Easy as 1-2-3
Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
In medical care, numbers like oxygen saturation percentage, heart rate, and blood pressure are key indicators of health. In the business world, numbers such net assets or net income are crucial measures of success. But in the Christian church, statistics about numerical growth or average attendance are not necessarily key metrics of health or success.
Just read the New Testament. The Lord makes clear that He does not gauge success on external results and counting. In the Parables of the Sower (Mt 13:1–5; Mk 4:1–12; Lk 8:4–10) and the Growing Seed (Mk 4:26–29), the sower scatters the Seed of the Gospel all over the place, but then doesn’t fret about the results. God produces results. “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk 4:26–27).
St. Paul says basically the same thing in 1 Corinthians 3:6–7: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” The garden and the growth belong to the Lord. So we as Christians are not called to achieve outward success by our own efforts, but rather be faithful to the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word.
In truth, the Christian approach to numbers is easy as 1-2-3. In Christianity, the most important numbers are one and three, with two thrown in for good measure. St. Paul wrote in our Epistle for Trinity 17, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Elsewhere he said, “There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Our one Lord Jesus Christ has revealed to us the one name of God, who is three indivisible Persons. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Three Persons, one Name placed upon us in Holy Baptism, and the one crucified and risen Lord Jesus present with us forever. Three and one: those are the numbers that count.
But Jesus also throws in two for good measure. The one Lord Jesus Christ has told His church, “Where two or three have been gathered together in My name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20). When Jesus is here, the Savior of the world is here, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is here, the King of kings and Lord of lords is here, the whole kingdom of heaven is here, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—all here. When Jesus is present with us, He who has died to achieve forgiveness of all of your sins, you lack nothing. In fact, “all things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21), and “all” is beyond any sort of counting!
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.