Some amazing events took place in the first few months and years of the church. About three thousand souls accepted baptism on the first day of preaching. (Acts 2) Around five thousand men responded to the gospel after hearing Peter preach in Acts three and four. We just don’t see that kind of numeric response at one time today.
According to chronological scholars, within the first nine or ten years of the church Judea, Samaria, and the gentiles received the gospel. By the writing of Colossians Paul declared the gospel “was preached to every creature under heaven.” (Col. 1:23) So, by around thirty years after the first gospel sermon, the apostles had carried out what Jesus told them to do in Acts 1:8. “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
All circumstances came together for a quick and powerful beginning to the Lord’s church. It was the right time in history for God’s work, brought about by Divine Will and providence. Daniel’s prophesy about the four kingdom testifies to this influence. (Dan. 2:31-45) It was an interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel said, “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
The church began and grew during the Roman Empire, the fourth kingdom spoken of by Daniel. Rome’s power brought all nations under one rule and economy. There was a common language making it simple to communicate God’s message of hope. Well established and open travel routes gave easier access to all people.
Another critical piece of timing was the world’s religious condition. Judaism had become corrupted by tradition and worldly influence. Leaders were dishonest, prideful, and hypocritical. Honest Jews could see this and so many embraced the gospel’s message. God’s Word provided them optimism for the future and called on them to be better people. The apostles were servants, not tyrants. They cared about the people and sacrificed themselves for others, qualities not seen too often in the Jewish hierarchy.
Paganism never offered anything of value to its followers. It was a faith based on superstition and ignorance. When compared with God’s power it could not stand the test of light bearing down on its ugly nature. Man’s invented god paled in comparison to The Almighty and true miracles. Many wanted more than a god and faith of their own creation, so they welcomed the truth and its power.
They had forums and places of open assembly, where early teachers could go to address large crowds. Synagogues were places of gathering for the Jews and they existed throughout the known world of that time. Paul used these locations to address both Jews and Gentiles, and he had great success converting people. (Acts 14:1) The pagans also had their temples and places of assembly, and Paul took advantage of them as well. (Acts 17:22) This was important to the early church’s increase and success.
We must not overlook the influence of miracles in the early responses. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth. (John 16:13) While His primary work focused on revelation, He also gave them the power of miracles. Miracles got people’s attention by confirming the Divine source of their teaching. (Mark 16:17-20) Remember, Christianity was new and different from anything people had heard before. Miracles helped with the church’s success and rapid growth.
Early peace and the number of Christians in Jerusalem made it easier to develop a good foundation for evangelism to come. Assigning a precise date to some events in the Bible is futile, but we can know an estimated time in which an event occurred. Many scholars suggest that at least a year passed between the events of Acts two and the great response in Acts three and four. Peter and John received threats, but not harmed. In Acts five we read that “believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Because of their continued success and for ignoring the threats of the Jewish council, the apostles suffered a beating. Persecution began in earnest at Stephen’s stoning, occurring perhaps three years after the Pentecost of Acts two.
While in Jerusalem the Christians grew in knowledge and love for one another. They learned they could overcome threats and stand strong for Christ. After Stephen’s murder and they scattered from Jerusalem, they “went everywhere preaching the word.” So their time in Jerusalem prepared them for the Lord’s Work.
Times have changed and some circumstances are a little different today. I have not heard of three thousand people obeying the gospel at one time. We no longer live in the infancy stage of church growth. The apostles are gone and miracles have ended, but we have the completed revelation. We are not afraid of extreme persecution in The United States, but we do face trials of faith. However, God is still in control and His work has not changed. The power of the gospel still saves, people remain lost, and we have a job to do. Good and honest hearts respond favorably to God’s Word and we need to get the message out to people.