First mission trip ends
Acts 14:6-28; 11/12/2023; BCBC/IOUC; Rev. Paul Wang
At this time, the short-term mission team sent by the Antioch Church had reached the end of its first missionary journey. Missionary trips at that time consisted almost of randomly meeting people in need on the street. This is how the gospel was preached! Let’s look at the first point:
The apostles had just been persecuted in Iconium by the Gentiles, the Jews, and their rulers, who even wanted to stone them. What to do? The Bible says: “But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, (Acts 14:6)” If it were you, what would you do next? First, continue to preach the gospel there. In order to illustrate the aspirations of the apostles, the Bible lists a separate verse saying that the apostles continued to preach the gospel in Iconium after being persecuted. This is what God wants to say to us in today’s message, and it is also the reminder of the Holy Spirit to us. Preaching the gospel is not difficult; what is difficult is preaching the gospel consistently and persistently. According to human nature or old self, there is no interest in preaching the gospel, and it is difficult to persevere. In particular, evangelism is still a very risky job, which will discourage many people and discourage them. In fact, the fact that the apostles continued to preach the gospel was also a miracle. Thinking about ourselves, the same is true, right?
Second, faith drives spiritual life. What Jesus encountered, the apostles also encountered. Paul also met a man in Lystra who was born lame. The Bible says that his feet were weak and he had never walked before meeting Paul. What to do? The spiritual principles given by the Bible are: First, he listens to the sermon, and second, he has faith. Listening to sermons allowed the brothers and sisters in the church to testify for him together. Whether he had faith or not depended on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to Paul. In fact, whether a person has faith can be known from his longing eyes. When people direct their feelings towards Jesus Christ, it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. At this time, the faith of the man who was born lame was transformed into Paul’s faith, giving Paul the assurance that this man could be healed.
Lastly, the temptation to give glory to God or not. Then the healing took place, and Paul shouted to him to get up, “the man jumped up and began to walk.” In such a small place, where everyone knows each other, this man who was born lame can suddenly walk! This is a big deal! It is not difficult to imagine that the whole of Lystra was boiling. Someone shouted, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Seeing that Barnabas looked like the leader, they called him Zeus and Paul, Hermes. Zeus is the “King of the Gods” in Greek culture, and Hermes is the messenger of the gods. The subsequent laying of wreaths and sacrifices were full of glory. When Satan sees that stoning him is ineffective, he tries another trick to give you glory and lure you into taking the bait. Thank God! Barnabas and Paul withstood the test and refused temptation. Let’s look at the second point:
There are two Antiochs
Paul and his party left Antioch, passed through Cyprus, and arrived in Turkey. Since coming to another Antioch, that is, Pisidian Antioch, persecution and temptation have continued. First, there is the constant persecution. I remember Pastor Yu Ligong once warned me that people who belong to Satan are like asphalt, and it is difficult to get rid of once you get on them. Paul and his party finally explained to the people in Lystra that they were just ordinary people like everyone else, and encouraged everyone to “turn all the glory and praise “ to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” and stopped people from offering sacrifices to them.“ At this time, some Jews “from Antioch and Iconium” followed Paul to Lystra. Once they come, there’s nothing good from them! So they instigated the crowd, and said “we stoned them in Iconium.” We have chased them here, just to continue using stones!
Secondly, continue on to Derbe. The masses are blind. As soon as they heard that Israel had bombed a hospital, they all took to the streets to protest. Even the elites at Harvard University are not exempt from vulgarity. They can’t stand the temptation of answering a hundred calls. So a trio of men from Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra stoned Paul. It is said that things are easier to do when there are more people, but Paul couldn’t run away now. He finally lay down and couldn’t move! The Bible says that the people thought he was dead, so they dragged Paul outside the city like a dead body and left him there. Logically speaking, Paul is dead and hopeless, right? However, the Bible paints a picture for us and tells us the answer: “But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. (Acts 14:20)” Obviously, it is the church’s prayers that demonstrate the power of God.
Finally, non-stop in Antioch. Things that are supposed to be impossible to happen are miracles! However, the Bible says signs and wonders follow believers. Therefore, even the records in the Bible have become sparse and commonplace. The disciples gathered around Paul, of course they were praying, right? Paul also thought it was normal. He got up, walked into the city. The next day, he asked Barnabas to go with him to Derbe, the last stop. By this time, Paul and Barnabas were already well versed in the mission field, preaching the gospel, bearing witness, training disciples, exhorting believers, appointing elders, fasting and praying, and committing faith. Judging from biblical records, Paul and Barnabas soon returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch from Derbe. Let’s look at the third point:
Report the work to church
At this point, it was time for Paul to return from his first missionary journey. First of all, sharing the gospel while traveling is the norm. It is said to be “anxious to return home”, but it is easy to feel relaxed when you think of going home. As soon as Mark arrived in Perga, he went home. Paul also passed through Perga on his return journey. The Bible specifically emphasizes that Paul passed through Perga again and preached there. What does it mean? It means that the path of a preacher is the path of preaching. Wherever you go, the Word is spread. Passing through on the way from Antioch in Pisidia to the seaside port of Atalia, Perga was just a small town. But who knows whether this small town will become a town with stories based on the Word of God, and the stories will become more, better, and more beautiful? The normalcy of a disciple’s preaching will bring unusual and possibly beautiful changes to the world!
Secondly, missionary sharing is encouragement. Paul and Barnabas did not pass through Barnabas’ hometown of Cyprus on their return trip, but took a boat directly from Attalia back to Antioch. The Bible particularly emphasizes that this Antioch is: “where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. (Acts 14:26)” There was a commission from the sending church to Paul and Barnabas. This is the necessity and origin of the missionaries returning to the church to report their work. This is also the wisdom of God who by grace connects churches and missionaries to their Head, Christ. Through the missionary sharing of missionaries, everything will work together to benefit those who love God. More importantly, it conveys and confirms God’s intention to the church, which is to preach the gospel to the Gentiles!
Finally, living with each other is life. Obviously, just sharing once in the church was not enough, so “the two stayed there with the disciples for many days.” It is said that it is easy to meet but difficult to get along, right? If brothers and sisters have the opportunity to live together under the same roof for a few days, their love for each other will become real. Because at this time, they are interacting with each other with life and treat each other sincerely. Not only do you see the other person’s strengths, but you also see their weaknesses. Acceptance of people will also become real, understanding of the truth will become more comprehensive. Especially for Paul, the change in his life will definitely become an inspiration to the brothers and sisters in the Antioch church. Barnabas’ maturity and comfort will also become nutrients for the spiritual growth of brothers and sisters.
Well, thank the Lord! Paul’s first missionary journey was finally over. Along the way, there have been challenges, graces, learnings, and directions, and it has also become a template for the history of the church for more than two thousand years. May God help and give His mercy, and help us to walk on the missionary path throughout our lives! Live for God! Excuse me, are you willing?
Let us pray……
6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country,
7 where they continued to preach the gospel.
8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked.
9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed
10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:
15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.
16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way.
17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.
20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. 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 elders[a] for 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.