Acts 14

acts-14.jpgGreetings!  We know so much about Paul because of the letters he wrote and his travels documented here in the Book of Acts.  Yet notice how often he is referred to with others, and how many people he thanks in his letters.  Here he is teaming with Barnabas.

In Iconium

14     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. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 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. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news.

As recounted elsewhere, Paul suffered greatly for his faith – beatings, stoning, jail, forty lashes on at least five occasions, and more.  Fortunately, as in this case, he sometimes escaped without harm.

In Lystra and Derbe

8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

As with Jesus, healings by the Apostles were dramatic, complete and immediate.

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 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.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “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. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 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.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

God’s “common grace” is available to everyone (food, water, clothing, life itself), but we tend to take it for granted.

Paul and Barnabas were preaching accurately, but some hearers misunderstood it and started to worship them. 

19 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. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Like I just said, sometimes Paul didn’t get away without harm.  I can’t imagine being stoned so severely that people think you are dead, and then getting up and going back to the city!

The Return to Antioch in Syria

21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 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. 23 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. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

Paul’s message in v. 22 is different than what many “health and wealth gospel” and other teachers preach.  There is a reason that many people take the wide gate instead of the narrow gate (Matthew 7).  Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light because He is with us, but being a Christian can involve hardship.  We won’t regret sacrifices made for Christ, but we shouldn’t soft-sell the Christian life to people.  If we only tell about the peace, joy and love we aren’t telling the whole story.

26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 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. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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2 Responses

  1. “As recounted elsewhere, Paul suffered greatly for his faith – beatings, stoning, jail, forty lashes on at least five occasions, and more. Fortunately, as in this case, he sometimes escaped without harm.” – don’t forget he also had the distinct pleasure of being bitten by a very poisonous snake and was shipwrecked, too, not to mention all the other maladies he noted but didn’t expound upon.

    v. 5 – Stoning was a Jewish mode of execution for blasphemy (remember Stephen).

    v. 12 – The identification of Zeus with Barnabas may indicate that his appearance was more imposing… This incident may have been occasioned by an ancient legend that told of a supposed visit to the same general area by Zeus and Hermes. They were, however, not recognized by anyone except an old couple. So the people of Lystra were determined not to allow such an oversight to happen again.

  2. Hi Rebecca – thanks as always for the insights. You always find something new I hadn’t heard of or thought of!

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