By David Jackson
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
Do you remember walking through a dark, lonely place? Do you recall a time when you saw a beautiful scene and knew it would be richer if you could share the experience with another? We were created for relationship. Since the presence of another person changes our experiences so dramatically, how much more will the presence of the Holy God!
Why did the early church multiply? According to the above verse from the inspired Word of God, there were two reasons. Last month church planter Pedro Martinez of ADV Yahweh in Severn, shared with us his observations on “walking in the fear of the LORD.” Here, I add a few considerations on “walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”
This verse of Scripture has been the theme verse of the BCM/D Church Multiplication Center for many years. During 2013, it has been the theological focal point for our ministry. Here, the author Luke reminds readers that after the early church had endured a wave of initial persecution and hardship, it had finally arrived at this point: a time of peace and God’s own edification. Through this period, the church in all Judea and Galilee and Samaria “multiplied.”
A healthy application of this reality in our own lives depends on the correct understanding of the word “comfort.” A study of the original language reveals immediately that it is from the same family of words as the title for the Holy Spirit Jesus announces to His disciples in the Upper Room (John16:7), variously translated in English as “Comforter” or “Counselor.” It is transliterated “Paraclete,” someone who is called along beside you. With this understanding, readers can draw concrete applications regarding the Holy Spirit’s role in the church’s multiplication ministry.
Church multiplication depends upon a healthy relationship with God. “Paraclete,” in all its various translations, speaks of a relationship. Persons give comfort and counsel. In the same way the Holy Spirit wants to share with us what we need. It is interesting that in English, “comfort” usually speaks to the heart, while “counsel” speaks to the head. In fact, the Holy Spirit does both to help us “walk” as we should.
The church must keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). The image of the Paraclete reminds us that the Spirit has come alongside us. We don’t simply “have” the comfort of the Spirit; we walk in it. Because this is true, we must not get ahead of Him or fall behind Him. Our Church Multiplication Center has said for years, our goal is to “move at the speed of God.” He is our constant companion. He sets the pace. Our forward movement depends on Him.
Multiplication results from a “both/and,” not an “either/or.” We can walk in a healthy fear of the Lord and ignore the comfort of the Spirit to our own detriment, or visa versa. God wants us—and we need—to experience both sides of this equation. We must fear (the ultimate form of respect) an Almighty, transcendent God, who holds our very existence in His hand. But we must also embrace the Spirit’s imminent presence by our side in all of our existence. We must desire to experience both.
The church’s growth is a natural result of walking with God. The passage reports this reality as a consequence of the church’s relational fidelity to God. In other words, because they were doing these things—walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit—it multiplied. This is shared as a very matter-of-fact statement, but is extremely profound in its significance. God takes our obedience and deepens our relationship with Him. Out of that relationship, He enlarges and extends—He multiplies—His church.
Walk with God.
Walk in fear.
Walk in comfort.
Then, rejoice as the church multiplies.
Dr. David Jackson is the Strategist for the Church Multiplication Center of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He can be reached at (410) 977-9867 or at email@example.com.