And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly[g]received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church[h] daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:40-47)
God’s plan for the Church is to add to them daily. When there is no daily increase in church membership, then, a particular process is reigning. Our preaching and lifestyles determines our expansion or decline. The preaching of Jesus’ cross transcends all culture, therefore the Church One simple message and One Gospel is Christ crucified, buried, and risen from the dead. The cross is the place where grace and wrath meet. Jesus is the Good News on earth and the glory of Heaven, therefore, the preaching of Jesus’ cross is the power of God ‘unto us who are being saved,’ and ‘foolishness … to them who are in the act of perishing’ (1 Cor 1:18).
The contrast in Paul’s Epistles points to two processes of church growth and decline, ‘one by slow degrees and almost imperceptible motion, rising higher and higher, the other, by slow degrees and almost unconscious descent, sliding steadily and fatally downward ever further and further.’ According to Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, ‘in each of us one or other of these processes is going on. Either you are slowly rising or you are slipping down. Either a larger measure of the life of Christ, which is salvation, is passing into your heart, or bit by bit you are dying like some man with creeping paralysis that begins at the extremities, and with fell, silent, inexorable footstep, advances further and further towards the citadel of the heart, where it lays its icy hand at last, and the man is dead. You are either ‘being saved’ or you are ‘perishing.’ Then truth is that, when sin is normalised, holiness is minimised. No one becomes an angel or a devil at once. Let us pray that we may all grow and trust ourselves to Jesus Christ and not settle down in the muck and the mire of our own sensuality and selfishness.