Decisions have a great impact, setting a course for success or failure. Today’s passage takes us to one of the first doctrinal decisions the early church made as a body, and when we look at that decision, we know it was the right one. Its echoes remind us to not be ruled by tradition, to remember what God has done in the past, to be firmly anchored in the Word, and to protect the fellowship of our body.
While generations of faithful believers have debated over what the Lord’s Supper is, how frequently it should occur, etc., they have all realized that it is a crucial part of our worship. It was one of our Lord’s final requests, it shows our commitment (to the Lord and to one another), and it reminds us to celebrate and proclaim what the Lord did for us on the cross.
As Paul and Barnabas come to the end of their missionary journey, they revisited some of the churches they planted as they went, stopping by each one to encourage and teach these young believers. Their efforts strengthened these local bodies, and can teach us much about how we should work together with other believers to become the strong body of Christ we are called to be.
Paul and Barnabas heal a man in Lystra, and instead of praising God, the people begin to worship Paul and Barnabas as human incarnations of Zeus and Hermes. Meanwhile, some of the same people who had been so violently against them in Antioch came into town, and ended up getting the people of Lystra to stone Paul, leaving him for dead; however, he recovered and continued preaching. This shows us that, in the course of sharing the gospel, a lost world can perceive what we are doing in ways we do not intend; these can lead us to think more highly of ourselves than we should, and can also lead others to attack us, in an attempt to destroy our faith.
As Paul and Barnabas continue their missionary journey, they encounter many people who are happy to see them - and some people who wanted them dead. In this scenario, we can see three different types of people who will always exist, in a constant struggle to call people to repentance.
Paul instructed at least two of his churches about how the body of Christ was supposed to function. In our focus passage, he dealt with a church where the members were not seeing the value of other members, not understanding that each part has a vital role to play. However, for the body to be what it is called to be, each member needs to actually be performing its part to the best of its ability.
As Luke continues to chronicle Barnabas and Paul’s journey and missing stops, a pattern emerges that will repeat itself in several different places. These two men seek out the synagogue as they traveled, and went there first to bring the good news to the Jews, then speaking to the Gentiles as well. We can learn several principles from their pattern, including our need to be grounded in the Word, being ready to share whenever we have opportunity, being willing to move on when we are rejected, and continuing to sow seed until we find a harvest.
Saul, Barnabas, and John Mark, having been commissioned by the church in Antioch, set out for the island of Cyprus. They make their way from their original port to the captial, where the governor wants to hear what they have to say; however, a sorcerer understands who they are and resists. Through their efforts, we see three ways God leads His people to victory and draws others to Himself.
The church at Antioch did something that no other church had done up to this point in history - they commissioned a team of men to go evangelize other areas. Through this, we see how God uses specific people for specific tasks, encourages His people with spiritual confirmation, and uses the same principles even while working in varied ways with varied individuals. We must not “audit” the Christian life!
The early church is, once again, facing persecution. James, the brother of John, has been captured and killed, and Peter is in prison, awaiting trial after the holy days surrounding Passover. The church is praying for him, while at the same time, he is being freed from prison; when he appears, they do not want to believe it! This story shows us how God can move beyond our expectations when we pray, often not directly answering our specific prayer, but answering the underlying need. He knows the dangers that exist in life, He listens to the cries of our heart, and He works through our less-than-perfect faith to accomplish His will through us.