Paul addressed divisions in the church in Corinth and in the process he describes quite well how God provides the increase in His church. Paul’s demonstrating what can and should happen when people are unified in purpose. Paul said, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants or waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:5-7 ESV).
Paul says that he who plants and he who waters are one, and each receives his own reward for the work they did. When we look at the very early church after Christ ascended, it grew quite rapidly. The church today is still in a fast decline and we could easily model what the early disciples did to plant and water. Afterall, God is still the one who gives the growth. The early disciples did not have a goal of reaching masses. In fact, they often traveled to small towns and villages to preach. But they still planted and watered. And God gave the growth.
This message is very important for us as families, because we can (and should) work together to plant and water. Our theme this quarter is God and family. There’s no better way to connect to God than to work together to bring people closer to God. There are ample opportunities to do so too. If we really believe that it is God, not us, who provides the growth then we will easily share the Good News with people and see what God does with that!
When Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, it’s hard to imagine that they knew what challenges waited for them. Very shortly after the ascension of Jesus, the church was persecuted and scattered. Christians were literally meeting in a cave in Antioch of Syria (which ended up becoming the sending church for Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys).
Peter clearly had in mind preaching to Jewish people. But that idea got flipped on its head when God sent him to Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile. When more persecution came, James the brother of John was killed with the sword. This alone would have been a devastating blow to the disciples, because James was one of the “inner circle” during Jesus’ ministry.
As if James’ death wasn’t bad enough, Peter was imprisoned. “He (Herod) killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2, 3 ESV). We don’t know why Herod kept Peter alive and not James, but clearly Herod was most likely going to put on a show for the Jewish people before killing Peter. Luke records a miraculous escape for Peter, then Peter appears to a group of people praying at Mark’s mother’s house. He told them to “tell these things to James and the brothers,” then he left and went somewhere else.
Peter did not shrink back. Neither did the other disciples. They boldly preached the word of God, because Jesus told them that they would be his witnesses. This is an amazing example of the boldness that we need to have today. The Gospel will go on, but we need to be willing to step up and share it.
Photo by Denny MÃ¼ller on Unsplash