Acts 12:24 (ESV): 24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
The book of Acts demonstrates that numbers do matter. We find in the first two chapters that the believers meeting in the upper room numbered 120. After the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, the number of believers increased by 3,000.
As Luke continued telling of the story, he included markers from time to time to speak of the increase of the gospel. After the seven were chosen to oversee the food ministry to widows, we are told that the word of God continued to increase, the number of disciples multiplied greatly, and a great many priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).
Acts 12:24 is another such marker. King Herod had killed James, and wanted to kill Peter, but God delivered him in response to the prayers of the church. The believers were praying so fervently that they couldn’t believe Peter had been released, but God had responded to their prayers.
King Herod executed the guards and then gave a speech to emissaries from Tyre and Sidon. Seeking his favor, they said he was a god. God struck him dead. And the word of God increased and multiplied.
It is interesting that the emphasis here and in Acts 6:7 is on the word of God increasing and multiplying. That included the number of disciples increasing and multiplying, yet the focus seems not to be on people and standards by which we might take pride. Rather, the emphasis is on the increase and expansion of God’s kingdom.
I see a tension here that we must keep in balance. We need to know if the number of disciples is increasing and multiplying in our midst. That will necessarily happen if the word of God is increasing.
But the focus should not be on numbers, attendance, and the pride we might feel from having a large, or merely growing, church. Rather, is God’s kingdom increasing in our world?
Is God’s message of good news flourishing?
Heavenly Father, I pray that your kingdom and program would increase in our world. May I be used by you is proclaiming the good news of your kingdom. Amen.