It’s always a good idea to look back into the past to review what you’ve done or accomplished. That look back might be for the past day, week, month, or year. It needs to be an honest look at what you may need to improve upon in your life, as well as things that are good. This review of the past is Biblical.
For instance, it’s a part of the Jewish year. There’s a ten-day period from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur and is known as the Days of Awe. During that time, a person is introspective and looks for sins they may have committed during the previous year. If that person can apologize to someone they’ve wronged, that needs to be done. All of the introspective thoughts are to lead the person to repentance before Yom Kippur, which is the Jewish day of atonement.
“And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: for on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD” (Leviticus 16:29-30).
Of course, Christians don’t have a specific day to look back and review. For anyone who has accepted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. He is our High Priest who sprinkled His own blood on the altar in order to take away our sins. That fact doesn’t take away our need to review the things we’ve done and come to a closer walk with our Lord. Our life should be led by the Holy Spirit, and whatever we do needs to be done for Him.
This look back should open our eyes to sins we need to repent of, as well as the things we’ve done right so that we can build upon them.
When Paul and Barnabas went on the first missionary journey, they were breaking new ground. Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave marching orders to His followers.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
This was a new idea since the Jewish people didn’t actively go and invite Gentiles to become Jewish. During the first years of Christianity, Peter preached some marvelous sermons that convicted those who heard, and many thousands of people gave their lives to Christ. It’s a shame that today we tiptoe around the Gospel, and present it more or less as an afterthought instead of speaking boldly of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross. The early Christians didn’t travel very far from Jerusalem to spread the Gospel until the persecution there caused them to scatter. They kept their faith, and the Gospel began to spread.
It would be a number of years before a real effort was made to spread the Gospel. Antioch was where it would begin. The men of faith in Antioch were strong in what they believed, and they desired to serve the Lord.
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3).
The Holy Spirit spoke to them because they served the Lord and desired to hear His voice. Fasting is Biblical and should be practiced today. Possibly a reason we don’t see the Holy Spirit working, nor do we hear His voice, is because we’re too distracted by television or cell phones to serve God first.
“And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:3-4).
And so, the first missionary trip began. It wasn’t the men of Antioch who sent them, but the Holy Spirit.
This journey took Paul and Barnabas to many cities where they had much success in spreading the Gospel. Paul knew that God had an order of things. Many centuries earlier, God had called Abraham to be separate and had promised a Redeemer would come from his lineage. Jesus was born to a Jewish virgin and fulfilled many prophecies. Salvation was first presented to the nation of Israel. Paul would begin by going to the synagogue to preach the Gospel, but it was the Gentiles who responded to the Good News.
Later he would write, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Paul had seen this fact come alive on that first journey. Every place they traveled, they first went to the synagogue and unashamedly spoke the Gospel. The results of their testimony of Christ was mixed. Christians today need to stop being ashamed of Christ and boldly share the Gospel.
Their first stop was in a city on the island of Cyprus called Salamis. “And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister” (Acts 13:5).
The person here called John wasn’t the Apostle John, but rather John Mark who went with Paul and Barnabas on this trip. They first preached the Gospel in the synagogues. This was to be the pattern that Paul and Barnabas would continue to follow. Every city they came to they first went to the synagogue, which then opened doors for them to share the Gospel with Gentiles. They were bold, unashamed, and led by the Holy Spirit.
There were many events on that trip that were worth remembering. For instance, when they came to Paphos, they encountered a man named Barjesus.
“And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:6-7).
Barjesus was Jewish, but didn’t serve God Almighty. He tried to stop Sergius Paulus from hearing God’s truth. False faith can never stand against true faith, and Paul confronted the evil.
“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9-10).
Today many Christians are afraid to confront evil. Perhaps if we spoke boldly and stood firmly upon God’s truth, we wouldn’t have public schools that promote lies and perversion, or liberal politicians who serve Satan.
This mission journey brought many people to faith, especially Gentiles. This must have surprised Paul and Barnabas, but they never shied away from sharing the Gospel with anyone who was willing to listen. Most of the opposition they encountered was from the Jewish community.
“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:19-20).
Paul’s life didn’t end that day. Nothing could stop him from preaching God’s truth until God allowed his life to end.
“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).
Paul and Barnabas didn’t forget the new Christians. Day-to-day trials and tribulation can cause a new Christian to falter. That’s why we need to encourage each other in the Lord. They returned to check on their disciples to be sure that they were continuing in the faith.
“And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” (Acts 14:23).
I’m always surprised that those early believers were taught so much in a short time. Too many who claim to be Christians today have sat in pews for years but still don’t know what they believe.
When the journey was over, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. “And when they were come and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
They shared what God had done, not what Paul and Barnabas had done. One of the amazing accomplishments of this journey was opening the door for Gentiles to be saved. This all happened because two men obeyed the Holy Spirit and preached the Gospel.
Can you imagine what might happen today if so-called missionaries would preach the Gospel instead of confusing doing works with spreading the Gospel?
Paul and Barnabas never confused works with spreading the Gospel. They fulfilled Christ’s directive by preaching the Gospel to everyone. I’ve known of too many people who claim to be missionaries but have other agendas. One man spoke of wonderful success he had in India. As it turned out, he wasn’t preaching the Gospel to the unsaved, but was converting already saved Christians to move from other denominations to join his denomination. He spoke of what he did rather than what God did.
I’ve also heard missionaries talk of the wonderful houses they build for the unsaved, but never rejoicing over any souls that were saved by building those houses. Some of these people couldn’t even speak the language of the country they went to, but still spoke of their own successes instead of what God had done.
Preach the Gospel to the unsaved, but don’t bribe them with works. Be sure you are listening to the Holy Spirit instead of just following your own agenda.
An important part of these verses is that Paul and Barnabas went over the details of the journey. Their testimony to those who had sent them out was amazing. Subsequent mission journeys were patterned after the example of Paul and Barnabas. They followed the directive of the Holy Spirit, they boldly preached the Gospel, they confronted opposition and evil, and they mentored their disciples.
Each of us is placed in a mission field. We may not be called to a foreign land, but we all have people around us who need to hear the Gospel. It’s up to us to boldly preach the Gospel to friends and family, neighbors and co-workers. Look back at the past year. Like the Jewish time of the Days of Awe, see what you might need to repent of, remembering that Jesus has forgiven all sin.
Have you missed an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone? Pray that you won’t let fear stop you from sharing God’s truth. By looking back, we can see what we’ve done for ourselves and what God has done through us. Let God be glorified through you.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.
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