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Numbers in Acts

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(A Topical Series in Acts)

Westgate Chapel 9/16/90p.m.                         The Book of Acts

Proposition:    The Lord of the Harvest is deeply concerned with the specific numbers of souls gathered into His harvest and the size of His harvest, not just that the seed is spread without concern for results.

i. introduction

-     WHEN I work on my '35 Ford I either like to have my Dad right next to me, or have a trusty workshop manual for '35 Fords......that way I know what to do, with solutions to problems that expert mechanics have solved before me.

-     TONIGHT I would like to take you back to the Book of Acts as we pursue a Biblical pattern for our life in the Body of Christ.......the way it is seen in the owner's manual for the Church.....the Book of Acts.

-     I HAVE enjoyed identifying several topics in the Book of Acts that seem to run as themes throughout the "Power on the Move", "Apparent Defeats: God's Hidden Victories."

-     I WOULD like to take the next several Sunday nights to continue with these topics in Acts.

-     TONIGHT I would like to talk to you about numbers in Acts.....hold on, it will make sense in a moment.

-     THERE is a position that is being accepted in the Church concerning the harvest......that is creeping up on us unnoticed......and will overtake and even cripple the Pentecostal movement if not corrected.

-     THE position sounds correct, even holy and humble, but it is not God's position for His Church.

-     IN a nutshell, it says that our job is to simply sow the seeds of the Gospel, but leave the results to God.

*     Its proponants mistakenly quote I Corinthians 3:6 where Paul says,

                           "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."

-     THEY use this verse to relieve the Church of responsibility for results in the harvest field.

-     MANY church leaders and believers today in America are fiercely attacking any emphasis on results in the work of the kingdom.

-     DONALD McGavran calls this the theology of the search, developed to justify a weak church at home and ineffectivity in the mission field.

-     HE points out in his book on evangelism and missions that these same people have no problem counting.......

*     The number of patients served in their mission hospitals.

*     The number of students in their Christian schools.

*     The amount of rice distributed to the hungry.

*     The number in morning service.

*     The number in Sunday School.

-     BUT when it comes to counting the numbers of people with lives changed by the power of the Gospel, baptized in water, and following Christ......pastors and missionaries compete with each other to play that part of the work of the kingdom down.

-     THESE same people are convinced that our duty to the world is complete when we simply make the Gospel known......get them to a Christmas concert, bring them to church, tell them that you are a Christian.....and our work is over. The results are up to God, not us.

-     IS a search for souls all that God wants?

-     OR does He want lost children found?

-     SHOULD we be following a theology of the search or a theology of the harvest?

-     IN EZEKIEL 34 God has some harsh words for shepherds who substitute other activities for finding lost sheep.

-     JESUS' own words of approval were not for the shepherd that stayed at home taking care of the 99 found sheep, but for the shepherd who risked all to find the one lost sheep.

-     NOTHING is more spiritual than the actual reconciliation of the lost to as great a number as possible since it is not His will that any perish (II Peter 3:9).

-     MANY of Jesus' parables place the emphasis on "finding"....the treasure, the pearl, the coin, the sheep.....not just searching.

-     THE "Main Thing" to God is not the proclamation but the salvation of lost people.

-     THE proclamation is the means....but the end is that men and women be reconciled to many as possible.

-     HE didn't want His banqueting table half full.....and was willing that the outcasts be invited so that it be filled up.

-     WELL, what does the book of Acts have to say about this subject? A lot. 20 verses to be exact.....from 1:15 to 18:8.

-     LET me share some of them with you, showing God's concern for numbers.

ii. the harvest

-     AS I read some of these verses to you, put aside, for a moment, the legitimate concern for the ego problem related to numbers as a church grows.....and listen for what the Holy Spirit is teaching us about the hear of God in inspired Scripture.

-     ACTS 1:15.

      "In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)......"

-     IT seems, when you read the rest of Acts that the Holy Spirit is just giving us a base point, from which to measure what He is about to do in the Church. 120.....that is 50 more than the average size church in America right now.

-     ACTS 2:40&41.

      "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."

-     ACTS 4:2-4.

      "They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand."

-     ACTS 5:12-14.

                           "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade.  No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number."

-     ACTS 6:7.

                           "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

-     IN ACTS 9:31 the Church "grew in number."

-     IN ACTS 9:35 "all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord."

-     IN ACTS 9:42 "many in Joppa believed."

-     IN ACTS 11:21 "a great number believed and turned to the Lord."

-     IN ACTS 11:24 "a great number were brought to the Lord."

-     IN ACTS 11:26 " Paul met with the church and taught great numbers."

-     IN ACTS 12:12 "many gathered and were praying."

-     IN ACTS 14:1 "a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed."

-     IN ACTS 14:21 "a large number were won."

-     IN ACTS 16:5 "the church grew daily in numbers."

-     IN ACTS 18:8 "many of the Corinthians believed."

-     IT sounds to me like the Holy Spirit was concerned Himself about numbers and growth in the church, and took great pains to communicate His concern about the harvest to us.

iii. the action

-     THESE numbers in Acts are interestingly attached to actions.

-     OBVIOUSLY God is not interested in numbers for numbers sake (A malady of preachers if we are not careful and watch our spirits.)

-     IN the 20 verses that mention numbers or growth or increase..........

*     9 are connected with people "believing" in Christ.

*     1 mentions them being "saved."

*     1 mentions people "turning" to Christ.

*     1 mentions people being "won" to Christ.


*     There are 2 "number" references to them being baptized in water.


*     There are ten "number" references to people being "added", "gathered", "joined" to the church.....with the church "growing" and "increasing."


*     There is one "number" reference to people "strengthened" in the church.


*     And Acts 11:26 talks about people being "taught" in great numbers.

-     SO it seems obvious to me that God is interested in numbers when it comes to people being saved, baptized, added to the church, taught and strengthened.

iv. conclusion

-     I WANT to be busy doing the things that God says is important.

-     I WANT us to be committed to the harvest the way God is committed to the harvest.

-     THIS is a call for us to grow, numerically, with people being saved, baptized, taught and encouraged in the Lord.

-     WHOSE job is that?

-     ALL of us.

-     HOW can we do it?

-     IN the power of the Holy Spirit.

-     AFTER all that is what the book of Acts is all about.







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