Acts 14: 21 – 28 The return to Antioch in Syria
[The next day Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe}
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
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Once Paul and Barnabas had completed their work in Derbe, it would have been possible for them to have travelled overland via Tarsus to Syrian Antioch. Indeed, that was the route the party took on the outward leg of the second missionary journey. On this first journey though, Paul and Barnabas returned via Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, cities where they had been abused, threatened and attacked.
Many people had become believers in these cities; how were they to be kept firm in the faith? Paul and Barnabas knew that they needed to do more if these nascent churches were to survive and flourish. Acts 14: 22 tells us that
- they strengthened the disciples
- they encouraged them to remain true to the faith
- they warned the believers that they would face many hardships
- they appointed elders in each church
- they prayed, fasted and committed the elders to the Lord
Building churches takes hard, careful work. So does maintaining them.
Like Paul and Barnabas, and like the elders they commissioned, we need to commit ourselves to the Lord’s work in our local church.
Paul and Barnabas faced opposition, abuse and stoning, and they went ahead anyway. We can choose to let their example inspire us to greater commitment.
Paul and Barnabas didn’t take the easy and obvious route home; they took the way that was of greatest benefit to the churches they had planted.
May we always look to the well-being of the members of our church before considering our own comfort.
Thank you for the example of Paul and Barnabas. Please help me to give greater priority to your work.
In Jesus’ name, Amen