Sermon on Acts 2:47 – “Added to Their Number” (With Audio Recording)


Sermon for Sunday, September 24th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Isa 66:18-24 ESV] 18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD. 22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. 23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. 24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

New Testament reading:

[Act 2:42-47 ESV] 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Gospel reading:

[Mat 16:13-20 KJV] 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.


Our passage in Acts is typically referenced in debates over socialism. It is the go-to passage for socialists who like to claim that in the early Christian church everything was owned and regulated by the society as a whole, rather than the persons or families. Of course, they are wrong. This is the only passage that might even indicate such, and it doesn’t even do that. It merely shows that private individuals in the church were charitable in helping out others with the proceeds of their work. Well, anyways, this is not our focus today in choosing this passage.

Today we look at the final verse of the passage: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” [REPEAT]

The Lord knows who is saved. He knows precisely the number. And that number is neither added to nor subtracted from. The number spoken of in our text is not the number of the saved in the mind of God, it is the number of those in the church, those who are visible members of the body of believers.

From this single verse “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” we have three truths that will be the three points of today’s sermon:

I. The Growth of the Church is the Work of the Lord.

II. God is Always Growing His Church


III. The Purpose of God in Growing His Church is the Salvation of His People


I. The Growth of the Church is the Work of the Lord.

And at the time of the Acts of the Apostles (a book which more accurately could be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit), there was indeed great growth in the number of people in the church. From just a dozen apostles and a small band of followers of Jesus Christ, there soon — in a matter of a few years — were thousands upon thousands of people who believed that Jesus Is Lord.

And they came to believe in Jesus Christ and so join the church, for two primary and related reasons. First, the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ. And second, Christ rose from the dead. Such things have a … tendency to change your mind. He who died, rose again. Astounding.

And so we must attribute the church growth in that time (and indeed all times) to the work of the Lord. That is our first point this morning: The growth of the church is the work of the Lord.

The fact that so impresses the mind is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is HIS resurrection, PLUS the active work of the Holy Spirit upon the mind to believer that causes faith and thus the growth of the church. Simply put, growth of the church is the work of the Lord.

So the Lord added to their number.

You see it isn’t the great Paul or the great Peter or anyone else who gets credit. “The Lord added.” “The Lord added to their number.” Praise be to God.

And in our day, foolish is the pastor who says “I grew this church from one number to another.”

The growth of the church is the work of the Lord.

Now, this doesn’t preclude that the Lord uses His people for the growth of the church. God typically uses Christians to grow more Christians. Sometimes through growth in ones biological family, or through adoption, or sometimes through our proclaiming the Gospel to others. Occasionally a person will pick up a Bible on their own and start reading and come to the faith. And occasionally they might have a dream or a vision telling them to go to church. But more often than not, the Lord brings people to Him and His Church through the work of friends, family, connections.

But even when the Lord work through us, it is still the work of the Lord.

Does Christ not say elsewhere “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.

The growth of the church is the work of the Lord. That is our first point. The second is this: “God is ALWAYS growing His church.”

II. God is Always Growing His Church

And such growth in the church is not limited to the 1st century. God is always growing his church.

In the passage we find that additions came “day by day.” People were coming to the Lord daily. New converts, coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

If we look at our own congregation, we find that we’ve had a new member’s reception about once per year. Here the Lord is adding year by year. And praise the Lord for those additions, and praise the Lord that we expect another addition later this years with the birth of another child into my family, and that he or she will, I pray and Lord willing, join the church through baptism.

Now, if we do look more broadly in the region around us, and certainly in the world, we do find that the Lord adds to our number (of Christians visible in the church) day by day. The Lord continues to work in the world, bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in places once thought impenetrable by forces of the Gospel. China, India, the Middle East, and many other places. The Lord is adding to our number day by day.

The day-by-day gathering of God’s people continued in the books of Acts such that we read in Chapter 16, verse 5: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”

The churches, plural. In cities and towns throughout the land, God gathered his people.

In Jerusalem, we might say there was something of a “mother church.” Not that its leaders had a higher status like a pope, but just to acknowledge that it was there in Jerusalem were the Lord first gathered his Apostles and began the work of gathering his flock.

The church at Jerusalem, was something more like a presbytery. It was so large that no single pastor could know each of the people, and no single building could gather them all in. The “church” was a broader connective network of apostles, elders, and disciples meeting in various places. If not a “presbytery” you might call it a multi-site church.

That shows us the connectivity of the church. The church is many, but the church is one. We have that also today. There is one church here in Unionville, but it is part of THE church, the worldwide invisible church of God. We don’t have any organization of that name. There is no “Worldwide Invisible Incorporated Church of God.” The number of members in a local church are known, but in the invisible church only God knows all the members.

He grows the church, and He is always growing it.

III. The Purpose of God in Growing His Church is the Salvation of His People

But for What Purpose is God Growing His Church?

From this single verse “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” we’ve seen that the growth of the church is the work of the Lord and that God is always growing his church. But there is more that we can learn here. It is an answer to the question “for what purpose is God growing His church?” [REPEAT]

For what purpose are people added day be day?

It is for their salvation. The salvation of souls is the purpose of the gathering of the people of God. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”

We come to church to praise God, to have fellowship, to participate in the sacrament, and for so many other reasons. But we cannot overlook the purpose of salvation. We come here to hear to the word of God, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

And you should want to be saved. Above all else, you should want that. Being with the Lord, forever. All other “goods” pale in comparison to He who is Good himself, the Lord God.

There is a good kind of selfishness. That is always a startling statement. You should want what is best for yourself, and what is best for you is Jesus Christ, nothing and no one less. That is good selfishness because Christ is good for you. Bad selfishness is all other forms of self-interest and desire; desire for things less than God and the will of God. Such selfishness is bad selfishness because it is not focused on God.

Of this “good selfishness” we might consider what Jesus said in Mark’s Gospel:

Jesus said [Mar 8:36-37 ESV] 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?

The salvation of your own soul should be your highest priority, above all things of the world.

So we find that the Lord added to their number day by day THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.

With these words “being saved” we have emphasized here that sanctification aspect of salvation. We know that in Christ we ARE justified immediately. It is not a process, but a finished good. Hence Christ said “It is finished” on the cross. But Christians are still “being saved” in that the Lord is working in us to mortify our sins and to lead us into holiness and good works.

The Lord sanctifies us through His Word and His Spirit. So those “who are being saved” are brought into the church so that the Word can be regularly heard and God’s of process of our sanctification can continue.

To grow muscles you go to the gym. To grow in faith, the knowledge of God, and in sanctification you go to church. Some say “I don’t need to go to church.” Here’s my answer: of course you can exercise at home, but the big weights are in the gym.

So God adds to his church daily, by his power, those who are being saved, so that they may grow in the Lord.

We find this in 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.


1. My great prayer is that God will bring many more people to this church. I pray daily for this, especially for our work here with the children of the community, and for the “Friday Night Fun Night” events we have upcoming. We should all be in prayer for the Work of God to grow this church, to use us for the gathering of the saints.

2. We have to remember that growth in the church is God’s. It is His growth, his work, on His timing.

In our Presbytery, I want to tell you about one of our churches. Carl Van Der Merwe moved from South Africa to Tennessee some 25 years ago. And he planted a church. And it was fairly small for many years. It grow some, it declined some. In recent time it has grown quite amazingly. But my point is not that “It will come.” We don’t know that. My point is that it is of the Lord. Carl told me one day: “A few years ago we established a counseling ministry, we got on the radio preaching, we did community events, etc. etc.” And the people came to church. So he asked them, “Why have you come to church?” And this is what he found out. They weren’t drawn in by the counseling ministry, they weren’t drawn in by the radio preaching. They didn’t even know these things existed. Them came as the Lord led them, entirely apart from all the efforts that the church was doing. They came, by the will of God.

Of course, as noted previously, this does not mean that we should do nothing, and expect the Lord’s blessings.

The work of the church in word and sacrament ministry is the regular means by which people hear the Gospel. That must always continue. And whatever events, whatever ministries we offer, let these be a blessing to many. And if they should succeed greatly in reaching many people for Christ, let God have the Glory.


I’ve focused on the last verse of our text. The verses before that describe the activity of the church. And then there is the conclusion that the Lord added to their number day by day.

Then for those who join the church, they have great joy and much activity. They don’t join and then do nothing.

They join and then this happens:

According to the text:

– they devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching

– and the fellowship

– to the breaking of bread

– and the prayers.

– selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

– they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

And above all “they praised God and had favor with all the people.”

And so today let praise the Lord for His great work of growing His church for our salvation.

Let us pray.