About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapters 14

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ch. 14:1-7    ch. 14:8-20    ch. 14:21-28

 

 In Iconium (ch. 14:1 - 7)

Verse 1 confirms what we have said about Paulís way of ministry.  Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue to preach.   To me it is interesting to note that even though Paul said that he was going to take the gospel to the Gentiles in the last chapter, the first thing he does in Iconium is to go to the Jewish synagogue.  He must still feel that the synagogue is a good place to start preaching when entering a new city.  Remember, Romans 1:16 tells us that the Biblical concept is to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. 

Luke says that Paul and Barnabas spoke so effectively that a number of Jews and Gentiles believed.  There are two things to note here.  Both Paul and Barnabas spoke.  The second thing is their "effective speaking".  Luke is basically saying that they did a great job in delivering the message, although we know that behind this great message was the Holy Spirit, as seen in the accompanying miracles. (verse 3)

As in everywhere Paul and Barnabas went, some Jews did not believe or appreciate their message, as seen here in verse 2.  In this case those "who refused" to believe, as Luke puts it, "stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers".  This time the Jews didnít stir up other Jews, but they stirred up Gentiles, knowing that if Paul and Barnabas could get on the wrong side of the Gentiles, they'd be in greater trouble.

Note that certain Jews refused to believe.  This was an aggressive and calculated act of unbelief based on the clear preaching of the gospel.  It wasn't that these men didn't understand what Paul and Barnabas were telling them, because they did, and, they simply rejected it.

Note also the words "poisoned the minds" of the Gentiles.  This is a good description of what really happened here.  Many of these Gentile men would have been more intellectually orientated than emotionally orientated, thus, the poisoning of their minds.  .   When it comes right down to the bottom line, mental poisoning is from the devil.  The goal of the devil is to change the way we think.  He can do this much easier when people believe that one's thinking processes aren't important.  Our dumbed down culture, both in the church and in the world, makes it easier for the devil to accomplish his goal of poisoning people's minds.      

Verse 3 tells us that Paul and Barnabas stayed around Iconium for a while preaching the gospel, confirming what they were saying with miraculous signs.  In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul teaches that signs, wonders, and miracles, mark the sign of a true apostle.  If there were no miraculous signs, Paul would not call the preacher an apostle. 

In verse 4 we see that the whole city was divided.  Some were for the apostles and some weren't.  This is the first mention that Paul was an apostle.  It's also the first mention of men other than the original twelve apostles as being apostles.  This clearly tells us that there were more apostles than the original twelve, and that includes both Paul and Barnabas here.    

In verses 5 through 7 we see that both Jews and Gentiles decided that they would stone Paul and Barnabas.  Somehow the two men found out about this plot and fled to Lystra and Derbe where they continued to preach the good news of Jesus.   We see here that God's will for Paul included much suffering, as was made known in Acts 9 when Paul and Ananias met for prayer.  Paul and Barnabas didn't give up at the first sign of trouble and suffering.  The suffering simply helped them to be motivated to move on to the next town and continue their mission.

In Lystra And Derbe (ch 14:8 - 20)

In verse 8 we see the city of Lystra mentioned.  This is where Timothy grew up.  Paul and Timothy would become fellow co-workers in the service of the Lord.

While preaching in Lystra Paul glanced over to see a man that was lame from birth.  Luke notes that Paul felt that this man "ad faith to be healed".  Paul did not pray for him, nor did he lay hands on this man.  He simply said, "Stand up on your feet", as seen in verse 10.   

This event tells us a few things.  One thing it tells us is that Paul had the ability to heal this man.  He did not ask Jesus to heal him, but as Jesusí representative, acting in the place of Jesus, Paul just pronounced this man healed. Obviously Paul had the gift of healing, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as he teaches in 1 Corinthians 12. 

The fact that Paul just said the word and the man was healed tells us that there is no real formula when it comes to healing.  Sometimes a simple word is said, as in this case, and as in the case of Peter and the lame man in Acts 3.  Sometimes people lay hands on the sick and they are healed.  Sometimes there is special prayer to the Lord that brings forth the healing.  Simply put, don't doctrinalize a formula for healing. 

There is a difference between this man being healed and the lame man in Acts 3.  In chapter 3 Peter pronounced healing, yet it appears that it was Peterís faith that caused the man to be healed.  In this case, Paul saw that the lame man had faith to be healed, so Paul healed him.  Again, there is no special formula. One man had faith.  One man didnít seem to have faith.

I don't believe those of the hyper faith persuasion can use this verse to support their thinking that one's faith alone can bring healing to someone.  This lame man had just heard the gospel and in response, he simply believed what Paul said was true.  He didn't have great faith.  His faith was new and fledgling and for that Jesus used Paul to heal him.  

I'd like to comment at this point on the hyper faith prosperity teaching that is prevalent among some Christians today.  This man most likely had less faith than most Christians today.  If healing of our sick bodies is purely a matter of our faith, then, because we have more faith than this man, we should be healed, but we know this is not the case.  This clearly tells me that there is more to healing than having faith.   There is the matter of God's will.  There is the matter of sin, both in the lives of the individual and also collectively in the church that I believe slows down the healing processes.

Verse 11 says that those who saw this miracle felt that the "gods had come down in human form". They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes.  This miracle so impressed the people that even the priest of Zeusís temple brought bulls to sacrifice to Paul.  These are pretty important Greek gods, but that did not mean anything to Paul and Barnabas.   Paul and Barnabas had a choice to make here.  They could have accepted the superstar mentality of the crowd and have it go to their heads, or they could have, as they did, deflected it to follow Jesus.  In our superstar Christian mentality today, many would not have done that.     

The reason why they called Paul Hermes was because he was the chief spokesman.  We learn something here. Paul was the main speaker. 

Something to note here is that we derive our English word "hermeneutics" from the name of the Greek god Hermes, because Hermes means "the speaker of the gods", thus, hermeneutics is the art of interpreting and understanding someone's speaking or writing.  It's simply the art of common communication.     

In verse 14 we see Paul and Barnabasí response to the idea that they were gods.  They ripped their clothes in disgust in the midst of the crowd.  The ripping of clothes was a common jester to show disgust.  Most likely they ripped their inner tunic, which would be a thinner material than their outer cloak.  They would rip it from top downward about six inches or so.  This would signify to others that something blasphemous had just occurred.  Being thought of as gods was intolerable to Paul and Barnabas. 

Upon ripping their tunic, they ran out into the street and told the crowd that they were just men, and nothing more. In verse 15 Paul said, "We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God".  What were the worthless things Paul was telling these people to turn from?  The worthless things were the very gods they claim Paul and Barnabas to be and the idols associated with these gods.  These people should stop their worship of multiple gods and worship the one and only true God who created all things.

We need to know that Paul was speaking mainly to Gentile pagans here and his message was different than the message he would have spoken to Jews.  He doesn't start by quoting Old Testament passages.  He starts his message with pagan gods. 

Paul tells these people to believe in the "living God".  By placing the word "living" in front of God Paul is suggesting that their gods aren't alive.  Then, by saying this living God is the creator of all you see, tells these people that He is the one and only creator God.  He is the true God of the universe.    

Verse 16 is interesting.  Paul says, "In the past, He has let all nations go their own way".  Paul says that God has stepped back, at least to some degree, from the affairs of men and nations.  He has let them go their own way.  This is similar to what Paul says in Romans 1 and 2 when he tells his readers that God has given sinful men over to their sins of choice.  In both of these cases God has basically said, "If sin is the direction you want to go, then go, but you will reap the consequences of your decision".  We should realize from many Old Testament passages that God does allow men and nations to go their own way, but that doesn't stop Him from stepping into the affairs of men and nations in judgment.      

If God has let nations go their own way in the past, it appears to me that He does the same today.  He wonít make men or nations do His will, but as in Old Testament times, God still judges men and nations today.

Remember Paul is speaking to Gentiles at this moment of time.  He speaks of things that they would understand.  He does not talk to them about the Law of Moses or Jewish history.  He speaks to them about the rain and crops in the field as we see in verse 16.  He does the same in the first chapter of his book to the Romans.  These are things that these people would understand.  This is important for those who want to preach the gospel.  It is important in your preaching to use analogies that those to whom you are preaching will understand.  Of course, such things vary from place to place and culture to culture.   

Note in verse 17 that Paul says that God's creation gives people joy.  We don't worship God's creation, but we certainly can enjoy His creation, even in its fallen condition.  What Paul is saying here is his first gospel preaching that is recorded to the Gentile world. 

In verse 18 Luke records that the people still had a hard time not wanting to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. 

In verse 19 we see the crowd was pretty fickle because Luke tells us that some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and won them over to their side.  Paul's words had a hard time convincing these people that they weren't gods but Jews seemed to be able to do what Paul couldn't do.

The resulted of the Jews persuasion ended up in Paul being stoned by the very same crowd that wanted to sacrifice to him.  They thought they had killed Paul so they dragged him outside the city, yet he wasnít dead.  When certain brothers gathered around Paul, he got up and went back into the city for the evening and left for Derbe the next day.    

Some have suggested that Paul was raised from the dead here but I don't believe the text states that Paul died.

The amazing thing to me is that once Paul got up from this bloody stoning, he went right back into the city where he was stoned.  He was one hard headed, Holy Spirit, filled man. 

 

 

The Return To Antioch Syria (ch. 14:21 - 28)

At this point Paul and Barnabas head back to Antioch in Syria where they started out.  In verse 21 Luke records that they won a large number of disciples in Derbe.  After leaving Derbe, they headed back to Lystra and Iconium, encouraging and strengthening the people they had won to Jesus.

Luke calls these Christians disciples.  The simplest definition of a disciple is one who is in the process of learning.  Of course, these people would be learning about the Lord Jesus through Paul and Barnabas.  This does not negate the fact that these disciples would have learned directly from the Holy Spirit as well, but we do need to understand Paul's roll in this.  

In verse 22 Paul specifically encouraged them to remain in the faith.  This would suggest to me that if he wanted these disciples to remain in the faith, it would seem probable that they could depart from the faith.  If this indeed is the case, then the doctrine of "eternal security:", or, "once saved always saved", is unbiblical.  If we enter salvation by faith, and then we lay aside this faith, the logical conclusion is that we lay aside our salvation.  As I have always said, "faith saves us and unbelief unsaves us.

Staying in the faith simply means to continue on trusting Jesus because faith is trust.  I believe in today's world we've lost the true meaning of faith.  We still know what trust means, and I like the word trust better than faith at this point for this very reason.  It's not that the word "faith" is no longer acceptable, because it is.  We need to be re-educated when it comes to the meaning of faith.  This is true for many other Biblical words as well that have lost their original meaning.    

In verse 22 Paul and Barnabas told these new converts that "we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God".  For Christians in those days, hardship due to persecution was the normal experience.  These people saw Paul and Barnabas being driven out of their cities.  They saw, or at least new of, Paul being stoned.  If this could happen to Paul and Barnabas, it could surely happen to them.  Becoming a Christian for these people was a real commitment.  It was not just another activity to add to a busy life. 

It may be debatable to know just what Kingdom of God Paul is speaking of here.  Is it the future material kingdom, or the present day spiritual kingdom?  Both kingdoms are seen in the New Testament.  Whatever the case, Paul knew from personal experience that if the Kingdom of God would be seen on earth, Christians would suffer in demonstrating this kingdom.  If he is speaking of a future kingdom, the same is true.  Before the   Kingdom of God comes to earth in a material sense during the thousand year rule of Christ, there will be great tribulation.

The reason for this tribulation is due to the enmity that produces conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men.  As western culture becomes more anti-Christ in nature, the hardships that Paul is talking about here will become more prevalent among western Christians. 

Christians are to represent the Kingdom of God to the world.
God's kingdom is foreign to the world because it is presently a spiritual kingdom.  The kingdoms of men also oppose all things godly. When Jesus returns the Messianic Kingdom will be set up on earth and Jesus will rule from Jerusalem.  

In verse 23 we see another reason why Paul and Barnabas came back to these cities.  They appointed elders.  The word "appoint" here is translated from the Greek word "cheirotoneo". This word literally means "to stretch forth ones hand".  This word was used in the Greek world for the voting process.   Did Paul and Barnabas have a congregational vote?  We donít know the answer to this for sure. Some commentators say there was a vote.  I do believe we can safely say that the disciples had a say into who were to be elders or else Luke would not have used this Greek word.  It appears that Paul and Barnabas saw those who were actually caring for Godís people and affirmed them.  That was normally what Paul did.  I believe the word "affirm" would be a good word to substitute for the word "appoint".  I see it this way.  Paul and Barnabas surveyed the local community of believers.  They probably spoke with many in the community.  From this they recognized who had been leading, (leading mean caring) and appointed them as elders.  I suggest the appointment came with the laying on of hands.  

We should understand that just because Luke uses a Greek word that means "vote" in normal Roman usage, it doesn't have to necessarily mean "vote" here.  We need to consider other things in attempting to understand this Greek word.  The New Testament often modifies certain Greek words to fit its own purpose.  

Also note that after Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for these elders they left the city and also left these people in the hands of the Lord.  For those who believe in strong apostolic authority we should see that Paul could not be with these people very often.  He had to leave them in the hands of the Lord. We thus should know that apostolic authority has its limitations.  In the final analysis the Lord is the one who causes the disciples to mature.  

Note that they chose more than one elder.  The leadership of the local church, or as I'd rather put it, the local community of disciples of Jesus, consisted of a body of men.  The local church was not led by one man.  This was how Paul structured all of the churches he was involved in.  This is the first time appointing elders are mentioned in the book of Acts.

If you want to know what qualifications an elder must possess, you can read 1 Timothy 3. Paul lays out what kind of man an elder must be there. 

Luke says that elders were appointed "for the church".  To me this suggests elders are men who serve the local community of disciples.  Being an elder is not a job.  It's not a career.  It's a calling to serve.

The word "elders" here is translated from the Greek word "presbyteros".  "Presbyteros" simply means an older man.  We should realize that these elders could not have been Christians a long time, like for many years.  Were these men older men?  We don't know the answer to this question for sure.  I do think I can safely say that they exhibited the characteristic of an older, caring, fatherly, type.         

After appointing these elders there was a time of prayer and fasting for these men.  Luke says that they "committed these men to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust".  This is where I believe Paul and Barnabas would have laid their hands on these elders in prayer.  Paul and Barnabas would leave these cities not knowing when or if ever they would return.  The best they could do was to appoint elders and hand over the situation to the Lord Jesus.  This is what is meant when Luke points out that after ordaining these men; they put their trust in the Lord.  As I've said before, Paul put his trust in Jesus to keep these people in the faith. We too often today put our faith in ourselves to keep people in the faith.  

With the use of the word "fasting" here I suggest that this time of prayer wasn't some short little two minute prayer to confirm these men.  Fasting implies not eating for a period of time.  Confirming these elders was a very serious thing for Paul and Barnabas. 

In verses 24 through 26 we see that Paul and Barnabas worked their way back to Antioch in Syria where they were first commissioned to go out on their trip.  In verse 27 they gathered the whole church together and told them the Lord had "opened the door of faith to the Gentiles".

In verse 28 Luke records that upon completing their work, that is their trip; they stayed in Antioch for a long time. It is thought that Paul and Barnabas spent from the fall of 51 A D to the spring of 52 A D in Antioch.

 

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