A Great Number of People Will Believe and Turn to the Lord When …

Acts 11:19-21.
The Lord's hand was with them and many believed and turned to the Lord.
“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21)

God wants great numbers of people to believe and turn to Him, and most Christians have some concern about this as well. A lot of people today focus on positioning the church and presenting the message in ways that will connect with and be relevant to people. I believe some of this is needed, and certainly proclaiming the gospel “clearly” (Colossians 4:4) entails actually communicating with the people instead of using words and phrases that sound foreign to them.

Sometimes, though, we seem to overestimate our abilities in reaching more people, and as a result we don’t fully utilize the wisdom God has provided us about it. Acts 11:19-21 is a powerful passage where God gives us insight about people coming to faith. According to it, a great number of people will believe and turn to the Lord …

  1. …when Christians don’t all hang out together. The Christians referred to in this passage were scattered from Jerusalem by persecution (Acts 11:19; cf. 8:1). Some have surmised that the early Jewish Christians were so reluctant to take the gospel to the Gentiles that God used persecution to get them started. Regardless, one practical application of this passage for us is that we must make sure we don’t get so comfortable or busy with other Christians and Christian activities that we never have time to spend with those not in Christ. This is a strong pull which must be intentionally resisted. We certainly won’t reach non-Christians if we’re never around them.

  2. … when Christians focus more on their purpose than their problems. These believers faced problems and persecution. It is no small thing to be forced to leave your home and country. The early disciples faced many other troubles as well, and Acts acknowledges this fact (4:23ff; 8:1; 11:19). But the focus is not on what they lost or suffered. Instead, the focus in this passage and others is on the fact that they spread the word wherever they went (11:19-20; see also 4:29-31; 8:4). Christians consumed with their circumstances won’t fulfill their commission.

  3. … when regular Christians tell the good news about the Lord Jesus. Acts 8:1-4 makes clear that it was not the apostles who were scattered from Jerusalem, but others. Acts 11 is describing the word being spoken by these others. Though there is clearly a place for apostles and other leaders who speak the word prominently, there is also a place for regular Christians like us to do so (8:4; 11:19-20). Some of us may even develop into gifted evangelists, like Philip (8:5-40; 21:8). Notice that the word these believers were spreading was “the good news about the Lord Jesus” (11:19-20). It is good news that God has sent Jesus, the Lord. We need to tell this news, including his lordship, and tell why all of it is good.

  4. … when the word is spoken to people “not like us.” At first the Jewish Christians who were scattered from Jerusalem were speaking the word in areas outside Judea but still only to other Jews (v. 19). But then some began to speak to Greeks also, which was crossing a significant barrier (v. 20). We must do the same. Many will believe in the Lord when we realize and act on the truth that the gospel is for everyone, not just people who are similar to us (10:34-35).

  5. …when the Lord’s hand is with us (v. 21). His hand refers to his power and working (Acts 4:30; 7:50; 13:11). Acts emphasizes that the Lord is at work in his mission. In the context of 11:21, the statement about the Lord’s hand is the one closest to a great number of people believing and turning to the Lord. God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). We must never think we, on our own, can generate a plan or approach that will cause many conversions. We do have an indispensable role of planting and watering, but we must remember that neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. As we seek to fulfill our role, we must do so in a way that invites and depends on the Lord’s working.

Christians consumed with their circumstances won’t fulfill their commission.

Marvin Bryant

Many people will believe and turn to the Lord when Christians spend time with non-Christians, focus more on their purpose than their problems, tell others the good news about the Lord Jesus, including to people who are not like them, and trust in the Lord’s hand. I predict that if there are many Christians in your congregation doing these things, more people will believe and turn to the Lord than if you only have a few people doing them occasionally—regardless of any other plans and activities you may have.

How are you doing at freeing yourself from the many distractions that hinder us from focusing on this divine wisdom? Are you equipping other believers to focus on it and follow it? These are challenging questions, and I am not always satisfied with my answers to them. But the wisdom of the Lord in this powerful passage points us to these as the key matters that will lead to larger numbers of people believing and turning to the Him. God is pleased with us when we listen humbly to his word.   

Published by Marvin Bryant

After serving as a minister for churches for forty years, Marvin founded the Empowering Subjects to equip subjects of the King to change the world like Jesus did.

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