Acts 14:1-18 (web)

Iconium and Lystra

Vilified in Iconium

14:1 It happened in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews,
and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed. 
14:2 But the disbelieving{or, disobedient} Jews stirred up 
and embittered the souls of the Gentiles against the brothers. 
14:3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, 
who testified to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 
14:4 But the multitude of the city was divided. Part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 
14:5 When some of both the Gentiles and the Jews, with their rulers, 
made a violent attempt to mistreat and stone them, 
14:6 they became aware of it, 
and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra, Derbe, and the surrounding region. 
14:7 There they preached the gospel. 

Deified in Lystra

14:8 At Lystra a certain man sat, impotent in his feet,
a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked. 
14:9 He was listening to Paul speaking, who, fastening eyes on him, 
and seeing that he had faith to be made whole, 
14:10 said with a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet!" He leaped up and walked. 
14:11 When the multitude saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice,
saying in the language of Lycaonia, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" 
14:12 They called Barnabas "Jupiter," and Paul "Mercury," because he was the chief speaker. 
14:13 The priest of Jupiter, whose temple was in front of their city, 
brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and would have made a sacrifice along with the multitudes. 
14:14 But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it,
they tore their clothes, and sprang into the multitude, crying out, 

14:15 "Men, why are you doing these things? 
We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news,
that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, 
who made the sky and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them; 
14:16 who in the generations gone by allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 
14:17 Yet he didn't leave himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you
{TR reads "us" instead of "you"} rains from the sky and fruitful seasons, 
filling our hearts with food and gladness." 


14:18 Even saying these things, they hardly stopped the multitudes from making a sacrifice to them. 
 

Comments

vs  2 Being incapable of using the truth to defeat the spread of the gospel, the Jews opt for an irrational zealous hatred one often finds in lynch mobs, publically demonizing their opponents. Yet such practice has historically not been uncommon even in the post-Biblical Christian community. The truth can stand on its own. If a proposition can  only be supported through lies, prejudice and bloodshed, rather than on its own merits, the strength of such a proposition is questionable. I'm reminded of Islam, being held together by threats of violence as an example today. Yet from its inception Biblical Christianity has endured the violence against it as a lamb in the midst of wolves without advocating violence against its enemies in return. But some in the Christian community have deviated from this ideal.

vs 3-7 Despite the slander and hostility against them, they continued to endure in the ministry in Iconium. We will face humiliation and slander. But we must put that aside and continue on. A number of times at various churches in an effort to get rid of me I myself faced slander and public humiliation by the religious elite, as is a common experience among those who try to walk as Jesus did.  But much to their dismay I would continue to come and try to get involved in the church.  Let us put aside feelings and attitudes that hinder us from running the race, accepting even unjust humiliation. Rather than being bitter at the circumstances, let us concentrate on fulfilling our responsibilities and getting the job done. That was the attitude of these apostles.

The NIV uses the phrase "who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders." God affirmed their words by miracles done through them. We can testify to what God has said, but God himself is also involved with us in the process of evangelism in affirming the message. If not through us, we can point out the miracles he has done through Jesus and the apostles to affirm the message. And the content of our presentation of the gospel itself should contain miracles, and  in particular the resurrection of Christ from the dead. But I see no reason why we might not also pray for God to affirm the message today as well through miracles, as such would be consistent with how it was presented by the apostles and consistent with the idea of walking as Jesus did.

On the day of judgment these Jews and Gentiles will be held more accountable than most. For they had the witness of miracles and yet rejected the gospel. The more we know and the more we have experienced, the more we will be held responsible.

Luke 12:13,14 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.
But we have to give some credit to those who persecuted the ministers of the gospel for their part in the fulfilment of the Great Commission. For such persecution was partly responsible for the gospel getting spread around.

vs 8 "cripple since birth"  I think Paul was particularly looking to do a miracle which would be difficult to dispute. Thus to affirm the Word, God often will do miracles for those who are crippled in some way since birth. One is reminded of Jesus healing the man born blind of John 9, or in Acts 3 when Peter healed a man lame from birth. Such people are a living testimony to all who had come into contact with them since birth. But another aspect is that such people you would think would not have traveled much in the past because of their crippleness. Thus they would have been well known in the town like landmarks. They  would have been the town's blind man or crippled man. Then suddenly the town's blind man is no longer blind and the town's crippled man is no longer crippled. That would have really gotten people's attention. 

vs 9  In order to be healed is it necessary for the subject to have such faith or is it sufficient for the healer to have the faith?  If we take the case of resurrections, certainly the subjects, being dead, are not the one's execising faith. But there are a number of examples where Jesus speaks of the faith of the subject as involved somehow in one's healing.

(The woman with the flow of blood)
Lu 7:50  Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

(The Blind man)
Lu 18:42  Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."

Yet Jesus is not referring to faith in faith, but faith in Christ. Faith in faith is a misconception not uncommon in the Charismatic community in which one creates one's own reality by placing one's faith in one's own faith. (See the Word Faith Movement)

We notice also in his hometown "he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." Matt 13:58. But in all these cases I believe to be referring to his willingness rather than his ability. In the New Testament God primarily choses to do miracles to believers. Yes, the miracles do affirm the Word to skeptics, but the subject of the miracles are most frequently those with a degree of faith. This was not so much the case in the Old Testament where God even did miracles directly before skeptics requiring no prerequisite faith, the miracles done by Moses before Pharoah being an example. But in the New Testament Paul writes, "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" Gal 3:5 Again affirming a correlation between faith in Christ and miracles.

I think the explanation is that Christ came to save not just anyone, but rather those who put their faith in him. And it is interesting that the word "save" in Greek  is the same word for "heal". So if you want to be qualified to be healed miraculously, put your faith in Christ. He saves and he heals. This is a sign to unbelievers that it is through faith in Christ  comes healing and salvation.

vs 10 Quite commonly the healing comes in a form of a command, rather than a prayerful request. This implies that the healing and salvation that Christ offers is a function of our submission. Indeed many have lost the sense of Christ being the LORD, viewing him only as Savior. Yet our faith is unacceptable if we refuse to submit. Furthermore we are reminded of Jesus' preincarnate state as the WORD in which we read in Genesis that he commanded creation and they came into being, and in his earthy ministry on the stormy seas he commanded the wind and sea. Here we see Paul as an abassador for Christ exercising such command as well.

vs 11 But the crowd mistook God's ambassador for God himself. Paul and Barnabus were quick to correct their misunderstanding. For we are reminded of the likes of Herod who gave a speech in Acts 12 and they shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. Woe to those who don't give God due credit. And woe to those who do ministry to make something of themselves, to become popular, and give not glory to God. 

But on a positive note here we notice these Gentiles concluded "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men." Their gods didn't directly associate with men. They were cold and cruel. But God did in fact send His Son in likeness of flesh as a man. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The idea that God loved people and wanted to have a relationship with common people was astounding.

vs 12-15 The problem is that we have to approach God on His terms, not on our own. Though many believe in God or a god, yet they may be mistaken as to the nature, character and convictions of the true God. Many approach God on their own terms, based upon their own preconceived notions. Yet it was the very things that the people reckoned holy that God wanted them to turn from. He wanted them to turn from the preconceived notions of Himself. Yet it is also not uncommon today for those who start to have some interest in spiritual things to obsess over rituals in accordance with the flesh concepts of God in the same spirit as these Gentiles.

vs 16-17 There seems to be a dispensational shift indicated by the phrase "Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways." We also see this in his speech to the Athenians "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." Ac 17:30 I don't think this is to say that in the past He simply forgave those practicing such things regardless of whether they repented. Rather I think that though the Old Testament does at times speak to the nations outside of Israel, yet now was speaking to all nations in a similar manner as He spoke to Israel alone in the past. The wall of separation between Jew and Gentile is broken down, and the categories are no longer - Jews and Gentile - but rather believer and unbeliever, those who have the Son and those who do not have the Son of God (1John 1:12) But what this also implies is that God will hold Gentiles more responsible for their actions than in the past. He no longer overlooks things as He had done in the past, but rather now demands that Gentiles change their behavior and conform to His Word. He commands not some people in some places, but rather EVERYONE EVERYWHERE to repent. This message of the gospel is not for the elect few, it is for everyone everywhere, regardless of their response. Our job is to get the message to everyone everywhere.

Paul also speaks of the witness of nature. He elaborates in Romans saying, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20
 





The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015