Acts 13 records one of the most momentous events in Scripture–the calling of Barnabas and Saul (Paul) “for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This calling sent them west to Cyprus and then north to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) on what we know as “The First Missionary Journey.”
The results of this seemingly simple act meant the making of many disciples of both Jews and Gentiles.
Acts 13-14 records the events of this first missionary journey. It was not without difficulty.
For whatever reason, John Mark deserted the group. They faced persecution, superstition, and a desire to get rich from the Gospel. Those things are still prevalent and a continuing scourge to the church. At Lystra, Jews came from Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia and stirred up the crowds. They stoned Paul and left him for dead.
The irony of this event is that previously the crowds had proclaimed Paul and Barnabas as gods. They called Barnabas Jupiter (or Zeus) and Paul Hermes (or Mercury). Before long, stirred by the unbelieving Jews, they sought to kill Paul.
In spite of all this opposition, Paul and Barnabas returned to the same places from which the opposition occurred because they wanted to strengthen the disciples.
Here are three things that were prominent. “They returned . . . strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
First, they went back to persecution and opposition because they wanted to strengthen the souls of the disciples. None of us can function as followers of Christ on our on or without strength and courage. The next verse records that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (shepherds or pastors) for them in every church.
All of us need to be taught and we need to be encouraged and strengthened. Paul and Barnabas risked their lives in order to strengthen the disciples.
Second, the missionary partnership exhorted them to continue in the faith.
In life, how much do you learn by training and how much do you learn by what you see? Paul gave them both the training and the example. Though stoned and left for dead, Paul returned to the place of the stoning because he wanted to urge and exhort the disciples to continue in the faith. His appearance probably taught more about endurance, courage, and perseverance than any spoken lesson could ever do.
Third, Paul and Barnabas reminded them that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Again, Paul’s experience showed how opposition and persecutions can actually word for the good of others and the growth of God’s kingdom.
The final act of Paul and Barnabas was to appoint elders who would teach, exhort, and encourage the disciples. “With prayer and fasting, they committed [these disciples] to the Lord in whom they believed” (Acts 14:23).
Every believer in every age needs to be strengthened, encouraged to “keep on,” and to face tribulation with purpose, courage, and determination.
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