Numbers Are Important
I was shocked. I had just asked the Bible institute class which is better, to win one, two, or ten people to Christ. The students were emphatic that one is just as good as ten!
I said, “If you, your wife, your children, your mother, brothers, and sisters
were all trapped in a burning building, and a fireman rescued one of your children; are you saying that rescuing only one is just as good as rescuing all of you?!!”
Of course rescuing two is better than rescuing one! Rescuing ten is ten
times as good as rescuing one! Suppose your boat sank many miles from land. You and your friends are all exhausted in the high waves. Finally a rescue party arrives.
Would you be happy if they were content to save just one (of the others)?
But the lake of fire is infinitely more dreadful than burning to death or drowning! Jesus called it everlasting fire and everlasting punishment (Matthew
25:41,46)! How wicked to not care if many are saved! It is crucial that the church understand the importance of numbers!
God speaks often of numbers in the Bible. In fact, the fourth book of the
Bible is called Numbers! Large sections of Numbers, I Chronicles, Ezra,
Nehemiah, and other Bible books go to great lengths telling how many came out of Egypt, how many sided with King David, how many came back to the Holy Land, and so on.
Then when the disciples obeyed Jesus after toiling all night and catching
nothing, they caught a multitude, too many to draw in, specifically 153 great fishes.
The Holy Spirit makes a point to tell us that at Pentecost about 3000 were added to the church and that the Lord added to the church daily. Then “many... believed, and the number of the men was about 5000” (Acts 4:4). Later, “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (Acts 5:14).
In Acts 6:7, “the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Also in Acts 9:31 they were multiplied, and then in Acts 11:21 a great number believed. Then, through Barnabas many people were added to the Lord (11:24). The word of God continued to grow and multiply (12:24), and still later they “increased in number daily” (16:5).
So numbers are important. But is it right for us count them? Didn’t David
bring judgment on Israel when he numbered them? Yes. Seventy thousand men died!
Does Scripture give any clue as to why? Yes.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of
the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man
a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that
there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them (Exodus
Only the ransomed were to be numbered, so there would be no plague. This
warning reminds me that it is not the number on the church roll that is important.
It is not the number attending church that is important. It is the number ransomed by Christ that is important! The number actually saved is dreadfully important!
They were commanded to number the people, over and over. Every time a
number of people is given in the Bible, they were numbered! How important are numbers? Well, if the number is one, and that one is myself, then one is infinitely important—whether I spend eternity in pleasure and fullness of joy in heaven, or eternity in hell fire. So every one is infinitely important. God commanded, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I must want each one to be saved just as I would want to be saved from everlasting fire!
Missionary statesman Robertson McQuilkin said, “Don’t talk about mere
numbers. No immortal soul is mere!”
Numbers are important! An orange tree that bears 300 oranges is 300 times
as good as a tree that bears only one! Jesus said, “Herein is My Father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be My disciples” (John 15:8).
So numbers are important to God. Jesus is worthy enough to bring many
sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10), “that He might be the firstborn among many
brethren” (Romans 8:29). Understanding the importance of numbers, of each
immortal soul, will spur the church to obedience and greater growth.
Reflect & Apply
1. Is winning two to Christ better than winning one?
3. Are you glad you are not condemned to the Lake of fire?
4. Are you seeking to love your neighbor as yourself?
Recognize That There Is a Great Harvest
If we think that only a few can be saved, we will not plan for many, we will not
pray for many, we will not work for many to be saved. Jesus said, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). If we know the facts, we can have confident faith. The fact is, there is a great harvest. Jesus said, “The harvest truly is great” (Luke 10:2), not scarce, not meagre. In Matthew 9:37 He said the harvest is plenteous. The thought that only a very few can be saved is a great hindrance to church growth.
Reflect & Apply
Are there only a few or many who can be saved?
Pray for Laborers
If there is such a great harvest, why are there not more coming to Christ?
The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few: Pray ye
therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into
His harvest (Matthew 9:37,38).
The problem is not with the harvest. The harvest is plenteous. Many could
be saved. The problem is with the laborers! The laborers are few. Not many are
really laboring in the harvest! Who is really working at making disciples? There
are a good many church workers, working on committees, working in offices,
working at all manner of ministries. Not many labor at winning the lost, at
harvesting! Many years ago I heard Evangelist John R. Rice preach on this great text. He challenged me to work at soul winning. He challenged me to schedule a certain number of hours of personal soul winning each week. My ministry was transformed from occasionally seeing professions of faith, to regularly seeing professions of faith.
Since so few are working in this great harvest, Jesus told us to pray that God
will send forth laborers into His harvest. How many more workers would be thrust into the harvest if God’s people faithfully prayed for laborers? How many more lost people would be saved into God’s kingdom?
Reflect & Apply
1. Why are so few being saved?
2. What did Jesus command us to do about it (Matthew 9:38)?
3. Will you set out to regularly pray that God will send out laborers into His
4. Will you schedule yourself to labor in harvesting?
5. Write out your plan to harvest, at least one thing you will do.
Obey the Great Commission
Five times the Lord Jesus gave us the Great Commission. Five times the Holy
Spirit recorded the Great Commission for us in the Scriptures.
Matthew 28:19,20 “Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have
commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
Mark 16:15,16 “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that
believeth not shall be damned.”
Luke 24:47 “…And that repentance and remission of sins should be
preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
John 20:21 “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”
Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come
upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in
all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Who is this command for? Is the Great Commission for us, or was it just
for the eleven apostles who heard it? We know it is for us as well, because Jesus commanded the apostles to make disciples and to teach them to obey all the commands Jesus had given the apostles. So each succeeding generation of believers is to be taught to obey all of Christ’s commands including this command to go and make disciples.
In addition, this command and this promise are “to the end of the world,”
not just for the first century apostles. Furthermore, loving our neighbors as
ourselves would certainly require our proclaiming the good news of salvation and giving fair warning of hell, “he that believeth not shall be damned”
Churches grow when pastors obey the Great Commission and teach their
people to obey the Great Commission. When Christians obey the Great
Commission there will be a tremendous increase in church growth. It is a matter of obedience. Jesus said, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Each Christian must face this crucial question. Am I obedient or disobedient? Am I going? Am I making disciples?
Reflect & Apply
1. Is the command to go and make disciples for us, or just for the eleven who
2. How do you know?
3. Are you obeying this command?
4. Will you set out to obey this command as well as you can?
5. Does your church teach its Christians to go and make disciples?