Acts 9:31 – “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
Acts 9 is a story of a murderer, a persecutor, an enemy of God being dramatically changed. In Acts 9 we see Saul turn from his life of sin and violence, toward Christ. God’s words to Ananias in Acts 9:15 better describe what actually happened. “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Saul became who he became because he was God’s chosen instrument. Worded differently: The only reason Saul’s life became devoted to Christ was because God chose him. God had a distinct plan for Saul, who later became Paul. God took the unlikeliest of people and transformed him by his sovereign grace into the most important missionary in all of church history.
The disciples in Jerusalem were very skeptical when they first heard that Saul, of all people, had turned to follow Christ. Acts 9:26-30 describes what happened when Saul came to Jerusalem. It says he “attempted to join the disciples” but that they were afraid of him. It says “they did not believe that he was a disciple.” After Barnabas described to them how he had in fact been converted, they took him in and then sent him off to Tarsus to further his ministry. After all of this, v. 31 describes the church. It was being built up and it was multiplying because the people were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Peter, Peter is writing to the elect exiles of the Dispersion. Peter is addressing believers who are both spiritually exiled (in that their home is not of this world) and physical exiles that are being dispersed because of persecution. The persecution happening among the elect exiles of the dispersion is happening much later than Saul’s persecution of the church, but the persecution happening as early as Acts 9 is not insignificant. Jews are trying to kill the Christians very early on.
Yet in the midst of the early persecution and dispersing that was happening early on, consider what Acts 9:31 says. They had peace and the church was being built up. They had supernatural peace from the Holy Spirit as they walked not in fear of earthly situations, but fear of the Lord.
Comfort in our day and age threatens our desperation for the Spirit’s peace and comfort. While there is opposition in our day and age, it is nothing like the early church experienced. Trials, temptations, and suffering do a really good job at causing us to fear the Lord and rely on the Spirit. The challenge for us today is to fear the Lord and rely on the Spirit in the midst of comfort. How are you doing with that?
To walk in the fear of the Lord is to see God as he is; the righteous, holy, loving judge and Father. It is to orient our lives around the reality that God is who he says he is. To rely on the Spirit in the midst of comfort is to not allow the comfort in our lives to convince us that we do not need the Spirit’s help. What would your day look like if you were continually dependent on the Spirit’s guidance? I would presume that it would probably look quite different than many of our lives. Yet, read once again what happened when the church walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Spirit. It was built up and it multiplied.