As we continue to look at the record of the early church growth in the book of Acts, we find that it came at a cost — persecution, suffering, hardship, even death.
Early Church Growth in Jesus’ Name Came at a Cost
They suffered persecution for proclaiming the name of Jesus.
It wasn’t long before we find the early church facing persecution. We read of imprisonment (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 12:1-4), flogging (Acts 5:40), even death (Acts 12:2). As in the case of Stephen, people were stirred up against him by false accusations (Acts 6:10-15), leading to His death.
- We too must realize and accept that conversion growth may not come easy. Even if we don’t live in a country that imprisons Christians or puts them to death, at minimum we might face misunderstandings and ridicule if we seek church growth in Jesus’ name as did the early church. Yet, we can gain perspective and persevere by understanding the power that comes in, through, and because of His name. Are we willing to risk our lives to see His Church grow?
Early Church Growth Couldn’t be Stopped by Persecution
The early church grew despite persecution.
The unbelieving religious rules of their day understood the significance of using Jesus’ name. They reasoned, “to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name” (Acts 4:17-18). They released Peter and John after threatening them, who then went and reported all that happened to fellow believers. — “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God … After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. … ” (Acts 4:24-32)
Later, in Acts 5 we read of the Sanhedrin wanting to put them to death because they continued to speak in Jesus’ name. One of their own reminded them of how other religious groups had dispersed shortly after their leader had died. He wisely said, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39). So it was, they couldn’t be stopped. — “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:41-42).
- We too can find motivation to keep going when we suffer for the Name of Jesus. When we speak and do all we do for, in, because of, and through the name of Jesus, we have a power that defies human wisdom. We’ll understand that in their opposition, people will be “fighting against God” not us which should help us persevere and actually propel us forward. And, He will continue to grow His Church in Jesus’ name!