“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).
Any church whose members offer their hands to labor in preaching the gospel will have God’s hand of favor resting upon them. He blesses churches who “bring in the sheaves.” His blessing will come inside the church when believers go outside the church with the gospel of grace. He fills the barn with wheat when laborers work the field for a harvest.
We often experience a shortage of God’s blessing on our churches because of a shortage of gospel-laborers gleaning in the field. There is no undersupply of gospel seed. There is no lack of fields ripe for planting. What is in short measure are grace-empowered, Spirit-compelled believers sowing the gospel seed in fertile fields. That is precisely why Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
The gospel harvest was abundant in the city of Antioch, according to St. Luke in the passage above. Believers fleeing persecution in Jerusalem took the gospel seed with them, scattering it in the soil of many unsaved hearts (cf. Acts 8:1, 4). As a result, multitudes came to Christ, eventually forming a large church in the city.
As the scattered saints sounded the saving message of Christ, they experienced the spectacular blessing of God, for, “the hand of the Lord was with them.” You can’t stifle the outstandingly powerful hand of God Almighty. The Scripture declares, “None can stay his hand” (Daniel 4:35b). His hand of grace can lift any sinner drowning in the mire pit of iniquity. His hand of salvation can reach the farthest wandering soul, no matter how vehemently they run hellbound on the broad road to destruction. His hand of mercy can pry open the most impenetrable prison cell to liberate even the most enslaved sinner.
By God’s hand of blessing and grace, a growing church was born without seminary training, strategic planning, or the spending of money. Believers preached. God saved souls. Membership skyrocketed. That’s it.
The hand of the Lord—that’s what it takes. Of course, offering your hands to sow the gospel seed in evangelism is essential, too. God does the saving, but no one can be saved unless they first hear the gospel—from you (cf. Romans 10:14-17). Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.
Moreover, we would be foolish to try to channel growth into our churches any other way. Solomon warned, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a). And God’s chosen means of building His house, the church, is evangelism, where we take the gospel to the unsaved in faith that God will save them, and lay them as living stones in His ever-growing spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). Let’s stick to it.