The Spread of the Gospel
"And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord" (Acts 11: 22). In this simple way Luke relates the spread of the gospel at Antioch. The phenomenal growth of the Lord's church during the first century is amazing. Especially w h e n one considers that it- began in the land where Christ was crucified and during a period in which his followers were severely persecuted.
Prophetically, Daniel foresaw the growth of the Lord's kingdom when he said, " . . . and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:36). This little stone is identified as the kingdom of God (Dan. 2:44-45). Jesus taught that the word of God is the seed of the kingdom (Lu. 8:11). This being true, the kingdom's growth would depend upon the spread of the gospel, the seed of the kingdom.
Isaiah foretold the time that the Lord's house would be established at the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills and all nations would flow into it. He stated that the law would go out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2: 2-3). He talked about the time that the earth would be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9).
Jesus said, "Unto what is the kingdom of God like? And whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a man took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened" (Lu. 13:18-21). Though small in its beginning, the kingdom, like leaven, spread until it had grown into the great mountain that Daniel had seen. Paul said that the gospel had been preached to every creature that is under heaven (Col. 1: 23).
How do we account for this spread of the gospel and resultant growth of the church? This should be a question of major importance to those still interested in the kingdom's growth. Likely many factors were responsible for it. We shall consider a few of them.
First, the spread of the gospel may be attributed to the simplicity of its message. Though the gospel contains the wisdom of God as it relates to man's salvation, it is not veiled in language above the comprehension of man. It was not the purpose of God that man's faith should stand in the wisdom of men, therefore, the preaching of the apostles was not "with enticing words of man's wisdom" (1 Cor. 2:4-5). God's message was so simple and plainly taught that only one lesson was needed for the eunuch and those on Pentecost to learn what they must do to be saved. The same simplicity in teaching is needed today. What benefit has the hearer received if he can only say that the lesson evidenced the scholarly attainment of the teacher but is not convicted of his sins or edified in the faith.
Second, the gospel spread because it found receptive soil. In his parable of the sower, Jesus identifies the good soil that brought forth an hundredfold as "an honest and good heart" that hears, keeps the word and brings forth fruit with patience (Lu. 8:15). All soil upon which the seed fell was not good ground for some rejected the word of God and put it from them (Acts 13:46). Many, like the 3,000 on Pentecost, did "gladly receive the word" and wherever this happened "believers were the more added to the Lord" (Acts 2: 41; 5: 14).
Third, the gospel spread because of devoted and dedicated believers who were not ashamed of its message. Paul is an example of such. He regarded the preaching of the gospel as an honor that had been bestowed upon him (Eph. 3: 8). To him, its preaching was a matter of necessity. "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me: yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9: 16). His devotion to the gospel was such that he was willing to count all the things that before had meant gain to him loss "for the excellency of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:7-8). This same devotion and dedication to the word will again result in its being preached to the entire world.
Finally, the gospel spread because of determined workers who would not be deterred from its defense and preaching by threats and persecution. Persons, like Paul, "set for the defense of the gospel" (Phil. 1:17) disputed with Jewish rulers in their synagogues and with philosophers of the Epicureans and Stoics in the market place (Acts 17:17-18). Peter and John were threatened and commanded to teach no more in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17-18). Their response was "whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye " Their determination was to obey God regardless of personal cost.
If the gospel is again to spread, the same simplicity must characterize our preaching. Hearts must be found that are receptive to the truth and we must have the kind of devotion and dedication to the truth that will cause us to preach it and defend it regardless of cost. What about your dedication to the gospel? Are you contributing to its spread?
Truth Magazine IX: 9, pp. 8-9