We also must remember that the living Word has great potential to grow and spread. In the book of Acts, we read a fascinating account of the growth of the Word. The Apostles had a single-minded focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word; they understood that it was the center of their ministry (Acts 6:1–4). As a consequence, there are glorious scenes of church growth in Acts, with thousands being added to the church. But there is arguably a stronger emphasis throughout Acts on the Word of the Lord itself spreading, growing, multiplying, and prevailing (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20). If you step back and survey the book of Acts, it is as much an account of Word growth as it is church growth. Rather than first being focused on the effects of the Word as the church grows, we need to have a healthy appreciation for the actual presence and growth of the Word itself.
As we review how the Scriptures attest to these truths, we should confess that the Word of God ought to have a primary place in the life of the church. It should never be neglected. Westminster Shorter Catechism 89 teaches:
The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.
When the Shorter Catechism speaks of the reading and preaching of the Word of God as a “means,” it is speaking of the Word as an instrument or a tool. This is, in a sense, something like how we might use a certain curriculum as a means to change students’ minds or a certain process to shape a piece of wood. The reality is that even when the Bible is printed by human printers and preached by human preachers, it is the Lord who is using the Word as a tool to work in us. The Apostle Paul taught the Thessalonians that “when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).