Acts 14

ACTS 14 COMMENTARY

Acts 14:5-11 Lystra and Derbe

Acts 14:12-18 Zeus and Hermes?

Acts 14:19-28 Paul Stoned

ACTS 14:1  1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.

Where is "Iconium" (Acts 14:1) and who are the "they" (Acts 14:1)?
They are Paul and Barnabas, and they came to Iconium in what is Turkey today after having preached the Gospel about 80 miles (130 kilometers) to the west in Antioch of Pisidia.

Why did they go to the "synagogue of the Jews" (Acts 14:1)?
Since the Jews knew the Old Testament prophecies about and had been awaiting the promised Messiah, they in theory should have received the news of His arrival most easily and readily.

Didn't Paul declare to the Jews in Antioch that he and Barnabas will turn to the gentiles?
Yes: "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the gentiles" (Acts 13:46).

Then why did Paul and Barnabas again go to the synagogue of the Jews?
There are at least three reasons. First, the immediate object of Paul's declaration above were the people of Antioch. Since the Jews of Antioch had "rejected" the Gospel, they were turning to the gentiles of Antioch, which is what they did. Second, the gentiles who knew the Old Testament and also awaiting the promised Messiah were in the synagogue of the Jews, both as 'proselytes' (who had been circumcised) and 'God-fearers' (who believed in the God of the Old Testament but hadn't (yet) been circumcised). Third, while the thrust of Paul's ministry was to the gentiles as appointed by God - "On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the Gospel to the gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the gentiles" (Galatians 2:7-8) - Paul of course wasn't prohibited from preaching the Gospel to the Jews. After all, Jesus had commanded evangelizing all nations: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19)

What was one of the results of Paul and Barnabas' preaching in the Jewish synagogue of Iconium?
"A great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed" (Acts 14:1).

Why does Acts 14:1 say "Greeks" instead of "gentiles"?
The language and the culture of the Roman Empire was Greek. As used above, "Greeks" is synonymous with "gentiles."

ACTS 14:2-3  2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

What was the other result of Paul and Barnabas preaching in the Jewish synagogue of Iconium?
"... the unbelieving Jews stirred up the gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren" (Acts 14:2).

Is there a parallel to this in our society? How should we respond?

Perseverance in doing good, amidst dangers and hardships, is a blessed evidence of grace. Wherever God's servants are driven, they should seek to declare the truth. When they went on in Christ's name and strength, he failed not to give testimony to the word of his grace. He has assured us it is the word of God, and that we may venture our souls upon it. (Henry)

Why did Paul and Barnabas stay there "a long time" (Acts 14:3)?
A spiritual war of words broke out between the apostles and the unbelieving Jews plus the gentiles they stirred up, with the Lord confirming the apostles' words with miracles: "the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands" (Acts 14:3).

ACTS 14:4  4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

What happened to the people of Antioch in the end?
The Gospel polarized them - "The multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles" (Acts 14:4) - as it tends to do today between those being saved and those not (yet).

Can we avoid similar divisions?

We may here see the meaning of Christ's prediction that he came not to send peace upon earth, but rather division, Lu. 12:51-53. … We may here take the measures of our expectations; let us not think it strange if the preaching of the gospel occasion division, nor be offended at it; it is better to be reproached and persecuted as dividers for swimming against the stream than yield ourselves to be carried down the stream that leads to destruction. Let us hold with the apostles, and not fear those that hold with the Jews. (Henry)

ACTS 14:5  5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the Gospel there.

Why did they make a "violent attempt ... to abuse and stone" (Acts 14:5) Paul and Barnabas?
Unable to win the spiritual war of words, they resorted to violence.

And why would God allow this "violent attempt"?
To have Paul and Barnabas move and preach "the Gospel" (Acts 14:7) also in "Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region" (Acts 14:6).

Where are Lystra, Derbe and Lycaonia?
They are cities just to the south (Lystra) and southeast (Derbe) of Iconium, and Lycaonia is a large land-locked region in the interior of what is Turkey today that includes all of the cities mentioned above: Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.

Should we also flee?  Where to?

ACTS 14:8-10  8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.

How did God open Paul's ministry in Lystra?
With a miracle pretty much from the start.

Who had the faith to be healed?
The crippled man "had faith to be healed" (Acts 14:9).

How did he get that faith?

By hearing the Gospel: "This man heard Paul speaking" (Acts 14:9).

Does a person need to have faith in Jesus to be healed by Him?
Not necessarily. Sometimes the faith to heal rests with the one being used by Jesus to affect the healing. An example is the case of another man with bum legs recorded in Acts 3.

So does a healing miracle require either the one healed or the one being used to heal to have faith?
Again, not necessarily. Nobody had"faith" that Jesus would heal another lame man when Jesus healed him as recorded in John 5. 

What then can we say about the Lord's miraculous healings?
He can give the faith to be healed to the one being healed, or to the one being used to heal, or to neither. God heals whomever He wills to heal. This doesn't mean that you should stop praying for those who are sick or have infirmities, for God could very well intend for you to pray for that person so that His healing can be in answer to your prayers. But such prayers should trust both His power and sovereign choice to heal. And the cases of God not healing terminally-ill Christians shouldn't be seen as His failure to heal or not hearing your prayers, but recognized as promotions to heaven.

Do we jump up and declare God’s blessings?

ACTS 14:11  11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”

Why did the people mistake Paul and Barnabas for "gods" (Acts 14:11)?
Their idolatrous Greek mythology claimed that "gods" occasionally come down to earth "in the likeness of men" (Acts 14:11).

Do people make similar mistakes today?

ACTS 14:12-13  12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

To whom were they "intending to sacrifice" (Acts 14:12)?
To Paul and Barnabas, whom they mistook for their pagan 'gods' "Zeus" and "Hermes" (Acts 14:12).

Why did they call Paul, Hermes and Barnabas, Zeus, and not vice versa?
In their idolatry, Hermes was the messenger of Zeus. Since Paul was the "chief speaker" (Acts 14:11), they thought Paul was the messenger for Barnabas, whom they thought was Zeus.

ACTS 14:14  14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out

What did Paul and Barnabas do when they realized that the Lycaonians intended to worship them?
They "tore their clothes" (Acts 14:14).

Why?
It was the way to express extreme outrage and anguish back then. Paul and Barnabas were outraged and anguished that a work of God was being credited to them and that people were about to worship them.

ACTS 14:15-18  15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

What is Paul's message to the Lycaonians of Lystra?
We are "men" (Acts 14:15). Your 'gods' are "useless" (Acts 14:15) idols. The real God is "living" (Acts 14:15), the Creator of "the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them" (Acts 14:15) and the one who has been providing for you with "rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). Since the Lycaonians were unfamiliar with the Old Testament, Paul declared the Lord to them using realities with which they were familiar.

What does V16 tell us about God? See 2 Peter 3:8-9

Yet he has not left himself without testimony. V17. Is this still heard?

Did the Lycaonians listen to Paul?
Enough not to sacrifice to them, but only barely: "they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them" (Acts 14:18).

ACTS 14:19  19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.

What does "they stoned Paul" (Acts 14:19) mean?
They threw stones at Paul or down at Paul to kill him (see Stephen stoned).

Who stoned Paul?
The "multitudes" in Lystra who were "persuaded" by the "Jews" from both "Antioch and Iconium" (Acts 14:19) who had chased after Paul and Barnabas.

Did Paul die after being stoned and then get raised from the dead?
Paul was injured badly enough and so immobile that they "[supposed] him to be dead" (Acts 14:19).

ACTS 14:20  20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

What did God do to Paul after he was stoned and left for dead?
God healed him so quickly that he was able to travel the very "next day" (Acts 14:20).

ACTS 14:21-22  21 And when they had preached the Gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

Why did God let Paul get hurt so badly that they thought he was dead?
To grant another edifying miracle to Paul and to the disciples who "gathered around" (Acts 14:20) his injured body and witnessed it being restored, but also to grant Paul and Barnabas some time free from the pestering Jews, now departed, as the two planted the church in "Derbe" (Acts 14:20) and then revisited the churches planted in "Lystra, Iconium and Antioch" (Acts 14:21).

Through what did the Apostles say we "must... enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22)?
"Many tribulations" (Acts 14:22)

Why?
Christians fight against the "devil": "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:10-12). Whenever a Christian is used by the Lord and bear fruit for His glory, he or she draws enemy fire, the lack of which should be cause for concern and self-examination.

ACTS 14:23  23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

What are "elders" (Acts 14:23)?
See Elders.

ACTS 14:24-28  24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the gentiles. 28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

Where are "Pisidia" and "Pamphylia" (Acts 14:24), and "Perga" (Acts 14:25)?
See Perga.

Hadn't they already preached the word in Perga on their way inland to Antioch?
No, they had gone straight to Antioch (see Perga).

Where is "Attalia" (Acts 14:25)?
Attalia is the port city located immediately west of Perga and from where Paul and Barnabas "sailed to Antioch" (Acts 14:26) of Syria to complete what for Paul would be the first of his four missionary journeys.


1398 Modified: 31-08-2022
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