January 11, 2021 – Monday
Acts 15:30-35 NIV
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.
31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.
33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.
34 [But Silas decided to remain there.]*
35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
*in some manuscripts
Friday, January 8, I wrote how Peter’s suggestion was followed and as a letter was sent to the Gentile believers in Antioch. The verses above describe the reception of the letter by the Gentiles in Antioch. But then how interesting Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.
So interesting I went to look at various commentaries about this verse and discovered they were not prophets as one who foretells the future, but who, being filled with the Spirit, speaks with His authority in explanation of the will of God. Judas and Silas being thus endowed were well fitted to exhort and confirm the disciples. (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) This seems to fit very well when we consider the last half of that verse where they said much to encourage and strengthen the believers – both Gentile and Jew. They must have done a really good job of encouraging and strengthening as after spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. Some manuscripts say Silas decided to remain and along with Paul as well as many others, they all taught and preached the word of the Lord, the gospel of Christ, to the believers.
How wonderful as this indicates a great growth in the church in Antioch. Wikipedia tells us Antioch was called “the cradle of Christianity” as a result of its longevity and the pivotal role that it played in the emergence of both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christainity. The Christian New Testament asserts that the name “Christian” first emerged in Antioch. It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria, so there were many there to hear the gospel and have their hearts changed.
However, Antioch could only hold Paul so long. Thus (v36-41) Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Then a major disagreement between Barnabas and Paul as Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
The impact of Paul’s travels and delivery of the message from Jerusalem is in found in verses 4-5 of the next chapter (16), As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
What are we to take away from all of this? Number one – do not be discouraged by disagreements and number two – simply carry on with what God has laid on your heart to do as both Paul and Barnabas did. We are told of the success of Paul above as a result of doing just that.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – Please give us direction to follow by laying Your desires on our hearts and give us the courage to carry out Your will in our lives. – In Jesus name. Amen.