Luke next uses “gathering language” in reference to followers of Jesus in Acts 14:27. Here is the passage in its context:
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples. (Acts 14:21-28 ESV)
Once again, the â€œgathering languageâ€ in Acts 14:27 is found in the Greek verb ÏƒÏ…Î½Î¬Î³Ï‰ (sunagÅ) which generally means â€œI gatherâ€ or â€œI bring together.â€ The ESV translated the verb as â€œgathered.â€ Even more interesting, the verb is active this time, showing that Paul and Barnabas did the work of gathering the church together.
This passage describes the return trip on Paul and Barnabas’ first “missionary journey.” Interestingly, Luke includes the return to Antioch in the list of churches to whom Paul and Barnabas returned. In Acts 14:21, they “returned to” Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, including the “mother church” with the others. Perhaps, in Luke’s thinking, there was not a big distinction in these churches. The “new” churches of Lystra and Iconium were just as much churches (in spite of not even having recognized leadership) as the church in Antioch.
In fact, Luke calls the believers in the new churches “disciples” (Acts 14:22) and he calls the believers in the church in Antioch “disciples” (Acts 14:28). The new churches and young believers were not views as “less” than their counterparts in Antioch.
When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and gathered the church together, they began telling what God had done by extending grace to Gentiles. This would indicate more of a “testimony” type declaration than time of scriptural teaching. According to Luke, though, the content of the testimony focused on the work of God, not on the work of Paul and Barnabas.