Forthright Magazine

The growth of the Kingdom

The mustard seed is the smallest seed sown in a garden. Yet, where Christ spoke, it grew to a height of ten feet. The bush is as large as some trees in the region. Birds use the branches of these bushes to build their nests.

Jesus likened the growth of the mustard seed to that of the kingdom. Its humble beginnings are found in the birth of a child lain in a manger. His kingdom was proclaimed as at hand by a man dressed in camel skins and eating locusts and wild honey. It was not vast armies but twelve men who were charged with going into all the world and preaching the gospel (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:17; Mark 1:18; 16:15-16).

Pentecost saw about three thousand souls added. Peter and John preached in the temple and the number of men who believed came to near five thousand. Daily preaching in the temple and every house resulted in the number of disciples multiplying. The apostles dealt quickly and effectively with the problem of daily ministering to the Hellenist widows and Luke states, "the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:1, 7). Paul was able to say the gospel had been preached in the whole world (Colossians 1:23).

Cooks in Jesus’ day saved a lump of leavened dough from each baking. It was added to more meal to ferment.The leaven hidden in three measures of meal “represents the quickness, quietness, thoroughness and sureness with which gospel truth diffuses itself through human society” (McGarvey).

Neil Lightfoot reminds that leaven only works if it is in the dough. Christian influence will only have an impact on the world if we are living exemplary lives (Philippians 2:14-16; 1 Peter 3:15-16). The gospel can only work if one allows it into his heart (Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15; Acts 2:41; Revelation 3:20). Lightfoot also notes leaven has the ability to change things. It changed a persecutor into a preacher (Acts 26:9-11; 9:17-22). God translates the obedient from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ. A man’s goals will be changed from temporal to eternal (Colossians 1:13; 3:1-17). He is a new creature, living a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:3-4).

Lightfoot also notes leaven is contagious. Andrew’s invitation to follow Jesus caused him to find Peter and invite him. Philip urged Nathanael to come see the one who he believed Moses and the prophets had written about (John 1:35-51). The angel of God told Cornelius to send for Peter so he could be told what he must do. When Peter arrived in Caesarea, he found "Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends" (Acts 10:1-24). Paul felt compelled to preach the gospel to all who would listen (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Lightfoot noted leaven’s ability to disturb things it contacts. Meal that is fermenting bubbles and expands. The gospel disturbs. Some at Philippi took Paul and Silas to the magistrates (Acts 16:20-21). Others in Thessalonica said, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too" (17:6).

David Lipscomb said leaven "may be an active working principle of good, or it may be an active principle of evil. Place either in an inactive mass, it will leaven the whole mass into a good or bad working mass." He continued, "The church often becomes an inactive, lifeless mass. A leaven of good or evil working and spreading in the church will work for good or evil and leaven the whole church for good or evil."

No wonder Christians need to constantly encourage one another to "love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24).


Gary C. Hampton
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