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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Acts 14

Introduction

Excursus A.

On the Apostolic Office.

Perhaps from the mysterious verse (Revelation 21:14), ‘And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb,’ an opinion has existed from very early times respecting the college of apostles being limited to the mystic number of twelve. Hence such interpretations of Holy Scripture which see in the twelve wells of Elim the twelve apostles foreshadowed, and in the threescore and ten palm trees a reference to the seventy disciples (Tertul. adv. Marcion). The name, however, and rank of apostle was not so strictly limited. James the Lord’s brother is called an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:7).

In this passage others besides James are possibly included under the designation ‘apostle.’

Andronicus and Junius, mentioned in Romans 16:7, are certainly designated not merely as apostles, but as ‘of note among the apostles;’ and in Thess. Acts 2:6, Sylvanus is probably included in the ‘We, . . . the apostles of Christ,’ not Timothy, who is excluded from the apostolate by Paul in his opening salutation, 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1 (see Professor Lightfoot, Epistle to the Galatians., in his note on the Name and Office of an Apostle). Paul and Barnabas are directly called apostles in this chapter of the ‘Acts,’ and with the name Paul constantly assumes the rank and authority of an apostle, as in 1 Corinthians 1:1, Romans 1:1, and in many other places. Still, notwithstanding these certain instances of apostles in excess of the mystic number ‘twelve,’ of Paul and Barnabas, and the more doubtful ones of Andronicus, Junius, and Sylvanus (Romans 16:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:6), the title and authority seem to have been restricted by certain indispensable conditions.

The first was the apostle must have seen Christ, He must have been an eye-witness of the resurrection. Those few above alluded to may well have satisfied this indispensable condition, which would, of course, exclude all who did not belong to the generation contemporary with our Lord. Paul’s case was a special one. The Risen One, after His ascension, showed Himself to His chosen missionary, and talked with him; but this privilege was vouchsafed to no other of the early Christian teachers, except to the Apostle John.

The second condition requited was that the actual call to the office should come directly from the Church; and the only record we possess of such a call closely connects the Church’s official act with the direct instructions of the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:2-3). The doubtfulness of the reference, direct or indirect, to any apostles other than the ‘Fourteen, (perhaps with the exception of the three, Sylvanus, Andronicus, and Junius), the absence of any account of the Church’s appointing any one except Barnabas and Paul to the nigh office, shows us clearly that the apostolate was certainly confined to very few. The especial work of the apostle was the oversight and care of all the churches in respect to church government and discipline. After that the Lord withdrew His visible presence from men, the Apostolic College formed the highest tribunal of appeal. They were also the inspired interpreters of the Divine system of salvation, and to this day their writings are held as the infallible rule of faith and life. They possessed though they were not the solitary possessors of these highgifts great powers, moral and spiritual, such as a brave, untired patience, heroic self-denial, the ability at times to work what we term supernatural signs and wonders (in the first age a few others were gifted with like powers). When, however, the first century wore away, and these few leaders whom men call apostles divinely chosen, and then officially commissioned by the Church fell asleep, no attempt was made, either in the Palestinian or Gentile churches, to fill up the empty chairs. A feeling of awful reverence perhaps deterred the various Christian communities from attempting to supply their vacant places.

Excursus B.

On the Office of Presbyter in the Early Church.

The presbyterate of the Church of the first days was no new creation. The Christian Church in its earliest stage, as has been well said, ‘was regarded by the body of the Jewish people as nothing more than a new sect springing up by the side of the old.’ The term ‘presbyter’ or ‘elder’ was well known in the synagogue. It was applied to the rulers of these Jewish congregations.

They appear to have formed a college under the presidency of the chief rulers, and to have assisted him with their advice; upon this presbytery devolved in every synagogue the conduct of the religious affairs of the congregation.

The term in the first instance refers to age, and then derivatively to official dignity. On the formation of the first Gentile communities in Asia Minor, the organization of the synagogue was imitated as closely as possible, and the title and the functions of the elders of the synagogues were bestowed on those converts who from age or other special qualifications appeared to the apostles the best fitted to direct the religious services, and watch over the general interests of the new society. The duties of these presbyters, who, we read, were appointed by the two missionary apostles, were by no means confined to ruling and superintending; they were also, we know, instructors. Elsewhere (Ephesians 4:11), Paul styles them ‘shepherds and teachers.

Verse 1

Residence of the Missionary Apostles in the City of Iconium, 1 - 6 .

Acts 14:1. And it came to pass in Iconium (see note on the History of the City, chap. 13 Acts 13:51). The success of Paul’s preaching appears to have been unusually great in this place; and it was no doubt owing to the rapid spread of the doctrines preached by the apostles in Iconium and its neighbourhood that the jealousy of the Jewish leading men was excited, and the calumnies which resulted in the banishment of Paul and Barnabas were devised.

And also of the Greeks. There seems no reason to restrict the Greeks here mentioned to those believers known as ‘proselytes of the gate.’ The reputation of Paul very likely attracted many of the dwellers in Iconium who had no connection with Judaism.

Verse 2

Acts 14:2. But the unbelieving Jews. Gloag calls attention to the fact that of the numerous persecutions recorded in the ‘Acts,’ there were only two which were not occasioned by the Jews.

Stirred up the Gentiles. That is, rendered hostile. The Jews saw that all those privileges which belonged to the covenant people, and of which they were so jealously proud, would cease altogether to be their peculiar heritage if the Gentiles were admitted on the same terms into the kingdom of God. The very word here used by the writer of the ‘Acts,’ ‘ the brethren,’ the favourite expression by which the members of the Christian society used to designate themselves, was especially obnoxious to the stubborn Jews, who refused to accept Christ as Messiah. To these unhappy men, the thought that ‘believing Jews’ and ‘believing Gentiles’ should constitute one holy brotherhood, was strangely hateful.

Verse 3

Acts 14:3. Long time. This first mission of Paul and Barnabas is computed to have occupied between three and four years (see the note on Acts 14:27). The ‘long time’ may well be supposed to have included several months.

In the Lord. Their patient bravery found its grand support in the protection of Christ. Sustained by the invisible blessing of the Master ruling from His throne in heaven, undismayed by dangers ever thickening around them, the undaunted apostles boldly proclaimed the Gospel.

And granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But, as was stated in Acts 14:1, the great multitudes were converted by the preaching of the Gospel before any miracle was performed. The miracles were wrought by Christ as a sign of His approval of His servants’ work, apparently after the multitude had been gathered into His fold.

Verse 5

Acts 14:5. And when there was an assault made. The Greek word hardly signifies an ‘assault,’ rather a ‘sudden movement,’ a hostile movement’ or ‘impulse’ on the part of the Jews and Gentiles; it could not have been an open attack, as the apostles avoided violence and stoning by a timely flight. In his Second Epistle to the Corinthian Church (chap. Acts 11:25), Paul writes: ‘Once was I stoned.’ Paley observes here: ‘Had this meditated assault at Iconium been completed, had the history related that a stone was thrown, as it relates that preparations were made both by Jews and Gentiles to stone Paul and his companions, or even had the account of this transaction stopped without going on to inform us that “Paul and his companions were aware of the danger and fled,” a contradiction between the history and epistle would have ensued. Truth is necessarily consistent, but it is scarcely possible that independent accounts not having truth to guide them should thus advance to the very brink of contradiction without falling into it.’

Verse 6

Acts 14:6. And fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. Lycaonia extends from the ridges of Mount Taurus and the Cilician frontiers on the south to the hills of Cappadocia on the north. Travellers speak of it as a desolate country, without streams of water. Strabo even mentions one place where water was sold for money. Iconium was the principal city of this great district.

Lystra. This city possesses a post-apostolic history. In the records of early councils, the names of the Bishops of Lystra appear. The ruins, situated at the foot of a singular volcanic mountain named Kara Dagh (the Black Mountain), have been identified in modern days as the Lystra of early Christianity. The remains of this once famous city are called now by the singular name of 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 (see Lewin, St. Paul, ‘The First Circuit’).

Derbe. Little or nothing is known of this city. Its very ruins are only identified with doubt. Stephen of Byzantium speaks of Derbe as sometimes called Delbeia, which, in the speech of Lycaonia, signifies a ‘juniper tree.’ It is said that in post-apostolic times there was a Bishop of Derbe, who was a suffragan of the Metropolitan of Iconium.

Verse 7

The Citizens of Lystra and Derbe, in Lycaonia, mistake the Missionary Apostles for Gods. Paul’s Lystrian Sermon, 7 - 19 .

Acts 14:7. And there they preached the gospel. There appears to have been but few Jews in these parts. We hear of no synagogue at either Lystra or Derbe. The apostles would preach generally in the market-place, or in some public thoroughfare; but the great centre, doubtless, of their work was that house, in later days known in the churches as the home of Timothy, the greatest and most famous of the disciples of Paul. This was a family in which a Jewish woman was married to a Greek citizen. The deep piety of Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy, their love for the traditions of the ancient covenant people on the one side, their Gentile connections on the other, supplied a link between the Jewish apostles and the people of Lycaonia. The church of Lystra was the first Christian church composed almost entirely of Gentiles.

Verse 8

Acts 14:8. And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet. The incident here related was evidently no very unusual one in the life of these first great missionaries of the faith. But this Lystra miracle became famous in early Christian story, and was, no doubt, oftentimes related as the event which gave occasion to the first direct invitation from the founders of Christianity to the great heathen world, in the persons of the idolaters of Lystra in Lycaonia. The case of the baptism of Cornelius the Roman officer was the first advance out of the charmed circle of Judaism; but Cornelius, though a Gentile, was no idolater. He was possibly even a ‘proselyte of the gate,’ and certainly was a worshipper of and a worker for the one true God. The scene of the healing, no uncommon one, reminds us ‘of the manner in which those who carry the message of salvation to the heathen in the present day collect around them groups of listeners in Burmah and Hindostan. It was on one of these occasions, as Paul was preaching in some thoroughfare of the city, that the lame man heard him: his friends had placed him there perhaps to solicit alms’ (Hackett On the Acts).

Verse 9

Acts 14:9. Perceiving that he had faith to be healed. Something in the rapt gaze of the poor helpless cripple attracted Paul, who now looked on him earnestly, and saw something in the sufferer’s face which moved him to utter the commanding words which possessed such strange awful power. The poor helpless man had heard, no doubt, the apostles’ public teaching, and was convinced of the reality of the great redemption worked by the Master whose blessed message Paul preached. This conviction the apostle read in the upturned face of the afflicted one who lay helpless at his feet.

Verse 10

Acts 14:10. And he leaped and walked. The lame man sprang up in his glad consciousness of a new power he had never felt before. O strange miracle! Not only could he stand upright, he who ever since his child-days had sat and reclined, but he could now move and walk like other men whom he had for so many years watched and longed to imitate. Some critics of the cheerless school of Baur and Zeller have endeavoured to show that the story of this miracle was but a mere imitation of the miracle of Peter at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple related in Acts 3:0. Such criticism passes over such marked differences in the two incidents as the following. In Jerusalem the lame man merely desired and hoped to receive an alms from Peter and John, even after Peter had bidden him ‘to look on’ him and John. But the cripple at Lystra had already been an attentive hearer of Paul. At Lystra, the cripple at the word of Paul leaped up and walked; in Jerusalem, Peter took the lame man by the hand and lifted him up.

Verse 11

Acts 14:11. And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices. The whole incident was of so strange a nature that it at once took by storm the hearts of these impulsive Lycaonians. A well-known helpless cripple, as he ‘at doubtless in a spot where he had often sat before in a public thoroughfare of the city, at the bidding of the stranger sojourning among them, in a moment was able to cast off his lifelong infirmity, and moved at once among them like any other strong and healthy man. This was no mortal’s act. Surely the men who could speak the beautiful solemn words these strangers had been speaking, and do such mighty works as the restoring to health and strength such poor afflicted beings as the man before them, were no mere men, but were Divine.

Saying in the speech of Lycaonia. Hitherto the intercourse between the missionary apostles and the people of Lystra had been carried on in the Greek tongue, the ordinary language of commerce in the cities of Asia Minor; but now, surprised and excited, the Lystrians naturally returned to their native dialect, and in their hurried preparations to do honour to their supposed Divine visitors, they spoke one to another in their own familiar speech of Lycaonia. Scholars are divided in opinion respecting this language. Some think it was an Assyrian dialect, others suppose it was merely a corrupt Greek, others assume it was a Galatian dialect. Stephen of Byzantium (fifth century) mentions this language as still existing.

The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men . The scene of the beautiful legend of Baucis and Philemon, who entertained Zeus (Jupiter) and Hermes (Mercury) when they came down to visit the homes of men, was in that very region, in the interior of Asia Minor. The story of the visit of the gods to Lycaonia was as follows. In return for the kind and hospitable welcome they had received from these two poor peasants, who unawares entertained the two immortals Jupiter and Mercury, these deities, while punishing the churlish and inhospitable inhabitants of the land who had refused to receive the strangers, by overwhelming them and their homes in a terrible inundation, rewarded their kind hosts by changing their little lowly hut into a proud temple, at the altars of which Baucis and Philemon were appointed to minister to the chief of the gods whom they had received disguised as a pool stranger into their humble cottage home.

Ovid tells the story well and simply:

‘Here Jove with Hermes came; but in disguise

Of mortal men concealed their deities:

One laid aside his thunder, one his rod:

And many toilsome steps together trod;

For harbour at a thousand doors they knocked,

Not one of all the thousand but was locked;

At last a hospitable house they found

An homely shed; the roof not far from ground,

Was thatched with reeds and straw together bound.

There Baucis and Philemon lived.

From lofty roofs the gods repulsed before,

Now stooping, entered through the little door,

The man (their hearty welcome first express’d)

A common settle drew for either guest.’

The churlish neighbours were subsequently punished by a terrible flood which overwhelmed the surrounding country, while the hospitable kindly couple were amazed to see the strange change which befell their humble cottage:

‘Their little shed, scarce large enough for two,

Seems from the ground increased, in height and bulk to grow.

A stately temple shoots within the skies:

The crotchets of their cot in columns rise:

The pavement polished marble they behold,

The gates with sculpture graced, the spires and tiles of gold.’

Metamorphosis, Book viii. , Dryden’s Translation.

In this temple the favoured pair were appointed to minister before the altars of their Divine guest. Before the gates of Lystra stood a temple of Zeus (Jupiter), and perhaps, as Ewald suggests, the legend of the appearance of the gods, somewhat as above related, was recited year by year at the great festival in this temple; and thus the credolous people readily supposed the gods they worshipped, and who they fancied loved their land with a peculiar love, had visited once more the scenes of their former wandering.

Verse 12

Acts 14:12. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius. Barnabas they imagined to be Jupiter (Zeus), most likely from his older and more venerable appearance; while the less imposing figure of Paul better represented the attendant deity Mercury (Hermes), the persuasive, eloquent speaker. The traditions respecting the personal aspect of Paul represent him as of insignificant stature and bald, with a pallid complexion. His face and figure appear to have been markedly of the Hebrew type. But while to outward appearance he must have looked like some commonplace travelling Jew, his manner and address must have been singularly winning.

Verse 13

Acts 14:13. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city. The temple of Jupiter stood at the entrance of Lystra, and the explanation of the words, ‘of Jupiter which was before their city,’ may be found in the Pagan conception that the gods themselves were present in their temples.

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Brought oxen and garlands. These garlands were to crown the oxen about to be sacrificed. Such floral crowns were also worn by those sacrificing. They were composed of the various plants and flowers sacred to the gods to whom the sacrifice was offered.

Unto the gates. The gates of the city are here evidently alluded to. Some commentators prefer to understand the expression as referring to the gates of the house where the apostles were lodging. This seems unlikely, as Paul and Barnabas evidently were quite ignorant of the preparations which were made to do them honour, until the report reached their ears, when they at once hurried out to stop the proceedings. The supposed deities were residing in the city, so the worshippers brought the offering to the city gates, as to the gates of the temple which held the divinity.

Verse 14

Acts 14:14. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of. In this place, and also in Acts 14:4 of this chapter, Paul and Barnabas are styled apostles. These two distinguished and devoted men, after a long period of trial, were formally (Acts 13:2) set apart by the solemn act of the Church of Antioch, acting under the express direction of the Holy Ghost, to this high and singular position in the community of Christians. The special work for which these new apostleships were created, was the great mission to Gentile lands. St. Paul makes mention of the rank of St. Barnabas, Galatians 2:9, and even more definitely in 1 Corinthians 9:6.

(On the office of an apostle, see a short Excursus at the end of the chapter.)

They rent their clothes. This was the ordinary Jewish mode of expressing horror at hearing or seeing anything that was impious; the act consisted in tearing the garment from the neck in front down to the girdle. Preparations for this act of adoration must have been going on for some time. No doubt many of the awe-struck and amazed bystanders in the public place where the miracle of healing took place, exclaimed at once that the two strangers were the gods once more among them, and the word passed from mouth to mouth in Lystra: but the ‘speech of Lycaonia’ suggested nothing to the Hebrew apostles, and the preparations were all complete, and the victims crowned with their garlands for the sacrifice, before the unsuspecting apostles were aware of the idolatrous homage which was intended for them.

Verse 15

Acts 14:15. Saying, Why do ye these things? The argument of Paul’s address to the Lystrian idolaters, as far as we are able to gather it from the very brief summary preserved to us here, seems to be as follows: ‘Brothers, you must not look on us as in any way different to you: we are but men. And then, too, those gods whom ye take us to be, they are no gods at all. There is indeed a God whom you and your fathers have neglected, a God who made heaven and earth and sea, who though He has not given to you any direct written revelation concerning Himself, still those blessings, those recurring and ever-recurring life-giving powers of nature, seed-time and harvest-time, rain and sunshine, the thousand gifts of a bountiful Providence which serve to make glad the heart of man, these blessings have spoken in times past with sufficient clearness to awaken the slumbering thoughts of men, and to direct their attention to the adoration of the one true God. In these things you Gentiles at least might have found the traces of an unseen watchful Providence of a God at once beneficent and pure. But in the place of such a God, misreading the teachings of nature, you have set up as the object of your worship, imaginary beings wanton and impure, capricious, and characterized by all the worst and most ungovernable of the passions of men.’ (This last thought, unexpressed in this brief abstract of the ‘Acts,’ constantly present in Paul’s mind, necessarily follows the words of Acts 14:17.)

The thousand gifts of nature above alluded to seem every instant to call men to adore the loving all-Father who cares so tenderly for His children. Such an expression of a grateful heart is found in the beautiful words of the whole of Psalms 104:0, which commences with, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul.’

We also are men of like passions with you. In other words, ‘We are men like you, subject like yourselves to suffering and to death.’ The gods were regarded as blessed immortals, incapable of suffering and want, dwelling in their own serene atmosphere far removed from men, exempt from all pain and peril.

And preach unto you. Literally, ‘and bring you glad tidings.’ The glad tidings they brought were the object of the devoted missionaries’ journey. They came into these distant lands not to receive Divine honours, but to tell them of a living God, who loved them with a love passing understanding.

That ye should turn from these vanities. Better rendered, ‘from these vain things.’ Probably here the preacher pointed with his hand to the temple of Jupiter before the city gates vain things such as the lifeless idol shrined within; vain things such as Jupiter and Mercury. The whole discourse should be compared with the more elaborate sermon of Paul on the Hill of Ares (Mars) at Athens (Acts 17:23-31), and also with Romans 1:19-32, where the responsibilities of the heathen are dwelt upon at considerable length. The same thoughts run through these three Pauline compositions.

Verse 17

Acts 14:17. And gave us rain from heaven. This mention of ‘rain from heaven’ was an especial instance of Divine benevolence to the people of Lystra, as in the Lycaonian country water was so extremely scarce. In many Eastern countries this ‘rain from heaven’ was a most precious boon (see Psalms 104:13).

Verse 19

Acts 14:19. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch. With rare exceptions, the Jews stirred up every persecution suffered by Paul. The stubborn jealousy of the race felt that in Paul they had to fear one whose life’s work was the breaking down the wall of partition which separated the Hebrew race from the rest of the world. The arrival of these enemies of Paul was no accidental circumstance; the news of the success of the apostles in Lystra had reached Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia, and they came to the scene of his successes to thwart him, and, if possible, to compass his destruction.

Who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul. The Lycaonians, we know, were proverbially fickle and faithless. It has been well said, ‘How fickle the world is! they first bring garlands, then stones. Every generation ultimately stones its own gods; the only difference is found in the manner in which the stones are cast.’ This ‘stoning’ shows that Jews at least prompted the cruel, murderous outrage. Stoning was peculiarly a Jewish punishment. The terrible experience at Lystra is alluded to by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:25, possibly also in Galatians 6:17, where he speaks of the marks of the Lord Jesus borne in his body.

Verse 20

Acts 14:20. As the disciples stood round about him. His work in Lystra had not been in vain. Different to the awful night in Gethsemane when all forsook the arrested Master and fled, the disciples of Paul, undismayed by their master’s arrest and execution, gathered round the poor scarred body of him they judged dead; and as they sorrowfully gazed on the pale disfigured features, the martyr rose up and walked among living men once more.

That this recovery of Paul after the cruel stoning was miraculous, is the natural, indeed the only inference. Several commentators suggest with great probability, that among that group of mourning disciples gathered that day at Lystra round the apostle’s apparently lifeless body, was the young Timothy, who, no doubt, heard the story of the Cross from Paul’s lips during that first visit of the apostle; nor is it an unlikely surmise which dates the enthusiastic and lifelong devotion of the young disciple from that morning when Paul suffered as Christ’s faithful martyr.

Verse 21

Acts 14:21. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and taught many. The work at Derbe appears to have been very successful: the converts to the religion of Jesus were numerous, and the apostles evidently met with no opposition in any quarter here. Among their disciples at Derbe was that Gaius, mentioned Acts 4:0. Paley calls attention to a striking undesigned coincidence between the history of the Acts of this portion of Paul’s life and the Second Epistle to Timothy, Acts 3:11: ‘In the apostolic history, Lystra and Derbe are commonly mentioned together; in 2 Timothy 3:11, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra are mentioned, not Derbe. And the distinction will appear on this occasion to be accurate, for Paul in that passage is enumerating his persecutions; and although he underwent grievous persecutions in each of the three cities through which he passed to Derbe, at Derbe itself he met with none. The Epistle, therefore, in the names of the cities in the order in which they are enumerated, and in the place at which the enumeration stops, corresponds exactly with the history.’

Verse 22

Acts 14:22. Exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. This seems to be the first exhortation to the then little Gentile church from the lips of inspired men. It contains a solemn truth, and is the sum of the whole teaching of Jesus. The happiness which awaits the redeemed in heaven can only be reached through an avenue of suffering. These first Gentile converts must learn the lesson every true- hearted Christian man or woman in every age has painfully had to learn, ‘ No cross, no crown.’ It has been very beautifully said: ‘Thinkest thou that thou wilt enter into the kingdom of heaven without the cross and tribulation? But neither Christ nor any one of His most beloved friends and saints had the power or the will to do so. Ask any one of the triumphant citizens of heaven whom thou wilt, and they will all respond, “We attained to the glory of God by the cross and chastisements.” . . . Carry the cross with a willing heart, and it will guide thee to the place where thy sorrows will end, and where thou wilt find all for which thy soul has longed’ (Thomas Aquinas).

Verse 23

Acts 14:23. And when they had ordained them elders in every church. This is rendered more accurately, ‘And when they had appointed for them elders,’ etc. There is some doubt here as to whether the Greek word translated ‘ordained,’ or, more accurately, ‘appointed’ signified that Paul and Barnabas simply conducted and guided the elections of the churches, or whether the two apostles themselves appointed these elders (or presbyters). The latter is the more probable, as in these new-formed communities, presbyters or elders chosen by Paul and Barnabas acting under the light of the Divine Spirit, would be more likely to command respect when the apostles were far away, than any elders chosen by popular voice.

(On the office of ‘presbyter,’ see Excursus B in the Chapter Comments.)

Verse 25

Acts 14:25. And when they had preached the word in Perga. This was the second visit of the apostles to this place. On the first occasion they merely passed through it, now they formally preach the Gospel within its walls. The history of the Acts’ says nothing of success, recounts no opposition. We conclude, therefore, that few converts were the result of the missionaries’ labours. Apathy seems to have been the characteristic feature of the citizens; perhaps ‘they cared for none of these things. ‘

They went down into Attalia. This was a port on the Pamphylian Gulf, at no great distance from the important city of Perga. It was built and named after Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, who had built this city in a convenient position for commanding the trade of Syria or Egypt. Attalia was famous in the story of the Crusades, under the name of Sataleia, as the port whence King Louis of France, after his disastrous march through Anatolia, embarked with his knights and nobles for Antioch, leaving the plebeian crowd of infantry to perish at the foot of the Pamphylian hills, A.D. 1148 .

It is now called Adalia, and is a harbour much frequented.

Verse 26

Acts 14:26. And thence they sailed to Antioch. The famous Syrian Antioch is here meant. It was from the Christian Church in Antioch that the Apostles Barnabas and Paul had received their commission to preach in the Gentile churches. They now returned to the same church to give a formal account of their mission.

Verse 27

Acts 14:27. They rehearsed all that God had done for them. The exact time during which the apostles had been absent is uncertain; we have, however, two definite points of time to assist us in determining the length of time taken up in the First Missionary Journey.

Paul returned from Jerusalem to Antioch after having carried the alms from the Antioch Christians to the poor Jerusalem saints (see chap. Acts 11:29-30, Acts 12:25), A.D. 44 . In A.D. 51 , Paul and Barnabas went up again to Jerusalem from the Antioch Church to confer with the elder apostles on the matter of the circumcision of the Gentile converts (chap. Acts 15:2).

Six years, then, were spent in Antioch and on the First Missionary Journey: out of those six years the most likely computation seems to be that which allows three or four years for the journey. The work accomplished, the account of which they formally gave to the Antioch presbytery, included the preaching in the island of Cyprus; and in those districts of Asia Minor termed then Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia, four churches were founded and definitely organised, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

Verse 28

Acts 14:28. And there they abode long time. The exact length of time during which they remained at Antioch is uncertain certainly not less than two years were spent by Paul and Barnabas in the Syrian capital.

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Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Acts 14". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/acts-14.html. 1879-90.