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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 14

 

 

Introduction

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 14

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 14:


Verse 1

"And it came about that in Iconium" "Nearly 100 miles SE of Pisidian Antioch, commanding the broad plateau which lies between the Tarsus and the Sultan mountain ranges and which is well watered by their rivers, is situated the very old city of Iconium, which today is Turkey"s fourth largest town of Konya" (Stott p. 228). "Entered the synagogue of the Jews together" Which was Paul"s customary first preaching stop in a new town (Acts 17:1 ff). As a result of such efforts a great multitude of Jews and Greeks believed.


Verse 2

"But if some Jews and Gentiles were united in faith, others were united in opposition" (Stott p. 228). Notice how the gospel message makes a clear division between believers and unbelievers and that a person cannot remain neutral concerning its truths. Compare with Matthew 10:34. "The Jews disbelieved" Actually the Greek verb rendered "disbelieved", means to disobey. Seeing that faith and obedience go together, it is logical that unbelief and disobedience go hand in hand as well (John 3:36; Hebrews 3:18-19). The rest of the verse reveals that the unbelieving Jews did their best to stir up trouble and engaged in an unscrupulous slander campaign against the brethren.


Verse 3

But Paul and Barnabas held their ground. They stayed there a long time due to both the number of conversions and the amount of opposition. There is opposition here but there appears to be no attempt to forcibly expel the preachers from town. Relying upon the Lord, they continued to preach with boldness (Ephesians 6:19; Acts 4:29). The expression long time is a relative term, "we do not know whether it was a month, three months, or longer" (Reese p. 498). Notice how many conversions and much opposition went hand in hand. Typically in an area where people are hostile to the gospel you will also find people who will be truly dedicated. One of the hardest places to preach is where people are not really opposed to the gospel, yet neither are they willing to dedicate their lives. "Granting that signs and wonders" In the face of opposition God placed miracles, yet even in the face of miracles a good percentage of the city continued to rebel against God.


Verse 4

No middle ground in this town. "Apostles" The plural form here is used and in verse 14 referring to Paul and Barnabas. This is the first time Barnabas has been so designated. "Usually the title is reserved in the New Testament for those directly chosen by Christ Himself - the twelve and Paul. However the word apostolos is used in the sense of a messenger authorized by a certain church in Philippians 2:25. Barnabas then may be understand as an apostle in the wider sense, either as a duly-recognized messenger (along with Paul) from the church at Antioch (13:2-3), or as a member of an apostolic party (with Paul"s apostleship in a sense lending its authority to Barnabas)" (Kent p. 115).


Verse 5

Eventually the opposition has had enough and an attempt is made to do bodily harm to Paul and Barnabas, even to the point of stoning them to death.


Verse 6

Notice that God does not expect Christians to die as soon as possible. One"s faithfulness or courage is not suspect when they simply decide to move on to the next town. "It is not wrong to flee when your life is in danger, and when by staying you can do no more good. There is not any reason for sticking your neck in the guillotine unless you are forced to do it. God expects us to preserve ourselves unless truth, honesty, and integrity are involved" (Reese p. 501). "The cities of Lycanonia" "Lycanonia was one of the ethnic provinces of Asia Minor in pre-Roman times. In Roman times, it was incorporated into the area called Southern Galatia" (Reese p. 501). Critics of the Bible in times past accused Luke here of inaccuracy, for they claimed that Iconium was also a city of Lycanonia and that no border existed between these cities. But British scholar William Ramsay has noted that while Iconium was Lycaonian earlier and later again, Luke"s statement was accurate at the period when Paul visited this area and it was accurate at no other time except between 37 and 72 A.D. (St. Paul the Traveller, pp. 110-111). Some have wondered by Paul selected these cities, because neither town had a large population. Ramsay refers to them as a "quiet backwater". Perhaps they were a temporary refuge, and people in any town need the gospel. "Lystra" Was situated about 40 miles SE of Iconium, and Derbe was about 20 miles farther to the east. The location of Lystra was positively identified in 1885. Augustus had made it a Roman Colony in 6 AD The site of Derbe was identified in 1956. "The surrounding region" Paul preached in these cities and in the countryside and surrounding villages as well.


Verse 7

Nothing could silence them.


Verse 8

Compare this man to the man mentioned in 3:1-11. "Like the man at the Gate Beautiful, this man at Lystra was one whose history from infancy was well known" (Reese p. 502).


Verse 9

"Had faith to be made well" From other passages we learn that faith was not always a necessary requirement for healing (Acts 3:1 ff). The faith under consideration would include, this man"s belief that Paul could heal him, and that God would accomplish such things (see Matthew 9:21-29). He also believed Paul"s preaching, which may have touched upon the miracles performed by Jesus and by the apostles.

Notice that no mention is made of a Jewish synagogue, though this city was apparently the home of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy (Acts 16:1; Acts 20:4; 2 Timothy 1:5).


Verse 10

This was an immediate and complete healing. "The miracle was entire and complete in a moment. One who had never learned to walk, walking immediately, is a very striking miracle" (Reese p. 504). "Stand upright" The man under consideration had the faith to promptly obey this command, others would have sneered at this command has being cruel or mocking the lame man. But this man was ready to obey any command and act upon it.


Verse 11

"In the Lycanonian language" This was a local dialect of some kind, "it was perfectly natural for the people, in their excitement, to revert to their native language" (Reese p. 504). "The gods have become like men and have come down to us" This miracle led the people to suppose that Paul and Barnabas were gods who had taken on human form. "It was evidently beyond human ability to so heal a man, and they had no other explanation to account for the healing, for it was something more than their common magicians of the day could do!" (Reese p. 504). The poems of ancient writers Homer and Virgil are filled with accounts of how the gods took on human form and then they were supposed to learn about human affairs to aid the men they came to visit (See Barnes Notes, p. 218).


Verse 12

"They began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes" Luke gives the Greek names for these gods; Zeus was also known as Jupiter who was viewed as the most powerful of all the gods of the ancients. Hermes, called Mercury by the Romans, was the messenger of the gods, and of Zeus in particular. "The Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C. AD 17) (Metamorphoses VIII, 626ff) records the ancient myth concerning a visit of Zeus and Hermes to the neighboring region of Phrygia, disguised as mortals. All turned them away except one old couple, Philemon and Baucis, on the Lycanonian border. Later a flood came in judgment and drowned all except this couple" (Kent pp. 116-117). "Because he was the chief speaker" Paul apparently did most of the speaking. "Now you know, sometimes, Paul is pictured as a runt; he is said by some to have had sore eyes, perhaps was hunch-backed, had epilepsy, was bald, and had a hooked nose. But somehow or other, as this author tracks him around over the Roman empire in his imagination, and as he sees what Paul did and where he went, it seems hard to believe that he was a runty, scrawny, epileptic, sore-eyed, undernourished man. Furthermore, it is not easy to believe that Paul could have been thought of as being a Greek god…if he had been that sort of physical specimen" (Reese pp. 505-506).


Verse 13

The people were so dead serious they even were intent on treating Paul and Barnabas as gods to the point of worshipping them. Garlands were wreaths of flowers that were draped over the horns of the sacrificial victim.


Verse 14

As soon as Paul and Barnabas hear what is planned they immediately tore their robes as an expression of abhorrence. "Since it was in the Lycaonian language that the people shouted out their belief that the gods had visited them, and named Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, it is understandable that the preachers did not at first understand what was happening. It dawned on them only when the priest of Zeus brought bulls and wreaths, intending to offer sacrifice to them" (Stott p. 231).


Verse 15

"We also are men of the same nature as you" We are not gods, we are mere men! Paul made it very clear that he was not the object of worship, compare with James 5:17. "Preach the gospel to you" That is why we have come, not to be worshipped. "In order that you should turn from these vain things" We have come to stop such idol worship and not encourage it. Idols and polytheism is called a "vain" thing. It is empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, and completely lacking in truth. Such gods do not even exist! Notice that Paul does not preach a message that views all other religions as valid. "Turn" Acts 3:19. "To a living God" In contrast to dead and lifeless idols. Also there is no such thing as a spiritual vacuum, if you turn from idols then you must turn to the living God, otherwise you will fall back into some other error. "Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them" Various gods did not create or govern the world, rather only one God created everything and only one God rules over everything. This God, the Creator, the living God, is the same God who healed the lame man, and Paul and Barnabas speak for Him. Therefore, if they want to be right with the Creator, then they need to obey the gospel. Notice, in order to teach someone the truth one must often correct the errors of the person to whom you are speaking. Some worshippers of Zeus believe that he was the creator and the idea that matter was eternal was another popular myth. Paul"s sermon here contradicted both ideas, for the living God was the Creator of all.


Verse 16

"In the generations gone by" In the ages previous to the New Covenant or Gospel Age. "He permitted all the nations to go their own ways" That is, God allowed men to depart from Him without immediate judgment (Romans 1:18-32). The word permitted does not mean that God approved of their departures and neither does it mean that God saved those who departed, but simply, allowed such to happen without an immediate punishment. Yet the Old Testament is filled with examples of God sending righteous men to the Gentiles and examples of God judging pagan nations (Jeremiah 18:1 ff; Jonah, Daniel).


Verse 17

"Yet He did not leave Himself without witness" God had been very active in history. Not only does the creation itself bear witness to God"s existence (Psalms 19:1 ff; Romans 1:20), but God also had provided many providential demonstrations of His existence and of His moral character and goodness. "In that He did good and gave you gains from heaven and fruitful seasons" Even though the people in the ancient world believed that Zeus sent the rains, the truth is that living God had sent all such rains which had resulted in fruitful seasons. Notice that the rain and all weather is under God"s control. Rain helps the crops to grow and that is one of the evidences of the good constantly done by God. "It is part of the evidence that God is actively doing good in His world that so few seasons are unfruitful. Just after the flood, God promised seed time and harvest as long s the earth stands (Genesis 8:22)" (Reese p. 512). Compare with Luke 6:35. Man often overlooks such basic and simple daily blessings. The rain might seem like an inconvenience at times to modern man, but without it, we would all starve to death, and world economies would come to a grinding halt. Yet the priceless rain is given by God to all men and it is given free of charge.

"Satisfying your hearts with food and gladness" The results of such blessings are that human needs are met and men and women are joyful and happy. Even the unbeliever cannot be happy without God - for he or she depends upon God"s earthly blessings for happiness. Thus it is hypocritical for a well-fed atheist to lecture on why man does not need God.

The reason that God sends the rains on the just and unjust is because if God excluded the sinner from things like rains and harvests, everyone would want to be on the Lord"s side (not because they loved Him or believed in Him), but because they merely wanted earthly benefits. Thus men would serve God for the reason that the devil claimed that Job served the Lord.


Verse 18

Yet all these arguments barely kept the people from offering sacrifices in the honor of Paul and Barnabas.


Verse 19

Not satisfied with running Paul out of Iconium, unbelieving Jews travel 100 miles in order to continue their opposition. "Having won over the multitudes" Here we see how fickle men can be. "What a striking instance of the fickleness and instability of popular feeling. A few days or weeks before they were ready to worship them; now they give permission to let them be stoned. In the closing days of Jesus" earthly ministry when shouts of "Hosanna!" Quickly changed to "Crucify!"" (Reese p. 513). "They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city" This is a mob action, and his body was dragged outside to the city, like the body of a dead beast, left to any fate that might await. Paul later will note this stoning (2 Corinthians 11:25). "Supposing him to be dead" Luke too careful to record that Paul had not died, but that the Jews thought they had killed him. Barnabas is not stoned, probably because they had caught Paul all by himself.


Verse 20

"He arose" Luke has already informed us that Paul had not died, so this is not a resurrection, yet for Paul to get up, enter the city, and then travel the next day does seem to indicate some sort of miraculous healing. "His swift recovery from apparent death required something more than the recuperative powers of a clean and energetic body dominated by a courageous spirit" (Reese p. 515). Some commentators claim that Paul actually died from this stoning and was resurrected and that 2 Corinthians 12:1-9, when Paul was caught up into the third heaven is to be identified with this event. But Luke is clear that Paul had not died and in 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff, Paul was not sure if he was in the body or apart from the body when these events took place, yet in Acts 14:19-20, Paul"s body does not move! "Entered the city" Here is courage. "Like Jesus, Paul remained unmoved. His steadfastness of character was upset neither by flattery nor by opposition" (Reese p. 233).

"Derbe" This city was located about 20 miles to the SE. Remember during this trip, Paul will convert Timothy and his mother and grandmother to the faith (Acts 16:1 ff; 2 Timothy 3:11).


Verse 21

It looks like the Jews from Iconium did not follow Paul to Derbe and Paul"s preaching in Derbe was very successful. Paul then turns around and comes back to these cities in which he had faced such persecution.


Verse 22

He came back to strengthen all these new Christians, compare with Acts 15:36; Acts 16:4. Grounding new converts in the faith (Colossians 1:23) is just as important as converting people in the first place (Matthew 28:20). "To continue in the faith" Indicating that a person can fall away. "The truth is that these were young converts; they were surrounded by both unbelieving Jews and outright idolaters. They lived in the midst of many temptations and dangers. Family ties had been broken. Social ties had been broken. They needed encouragement" (Reese p. 517). "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" Compare with 2 Timothy 3:12. Notice the word must. Living a faithful life will involve being persecuted, it will involve "many" tribulations. Therefore, the Christian needs to be prepared for suffering and opposition (John 16:33). We need to have a long-range perspective, and we need to be hardy! The kingdom of God here is the eternal, heavenly kingdom. They had already seen what being a Christian was costing Paul, and they are now told that they will not be exempt from suffering in their Christian life, even though they are not apostles. We must spiritually prepare to face opposition.


Verse 23

"Appointed elders" The qualifications are given in 1 Timothy 3:1 ff and Titus 1:5 ff. One of the ways that Christians can be better prepared to face persecution is to be in a congregation that is shepherded by qualified elders (Hebrews 13:17). Part of the strengthening process for Christians includes being cared for by elders. Qualified men are found so quickly in these new congregations because some of these converts have been faithful Jews, or Gentile converts to the Jewish faith, and thus they already had many of the qualifications, except being well versed in the truths of the gospel message. "It must be remembered that, although these disciples had been but a comparatively short time in the church, many of them were in character and knowledge of the Scriptures the ripest fruits of the Jewish synagogue; and they needed only the additional knowledge which the Gospel brought in order to be models of wisdom and piety in the churches" (McGarvey p. 521). In addition, Paul with the laying on of his hands could always pass on to these elders various spiritual gifts that would make their knowledge of the Gospel complete and full. "In every church" Each congregation had its own elders (Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28), because the only congregation that elders have authority over is the one of which they are members (1 Peter 5:2). "Having prayed with fasting" Indicating the serious and solemn nature of this appointment. "The churches are being turned over to local leadership. It was a solemn and fearsome moment, and so there was prayer and fasting. We can hear their prayers as they asked God to lead the new churches and their newly elected leaders, and also that He would guide and protect the apostles on their journey" (Reese p. 522). "They commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed" The word commend here is the word regularly used when a person entrusts his money or property to someone else"s care. The apostles are confident that as long as these Christians continue to trust Christ, He will care for them (Matthew 28:20).

Carefully observe that when Paul went preaching he did not leave human organizations behind him. He did not establish missionary societies, hospitals, orphanages, or other human organizations. Rather, he left local congregations behind him where that had been none. In addition, these congregations were now self-sufficient and were not dependent upon Paul preaching for them every Sunday.


Verse 24

They now retrace the route by which they had come (13:14).


Verse 25

"Spoken the word in Perga" They may have already done some preaching here (13:13), but Paul is always one who uses his time wisely. If they are waiting for a ship bound for Antioch, then what better way to pass the time than in preaching? "They went down to Attalia" The name of this city is pronounced Att-a-LYE-a, it was a town on the seacoast, about 16 miles from Perga. "Apparently finding no ship bound for Syria in the port of Perga, the preachers decide to go down to the seacoast, where they might have a better possibility of finding a ship on which they could book passage" (Reese p. 523).


Verse 26

They sail from Attalia to the Syria coast and then journey inland to Antioch. "From which" Paul and Barnabas had been sent out from Antioch and when they had left the church there had commended them to the grace of God. The church had committed these men to God"s favor and protection during this journey. "For the work that hey had accomplished" They had done all that the Holy Spirit had intended them to do. "In our own lives, many times, it is the things that we have left undone that we are ashamed of. How about us? Are we fulfilling our ministry, or are we loafing on the job?" (Reese p. 523).


Verse 27

When they arrived the entire congregation gathered together while Paul and Barnabas related all that had happened. Here is Bible authority for the congregation to come together and hear about the preaching efforts of various men. "All the things that God had done with them" God had been "with" the preachers, He had spoken and worked miracles through them. "And how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" Paul often will speak of "open doors" (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). Such doors are great opportunities to speak the gospel and teach others. Notice the "door" that one must walk through does not go through the Law of Moses, but rather through faith. And faith only comes one way, through listening to and embracing what the word of God says (Romans 10:17). In addition, notice how God is given the credit. Yes, Paul and Barnabas had preached, but the message was God"s message (1 Corinthians 3:6 ff).


Verse 28

This trip probably had started some time in 45 AD soon after the death of Herod (chapter 12) that had taken place in 44 AD It probably had lasted through 47 or 48 AD, but the council of Jerusalem was probably held in 50 or 51 AD So they may have stayed in Antioch after this trip for one or two years. One writer established that the distance traveled on this first trip was over 1200 miles.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-14.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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