God is Number Conscience
God is Number Conscience
Occasionally the accusation, "you are just number conscious," flies. If we speak in terms of attendance and emphasize its importance, we may justify mentioning it by saying that numbers represent souls. That is true, but there is no need to be ashamed of "number consciousness." After all, the Holy Spirit must have been.
The Holy Spirit chose the wording of the Bible (cf. 1 Cor. 2:13-"combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words"). Did you know He chose the noun arithmos (from whence comes "arithmetic") eighteen times in the New Testament, with four times occurring in Acts in reference to the church’s growth? Each time the word is used, God has been counting. In Acts, God is keeping track of the numbers being converted and the numbers making up the community of the converted-the church. Arithmos, in the literal sense, means "to count" or "to reckon," and "sum" or "number" (Kittel, Theological Dictionary Of The NT, Vol. 1, 461). In these passages from Acts, arithmos is used literally and specifically-"the number of the men came to be about five thousand" (Acts 4:4), "the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly..." (Acts 6:7), "a large number...believed" (Acts 11:21), and "the churches...were increasing in number daily" (Acts 16:5). This does not take into account the times He makes references to numbers without using arithmos (for example – Acts 2:41).
Gearing our programs and preaching at all costs (and compromise) to optimize our attendance figures is not what is prompted here. Truth offends and turns away some. The early church had a large number of enemies and detractors. While many submitted to immersion, some resorted to throwing stones (Acts 7:58; 14:19). The early Christians were tarred, run over, beaten, imprisoned, burned alive, fed to lions, exiled and otherwise mistreated. While this was sporadic, it was often intense. That is an obvious indication they had a number of enemies. Yet, through living hope (1 Pet. 1:3), they worked at their mission and God gave the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). All the while, Heaven kept count.
Long before the cross, God had said, "Behold, all souls are Mine" (Ezek. 18:4). He has been in every delivery room. He has heard every baby's cry, watched every skinned knee, been privy to every child's fear and seen every sinful word and action develop. He was there at the moment every individual crossed the line from "safe" to "separated" (cf. Isa. 59:2). As Creator and Redeemer, God rightly marks down every instance where a person goes from "separated" to "saved." So, let us think like God, pursue evangelistic opportunities, teach the truth, and the number of disciples will increase. Be "number conscious"!