Imagine getting rocks thrown at you! Public stoning is a form of capital punishment, which takes place even today in certain countries. The purpose of it being done in a large group against one person is that no one officially takes the blame for the person’s death. In today’s passage, I am going to write about a stoning did take place but it is not the focus....I just wanted to get your attention!

In Acts 14:22 we read an account of Paul and Barnabas. It says, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

A friend of mine asked me a question regarding this verse. “Do we need to go through tribulations to enter the kingdom of God? If we were to read this verse literally we possibly could arrive at that conclusion. As you know the first rule of reading the scriptures is to realize that everything we read should be considered within the context, let us look at that first.

The book of Acts is the description of how the early church developed after the ascension of Christ. It was not an easy time for believers in the Lord Jesus and persecution was a cost that most Christ followers had to pay. In the book of Acts chapter 13,  Barnabas and Paul are commissioned by the church at Antioch to spread the gospel of Christ. In various places they ministered with eloquence and in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were bold and confronted those who opposed the gospel but many did turn to Christ, which caused concern among many in the towns and villages they visited. The reasons were often based on financial losses by some of the local merchants who sold idols and religiously based artifacts, or the Jews who were jealous of how people enthusiastically accepted the message as opposed to stale Judaism that was based on empty words and ritual. As Paul and Barnabas continue their missionary journey in Acts 14 they find in the city of Iconium that many of the unbelieving Jews stirred up a distrust among the Gentiles against these men of God and caused great divisions. By the time we reach Acts 14:19 we find them in the city of Lystra. Here Paul performed a miracle on a man who had been crippled since birth. When he was made well the people were so ecstatic that they called them Zeus and Hermes which were Greek deities who were commonly worshipped during that time. A feast in their honor was planned but this upset Paul and Barnabas very much as miracles were only a vehicle used to bring people to Christ. It was God’s power resident in them via the Holy Spirit that caused this to take place.  The residents of Lystra had misunderstood and misplaced their intention of honoring them and so upon the arrival of people from the previous cities they had visited they took Paul, who was the main speaker, they grabbed him and stoned him. After the stoning they dragged him outside the city limits and left him for dead. He most likely had only been knocked out as Paul was able to get up and walk back into the city with his friends. They went on to Derbe and continued in their successful missionary trip but decided to return Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, the very places where they had been mistreated.

The believers’ most likely felt uncertainty about them returning to the city where Paul had been publicly stoned. The purpose of Paul and Barnabas was to encourage them so their faith would not weaken. What better way then to see living examples of men who faced persecution and yet rejoiced in their tribulations.

In John 16:2 we read the words of the Lord Jesus himself as he says, “They will put you out of synagogues. Indeed the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

So in what in sense do we need tribulations to enter the kingdom of God? It certainly is not to receive God’s salvation, in Hebrews 5:9 it states “Christ is the source of eternal salvation.” Many times when we embark on any given task we do not know what lies ahead. Often to be successful in any area of life we need to go through discipline, at times its painful or discouraging but as we arrive at the other side of our experience successfully, we often look back and are grateful for the difficult circumstances that taught us how to value our victory. The kingdom of God referred to in verse 22 is talking predominantly about a coming day when we will be with Christ. As Paul and Barnabas endured they encouraged them to be faithful, tribulations will come, the Christians saw it first hand and saw these two men show them what really is important in life; overcoming spiritually with God’s help and care.

The words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 state “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Have you counted the cost?

By: Pastor David Jones