24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.
If you’re ever reading the Bible and you lose track of all of these place names, make some notes and check out the maps in the back of a study bible. When they were in Derbe, they were practically on their way home to Tarsus. Tarsus was halfway between Derbe and Antioch (where they started.)
Instead, they went back through all of the towns they had already visited, then on to the coast of Asia. They left the coast when Paul was sick (probably from malaria) so this time they visited all of the towns they could along the coastline.
We don’t get any details about what happened in those towns. We also don’t get any record of Paul and Barnabas going back to any of them and none of Paul’s letters are addressed to them.
Look at that map and let that sink in a little bit.
From Seleucia to Salamis and all across Cyprus, the mission trip was awesome. They were welcomed into the ruler of Cyprus’ court, worked miracles, saw him come to faith in Jesus, and were escorted by his troops inland to Asia. Even though Paul was sick, they saw the Holy Spirit move in all kinds of ways throughout Galatia, even to the point of Paul being stoned and left for dead…then getting up again and continuing the mission.
They went back through a lot of the towns that had growing and maturing Christians and set up elders and churches.
Perga to Antioch was 450 miles of no details and no cities that deserve a letter or a second visit.
Comedians know that we judge their whole act on their last joke. A lot of people decide how they feel about church on Sunday based on the last song we sing.
If Paul went back and told Antioch what his mission trip was like based on the last 450 miles, he would say it was “Uneventful. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to any of those places.”
That’s not what he did. He returned to Antioch and told them all about all of the work God had done.
That is such a great reminder to us. It’s easy to overlook all of the great things God has done when we can’t see past the last few weeks. For Paul, God had rescued him over and over again. God worked so many miracles through Barnabas that the locals thought he was Zeus himself! And many, many people were added into the Body of Christ. It was exciting enough for the whole church of Antioch to be encouraged and to celebrate the great works of God in the land of the Gentiles.
You can check out a cool interactive map of Paul’s missionary journeys here. It might be even neater than the maps in the back of your study bible.
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