Summary of Acts 14:
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas spoke at the Jewish synagogue, performing miraculous signs and wonders. A great number of both Jews and Gentiles believed. The Jews who didn’t believe united with the Gentiles to ultimately divide the city against Paul and Barnabas. Ultimately, a plot developed to stone the two men, resulting in Paul and Barnabas fleeing to Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia.
Paul was speaking at the synagogue in Lystra when he healed a crippled man who had faith. The Lycaonian people thought Paul and Barnabas were Hermes and Zeus respectively, come in human form. They brought bulls and wreaths to sacrifice to them but Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and shouted how they were not gods, but mere humans, here to bring you the Good News of the One, True God. Still, they had difficulty in convincing the people of this.
Some Jews Paul had angered in Antioch and Iconium followed him and stoned him to death. But the disciples gathered around Paul (presumably praying) and Paul got right back up and went back into Lystra.
Paul and Barnabas head to Derbe next (Map HERE) where they preach and win a large number of disciples. Then they head back home, stopping in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch again on the way back. They strength the disciples and encourage them in their walk with Christ by saying remain true to the faith. They appointed elders in each church to continue their work and prayed and fasted for them.
Then they went through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, and Attalia and then finally back to Antioch, their work complete. They reported back and told of their adventures and how God had opened the door of the faith to the Gentiles. Here they stayed for a long time.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 11, Day 5: Acts 14
11) People believe.
12) They put their faith in man, not in God. People are always tempted to worship the man because he is tangible, whereas God is not.
13) Personal Question. My answer: I live an incredibly blessed life, full of health, a warm home, kids, husband, and pets. God blesses me and others through me. But it’s all Him, always. Consequences have just been hardships in my life, from bankruptcy to dealing with financial instability. But it’s all for God’s glory.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 11, Day 5: Acts 14
In 2012, Acts 14 was one whole lesson, that was coupled with other readings. Here they are if you are interested:
Acts 14:8-18; Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-32
Acts 14:19-20a & 2 Timothy 3:10-17
There was much missed here that BSF zoomed through, particularly how the Jews are so set in their ways that they continue to persecute Paul and Barnabas, stoning Paul. How easy it is to see the man and not the Creator and what a common problem this was in the first century. How Paul is stoned, but he gets right back up and continues his God-given mission, undeterred. This lesson especially should have been emphasized because we are so often knocked down, and it is so hard to get back up. We all have work from God to do in our lives, but doing it is challenging. We’re being stoned, but not physically; this day and age it is mentally, with so much information at our fingertips and distractions galore. Deciphering our path can be the most difficult part. And finally, the encouragement Paul and Barnabas give believers.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 11, Day 5: Acts 14
The End of Paul’s First Missionary Journey
The success is refreshing, because they had just been kicked out of Pisidian Antioch, after much success there (Acts 13:50).
Paul was inclined to stay in a region for an extended period of time, strengthening the churches and working where evangelistic efforts had already borne fruit. Therefore, it may be best to see the persecution Paul had in Pisidian Antioch as God’s way of moving him on to Iconium and other places.
Luke made it clear that it was not all the Jews of Iconium who did this, because many believed (Acts 14:1). Yet some not only rejected the message, but stirred up others to reject the message and the messengers.
Paul and Barnabas stayed as long as they could, despite the opposition, leaving only when it was absolutely necessary. They did this because they knew that these Christians in Iconium needed all the grounding they could get to stand strong in a city with much opposition.
Despite the opposition, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach boldly, bearing witness to the word of His grace and touching others with the power of Jesus.
The Word of His Grace is the only Word both Jews and Gentiles could be saved on an equal basis.
When forced to, Paul and Barnabas left Iconium for Lystra (some twenty miles away) and Derbe. Their perseverance under the difficulty in Iconium didn’t mean that it was time for them to become martyrs.
Fun fact: Acts 14:4 is the first time Paul and Barnabas are called apostles in the Book of Acts. The only other time the title is used for them in Acts is at 14:14. Paul often used the title of himself in his letters.
Lystra and Derbe were together in the Roman province of Lycaonia, but only between A.D. 37 and 72, the exact period these events in Acts took place.
Paul and Barnabas did many miraculous works. Yet they did not travel as miracle workers. Their focus was always preaching the gospel.
Transition from hearing about the work of Jesus to believing it is what everyone should do.
There was something about this man’s faith that was evident, and it is likely that God gave Paul the gift of discernment, so much so that Paul knew God intended to heal the man at that moment.
Greek Mythology Come to Life — Or So the Lystrians Believed
In Greek mythology, it was common for the gods to come to earth in human form, though they did not always do so for the good of man.
The people of Lystra had a legend that once Zeus and Hermes visited their land disguised as mortals, and no one gave them any hospitality except for one older couple. In their anger at the people, Zeus and Hermes wiped out the whole population, except for the old couple. This may help explain why the Lystrians were so quick to honor Paul and Barnabas.
Hermes was the messenger of the Greek gods, so it made sense to the Lystrians that Paul was Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Barnabas apparently had an air of authority about him, so they regarded him as Zeus.
“The crowd’s use of Lycaonian explains why Paul and Barnabas did not grasp what was afoot until the preparations to pay them divine homage were well advanced.” (Bruce)
When Paul and Barnabas saw the priest of Zeus, with oxen and garlands… intending to sacrifice, they knew things had gone too far. This was far more than honoring guests to the city.
For Paul and Barnabas, it wasn’t just inconvenient that they were called gods; it was blasphemy.
The things Paul mentions in Acts 14:17 (He did good… gave us rain from heaven… and fruitful seasons… filling our hearts with food and gladness) were just the kind of things these people would think that Zeus gave them. Paul told them these blessings come from the true God who lives in heaven, not from Zeus.
Note that Paul did not preach to these pagan worshippers the same way he preached to Jews or those acquainted with Judaism. He did not quote the Old Testament to them, but instead appealed to natural revelation, to the things that even a pagan could understand by looking at the world around them. We must speak to those we wish to convert in their language as well.
Stoning of Paul
These Jews from Antioch and Iconium were not content to kick Paul out of their own region (Acts 14:5-6); they followed him more than 100 miles and brought their persecution with them.
They incited the people of Lystra against Paul and Barnabas, and instigated the stoning of Paul. This was obviously an attempt to execute Paul and Barnabas – with the rocks being thrown by the same people who wanted to worship them shortly before.
- This is a dramatic demonstration of how fickle a crowd can be. Their admiration of the miracle and desire to honor Paul and Barnabas as gods did not last long.
- Paul was miraculously preserved here. Some think that he was even actually killed and raised to life again, because stoning was usually reliable form of execution.
When Paul later wrote, I bear in my body the marks of Jesus (Galatians 6:17), he may have had in mind the scars from this incident. He certainly later referred to this stoning in 2 Corinthians 11:25.
It has been suggested that the heavenly vision described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 took place at this attack. This is possible, but only conjecture.
It’s reasonable to think that Paul remembered Stephen when he was being stoned, and how he had been a part of Stephen’s execution (Acts 7:58-8:1).
When Paul was revived, he did not flee the city that stoned him. Instead he immediately went back into it. He had been driven out of Antioch and Iconium by this traveling mob, and he was determined to leave Lystra on his own terms.
In Acts 16:1, we learn of a young Christian in Lystra and his mother – Timothy. Perhaps Timothy saw all this and was inspired to the high call of the gospel by noticing Paul’s courage and power in ministry.
The Return Home
As Paul and Barnabas decided to head back home to Antioch, they passed through the cities they had visited before, to strengthen and encourage the Christians in those cities. Paul and Barnabas wanted to do far more than gain conversions; they had a passion to make disciples.
- Many Christians need strengthening in their souls. Many need exhorting to continue in the faith. It is no small thing to walk with the Lord, year after year, trial after trial. It takes a strong soul and an encouraged faith.
Paul and Barnabas were committed to not just making new Christians, but in establishing new churches, places where these new Christians could grow and be established in the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas knew that these churches must have proper administration, so they appointed elders in every city where there were Christians.
But in the end, they can only trust in God’s ability to keep these churches healthy, having commended them to the Lord.
On the continent, they returned pretty much the same way they came. They did not stop on the island of Cyprus, but sailed to Antioch, returning to their home congregation.
“In saying that the missionaries reported these things, Luke has used the verb in the imperfect. This may mean that the report was repeated as the two met with different groups scattered throughout the city. But the word church is in the singular. There may have been a number of groups meeting separately, but there was only one church.” (Williams)
Doing God’s Work Faithfully
The trip was a great success, though not without great obstacles: The difficulty of travel itself, the confrontation with Elymas on Cyprus, the quitting of John Mark, being driven out of the cities of Antioch and Iconium, the temptation to receive adoration, and being stoned in Lystra. Yet Paul and Barnabas would not be deterred from the work God had them to do.
- It can and should be asked of each follower of Jesus, “What will it take for you to back down from doing God’s will? What kind of temptation or obstacle or opposition will do it?” Nothing stopped Jesus from doing God’s will on our behalf; as we look to Him, we won’t be stopped either.
Paul later expressed this drive in a letter to a congregation: Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Back at their home church in Syrian Antioch, we can assume that Paul and Barnabas took a long break and found plenty of ministry to do back there.
Paul’s First Missionary Journey took place from about 47-48 AD so about 14 years after Christ’ death.
Why did Paul and Barnabas not take the land route through Tarsus either on the way there or the way back? Why did they choose Cyprus to visit and the other places? I’m assuming because the terrain was too rugged or sailing was safer? I’m wondering if geography played a key role in determining where Paul and Barnabas went as well as the technology in the means of transportation back in the first century AD. Fascinating stuff.