19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 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. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:19-23 (ESV)
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” The gospel is a joyous message of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. It is something that brings joy to the Christian. And yet it marks a person. The world hates the gospel. It turns the wisdom of the world on its head. It angers people to think that God needed to die for their sins. In order to receive forgiveness, it is necessary to realize your sin, and many people just won’t have that. They would literally rather go to hell holding on to the delusion of their righteousness before God than admit that God needed to die for them. Thus those who preach the gospel meet with objection and retaliation from the world. Paul is stoned.
The kingdom of God is given to us, but the consequences of that gift in this world is tribulation. In this we suffer for Christ just as he suffered for us. Today Christians are often under the misconception that God hates them if they meet with tribulation. When things aren’t going well they give up hope. They live in fear of “the great tribulation.” The early Christians who first received the book of Revelation assumed they lived in the great tribulation. They understood that they would be treated the same as their Lord. They also knew that He had overcome the world, so they took heart. Tribulation was not something they sought, but it was something they accepted when it came.
Something should be said about Elders. The Greek word is presbyter, it is used at times interchangeably with bishop, and today would be pastor. It is for the reason of appointing pastors in Crete that Paul sends Titus there. Paul knew the churches would need shepherds, undershepherds as Peter calls them. They are an essential part of the church.