God loves numbers. He counts the number of hairs on each human head. In fact, he likes numbers so much, he makes things uncountable by human means. The stars cannot be numbered. And who can count the grains of sand in the sea or all the drops in the oceans of the world?
But God knows. “He counts the number of the stars; he names all of them” Psalm 147.4. So he not only counts them, but names them all.
God likes big numbers. At least, he must, in some ways and at some moments, as much as he creates and deals with them. Some miracles, for example, were done on a big scale, such as the Big Catch for Simon and his partners. “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” Luke 5.6. The Lord didn’t have to do that miracle in such an exaggerated fashion, did he? Did he really have to break the nets with so many fish? Wouldn’t just a dozen have proved his point?
God likes adding to numbers, too. In the Jerusalem congregation, “the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved” Acts 2.47. He must like doing it because he repeated it, right there in Jerusalem. “More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women” Acts 5.14.
God multiplies, too. Sometimes adding to numbers is too simple for God, so he advances to multiplication. He made his creation to multiply. All around us, his multiplication skills are evident, from bugs in the air and ants in the house, to the intricate number of genes in DNA and up to 300 million sperm in human semen, from which only one will fertilize the egg. Now isn’t that a bit much?
The Lord multiplied miracles in Egypt. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt'” Exodus 11.9. More was better at that moment, to show the Lord’s power and glory.
His word multiplied as well, and ought to continue multiplying today. “But the word of God kept on increasing and multiplying” Acts 12.24. That means the number of converts to the truth multiplied. The Lord made that happen, not once but many times. He loves to multiply his grace, Romans 5.15, 20. This is his will, the salvation of many, Hebrews 2.10; Romans 8.29; 1 Corinthians 10.33.
There is glory in numbers. God likes to multiply numbers in the church when those numbers are demonstrations of his grace and power. But when those numbers are gathered from human means and methods, he is not pleased.
God is glorified in his church when the numbers are living, breathing, thinking, repentant, obedient people, when the numbers are true children of his, having been born of the water and Spirit. When a place is full of people with Jesus’ name on their lips, but with the impluse of lemmings and the ignorance of idolaters, the Lord’s sadness reaches the level of ire. For such is not his will.
The growing church has a growing mission. Never can the adding, multiplying God be content with a few. Nor can his people. The Lord is powerful and his gospel is his power to save. To his people has the Word been given. They must go out in faith and confidence that what the Lord wants, in them he will produce.