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?