Summary: Exposition of Acts 14:21-28 about the return trip of Paul’s first miss journey, and the things that he did to ensure the growth of the early disciples
Text: Acts 14:21-28, Title: Strengthening Disciples’ Souls, Date/Place: NRBC, 6/1/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: tell about hearing Piper preach in April and the conversation that I had with Erika immediately following about it being “soul food,” just “vintage Piper,” but so stirring and satisfying and Christ exalting and sustaining.
B. Background to passage: We begin today in Derbe (show on map if possible). Paul has just been stoned a few days before, but keeps on preaching. But Paul is not about simply making converts; he wants to produce genuine, sold-out, white-hot, radically Christ-centered disciples whose new primary goal in every aspect of their lives is to make much of Jesus. And he knows that disciple-making is a long term process. And so, he begins his return trip back to Antioch, not with the mere goal of getting back to his home church, but of strengthening the souls of the new believers in the last three towns he has just preached in and fled from. So fearlessly he goes back to these towns with a message of strength for believers. The word “strengthened” here means to support, further establish, or set firmly on something. Here is Paul’s discipleship 101 class for new believers—setting them firm with truth.
C. Main thought: In the text we will see the three main teachings of primary discipleship
A. Continue in the faith (v. 22)
1. Luke says that Paul exhorted or encouraged them to continue in the faith. The word means for someone to come alongside another and call them to a goal with some authority. And the first exhortation is for these young believers to continue in, remain in, and stay faithful to Christ. He knew the pitfalls of young believers. He knew the parables of Jesus that some would believe for a while and never bring forth fruit. And he knew that perseverance is a mark of genuine faith. His first exhortation to young believers was not “once saved, always saved.” It was stay in the faith. The Christian faith is not a one-time decision, it is a lifelong commitment. It is not joining the church, being baptized, signing a card, walking the aisle, but selling out everything you have for the rest of your existence and following Jesus!
3. Illustration: After supper he sat them down and asked if they wanted to know the future. They all said “yes!” So he said, statistically speaking in the next 2-3 years… two of your marriages will have broken up and the shame will cause you to leave the church, three of you will have a conflict with someone in the church and you will leave the church, one will have a tragedy and lose faith and leave, two will have a moral failing and leave, and two will lose interest and drift away. In two to three years, out of this group only two of you will be attending church, and only one of you at this church. Tell about the conversation that I had with Dan regarding Angie and her forsaking the faith, and the comment that he made that at least she knows now that her faith was not legitimate,
4. We must be reminded that if you were never saved, you are not always saved. There are many people who make false professions. And they look very real at first, and possibly are sincere, but there is no real transformation in their lives. And as good Baptists, we must hold to the truth that no man can pluck you out of God the Father’s hand—you are eternally secure, IF your salvation was genuine. And as faithful Christians and responsible church members, we must exhort young believers to stay faithful to Christ, and warn those that fall away of the potential reality of their spiritual condition. And this does not mean that we are becoming judgmental or hyper critical, but we are loving people enough to warn them of danger even at the risk of offense. The church has failed to warn new believers, look at the statistics. We must repent of our failure to love them enough to warn them of eternal danger. Other implications are that we teach this to our children. And that we practice this truth of self-examination. And that we continue in the disciplines that strengthen, renew, and sustain our believing—bible reading, study, memorization, prayer, and fellowship with the saints.
B. Persevere through trials (v. 22)
1. The second discipleship lesson to strengthen the soul of the disciples was that trouble would come. There are some denominations that teach that if you are living right and close to Jesus, you will be free from pain and suffering. But the bible is clear: we will have seasons of suffering in our lives. The text has a little tiny Greek word dei, translated “must,” which means absolutely necessary. And Paul felt it important to prepare young believers for that. So that they would receive suffering, glorify Christ in suffering,