Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ—the early church which was birthed by the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost—as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found within the fifteen verses which make up the sixth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the beloved physician Luke transitioning from the apostles and the affliction and persecution they experienced during the days of the early church, to a matter of social concern within the church. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the sixth chapter you will find the beloved physician Luke writing how during those days—the days when the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus the Christ, and when the apostles taught daily in the Temple, as well as in every house concerning Jesus Christ—when the number of disciples multiplied. If you read the first six chapters of the book of Acts one thing you will quickly encounter and discover is that in the first chapter the number of believers and disciples that were mentioned were merely one-hundred and twenty passionate, devoted and faithful followers of Jesus the Christ. A turning point took place when you come to second chapter of the book of Acts—specifically when you encounter the events and reality of the day of Pentecost—for when you read of the events which unfolded on the day of Pentecost, you read about more than simply the sound of a mighty rushing wind filling the upper room where they were, and closed tongues of fire descending and resting upon each of the heads of the one-hundred and twenty. There is a tremendous emphasis that is placed on the cloven tongues of fire, as well as on the sound of the mighty rushing wind, however, there is very little emphasis that is placed on two additional and distinct outcomes and manifestations of the day of Pentecost. What begins in the upper room with the cloven tongues of fire and the sound of a mighty rushing wind does not remain in the upper room, and does not stop there. If you read the words which are found and recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts you will notice three distinct manifestations of the events which took place on the day of Pentecost—three events and manifestations which must be carefully understood and considered, for these manifestations and realities would manifest themselves again within and throughout the book of Acts. In all reality, I would dare say that you cannot truly understand, comprehend and appreciate the events which took place in the sixth chapter until and unless you first come face to face with the reality of what took place in the second chapter—and not just that which is recorded within the second chapter, but also that which is written and recorded in the subsequent chapters leading up to the sixth chapter. Consider first if you will the three direct manifestations of the day of Pentecost as they were immediately felt, witnessed and experienced by many within the city of Jerusalem:
“And there were dwelling in Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthjans, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and in Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, And Pamphyila, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrenian, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytism, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meanest this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:6-13).
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:37-40).
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every sou: and many wonders and signers were done by the apostles. And all that believered were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men,a s every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
As you read the words which are found within these three passages in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will notice three distinct realities, evidences and manifestations which took place as a direct result of the day of Pentecost. In the first passage presented before you you will come face to face with the first direct evidence and manifestation of the day of Pentecost which was the different languages, tribes, tongues and people which were present in the city of Jerusalem during that time hearing the wonderful works of God being spoken unto them in their own language. Pause for a moment and think about and consider that, for when you think about and consider the events which took place on the day of Pentecost you must not only think about and consider the cloven tongues of fire and the sound of the mighty rushing wind, for while those are undoubtedly important and were the initial events of the day of Pentecost, they weren’t the outcome or manifestation of it. It would be so incredibly easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the initial events and manifestation of the day of Pentecost and the arrival of the Spirit and not allow ourselves to come face to face with the evidences and fruit of that arrival. If you read the first passage found within the second chapter you will quickly encounter the unbelievable and undeniable reality of the one-hundred and twenty speaking in other tongues being a wonderful and powerful demonstration of the reality that when the Spirit desired to be heard and be manifested in the earth, He desired that all men and all tongues might understand His arrival and presence. When the Spirit rested upon the one-hundred and twenty present in the upper room and gave them the ability to speak in and with the tongues of other nations, He was demonstrating the awesome and wonderful reality that all languages and tongues needed to hear the wonderful works of God in their own language. In all reality, the day of Pentecost demonstrated and revealed the awesome and incredible reality that the wonderful works of God weren’t merely destined to be heard and experienced by the Jews and those living in Jerusalem, but were intended on being understood and experienced beyond Jerusalem. Perhaps one of the greatest realities we must understand concerning the day of Pentecost is that it was destined to be experienced beyond the Jews and beyond Jerusalem and was truly meant to be experienced to the ends of the earth. The cloven tongues of fire which rested upon the heads of those who were present in the upper room which gave them the ability to speak in the tongues and languages of other nations and peoples was the wonderful works of God could be heard and experienced by tongues and languages beyond Jerusalem, and within and among the nations round about Jerusalem. What began in the upper room within the city of Jerusalem would eventually need to extend and reach beyond the city of Jerusalem, and even beyond Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Oh that we would recognize and understand that one of the main evidences and manifestations of Pentecost was in fact the evidence of speaking with other tongues in order that the wonderful works of God might be heard and understood, but also that we would understand that they were intended to demonstrate the awesome reality that what we perceive as the day of Pentecost was intended to be experienced beyond the upper room and beyond Jerusalem.
If you continue reading the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will undoubtedly notice the awesome and wonderful reality that one of the evidences and manifestations of the day of Pentecost was not only that on that same day—essentially in one single day—were three thousand souls added to the number of the one-hundred and twenty, but also that the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Essentially, what was initially the declaration of the wonderful works of God in the tongues of other nations and languages would transition to this awesome manifestation of multiplication. THE MANIFESTATION OF MULTIPLICATION! How can you truly tell if the Holy Spirit is manifesting Himself in your midst? How can you tell if the Holy Spirit is truly working in your midst, if He is truly present among you in your midst? The answer is actually in the manifestation of multiplication, for one of the evidences of the work of the Holy Spirit within our midst is that of multiplication and the Lord adding to the church such as should be saved. In all reality, can we really and truly declare that the Holy Ghost is working and manifesting Himself in our midst if there is no multiplication of souls among us? Can we truly declare that the Holy Spirit is indeed working in our midst if souls are not being added to our number on a continual basis? The day of Pentecost did in fact begin with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and there were cloven tongues of fire, however, that was only just the beginning. There was so much more to the day of Pentecost than simply speaking with other tongues, for tell me—what good is speaking with other tongues if the Lord is not—perhaps even cannot—add to your number such as should be saved? What I so love and appreciate about what the beloved physician Luke writes within this passage is not only that there was added in a single day three thousand souls to the early church and fellowship of believers, but the Lord also did a daily work each day the early church met one with another. Not only did the beloved physician Luke write that the Lord added three thousand souls in a single day, but there was also this daily multiplication which took place on a daily basis. Oh please pay close attention to this, for there is a tendency to get caught up in multiplication which might take place on any given Sunday or at any given time, and yet there is this added matter of daily and continual multiplication. There are countless churches and ministries which boast in single experience multiplication, and one time multiplication, and yet there is nothing at all mentioned—or even experienced—as it pertains to continual, daily and habitual multiplication. Oh I would dare say that one time—and even immediate—multiplication is necessary and has its place, but there is something about continual and daily multiplication that is often times neglected and overlooked. The day of Pentecost was not only about multiplication in a single day, and on that particular day, but it is also about a continual and daily multiplication which would take place. What’s more, is that the beloved physician Luke didn’t simply write that there were added to the church daily those that should be saved, but that it was the Lord who added to the church. Oh that we would truly encounter and come face to face with the fact that it is the Lord who provides the increase so desperately needed among us in our churches, for one might sow, and another might water, but it is the Lord who gives the increase.
Moving on even further in the second chapter you will encounter a third evidence and manifestation of the day of Pentecost—beyond the declaration of the wonderful works of God to the nations, and beyond the multiplication of souls within the church. Upon reading and concluding the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will come to the final five to six verses and come face to face with the reality that in addition to the multiplication there was this evidence of unity, community and discipleship. The Holy Ghost did indeed add daily to the church such as should be saved, but beyond the addition of those souls, there was also this manifestation of unity and community that is more often than not overlooked. Tell me—what good is great numbers and even great numbers within the church (or a church) if there is no community or unity? What good is boasting of great numbers of souls within your particular church body and organization if there is no discipleship which truly takes place among you in your midst? The physician Luke wrote and recorded how in the days of the early church those who made up the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. What’s more, and is if this weren’t enough—the beloved physician would go on to write and record how fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signers were done by the apostles. What’s more, is that it was also written how all that believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Furthermore, they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, and ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. There are the evidences and manifestations of fear and fav our in direct response to the manifestation of Pentecost, however, beyond this there were the elements of community and fellowship which dare not, ought not and must not be overlooked. We cannot speak about multiplication without and also speaking about community and unity, for multiplication and numbers mean absolutely nothing if those souls cannot be given to unity and community. Oh, how many “large” ministries, churches and organizations boast of large numbers and large crowds, and yet there is neither unity nor community that is present in the midst of those great numbers. In all reality, I would dare say that multiplication absent unity and community is nothing more than a vain boast that means absolutely nothing in the sight of God. What’s more, is that if the Spirit gives birth to a ministry or a church, and if the Lord is the one that adds to the number of souls within the body, then there must naturally be community, fellowship, unity and discipleship. Numbers are great, and they look good on paper and even on a spreadsheet, however, numbers absent these elements and realities are nothing more than vain boasts and arrogant gloats that matter not in the sight of the living God. We dare not boast or make any arrogant boasts of numbers if within those numbers we boast of there is neither community nor unity, nor fellowship and discipleship. In all reality, I would dare say that multiplication isn’t even the ultimate evidence and expression of the presence and power of the Spirit, for in the midst of that multiplication, and in the midst of those numbers there must also be unity and community, fellowship and discipleship.
Continuing to read within the New Testament book of Acts you will come to the fourth chapter, and within the fourth chapter an additional reference—not only to multiplication, but also to community and unity. After the release of the apostles Peter and John we find them coming unto their own company and reporting unto them all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. Immediately after hearing the words which these two apostles spoke unto them all those in the company with one accord lifted up their voices to God in prayer, in supplication and in intercession. What’s more, is that when they lifted up their voices to the living God—they didn’t pray for, nor did they ask to be delivered and spared from affliction, suffering, opposition and persecution, but rather that the Lord might grant unto them boldness to be able to speak the word of God among men. Moreover, they also lifted up their voice before the living God asking that in addition to boldness there would be signs, wonders and miracles, and the evidence to heal those whom they would encounter on a daily and continual basis. When the prayers which they prayed unto the living God were and had been concluded the play where they were was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke the word of God with boldness. Upon coming to the thirty-second verse of the fourth chapter you will find the additional evidence and manifestation of unity and community, as well as fellowship and discipleship, for in this particular set of verses you will read extraordinary words which were spoken by the beloved physician Luke. Consider if you will the words which the physician Luke wrote and recorded in the final verses of the fourth chapter beginning with the thirty-second verse:
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and destruction was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by Thea pestles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-36).
At the end of the fourth chapter we read of community and unity, of fellowship and discipleship, and when you come to the middle of the fifth chapter you will find the physician Luke once more when writing about the church writing about this product of multiplication and increase within the church and body of Christ. If you begin reading with and from the twelfth verse of the fifth chapter you will find the beloved physician Luke writing the following words which were spoken concerning the early church: “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:12-16). With these words the physician Luke once more emphasizes the fact that one of the greatest works among the early church—in addition to signs, in addition to wonders, in addition to miracles, in addition to healing—was that of multiplication of the body of Christ. Here we are at the fifth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and we still find this reality and concept of multiplication within the body of Christ and within the early church as the Lord continued to add to the number both men and women. What’s more, is that when we read these words we must recognize and understand that the Lord didn’t add those who were whole and those who had it all together. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read the words which were written by the beloved physician Luke in this passage of Scripture we must come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that it wasn’t those who had it all together, nor was it the well off whom the Lord added to the body of Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for when we think of multiplication within the body of Christ, and when we think of the Lord adding to our numbers on a daily and continual basis, we think of it in terms of the Lord adding those who are without need and those who have everything all together. The truth of the matter is that when Luke wrote of the Lord adding to the number of believers such as should be saved he wrote of the sick and those who were vexed with unclean spirits. We cannot overlook and miss this incredible reality, for when we think about and when we speak of multiplication we tend to think of it being this polished reality without any flaws and without any blemishes. The truth of the matter is that if we only look for and if we only expect multiplication in a nice, neat, polished box without any blemishes we are sorely deceived and are setting ourselves to miss out on the true and ultimate work of the Holy Spirit. IF we only look for multiplication in the neat, clean and polished we are ultimately setting ourselves up to experience a serious depravity and drought of the wonderful work of God in adding to our number such as should be saved. We must recognize and understand that Jesus didn’t come to those who were healthy and those who didn’t need a doctor, but to those who were sick and in need of real healing and wholeness. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this reality, for true multiplication doesn’t always take place in the pristine and in the perfect but in the flawed, the tarnished and the blemished.
By the time you come to the sixth chapter you continue to find the beloved physician Luke writing concerning this work of multiplication, for in the opening verse of the sixth chapter you will find him writing how during the days of the apostles daily in the Temple, and daily in ever house ceasing not to teach and preach Jesus Christ—when the number of the disciples was multiplied. When we come to the sixth chapter we continue to find the physician Luke writing and speaking of multiplication, however, there is something interesting that takes place within that multiplication. As you read the words which are found in the sixth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts you will find that even though the Lord was multiplying the number of the disciples there arose a murmuring of the Grecian against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. That which we read about concerning the distribution of the saints, and that which we read about concerning the ministry of the body of Christ would actually reach a point where certain of the company would feel neglected. This is actually quite interesting, for as much as we speak about multiplication and increased numbers within the body of Christ we must also understand that in the midst of great numbers of souls will come a plethora of needs. What’s more, is that not only will there come a plethora of needs, but there will also come a wide array and wide variety of opinions, perceptions thoughts. When you come to the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that in the midst of a great multitude of people can also be disagreements, disconnect, and the perceptions and opinions of others. That which is before us in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is an incredibly powerful picture of the reality that even in the midst of multiplication there is always the possibility of needs not being met, and perhaps even the perception and thoughts of such needs not being met and/or even fulfilled. Luke writes and records how during those days there arose a murmuring among the Grecian against the Hebrews because their own widows were being neglected in the daily ministration. I can’t help but pause for a moment and think about and consider the fact that it is possible that in the midst of great numbers and in the midst of great multiplication there is the possibility for human neglect in the face of the needs of men and women. What you read and find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is an incredibly powerful picture that even in the midst of great multiplication in the body of Christ there is the reality that it is possible for human neglect to be present. The complaint and murmuring which took place among the Grecian saints within the body of Christ might very well have been legitimate, and might even had some truth and validity to it. In fact, I would dare say that were there not some element of truth to their complaint and murmuring the apostles would not have spoken unto the body of Christ to call for the appointment of seven deacons to be set apart from within the body of Christ that the needs of none might go unmet. THAT THE NEEDS OF NONE WOULD GO UNMET!
Pause for a moment and consider the statement that was just made—THAT THE NEEDS OF NONE WOULD GO UNMET! Consider the tremendous weight of that statement in light of what was written within the second and fourth chapters of this book, and how the early church had all things in common, and how there was continual distribution to all those who were present within the body. Consider if you will the tremendous reality that what the beloved physician Luke writes and records within this treatise is a wonderful and powerful picture of the needs of those within the body of Christ being met according to each man and woman giving of what they had in order that none might be without and that there would be no lack. Consider the tremendous reality of whether or not this is present within your church and among those you worship together with week in and week out. Think about the reality of no need going unmet within the body of Christ, and every one receiving that which they needed and that which they perhaps lacked in and of themselves. What’s more, is consider the reality that only in the context of community and fellowship is it possible that the needs of many not go unmet. When we think about this reality of no needs going unmet, and when we think about the reality of every need being fulfilled and met within the context of the body it places all that weight and all that emphasis on the tremendous importance of the body of Christ and our need of and for each other. There is a very real and tangible truth to the context of the corporate body of Christ and how in this context we might very well find everything we need and everything we’ve been lacking. The more I sit here this afternoon and think about and consider that which is found in the sixth chapter of the book of Acts, the more I am confronted and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that not only is individual and collective need met within the context of the body of Christ, but there is also a very real need for men and women to give themselves to the ministration of the needs around them. When the Grecian saints murmured to the apostles concerning the neglect and oversight of their widows the apostles didn’t ignore or condemn their concern, but instead called for the immediate appointment of seven men who were of honest report, and who were full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. What we read and what we find in the sixth chapter would begin with the neglect of widows in the daily ministration, however, we would also find the apostles immediately addressing the needs and concerns the Grecians had with neglect and oversight of their widows. As we read the words which are written and found within this particular passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we allow ourselves to come face to face with the very real truth that in the context of corporate fellowship and community the needs of many can in fact be met.
What is so incredibly interesting about that which is found in the sixth chapter is that what began with murmuring among the Grecians would result in the appointment of seven men who would be the first deacons of the early church. Included among these seven deacons was Stephen who was a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost—one whom Luke also wrote that was full of faith and power, and did great wonders and miracles among the people. After the appointment of Stephen and the other six deacons we find that the word of God increased, and that the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly. Not only this, but there was a great company of the priests which were obedient to the faith. How absolutely remarkable and astonishing it is to think about and consider the fact that even in the context of murmuring and what might very well be honest neglect and oversight within the body of Christ would not result in division, discord and disunity, but actually in the word of God increasing, in the number of the disciples multiplying, and in a great company of priests being obedient to the faith. WORD INCREASING! DISCIPLES MULTIPLYING! PRIESTS OBEYING! If there is one thing the sixth chapter of the book of Acts points to and reveals it’s that murmuring doesn’t have to derail the work which God is doing within the body of Christ, and that even apparent neglect and oversight within the body doesn’t have to derail the work of the Holy Spirit. Oh how I absolutely love what we find and read in these verses, for instead of the complaint of the Grecians derailing the work of the Spirit and stifling that which the Lord was doing in the midst of the body, it actually brought about the appointment of seven deacons who would give themselves to the ministration of the body. Oh that we would read the words which are found within the sixth chapter and understand that not every crisis, and not every supposed and apparent crisis within the body of Christ needs to result in discord, disunity and division. It would be very easy to allow such realities to give way to division, discord, dissension, and disunity, however, what the sixth chapter of the book of Acts reveals is that instead of these being the manifestation and experience of the early church, there was instead the reality of the word of God increasing, the disciples multiplying, and a great company of priests obeying the faith. Oh how absolutely wonderful it is to think about and consider that even though the complaint of the Grecian saints might have been legitimate and even founded, it would not bring division within the body of Christ, but would actually result in increase, in multiplication, and in obedience. Let us read the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and come face to face with the reality that every need, every crisis, every concern, and such realities which might very well be real and founded among us don’t need to derail the work the Holy Spirit is doing among us in our midst, but can in fact give way to a wonderful and powerful work of the Holy Spirit in causing the word of God to increase, in causing the disciples to multiply in number, and in causing a great company of priests to become obedient to the faith