Kingdom Growth and Acts 2

In The Next Evangelicalism, Soong-Chan Rah writes, “Most modern, Western interpretations of the Acts 2 passage emphasizes the preaching and public proclamation elements of the narrative. Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-40) serves as the impetus for the growth of the church in Acts 2:41 and 47. Emphasis is placed upon the statement that “with many other words he (Peter) warned them; and he pleaded with them” (Acts 2:40). In most English translations, Acts 2:41 (“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day”) is marked off as the culmination of Peter’s sermon and not as part of the following section describing the community life of the church. The twentieth century’s prioritizing of the sermon as a means of persuasion reflects the importance of preaching, and verbal proclamation in evangelism and church growth. “But what if Acts 2:41 serves as a bridge between Peter’s sermon and the life of the church as described in Acts 2:42-47? Or what if Acts 2:41actually belongs structurally to the last section of Acts 2 rather than the first section of Acts 2? If we examine Acts 2:41-47 as one unit, a structure emerges for these verses that points to another explanation for the growth of the church. Acts 2:41 and 47 serve as framing verses for what occurs between Acts 2:42 and 46. The structure of this passage, therefore, follows the chiastic structure so commonly found in Greek literature. The passage develops in this manner:

A. Numerical growth of the church (Acts 2:41)

B. characteristics of church life (Acts 2:42-42)

– fellowship (teaching, breaking bread, prayer)

– outsiders are amazed

C. Self-sacrificial life of the church (Acts 2:44-45)

B’. Characteristics of church life

-fellowship (meeting in the temple, breaking bread, praise)

– outsiders are amazed

A.      Numerical growth of the church (Acts 2:47b)

“In using the chiastic structure, Luke may be pointing to a different interpretation of the growth of the church in the first century. Chiastic structures often focus on the relationship between the outside statements’ (A) relationship to the center of the structure (C). The center of this chiastic structure becomes the focus of how the outside statements come to pass. So instead of seeing evangelism and church growth as the effect of the cause of verbal proclamation and the preaching of the gospel by Peter, should we instead see evangelism and church growth as a product of the demonstration of the gospel in the self-sacrificial living of the church? [italics mine] Have we overemphasized the personalized, verbal proclamation of the gospel while ignoring the public demonstration of the gospel — through racial reconciliation, social service, social action and justice? “The church growth movement of the twentieth century reflects the cultural values of individualism, materialism, and racism..” (106-107) - See more at:


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