You all in Zion probably hope that the gospel of the new covenant will spread quickly and the Church of God, which He bought with His own blood, will rapidly grow and multiply. For this all church members pray with one accord and try to do what pleases God. Thank you for all your efforts.
The growth of the church does not just mean its external expansion such as the increase in the number of its members and the enlargement of its buildings. When every church member establishes the right attitude of faith in God, it can be said to achieve its true growth. Now, let’s consider what is the practical way to attain truly meaningful growth in the church, through the history of the Early Church described in the Bible.
It was the Holy Spirit God poured out that greatly contributed to the growth of the Early Church. Here, we need to consider what attitude of mind the saints had―what caused the Holy Spirit to work continually and served as the motive for the church growth. The history of the growth of the gospel records that the church’s growth comes from brotherly love, not from authority. In the book of Acts, let’s find a fundamental reason for the growth of the Early Church, so that we can also rapidly spread the gospel today.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place . . . Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “. . . The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off―for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 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. Ac 2:1, 14, 39-41
On the day of Pentecost, the tenth day after Jesus’ ascension, the apostles including Peter were filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the good news. As a result, three thousand people received Christ in a single day. This was a miraculous event, considering that only 120 disciples gathered and prayed in Mark’s upper room until that time.
Day after day, the number of people who received Christ increased greatly.
But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. Ac 4:4
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. Ac 6:7
In Acts 4, the number of men who believed came to be about five thousand. However, Acts 6 just records that the number of disciples increased rapidly and a large number of priests accepted the faith, instead of mentioning their actual number. We can guess their number would be so great. Thus, the gospel spread rapidly from Jerusalem to all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
There was an important factor in the rapid growth of the Early Church. It was that the saints boldly proclaim the gospel without fear in spite of hardships and persecutions.
His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. Ac 5:40-42
The saints of the Early Church were persecuted every day because of the name of Christ. Nevertheless they did not stop proclaiming His name and preaching the gospel. As a result, they were able to bear much fruit. Now, let’s see what kind of mind served as a motive force to fearlessly preach the gospel.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Ac 2:42-47
The Early Church was built on the foundation of God’s word: All who came to the church were welcomed as spiritual brothers and sisters and became bound together in unity; they shared both joy and sorrow together, being full of love―they had enough love to receive three thousand or five thousand people who entered the church in a single day. According to Christ’s teachings, they complemented each other’s deficiencies and corrected each other when wrong. They helped each other along the path to heaven, sharing in joyful fellowship, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. God added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The Early Church’s growth did not come through the authority of the Apostles such as Peter and Paul. All the saints boldly preached the gospel, loving one another fervently; it resulted in remarkable growth, both internally and externally. Thus, the Church of God achieved its growth, being filled with the Holy Spirit and the spirit of brotherly love. In these last days, too, the Church is to maintain its identity and tradition on the basis of brotherly love, not of authority, isn’t it?
Love is essential in following the way of the new covenant. Throughout the New Testament we are taught to have an absolute love for God and a sincere brotherly love for one another.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pe 1:5-11
We must take these words to heart if we want to bear much fruit and be worthy enough to enter heaven. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20). Everything in the Bible is written for our salvation; we are required to put every word into action.
God allows us to bear fruit when we have enough love to take care of a soul wholeheartedly. We are to preach the gospel not with a spirit of fear but with a spirit of love―with a heart full of earnest love―as God stretches out His hand to save dying souls through each of us. Then we will bear much good fruit.
If love is the core factor for growth in the church, let us not wield authority over our brothers from now on. The church whose members give priority to their own authority and do not practice love is not totally prepared to gather the wheat into the heavenly barn.
It does not mean that you may ignore the authority of the leading members of the church. Those who reject authority are like clouds without rain (Jude 1:12). The saints are to respect the leading members, and the leaders make every effort to bring all the brothers and sisters in Zion into the eternal kingdom of heaven, helping those who are distracted from their faith by persecution or temptation of the world. Then our Father and Mother allow us to bear the fruit of the gospel more abundantly.
The Bible teaches us that we can be fruitful if we add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. Let’s put this word into action. When we practice goodness, have a full knowledge of our Father and Mother, possess sincere brotherly love, and become humble and gentle and considerate, we can make all people around us realize the kingdom of heaven. Those who do this are the first, and those who don’t are the last. A position or title is given by God only to maintain harmony and order among the church members while on this earth. Instead of being attached to the position itself, we are to always think how we can fully obey the will of God.
Some time ago, I reread my old notes of teachings given by Mother until that time. Mother constantly emphasized the importance of love throughout Her teachings, saying, “Love one another,” “Consider others better than yourselves, and everything will go well.” Mediating on Mother’s words, I felt regretful that I had not fully obeyed Mother’s words and not reached a level God wanted me to be at.
Even when we betrayed God’s love and became sinners, He poured out His infinite love into the hearts of us all.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Ro 5:5-8
Because God had such a supreme love for us, sinners, who sinned and were expelled from heaven, He put on human flesh, being made lower than the angels; He was treated worse than the murderous robber and was greatly persecuted, far from being properly treated as the One who had all authority. He endured all of that for us. The gospel is the fruit of God’s love. So the gospel can grow with the nourishment of love―love for God and love for brothers for whom God shed His own blood.
Love is the fulfillment of the law (Ro 13:10), and we are nothing if we have no love (1 Co 13:1-3). When we are filled with the true and sincere love that our Father and Mother have shown us, the gospel will spread rapidly.
. . . I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge―that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph 3:14-19
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work . . . Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Eph 4:15-24
When our faith is rooted in love, it bears the fruit of love. God came to this earth not to exercise His power and authority, but to serve and save mankind through His words of truth; He was concerned for them and took pity on them, not leaving them to die. We love and adore God because of His infinite love for us―His sacrificial love that moves our heart, not because of His majesty and authority.
Resembling God’s love, we are to love our brothers and sisters. Understanding how great, how wide, and how deep God’s love really is, let us fill our hearts with His love and put it into action.
There are three elements essential to our religious life. They are faith, hope and love. Faith and hope lead us forward until a certain moment, but they do not sustain us forever. Faith is confirmed and hope is fulfilled when we attain the kingdom of heaven; we will need neither faith nor hope any more in heaven. However, love lasts forever; the love between the heavenly Father and Mother and Their children still continues in heaven. So the Bible says that the greatest of these is love.
The Bible gives every answer. The book of Psalms gives an answer to this question―‘what must be done in Zion for the completion of the gospel?’
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! . . . For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. Ps 133:1-3
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” This is how God Himself feels about the unity. Thus, brotherly love is the most important thing that moves God, and it is essential in Zion as prophesied.
Now the number of our church members rapidly increase and more and larger branch church buildings are built or expanded. Under this situation, many of our members are given some positions in the church. As we have higher positions of leadership, we are to give more attention to God’s word and practice love more. What is important is not our positions, but how much we preach Christ’s love and practice it. If the church grows only numerically, its members may unwittingly exercise authority over one another and the church may be caught in the snare of Satan; as a result, the gospel will be stagnant at a moment. However, if we concentrate our mind on saving each individual soul with sincere love for him, then God will surely open the door of heaven for us.
We may have just rushed straight ahead until now. It’s time to look around at ourselves. Wherever we are, wherever we go, we are to practice God’s love, so that all the Churches of God around the world give off the sweet aroma of Christ, the fragrance of love. According to the Biblical teachings, we should be self-controlled and tolerant for the glory of our Father and Mother, leading those who wander from the way of truth to recover their senses, realizing their errors.
The Church of God is not led and sustained by the authority of any person, but by the unity and love among its members. Following all the teachings of our Father and Mother, let us attain the beautiful unity through brotherly love and so live a life worthy of the gospel.