Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…
I. THE DECLARATION that the people of God must through tribulation enter the kingdom of God.
1. That they are an afflicted people there can be no doubt. And not only so, but those whom God blesses the most He afflicts the most. Take, e.g., Abraham, Jacob, Job, Moses, Paul, etc. But not only these, all the saints must expect it. The Word tells us not, "we may" but "we must." Sometimes we forget that it is God's appointment, that it cannot be otherwise.
2. Many reasons might be given for this.
(1) That we may know and feel what that body of sin and death is that is within us; and it is no small blessing to have a thief that is in the heart detected.
(2) That we may know the value of Christ, as the brother born for adversity. We are most of us like children on board a vessel when a storm comes, we think of nothing but the storm. The life of faith looks to Him who is the pilot.
(3) The great secret of all this living in much tribulation is, that we may live out of ourselves and to God. The Word of God is full of promises; and we never find their worth but as we are placed in circumstances that make them needful. We need not ask a hungry man to eat if the bread is placed before him.
II. THE EXHORTATION. "Exhorting them to continue in the faith." The great remedy for this much affliction is, not to be looking at the affliction; it is to continue in the faith. Whether we regard faith as the doctrine of Christ, or as continuing in faith, living not to ourselves, but to God — in either point of view it comes to the same truth; it is the life of faith. Happy is the man who, the more the waters come upon him, the higher he rises. We can honour Christ in nothing more than in the life of faith.
III. THE PROSPECT. We sometimes read of a Chinese taking a traveller through a wilderness, and then bringing him at once into a beautiful garden. He passes over craggy rocks, through brambles and nettles, and everything offensive; and then in one moment his guide brings him into the most lovely exhibition of the powers of nature and art. Just so is it with God: He takes us through a world of brambles into a garden of Eden, and if we have more foretaste of it we should think of it more. If a man eats grapes, he cannot avoid being reminded that there is a place where grapes come from. The way to be living above the troubles of life is to be much in the anticipation of glory: for as surely as the earnest is given, so surely shall the eternal reality be enjoyed. The great principle is to be looking forward to future glory. But we want more than this; we want a present Christ and if we are living by faith we shall possess this. God wants our hearts for Himself.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
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.