ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
The work in Iconium, Derbe & Lystra
The Work in Iconium – Vs. 1-5: Even though Paul and Barnabas had been badly treated in Antioch, they went on to Iconium to preach there about Jesus. There they found a synagogue of the Jews. It says a great multitude of Jews and Greeks believed when they heard the message. You know that would make the devil mad, so he had the unbelieving Jews to rise up against them. Still they were able to continue there a long time. Notice their boldness, and how the Lord gave them signs and wonders to go with their teaching of the Lord and of His grace. Verses. 4-5, things got worse, the people there were divided about the message, and it turned out that both the Gentiles and the Jews were involved. They were about to stone Paul and Barnabas.
The Work in Lystra – Vs. 6-20: The Lord had to give these missionaries knowledge about when to stay if their lives were in danger, and when to flee to another place. Paul and Barnabas knew it was time to go, so they went on southwest, still in Asia Minor, and preached there. It doesn’t say anything about a synagogue there, so perhaps there was none. Probably they preached in the street. We don’t hear right away about many people believing, but we do hear of one man who was eager to listen to their message. It doesn’t even give his name, but it does say he was a cripple and had never walked. This man really heard the message Paul gave. Paul knew He had faith to be healed, so he spoke to the man in a loud voice saying, “Stand up-right on thy feet.” He not only stood, but he leaped and he walked.
The people there were very superstitious. They believed in false gods. They thought, since witnessing this miracle, that the gods had come down to them. They had a legend that Jupiter, king of the gods, and his son Mercury, had once been in that very area. Since Paul was the chief speaker, they figured he was Jupiter and Barnabas was Mercury. Soon they had the priests of the near-by heathen temple bring oxen and garlands to sacrifice to them. When the apostles heard of this they were extremely upset, they tore their clothes and ran in among them crying out, and telling them not to do this. They explained that they were just men like they were. They didn’t’ want sacrifices made to them. Instead they pointed them to turn to the real God, the God of heaven, the Creator. Rather than using Old Testament Scriptures like they did in Antioch, to preach to the people, they spoke of the Living God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. They spoke of the witness God had left – the rain, seasons, food and gladness. Still these people wanted to sacrifice to them.
V. 19: This didn’t last long, however, for some Jews from Antioch and Iconium (where they were before) came and talked against the apostles. This resulted in stoning Paul. They dragged him out of the city, figuring he was dead. But if he had died, the Lord raised him up. We aren’t sure about this. Anyway he rose up and the next day he and Barabas went on to near-by Derbe.
We will learn in chapter 16 about a certain young man named Timothy who lived in this very area. We can even suppose that he witnessed this miracle of Paul’s being raised up. If he didn’t see it, he certainly did hear about it. It must be that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were saved at this time – on the first missionary journey.
The Work in Derbe and again in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch – Vs. 20-22: Nothing could stop these apostles, not even the threat of death. They preached in Derbe and taught many. They didn’t hesitate to go back to Lystra, to Iconium and to Antioch, to help these new believers. They advised them to continue in their faith in Jesus. They did warn that they would have tribulation. Certainly they were encouraged when they saw how the apostles endured the sufferings.
The Ordination of Elders in the Churches – V. 23: The apostles Paul and Barnabas could tell by the Holy Spirit which believers were able to take the lead in the different meetings, and so they appointed them to do so.
Back Home to Antioch in Syria – Vs. 24-28: They went back to the city from which they were sent forth. They heard the report of this first missionary trip. They stayed there quite some time.
The Giving forth of the gospel often includes suffering. We don’t suppose any of you will be stoned for telling someone about Jesus. Paul was willing to suffer and even to die if need be to be able to share this good news. None of us should back down just because there will be those who don’t understand or even want to hear about it. Let us be bold to testify about Jesus. He loved us enough to die for us, and we should be willing to go through some things if necessary to let others know how to be saved.
Continued in the January issue