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THE FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY (PAUL AND BARNABAS)—CONTINUED AND CONCLUDED
1. Paul and Barnabas at Iconium; or, continued Opposition from the Jews (Acts 14:1-7).
2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra; or, the Gospel among Barbarians (Acts 14:8-20).
3. The Homeward Journey of Paul and Barnabas; or, Back to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:20-28).
Acts 14:1. Iconium.—Presently styled Konich. Situated south-east of Pisidian Antioch, and according to apocryphal legend the abode of the virgin martyr Thecla, who is said to have been at this time converted by Paul. Whether Iconium was a Lycaonian (Cicero, Strabo, pliny), Phrygian (Xenophon), or Pisidian (Ammianus Marcellinus) city is debated by modern writers (see “Homiletical Analysis”). Together.—κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ, as in Acts 3:1, rather than at the same time (Holtzmann), or in the same manner (Wolf). So.—Not with such power, but with this result. The Greeks.—Having been in the synagogue these were most likely proselytes (compare Acts 13:43), and therefore a different class from those mentioned in Acts 11:20.
Acts 14:2. But the unbelieving Jews.—Lit., but the Jews having disbelieved, when the others believed, stirred up the Gentiles, etc. Better, stirred up the souls of the Gentiles and made them evil affected. κακόω occurs in the New Testament only here. How the Jews incited the Gentiles is not told; but see Acts 13:45-50; Acts 18:5-9. Only two of the persecutions recorded in the Acts (Acts 16:19; Acts 19:23) proceeded from others than Jews. The Bezan text adds, “But the Lord gave peace quickly,” which Professor Ramsay is disposed to accept as correct, in order to explain the “long time” of next verse.
Acts 14:3.—The best authorities omit and between “gave testimony” and “granted.” Spitta regards this verse as “a scrap from an independent and complete narrative” Ramsay, as “an early gloss similar to the many which have crept into the Bezan text.”
Acts 14:4. Divided.—The usual result of the gospel (see John 7:43; John 10:19; Acts 23:7).
Acts 14:5. An assault.—Should rather be an onset (R.V.), or better, “an impulse,” or inclination towards such an onset (Meyer, Alford), a hostile agitation (Zöckler), since the words “they were ware of it” seem to imply that the assault had not been made. Besides, Paul was only once stoned (2 Corinthians 11:25), whereas had this evil intention been carried out he would have twice suffered that indignity (see Acts 14:19).
Acts 14:6. Lystra.—About six hours south-south-west from Iconium, at Khatyn Serai (Sir C. Wilson), “on a hill in the centre of a valley,” “3,777 feet above the sea, and 427 above Iconium” (Ramsay). Derbe.—“The frontier city of the Roman province on the south-east” (Ramsay). The site uncertain, placed by some (Lewin, Conybeare and Howson, Farrar) twenty miles, by others (Sterrett) two miles distant from Lystra. Cities of Lycaonia.—Ptolemæus reckoned these as belonging to Isauria. “Lystra and Derbe were cities of Lycaonia Galatica—i.e., that part of Lycaonia which was attached to the province Galatia, while Iconium reckoned itself as a city of Phrygia, Galatia—i.e., the part of Phrygia which was attached to the province Galatia” (Ramsay).
Acts 14:7. And there they preached the gospel.—Codex Bezœ adds: “And the whole multitude was moved at their teaching; and Paul and Barnabas abode in Lystra”; but this cannot be accepted as original (Ramsay).
Acts 14:8. Sat.—No doubt in some public place begging like the lame man in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1). Not “dwelt” (Kuinoel).
Acts 14:9. Steadfastly beholding him.—Or, fastening his eyes upon him, as he did on Elymas (Acts 13:9), and as Peter did upon the cripple at the Gate Beautiful (Acts 3:4). Faith to be healed.—Or, faith to be saved—i.e., from his lameness, though the larger and higher meaning need not be excluded. He had, no doubt, been listening to Paul’s preaching, and given indication by his countenance that he believed the gospel message.
Acts 14:10. With a loud voice.—Speaking in a tone higher than that in which he had been preaching (compare Acts 3:6). Stand upright on thy feet.—Christ’s name not mentioned as by Peter (Acts 3:6), because probably unnecessary. And he leaped (one act) and walked.—Baur) (Paul, his Life and Works, i. 95) finds in this miracle and that of the judgment on Elymas (Acts 13:11 most undoubted tokens of an apologetic parallel with Peter who healed a lame man at the Gate Beautiful (Acts 3:1-8) and encountered a sorcerer in Samaria (Acts 8:9-24)—i.e., on first stepping out among the heathen. But as lame men and magicians were then plentiful, it is not surprising that both apostles should have met such characters; while, if both apostles were guided by the Holy Ghost, why should it be wonderful that He should lead Paul to work similar miracles with those of Peter? And more especially if (as Baur admits) such miracles were necessary to legitimate Paul’s apostleship? The Holy Ghost, one would naturally reason, would be as likely as a second century writer to know what sort of works Paul should do to secure his recognition as a Christian apostle.
Acts 14:11. The speech of Lycaonia.—Supposed by some to have been an Assyrian dialect (Jablonski), by others a corrupt form of Greek (Guhling), and by a third party a Galatian tongue, has completely disappeared, though Stephen of Byzantium, in the fifth century, reports it as then existing, and gives δέλβεια as Lycaonian for “a juniper” (Farrar, i. 381). For the chief cities of Lycaonia (Acts 14:6) see “Homiletical Analysis.” The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.—Compare Homer’s Odyssey, xvii. 484: καὶ τε θεοὶ ξείνοισιν ἐοικότες , παντοῖοι τελέθοντες, ἐπιστρωφῶσι πόληας, etc. “And the gods, like to strangers from foreign lands, coming forth in all sorts of shapes, visit the cities, observing both the insolence and the order (or good behaviour) of men”; and Ovid’s Metamorphosis, viii. 626: Jupiter huc, specie mortali cumque parente, venit Atlantiades positis caduciferalis. “Hither comes Jupiter in the form of a mortal, and with his parent comes herald Atlantiades (Mercury) his wings laid aside.” Such conceptions were common in New Testament times (Harnack). See further on Acts 14:11 “Hints.”
Acts 14:12. Barnabas was designated Jupiter or Zeus, probably because the older and more dignified in appearance. Paul Mercurius.—Or Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.—Lit., the leader of the discourse—i.e., because of his eloquence. “Paul is here the messenger of the Supreme God: he says in Galatians 4:14, ‘Ye received me as a Messenger of God” (Ramsay).
Acts 14:13. The priest.—Most likely the principal or high-priest of Jupiter or Zeus. Professor Ramsay regards the reading “priests” of Codex Bezœ as preferable, on the ground that the oxen and garlands would not be brought by the priest himself, but by his attendants, ministri. Which, rather, who, was.—i.e., had a statue or temple consecrated to him, before their, or the, city. “The temple of the tutelary god stood often outside of the walls” (Hackett). Unto the gates.—Of the house where the apostles lodged (De Wette, Lewin, Olshausen, Plumptre), of the temple, or most probably of the city (Meyer, Alford, Stier, Holtzmann, Hackett, and others). According to the Bezan text which reads ἐπιθύειν, the proposed sacrifice was an extra beyond the ordinary ritual—a sense which though not occurring elsewhere “seems to lie fairly within the meaning of the Compound” (Ramsay).
Acts 14:14. Rent their clothes.—From the neck downwards; the ordinary Jewish mode of expressing horror at anything seen or heard (see Ezra 9:3; Job 1:20; Job 2:12; Matthew 27:65). Ran in, leaped forth.—From the city or from the house in which they were.
Acts 14:15. Men of like passions, or, natural properties with you.—Compare Peter’s address to Cornelius, Acts 10:26; and James 5:17.
Acts 14:16. Times should be generations, and all nations, all the nations.
Acts 14:17.—The best authorities read your instead of our.
Acts 14:18. That they had not done sacrifice.—Better, from doing sacrifice unto them: τοῦ μὴ θύειν αὐτοῖς. Compare Acts 10:47.
Acts 14:19. Who persuaded, etc.—Should be who having persuaded the multitudes and having stoned Paul—i.e., they persuaded the multitude to stone the apostle (see 2 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Timothy 3:11). This is the only occasion on which Paul was stoned, the intention in Iconium (Acts 14:5) not having been carried out. Barnabas appears to have escaped their notice. It is those who advocate their opinions who have to suffer for them.
Acts 14:20. The disciples.—Among these probably stood Timothy, the apostle’s future associate (see Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 3:11).
Acts 14:21. Taught many is better rendered made many disciples (Matthew 28:19). One of these was probably Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4). Gaius of Acts 19:29 was a Macedonian; he of Romans 16:23 and 1 Corinthians 1:14 a Corinthian.
Acts 14:22. We must through much tribulation (many tribulations, R.V.) enter, etc. “This is one of the few personal touches of the Acts,” which can in no way be accounted for “than by supposing that Luke was composing his history during the time of special persecution,” viz., during that of Domitian (Ramsay, St Paul, the Traveller, etc., p. 123). An interesting remark but by no means a conclusive argument, since “we” might have been used by Paul and only quoted by Luke.
Acts 14:23. Ordained.—χειροτονεῖν (2 Corinthians 8:10) signifies properly to stretch out or hold up the hand, as in voting, hence generally to appoint (see Acts 10:41). Whether the election was made by the apostles (Olshausen, Holtzmann, Hackett, Spence, Plumptre), or by the Church (Alford, Lechler, Calvin, Brown, Ramsay), is debated; though the example of Acts 6:2-6 would seem to indicate that the apostles admitted into office by ordination those whom the people had chosen by show of hands. Elders, presbyters.—Those appointed in each Church to watch over the disciples, and thence called “overseers” (Acts 20:28). In Jewish Churches these officials were mostly styled “presbyters” or “elders,” in Gentile Churches “overseers” or “bishops”; but that the two were exactly synonymous appears from their interchangeability (Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5; Titus 1:7). Elsewhere (Ephesians 4:11) they are designated pastors or shepherds and teachers. Prayed with fasting does not point to later liturgical use as its origin (Holtzmann), but later liturgical use rests on apostolic practice, as here exemplified.
Acts 14:25. When they had preached the word (some MSS. add of the Lord) in Perga.—This they did not do on their outward journey (Acts 13:13). What success, if any, attended Paul’s labours is not stated, perhaps because it was not encouraging (Hackett). Attalia or Attaleia (see “Homiletical Analysis”) was sixteen miles distant from Perga.
Acts 14:27. A door of faith.—A favourite metaphor with Paul (compare 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3) which Luke may have derived from him (Alford).
Acts 14:28. Long time.—Lit., no little time. Calculations show this period to have embraced the year A.D. 48 and 49 (see “Homiletical Analysis”).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 14:1-7
Paul and Barnabas in Iconium; or, continued Opposition from the Jews
I. Their occupation in Iconium.—
1. The town and its population. The town. Compelled to retire from Antioch in consequence of the threatening attitude of the Jews, who stirred up against them the principal inhabitants of the city and their wives—in fact, expelled by these from their coasts, the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, not without shaking off the dust from their feet as a testimony against their co-religionists (Matthew 10:14), directed their steps towards Iconium, now called Konieh, a city lying on the road between Antioch and Lystra, at a distance of ninety (others say sixty) miles south-east from the former city and forty north-west from the latter” (Plumptre). Whether it belonged to the province of Lycaonia, or of Phrygia, or of Pisidia, appears to be as much disputed by modern as by ancient writers (see “Critical Remarks”). Perhaps the truth is that Iconium belonged originally to Phrygia but afterwards became a city of Lycaonia. Professor Ramsay thinks it may have been in 63 B.C. that according to Pliny (Nat. Hist., Acts 14:25), “a tetrarchy of Lycaonia containing fourteen cities, with Iconium as capital, was formed,” and that it was “given to King Polemo in 39 B.C. by Mark Antony” (The Church in the Roman Empire, p. 41). If so, Luke’s statement that Paul and Barnabas, on leaving Iconium, fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, will require explanation; and this Professor Ramsay furnishes by saying that, while between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. for administrative purposes Iconium was reckoned to Lycaonia, in all probability the Iconians, true to their tribal feelings, and adhering to their old nationality, “continued to count themselves Phrygian” (Ibid., 38). In any case, Iconium was the principal city of that district which was called by the Romans Lycaonia, and was situated at the foot of the Taurus, like a green oasis in the middle of bleak plains that were “scoured by wild asses and grazed by countless herds of sheep.” The modern city Konieh, says Captain Kinneir, “extends to the east and south over the plain far beyond the walls, which is about two miles in circumference.… Mountains covered with snow rise on every side, excepting towards the east, where a plain as flat as the desert of Arabia extends far beyond the reach of the eye” (quoted by Conybeare and Howson, i. 174).
(2) Its population. These, according to the writers just named, were a mixed company: “A large number of trifling and frivolous Greeks, whose principal place of resort would be the theatre and the market-place; some remains of a still older population, coming in occasionally from the country, or residing in a separate quarter of the town; some few Roman officials, civil or military, holding themselves proudly aloof from the inhabitants of the subjugated province; and an old established colony of Jews who exercised their trade during the week and met on the Sabbath to read law in the synagogue (Ibid., i. 174). 2 The apostles and their ministry.
(1) The place where this was exercised was in the first instance at least the synagogue of the Jews on the Sabbath days and afterwards during week days, probably in public thoroughfares and other places of resort.
(2) The form in which it was exercised was twofold—preaching or speaking in the Lord, i.e., in the power of His Spirit—the theme of their preaching being as elsewhere the doctrine of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah and God’s Son, proved through His rising from the dead; and working miracles, though none of these have been recorded—doing signs and wonders through which God gave testimony to the word of His grace.
(3) The time during which it was exercised cannot be determined, though the words “long time “point to a considerable stay, perhaps of some months, in this important town.
(4) The manner in which it was exercised is described as “boldly,” their confidence increasing as their convictions of the truth of the gospel deepened and as their observation of its saving power widened.
(5) The efficiency with which it was exercised was revealed by the success which attended it. The apostles so spake, in such a manner and with such a result, that “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed,” so great a multitude indeed that the city seemed to be split in twain (Acts 14:4).
II. Their experience in Iconium.—
1. The minds of the heathen population were turned against them. Not of their own accord, but through the misrepresentations of the unbelieving Jews, who, no doubt, employed similar tactics to those employed by their co-religionists at Antioch (Acts 13:45), perhaps vilifying the persons of the apostles, putting a false colour on the object of their mission, and, above all, traducing the character and name of Jesus whom they preached.
2. A threefold combination was formed against them. The Gentiles, the Jews (in both cases the unbelieving portion of them—“the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), and their rulers—i.e., both the civic and the ecclesiastic, the magistrates of the town and the officers of the synagogue conceived a design to set on foot active measures of hostility against the apostles even to the length of maltreating and stoning them—measures, however, which were never carried out (see “Critical Remarks”).
III. Their departure from Iconium.—
1. Prompted by their knowledge of what was being concerted against them. How they became acquainted with the evil designs of their adversaries, though not related, need occasion no difficulty, since they had numerous friends in the city who were interested in their safety, and above all Him upon their side of whom it had been written, “He preserveth the souls of His saints, and delivereth them out of the hands of the wicked” (Psalms 97:10). Advised of their peril, like prudent men they fled (Proverbs 22:3), acting on the counsel Christ had given to His disciples (Matthew 10:23).
2. Effected with complete success. In this case, as in a former (Acts 9:25), Paul’s enemies had been outwitted. Whatever annoyance he and Barnabas had suffered, they were not on this occasion stoned. Nor did they deem it necessary by remaining longer in Iconium to become martyrs before their time.
3. Directed towards the two adjoining cities of Lystra and Derbe. The exact sites of these cities are unknown, “Lystra,” says Lewin (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, i. 163), “lay about forty miles to the south of Iconium, and was still upon the highroad to Syria. It was situate in a hollow on the north side of a remarkable isolated mountain rising out of the great plain, and now called Kara Dagh, or Black Mountain. Lofty peaks looked down upon the town on all sides, except on the north, where the valley opened into the plain of Iconium. The ruins of it remain, and are called Bin-Bir-Kilisseh or the Thousand and One Churches, from the traces still visible of the numerous sacred edifices with which it was once adorned.” “Lystra,” says Hausrath (Der Apostel Paulus, p. 219), “must have lain hard upon the confines of Isaurica, since Ptolemaus reckoned it to Isaurica, and, indeed, according to him it was eight hours’ distant from Iconium.” Professor Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 47, 50) locates Lystra “about six hours south-south-west of Iconium,” and identifies it with the village of Khatyn Serai or ‘The Lady’s Mansion,’ situated “about 3777 feet above the sea and 427 feet above Iconium.” “As a Lycaonian town Lystra had been quite undistinguished; as a Roman garrison it was a bulwark of the province of Galatia, and a sister city to the great Roman centre at Antioch.” Derbe, according to Lewin, was “about twenty miles distant from Lystra, at the south-eastern corner of the great Lycaonian plain, and where commence the highlands which run up to Mount Taurus.” “Near by, but deeper in the, mountain, on the boundaries of Cappadocia, find we Derbe,” writes Hausrath. “Derbe was the frontier city of the Roman province on the south-east,” reports Professor Ramsay, who inclines to locate it at Gudelissin, three miles north-north-west from Zosta, adding, “Gudelissin is the only site in this district where a city of the style of Derbe, the stronghold of ‘the robber Antipater,’ could be situated.”
1. The unwearied diligence that ought to be manifested by a faithful minister of Jesus Christ.
2. The unsleeping hostility with which the gospel and its ministers, when these are faithful, are pursued by the unbelieving world.
3. The watchful providence that continually guards Christ’s servants and Christ’s cause.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 14:3. The Gospel the Word of Gods Grace.
I. Its origin, grace.
II. Its message, grace.
III. Its fruit. grace.
IV. Its conditions, grace.
Fellow-Workers in the Gospel. Christ and His Apostles.
I. The work of the apostles (or ministers).—
1. Preaching boldly in Christ’s name.
2. Doing signs and wonders (in the case of the apostles miracles, both physical and moral; in that of ministers only moral) in Christ’s name.
II. The work of Christ.—
1. Giving testimony to the word of His grace. By His Spirit.
2. Granting power to perform signs and wonders. Also by His Spirit.
3. Watching over His servants while at their work.
4. Opening up escapes for them when in danger.
Acts 14:4. The Dividing Power of the Gospel.
I. In the world.—Separating believers from unbelievers.
II. In the Church.—Separating true disciples from hypocrites.
III. In the individual.—Separating the soul from guilt and sin.
Acts 14:1-7. The Preacher and his Gospel.
I. What the preacher has to do with his gospel.—
1. Preach it to those who have not yet heard it.
2. In the face of the fiercest opposition.
3. So long as the Lord continues bearing witness to his work.
II. What the gospel will do for the preacher.—
1. It will gain him converts.
2. Rouse against him opposition.
3. Perhaps endanger his life.
4. Secure for him the co-operation and commendation of the Lord.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 14:8-20
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra; or, the Gospel among Barbarians
I. The miracle at Lystra.—
1. The subject. “A certain man, impotent in his feet, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked” (compare Acts 3:2). “The three phrases are like three beats of a hammer; there is no fine literary style in this device, but there is real force which arrests and compels the reader’s attention. Luke uses the triple beat in other places for the same purpose—e.g., Acts 13:6, ‘Magian, false prophet, Jew’ and Acts 16:6-7, according to the true text” (Ramsay, St. Paul, etc., p. 115). The cripple, who was obviously no professional mendicant but one whose sad history was well known, was, besides being a proper subject for benevolent assistance, manifestly one whom supernatural aid alone could restore to health.
2. The place. Most likely in the street at some public resort, as Lystra does not appear to have had a synagogue, the Jews in that rude and uncultivated region being probably a mere handful.
3. The time. When Paul was preaching and the cripple listening. “I, being in the way, the Lord led me” (Genesis 24:27). The Bezan text suggests that the lame man had been a proselyte before he came under Paul’s influence.
4. The agent. Paul, who had now taken complete precedence of Barnabas, who had already performed a miracle of judgment on the sorcerer (Acts 13:11), and who by the Lystrans was recognised as the chief speaker.
5. The manner.
(1) The apostle fastened his eyes upon the cripple as Peter had done on the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 3:4), and as he himself had done on Elymas at Paphos (Acts 13:9). He had probably been arrested by the cripple’s eager look, and in turn had searched his inner soul with that penetrating glance which belongs only to souls filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:9, Acts 23:1).
(2) Having perceived that the cripple had faith to be healed (literally, saved, but whether more than from his physical malady is impossible to tell), the apostle said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on thy feet! “Compare Peter’s address to the lame man (Acts 3:6), in which the name of Christ is invoked. That Paul omitted Christ’s name may be explained either by the brevity of the record, or by supposing Paul’s discourse had so clearly indicated the source of healing that this required no further mention.
(3) At once, without delay, the cripple “leaped and walked.” i.e., thrilled with a Divine power, he sprang to his feet (a single act like that in Acts 3:8), and began to step out as he had never done before.
II. The conduct of the Lystrans.
1. Their exclamation. Like Welshmen who, after listening to an address in English, revert to their mother tongue to find an outlet to their emotions, the Lystrans in their native dialect, the speech of Lycaonia (see “Critical Remarks”), shouted forth, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men,” and proceeded to identify Barnabas with Jupiter (Zeus) presumably on account of his combined majestic and benignant appearance, and Paul with Mercury (Hermes), not because of his bodily insignificance (2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 10:10), but because of his eloquence—“he was the chief speaker.” The belief that the gods were accustomed to visit the earth in human form widely prevailed among the ancients; that such a belief, especially with regard to Jupiter (Zeus), should have existed among the Lycaonians is not surprising considering that Lystra had a temple of Jupiter (Zeus) at its gates, and was thus, as it were, placed under the tutelage of the “Father of gods and men.” That Jupiter (Zeus) should have been accompanied by Mercury (Hermes) accorded also with their own traditions, one of which told of a visit made by these divinities to this very region (see Ovid’s story of Baucis and Philemon, Met., viii. 611, etc.).
2. Their action. The priest of Jupiter (Zeus), whether by himself or through his attendants, having procured oxen and garlands, caused them to be fetched “unto the gates”—i.e., to the temple, and, surrounded by the excited populace, would have offered sacrifice to the supposed divinities. Superstitious as the proposition was, it rebuked, and still rebukes, the lack of enthusiasm on the part of those who, though they know God, glorify Him not as God (Romans 1:21).
III. The protest of the apostles.—
1. The horror they displayed. Having learnt what the priest and people were about, Paul and Barnabas, as might have been expected of pious Jews, not to say enlightened Christians, with their strong monotheism, “sensitive conception of the awful majesty of the One True God,” and instinctive shrinking from the least approach to idolatry, “rent their garments, according to Jewish custom,” from the neck in front down towards the girdle (see “Critical Remarks”), and sprang forth—either from the city towards the temple, or from the house in which they lodged into the street, if the procession had not yet reached the temple—and dashed in among the excited and fanatic crowd.
2. The words they uttered.
(1) A question about the folly of the priest and people—“Sirs! why do ye these things?” An expostulation that might be addressed with propriety to many besides the Lystrans.
(2) A declaration about themselves and their mission, that they were ordinary mortals like the Lystrans, whom besides it was the object of their mission to turn from these vanities to serve the living God. These thoughts about ministers and their missions should be kept in mind both by ministers themselves and their hearers.
(3) A proclamation concerning God. His nature, as the living—i.e., self-existent and life-bestowing God (Deuteronomy 5:26; Psalms 42:2; Jeremiah 10:10; Daniel 6:26). His omnipotence, as the maker of the universe (Genesis 1:1; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalms 102:25). His justice, in suffering the heathen to go their own ways seeing they had first forsaken Him (compareActs 7:42; Acts 7:42; Romans 1:24). His forbearance (according to a different interpretation of the verse) in allowing the nations to walk in their own ways without any manifestation of righteous indignation against them (compareActs 17:30; Acts 17:30; Romans 3:25). His goodness, in giving them witness of Himself by sending them “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness” (compareMatthew 5:45; Matthew 5:45). On the course of the apostle’s argument, as illustrating his manner of dealing with the heathen, a remarkable light is shed by the apology of Aristides (see “Hints on Acts 14:15-17”).
3. The success they attained. They restrained, though with difficulty, the people from carrying out their design; that they obtained no deep hold on their hearts subsequent movements showed.
IV. The interference of the Jews.—
1. Whence these came. From Antioch and Iconium, where their hostility had been aroused and their rage baulked. Nearly every persecution Paul suffered proceeded from the Jews. However wrong, this was partly natural. No man likes apostates, and from the standpoint of the Jews Paul was an apostate of the first water.
2. How they proceeded. They stirred up the crowds who, besides being fickle, as all crowds are (compareExodus 16:2; Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:4; Luke 23:21), were probably in a sullen and half hostile mood in consequence of having discovered that their visitors were not gods but ordinary mortals, and therefore most likely magicians and impostors.
3. What they effected. They so raised the mob that these “stoned Paul,” not beyond the precinets of the town, as the Jews had done to Stephen (Acts 7:58), but in the streets, where they were, “and dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead.” See Paul’s allusion to this experience (2 Corinthians 11:25). How Barnabas escaped does not appear.
4. How far they failed.
(1) They did not kill him as they intended and supposed. “As the disciples stood round him he” came to, “rose up and entered into the city.”
(2) They did not detach from him all his friends in Lystra. The disciples gained there stood round his mangled body, when, like the carcase of a dead dog, it was thrown beyond the city, and received him into their homes, when, having revived, he returned into town.
(3) They did not prevent the prosecution of his missionary work. “On the morrow he went forth with Barnabas to Derbe.
1. The power of the gospel to work moral miracles.
2. The credibility of the doctrine of the incarnation.
3. The folly of idol worship,
4. The power, majesty, and goodness of God.
5. The rewards of the faithful.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 14:9. Faith to be saved.
I. Possible to all who need salvation.
II. Requisite for all who wish salvation.
III. Observed in all who seek salvation.
IV. Rewarded to all who obtain salvation.
Acts 14:8-10. The Lystra Cripple.
I. An object of sincere pity. Born lame, he had never walked.
II. A recipient of great privilege.—He heard Paul speak concerning Christ and salvation.
III. A subject of rich mercy.—He was healed in body and saved in soul.
IV. A monument of Divine grace.—Allowing to grace that he had been privileged to hear Paul, that his heart had been touched, that faith had been awaked, and that he had been healed and saved.
Acts 14:11. The gods are come down to us in the likeness of man.
I. The error contained in this declaration. That there were “gods,” heathen divinities, to come down to men.
II. The truth foreshadowed in this declaration. The incarnation of the Divine Son in the person of Jesus.
III. The lessons suggested by this declaration.
1. That the human heart instinctively believes in a gracious God who can and will and does hold fellowship with His creature man.
2. That the doctrine of an incarnation is by no means contrary to the intuitive con ceptions of the human mind.
3. That the gospel of Jesus Christ the incarnate Son can find a point of contact with man’s soul in the most benighted nations.
Grecian fables on the Subject of Lycaonia.—
1. The legend of Lycaon. See Ovid, Met., Acts 1:6. “The origin of the name Lycaonia is unknown, but as there happened to have been a king of Arcadia, called Lycaon, Greek invention soon discovered a connection. It was said that Lycaon had been warned by an oracle to found a city in the region of Lycaonia (why, it does not appear), and that the whole country thence derived its appellation. But further, Λύκος, or Lycus, a wolf, was so near in sound to Lycaon, that the resemblance was to be accounted for, and the ready-witted Greeks originated the fable, that when the earth was filled with wickedness Jupiter descended from the skies to satisfy himself of the fact, that he visited the house of Lycaon, and that the people around, when the god was recognised, were for paying him adoration; but that Lycaon mocked the servility of his subjects, and questioned the divinity of his inmate, and to put it to the test, served human flesh at the table to try the deity’s discrimination; that Jupiter was enraged at the attempt, and metamorphosed Lycaon into a wolf” (Lewin, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, i. 161).
2. The story of Philemon and Baucis. See Ovid, Met., viii. 631, etc. According to this fable Baucis and Philemon were an aged couple who lived in a small cottage in a penurious manner when Zeus (Jupiter) and Hermes (Mercury) travelled in disguise over Asia. Having extended to the wandering divinities hospitable shelter which the wealthier inhabitants refused, they had their dwelling changed into a magnificent temple of which they were constituted priests, while an inundation swept away the mansions of their churlish neighbours. In addition they were permitted to live happily to an extreme old age, and to die at the same hour, in accordance with their united request to Zeus, that one might not have the sorrow of following the other to the grave. After death their bodies were changed into trees before the door of the temple.
Acts 14:13. The Temple of Jupiter at Lystra. Concerning this, Professor Ramsay writes: “Much may yet be discovered at Lystra. We should be (specially glad to find some independent proof that a temple of Jupiter before the city (Διὸς Προπόλεως) existed there. From the many examples of such temples quoted by the commentators on Acts (see “Critical Remarks”), it seems highly probable that there was one at Lystra. The nearest and best analogy, which is still unpublished, may be mentioned here. At Claudiopolis of Isauria, a town in the mountains south-east from Lystra, an inscription in the wall of the mediæval castle records a dedication to Jupiter before the town (Δὰ Προαστίῳ).… “There is every probability that some great building once stood beside the pedestal in Lystra, dedicated to Augustus.” … “There is every probability that the worship of the Imperial Founder was connected with the chief temple, and that the pedestal was placed in the sacred precinet of Zeus, as at Ephesus the Augusteum was built within the sacred precinet of Artemis.” … “Very little excavation would be needed to verify this identification, and probably to disclose the remains of the temple, in front of whose gates the sacrifice was prepared for the Apostles” (The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 51, 52).
Acts 14:15. Sirs! why do ye these things? Idolatry.
I. Indefensible in reason, since the gods of the heathen are “vanities.”
II. Degrading to man, since man is superior to the object of his worship, when that is an idol.
III. Insulting to God, since He alone is,
1. The living God.
2. The creator of the universe.
3. The providential ruler of the world.
4. The benefactor of His creature and child man.
All men alike.
I. In their origin.—
1. From God.
2. From the dust.
II. In their nature.—
III. In their character.—
IV. In their destiny.—I. To die.
2. To live for ever.
Acts 14:17. God’s Witness of Himself.
I. Beneficent in character.
II. Universal in extent.
III. Constant in duration.
IV. Despised by its recipients.
V. Condemning in its judgments.
Acts 14:15-17. The Light of Nature.
I. Its excellences.—It reveals—
1. The existence of a supreme Being.
2. His perfection in wisdom and power.
3. His supreme and absolute dominion.
4. His moral government.
5. His universal beneficence.
II. Its uses.—Various.
1. To show men their duty.
2. To convince them of sin.
3. To encourage them in repentance.
4. To vindicate God’s character as a moral governor.
5. To prepare for the gospel of His grace.
III. Its defects.—
1. It illuminates but a small portion of the things of God.
2. Is but dim and feeble.
3. Exercises little influence on men’s hearts and lives.
4. Can discover no effectual relief for guilt and sin.
Note.—The lightshed by the Apology of Aristides, a document composed in the second century (A.D. 120) in Athens, on the method commonly adopted by sub-apostolic writers in dealing with the heathen, is well worthy of attentive study. “Aristides,” says Professor George T. Stokes, D.D., “begins his address to the Emperor (Hadrian) by stating, as St. Paul often does, the effect of the contemplation of nature upon his own soul, teaching him the eternal power and godhead of the Author thereof. In the very opening of his argument he attacks that subtle Pantheism, with its belief in the eternity of the material universe, which characterised the religions of Greece and Rome. ‘O King, by the grace of God, I came into this world, and having contemplated the heavens and the earth and the sea, and beheld the sun and the rest of the orderly creation, I was amazed at the arrangement of the world; and I comprehended that the world and all that is therein are moved by the impulse of Another, and I understood that He that moveth them is God, who is hidden in them and concealed from them; and this is well known that that which moveth is more powerful than that which is moved. And that I should investigate concerning this Mover of All, as to how He exists, and that I should dispute concerning the steadfastness of His government, so as to comprehend it fully, is not profitable for me; for no one is able perfectly to comprehend it. But I say, concerning the Mover of the world, that He is God of all, who made all for the sake of man; and it is evident to me that this is expedient, that one should fear God and not grieve man.’ The argument of Aristides in this passage is just the same as St. Paul’s at. Lystra, or in that great indictment of paganism contained in the First of Romans, an indictment which Aristides amply confirms in all its awful details.”—Modern Discoveries and the Christian Faith, Sunday at Home, 1891, December, p. 107.
Acts 14:19. The Stoning of Paul.
I. A hideous crime.—On the part of the Jews who stirred up the Lystrans.
II. A pitiful spectacle.—For the disciples and friends of the apostle.
III. A strange experience.—Which must have recalled to the apostle’s mind the stoning of Stephen.
IV. A powerful argument.—Perhaps impressing the heart of Timothy as Stephen’s stoning did that of Saul.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 14:20-28
The Homeward Journey of Paul and Barnabas; or, Back to Antioch in Syria
I. The turning point.—Derbe (see on Acts 14:6).
1. The character of the apostles’ work in Derbe. Preaching the gospel. Thus early were Paul’s mottoes, “This one thing I do” (Philippians 3:13); “whom we preach” (Colossians 1:28); “Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
2. The acceptance of the apostles’ work in Derbe. No persecutions encountered here (see 2 Timothy 3:11). The omission of Derbe from the list of places in which persecution was experienced strikingly confirms the narrative of Luke (Paley, Horæ Paulinœ, Acts 4:9).
3. The success of the apostles’ work in Derbe. They made many disciples, amongst them probably Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4).
4. The duration of the apostles’ work at Derbe. Not stated, but may be inferred to have been some weeks.
II. The way back.
1. The route indicated. First to Lystra, twenty miles; next to Iconium, forty miles; after that to Antioch in Pisidia, sixty miles; then to Perga in Pamphylia; then across the plain for sixteen miles to Attalia (the modern Satalia), founded by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamus, a seaport on the Pamphylian Gulf and near the mouth of the Catarrhactes; and finally thence to Antioch in Syria.
2. The work done.
(1) Confirming the souls of the disciples. Not by outward rites, but by instruction and encouragement, “exhorting them to continue in the faith,” and reminding them “that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.”
(2) Appointing elders in every Church. These elders or presbyters were not modern diocesan bishops, but presiding overseers of different Churches. The mode of their election is not sufficiently clear. Whether by the stretching forth of the hands of the congregation or of the apostles is disputed. If the method adopted in the election of deacons (Acts 6:5-6) was followed here, then the congregation would elect and the apostles ordain, the service being accompanied with fasting and prayer, in which the chosen office-bearers were commended to God for their work.
(3) Preaching the gospel. This, doubtless, would not be neglected in any of the towns visited on the homeward route, but it is specially mentioned that they spoke the word in Perga, because they had not done so on the outward journey (Acts 13:13; which see for the reason of this omission).
III. Home reached.—
1. Their arrival in the city. From Attalia they sailed to Seleucia, “saw once more the steep cone of Mount Casius, climbed the slopes of Coryphæus, and made their way under the pleasant shade of ilex and myrtles and arbutus, on the banks of the Orontes, until they crossed the well-known bridge, and saw the grim head of Charon, stating over the street Singôn, in which neighbourhood the little Christian community were prepared to welcome them with keen interest and unbounded love (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, i. 390).
2. Their meeting with the Church.
(1) This was proper, seeing they had been by the Church recommended (or committed) to the grace of God for the work they had fulfilled (Acts 13:3). Nothing could have been more becoming than that they should report to the Church how the work had fared.
(2) Interesting, since they rehearsed all that God had done with them—i.e., their experiences, and in particular how God had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles—i.e., the success which had attended their labours.
(3) Encouraging, as showing the wisdom of the step which had been taken in despatching a mission to the heathen.
3. Their stay with the disciples. “A long” or “no little time.” The exact duration of the first missionary journey can only be approximately calculated. If it began in March A.D. 45, we are hardly at liberty to suppose that it occupied much more than a year (Farrar), in which case the return of Paul and Barnabas to Antioch would fall in all probability about the spring of A.D 46. Professor Ramsay gives April 45–July 47 (or 46–48) as the period over which the first journey extended. From the close of the journey they remained in Antioch till the outbreak of controversy concerning the terms on which the Gentiles should be admitted to the Church required their presence in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2).
1. The duty of persevering in the work of the Lord.
2. The necessity of abiding in the faith.
3. The only way of entering the kingdom.
4. The Scripturalness of Church order.
5. The interest Christians should take in foreign missions.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 14:21-22. The Pastoral Office—its True Function.
I. To preach the gospel.
II. To make disciples.
III. To confirm believers.
IV. To comfort the suffering.
Acts 14:22. Scriptural Confirmation.
I. Not an external (bodily) rite, but an internal (spiritual) grace.
II. Not performed by the laying on of hands, but by the utterance of exhortations and consolations.
III. Not doing a work of establishment, for others, but instructing others to do this for themselves.
Acts 14:22. The Way into the Kingdom.
I. Painful—Through much tribulation or many tribulations.
II. Necessary.—We must. Un avoidable by any, indispensable for all.
III. Certain.—It leads into the kingdom. No question about whither it conducts.
IV. Blessed.—The terminus to which it tends is the kingdom of God.
Entering the Kingdom.
I. Heaven a kingdom.—
1. Its sovereign, God. The great king who built it, the architect of the universe, the Lord of Hosts.
2. Its subjects.
(1) In nature diversified, angels and redeemed men.
(2) In character, holy and without blemish,
(3) In condition, free from every defect and possessed of every felicity.
(4) In number, a multitude which no man can number and constantly increasing.
3. Its permanence. It will never be destroyed and never pass away.
II. The believer’s entrance into the kingdom.—Effected—
1. In time through regeneration, a work of gracious renewal upon his heart, which ipso facto at once constitutes him a subject of the kingdom.
2. At death, when the soul, having been purified and perfected through much tribulation, taking its departure from the body, passes through the vale and joins the company of the spirits of just men made perfect. This entrance certainly follows on the first after an interval, longer or shorter, of preparation.
Continuing in the Faith.
I. The danger of declining from the faith.—Arising from—
1. Indwelling sin.
2. The fascinations and temptations of the world.
3. The ills and tribulations of life.
4. False teachers and erroneous teaching.
5. The self-righteousness and spiritual pride of even converted hearts.
II. The necessity of abiding in the faith.—
1. Christ’s express command.
2. Continuance in the faith the best evidence of having ever been in the faith.
3. Without this the prize of eternal life cannot be won.
Acts 14:23. The Office of the Eldership.
I. Its authority.—Derived from the Head of the Church (Ephesians 4:11).
II. Its function.—To superintend the membership of the Church (Acts 20:28).
III. Its selection.—By the members of the Church. Christ an people should elect their own office bearers.
IV. Its ordination.—By the apostles in the first instance (2 Timothy 1:6), afterwards by the laying on of the hands of the presbyters (1 Timothy 4:14)
V. Its efficiency.—Derived from the Lord, on whom the elder has believed.
VI. Its sphere.—Within the Church. Purely a spiritual office.
VII. Its qualification.—The elder must himself be a believer. Other qualifications are set forth in the pastoral epistles.
Acts 14:26-27. The First Recorded Missionary Meeting.
I. The place where it was held.—In Antioch of Syria, which had sent forth the first pair of evangelists to proclaim the gospel to the heathen. An unperishable renown which never can be taken from Antioch.
II. The congregation which assembled.—The company of believers in the city, or the Church. That all the Christians who could be were present, that all were interested in the proceedings, and that all were eager to see the men who had hazarded their lives for the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 15:26), can hardly be doubted.
III. The story told by the missionaries.—Paul and Barnabas related all that God had done with them, and how He had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Acts 14:27. The (or a) Door of Faith.
I. Divinely constructed.—Salvation by faith a scheme, not of man’s ininventing, but of God’s appointing.
II. Widely opened.—By the publication of the gospel, inviting all who will to enter.
III. Easily reached.—Requiring no distant or difficult pilgrimage to get near it: “The word is nigh thee,” etc. (Romans 10:8).
IV. Freely entered.—By all who come in the exercise of simple faith, trusting in the mercy of God for Jesus’ sake.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29