ACTS 14:19

 

 

The Bible says in Acts 14:19, “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.” Many times throughout the entire time of his missionary ministry the Apostle Paul had faced death. He would eventually give his life for the cause of Christ, but not until God’s time came. Paul was almost stoned to death right here. If this had been the only thing that Paul had ever suffered for the cause of Christ, then he would still qualify as a hero of the faith. Stephen was martyred this way, and we rightly honor him.

 

Evidently Paul had made a decision early on in his ministry. The decision that he had made was to give his life for Christ. Whatever he had to suffer, he had to suffer. He was not going to change in order to escape the sufferings. That does not mean that he sought out the sufferings. If he was persecuted in one city, then he left that city and went to another. But he was not going to stop preaching the gospel just because it was dangerous, or just because it had the potential to bring him suffering. We know some of the sufferings that Paul suffered in this calling that was given to him by Christ. Paul described some of these things in Second Corinthians 11:2-28 where Paul said, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep: In journeyings often, in peril of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

 

One thing about the Apostle Paul: no matter what happened to him, he did not stop preaching the gospel. That is one of the keys to his success. He did not give up. He did not quit. Nothing could stop him. Maybe he had to leave one city, but he just went to the next with the gospel. He was stoned and left for dead; but he slept it off, got up the next morning, and went to the next city with the gospel of Christ. Acts 14:20 says, “Howbeit as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” 

 

Not only was Paul willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, if he had to, but also Paul was very bold and very brave. Each of the last three cities had run Paul out of town because of persecutions that were raised against him by the Jews, and in one of the cities he had been stoned and left for dead. But Paul turned right around and went back to all three of the cities. He wanted to visit those who had believed and teach them things to strengthen their faith. Obviously to Paul not only gaining converts was important, but teaching believers so that they would grow in faith was equally important. Acts 14:21-22 says, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch. Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

 

These verses tell us two things that Paul emphasized to these new converts: 1. He exhorted them to continue in the faith, and 2. He taught them that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. There are a lot of things that can stop Christians from continuing to live by faith. One of the main things is their own sins. Some Christians become so ashamed and so defeated by their own sins even after they have believed that they stop trusting in the Lord: they stop living by faith. Of course, the answer to that is the realization that every Christian walks with the Lord only by the mercy and grace of the Lord. There is no one who continues to walk with the Lord because of how good they are. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yes, do the best that you can; but do not ever stop confessing your sins. The Apostle John wrote in First John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Don’t ever stop living by faith because you have failed or sinned. The Lord will always forgive you and receive you back into fellowship with Himself. It says in Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” 

 

Some people stop living by faith because of false doctrine. One of the most common false doctrines that exists in almost all of organized religion is legalism. Legalism is when you trust in your works or in your keeping of certain works instead of trusting in the Lord. Things that are perfectly good to do, if they are emphasized in the wrong way or done for the wrong reason, can be become little more than religious observances that people think are the means to obtaining God’s favor. God’s favor has already been obtained when Jesus hung there on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” God’s favor is unmerited and will always be unmerited. If you are going to church or paying tithes, thinking that by doing so you are earning God’s grace or God’s favor, then you are wasting your time and efforts. On the other hand if you do such things to express appreciation for what God has already done for you freely through Christ, then you are on the right track.

 

To live by faith means to trust in the Lord. If you trust in any thing or anyone other than the Lord, then you are not living by faith. If you trust in yourself or your own abilities, then you are not living by faith. That is one of the stumbling-blocks that people run into who have a lot of confidence in themselves or who are highly gifted. It’s easier for them to trust in their gifts or their abilities than to trust in the Lord. No wonder that Paul said that he gloried in his infirmities. Jesus said to Paul, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The more that you realize how great your weaknesses really are, the more that you will make sure that you trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” If you do this, you will be continuing in faith.

 

Paul exhorted the new Christians in Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioch to continue in the faith; and Paul warned the new Christians about a very important truth concerning the Christian life in this world: if you serve God it is not always going to be an easy road. The way Paul put it in verse 22 was: “and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Jesus said that the servant is not greater than his Lord, and we know what Jesus suffered. Jesus also said to the disciples in John 16:33, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Do not believe this gospel of prosperity that too many people preach. If you walk with Jesus, you will be given a cross to bear. It is true that His yoke is easy and His burden is light compared to the hard way that sinners have; but it is also true that there will be battles to fight, there will be opposition to confront, and there will be sufferings to suffer. Be prepared, because it will happen. If you love Jesus above all things, you will gladly accept whatever comes your way.

 

After Paul taught the people in these new churches, it was necessary to set up leadership in the churches. There needed to be leaders, shepherds over the sheep. The Bible says in Acts 14:23, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” This verse is very revealing about who were chosen to be leaders of the church, and those leaders were chosen. By saying that elders were chosen does not tell us the office involved. An elder is a description, not a title. Older men were chosen because older means wiser, and you need wise men to be the leaders of the church. That does not mean that a young man can never be chosen. If a young man has the wisdom that is required, then the young man is qualified. Remember when Paul told Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth.” But Paul also wrote Timothy concerning anyone who desires to be a pastor and Paul said in First Timothy 3:6, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” Being a novice in the things of the Lord does not refer to someone’s age, but it does refer to where they are in regards to spiritual maturity. No matter what are their other skills, if they are a novice in the things of the Lord, they are not qualified to have a leadership position in the church. That’s the meaning and the significance of choosing “elders” to be the leaders of the church.

 

As far as the actual offices of these leaders of the churches, we can find them mentioned in First Timothy chapter three. There is a bishop, which means literally “overseer,” and is the same thing as a pastor. First Timothy 3:1 says, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.” The overseer or a church assembly is simply another word for a pastor. The word “pastor” comes from the word that means a herdsman, or someone who is at the head of a flock of sheep and who leads the sheep. Ephesians 4:11 tells us of gifts that Jesus gave to men and one of the gifts is that of “pastors and teachers.” There is the office of a pastor, and there is the office of a deacon. First Timothy 3:8 says, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.” The word “deacon” means servant. The pastor gives himself to prayer and to the study of the word so that he may feed the sheep and lead them spiritually. The deacons occupy themselves with more practical matters, assisting the pastor in meeting the needs of the congregation. Notice that First Timothy chapter three speaks of a bishop or pastor in the singular, and speaks of deacons in the plural. It would be consistent with this to have one pastor and several deacons for an individual congregation.

 

Another interesting thing to notice about the choosing of these elderly men to lead the congregation has to do with the word “ordained.” The first part of Acts 14:23 says, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church…” The word that is translated “ordained” in this verse is a completely different word than the word in Acts 13:48 that is translated “ordained.” The word in Acts 14:23 means to choose by the raising of the hand, and it implies that the pastors had been chosen by a democratic-like process. 

 

Concerning the end of what is commonly called Paul’s first missionary journey, the Bible says in Acts 14:24-28, “And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples.” After they finished their journey, a very interesting phrase is used to describe how the believers had originally sent Paul and Barnabas.

 

It says that “they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.” The word that is translated “recommended” literally means to give over to the power of someone or something. In other words these early believers were well aware of the fact that they were totally and completely dependent upon the grace of God. They knew that salvation was by grace, and they knew that their work could only result in something good and beneficial by grace. Yes, they did the work, but they relied upon grace. You certainly will never deserve God’s blessings, so if you rely upon your own efforts or your own faithfulness, you are relying upon the wrong thing. God’s grace is greater than your sin, and God’s grace is greater than your weaknesses. God’s grace can supply every need, because grace speaks of the giving nature of God. All of this abundant giving that God does is based upon Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” If you are already a believer, then hopefully you rely upon the grace of God for everything that you do. If you are not yet saved, today you can rely upon the grace of God through Christ to save your soul.   

 

 

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Copyright; 2003 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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