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Take heart that the Lord made his apostles faithful!

The Lord made them faithful by the efficacy of: the Word of God (vv.24–25), the Grace of God (v.26), and the Spirit of God (vv.27–28).


Winston Churchill said,

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

By Christ’s promise (Matt 24:14), Paul and Barnabas were in the arena of bringing the gospel one step closer to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Luke apparently wants his readers to take comfort in this conclusion of the first missionary journey.

In the Return of the King by Tolkein we read of the characters returning home as such:

“At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire, but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road.”

They have returned like kings home from conquering the world. How shall we take heart with them today that Christ has overcome the world? Luke wants us to take heart the Lord made them faithful:

1. Faithful by the Word of God

2. Faithful by the Grace of God

3. Faithful by the Spirit of God

The Lord Made Them Faithful by the Word of God

First, Luke wants us to be able to take heart that the Lord made Paul and Barnabas faithful by the Word of God.

“Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia,” (Acts 14:24–25 ESV)

It was in this initial place mentioned in Pamphylia at Perga that it is said at the beginning of the journey that John Mark left them (13:13). The complete opposite of faithfulness was demonstrated by John Mark, but Paul and Barnabas were made faithful by the Lord. A possible reason for John Mark giving up was that related to the place. Attalia was named after the king of Pergamum. Perga is likely short for Pergamum or related. Pergamum (likely North of this place named similarly) is later mentioned in Revelation 2:12–17. It was a place significant for suffering that tempted God’s people to compromise. If anything can tempt a Christian to compromise it is suffering. The place was called the place where Satan dwells (Rev 2:13). This was likely a reference to the emperor worship there. Christians were tempted to deny their faith by worshiping the emperor. Antipas, called God’s faithful witness, was executed there (Rev 2:13). In addition to the temptation of suffering, was the temptation by apparently professing believers toward sexual immorality (Rev 2:14). Rightly the Lord threatens to fight against those who do not respond to his rebuke and refuse his goodwill to fight against them with “the sword of his mouth” (Rev 2:16). He is literally promising to fight against the church of professing believers but promises to provide a hidden manna to the regenerate believers with their new names written on stones. People are not saved without a hidden Christ (Wilson in When the Man Comes Around). They can’t be faithful like their Lord, except they have their Lord hidden in them. And as such, he who is in them is greater than he who is in the world. That is how faithfulness comes, it comes down from above, it comes in secret communion with Christ to the regenerate, it grants a new name that only they know written in stone. They were stronger than stones because the one in them was and is and always will be a Rock.

In particular, their faithfulness was in speaking (or preaching) the Word. Later Timothy was charged to preach the Word in season an out of season (2 Tim 4:1ff). This was a speaking of the Word that was in season. The word translated “spoken” is a word used to mean bubbling over like a child to his father. It here means to proclaim, assert, say, or report something. They are preaching the Word, and were made faithful to do it because the Word was literally so much in them that it was bubbling over in their speech wherever they went.

The Lord Made Them Faithful to Succeed by the grace of God

Second, Luke wants us to take heart by seeing that the Lord made Paul and Barnabas to sail back home to be accountable to their church to tell them it was accomplished by the grace of God to which they were commended by them.

“and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.” (Acts 14:26 ESV)

Antioch is where they were set apart and sent, and as it is stated here they were “commended” positively entrusted to the grace of God for the work; and this work is said to have been fulfilled now! It meant that the church entrusted them to the divine care and protection of God. And they had been through much, Paul being even stoned! But the important thing is that because of God’s grace they were made successful! The gospel was indeed brought one step further to the ends of the earth. The gates of hell could not prevail, rather the gospel pushed those gates down in the areas of the Gentiles.

William Cowper said,

O fearful saints fresh courage take

The clouds that you so much dread

Are big with mercy and will break

In blessings on your head

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense

But trust Him for His grace

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face

Grace is twofold, granting not only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but suffering for Christ (Philippians 1:29). Entrustment to the grace of God, is entrusting someone to all that God sees necessary to bring the gospel through them.

The Lord Made Them Faithful to State it was Done by the Spirit of God.

Third, Luke wants us to to take heart by knowing that the Lord made Paul and Barnabas faithful to give God all of the glory for salvation of the nations.

“And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:27–28 ESV)

Here is the pinnacle of the message, namely they declared all that God had done with them! They did not declare what ‘they did’ but they declared what God did with them! Some have emphasized the preposition “with” in the text to say it is speaking of the co-laboring like in 2 Cor 6:1. And that could be the case, but the credit is given to God there and here. In v.28 their remaining there was likely when he heard about the Galatians leaving the gospel. the region he was in is known as the Galatian region. This news would astonish Paul because they had left a doctrine of salvation that gave all the glory to God, because he alone did it, not men. Nothing is more offensive to the ministry of the apostles than giving credit to men for the door of faith opened.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—” (Galatians 1:6 ESV)

All credit belongs to God for opening this door. We are born again by the Spirit of God (cf. Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus). One has said that the door of faith was opened to the nations because the door was closed to Christ on the Cross! It was God who opened the door and the hearts. All credit for fruit in gospel ministry is due to God. Look what God did WITH Paul and Barnabus! Look at what God did is saving the nations! It was not man’s fallen will that changed things, but the will of God that changed things! That is what we see here. And Luke wants us to take heart because of it!

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