Paul barely escaped with his life from Lystra. He had been stoned and left for dead when the disciples found him outside of the city. They, along with Barnabas, helped him into the city for the night. The next day, Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe. They had to travel approximately 55 miles on unpaved roads to arrive in Derbe.
“They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.” Acts 14:21,22
Paul and Barnabas had experienced hardships during their journey. They had endured the rigors and dangers of travel in the first century. They had been dogged by Jewish men who were zealous and who stirred up persecution and rebellion against Paul and Barnabas to silence them.
“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.” Acts 14:23-26
Paul and Barnabas could have returned by land to Tarsus. The journey would have been much shorter but instead they opted to return the way they had come. This return visit was as important as the first visit. In each city they revisited on their return journey, Paul and Barnabas were able to once again encourage these new believers of the faith. Their presence would have strengthened the church’s newfound commitment to the message of Jesus Christ. They became living examples to these new converts to christianity of what steadfast faith looks like in the face of difficulty. In addition, Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted with them as well as appointing elders to provide leadership and stability for these new congregations.
Paul and Barnabas completed the work to which they had been called and commissioned by God and the Antioch church. When they arrived home, they shared with their church family all that God had done through them and how God opened the door of faith for Gentiles. How inspiring their testimonies must have been for their community of faith to hear!
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:” Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.” Acts 15:1-4
All change has growing pains and the growth of the early church was no different. Paul and Barnabas enjoyed a respite of some time until conflicts began to arise between Jew and Gentile and matters of faith. Judaizers, men from Judea, probably from the Pharisee sect who held firmly to the law and who were also called legalists, came citing that believers must be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas reacted in an uproar to these qualifications for salvation. After much reasoning, the church appointed Paul and Barnabas as spokesmen to go to Jerusalem and present this controversial issue before the apostles and elders of the church there. Thus, they began their journey of approximately 250 miles to Jerusalem to present before the church the question of circumcision and salvation.