Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…
The force of a man's preaching must, to a great extent, come out of his personal experiences, and new experiences will give his preaching new force. This is illustrated in the associations of our text. The apostle was in measure fitted, by all he had borne and suffered, for exhorting the disciples and comforting and confirming the Churches; but he had just passed through a new and almost overwhelming experience. Excited by Jews from Antioch and Iconium, the people at Lystra had violently stoned Paul, and, thinking they had killed him, had dragged his body outside their city gates. "Paul, liable at all times to the swoons which accompany nervous organizations, had been stunned, but not killed; and while the disciples stood in an agonized group around what they thought to be his corpse, he recovered his consciousness, and raised himself from the ground." But he must have been terribly bruised and suffering, and it would seem that he never fully recovered the effects of this scene. This new experience had put a new tone of tenderness upon his ministrations; and, when visiting again the Churches, he could add this new assurance, "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." His thought has been familiarized to the Christian mind by the verse -
"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to that land where sorrow is unknown."
I. TRIBULATION AS PART OF OUR HUMAN LOT. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." It is often said that a world of sinners must be, and indeed had better be, a world of sufferers. Troubles take a variety of forms, but they come into every individual life and into every form of associated life. They are necessary results of:
1. The disorder which man's sin has produced in God's world.
2. The lost self-control which sin has occasioned to each man.
3. The willfulness which persists in adjusting human relations to man's idea and pleasure, rather than according to God's order.
4. The hereditary evils left from the past of men's iniquity.
II. TRIBULATION AS TAKEN UP INTO THE DIVINE MINISTRY. This is at once sealed and explained by the word "tribulation," as the Christian synonym for earthly troubles. The Latin origin of the word, as taken from tribulum, the threshing-roller, should be explained. The SORROWS of life may seem but as the crushing of a great roller; they are but the separating of the chaff from the wheat, and the gracious means by which the sufferer is sanctified. The Christian system proposes no less a thing than the full recovery of a man from sin and his full confirmation in holiness, and it uses a variety of agencies for the perfecting of its work; but it should ever be a wonder and a joy to us that it should propose to take over the whole burden of human sorrow and trouble, and use even it for effecting its blessed design. So, though no affliction can, even to the Christian, seem other than grievous, not joyous, yet we may be sure that God's hand - God's good hand - is upon it all, and that "afterward it will yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness, if only we are duly exercised thereby." And at last it even comes to be the glory of the Christian that he is under God's tribulum; and the glory of the Christians by-and-by that "they have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
III. TRIBULATION AS RELATED TO THE KINGDOM WE HOPE TO ENTER. Whether we conceive the kingdom as entered now or as to be entered when we pass from earthly spheres, the one essential feature of it is holiness, full deliverance from sin. That kingdom "nothing entereth that defileth or that maketh a lie." As a matter of actual experience, it may be urged and illustrated that the "meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light" can only be wrought out of trouble. Trials, testings, discoveries of secret sins, even the humiliations of affliction, bear directly on the fitness for the kingdom. When we feel what heaven is, we find out what a great work is to be done to meeten us for it. - R.T.
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.