It has struck me that there are many practical evidences for the power of God in Christianity. One of them is, in my judgment, in what we in theology call the perseverance of the saints. Perseverance is evidenced when believers in Christ do not give up in the Christian life even though there are many arguments in favor of giving up on many occasions.
As Paul thinks ahead to this third visit, he wonders if this one might turn out like the second. It is a great concern to him. Paul said in verse 14 that his real objective was different from that of the false prophets, who were there to gather a following, or to make money, or to acquire a reputation.
Paul feared that he would find quarreling among the Corinthian believers. We know that there was quarreling, because he mentioned it earlier in these letters. He also feared discovering among them jealousy, outbursts of anger, and factions (dividing up into exclusive groups).
Theme: Onward! Onward!
This week’s lessons press the importance that it is not enough merely to show an initial interest in following Christ; one must persevere in obedience to the very end.
Scripture: Luke 9:57-62
The greater part of this chapter has been negative, warning those who are contemplating Christ’s service that the mere setting out is not sufficient. There must be perseverance. It is he who “stands firm to the end” who is saved (Matt.
Acts 14 contains a repetition of the missionary pattern. We have already seen this pattern worked out at Antioch. Now we see it in each of these three cities of Galatia. Luke suggests this by his use of the words “as usual” in verse 1. “As usual” suggests a pattern. It is worth reviewing this pattern, because we are going to see it again and again.
I have outlined four parts to this basic ministry pattern: preaching, division, persecution, and growth. But when we come to the story of Paul’s work in Iconium, what is emphasized chiefly is the division, which ends in persecution. The division is explained carefully: “The Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers” (v. 2). We should not be surprised at this, of course, because the Lord Himself said this would happen.
At the end of yesterday’s study, we said there was a puzzle over where an ancient boundary marker seemed to lie compared with what Luke had written in Acts. It was thought that the ancient marker was between the cities of Lystra and Derbe, which would have put them in a different province. And yet, Luke indicated a different boundary. Today we begin by looking at this puzzle.
We ought to compare this sermon with the one in chapter 13, which was spoken to a largely Jewish audience. In that chapter Paul quotes the Old Testament frequently, rehearsing God’s great acts in the Old Testament and in Jesus Christ. That is not the case here. Here Paul is speaking to a Gentile or pagan audience that had no knowledge of the Scriptures whatever. He couldn’t have told these people about God’s great acts in the Old Testament period, because they would not have known what he was talking about.
After the people tried to kill Paul, it was a good time to leave Lystra. The missionaries went on to Derbe. Luke does not tell us much about the ministry there, saying only in verse 21: “They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.” If in the earlier story the emphasis was upon division and the resulting persecution, here it is on the results.
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