The Shepherd’s Heart

Acts 14:19-28 19“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city.  And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ”Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24And they passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia.  25And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; 26and from there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28And they spent a long time with the disciples.”

As we have begun a study of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 concerning the qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon, I thought it may helpful to look at the example of the Apostle Paul as he was on his first missionary journey.  There are several things we can observe about the life of the Apostle Paul as he served the church as a shepherd.

FIRST, we note that the heart of the shepherd is courageous!  Verses 9ff state, 9“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city.  And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.  21And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples. . .”

We need courageous men to lead us!  We need men with the strength of conviction!  Men who are boldly confident in the truth and power of the Gospel!  Men who will lead the Church forward into ministry even in the face of personal danger and hardship!  The shepherd is willing to risk his own life for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of the sheep!

Here Paul and Barnabas are attacked again for the sake of the Gospel!  They are now in the city of Lystra!  Paul is almost killed by being stoned and left for dead!  The people who were just about to sacrifice oxen to him believing that he was a god, are now ready to stone him!

John Calvin observed: “Paul might have reigned under the title of Mercury, with the commendation of all men; he will not be a god.  Because he serves Christ faithfully, he is stoned.”  Perhaps Paul refers to this stoning in 2 Corinthians 11:25 25“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.”  He also states in Galatians 6:17 17“From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.”

He goes right back into the city, and the next day he goes right back to preaching the Gospel! 20“. . .And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.  21And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples. . .”

He returned to preach the Gospel with no thought for his own life!  The heart of the shepherd is courageous!  This is what Paul asked his fellow believers to pray for him!

Ephesians 6:19-20 19“and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

SECOND, the heart of the shepherd is compassionate.  In verses 21ff we read, 21And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ”Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

The shepherd cares about the spiritual well-being of the sheep! This is why Paul and Barnabas return to these cities!  It would have been easier and safer to return to Syrian Antioch by continuing in an eastward direction, but they reversed themselves and headed west and returned to the cities in which they had just recently preached, and in which they just recently had been persecuted!

Why?  They returned because they were charged by the Lord Jesus Christ to care for His sheep!  Jesus contrasts the true shepherd from the hireling in John 10:11-13, when He says, 11“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12“He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. 13“He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.”

They returned because they knew that the commission which Christ had given to them was far greater than just the proclamation of the message of the Gospel!  It involved baptizing men, organizing them into self-governing churches, and teaching them to observe all things that Christ commanded!  So they returned!

  1. He is concerned to establish them spiritually21. . .they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

    Strengthening
    :  to make to lean upon, strengthen (epi, upon, steµrix, a prop or support), is used of confirming souls, Acts 14:22; brethren, 15:32; churches, 15:41; disciples, 18:23

    Thus they returned to make sure that these believers were established in the faith; that they knew the truth of the Gospel and that their souls were firmly anchored in the Gospel of grace in Jesus Christ!

  2. He is concerned to encourage them spiritually: Coming alongside of them and ministering to them; encouraging, counseling, advising, instructing, etc. Lifting them up and comforting them in the midst of struggle, temptation, and trial. Notice how honest the Apostle Paul is about the reality of trial and tribulation in the life of a Christian. In verse 22 we read, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
  3. He is concerned to establish them as a church23And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” This is the exactly the concern that Paul has for the believers on the Island of Crete when he gives pastoral instruction to Titus in the letter which he wrote him!  Titus 1:5-7 5“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed 6you, namely, if any man be above reproach. . .”

The elder is the under-shepherd in the Church who is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the sheep and ensuring their spiritual health and care!  See:  1 Peter 5:1-4 1 “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

The preaching of the Gospel and the planting of Churches is essential to the commission of Christ!  He is building His Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!  He is building His Church that does not just mean an invisible universal and intangible church!  It means local congregations of believers governed by under-shepherds called elders who watch over and care for the sheep of the flock; the congregation of believers!

Paul did not just run all over the known world throwing out Gospel “hand-grenades,” not staying around long enough to see if they exploded or what damage they might have done!  He had the heart of a shepherd, a compassionate heart, like unto the heart of the Good-Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ!  So he established the believers under the care of elders.  And. . .

FOURTH, the heart of the shepherd is compliant and accountable!  Verses 24ff state, 24“And they passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia.  25And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; 26and from there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28And they spent a long time with the disciples.”

F.F.Bruce states in his commentary, “When they came back to Syrian Antioch, the church was naturally eager to hear how they had fared. . .they shared in the responsibility and the glory of their missionary service. . .The missionary tour had occupied the best part of a year, and now Paul and Barnabas spent another year or thereby in Antioch.”

The shepherd is accountable for how he fulfills his duties, and he is compliant with respect to the authority that is over Him!  He is submissive to the Church that commissioned him!  After they have preached the Gospel in some other cities they make their way back to Syrian Antioch, to the Church that commissioned them!  Verse 26 states, 26“and from there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.”

They did not launch out on this “missionary journey” on their own, but were sent out by the church.  Now they return to give an account of their activities to those who sent them out!  They have a Missions Conference and hear a report from Paul and Barnabas about what God had done!  Verses 27-28 state:  27And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28And they spent a long time with the disciples.”