This promise was every bit as outrageous as the original assertion that he would rise from the grave. But given the fulfillment of the first promise, the disciples dared to trust the second. They obeyed Christ's command to stay in Jerusalem, though they risked arrest. They waited "all together in one place" (Acts 2:1).
And then, very suddenly, the Power came. "Like the blowing of a violent wind," like "tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them," the Holy Spirit of God filled the house and, more important, their hearts, so that they began to proclaim the message of the kingdom of God (Acts 2:2-4). Bursting out from the building they'd been hiding in, those first disciples became an unstoppable force of boldness and blessing. As Acts goes on to record, they became a wave of witnesses through whom God began to turn the Roman world upside down (Acts 17:6).
The Life of Christ Spreads
In his book The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark reports that at the time of Christ's death there were only a handful of believers, hardly enough to constitute a single church. Thirty years later, there were still only an estimated 3,000 converts, a handful of struggling churches, and mounting opposition and violence from the surrounding culture. Sociologists of religion tell us that it is at this sort of juncture that new spiritual movements typically face the brutal fact that the forces against them are too great. They surrender their efforts to expand, turn inward and begin to die. That is why what actually happened next has forced more than a few skeptics to conclude that Christianity had its roots in something (or Someone) substantially different than other movements.
Rodney Stark found that between A.D. 60 and 100, the number of Christians suddenly more than doubled to 7,500, and then exploded to more than 40,000 people by the year 150. By A.D. 200, the total number of Christ-followers exceeded 200,000. It quintupled to one million by 250 and then rocketed to a staggering six million by the turn of 300. Over the next 50 years, the church more than quintupled again, producing some 33 million confessing Christians—half the citizenry of the Roman Empire.
Over the coming centuries, the church of Jesus would continue to spread out till its branches defined the character of what we now call Western civilization. You are a privileged member of the greatest movement in history and the only one that will be around in the end (Revelation 22). Christ has promised to supply you with the power to do this work and, as history shows, Jesus always keeps his promises—even the most outrageous ones.
Adapted from Witness Essentials by Daniel Meyer (IVP). Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.
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