God’s Word for You
Acts 14:23-28 The first journey ends
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 7, 2020
23 By a show of hands they appointed elders for them in each church. With prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
“By a show of hands they appointed” is a single verb in Greek, cheirotonesantes (see also 2 Corinthians 8:19). The names of eligible men were probably recommended by the congregations, to which Paul and Barnabas would simply have guided the people to show, by show of hands (as the verb stresses) their choices. The apostles would then have laid hands on the chosen men, but the act of laying on hands (1 Timothy 5:22) was only a public testimony; the call itself, accepted by the men, was what conferred on them the office of elder and preacher. It is the same way to this day. A minister is an ordained minister by virtue of his call, not by what rituals are carried out to make public the announcement.
Our American custom of voting on church affairs is nowhere commanded in the Scriptures, but it’s nice to know that there is at least an example of such voting. We are left with the impression that Paul and other apostles simply appointed many pastors and teachers without consulting the churches (1 Corinthians 6:4; Titus 1:5; cp. Ezra 3:8).
24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 When they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had now completed. 27 When they arrived, they called the church together and reported everything that God had done through them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
The apostles retraced their steps back to the west through the interior. Remember that Paul’s home, Tarsus, was just eighty or so miles from Derbe! But going home was not Paul’s plan in any way. He was here to strengthen the churches he and Barnabas had planted. So moving through the cities and regions Luke mentions, they arrived at last at Attalia on the southern coast. As Lenski quips, “Luke likes to name the harbors” (Acts, p. 588). There they found a ship to sail back to Antioch. There is no mention of any time spent in Cyprus on the return journey; whether they made landfall there on the way back is not revealed. They arrived in Antioch, meaning the Antioch in Syria, and by this time we can guess that about 18 months had gone by, from late 46 or early 47 AD well into 48. The EHV Study Bible has this illustration:
“The geographic scale of the first mission journey would be similar to starting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and traveling to the Iowa border and then traveling along the river basins to northern Wisconsin and then returning to Milwaukee. Paul had to walk a great deal of the trip and to climb up and down many mountains.”
They were able to report good news. In a year and a half, they had planted Christian congregations throughout Cyprus and southern, central, and eastern Asia Minor. The fact that the gospel came to the eastern city of Derbe from the west and not from the east (from Pisidian Antioch rather than from Syrian Antioch) was an indication of just how far the gospel of Jesus Christ had gone out. The word is preached, the word spreads, and the church grows. All of this is by the grace of God. Even though there are sometimes bumps along the way, the Holy Spirit works through people exactly like you and me to send out his word of peace into the world.
Tomorrow we will begin a short side-trip to read a document that was written at about this time and which has a bearing on the way we understand the chapters that follow this one in Acts. That document is the Epistle of James.
Pastor Timothy Smith