Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…
I. The disciples had been but newly converted to the faith, and THEY REQUIRED TO BE ESTABLISHED THROUGH GRACE. They were very likely to have been discouraged by the sufferings of the apostles, their instructors in the faith. They may have begun to fear that they had not counted the cost of religion: they had looked on the bright side of their profession; they had glowed with the zeal of new converts to Christ. But they might now have begun, for the first time, to discover that religion has its dark side. It is altogether probable that they had found it easier to make resolutions than to keep them; and to be exalted in hope more practicable than to be weaned from the world. We see, then, at once the bent and the need of the soul; its bent, to fall back, after the fairest professions of religion; its need, to be daily strengthened and advanced in the saving gifts of Divine grace. The seed may be withered by the early blight — the slender flame may be extinguished by the rising blast. Watchfulness must be added to knowledge, and prayer to watchfulness; and the seat of religion must be not in the imagination nor the affections merely — not in the understanding even, as separate from the heart, but in the soul.
II. The apostle, in the text, "exhorted them TO CONTINUE IN THE FAITH." The source of all final perseverance in religion is doubtless the grace of God. The means by which that grace operates on the heart is by a "continuance in the faith." The apostles Barnabas and Paul, we must suppose, on this occasion opened to their new converts the whole foundation of Christian belief — the whole body of Christian motives, and a corresponding practice. To the Jews amongst them they appealed from their own Scriptures, and showed the prophecies that had gone before: respecting Jesus and His great salvation. To the Gentiles they preached, no doubt in kindred strains, Jesus and the resurrection, Christ and Him crucified. Here was, no doubt, a faith, which both admitted and required, and would reward, inquiry. The more they reflected upon the great truths of the gospel, the more they observed the state of the world around them, the more they would hail the glad tidings of the gospel. It was a revelation of truth, a communication of strength, from God to men. It embraced that which was most suitable to their wants, and most agreeable to their hopes. It promised, on the most sure grounds, pardon of sin, peace with God, renovation of the heart. This is, then, the faith in which still we exhort you to continue. It is that which we invite you to gain, and then to hold fast even to the end. It is no single effort of the understanding embracing these Divine truths, no words of confession. It must be a deliberate consideration of the grounds on which your faith is built, and all your hopes depend. It must be a comparison of the feelings of the heart with the standard of Divine truth. It must be an application of the great truths of Scripture to all the circumstances and relations of life. It must be a daily viewing of things through the glass of God's Word, and a reference of all events to the future and eternal world.
III. We are warned that the walk of faith will not be altogether a thornless path — the triumph of faith not a bloodless victory; "and that we must THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD." The words are introduced in the text with an abruptness in the language, which shows the strong impression on the mind of the apostle delivering them, of their nature and truth. Each apostle was ever anxious assuredly to impress on the minds of his converts, no less than on his own, the costs, as well as the gains, of religion. It may be doubtless necessary that outward afflictions should first bring home the wandering sinner to God. His past life may have been conversant with companions who must be forsaken, and habits to be renounced. He will, at all events, find himself placed in a world that will little understand the principles on which he is acting, and that may deride the faith which he professes, or the purity which he exhibits. Nor can he feel otherwise than painfully affected at the sight of wickedness around him.
(C. J. Hoare, 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.