CONFIRMING THE CHURCHES
Acts 15:36 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
What is the Apostle’s Purpose? And what is meant by “confirming?” This same Greek word is also translated as, “he which stablisheth,” in 2 Corinthians 1:21. Here is that verse: Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; We would state it as being spiritually “established.” And we see by this verse that it is a work in which God is involved.
We also see this same translation in Colossians 2:7. There it states: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. And the reason for seeing it translated again into the same English word is due to its usage in this verse, for the understanding of its benefit to our faith. The Apostle Peter clearly instructs us to add to your faith certain virtues, in order to establish our personal Christian godliness. 2 Peter 1:8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter’s last recorded words to us are that we need to “grow” in grace. 2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Our sanctification is gradual and progressive like the growth of a child into manhood; or the growth of a plant into fruitfulness. Here is how the Apostle Paul addresses this matter: Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
We are called the planting of the Lord. Isaiah 61:3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And being the Supreme Gardener, the Lord roots up every plant he didn’t plant! Matt. 15:13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. But his response to those trees who are not bringing forth fruit is to fertilize and aerate for its growth and fruitfulness. Luke 13:8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: Therefore working in the gospel vineyard, planting and watering by the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the gospel, is of great benefit to the development of regenerate souls! 1 Corinthians 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry,
And just how did the Apostle Paul think to accomplish this confirmation? It is to be done through grace with sound doctrine! Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
The gift of faith is imparted by the Lord in his speaking into the dead sinner’s heart his sovereign regeneration, granting simultaneously, both the ability to hear, and spiritual life. And that inner, spiritual hearing, just like Lazarus’ dead ears being given life by the very voice of the command to come forth, spiritually resurrects one who is dead in trespasses and sins. Therefore spiritual hearing comes by the Word of God! Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
We don’t seem to take seriously the glory of God regarding his word! Consider these verses, especially the Daniel passage, wherein God instructs us that his word WILL be confirmed, even in judgment, if not adhered to in gospel proclamation! Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Psalm 119:89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
Daniel 9:11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. 12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.
When that white horse rides in the conquering of souls, (Rev. 6:2), if that sovereignty is not bowed to in submission to Christ as one’s personal Lord, then the other three horsemen will have to be contended with. For God’s judgment is exacted on all gospel rejection. And none need think to be rid of that rejected, preached word, for it shall be awaiting them for judgment. John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
Let us now notice the Apostle Paul’s Passion! Did you notice the words he used to present Barnabas with the idea of ending their comfortable fellowship at Antioch, rejoicing in the Lord’s overcoming the legalism threatening the whole concept of justification by faith alone? He cannot be comfortable in remaining in this pleasant place, for his heart is tender towards our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord.
Song 7:11 Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. 12 Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.
The Apostle has the dutiful heart of being that laborer together with God Himself. (See 1 Cor. 3:9, listed above). He seeks, like the writer of this Song, to go up from all industry and commerce, and from the established community of faith, out into the rural areas to see how the vine of the Lord is prospering! He wants to have a personal witness of the tender fruit of grace in their souls. For even when his love is not requited, he will freely, without reservation, give himself for their spiritual benefit! 2 Corinthians 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
Take notice of these additional statements from the Apostle’s soul: Romans 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 15:29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 15 And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;
2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Have you ever even met a gospel preacher with this passion and dedication? We have had many preachers who focus solely upon our knowledge. But where are those who are motivated by such gospel love and passion?
Of the True Preacher these following statements are recorded: John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
This love shall outlast knowledge. Knowledge causes pride! (1 Cor. 8:1). But love edifies! God IS described as the Word (John 1:1-2, 14). But that attribute is not without God as Love! 1 Corinthians 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
And lastly, let us notice Paul’s Port of Call. We usually read right over the first part of that forty first verse. For our title and subject come from the latter part. But let us take time to see that first part, for it too is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction in righteousness! (2 Tim. 3:16). It is important to note just where he began his confirmation, ministering to the churches. Here is that verse again: And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
To see why that is important let us reread a portion of the account of James and the apostles and elders of Jerusalem sending forth the letter of justification by faith alone. Acts 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Wow! We almost missed that! This all important letter being, as far as we know, the first portion of the New Testament to be written, was addressed to Syria and Cilicia! Therefore the Apostle Paul and the Prophet Silas wanted to begin there in its delivery to confirm the saints to whom it was written. For it was evidently not just to Antioch where certain men came down from Judaea to falsely teach the brethren that without Moses’ circumcision ye cannot be saved. It must have been to Syria and Cilicia as well.
And do you want to venture a guess as where the Apostle Paul was brought up? If you guessed the city of Tarsus, in the country of Cilicia you would be correct! Acts 21:39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
Therefore the apostle wanted to go to his home region, (even though that is where a prophet is without honor. – Matt. 13:57), to relieve the stressful burden of legalism from off the hearts of the Gentile believers there.
Think about it! Paul’s home region and city would have an apostle, (Paul), to come preaching, backed up by a Jerusalem prophet, (Silas – Acts 15:32), and with the first written page of the New Testament to back them both up! Acts 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. James’ letter is in your bible, right?!? Sure it is. Look at Acts 15:23-29 in your bible. That’s the inspired word of God! And that was the writing that Paul and Silas had as they went forth to confirm the churches! So for the first time, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ came preaching, not solely from the Old Testament scriptures, as had always been the case heretofore, but with the first written portion of our New Testament! – Ain’t God good?!?
The only change in the letter was in God’s change of the letter carriers! For in Acts 15:25 we read: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, But as we know, the Holy Spirit had removed Barnabas and had substituted the prophet Silas to accompany his faithful servant, Paul.
Did it work? Here. Let me let you read it for yourself. Acts 16:5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Pastor Gene Breed, April 6, 2013