Acts 9:31

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Monday, 15 August 2022

Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In the last verse, Saul (Paul) was sent out from Caesarea to Tarsus. With him now sent off, the narrative continues with the focus on the immediate area, beginning with, “Then the churches.” Some manuscripts here identify it as one church – “And the church.” Either way, the individual churches form one church as long as they are under Christ, the Head. But the distinction between individual churches is not inappropriate and is seen throughout the rest of the Bible, even into Revelation where Jesus addresses the seven churches.

For now, these churches (forming one church) are found “throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…” The land of Canaan, the original area of Israel’s land grant, is the main area of focus at this time. The words “had peace and were edified” should read “had peace, being edified.”

The first verb is imperfect and the second is a present participle. These things were happening, and the time of edification was a part of what resulted in the peace they experienced. Of this word, edified, Charles Ellicott says –

“The passage is noticeable for the appearance of the word ‘edified,’ or ‘built up,’ in the sense in which St. Paul had used it (1Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 14:4), as describing orderly and continuous growth, the superstructure raised wisely upon the right foundation.”

Along with that, it says, “And walking in the fear of the Lord.” Rather than being a new sentence, these words are a continued part of what brought the state of peace. Along with being edified, the churches were walking in the fear of the Lord. This speaks of a sense of reverent fear of the Lord, not a sense of terror or trembling fear. Just as a child is admonished by his father and he has a sense of respect for him, so the church is built up in the knowledge of the Lord, growing in a sense of respect and humility before Him. With that understood, it next says, “and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

The word translated as “comfort” signifies “close beside.” Helps Word Studies says it “is used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His plan, delivering His particular message to someone else.” The context will decide what is being conveyed, whether it is a warning, an exhortation, an encouragement, etc.

In this case, and because it is tied in with edification and fear of the Lord leading to peace, it is probably a mixture of exhortation – meaning the words of the apostles building them up into a fuller knowledge of Christ, and encouragement – meaning a state of feeling secure, confident, and hopeful in the faith that was espoused to all of the believers.

In this state, it concludes with, “they were multiplied.” These words certainly mean the number of believers, but it may go beyond that to the state in which the believers existed. A small church that doesn’t have great growth can still be multiplied in knowledge and in their state of blessing. A large church with new members coming in all the time may have a love for the Lord, but may not have the same sense of importance concerning doctrine.

In other words, one may be multiplied in doctrine and instruction while the other is multiplied in people filling the seats. The words now do not limit the meaning and it is probable that they were being multiplied in both ways.

Life application: If one goes back to the previous verses, it almost seems as if the statements made in this verse came about because Paul was no longer among them. When he was there several years earlier, they were not in a state of peace. When Paul returned, they – at least at first – were wary of him. His zeal for the Lord also brought about difficulties with the Hellenists who then tried to kill him.

But their animosity toward Paul would naturally lead to that same feeling toward others who Paul identified with. As such, the Lord had Paul removed from the area in order for them to grow without him. This would give Israel a chance to accept this message or reject it apart from him. At the same time, he would be out among the Gentiles evangelizing them.

Eventually, it would be seen that Israel would not accept Jesus in the time allotted by God (see Luke 11:29-32). This was a period of forty years (a day for a year based on Jonah’s proclamation to Nineveh). By the time this period was over, the Gentiles would be ready to take the helm of carrying the gospel forward.

Everything finds its proper place, and God continues to work out His plans according to His infinite wisdom. We do not need to fret or fear that things are not working out as they should. They are. We just need to continue to trust that God is in control. He is doing things that we may not even realize. In the end, we will see the wisdom of it all.

Lord God, how precious it is to know that You are leading things. If it were up to us, it all would have fallen apart eons ago. But things are getting done because You are directing things to a good end. Help us to trust this when things don’t appear that way from our perspective. We have a sure place of trust in Your guiding hand. Thank You for that. Amen.