Most of us are pretty ordinary people by any standard. Most of us probably don’t even know someone who is famous, let alone ARE famous ourselves! But we can be a part of the biggest thing that is going on – and not just in the USA or North America; we can be a part of what God is doing in the world in terms of the building of his Kingdom.
At the beginning of Acts and of our readings and devotionals, you should surely recall (in Acts 1:8) the commission of the witnesses of Christ to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Most of what we have studied so far in Acts has been the outworking of those first three areas, but with the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, truly the final “ends of the earth” portion has been inaugurated.
Today’s reading presents the return loop of these first missionaries, as they largely retrace their route all of the way back to the sending church of Antioch in Syria. Along the way they appoint elders to provide a leadership structure for these new communities. (It is not the focus of this study through Acts to dwell much on church leadership, but note in this passage that there is a plurality of leaders established – not an authority based in any one individual in a large way.) Prayer is a part of the process in the choosing of these individuals.
We also note again that the issue of suffering for Christ is presented as a natural and normal course of life for those who believe. These hardships are inevitably bound to challenge one’s faith, and so we need to be encouraged to persevere through it, for the reward is great.
Ultimately Paul and Barnabas return to the great church of Antioch to report all that had happened. Wow, that must have been a wonderful experience – to hear story after story of these incredible events! There were accounts of significant numbers of people coming to Christ, including droves of Gentiles through the new moving and work of the Spirit. Imagine the people also hearing about the opposition thrown against the missionaries everywhere – especially of Paul being stoned nearly to death!
We repeat this sort of experience every time we have missionaries whom we support around the world come back to our fellowship to report what God is doing in their corner of the earth. It is a great privilege for us to be participants and partners in such endeavors yielding eternal fruit for the Kingdom of God! Every Christian should be passionate about missions! This is our church family extended around the world! These folks need our support – in finances and resources certainly (which is a reason why it should be painfully difficult for anyone to leave a local church and withdraw their resources from the support of such endeavors), and through spiritual means of intercession and partnership in communication. And now, in this modern era, it is even possible for us to be involved on the front lines at various times through projects such as our Kazakh team, as one example.
All together, it affords common people like all of us an opportunity to be a part of something so very much larger than who we are in our simple lives in this community.
The Return to Antioch in Syria – Acts 14:21-28
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. <Note – Luke here is talking about Derbe – mentioned in verse 20> Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 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. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed eldersfor them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia,25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 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.28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.