Reading: Acts 14
But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples. (Acts 14:20-28, ESV)
Reflecting and Thinking
The experience of the missionaries was different in each of these three Galatian cities. In Iconium, they preached among the Jews and the message was received by many Jews and Gentiles, but a death threat eventually drove them from town. In Lystra, as a result of their healing a crippled man, they were mistaken for gods and received, until some opponents from Antioch and Iconium came and stoned Paul, leaving him for dead. The next day Paul and Barnabas traveled to Derbe and preached the word. The return trip from Derbe through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch was apparently with less opposition as they strengthened and encouraged the new disciples and appointed leaders. Retracing their journey (except they did not visit Cyprus), they returned to Antioch and reported what God had done, especially among the Gentiles.
What do you think the church today would do if it faced the kind of opposition Paul and Barnabas faced? What would preachers do in the face of such threats? In your opinion, does the gospel spread better (church grow faster) with or without opposition? If it is God who opens doors of faith, do you think our evangelism or mission efforts today are too dependent on our own efforts and not dependent enough on God? What does it mean that they had been commended "to the grace of God" for this work?
Heavenly Father, we praise you today for your majesty and greatness, even as Paul described your care for your creation in the sermon in Lystra. We are grateful that you have revealed yourself to us and claimed us as your children. By your grace, show us our place in your work, and empower us to do your will. In the name of Jesus who is the Christ, Amen.