4 . 5 . 2020
The book of the Acts regularly emphasises the growth of the word of God: ‘the word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied’ (Acts 6:7)
‘the word of God grew and multiplied’ (Acts 12:24), ’so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed’ (Acts19:20)
The point is clear, it was never stagnant but continued to expand and spread.
Each case shows that the word of God grew in spite of persecution and worldly opposition.. Leading into chapter 6 the apostles are arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus, they are beaten and forbidden to preach Christ.
How did they react? ‘They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’ (Acts 5:41). Not only did they rejoice, but they were obedient to the command of the angel, who said ‘go, stand and speak… all the words of this life’. Exemplifying this bold obedience was Peter who once denied the Lord but now in the face bitter hostility, proclaimed ‘we ought to obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).
The gospel progressed and prospered despite fierce opposition, and gave courage to men like Stephen to stand alone. However, neither he nor we are alone for, ‘I am with you always ,even unto the end of the world. Amen’. He found himself in dire straits yet he knew the help of the Omnipresent Lord.
The context of hostility continues into chapter 8 where the saints were scattered abroad as a result of Stephen’s martyrdom; their reaction? ‘They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.’ They did not allow their dire circumstances to silence their witness for Christ; they preached the word, in season and out of season.
In Acts 12 we are presented with the death of James who was mercilessly executed by Herod’s sword. Though Peter faced a similar fate an angel intervened and told him to ‘arise up quickly, gird thyself and bind on thy sandals’. The next time we read of Peter is in chapter 15 where he declares, ‘that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe’, of course this is a reflection on Acts 10, nevertheless Peter had a work to do and chains were not going to prohibit this!; how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Despite kings and prison houses chapter 12 ends with the death of Herod, but the word of God continues to live – ‘the word of God is not bound’ (2 Timothy 2:9).
The word of God grew and multiplied’… these words are the springboard into Paul’s first missionary journey where they ‘preached the word of God’ (13v5), and as a result a Gentile ‘desired to hear the word of God’ (v7) resulting in ‘being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord’ (v12). The message is still the same today through Christ is preached … the forgiveness of sins’ (v38). The reaction of the Gentiles was that they ‘besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath (v42)’, one week later ‘came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God (v44)’
Our prayer is that this desire for the word of God during unprecedented and uncertain times might result in a similar attitude to that of the Gentiles in acts 13; ‘they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (v48)’.
Chapter 19 firstly presents to us difficulties in a city which creates opportunity; secondly it presents one man absolutely at the disposal of his Master, so concentrated to Him, labouring well on through the night that he might be free during the day to argue and reason concerning the Kingdom of God.
Labouring hard and speaking boldly for years; unwanted and rejected yet fully committed to the cause; continued steadfastly, resulting in ‘all which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus both Jews and Greeks… the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified’, and to borrow the words of Demetrius the Silversmith who confessed ‘not alone at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia, Paul hath turned away much people’ - Turned them to Christ. ‘So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed.’
Through this time of solitude may we appreciate that the word of God is not bound but rather living and powerful. This sharp two-edged sword is able to convict and convert sinners. Let’s believe it. Let’s preach it. ‘How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’