The Dramatic Growth Of The First Century Church
From the very day of its establishment, the Lord’s church erupted like a blast of dynamite in the first century world of the Roman Empire (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4; Acts 5:14; Acts 8:1,4). The church was such a dynamic, spiritually militant force that it was referred to as those who had “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). And they were “everywhere spoken against” (Acts 28:22).
Why The First Century Church Grew
Why was the church so powerful in its influence? Why did it grow so rapidly and dramatically in the first century? Let us note carefully that it was not because its members had been trained in “the world’s largest Jewish synagogue and/or Greek school of philosophy.” The following are some answers as to why the first century church grew based on plain Bible teaching:
1) The church grew because it trusted in the one true God (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:17). It would not compromise with false (humanly originated) religions (Gal. 1:6-12).
2) The church grew because it trusted in the one true Son of God (Jesus Christ) and refused to compromise with pagan views of saviors (Matthew 24:5, 24). The church preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that only through Him could men be saved (Acts 4:12).
3) The church grew not because it observed the worldly methods and “gimmicks” of the Jews and Greeks, but because they had abiding faith in the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:15-17; Hebrews 4:12). They preached that saving word without fear or favor to everyone (Mark 16:15; Acts 4:18-20; Acts 5:27-29; Acts 20:25-27; Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:23) even if such preaching were to cost them their freedom or lives (Acts 21:13; Rev. 2:10). They reproved, rebuked and exhorted (2 Timothy 4:1-5). In short, they did what Christ instructed them to do even if “wise intellectuals” thought they should do otherwise! They preached “one body, one Spirit and one hope of our calling”; “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”; “one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
4) The church grew because the members of Christ’s body (Ephesians 5:30) lived lives of sincere dedication to Christ. They knew that their lives had to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27 – RSV), to be lights in a world of darkness (Philippians 2:15-16; Matthew 5:13-16) and to be willing, if necessary, to sacrifice everything for Christ (Luke 14:26-33; Luke 9:23; Revelation 2:10). Thousands of people were added to the Lord’s church soon after it was established (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4) because its members:
(1) Preached the gospel with faithfulness and zeal.
(2) Defended the gospel without fear or favor whenever the gospel was challenged.
(3) Lived the gospel with all of their being.
The church of the first century realized that it was not merely a “social club”. It was not merely “a church” originated by man in his worldly thinking and imagination (Jeremiah 3:7; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 11:8; Jeremiah 13:10; Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 18:12; Jeremiah 23:17) but that the Lord’s church was (and still is) unique among all religious bodies (Ephesians 4:4).
It is surely the case that if the church of our Lord today (21st Century) will begin again to preach the unadulterated Gospel with the same great fervency as the first century church displayed – not compromising it but defending it against skeptics, modernists, denominationalists, and false teachers within the church (Philippians 1:27; 2 Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9-11; Jude 3) – then once again the church will be the dynamic force the Lord intends for it to be. Brethren, let us fervently pray that the day will soon come in which such will be the case!