Acts 14:19-28 – Geography of the Gospel – A Rocky Road
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 14:19-28
The title is drawn from, not only the lengths that Paul went to for sake of the Gospel (9 cities cited in the 10 verses of our text), but also the suffering he endured on the Gospel’s account.
We learned from our lesson in Acts 14:1-7 that God bears witness to the Gospel by signs and wonders.
I think it can be said that Paul bore witness to the truth of a risen Christ by the lengths he went to and trials he endured.
1) THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE GOSPEL – THE CITIES
Acts 1:8, Jesus says, “…Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In our text, Paul has demonstrated his obedience to Jesus & taken quite a bite out of his known “end of the earth.”
Paul’s end of the earth from todays text (there are more than this):
Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, Antioch (of Galatia), Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia & Antioch (of Syria).
Reference ESV Study Bible Map of Paul’s first journey.
Paul’s 1st journey is estimated to have been just under 2 years – 46 to 47 AD.
On his journey, he traveled approximately 1400 miles.
2) THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE GOSPEL – THE PEOPLE
In our text, we encounter essentially 3 types of people associated with the Gospel aside from the apostles themselves.
The first are the opposition as represented by the Jews.
The second are the disciples; they are those that have responded to the Gospel and have believed.
The third are the disciples appointed to be elders by Paul and Barnabas.
We will focus on the elders.
Acts 14:23 matter of factly tells us that Paul & Barnabas appointed elders in every church they started on their 1st trip.
The greek word for elders is presbuteros and is sometimes translated overseer, bishop or presbyter.
Keep in mind that in our text and others, elders is always plural, as in more than one elder at each new church.
Additional evidence of elders as a Biblical norm:
Acts 15:22, “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church to choose men and to send them to Antioch.” – church in Jerusalem
Acts 20:17, “And from Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.” – Church in Ephesus
Titus 1:5, “This is why I [Paul] left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” – Towns of Crete
“To the twelve tribes of the dispersion”: James 5:14, “Is any among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” – assumes elders were in these churches.
1 Peter 5:1, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed.” – the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
From the Acts 14:23 appointments, we can infer a number of things:
The most obvious is that the Gospel was preached and embraced.
It is also clear that the disciples in the new churches needed teachers/leaders.
And to be elder worthy, some disciples must have been voracious in their appetites to learn the Gospel and teach it.
What did these elders do:
Titus 1:9 says that the elder “must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.”
Or in the words of John Piper, “The elders are the trustees of the truth in the life of the church.”
1 Peter 5:1-2 says to shepherd the flock and exercise oversight.
Elders must know the word of God and be bold in its teaching and purity.
Elders would understand the subtle danger of mixing Scripture with hints of worldliness.
In our church, do our deacons or pastor fill the elder role?
Would a different structure work better – deacons, pastor and elders?
Any pastor, in general, may not be aware of the Scriptural inconsistencies at work in various arms of the church.
Deacons may not be well versed in Scripture or equipped to teach it.
When Paul & Barnabas appointed elders, how did they know who was qualified?
POI – Concerning “The People” part of this lesson, curiously, Timothy was from Lystra.
Acts 16:1-2 tells us Timothy was a believer from Lystra with a good reputation.
Some Sanctified Speculation:
Timothy obviously heard the Gospel, and it may very well be that he heard it from Paul.
He may have known the cripple that Paul healed and seen the healing with his own eyes.
Paul saw Stephen stoned and was impacted by it, perhaps Timothy saw Paul stoned and was equally impacted by it.
3) THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE GOSPEL – THE STONES OF SUFFERING
Paul’s stoning and suffering during his Gospel journey:
Acts 14:22, Paul tells us that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
I think Paul was well aware that suffering would be part of the Gospel message.
After all, Jesus said in John 15:20 that those who persecuted Him would surely persecute his followers.
And in Acts 9:14-16, Jesus told Ananias that he would show Paul how much he must suffer.
And Paul did witness Stephen’s stoning before he was saved on the road to Damascus.
But I would speculate that nothing made this truth more plain and real than his stoning in our text.
And by the time he wrote 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he obviously experienced much, much more suffering.
Paul links suffering and authentic belief together:
Paul’s statement in Acts 14:22 begs the question, does salvation exist without suffering on account of the Gospel?
Romans 8:16-18, Paul explains that we are glorified with Christ “because” or “inasmuch” “we suffer with Him.”
We are identified (heirs) with Christ through His righteousness by the seal of the Holy Spirit on our hearts and through His sufferings by the suffering we experience on His account.
Philippians 1:29-30, Paul tells the Church at Philippi during his “to live is Christ” message that it has been granted to them for the sake of Christ not only to believe in Him but also to “suffer for His sake.”
2 Timothy 1:8, tells us that we are not to be ashamed and we are to “share in the suffering for the Gospel.”
2 Timothy 3:12 after referencing his stoning at Lystra, Paul declares, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
The suffering we should expect to experience if we are authentic:
Again, in 2 Corinthians 11:23-38, Paul gives us a thorough list.
PHYSICAL SUFFERING – forty lashes, beaten with rods, stoned
MENTAL SUFFERING – danger from false brothers (theologically/physically), daily pressure, anxiety
INCONVENIENCED SUFFERING – frequent journeys, sleepless nights (also mental), shipwrecked (also physical)
COMFORT SUFFERING – hunger and thirst, no food, cold and exposure, people, Gentiles, cities, wilderness
CIVIL SUFFERING – king was guarding city in order to seize Paul
Many of these were out of his hands and many he knew full well would happen, but in any case obedience and boldness for the Gospel prevailed on Paul’s Journey.
Paul was fully identified with Jesus Christ through suffering on account of the Gospel.
The question today is are you?
Is your relationship with Christ authenticated by suffering for His sake?
It seems to me that the relationship between faith and works that James deals with is very similar to faith and suffering on account of the Gospel.
I think it can also be said that when we identify with Christ through suffering, our faith will have substantially more power and presence in our life.