By Submitted Article on January 25, 2020.
Second of three parts
Jacob M. Van Zyl
After the first few miraculous healings Jesus performed, the news spread far and wide, probably carried by travellers and traders. Every healing set off a chain reaction. Crowds grew as desperate patients and curious spectators assembled.
Jesus started to preach from a boat on the lake with the audience on the shore. He and his disciples were so busy that there was barely time to eat (Mark 3:20, 4:1).
After Jesus fulfilled his redemptive work by crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit filled believers, empowering them to witness boldly about salvation in Christ. The church grew fast from 120 to 5,000 (Acts 1:15, 4:4).
Persecution made many Christians flee to other parts of the Roman Empire, spreading the good news of forgiveness in Christ wherever they went (Acts 8:1-4, 11:19-21).
The apostles took the lead in church planting. The apostle who excelled in this was not one of the original Twelve. Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, became Paul, the missionary when Christ appeared to him near Damascus.
By three journeys and 13 letters (epistles), he saved souls, planted churches and educated believers in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. His work, as described in the Acts of the Apostles and in his letters, has enriched billions of Christians over 20 centuries.
The parable of the mustard seed was becoming a reality: the movement that started with a baby in a manger grew to a major faith in which people found refuge.
Satan could not accept that and tried to mute the church with persecution for about three centuries. The church grew secretly, nevertheless.
In the beginning of the fourth century, Constantine proclaimed freedom of religion. Christianity soon became state religion, taken by Roman legions to all parts of the Empire. Sadly, this forced “conversion” unavoidably spawned superficial Christians whose hearts were not in their faith.
The next important chain reaction was the invention of printing in the 15th century, as well as the Reformation in the 16th century. German and English translations of the Bible were printed in great numbers and dispersed among populations. Bible societies, supported by donations, have spread the Bible or parts of it to every corner of the world.
The next phase of Christian chain reaction arrived with radio, television, the Internet and electronic devices. People who cannot read can today listen to “talking Bibles,” devices that look like Bibles but read it with audible voice from electronic memory.
While Christianity seems to be shrinking in western countries, it is growing in Africa and Asia.
We don’t know what the next remarkable chain reaction will look like. In the meantime, we must proceed with all means at our disposal, creating our own small chain reactions.
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.