when 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, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. [acts 14:21-22]


the gospel makes new disciples:


‘that city’ mentioned in verse 21 was derbe, a place that the gospel had not yet been named: God is doing something here, the bold proclamation of the Gospel is making ‘many disciples’! this is the work of the gospel, when we proclaim word of God, when we preach the gospel, God’s word does not return void: 

“for as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

    and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

    it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. [isaiah 55:10-11]


where are you interacting with those who do not know the gospel of a crucified and resurrected Jesus? a few probing questions to a neighbor will quickly demonstrate the ignorance of our world of what Jesus’ message really was–our cultural language for what we believe is still “be a good person” and we are called to crush that false teaching, and we are to do it with our preaching and speaking.


the gospel strengthens the soul:

after leaving derbe, paul and barnabas circle back to lystra, iconium and antioch for the soul purpose of encouraging others once again in the gospel–they do this with the very gospel that brought them to faith in the first place.  we will grow and mature in the word, certainly, but we never outgrow the gospel.

i remember an acronym from vacation bible school–the ‘abcs’ of the gospel: a-admit that you are a sinner and repent, b-believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and c-confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, while cute when put to catchy lyrics, it doesn’t fully embrace what the gospel is for–it isn’t just for bringing into the family of Jesus, it is also the strength by which we continue in the faith–as timothy keller puts it: ‘the gospel is not just the abc of the christian life but the a to z of the christian life.’ it isn’t just an initial belief in Jesus, but an ongoing walk with him as Lord of our life daily.


on my drive home there is a billboard that says “Christ is Lord”–i need a reminder of that: Jesus and his death in my place and resurrection victory over death and sin is who i am now, i must continually preach the gospel to myself, continually be reminded in christian community that though the testing of shallow soil or the thorns of the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world threaten to choke out my reliance on God (luke 8), to combat this, i must have childlike faith in order to enter the kingdom of God.  


in revelation 2, the church in ephesus is reminded of the love that they had when they first had for the gospel, and they are warned to return in order to strengthen their souls. beloved; let us return to our first love–individually in our own hearts, but also as a body of believers, let us not neglect to win people to the faith with the gospel, and let us not fail to encourage one another in the same gospel!


~ ce