And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
The Way to the Kingdom.
"We must enter the kingdom through tribulation."
I. For probation. A man must be proved before he can be approved. In the very nature of the case, trial precedes approbation. A thing or, still more, a man may look fair, and be useless. God tries and trains men before and for advancement. The advancement is to be very great—glory, in exceeding weight; the trial must be very true. And in order to be true it must be severe and searching. Therefore, in general, the individual life is so composed and arranged that it is. Each man's life is so adjusted in its circumstances and so measured as to its length as to constitute on the whole a complete probation for the man. There is that probably in every one of us which only suffering in some form can touch and try.
II. We must—for purification. The probation is always with a view to purification, with, on God's part, a pressure and a tendency that way. If we take the whole life, as holding both darkness and affliction in it, it is still true that in and by the whole life-discipline God designeth not the destruction of any man. His fires are hot, but they are all purifying. He Himself is a consuming fire only to what is evil; He is a purifying and preserving fire to all that is good.
III. We must—in order to the attainment of that which every Christian soul longs for and feels to be of the essence of its life: viz., a real and deep fellowship in Christ. Christian fellowship is life in Christ. "Abide in Me, and I in you." If there be one element of this human life more needful than another for the perfecting of a sanctifying fellowship between the Saviour and the soul, it is the element of suffering. Therefore it is the unchanging law that we bear about with us in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that we die daily to Him, that we are killed all the day long. By such dying nourishment is sent down to the very roots of life. Penitence feeds purity. The pangs exalt the joys. Many a one has felt in the depths of trial, amid the straits of tribulation, that Christ is nearer than He had ever been before, nearer than they had thought it possible He would ever come.
IV. We must—"for the sake of others." It is not possible to doubt that God often uses the suffering of one for the sanctifying of another. Just as there are workers in life— fathers of families and men who naturally take much of the stress of things, while those dependent on them and those around share largely in the benefit—so it seems quite certain that there are souls called, with special calling, to suffer, not alone, nor perhaps chiefly that they may themselves be purified, but rather that others may receive the benefit. As no man liveth, as no man dieth, so no man suffereth, to himself. Courage, then, weary one. Thou too art sowing good seed in faith and gentleness and submission, which will find good soil in many hearts and come to harvest after many days.
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 22.
Affliction no Proof of Sonship.
I. There is no expiatory power or virtue in our sufferings; they make no atonement. If endured patiently, they leave in full force the incurred penalties of God's law; if endured impatiently, they but incur fresh penalties. We must not think that because many are the troubles of the righteous every one that has many troubles must therefore be righteous. While all are aware that sorrow is fastened to sin, whether in the way of appointed judgments or of natural consequences, it may and must be continually happening that calamities beset those who all the while are living in alienation from God; that tears are the portion day and night of men who have no scriptural ground for hope that God will finally wipe away all tears from their eyes; and nevertheless, the proposition of our text may be unimpeached as announcing an ordinary if not invariable appointment, "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
II. There is, however, a wholly different though equally erroneous inference which may be drawn from our text and from other passages of Scripture which, in like manner, associate suffering with piety. When a man who is not called to extraordinary trials, whose course of life on the whole is one of evenness and peace, when he reads of entering the kingdom through much tribulation there is great likelihood of his suspecting that he is destitute of the chief evidence of being a child of God. Be not impatient for the coming of trial, but keep always praying that when it comes you may have patience for its endurance. It will come soon enough; sooner, perhaps, than you will be ready to meet it. And in the meantime thou canst not justly say thou hast not trial: the want of trial is thy trial; unbroken sunshine may be a trial as well as continued strife. Ah! why not even a greater, as making a man doubtful of his calling and election? While uninterrupted prosperity may be the portion of a wicked man, it may also be the portion of a righteous man. With the wicked it will nourish presumption and indifference to religion; with the righteous it will suggest fears as to acceptance with God; and these fears, springing from the thought that the believer has not trial enough, may themselves constitute no uncommon trial.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1529.
Acts 14:22The expression "through many tribulations," as connected with entering God's kingdom, is used in the sense of passing or travelling through—as if they lay about our road, and we as pilgrims were advancing on in the midst of them. And this is at least an encouraging similitude. It sets us forth as independent of, superior to, the tribulations, and sets them forth as our appointed way, but no more—not placed there to have the mastery over us, but to be faced and left behind, just as the traveller faces and leaves behind the dangers or rough places of his road. It is then through many of these gallings and fret-tings, these narrow inlets or these pressing burdens, that our way must be made to the land of everlasting rest and peace. Let us trace the fact in the rise and progress of the spiritual life.
I. First of all, strait is the gate itself that leadeth unto life; and when our Lord chose this expression He intended doubtless to represent not only the fewness of those who go in thereat, but the fact that to each man it proves narrow and uninviting. Through one mental process in the main do men enter into the life of the spirit. It is a humbling process.
II. The tribulations of God's people may be distinguished into essential and incidental—that which sooner or later, with less or more intensity, every Christian must feel, and that into which he is liable, in the providence of his heavenly Father from varying circumstances, to be thrown. (1) There is a certain beaten track of sorrow which must be travelled by every son of God. The Christian in every class of life must prepare himself for fightings without and for fears within. Through distress of heart and wrenching asunder of earthly ties in some shape or other lies every one's path to the kingdom. (2) Incidental tribulations are the sicknesses and dejections and bereavements of the people of God. These troubles are, in fact, our highest privileges. "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., p. 131.
References: Acts 14:22.—J. Kelly, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 324; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 68; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 294; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 217. Acts 15:1-29.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vii., p. 11.
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.
Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.
And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,
They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:
And there they preached the gospel.
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:
The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.
Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.