30 So the men were sent down to Antioch. There they gathered the church together. They gave the letter to them. 31 The people read it. They were glad for its message of hope. 32 Judas and Silas were prophets. They said many things to give strength and hope to the believers. 33-34 Judas and Silas stayed there for some time. Then the believers sent them away with the blessing of peace. They sent them back to those who had sent them out. 35 Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch. There they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. 36 Some time later Paul spoke to Barnabas. “Let’s go back to all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord,” he said. “Let’s visit the believers and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. 38 But Paul didn’t think it was wise to take him. Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia. He hadn’t continued with them in their work. 39 Barnabas and Paul strongly disagreed with each other. So they went their separate ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas. The believers asked the Lord to give his grace to Paul and Silas as they went. 41 Paul traveled through Syria and Cilicia. He gave strength to the churches there.
The new Church in Antioch, in Syria, needed guidance and reassurance. Powerful forces threatened to derail these new Christians. These forces included Jews who had stoned and left Paul for dead in Chapter 14. How intimidating. The Christians were under pressure to conform. The council in Jerusalem knew that their message in these circumstances needed to be delivered in person, not just by letter. To prevent misunderstanding or manipulation, two charismatic teachers and prophets were chosen to go, Judas and Silas. The Christians were obviously pleased to see them and Paul and Barnabas back again.
I just imagine being Judas and Silas in that situation, being so warmly welcomed as they brought good news of inclusion and encouragement. They would have been encouraged too to meet these new Christians.
I think back to times when I have met with Christians in other countries when I have been visiting or living in France as we did for 2 years. The thrill of joining with like minded Christians in another part of the world is so encouraging. Here are people who believe what I believe, who worship my wonderful God too! Whether we are overseas or in our regular church family, are we encouragers of other believers? Are we strengtheners or weakeners? Are we using the gifts given to us by God for his glory (could be prophecy like Judas and Silas) or are we only there for what we can take and to have our needs met? Whether we have a particular word from God for the church like Judas and Silas, or we are serving week on week, when we put God’s glory first we will be encouragers.
Dear Lord, the church, your bride, needs our extra special care. Help me to be a strengthener, and encourager, so our church will stand firm against outside pressures and influences. Then I can play my part in ensuring your bride, the church, is united and effective. Amen
Written by Claire Moore