What the angel face look like?

    Again v10 -but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
    They talking about wisdom. Here “Spirit” mean wills and commitment.

    Actually more and more I read. The meaning “Holy Spirit” is much more closer to wills, commitment, etc.

    • You ask a good question about how they would know Stephen had the Holy Spirit. It seems there was something visible about having the Holy Spirit, which seems like one more reason to think the Spirit is more than just a will or conscience or commitment. Maybe it was a quality of life that was supernaturally pure. More likely it meant he had miraculous spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues or healing that marked him as supernaturally capable.

  4. Eddy

    “Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them.” I know a few people like this. I hope those looking in on Christians from the outside see people like this. I pray to be one. #makeGodfamous #SoliDeoGloria

  5. “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God.”

    My whole life is devoted to teaching the Word of God. That is what I have been called and equipped for, I know this. I sometimes feel guilty that I am not as aggressively involved in other ministries of the Church or community. I don’t avoid those other needs, and there is always a time when teaching is not what is needed most and it is time to roll up sleeves and I always try to respond appropriately. Still, where I am most burdened is in the task of teaching.

    I am certainly no apostle, but maybe this is saying it is okay for those who are so-called to devote their greatest energies to spread a knowledge of the Word of God.

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