All things for the sake of the gospel
Acts 14:8-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” 12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. 25 When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a long time with the disciples.
In Chapter 12 of Hebrews, after listing many of the great men and women of faith, the writer says: since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin. In 1 Corinthians 9:23-27 Paul says: I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. That is the mindset which motivated Paul in all that he did. For him the prize was doing all things for the sake of the gospel. He was willing to die for the sake of the gospel. But more importantly he lived for the sake of the gospel. In today’s text it says: Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. There are many ways we might respond to such an ordeal. We might go into hiding, fearing for our lives. We might take some time off to recoup, regroup and refocus. At the very least we might go where we knew things would be easier and tell of our ordeal to those who are with us. That’s not Paul’s response. The text says: The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith. Paul did go away, but not for rest or relaxation, not to recoup or regroup. Paul continued doing what he lived for. He continued to fulfill the call and commission of Jesus, who said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Paul returned, both to Lystra, where he was stoned and to Iconiom, one of the places those who stoned him came from.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, 1:20-22, Paul wrote: I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. It is possible that we may be called to die for our faith. There have been martyrs throughout history, those who died for the sake of the gospel. In Matthew 10:16-22 Jesus says: “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles… Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” Throughout history and around the world today, there are those who are truly being persecuted and even martyred for their faith in the gospel. To be a martyr or to be persecuted is more than being inconvenienced or offended. It is being willing to die for the sake of the gospel, as Paul was and as Jesus Himself did.
The truth is, as Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. We all will die. There will come a time when our natural bodies have breathed their last breath. For most of us we do not choose how or when we die. We can though choose how we live. Jesus says: “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19) The life we have, the life we live is because of Him. Should it not also then be that the life we live we live for Him? The text says: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” That may well be true. But, in John 16:33 Jesus also says: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” We are called to live for Christ, as over comers, through Him and for Him. To live is Christ!
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for great examples of faith in Your word. Thank You most of all for the greatest example of how we should live, Jesus Christ, who lived for the gospel, died for the gospel and lives again, that I too might choose to : do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Amen.