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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 14

 

 

Verses 1-28

Iconium was also in Asia Minor: here they entered the synagogue and the Spirit of God gave them grace to so speak as to vitally influence a great number, both of Jews and Gentiles, to believe the gospel. It was plainly not always they were given power to speak in this way, and this could not be done by some special self-effort: it is dependent entirely on the energizing power of the Spirit of God. If we desire this, let us pray for it and depend on God for it.

Unbelieving Jews again at Iconium used their evil influence to cause bitter animosity. The apostles were however not expelled from the city and continued a long time preaching the Word in the face of such persecution. The Lord also gave special witness to the truth by granting signs and wonders to be done through their instrumentality. Notice the word "therefore" in verse 3. The opposition was a reason for their remaining there, so long as it did not erupt in violence.

Being favored with the manifest working of God among them, the residents of Iconium became divided into two camps, many siding with the Jews against Paul and Barnabas, many others taking a stand with the apostles. We may wonder at Gentiles siding with Jews, but this happens in cases where there is a common enmity against the Lord Jesus Christ. When both Gentiles and Jews made plans to resort to violence, however, the apostles were given information as to it and left the city to go to Lystra and Derbe. This was the wise course, for violence once begun would not quickly stop until it had affected many more than the apostles. More than this, now that a testimony to Christ had been established in Iconium, the Lord uses persecution to send His servants to other parts to proclaim His name. "There they preached the gospel."

Nothing is said of whether many at Lystra turned to the Lord, though we read of one particular man, a cripple from birth. Verse 21 however implies that some disciples were there on Paul's return later. The crippled man was apparently riveted by Paul's message, and Paul, perceiving some evident reality of faith in the man, told him to stand upright on his feet. Immediately he leaped and walked.

An amazing miracle of this kind surely ought to have drawn people's attention to the message that Paul brought. But Satan cunningly took advantage of this to deceive the superstitious residents of the city, who conceived the idolatrous notion that Paul and Barnabas were gods come down in the form of men. Rather than listening to them, they wanted to worship them, even naming Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercury. Mere excitement carries men to foolish lengths. If it was true that these men were gods, why were they not quiet, desiring to listen to them? An idolatrous priest of Jupiter is ready immediately to offer sacrifices to them.

Certainly Paul and Barnabas wanted no identification with that kind of thing, and they used all their persuasive powers to disabuse the people's minds of this deception. They even tore their clothes (not exactly the actions of heathen gods) and cried loudly against any worship of themselves (verses 14 & 15), insisting that they were men similar to the Lycaonians, and were preaching that they should turn away from these idolatrous vanities to the living God, Creator of all things, heavenly and earthly.

As a matter of striking interest they remind these people that God had for ages borne with all nations (Gentile nations), allowing them to walk in their own ways. Of course He had been dealing with Israel specifically for centuries, as Amos 3:2 declares, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." Yet through ages past God had given witness to His own grace and faithfulness by His providential care of all nations, giving them rain from heaven and fruitful seasons of blessing, supplying material needs and giving occasion for gladness. These things men commonly take for granted, while complaining about occasions of need or trouble, forgetting to give their Creator credit for anything.

If, after all His long patience and forbearing, God has sent a message of marvellous grace to the nations, surely they ought to be ready to receive it. But with great difficulty Paul and Barnabas restrained the people from their purpose of sacrificing to them.

Very quickly, however, by the hostile influence of Jews who came from Antioch and Iconium, the fickle minds of the people were totally turned around, so that they were fully prepared to murder their god Mercury! They stoned Paul and carried him outside the city, leaving him for dead.

But God had further work for him. While the disciples stood around him, no doubt deeply grieving (for it is not even said they were praying), he not only moved as showing evidence that he was alive, but stood up and walked with them into the city. In a case like this too we should expect more than a brief period of recuperation, but after a night's rest he was ready to walk with Barnabas to Derbe and preach the gospel there God's miraculous intervention is evident in this. How long they remained in Derbe we are not told, but they taught many.

Though Paul had been stoned and left for dead at Lystra, he and Barnabas boldly return there after their stay in Derbe, undoubtedly guided by God. We may wonder how the citizens of Lystra felt in seeing this man they had stoned to death now preaching again in their city. Did they wonder if he was Mercury after all? Very likely Timothy was converted on either the first visit to Lystra or on this second occasion (Compare Acts 16:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 3:10-11).

Their main object in returning to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch was to confirm the disciples in the knowledge of Christ and of the Word, encouraging also their continuing in the faith. One important factor in this was preparing them for the fact that they might expect much tribulation, and urging them not to be stumbled by this. Together with this, they appointed elders in every assembly. Such appointment manifestly required apostolic authority: the assemblies did not do this themselves. Paul did delegate such authority to Titus (Titus 1:5), and possibly to Timothy also (1 Timothy 3:1-7), but today there is no authority left in the church to make such appointments. Certainly there are still those who have the qualifications of elders, and their godly capacity for this should be recognized by saints, but no one has the right to officially appoint anyone to this position. This was done for the establishing of the early church, just as apostles were appointed by the Lord for this establishing, but the appointment was not intended to continue.

Commending the disciples to the Lord Himself, Paul and Barnabas leave and pass through Pisidia and Pamphylia, preaching the Word in Perga, then passing into Attalia. They had before visited Perga (Chapter 13:13), but nothing is said of any results of their work there. From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch in Syria. They had started from there, being recommended to the grace of God, not to the work, but for the work God had called them to, and which they fulfilled. Man's appointment had nothing to do with this, but the fellowship of the saints in it was of valuable encouragement.

There they gathered the assembly together and reported all that God had accomplished through them, particularly in His opening the door of faith to the Gentiles. Antioch was to be no longer the only assembly that was largely of Gentile character: the work was spreading by the pure grace of God. Paul and Barnabas then remained a long time at Antioch.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-14.html. 1897-1910.

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