DERBE (ACTS 14:21). The next day the two apostles left Iconium for Derbe. Derbe was the last town in the distinctively Roman territory on the road running through southern Galatia to the East. It was about a day’s journey eastward, the last city on their itinerary. Here they preached the good news without incident and won a large number of disciples.
THE TRIP BACK TO HOME BASE (ACTS 14:21-28). From Derbe it would have been simplest for Paul and Barnabas to continue eastward through the Taurus Mountain pass and home to Antioch. But what was simplest was not always best for the Gospel. Instead, they went three times as far homeward in the opposite direction.
The return trip to Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch covered the same ground the missionaries had crossed. The courageous missionaries visited the very cities where they had been persecuted. They confirmed the established churches, strengthening the recent converts in the faith. They must have been greatly encouraged that these new churches had not dissolved or ceased to grow despite problems and difficulties, persecution and hardships.
Paul fresh from a stoning was utterly honest with the people who had chosen to become Christians. He frankly told them that it was through many hardships one enters the kingdom of God. There is a price attached to following Jesus in service. He said:
No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20).
If our service does not stir up the enemy and produce opposition from Satan, we should question our faithfulness.
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church, and with prayer and fasting committed them to the Lord. Elders had always governed and judged in towns and villages in the OT and in much of the Mediterranean world as well. Most ancient synagogues had several elders who filled a religious office, acting as councils rather than individuals. The title generally called for respect and much influence.
After going through Pisida, they came into Pamphylia. At Perga, they preached and set sail for Syria at the port of Attalia. On arriving at Antioch, the two pioneers gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Their colorful missionary report gave all the glory to God.
Following this first missionary journey, Paul must have begun to realize just how important his own call had been. His experiences convinced him that Gentile believers should be admitted to the Christian fellowship, without being obligated to be circumcised or to observe other regulations of the ceremonial law.