The Establishment and Increase of the Church
Acts 16:3-5
Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters…

I. THE CHURCHES WERE ESTABLISHED IN THE FAITH. The phrase is used as a comprehensive description of Christianity.

1. Primitive Christian Churches were composed exclusively of such as professed to believe in Christ, and to conform their lives to the holy requirements of the gospel. Their members were consequently Christians, not in that loose sense of the term in which it is now so commonly used, but as disciples of Christ who had been "born of water and of the Spirit," and upon whom the "unction of the Holy One" rested. Hence they are variously denominated by the apostles as the "beloved of God — saints — faithful brethren" — those who are "sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus and called"; and are always addressed as persons who could understand the sentiments and the language of doctrinal, vital, and experimental religion. And their piety being thus sincere and vital it was capable of increase. Accordingly, under the instructions of these inspired men, they made a very observable progress in the Divine life. There was a manifest growth in grace.

2. Christianity as a system is eminently social. Hence its converts have from the first been formed into Churches. This was done by collecting them together, and uniting them in the joint observance of the laws and ordinances of Jesus Christ. Such societies have continued to exist from that time to the present, and seem to be the destined means, under the Holy Spirit, of perpetuating and extending the kingdom of the Redeemer.

II. THEY INCREASED IN NUMBER DAILY; either, that is, these several Churches already established increased in the number of their members, or the Churches themselves were multiplied, or both. The increase, whether of members or of Churches, is said to have been "daily." The expression seems to indicate both the rapidity and the constancy of the increase. It was not such an increase as we are accustomed to witness, when at distant intervals a few individuals enter the fellowship of the Church. The evangelists seem never to have preached but souls were converted; and the Churches never to have come together, but they had the high privilege of receiving many new disciples into the communion of saints. Nor did this last for a few days merely. As the increase was rapid, so it was constant.

III. THE CAUSE FROM WHICH THIS PROSPEROUS STATE OF THINGS RESULTED. The Holy Spirit most manifestly attended upon the labours of the apostles. Apart from His gracious influence, apostolic eloquence and zeal would have accomplished nothing. Not less necessary then than now was that life-giving energy which proceeds alone from Him. There were, however, certain subordinate and subsidiary causes to which, in the order of means, this prosperity may be traced.

1. The apostolic settlement of the question, that converts from among the Gentiles were not to be subject to the institutions of Moses (chap. Acts 15:31). Being delivered from a yoke of bondage which would have fatally depressed their rising zeal, they were free to throw all their newly awakened energies into the cause of the Redeemer. The preachers, also liberated from all trammels, might now come forward simply with the doctrine of the cross. Nothing is so calculated to produce either a vigorous state of personal piety, or a prosperous state of Church fellowship, as a simple, clear, and Scriptural exhibition of the "truth as it is in Jesus."

2. The devotional spirit of the early Christians, combined with their fervent zeal.

3. There was none of that timid neutrality respecting the profession of the gospel among the first Christians by which modern Christianity is so lamentably distinguished. When a man was converted, the next thing was to join the Church. There was consequently a line of demarcation, broad and deep, between the Church and the world. None were ashamed of Christ, or ashamed to avow their attachment to His followers, and His cause.

4. The spirit of union and Christian love. Believers were of "one heart and one way." Separate Churches there were, as now, but separate denominations there were none. "The communion of saints" was not then what it has since become — a cold article in a formal creed, but the practical and sweet experience of every day. The uniting bond was not an exact coincidence of opinion in every point of doctrine, or a perfect uniformity of practice in matters of government and discipline; but it was love. Let Christians of all parties forget their differences, and approximate among themselves to something like the union subsisting between Christ and His Father; let them be one, as they are one, and the influence will be irresistible.

(E. Steane, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

WEB: Paul wanted to have him go out with him, and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

The Decrees of the Church At Jerusalem
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