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Read Acts 14:1-28 (Perhaps people could share this reading)



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Following the expulsion of Paul and Barnabus from Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:50-51) they travelled another 85 miles further into Galatia to reach Iconium.


1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.

2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other 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 perform signs and wonders.


Paul and Barnabus had been led to Iconium by the Holy Spirit, and it was the Lord who used their preaching to great effect (v3). Yes they met opposition, but that no longer concerned them and they ‘spent considerable time there’. As always:


4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.


The Gospel always brings division, with those who refuse to believe sometimes violently opposed to those who bring the message.

Why do you think this is?

Satan himself is diametrically opposed to the work of Jesus – he will do all he can to disrupt the Gospel.


5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to ill-treat them and stone them.


This does not appear to be an attempt to hold a proper trial (which would have had to have been be a Roman one), more an inciting of a mob by the Jews – stoning was a particularly Jewish punishment.


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 gospel.


Although around thirty miles away it was safely over the border into Lycaonia: once a separate region before Roman unification but where it still maintained its own language.


8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way 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.


Faith is a two-way process: it is a gift of God but it also has to be exercised by us! Here Paul had the spiritual insight to recognise that healing was possible.


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.


There was no mention of preaching in a Synagogue; perhaps for the first time they spoke directly to gentiles, and the open area just inside a city’s gate was traditionally a recognised meeting place. But it was not initially their words that had the greatest effect. If they could work miracles, they must be gods.


Paul and Barnabus would have been ignorant of what was intended, not understanding what they were shouting (v11).


14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 ‘Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the 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.


But crowds can be very fickle. Thinking back to the Easter story, how soon did the crowds that shouted ‘hosanna’, then shout ‘crucify him’?


Here the crowds were already worked up into a kind of frenzy. It appeared that the people were upset that these miracle-workers were not after all gods; added to this,  Paul’s message was that Zeus, who everyone knew was a god, was actually worthless (v15).


Now, just like Saul travelling to Damascus, some Jews from Antioch (13:50) and Iconium (14:5) were still intent on getting rid of Paul and Barnabus, and they had set out to find them. It seems they had arrived at the city gate in the middle of the uproar.


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.


Look at 2 Timothy 3:10-11

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance,  persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.


It is easy to read verses and then move on without really understanding. Stoning has been described as death by torture.

How bad is it to be stoned to death? Remember these were not small stones – more likely brick sized. How many had to be thrown before the person lost consciousness? (The Jews had decreed that stones must be large enough to cause damage but not so big as to be able to kill with one blow: no individual could then be guilty of breaking the 6th commandment).


Here the mob had become wild and they took little persuading to stone Paul. Then, when their fury had subsided and the people realised what they had done, they began to come to their senses. They hurriedly disposed of Paul’s body by dumping him outside the gate, and the crowd then quickly melted away.


Presumably the Jews from Antioch and Iconium, having achieved their aim, also returned home.

  

But some had already responded to the Gospel message and these new disciples did not desert Paul.


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


What do you make of the phrase ‘he got up’?

What did the disciples do when they ‘gathered round him’?

No – we’re not told but I’m sure some at least were praying!


I believe the Lord did for Paul what he had done to the lame man. He wasn’t ‘just unconscious’: he had been severely injured – enough for everyone to believe he was dead. Now he was fully restored: ‘he got up and went back into the city’.


Not only that but the next day he was quite well enough to travel – but note:  they moved on to Derbe, another sixty miles further into Lycaonia – and it is likely they were walking.

 

Would we have continued, or turned for home?


21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,


It was right to press on, and it seems there was no more opposition; instead the word was received by many. After this they turned for home, but not skirting the towns where they had experienced trouble – rather they deliberately sought out the Christians in order to build them up


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.


In each of these three towns there were probably still tensions with the Jews who regarded those who preached that ‘Jesus is Lord’ were no better that blasphemers who worshipped ‘other gods’ and must be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 13:6-10 – the charge that ultimately sent Jesus to the cross).

But not only Jews would be against them: those of other faiths and none would all take exception to the claims of Christ.


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.


It was important that the new churches had leaders who were recognised as spirit-filled, Godly men. Note again that prayer and fasting were fundamental to the Apostles way of life


24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.


They had set out for home, but they were not in a hurry – where they saw an opportunity to preach the Gospel they took it.


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 a door of faith to the Gentiles.


What an amazing time of thanksgiving. I can’t imagine it was a short meeting!


28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.


It was now around seventeen years (See Galatians 1:18, and 2:1) since the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the consequent birth of the church in Jerusalem. It was still regarded as the ‘mother church’ and important decisions would still be referred to it, as we will see in our next study.



There have been many attempts to date the events of the New Testament –

I have found the following useful:

https://www.esv.org/resources/esv-global-study-bible/chart_40_00_nt_timeline/





Acts 15Acts 13








Free small group Bible Study guides, commentary, lessons, questions and other material. For the PDF version click   HERE  

Acts 14 Paul & Barnabus to Iconium, Lystra healed lame man, treated as gods - then stoned. Preached in Derbe, Perga. Attalia.