by John Lowe
4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.
Now three, the missionary group continues along the way, visiting the churches “from town to town.” Luke did not specify the towns they visited, but one would assume they were Iconium and Pisidian Antioch and any other villages where there may have been a Christian community resulting from the first missionary tour. They shared the decrees from the Jerusalem Conference. These decrees were, in brief, as follows:
1. As far as salvation is concerned, faith alone is necessary. Circumcision or law-keeping should not be added to faith as a condition for being saved.
2. Sexual immorality was forbidden for all believers and for all time, but this reminder was probably addressed primarily to converted Gentiles, since this was (and is) their troubling sin.
3. Meats offered to idols, meat from animals that had been strangled, and blood were forbidden as food, not as matters essential to salvation, but to facilitate fellowship between Jewish and Gentiles believers. Some of these instructions were subsequently revised (see 1 Corinthians 8-10; 1 Timothy’s 4:4, 5). Assuming Paul wrote Galatians after the first missionary journey, but before the Jerusalem Council, the report of the decision would be strong confirmation of the gospel which he preached and about which he wrote. All of these churches were in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia and not a part of Syro-Cilicia, to which the decrees were addressed. Perhaps they felt that these churches were involved because they were the product of the Antioch mission. Luke did not mention Paul announcing them in any other cities after this, and Paul never mentioned them in his letters.
5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.
In the years that followed, Timothy played an important part in the expansion and strengthening of the churches. He traveled with Paul and was often his special ambassador to the “trouble spots” in the work, such as Corinth. Paul took a great interest in him and showered his affection upon him. Apparently, Timothy never disappointed him, for he was with him to the end, and there is not the slightest sign of anything but great happiness in the relationship. He became the shepherd of the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) and probably joined Paul in Rome shortly before the apostle was martyred (2 Timothy 4:21).
Verse 5 concludes the narrative of Paul’s return visit to these churches of his first mission. This summary statement is not superficial or careless, however. It underlines the importance of Paul’s concern to fortify and nurture the churches of his prior missionary efforts. He was not only concerned with planting the seed but also to see them grow and bear fruit. This led him to undertake the rigorous trip to southern Galatia through rugged terrain and mountain passes. For Paul, this was another tremendous ministry in Galatia. Not only does he visit the churches which had been founded the first time, but multitudes in other places turn to Christ. New churches are formed and there is an increase in number daily (not the churches, but the number of their members). He accomplished what he sought; the churches were strengthened, they flourished, and they were more prepared than ever to carry on when he left.
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