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fury, and seizing Paul, mercilessly stoned him. The apostle thought that his end had come. The martyrdom of Stephen, and the cruel part that he himself had acted upon that occasion, came vividly to his mind. Covered with bruises, and faint with pain, he fell to the ground, and the infuriated mob “drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.”
In this dark and trying hour, the company of Lystrian believers, who through the ministry of Paul and. Barnabas had been converted to the faith of Jesus, remained loyal and true. The unreasoning opposition and cruel persecution by their enemies served only to confirm the faith of these devoted brethren; and now, in the face of danger and scorn, they showed their loyalty by gathering sorrowfully about the form of him whom they believed to be dead.
What was their surprise when, in the midst of their lamentations, the apostle suddenly lifted up his head, and rose to his feet, with the praise of God upon his lips. To the believers this unexpected restoration of God's servant was regarded as a miracle of divine power, and seemed to set the signet of Heaven upon their change of belief. They rejoiced with inexpressible gladness, and praised God with renewed faith.
Among those who had been converted at Lystra, and who were eye-witnesses of the sufferings of Paul, was one who was afterward to become a prominent worker for Christ, and who was to share with the apostle the trials and the joys of pioneer service in difficult fields. This was a young man named Timothy. When Paul was dragged out of the city, this youthful disciple was among the number who
took their stand beside his apparently lifeless body, and who saw him arise, bruised and covered with blood, but with praises upon his lips because he had been permitted to suffer for the sake of Christ.
The day following the stoning of Paul, the apostles departed for Derbe, where their labors were blessed, and many souls were led to receive Christ as the Saviour. But “when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many,” neither Paul nor Barnabas was content to take up work elsewhere without confirming the faith of the converts whom they had been compelled to leave alone for a time in the places where they had recently labored. And so, undaunted by danger, “they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith." Many had accepted the glad tidings of the gospel, and had thus exposed themselves to reproach and opposition. These the apostles sought to establish in the faith, in order that the work done might abide.
As an important factor in the spiritual growth of the new converts, the apostles were careful to surround them with the safeguards of gospel order. Churches were duly organized in all places in Lycaonia and Pisidia where there were believers. Officers were appointed in each church, and proper order and system was established for the conduct of all the affairs pertaining to the spiritual welfare of the believers.
This was in harmony with the gospel plan of uniting in one body all believers in Christ, and this
plan Paul was careful to follow throughout his ministry. Those who in any place were by his labor led to accept Christ as the Saviour, were, at the proper time, organized into a church. Even when the believers were but few in number, this was done. The Christians were thus taught to help one another, remembering the promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.'' 1
And Paul did not forget the churches thus established. The care of these churches rested on his mind as an ever-increasing burden. However small a company might be, it was nevertheless the object of his constant solicitude. He watched over the smaller churches tenderly, realizing that they were in need of special care, in order that the members might be thoroughly established in the truth, and taught to put forth earnest, unselfish efforts for those around them.
In all their missionary endeavors, Paul and Barnabas sought to follow Christ's example of willing sacrifice and faithful, earnest labor for souls. Wideawake, zealous, untiring, they did not consult inclination or personal ease, but with prayerful anxiety and unceasing activity they sowed the seed of truth. And with the sowing of the seed, the apostles were careful to give to all who took their stand for the gospel, practical instruction that was of untold value. This spirit of earnestness and godly fear made upon the minds of the new disciples a lasting impression regarding the importance of the gospel message.
When men of promise and ability were converted, as in the case of Timothy, Paul and Barnabas sought earnestly to show them the necessity of laboring in the vineyard. And when the apostles left for another place, the faith of these men did not fail, but rather increased. They had been faithfully instructed in the way of the Lord, and had been taught how to labor unselfishly, earnestly, perseveringly, for the salvation of their fellow-men. This careful training of new converts was an important factor in the remarkable success that attended Paul and Barnabas as they preached the gospel in heathen lands.
1 Matt. 18:20.
The first missionary journey was fast drawing to a close. Commending the newly organized churches to the Lord, the apostles went to Pamphylia, “and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia, and thence sailed to Antioch.”
Jew and Gentile
On reaching Antioch in Syria, from which place they had been sent forth on their mission, Paul and Barnabas took advantage of an early opportunity to assemble the believers, and rehearse "all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."1 The church at Antioch was a large and growing one. A center of missionary activity, it was one of the most important of the groups of Christian believers. Its membership was made up of many classes of people, from among both Jews and Gentiles.
While the apostles united with the ministers and lay members at Antioch in an earnest effort to win many souls to Christ, certain Jewish believers from Judea, “of the sect of the Pharisees,” succeeded in introducing a question that soon led to wide-spread controversy in the church, and brought consternation to the believing Gentiles. With great assurance these
1 Acts 14: 27.