The growth of the first century church was both spectacular and constant. What caused this tremendous growth? One passage summarizes their success well: ¬“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Brethren, if we are serious about church growth, we will pay close attention to these principles of church growth.
First, the church had peace. Of all people on this earth, the church of Christ should be at peace, because in Christ, there is no enmity. There is only peace (Eph. 2:13-16), and the message which Jesus gave to the church to preach is called “the gospel of peace” (Ac. 10:36). It is by this gospel of peace that men are led to salvation in Christ and in His church (Ac. 2:38, 41, 47), and as a result, there is peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Therefore, we must also have peace with each other (Jn 17:20-21; 13:33-35).
Second, the church was edified. To “edify” means to build up, strengthen and encourage. The early Christians were built up by sound teaching and preaching (Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-2). They were strengthened by every person doing their share (Eph. 4:16). They were encouraged by pursuing and speaking the things which make for peace (Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:29). When the disciples grew in the faith, in love, in dedication, and in commitment to the Lord, is it any wonder that the church grew?
Finally, the church walked in fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. To “walk in the fear of the Lord” means having a changed life because of a reverence for God (Pro. 1:7; 16:6). To “walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” means to walk according to the Holy Spirit’s word (John 14:16; 2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, the church of the first century grew because they were intent on serving God “with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28), and they were an active people, walking as God desired.
When we live for God, as He wills, we will accomplish His work according to His purpose, and what will be the result? The church will be multiplied (Ac. 9:31; 2:41, 47; 5:14; 6:7). Is the church growing as it should? If it isn’t, maybe we need to examine again the early church and pattern our lives after them. It worked for them 2,000 years ago, it will work today!