First Reading: Acts 14:21-27

Unintended Consequences

Popular Translation

21 After Paul and Barnabas spread the Good News and gained many followers, they returned first to Lystra, then to Iconium, and finally to Antioch near the area of Pisidia. 22 They encouraged the followers to stay faithful with these words, “We all need to suffer in life so we can enter God’s Kingdom.” 23 They appointed leaders in each church. Then, they prayed and fasted so God would take care of those who trusted him.

24 Next, they traveled through Pisidia onto the area called Pamphylia. 25 They preached God’s word in the city of Perga. Then, they went down to the seaport of Attilia 26 and sailed to Antioch in Syria. They gave everything they had done over to God’s care. 27 When they arrived, they went before the church and reported everything God did with them. They finished by saying, “God has opened the door to faith for the Gentiles.”

Literal Translation

21 Both having evangelized in that city (of Derbe) and having converted enough disciples, (Paul and Barnabas) returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch (near Pisidia), 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging (them) to remain in the faith, (saying that,) “It is necessary for us through many tribulations (of life) to enter the Kingdom of God,” 23 having placed hands (on men) for elders (in each) assembly, having prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord, in whom they believed. 24 Having gone through Pisidia, they went into Pamphylia, 25 and, having spoken the Word in Perga, they went down into Attila, 26 and, from there, they sailed off to Antioch, from where they were given over to the grace of God for the work that (they) fulfilled. 27 Having arrived and having been taken before the assembly, they reported as much as God did with them and, “God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”

14:26 “they sailed off to Antioch, from where they were given over to the grace of God for the work that (they) fulfilled” These verses marked the end of Paul’s first missionary journey. When he landed in Antioch in Syria, he was home. Having finished his trip, he entrusted his efforts to God’s grace.

On our faith journey, we must come to expect the unexpected. As the old saying goes, “Be careful for what you pray, you may get it!”

In the midst of Paul’s first missionary journey, there is success that produced new problems. As we studied last week, Christian preaching like Paul’s had two affects. First, it split the Jewish synagogues into Nazorean (i.e., Christian) and non-Nazorean camps. Where there was a split and the Nazorean Jews were expelled from the synagogue, a new assembly (church) was created. Second, Paul’s preaching encouraged non-Jewish peoples to join become believers (without observing the Jewish Law) and join the new assemblies. As a result, new assemblies formed by Jewish Christians were quickly becoming non-Jewish. There was a external pressure from the non-Christian Jews, and internal pressure from the growing numbers of incoming Gentile converts.

Paul’s exhortation to the believers [23] and his attention to organizational structure [24] confirm the affects of missionary efforts like Paul’s. There were problems of persecution and unexpected growth. There were established churches who needed attention. But, notice that these problems preceded Paul’s efforts and indicate Christianity was rapidly spreading before Paul preached in Asia Minor. Paul contributed to the missionary effort with his attention to the non-Jewish believers [27]. We will see his defense of his mission in next week’s study.

The early church did not expect the growth that Paul’s efforts provided.

Are we surprised when our prayers are answered or when our relationship with God changes? How do we react?