Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. They preached the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia. Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.Acts 14:24-28
This is the final leg of the journey back to the sending church. They are heading back to report to the church in Antioch in Syria. They went back to Antioch in Pisidia and stayed there a while, reporting to the church there what had happened on the their journey up to Lystra and Derbe and all points in between. After the opposition encountered to the end of the journey in Lystra there was no more mention of further persecution. It seems they stayed out of the public eye and strengthened the church from within via the small groups that were hidden from the eyes of those who meant them harm.
After their time in Antioch in Pisidia they went down to the coastal towns of Perga and Attalia in Pamphylia. From there they caught a boat back to Seleucia and then overland to Antioch, their sending church in Syria. There is no mention of what was preached nor how long they spent in Perga and Attalia but I think we can assume the same thing happened in those cities as has happened in other cities along the way. I can’t imagine Paul and Barnabas missed an opportunity to tell the inhabitants of the city about Jesus the Messiah. These cities had synagogues so I imagine they went through the same process that had happened in other cities and towns along the way. After their evangelistic work was done they headed back to Antioch in Syria along the same route they had come.
They have now come back to the predominantly Gentile church which commissioned them and sent them out at the beginning of Acts 13. The church where they had all waited on the Holy Spirit of God and responded when He set apart Paul and Barnabas to the work to which He had called them. Notice that the first thing the church did was come together to hear the results from the two they had sent out. Here we have the practice established of reporting back to the sending church and telling them what God had done through them. Oh yes, it was a report on what Paul and Barnabas had accomplished but primarily it was a report more on what God had accomplished through them. Remember He works in us for His good pleasure. The church are not only hearing of the success of Paul and Barnabas work (accountability) but all also being reassured that the Lord is still part of work and His Holy Spirit was still working miracles and manifestly present in the midst of all they were doing. Yes, it was a report on what these two missionaries (apostles) had accomplished but also reassuring the church that the Holy Spirit was still at work. In the same way He had been from the beginning at Pentecost. Notice the comment in verse 26 of the involvement of the grace of God. All missionary work is to do with the outpouring of the Grace of God. His grace outpoured on the missionaries He sent and His grace outpoured on the recipients along the way. So the report was a summary of everything God had done through them by His grace and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles along the way. This is a report back to a Gentile church concerning what had been accomplished among other Gentiles along the way.
I love the context of this summary of Paul’s first missionary journey. Firstly, there is no time frame put on it. We have no indication from Luke’s summary as to how long this first journey took, from Antioch in Syria and back to Antioch again. But we do know Paul and Barnabas took the time needed to firstly preach the message of Jesus Christ Messiah and then went back and strengthened the believers in all the places they had met to encourage and strengthen their faith and remind them they would face hardship on entering the kingdom of God.
After giving this summary they stayed with the believers in Antioch for a long time. Again no finite time frame is put on the time they spent in Antioch, but Luke emphasizes for us that it was a long time. They spent the time they needed to spend with their sending church. This is one of the privileges Tania I have had over the years in the course of our work with Wycliffe. We have spent long periods of time with our sending churches. These churches know us well. Why? Because we have spent time with them. Contrast this with the normal missionary experience where missionaries come home and then go out on the road show. Spending a small amount of time with all of the churches and individuals who support them. What that often means is the missionary family has a few meetings with the home church, or in some cases has few meetings with the church. Did you catch the difference in what I said. The difference is the little word “a”. The difference between “a few meetings” and “few meetings”. There are many missionaries who return to their home sending church and it is almost as though they are an embarrassment to have around. After the missionaries have preached once and shared their missionary journey then the church or the church leaders are encouraging them to move on. Don’t you have other churches you need to visit? How long are you going to hang around here? During my time as Wycliffe director in NZ I found a number of our people in Wycliffe encountering that kind of response. After one meeting in which they shared briefly what they had been doing the church felt it was time for them to be moving on. Almost as though it was an embarrassment of the underlying question was what do we do with you now? “Or what else have you got to tell us other than the summary we heard the other night?” I am convinced that Paul and Barnabas would have stayed there in Antioch teaching and inputting to people in the home church all the things they have learned along the way that would also help those back home. Not the least of which would have been related to the hardships they face in beginning to live the Christian life.
Perhaps the problem is that some of the missionaries share a report of what they have accomplished rather than what God has accomplished. Or they get trapped into telling the positive success stories and not telling of the difficulties they faced as well. We have to be real not fake. So many missionaries are encouraged to only tell the positive side and not share the difficulties. Hey when you follow Christ you will encounter hardships as well. I am convinced Paul always told both sides – the good, the bad and the ugly so to speak. Be real in what you share. Don’t make your summary of your life with God all wine and roses when you know there are times of thorns and struggles too. Otherwise when those who follow in your footsteps face the hardships and the thorns and they have only ever heard from you the wine and roses, they conclude that they are an oddity and God’s way doesn’t really work for them. In reality they are facing the normal struggle of entering the kingdom of God. Paul was always very real. Although Barnabas was known as “the son of encouragement”, he too also encouraged and strengthened others be reminding them they face hardships in following Christ. Always be real and honest about your faith.
These days I am often asked why do I spend so much time with Matamata Baptist Church and Manukau City Baptist Church in teaching them Deeper Bible. Simply because we are spending a long time with the churches who have inputed to us and commissioned us and supported us in the work we do. Should they not be major recipients of the blessings that come from the work we do?
Never Present Yourself On The Outside What You’re Not Living On Within.Robb Thompson
It’s amazing how much more you enjoy people when you stop trying to fix them?
If you love someone, be brave to tell them the truth. In being real we give others the courage to be real too.Ian Vail
Encourage your missionaries to stick around for a while; they have some good insights to share with you.Anon