Does Number Matter to God?

Have you heard the following statement? “Preaching will do no good, the people just will not listen.” Perhaps every Christian and Gospel preacher has heard those very words possibly many times, but is it true that preaching God’s Word will do no good? The Bible surely speaks to this attitude.

In Genesis 6:5 the Bible tells of the wicked condition of the world “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In this sad time of man’s existence was a man of God by the name of Noah “a preacher of righteousness” according to Peter in II Peter 2:5. God does not reveal how many people Noah preached to, but I’m sure hundreds—even thousands—came in contact with Noah during the building of the ark, because God’s works are not done in a corner (Acts 26:26). Furthermore, the Lord desires that “all” would come to repentance (II Peter 2:5; Genesis 7:13). Was Noah a successful preacher of God? Did the number (majority of people alive) sway God or determine what was right and wrong? Only eight souls out of all alive at the time were spared.

Please consider the historical account given in Judges chapter 7. Gideon was charged with putting together an army to go against the Midianites. As is the case with human nature, Gideon was probably comforted to know that he had 32,000 fighting men available for the task at hand, yet God immediately eliminated 22,000 (vs. 3). You remember that the 300 men who lapped water from their hands in a prepared position were chosen by God to fight the battle. Only 300 men! Just a handful to fight a people “lying in the valley as numerous as locusts”. (vs. 12). Three hundred men with pitcher, trumpet, and torch were used by God Almighty to deliver the Midianites. Does the number of individuals matter to God?

Time and time again throughout the Bible, the story is repeated and the lesson is reiterated that God does not need or regard the number pro or con when determining right and wrong. David was chastised by God for numbering people. Why? Because the number didn’t matter, but rather the favor of God was what should have been the utmost consideration (read II Samuel 24).

We are charged to preach the gospel (II Timothy 4:1-4; Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20). “But people of the 20th century soon to be the 21st century will not listen.” “The church needs to change.” Why? “Because the old-fashioned preaching just does no good.” Why? “Because if we are going to attract the crowds, we must change.” (Some very common statements heard today with the underlying feeling that pleasing the masses is most important.) Does the number of individuals on a given side determine what is right, or does the Word of God make that determination? “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). It appears in the church and is confronted, that one will say that opposition group is just a small group. The question is not what size group do they belong to. The question is: are they right? If the individuals are opposing an unscriptural activity or practice and do so in a scriptural way, they are right regardless the number on either side. Have you ever heard an observation like this: “Do you know how large the congregation is where he preaches?” What does it matter in one’s pursuit of truth? A man can preach for a congregation of 20,000 and still be a false teacher! You see number doesn’t matter to Almighty God. When individuals start counting noses to determine right or wrong they are using the wrong method.

Today, some brethren seem to think that Acts 17:11 should read “they searched the brotherhood daily to see if these things be so.” Others seem to think that one should examine the denominational world to see if these things be so, or poll the members to see if these things are so. Luke by inspiration said that the Bereans “were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

Does Bible preaching do any good? Was Christ our Lord a successful preacher, or how about the apostle Paul? Surely, all would say both were among the greatest preachers to ever live on this earth, but not everyone listened to them. In fact very few proportionate to those who were alive and heard their preaching followed our Lord or Paul, but their teaching certainly was successful. Like Ezekiel of old, we are set as watchmen to warn the people. What they do with this warning is their business. God’s Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). If the world is ever changed for the good and the church strengthened, it will be done by Gospel preaching.

-David Hill

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