21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21–22, NKJV)
The gospel makes disciples. And, disciples need strengthening to “continue in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7). The reason for exhortation to continue in the faith is given in verse 22 – there are many tribulations through which disciples must pass to “enter the kingdom of God.” Would someone please explain why strengthening the souls of the disciples for these tribulations is necessary if their entrance into heaven is already settled? In other words, if the eternal inheritance of Christians cannot be jeopardized, then why exhort them to continue in the faith? Why the need for strength in the face of tribulations, if entrance into the eternal kingdom can never be endangered? The truth is we can become weak. It is possible for Christians to turn back to sin and no longer continue “in the faith” (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:7). Let us hear and heed the Spirit’s exhortation to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). You will face pressures as a disciple of Christ. Be brave, be strong. Your entrance into the eternal kingdom is certain as you “continue in the faith.”
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28, NKJV)
The Christian’s confidence of eternal salvation in Christ is not over “when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). Confidence or boldness before Christ when He returns will happen if we “abide in Him.” To abide means to continue, to dwell, to remain. The verb “abide” is written in present tense, active voice, and imperative mood. That means we are commanded to abide; it is not a suggestion. It means every Christian is the subject of the command, and that abiding in Christ is presently taking place. Being a Christian is a daily decision and daily action of continuing to be faithful to Christ. We must continue to live in Christ to have bold assurance before Him at this coming. Scripture says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). And again, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb. 3:14). Do not only begin to be a Christian, but also continue to be faithful to Christ every day. Abide in Christ now, and you will have bold confidence in Him at His coming. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2 Tim. 2:12; Matt. 10:32-33).
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16, NKJV)
It is much easier to watch others and form opinions about them, than it is to carefully look at ourselves for our own spiritual deficiencies. And so, Paul warned the evangelist Timothy of this temptation. Self-inspection is required if we are to improve our personal faith and character. Just as building inspectors use a building code to test the integrity of buildings, self-examination must be made using a standard by which we test our attitudes and actions. The only reliable standard to use is the doctrine of Christ; the doctrine preached by Christ’s apostles and available in the Scriptures. Timothy was to teach this doctrine, and use it to examine himself. Careful attention to ourselves is not complete unless we actually do the things we have been taught. So, look at yourself through the lens of God’s word and then, do His will. Your salvation is secured as you do this. And, you will be helping save others, too.