July 27

Acts 14:21-23 21They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22strengthening 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. 23Paul 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 being stoned and left for dead, Paul got up and went to Derbe. Many disciples were won there. What does it mean to win? There is a battle raging over the souls of men. Paul and Barnabas were instruments to win them to the Lord.

After the successful time in Derbe, they went back through the cities they had preached in. They did so to strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith. We need leaders who will do that in our churches. They reminded them that the Christian life is not easy. If we are going to truly change from worldly ways to those of heaven, the Lord will take us through many situations that will stretch our faith. Paul never preached that the Christian life was a bed of roses. What do you expect? Are you by faith determined to endure what will inevitably come your way?

As they went through the towns where they had started churches, they appointed elders in each church. Notice the wording is more than one elder in every church. There is no single leader, but a group of men who are recognized as meeting the qualifications of Titus 1 and 1Timothy 3. That sounds like the group in Acts 13 that sent Paul and Barnabas out to evangelize. These men pray together and seek God's will for leading the local church. There was no hierarchy that they were to submit to. That would not be introduced until well into the second century. With prayer and fasting, they were committed to the head of the body, Jesus. That is where the trust of Paul and Barnabas and these new elders was placed. They would trust the Lord to speak to the elders so that they could feed and lead these new churches. We have come so far from the simple structure of the early church.

Consider: How can we return in spirit if not in letter?