21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 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. 23 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.” (Acts 14:21–23)
Paul and Barnabas remained undaunted in their vision and quest to spread and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Leaving Lystra, they journeyed 40 mile southeast to the city of Derbe. When they arrived, they preached the gospel and saw many individuals repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
After an unspecified period of time, the two evangelists left Derbe and returned to their previous church plants in the cities of Lystra, Iconium and Pisdian Antioch. There was no hesitancy on their part to do so, in spite of the persecution they previously encountered.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “For reasons Luke does not disclose, they (Paul and Barnabas) decide to end their missionary journey and retrace their steps through Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. This is a demonstration of great boldness on their part, but it also enables them to serve as examples for the believers; they’re not giving up their work in the face of persecution and neither should the new Christians.”
Their motivation to return to these newly established congregations was born out of a pastoral concern for the spiritual well-being of these new converts. Acts 14:22 summarizes Paul and Barnabas’ intentions; “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.”
Luke also records the leadership structure of these new churches. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (πρεσβυτέρους; presbyterous) or mature, spiritual leaders. This was in keeping with the pattern developed in establishing churches (Acts 11:30). These elders were men who would watch over the new congregations by preaching and teaching the Word of God.
Following a time of prayer and fasting, Paul and Barnabas committed these men to the Lord. Luke records that these elders were trustworthy, dependable, committed and honorable men.
Do you view the elders of your church in much the same way? Do you see the elders of your church as a blessing in your life? I know that I view the elders of the church of which I am a member in such a way. I trust you have the same perspective concerning those leaders of your church.
Soli deo Gloria!