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Bible Commentaries
Acts 14

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 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.

1. Iconium is a large, wealthy city about 120 miles inland. It sat at the foot of the Tarsus mountains.

2. Paul and Barnabas went together into the synagogue. Of course these were places for Jews to gather for prayer, study, discussion and worship which did not involve the temple.

3. Large numbers gathered to listen. Luke says both Jews and Greeks.

1. Jews - Jewish by birth, blood and faith.

2. Greeks - Albert Barnes says, "Probably proselytes from the Greeks, who were in the habit of attending the synagogue."

4. Believed - This word in used to indicate more than just listening and finding some ground of mental agreement. They believed, followed, obeyed, converted from Judaism to Christianity.

Verse 2

2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.

1. Of course, when some believe and convert to Christianity, there are others who are not converted. They become angry.

2. The Jews sought support from their Gentile neighbors. Their minds were embittered (the real meaning of this word) against Paul.

Verse 3

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.

1. Paul seems to thrive on controversy. There was opposition so Paul decides to remain there for some longer stay.

2. It would appear that they lacked to power or support to drive them out of the city.

3. Opposition seems to give them courage to speak with greater boldness.

4. Paul speaks about the "word of His grace" - a term that means the Gospel of Christ.

5. There were also miracles being done by Paul and Barnabas.

Verse 4

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

1. RESULT: The city was divided. One can imagine there was much discussion in the streets, stores, and synagogues.

2. Even the Gentiles, who did not really care about the arguments on one side or the other, were driven to take sides and decide with the Jews or with the apostles.

Verse 5

5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them,

1. The discussion moved to deep feelings and lead to violence.

2. Both Gentiles and Jews turned to violence.

3. They were reproached, treated shamefully - then they were going to stone them.

Verse 6

6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.

1. Paul and Barnabas became aware of the plan. We are not told how they learned of the plot.

2. At this point they left Iconium and head to Lystra and Derbe.

1. Lystra is important because it is the home of a later companion - Timothy. See Act_16:1 and the books of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy.

2. Derbe is important because it is the home of another later companion - Gaius. See Act_19:29 ; Act_20:4 , 3Jn_1:1 , and Rom_16:23 .

Verse 7

7 And they were preaching the gospel there.

1. Paul was not deterred in his mission.

2. Run out of one town, threatened with death, Paul moves to the next city and keeps preaching the gospel message.

Verse 8

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.

1. As they enter Lystra, they see a man - a cripple, never able to walk.

2. Luke, being a medical doctor, is able to give more detailed information. The lameness was because of some deformity in his ankles and feet.

3. There is some similarity with the healing from Peter in Act_3:1-26 . Both were lame in their feet. Both were born that way "from his mother's womb."

Verse 9

9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed,

1. Lame is not deaf. This man not only heard.

2. Paul observed that this lame man was watching and listening with some intensity.

3. Paul also saw that he had the faith to be healed.

4. NOTE : Living, active faith is not just a mental exercise. Faith can be seen. James said, "Show me your faith." ( Jam_2:18 ) Others can see our faith, or our lack of faith. It will speak louder than our words about our faith.

Verse 10

10 said with a loud voice, " Stand up straight on your feet! " And he leaped and walked.

1. Paul is speaking - loudly - not because the man was deaf. Paul is speaking loud enough that others can witness the miracle.

2. "Stand up" is easy for Paul to say. But it would take a person of faith to believe it and actually stand up.

3. The man leaped and walked. The words indicate action, mobility and complete healing. They also show that the healing was immediate.

Verse 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! "

1. The miracle was seen by many people. Some of them knew that this could not have taken place by ordinary humans.

2. Conclusion: They must be gods.

3. They began to exclaim that gods had come down to them and appeared in the likeness of men.

Verse 12

12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

1. Zeus (or Jupiter) - Zeus is the Greek god, Jupiter was the Roman god. Both are known as the god of helps. How fitting! Barnabas was the encourager, the son of encouragement.

2. Hermes (or Mercury) - Hermes is the Greek god, Mercury is the Roman god. Hermes is the "herald god", the god of speech and announcements. Again, How fitting! Paul is now the herald of the gospel as he speaks in markets and synagogues. Luke explains that Paul is the "chief speaker."

Verse 13

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.

1. Even the priest of Zeus brought animals ready to offer then as a sacrifice to Barnabas.

2. The whole city (multitudes) was ready to honor them as gods.

Verse 14

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

1. Apostles - Barnabas and Paul and BOTH called "apostles." The word simply means - one sent - as an ambassador. We often use the word to describe certain selected - the 12 plus Paul. But the word is also applied to others, like Barnabas, because the church at Antioch "sent" him with Paul on this missionary journey.

2. Tore their clothes - Tearing the clothes was a sign of grief or distress. Paul and Barnabas were distressed that they were to be honored as gods. They were trying to convert these people to the True and Living God.

3. They ran to the people and yelled to get their attention.

Verse 15

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,

1. Why are you doing this? - Paul pleads with them to think about what he had been teaching.

2. Paul makes some points:

1. We are also men - not gods. Don't sacrifice to the apostles.

2. They suffer the same trials and temptations as the rest.

3. Turn from this "useless" exercise of sacrifice to gods.

4. Turn to the living God - the creator who made all things, animals and man.

Verse 16

16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.

1. Ever since God separated the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be His chosen people, the rest of the world seemed to be free of restraint.

2. This does not mean that God abandoned them, but that they abandoned God.

3. They did not follow the commands of God (patriarchal dispensation) but decided to follow their own ways.

Verse 17

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. "

1. God was still present with them - IF they had paid attention.

2. God was giving them sunshine and rain. They still had the seasons of summer and winter. They had the food that came from the ground. God was still evident in the stars, sun and moon.

3. As Paul would later write in Rom_1:20 - "For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." God's presence was visible. God was not in hiding.

4. David wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." ( Psa_19:1 )

Verse 18

18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

1. Even will all of this - it was all Paul could do to prevent them for offering sacrifices to them as if they were gods.

2. They were so convinced that gods were in human form among them that all this pleading scarcely restrained them.

Verse 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.

1. Trouble arrives - Jews from Antioch. This is not Antioch of Syria (from which Paul and Barnabas began their trip) but Antioch of Pisidia.

2. The Jews were still angry at Paul. See Act_13:45 .

3. They stirred up the people against Paul. How quickly the tide can turn.

1. The same people that could not be restrained from making them gods are now against them to the point of preparing to kill them.

2. There is a similar turn in the people of Jerusalem. One day they declare that Jesus is Hosanna. "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord." ( Mat_21:9 ) A week later they cry, "Crucify Him."

4. They stoned Paul. People do not survive stoning. They would not just toss some rocks until the person was knocked down or even knocked out. They were throw until they KNEW he was dead.

5. When they stopped - Paul was dead.

1. Paul mentions this in 2Co_11:25 .

2. Adam Clarke says, "They did not leave stoning him till they had the fullest evidence that he was dead; and so, most probably, he was."

Verse 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.

1. When the angry mob left - no doubt to rejoice in their victory over Christianity, the followers of Paul gather around.

2. No doubt they were praying, wondering what would happen to them as they claimed to be Christians. I am also sure they were praying for Paul.

3. Paul got up. What he did next is a surprise. He went BACK into the city from which he was dragged out and stoned. He did not leave until the next day.

4. Paul and Barnabas depart for Derbe the next day.

Verse 21

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,

1. Summary statement of the rest of their work.

1. They preached and made many disciples in Derbe.

2. Then they retraced their path - back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.

Verse 22

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. "

1. Their purpose was to exhort, encourage, support and strengthen the new converts.

2. Paul urged them to continue in the faith.

1. NOTE : There is a popular doctrine called "once saved, always saved" which teaches that once one becomes a Christian, they can not be lost.

2. WHY would Paul exhort them to continue in (not quit, not give up, not go back) if such was not possible?

3. The statement of Paul is - We must though many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. There will be hardships, challenges, difficulties, persecutions, and threats. They way to the kingdom of God in heaven is to endure the hardships of this life.

Verse 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.

1. IMPORTANT: These early churches needed leadership. Paul and Barnabas appointed:

1. Ordain - This word simply means to appoint, to set in office.

2. Elders - There are three synonymous terms - Elder, Bishop, Pastor. They are used interchangeably for the same office in the church.

3. Every Church - The New Testament is clear that elders were not to be over some extended territory. There were to be elders in every church. Each local congregation should have elders to oversee the work of that church. One of the first departures from the New Testament pattern was the rise of rank, power and extension of authority beyond the local church.

4. Pray and Fast - Prayer and fasting are often twins. Fasting suggests that we forgo the material and fleshly - so we can pray, meditate and focus on the spiritual things of importance in our lives.

5. Commended them - Thayer's Lexicon says of this word, "to entrust, to commit to one's charge."

6. They were young in the faith. They must be ready to carry on without Paul guiding them. They needed to be able to survive the persecution and hardship on their own faith. They must not rely on the faith and strength of Paul.

Verse 24

24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

1. They continue to retrace their path. They now return to the region of Pamphylia. This is the area they first entered Asia Minor when they left Cyprus.

Verse 25

25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

1. They preached in Perga - 7 or 8 miles inland from the sea coast.

2. Attalia - The coastal town is reached as they prepare to sail back home.

Verse 26

26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

1. Back on board a ship, they sail to Antioch of Syria, back home, back where they started.

2. They are returning to the place where the elders laid hands on them and bid them god speed as they travel and preach the gospel where it had not gone before.

Verse 27

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.

1. Now it was time to report on the work.

2. They gathered the church. They gave a report - converts, miracles, stoning, problems, success.

3. God opened the door. God, not Paul, gets the glory for all that was done.

Verse 28

28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

1. Mission work is exhausting. It takes it toll on their energy. They have worked, now they need some rest.

2. They remain in Antioch for some time working, teaching and preaching in that area.

3. Albert Barnes makes this observation: "How long is not intimated; but we hear no more of them until the council at Jerusalem, mentioned in the next chapter. If the transactions recorded in this chapter occurred, as is supposed, about 45 a.d. or 46 a.d., and the council at Jerusalem assembled 51 a.d. or 53 a.d., as is supposed, then here is an interval of from five to eight years in which we have no account of them."

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 14". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-14.html. 2021.
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