Acts tells how the numbers of believers in Christ multiplied rapidly. The pouring out of God’s Spirit on the day of Pentecost was being manifested in dramatic ways. Jesus had said he would be with them through the Spirit “that will guide you into all the truth” (see John 16:12-14). So the Apostles are able to preach with boldness, and we see how the converts are awed by the miracles they perform (Acts 5:12).
Not everything is smooth sailing, but we grow by overcoming obstacles, and that is true when we are striving to serve Christ. In Acts 5 we read of the tragedy of Ananias and Sapphira, a telling lesson that those belonging to Jesus need to be honest in their dealings, for their Lord sees and knows all hearts and minds, and in those days the disciples were also able to do this – at least to some extent.
They become stronger in their commitment to the work of their Lord and overcome all challenges so that “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (6:7). The religious authorities are alarmed, many are enraged “and wanted to kill them” (5:33), but there is at least one wise man (Gamaliel) who counsels them not to be too extreme, so they only “beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name” (verses 40,41).
It has been ever thus – sadly in the last generation or two, the willingness to “contend” for the original gospel has grown less and less, especially in affluent countries – for most, this world has too many things to offer to occupy their minds, few see it necessary “to suffer dishonour” – but how are we to be “counted worthy” if we do not truly face up to the challenges life offers. The New Testament is full of examples of those who did so, as is the Old Testament.
A final thought from the Epistle of Jude. He was “the brother of James” and he wrote, “I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation … appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (verses 1,3). Let us “contend” for the original faith, for the Lord will be with us and strengthen us, especially if we should suffer dishonour” as a result.