In this message we shall consider 14:21b-28.
After Paul and Barnabas brought the good news to the city of Derbe and made a considerable number of disciples (vv. 20-21 a), “they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch” (v. 21b). This is not the Antioch from which they were sent out on this journey of ministry (13:1); rather, it is the Antioch in Pisidia, the Antioch in Asia Minor.
Acts 14:22 says that Paul and Barnabas were “establishing the souls of the disciples, and entreating them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Here their concern was not for the spirits of the disciples but for their souls. Man’s soul is composed of man’s mind, emotion, and will. To establish the souls of the disciples is to establish them in their mind, that they may know and understand the Lord and the things concerning Him (1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 3:10); in their emotion, that they may love the Lord and have a heart for the Lord’s interest (Mark 12:30; Rom. 16:4); and in their will, that they may be strong to remain with the Lord and do the things that please the Lord (Acts 11:23; Col. 1:10; 1 Thes. 4:1). Therefore, to establish the souls of the disciples is to establish them in their mind, emotion, and will.
According to Acts 14:22, Paul and Barnabas entreated the disciples to continue in the faith. In 13:43 they appealed to the believers to continue in the grace of God, but here they entreated them to continue in the faith. To continue in the faith is more difficult than to continue in the grace of God.
As in 6:7, the faith in 14:22 is the objective faith. It refers to what the believers believe in concerning Christ’s Person and work. The entire revelation of the New Testament concerning Christ and His redemptive work is considered the faith of God’s New Testament economy (Rom. 16:26).
If we understand what the faith is, then we shall realize that continuing in the faith is a deeper matter than continuing in the grace. To continue in the grace of God is to enjoy the Triune God. But in order to continue in the faith, we need not only to exercise our spirit to enjoy the Triune God, but we also need to exercise our minds to study the New Testament revelation, all of which is included in the objective faith.
Today many Christians do not know what is the entire revelation of the New Testament concerning God’s economy. How poor is the situation concerning this! If we do not know what the objective faith is, we certainly cannot continue in it.
The apostles’ entreaty in 14:22 is an improvement over that in 13:43. We have seen that in 13:43 the believers were persuaded to continue in the grace of God; that is, they were encouraged to continue in the enjoyment of the Triune God as grace. Now in 14:22 they are entreated to continue in the faith; that is, they are encouraged to know and continue in the full revelation concerning God’s New Testament economy, a matter that is very deep and profound.
The believers at Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch had been believers less than a year. When Paul and Barnabas first visited those cities, churches were raised up. Then Paul and Barnabas left for other places and eventually returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. As we have seen, they entreated the disciples there to continue not only in the grace but also in the faith. The word about continuing in the grace of God was given in chapter thirteen to new converts. Immediately after they were saved, they were persuaded by the apostles to stay in the enjoyment of the Triune God. The believers at Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch must have continued in the grace of God for some time. According to what is indicated in Acts 14, they must have learned quite much of God’s New Testament economy during that period of time. What they learned became for them the knowledge of the faith. Based upon this, the apostles entreated them to continue in the faith.
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