Monday, July 31, 2023

2023.07.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 14:21–28

Read Acts 14:21–28

Questions from the Scripture text: What had they done in Derbe (Acts 14:21)? What did they make by this preaching? How many? To where do they return? What are they doing (Acts 14:22)? To whom? Strengthening what of theirs? In what were they exhorting them to continue? Through what must they enter the kingdom? How many? Whose kingdom? How sure is this entering? Through where did they pass to where in Acts 14:24? Then what did they do where (Acts 14:25)? Before going down to where? From there, where did they sail (Acts 14:26)? What had been done to them there? For what? What is the status of the work? What do they do when they come (Acts 14:27)? What do they do with the gathered church? Whom do they say has done the work? How do they describe what He did? What did they do after this report (Acts 14:28)?

How does the first great missionary conclude? Acts 14:26–28 looks forward to the devotional in the midweek meeting. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the first great missionary journey concluded with strengthening follow-up, the ordaining of a presbytery, and return/report to the sending church. 

Strengthening follow-upActs 14:21-22. The description of the ministry in Derbe is succinct: they preached the gospel and made many disciples. They then follow up with all of the disciples that the Lord had made in the area “strengthening [their] souls” (Acts 14:22). This strengthening had two components. First, they exhorted them to continue (to remain, abide, persist) in the faith. This exhortation would be necessary if the “only” opposition that we were facing was our own remaining sin. But it is all the more necessary because of the truth about the reality of the Christian life in this world.

The telling of that truth is the second part of the strengthening. It may not sound strengthening to say that we will have many tribulations. But, it would be far worse to tell someone that the Christian life will be easy, if it will actually be full of tribulations. And, it is a great encouragement to know that these tribulations come in the wisely, lovingly determined providence of God. Furthermore, the word translated “must” does refer to something that is absolutely necessary. If they are believers, if they are disciples, then they must enter the kingdom of God. It is certain. He Who started the work will complete it. Glorious encouragement!

Ordaining of a presbyteryActs 14:23. Why wait to appoint elders until there were congregations (“church” in verse 23) in four cities, and possibly several in each? One reason is so that the elders of the congregations in the regions will have a mutual accountability, and none of them will have primacy. When we get to chapter 15, we will find elders on the same footing as apostles in the general synod/assembly that occurs. Mutual accountability and collaboration by a plurality of elders in a region had already been established, apparently, in Judea. 

And mutual accountability and collaboration by a plurality of elders in a region was established here as the form of church government among the congregations of the first great (apostolic!) missionary journey. A second reason is related: because it is God’s way of shepherding His church. These elder appointments are not because the churches are in the care of the elders, but because they are in the care of God Whose appointed method is the elders. Thus we see the praying to the Lord, fasting before the Lord, and commending them to the Lord in Whom they had believed (Acts 14:23). This began as the Lord’s work (cf. Acts 14:26 and “commended to the grace of God”), and it would continue as His work in their absence.

Returning and reportingActs 14:24-28. They had been commended to God’s grace in Antioch in Acts 13:2–3. Undoubtedly, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and the congregation there had been praying for them and would be eager to learn how things went. Now, Paul and Barnabas make their way back, preaching as they go (Acts 14:25). They gather the congregation together in Acts 14:27, and report. Note that it was not a report on what they had done but about “all that God had done with them” (verse 27). He was the One Who “opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” The implication is that the congregation was gathered for worship, and testimony to what God had done was offered unto the glory and praise of the God Who did it. When we send and pray, we are participants in ministry. And, when the Lord blesses it, we have the privilege of participating in praising Him for that ministry.

What tribulations are you going through? How does this passage strengthen you in them? How has Jesus chosen to shepherd His church on earth? Whom has He specifically selected for you? In whose ministry are you participating? For what sort of fruit do you hope to participate in praising God?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for the mission of Your saving work that has extended to saving us. Grant that we would have strength to persist in the faith and to participate in Your mission work. Make us to submit to Your Word and Your ways in Christ’s church, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

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