Today we read details about the extensive missionary work of the Apostle Paul – first with Barnabas – then with Silas. Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and “declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” [Acts 14 v.27]
This caused “no small dissension and debate” [v.2] so that “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.” The rest of the chapter details the conference held at Jerusalem to resolve this.
The key example used to refute the claims of these “men” from “Judea” – who also wanted the converts “to keep the law of Moses” [v.5], was the dramatic conversion and baptism of Cornelius and others at Caesarea. Paul and Barnabas had also related how “they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. ” [v.3] And what joys we ourselves have experienced in recent years as a result of missionary ventures!
We are only given brief details of the Conference – but one key factor was how James, the key brother at Jerusalem, quoted Amos ch. 9 v.11.12 to them saying, “with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ” ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ ” [v.15-18]
And today we are marvelling afresh about “the things known from of old” – as we now read the prophet Hosea and then Joel – who in particular was caused to record God’s prophecies about the climax of the ages when, the Lord says, “I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” [3 v.1]
We are living in momentous times, “a time of trouble such as never has been” [Daniel 12 v.1] and only those who really know God’s word, having filled their minds with its spiritually elevating messages will have “great joy” far greater than that experienced as a result of the reports of Paul and Barnabas.