Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…
I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF TRIBULATION. No one who has thoroughly observed the conditions of life can avoid coming to this conclusion, that suffering forms a large portion of human history. Youth encounters troubles; then, as life advances, there are deeper sorrows. And as we get older still, life assumes the character of a struggle, and ofttimes in the very midst of it, "man goeth to his long home." Not that this constitutes the whole of life; but we do live in a world whose Creator appears to have consulted something else besides the happiness of His creatures.
II. THE REASON FOR THIS.
1. If we were to discover, say some plant, so widely distributed that we could not go into any one region of the globe without beholding it, our reason would at once compel us to the conclusion, that its universal existence proves some universal purpose, and that its secret must sooner or later be discoverable. Sorrow is universal, and there must therefore be a reason for its being universal. Paul says in our text, "we must"; "it is the order of things, that through much tribulation we enter the kingdom of God." Wherever he went he found trouble; and he found everywhere necessity for the same line of argument; he had to "confirm," that is, to strengthen the souls of the disciples; to exhort them to continue steadfast in the belief of Christianity as a message of glad tidings, notwithstanding all their present trials.
2. But does the kingdom of God here mean heaven? Not exclusively. It means the government of God. The kingdom of God means the government of God; and "tribulation" is derived from the Latin tribulum, the threshing instrument or roller by which the Romans separated the corn from the husks.
3. Tribulation looked at in this light is capable of the most extended application. We may apply it to youth, at its very entrance upon the real discipline of life; to some thoughtful mind, harassed with doubts; to the active, hearty, energetic man of business, who may in this day of unnatural competition be tempted to practical falsehoods, to neglect the soul for the body; to the man of fixed income, whose family cares are a perpetual embarrassment.
III. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HOW DOES TRIBULATION FACILITATE OUR ENTRANCE INTO IT? The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but —
1. "Righteousness," and righteousness is only attainable by tribulation. It is not easy to be good.
2. "Peace": and this is another happy result of tribulation. By nature we do not love peace. You have seen the horse broken in for man's use. Now peace, the very opposite of all this discontent, only comes through the discipline of tribulation.
3. "Joy in the Holy Ghost." But this in the present life only comes through the tribulation of penitence; and the happy throng above have come out of great tribulation.
(W. G. Barrett.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.