Acts Chapter Fourteen

 

Read Acts 14:1-7

 

v1.  “AND IT CAME TO PASS IN ICONIUM; THAT THEY WENT BOTH TOGETHER INTO THE SYNAGOGUE OF THE JEWS, AND SO SPAKE, THAT A GREAT MULTITUDE BOTH OF THE JEWS AND ALSO OF THE GREEKS BELIEVED.”

 

            Iconium is a city in the province of Lycaonia, further inland on the peninsula of Asia Minor, north of Lystra and Derbe.  They both went into the synagogue, as they did in Antioch of Pisidia, taking advantage of the Jews already being assembled and preached to them.  Luke tells us that a great multitude believed both Jews and Greeks.

 

v2.  “BUT THE UNBELIEVING JEWS STIRRED UP THE GENTILES, AND MADE THEIR MINDS EVIL AFFECTED AGAINST THE BRETHREN.”

 

            This sounds a little like Israel today doesn’t it?  They didn’t believe Paul and Barnabas but that wasn’t enough; they had to stir up the other people in the city who otherwise probably wouldn’t have given these traveling, preaching Jews a second thought.

 

v3.  “LONG TIME THEREFORE ABODE THEY SPEAKING BOLDLY IN THE LORD, WHICH GAVE TESTIMONY UNTO THE WORD OF HIS GRACE, AND GRANTED SIGNS AND WONDERS TO BE DONE BY THEIR HANDS.”

 

            We don’t know how long this “long time” was but it could have been several weeks or months.  Even though the Jews had stirred up the Gentiles and had generated a situation that was probably not comfortable for Paul and Barnabas, they continued to teach and preach and apparently taught many.  We have the same situation here as recorded in the last verse of Mark.

 

Mark 16:20  “AND THEY WENT FORTH, AND PREACHED EVERY WHERE, THE LORD WORKING WITH them, AND CONFIRMING THE WORD WITH SIGNS FOLLOWING, AMEN.”

 

Their relationship to God; the validity of what they were teaching; was confirmed by signs and wonders much the same as it was by Jesus himself.  This is God bearing them witness as we’re told by the Hebrew writer.

 

Hebrews 2:4  GOD ALSO BEARING them WITNESS, BOTH WITH SIGNS AND WONDERS, AND WITH DIVERS MIRACLES, AND GIFTS OF THE HOLY GHOST, ACCORDING TO HIS OWN WILL?”

 

v4.  “BUT THE MULTITUDE OF THE CITY WAS DIVIDED: AND PART HELD WITH THE JEWS, AND PART WITH THE APOSTLES.”

 

            but the multitude of the city was divided;  what happened in this city?  They were sufficiently stirred up by the preaching of the gospel that they took sides, they energized the entire city.  Now we don’t know how big a city this was; it’s in an area that is fertile so it is probably a fair sized city.  They took this thing to heart to the extent that the entire city divided over it, this controversy has energized an entire city.  Do you think we would be able to do that in any of our cities today?  Unfortunately few are moved today by the preaching and teaching of the plain and unaltered Gospel of Christ.

 

v5.  “AND WHEN THERE WAS AN ASSAULT MADE BOTH OF THE GENTILES, AND ALSO OF THE JEWS WITH THEIR RULERS, TO USE them DESPITFULLY, AND TO STONE THEM.”

 

            This is starting to get physical.  We have the words assault, body harm being involved; they grew so emotional about the preaching of Paul and Barnabas that they were ready to do go war in the streets.  The rulers of the Jews were involved and they even wanted to stone Paul and Barnabas.  Now I’ve seen men get excited over things, usually something that didn’t amount to much.  Two brothers almost fighting in the center aisle of the church building during a gospel meeting because the preaching was a hobby rider, you know what that is don’t you?  Someone who teaches his own ideas for God’s word, he usually has one thing that he harps on continually and that’s what we call his hobby.  This one happened to think that every worship service to God had to start with a prayer to be scriptural; it couldn’t be done any other way.  His gospel meeting lasted only three nights, Granddad fired him and sent him on his way.  So we have this city about to take to the streets in physical mayhem over the teaching of Paul and Barnabas.

 

v6.  “THEY WERE WARE OF it, AND FLED UNTO LYSTRA AND DERBE, CITIES OF LYCAONIA, AND UNTO THE REGION THAT LIETH ROUND ABOUT:”

 

            We’re simply told that they were aware of the problem and fled south into the other two major cities of the province of Lycaonia and preached in them and the region round about them.

 

v7.  “AND THERE THEY PREACHED THE GOSPEL.”

 

Read Acts 14:8-18

 

v8.  “AND THERE SAT A CERTAIN MAN AT LYSTRA, IMPOTENT IN HIS FEET, BEING A CRIPPLE FROM HIS MOTHER’S WOMB, WHO NEVER HAD WALKED:

 

            Paul and perhaps Barnabas are apparently speaking to a group in the city of Lystra.   This city is still in the province of Lycaonia as we noted in verse 6 just a few miles south of Iconium.  This man, it says, was impotent in his feet.  He couldn’t walk and hadn’t been able to do so since he was born.  It makes no mention of him being a beggar as we find in Acts 3, but apparently he’s sitting listening to Paul.

 

v9.  “THE SAME HEARD PAUL SPEAK: WHO STEDFASTLY BEHOLDING HIM, AND PERCEIVING THAT HE HAD FAITH TO BE HEALED.”

 

            Brother Boles says that there was no synagogue in Lystra so Paul was speaking in a public place, probably an open air market.  This crippled man was in Paul’s audience.  Paul, the scripture tells us, was “STEDFASTLY BEHOLDING HIM” or “WHO FASTENING HIS EYES UPON HIM”, “PERCEIVED”, the ASV, says “SEEING”.  Does that mean that Paul could read his mind?  Possibly; at the very least it means that Paul in his observation saw that this man had sufficient faith to be healed of his affliction.  Again we have also the phrase “A CERTAIN MAN” perhaps even a man that God had prepared just for this purpose.

 

v10.  “SAID WITH A LOUD VOICE, STAND UPRIGHT ON THY FEET.  AND HE LEAPED AND WALKED.”

 

            Now that was a something different.  Paul sees this man listening intently to him, observes that he has the faith to be healed and commands him in a loud voice to stand upright.  But the man didn’t just do that did he?  The scripture says that he leaped and walked.  The language translated means that he leaped up, jumped up, and began walking.  It was as though he had never been crippled and the transformation from being a cripple was instantaneous.

 

v11.  “AND WHEN THE PEOPLE SAW WHAT PAUL HAD DONE, THEY LIFTED UP THEIR VOICES, SAYING IN THE SPEECH OF LYCAONIA, THE GODS ARE COME DOWN TO US IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN.”

 

            There are a number of things that we can observe from this verse.  When these people saw this lame man leap up and walk, they were pretty astonished weren’t they?  They had never seen anything like this before and do you think there were any Jews there, at least in any number?  Probably not; because of what follows.

We must assume that Paul was speaking a language other than that common to this region, why?  Because when the people spoke in the dialect or language of the Lycaonians Paul and Barnabas didn’t comprehend what they were planning.  They want to call Paul and Barnabas gods as in the Roman gods worshipped in most of this area of the world.  But Paul and Barnabas don’t appear to perceive their purpose until the oxen and garlands arrived for the sacrifice.

 

v12.  “AND THEY CALLED BARNABAS, JUPITER; AND PAUL, MERCURIUS, BECAUSE HE WAS THE CHIEF SPEAKER.”

 

            Jupiter is the Roman king of Gods, the Greeks called him Zeus.  Mercurius or Mercury, Hermes to the Greeks, was a messenger god, we see him used in various settings today as the one with winged feet.  Now why would these people think Paul and Barnabas were gods come to visit them other than the fact that Paul healed this man?  They thought this because in Greek and Roman mythology the gods wandered about in the land in human form and visited mankind.

 

v13.  “THEN THE PRIEST OF JUPITER, WHICH WAS BEFORE THEIR CITY, BROUGHT OXEN AND GARLANDS UNTO THE GATES, AND WOULD HAVE DONE SACRIFICE WITH THE PEOPLE.”

 

            What was before the city?  A statue and a  temple to Jupiter with priests and the priests to serve him.  So they bring the oxen and garlands and prepare to offer a sacrifice.  We’re told that this sacrifice was the blood of these animals, poured out on the god’s altar and then a feast was held in which the flesh of the oxen that were offered was eaten.  This is what they were preparing to do.

 

v14.  which WHEN THE APOSTLES, BARNABAS AND PAUL, HEARD of, THEY RENT THEIR CLOTHES, AND RAN IN AMONG THE PEOPOLE, CRYING OUT,”

 

            They didn’t know what these people were planning until the sacrifice arrived.  Since they could preach in Greek, the common language of the day and be understood they didn’t need to use the local dialect so they didn’t know what was going on until the people were ready to make a sacrifice unto them.  When they understood they rent, tore, their clothes, why?  This was a common method used to display distress and they were distressed that they were about to be worshipped.  They also ran in amongst the people crying out that they should not do what they were planning to do.

 

v15.  “AND SAYING, SIRS, WHY DO YE THESE THINGS?  WE ALSO ARE MEN OF LIKE PASSIONS WITH YOU, AND PREACH UNTO YOU THAT YE SHOULD TURN FROM THESE VANITIES UNTO THE LIVING GOD, WHICH MADE HEAVEN, AND EARTH, AND THE SEA, AND ALL THINGS THAT ARE THEREIN:

 

            They stop the proceedings; asking why are you doing these things?  What does the phrase “LIKE PASSIONS” mean?  We are just like you, same thoughts, same experiences as men, same flesh and blood.  No need here to worship these two men.  They will not accept it.  We find the same language in James:

 

James 5:17  “ELIAS WAS A MAN SUBJECT TO LIKE PASSIONS AS WE ARE, AND HE PRAYED EARNESTLY THAT IT MIGHT NOT RAIN: AND IT RAINED NOT ON THE EARTH BY THE SPACE OF THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS.”

 

and the idols weren’t anything or didn’t mean anything, they were just a hunks of stone or perhaps precious metal:

 

I Corinthians 8:4   “AS CONCERNING THEREFORE THE EATING OF THOSE THINGS THAT ARE OFFERED IN SACRIFICE UNTO IDOLS, WE KNOW THAT AN IDOL IS NOTHING IN THE WORLD, AND THAT there is NONE OTHER GOD BUT ONE.”

 

            This also opens up the opportunity, since everybody is in a worshipping mood, to tell them about Jesus Christ and how they may obtain real salvation.

            They start off to tell them about the living God, Jehovah.

 

Psalms 33:6  BY THE WORD OF THE LORD WERE THE HEAVENS MADE; AND ALL THE HOST OF THEM BY THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH.”

 

v16:  “WHO IN TIMES PAST SUFFERED ALL NATIONS TO WALK IN THEIR OWN WAYS.”

 

            God did in times past allow nations to walk in their own ways.  That wasn’t the way He wanted it but since we are free moral agents who can choose to follow Him or not follow Him that is the way it’s been since the beginning of time:

 

Psalms 81:10-12  I am THE LORD THY GOD, WHICH BROUGHT THEE OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT: OPEN THY MOUTH WIDE, AND I WILL FILL IT.  BUT MY PEOPLE WOULD NOT HEARKEN TO MY VOICE; AND ISRAEL WOULD NONE OF ME.  SO I GAVE THEM UP UNTO THEIR OWN HEARTS’ LUST: and THEY WALKED IN THEIR OWN COUNSELS.”

 

v17.  “NEVERTHELESS HE LEFT NOT HIMSELF WITHOUT WITNESS, IN THAT HE DID GOOD, AND GAVE US RAIN FROM HEAVEN, AND FRUITFUL SEASONS, FILLING OUR HEARTS WITH FOOD AND GLADNESS.”

 

            The Living God that Paul is preaching to these Gentles is not like the cold statue of Jupiter that they have standing outside the gates of their city.  This is probably the first time they have heard anything like this.  Only the living God can bring rain from heaven and provide the means for us to put food on our tables; Jeremiah asks the question:

 

Jeremiah 14:22  ARE THERE any AMONG THE VANITIES OF THE GENTILES THAT CAN CAUSE RAIN?  OR CAN THE HEAVENS GIVE SHOWERS?  art NOT THOU HE, O LORD OUR GOD?  THEREFORE WE WILL WAIT UPON THEE: FOR THOU HAST MADE ALL THESE things.”

 

Paul uses this same logic in later writing:

 

Romans 1:19-20  BECAUSE THAT WHICH MAY BE KNOWN OF GOD IS MANIFEST IN THEM; FOR GOD HATH SHOWED it UNTO THEM.  FOR THE INVISIBLE THINGS OF HIM FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD ARE CLEARLY SEEN, BEING UNDERSTOOD BY THE THINGS THAT ARE MADE, even HIS ETERNAL POWER AND GODHEAD; SO THAT THEY ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE:”

 

v18.  “AND WITH THESE SAYINGS SCARCE RESTRAINED THEY THE PEOPLE, THAT THEY HAD NOT DONE SACRIFICE UNTO THEM.”

 

            We don’t know much about what Paul and Barnabas taught at Lystra but Luke tells us that these people, even after Paul had stopped them, still wanted to sacrifice to them to the extent that they could hardly be restrained.  Even though there was apparently no synagogue; there were some Jews at Lystra and some were converted, do you remember how we know?

 

Acts 16:1  “THEN CAME HE TO DERBE AND LYSTRA: AND, BEHOLD, A CERTAIN DISCIPLE WAS THERE, NAMED TIMOTHEUS, THE SON OF A CERTAIN WOMAN, WHICH WAS A JEWESS, AND BELIEVED; BUT HIS FATHER was A GREEK.”

 

Timothy’s mother was a Jewess and believed but his father was a Greek, and apparently didn’t believe.  His grandmother was probably there as well.

 

II Timothy 1:5  WHEN I CALL TO REMEMBRANCE THE UNFEIGNED FAITH THAT IS IN THEE, WHICH DWELT FIRST IN THY GRANDMOTHER LOIS, AND THY MOTHER EUNICE; AND I AM PERSUADED THAT IN THEE ALSO.”

 

Read Acts 14:19-28

 

v19.  “AND THERE CAME THITHER certain JEWS FROM ANTIOCH AND ICONIUM, WHO PERSUADED THE PEOPLE, AND, HAVING STONED PAUL, DREW him OUT OF THE CITY, SUPPOSING HE HAD BEEN DEAD.”

 

            Paul’s enemies not only follow him from one place to another; they stir up the people, have him stoned and dump him outside the city; probably on the garbage heap, thinking he’s dead.  Do you know how far they traveled just to do this?  About 80 to 100 miles through what my maps show as fairly mountainous terrain, not easy traveling.  What about the change of heart among these Gentiles here?  Wasn’t it just a verse or two back that they wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas?  Is this the only time that Paul was stoned?

 

II Corinthians 11:25  THRICE WAS I BEATEN WITH RODS, ONCE WAS I STONED, THRICE I SUFFERED SHIPWRECK, A NIGHT AND A DAY I HAVE BEEN IN THE DEEP;”

 

v20.  “HOWBEIT, AS THE DISCIPLES STOOD ROUND ABOUT HIM, HE ROSE UP, AND CAME INTO THE CITY: AND THE NEXT DAY HE DEPARTED WITH BARNABAS TO DERBE.”

 

            The disciples were gathered round about him.  Perhaps they were planning his burial or just standing mourning his passing; we’re not told; but he is not dead; gets up and goes into the city.  He rests for the night but leaves the next day and goes to Derbe; another city in Lycaonia.

 

v21.  “AND WHEN THEY HAD PREACHED THE GOSPEL TO THAT CITY, AND HAD TAUGHT MANY, THEY RETURNED AGAIN TO LYSTRA, AND to ICONIUM, AND ANTIOCH.”

 

            We’re told that Derbe is not as large a city as Lystra so when they had preached and evangelized that small city they were ready to return back through the cities where they had taught before.  What part of the great commission are they carrying out by going back through these cities?

 

Matthew 28:20  TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU: AND LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, even UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD.  AMEN.”

 

v22.  “CONFIRMING THE SOULS OF THE DISCIPLES, and EXHORTING THEM TO CONTINUE IN THE FAITH, AND THAT WE MUST THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”

 

            We’re told that they confirmed the souls of the disciples.  What does that mean? And how did they do that?  It means that they worked to build up, edify, strengthen and encourage them; they exhorted them to stand fast in the faith.  The encouraged them not to waiver, not to let problems and the cares of this world distract them from their ultimate goal of heaven.  They would have to face trials, troubles and persecutions; this was characterized by Jesus as bearing a cross:

 

Matthew 10:38  AND HE THAT TAKETH NOT HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOWETH AFTER ME, IS NOT WORTHY OF ME.”

                                                                        

and described by Paul later as simply that which was to be expected if we’re heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ:

 

Romans 8:17  AND IF CHILDREN, THEN HEIRS; HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST; IF SO BE THAT WE SUFFER WITH him, THAT WE MAY BE ALSO GLORIFIED TOGETHER.”

 

v23.  “AND WHEN THEY HAD ORDAINED ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH, AND HAD PRAYED WITH FASTING, THEY COMMENDED THEM TO THE LORD, ON WHOM THEY BELIEVED.”

 

            They appointed or ordained elders in every church.  How can that be, these congregations are but babes?  Don’t we have to have men who are not new to the faith, men that have a proven record, men who rule their own houses well, etc. as we find in the Paul’s direction to Timothy and Titus?

            That the church should have some governmental structure has always been recognized by God.  These groups of disciples, local churches, local congregations were given elders, that is overseers, presbyters.  Brother Boles says “men of age and dignity; these leaders were selected from the elderly men who presided over the assemblies, and managed the affairs of the church.”  There were a plurality, they were selected or appointed and we’re not told what process or qualifications they used.  Brother Boles again says “Since the New Testament does not tell us how the elders were appointed, it seems that any method which promotes unity and does not violate a principle may be used.”  And, of course today, as I’m sure these did, those appointed must meet God’s qualifications.

 

v24.  “AND AFTER THEY HAD PASSED THROUGHOUT PISIDIA, THEY CAME TO PAMPHYLIA.”

 

            They have retraced their steps, back through each of the cities that they had stopped in before to preach.  And as they traveled, they have strengthened, encouraged and edified the churches.  They come back to Pampyhlia on the seacoast.

 

v25.  AND WHEN THEY HAD PREACHED THE WORD IN PERGA, THEY WENT DOWN INTO ATTALIA:”

 

            This is another seacoast city, just west of Perga.

 

v26.  “AND THENCE SAILED TO ANTIOCH, FROM WHENCE THEY HAD BEEN RECOMMENDED TO THE GRACE OF GOD FOR THE WORK WHICH THEY FULFILLED.”

 

            We remember from the early part of Chapter 13, they were sent on this missionary journey by the congregation at Antioch of Syria.  So they return to make their report.  We don’t know how long this journey took, whether days or weeks or months, apparently not days, but neither years either.  We’re also not told about any success in establishing more churches nor are we told about any further persecution at this time such as they had encountered at Antioch and Iconium.

 

v27.  “AND WHEN THEY WERE COME, AND HAD GATHERED THE CHURCH TOGETHER, THEY REHEARSED ALL THAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM, AND HOW HE HAD OPENED THE DOOR OF FAITH TO THE GENTILES.”

 

            They gathered the church together.  They had been sent by this group of people and did the same thing that many of our missionary friends today. Periodically they return home, report to the congregations who are supporting them and seek to raise new funds if that has become necessary.  Paul and Barnabas tell of the church plantings and I’m sure, the persecutions, the opposition of the Jews and all that there is to be told about their work.  Probably because the congregation at Antioch, Syria was probably mostly Jewish they tell about God has opened the door of faith to the Gentiles and how well they have received Him.

 

v28.  “AND THERE THEY ABODE LONG TIME WITH THE DISCIPLES.”

 

            We’re told simply that they stayed a long time at Antioch.