Scriptures

Acts 14

Introduction

“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 14:1-3

In Iconium

In the previous chapter, we left Paul and Barnabas shaking the dust from their feet after the Jewish leaders stirred up trouble for them in Antioch.

But while all this was going on Luke informed us that Gospel was being spread all over the country. And so, Paul and Barnabas leave the saints at Antioch very happy and full of the Spirit and moved on to Iconium.

Every time an apostle of Christ went into a new city, the first place they would go to is the local synagogue, if that city had one. And when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Iconium, they immediately went to the synagogue and seized upon an opportunity to preach.

It’s interesting that Luke doesn’t go into details with the exact words that Paul and Barnabas spoke but he does let us know that the message was powerful enough to move a great multitude. And their words were so powerful it moved a multitude of people which comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, to the point of obedient belief.

But as always there are people who love nothing better but to cause trouble. Luke tells us there was a bunch of Jews who refused to obey the gospel and they did all they could to poison the thinking of the Gentile citizens, as well as the authorities. And so, because of the trouble these Jews caused, Paul and Barnabas couldn’t do anymore in that city.

A city is a big place and just because one side of a city wasn’t working well, doesn’t necessarily mean that other areas within that same city are going to be the same.

And that’s exactly what Paul and Barnabas did, they moved on to another area within the city of Iconium and as they preached, the Lord caused great miracles to be worked by them, thereby confirming the words as being from Him.

Again what we see happening here is the purpose of the miracles being fulfilled. Miracles were designed to confirm the Word being preached, Hebrews 2:3-4. The miracles stood as a testimony of the preachers words, the miracles proved that the preachers words were true and from God Himself.

“The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news.” Acts 14:4-7

Luke tells us that the city continued to be divided into two groups, those who obediently believed the preached Word and those who demonstrated their lack of belief by refusing to obey.  And it’s those people who conspired to work physical harm on the preachers, even to the point of stoning.

Remember, creating trouble is a troublemaker’s job description, that’s what they do for a living, that’s what they enjoy doing the most, Proverbs 24:1-2. Just like they did at Antioch, they shook the dust from their feet with these trouble makers and went to pastures new.

The apostle Paul was well aware of what it means to be persecuted, hence why he encourages us to expect it, 2 Timothy 3:12. Paul and Barnabas didn’t hang around while these people were out to kill them, they moved on. They moved on and preached the Gospel in Lystra and Derbe.

In Lystra And Derbe

“In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” Acts 14:8-10

Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas arrived at Lystra, which was around 18 miles to the east of Iconium. Remember, usually they would check out the local synagogue when they arrived at a new city but Lystra doesn’t have one. But what they did find was something which was very familiar even to us today, a cripple.

This man had been crippled since birth and had never walked and it seems as though he paid close attention to the words of the apostle. And so Paul recognized that the man fully believed he could be healed through the Name of the Jesus which Paul preached. And when Paul commanded him to stand on his feet, he leapt up and walked.

And notice also that this man had no money to pay for ‘a healing.’ Unlike the wealthy so called “faith-healers” of today, when Jesus or any of the apostles performed miracles and healed people they did not do it for financial gain, this man had no money, 1 Timothy 6:3-5.

Notice also, that Paul and Barnabas had no alternative motives either for healing the man. In Biblical times, miracles always had a worthy motive and signs were ‘not done’ for the purpose of personal elaboration.

Though Jesus’ miracles established the validity of His claim of being the Son of God, that designation was ‘not assumed’ out of personal interest.

The reason that Jesus and the apostles performed miracles was purely motivated by a love for man’s salvation. As we are about to see, if Paul and Barnabas were after personal gain or praise the perfect opportunity for them was about to arise.

“When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting.” Acts 14:11-14

The people of Lystra were very superstitious and when they saw the lame man walk, they concluded the gods had come to be with them. And in their infinite wisdom they also decided Barnabas was Zeus, the ‘patron god’ of that area, and Paul was Hermes who was called the ‘god of Eloquence’.

We might wonder why Paul and Barnabas didn’t stop this straight away, the simple answer is, they didn’t know what was happening straight away, since the people spoke in the language of the Lycaonians.

It wasn’t until they saw the priest who served in the temple of Zeus on the road leading into the city bringing oxen with garlands on their heads to be sacrificed to the two ‘visiting gods’.

It was then they realised what was happening and so they tore their clothes and ran in among the crowd shouting.

“Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them”. Acts 14:15-18

This text shows us they weren’t looking for self-praise but they wanted to share the love of God with them to bring them to salvation.

They asked the people why they would do such a thing since they were mere mortals just like them. They pleaded with the people to turn from their empty worshipping of idols to serve the true God.

The true God who was the creator of the universe. The true God who had for years, allowed man to ignorantly pursue his own path, even though God always provided mankind with good things, like the rain and the harvest, Psalm 19:1-4 / Matthew 5:45 / Romans 1:18-25.

And Luke tells us that the speech was successful in stopping the intended sacrifice. These people who have caused Paul and Barnabas a lot of trouble are continually following them around and they won’t stop until Paul is dead.

“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city”. Acts 14:19-20

Luke tells us that these hostile Jews from Antioch and Iconium soon came to Lystra and persuaded the people to stone Paul. And so they dragged his seemingly lifeless body outside the city, thinking he was dead.

Luke says that the disciples gathered around him, perhaps in mourning and the next thing you know Paul’s back up on his feet and what does he do? He walked straight back into the city, spent the night there and left the next morning with Barnabas.

But Paul decided he had unfinished business to attend to and stayed another night but he wasn’t finished in that city as we are about to read.

The Return To Antioch in Syria

“The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust”. Acts 14:21-23

Paul and Barnabas travelled some 60 miles to the east to the city of Derbe, which was on the eastern most edge of Roman Galatia. And it seems here at least their message was well received because they won a large number of disciples over the Lord.

And then what did they do? They returned to the very cities where they were receiving a lot of persecution. But they went back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch for a reason.

And that reason was to urge the brethren to remain faithful in spite of the persecution which was sure to come and to choose men in each city to serve as elders in the church.

Obviously, their appointment was intended to help strengthen the church since Paul and Barnabas also prayed and fasted with them while urging them to rely on the Lord in whom they had placed their trust.

“After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they 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. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.” Acts 14:24-28

Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps all the way back to Antioch, where they had first been separated to the work. And when they returned there, they got the whole church to assemble and related to them all God had accomplished on their journey.

Notice two important components about report recording.

First of all, they wanted the whole church to know what had been done because they were the ones who sent them on this mission trip in the first place. And that’s what they did, they gave them an honest report of all the good things and the things which needed more prayer.

Secondly, which I believe is highly important, they gave God all the credit. God did it all and so they gave the credit where credit is due.

And so, Paul and Barnabas finished their reports and stayed for a good while with the brethren in Antioch.

Go To Acts 15

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Isaiah 53:6

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