What does it say?
In Acts 13 we see inside the growing church in Antioch of Syria. Through the leadership, God sends Barnabas and Paul along with Barnabas’ cousin John to take the Gospel to the nations. They begin in Cyprus, probably influenced by the fact that Barnabas is a native of Cyprus. There they confront a Jewish false prophet trying to prevent them from giving God’s truth to a powerful political leader. From there they travel to what is today Turkey, where Paul preaches a powerful sermon in the synagogue of another city named Antioch, this one in Pisidia. This message has tremendous impact and many believe, but Jewish leaders oppose them and Paul openly declares that the message is also for the Gentiles. Multitudes respond in faith all over the region. The Jews eventually expel the missionary team and they travel to Iconium in another area of what we call modern Turkey.
Continuing their pattern of proclaiming the Gospel first in the synagogue, the apostles continue their ministry in Iconium for an extended period until the unbelieving Jews cause them to move on to the cities of Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia (Acts 14). Their preaching again provokes both faith and opposition. Angry Jewish leaders from Antioch and Iconium arrive and stir up the people to stone Paul, leaving him unconscious thinking he is dead. Revived, Paul and Barnabas preach also in Derbe and continue their task of making disciples in this region before returning to the church in Antioch of Syria.
What does it mean?
Years have passed before the Gospel begins going out to the peoples of the world. This passage is the first of three missionary journeys of Paul. We also see a transition happening, from Jewish law to grace, from a majority Jewish church to a majority Gentile church, from Peter’s leadership to Paul’s and from Jerusalem as the center of the Christian movement to Antioch of Syria
Acts 14:21-23 gives a template of the Christian movement. The disciples proclaim the Gospel to all, teach God’s truth to those that respond, continue the disciple-making process by equipping them to continue in the faith and appointing elders in every assembly. Finally, they turn them over to God rather than attempting to control them themselves.
How will I respond?
Our mission is to make disciples of all ethnicities (Mat 28:18-20). How do I understand that process of making disciples, and what specifically can I learn and apply to my life from this reading, especially Acts 14:21-23?