Paul and Barnabas also exhorted these brethren to continue in the faith (Acts 14:22). They had taught them of Christ. They now told them to continue in Christ: not depart from Him, not go beyond Him, but abide in Him (1 John 2:9; John 15).
Faith in Christ overcomes this world (1 John 5:4; Heb. 11; Rev. 12:11). This world is characterized by self-righteous men, who in the wickedness of their spiritual ignorance and pride by their willful ignorance of Christ, oppose Him and oppose the salvation of His people. All such are ungodly and unrighteous. Unrighteousness necessarily follows ungodliness, just as godliness necessarily leads to the obedience of faith in Christ and obedience to Christ in faith. But unbelieving religionists try to silence and overthrow the faith of God’s elect (1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Tim. 2:18).
Paul and Barnabas also told these new disciples that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Persecution of Christ and His disciples was strong in those days, especially from the self-righteous Jews against believing Gentiles. It is strong today. But it comes in more subtle ways. Paul formerly had been a persecutor and injurious to believers as those were against whom he now strengthened the believers. He was all that until the Lord called him by His grace and revealed His Son in him (Gal. 1:13-16; Php. 3:4-7). Christ turned Paul from a persecutor of Him to a preacher of Him. He turned Paul from injurious to His people to a builder and teacher and comforter and helper of their faith.
Persecution comes most fiercely from those in religious organizations who are secure in their self-righteousness. They generally do what their peers require of them to be accepted by men and what they claim (but it is a false claim) will make them acceptable to God. Such men fear false teachers among men and crave the approval of men. They hate the Gospel because it takes away all that they trust in, and exposes them as false believers and false teachers.
This type of persecution comes in many forms. Sometimes it is openly hostile. At other times it comes through the seeds of heresies, which are designed to drive weak believers from Christ and His Gospel (Galatians, Hebrews, ...). Such heresies appeal to man's fear and pride. But the Gospel appeals to sinners in need of reconciliation. It appeals to sinners that cannot make their own reconciliation with God because we cannot make up for our offense against God. We neither know what is required to remove our offense, nor are we able to provide it. The price is far beyond what any man can meet. God must and did provide satisfaction to Himself in the willing offering of Christ, His only begotten Son.
But having thus strengthened the disciples, Paul and Barnabas "commended them to the Lord on whom they believed" (Acts 14:23). They committed them to Christ, the One they believed. They entrusted them to Him. They left them in His hands.
This is a dear and sweet picture. We pray and preach and are sent to do so. But who really is sufficient for these things (2 Cor. 2:16)? The people are God’s. The message is God’s. The work is God’s. And God our Father has committed (entrusted) His work of saving His people to Christ His Son (John 17:2; Heb. 7:22; Psalm 89:19; Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21).
It is to Christ alone, then, that we who believe must commit the keeping of our very souls (1 Pet. 4:19; Isa. 45:22). And it is to Him alone that every believer must commit the keeping of one another’s souls. To Christ we commend our loved ones. We do this all the time in prayer and preaching. It is the earnest desire of our hearts to see ourselves and our loved ones in His hands.
The picture that this word “commend” conveys is de-stressing. It shifts all of the weight of all of the concerns expressed in the previous verse to Christ (Acts 14:22). He must save. He must keep. He must preserve and perfect and bring us to Himself. We did the sinning. He must do the saving. We did the offending. He must do the reconciling. We reared up in pride. He humbled Himself in condescending grace to take our nature, to own our sins and to offer Himself to God by substitution, in satisfaction and with eternal success. We do the straying. He does the seeking and returning. We did the murder (Zech. 12:10). He showed us mercy (Luke 23:34). We are unfaithful. He is faithful who promised (2 Tim. 2:13; Rom. 4:21; Heb. 10:23; 11:11). We are without strength. He is Almighty, Faithful and cannot fail (Isa. 42:4; Rev. 3:14). We are ignorant and unrighteous. He is wisdom and righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:3).
Oh, believer, commit the keeping of your soul to Him! Faithful servants of Christ can do no better than to commend you to Christ, to entrust you and your eternal soul into His hand! May we join the apostle and Barnabas to commend one another to Christ on whom we believe. May our God and Father so commend us to His Son (Psalm 106:4-5; Psalm 65:4)!