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The First Missionary Journey Ends – Acts 14:19-27


The First Missionary Journey Ends

Acts 14:19-27

Paul’s first mission trip is coming to an end, and Paul will be going back to Antioch, but not before there are some more lessons to be learned.

Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey

1 Left for Dead – Courage for DiscipleshipThen Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.

We may not agree with John Wesley’s theology, but you have to admire the courage that characterised the early Methodist preachers.  When the mob stoned the early Methodists as they preached in the open air, it was nothing new.  While Paul was preaching at Lystra a group of Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and they began stirring up the rabble. 

They ‘persuaded the multitudes.’  It worked, for it’s actually quite easy to get people to riot and loot and hurt others by oratory and whipping up their emotions.  They’ll rarely stop to check any facts. The angry mob, whipped into a frenzy, began to throw stones and rocks at Paul, to the extent that they must have knocked him unconscious. Paul wasn’t dead, but the rowdy crowd thought he was, and that’s when reality may have begun to sink in…

Because Lystra was a Roman colony, and Roman law was severe, especially on those who rioted or caused a disturbance of the peace the mob saw Paul lying in the street and came to their senses.  To attack and kill a Roman citizen was a capital offence.  So, they lifted his body, and trailed him outside the city, probably in the hope that the Romans would think he’d been attacked by robbers and left for dead. 

But Paul wasn’t dead.  His friends surrounded him, v20 We’ve already seen Paul being thrane – when he kept going back to the synagogue, when he dug his heels in and stayed and grew bolder, even when lies about him were being spread.  Now, after being physically attacked, he goes straight back to the place where he was attacked.    

2 Faithful in Service – The Confirmation of the Churches.  V20-23  

At Derbe, Luke simply records that when they preached the gospel there many people came to Christ, and were discipled.  We don’t know how many sinners found Christ at Derbe, but we know that a new church was born, and it became such a strong church, that later one of the men of that church, Gaius, joined with Paul on his mission through Macedonia, where Paul was not only preaching, but lifting a collection for the relief of the church at Jerusalem. Acts 20:4  

The missionaries are on the return journey now.  They are making their way back to Antioch in Palestine, to report to the church that had sent them.  On their route, they will revisit all the cities of Asia Minor where they had been before, and where there are now now churches meeting. Luke the historian gives us three objectives for Paul as he returns to confirm the previous work that had been done.

  • The encouragement of the new churches.  V22   This is what new believers need.   And those who are older too!  We need to be reminded that our strength come from God, not from ourselves, – strength to persevere, whatever trials may our way.  Christianity is not a bed of roses, or a promise of your best life now.  Some of these Christians would be arrested and tortured, be thrown to the lions, be burned alive, but they must keep their eyes on Jesus and keep going right until the very end.   Hebrews 12:1-2.  So, Paul tells the churches, with honesty, what to expect…
  • The expectation of the new churches.  and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”.  Being a Christian always takes courage.  Anyone can go with the flow, anyone can agree with the latest beliefs and philosophies of the age.  It takes courage to be different from the others, to make yourself stand out, to loudly proclaim that you belong to Christ.  
  • The establishment of the new churches.  V23.  He had another task to perform.  All these churches were new, all of them with new believers, but they still needed structure and leadership, and mostly they needed to be taught, and men would need to be appointed to do that, the alternative would be ‘free-for-all’ in which the new churches would degenerate into heresy and apostasy.  Paul appointed ELDERS in every church.  That was his ‘ecclesiology.’  A plurality of elders to rule the local church.  Not a single man, or a consensus of opinion among the wider congregation, but a multiple number of men, responsible for the spiritual welfare of the believers.  

3 Back to Base – The Communication of the Work. V24-28  

A final mission in Pamphylia, and the apostles take a ship across the Mediterranean to arrive at Antioch.  It’s time for the missionaries to give their report to the church that had commissioned them.  Note two important points:-

  • The work had been completed. where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.  Paul’s missionary life wasn’t over by any means, but this journey, this mission had been completed.  Unlike John Mark, Paul and Barnabas had seen it through, had finished the work entrusted to them.  It would have been easy to give up and go home, but they had persevered, even through the trials and tribulations of journey.  This would be Paul’s attitude throughout his life. 2 Timothy 4:7  
  • The glory all belongs to God.  V27 I’m sure that when the church gathered for that missionary meeting they wanted to hear about all the exciting adventures Paul and Barnabas had been involved in.  They may have wanted to hear about foreign lands, and strange people with strange languages, stories of how Paul had bravely won over the heathens.  But if so, they would be disappointed.  It was the Lord who had done the real work.  Paul and Barnabas had simply obeyed, it was the Lord who had ‘opened the door of faith’ to the Gentiles.  

So the first missionary journey is over, and Paul and Barnabas are back home in Antioch, – on furlough if you like, staying there a long time, resting, preaching, fellowshipping and preparing for their next long journey among the Gentiles.

© Bob McEvoy

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