Preaching the Gospel, No Matter What
Acts 14:1-28 – January 29, 2023
Introduction to Acts 14
Iconium — Iconium was a good 90 miles southeast of Antioch. “Iconium” comes from eikon, the Greek word for “image.” According to Greek mythology, Prometheus and Athena recreated humanity there after a devastating flood by making images of people from mud and breathing life into them.
This route involved following, among other roads, the Via Sebaste, the main Roman road connecting the Roman colonies in the region. The road was broad and well paved, built to accommodate wheeled vehicles traveling to Iconium and Lystra, both cities in the region of Lycaonia. However, in order to reach Derbe, Paul and Barnabas would have had to take an unpaved road about 60 miles in a southeasterly direction from Lystra.
Lystra — Lystra was a Roman colony. It was the furthest east of the fortified cities of Galatia. Lystra was about 20 miles south of Iconium. Twenty miles was a normal day’s travel in the Roman Empire at this time. Luke did not mention synagogue evangelism here. Evidently, there were so few Jews that there was no synagogue in Lystra.
Derbe — Derbe was a city in the district of Lycaonia in the Roman province of Galatia in south-central Asia Minor. It sat on a major route connecting Iconium to Laranda and was about 60 miles from Lystra via an unpaved road. Inscriptions found in homes from excavations shows that Christianity had a major presence after Paul left the city.
Attalia — Ports in antiquity were often satellite towns of larger and more important cities situated some distance inland for protection from pirates. Luke merely identifies the place of embarkation for the voyage back to Syria.
Acts 14:1. Look at what they did, after the leaders of the synagogue in Antioch had expelled Paul and Barnabas from that city, when they came to Iconium, they again began their efforts again by preaching in the synagogue.
Acts 14:2-6. They stayed as long as they could, in spite of the opposition, leaving only when it was absolutely necessary.
No apostle was able to perform a miracle by himself or under his own power; not even by the greatest apostle,.
When Paul and Barnabas left Iconium for Lystra (some twenty miles away) and Derbe they avoided the plot to kill them.
Acts 14:7-10. Can we talk about this for a minute? This man was not only lame, but he had never walked. He would have had incredible muscle atrophy, hardly any muscle at all in his legs. It was one thing to heal the man of his lameness, but quite another to heal him in such a way his muscles in his legs would heal as well so they could support him to the point he could jump up, something he had never done before. Then he could not only stand but walk about!
Acts 14:11-13. What would lead the people to such action beyond the temple of Zeus just outside the city? There was a legend that at some time in the distant past both Zeus and Hermes visited their land disguised as mortals, and no one showed them any kindness except for one older couple. Zeus and Hermes in their anger and disappointment killed everyone except for the old couple.
Acts 14:14-18. Why did they tear their clothes? Two reasons, first to show they were human just like those wanting to sacrifice to them and as a reaction to blasphemy – being called Gods. It was not blasphemy for the Lystrians, but it was for any God fearing Jew.
Acts 14:19-20a. Wow! Jews from Antioch and Iconium traveled more than one hundred miles just to oppose Paul and more. They hated the message of the gospel for reasons unknown to us. Not content to kick Paul out of their own region (verses 5-6), they pursued with the intent of persecuting him. They convinced the people of Lystra to oppose Paul and Barnabas, resulting in the stoning of Paul. Why Barnabas is not mentioned we do not know, but they surely would have wanted to see both of them dead. It is believed that many of those stoning Paul were some to the same who had believed them to be gods earlier. The attempt to stone them appears to have been an act of mob violence rather than a formal Jewish attempt at execution. Look how careful Luke is in the telling here. He did not say Paul was raised from the dead, although he could have, after all stoning someone was effective for killing them.
Acts 14:20b-21a. As usual Luke is silent on the travel time going from Lystra to Derbe – a distance of some 60 miles, a two or three day trip.
Acts 14:21b-22. They literally returned to each city they had visited. We are not told how long they stopped at each city, but it was long enough to strengthen and encourage the Christians in those cities. By the use of the word disciples, we know they were about much more than conversions, they were making disciples.
When Paul said, We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God, he was preparing them and he was preparing us. In 2022 alone almost 6,000 Christians were killed and over 360 million suffered persecution throughout the world.
Acts 14:23. This is great evidence of the efforts they were putting into each location. In a short period of time 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months they developed disciples read for the duties of elders.
Acts 14:24-26. They had completed phase one of planting churches, making disciples, and then elders but the work would continue in future mission trips. Such work continues to this day.
Acts 14:27-28. Their report would be filled with stories of success among the Gentiles, and the obvious work of the Holy Spirit with them throughout their travels. Along with the empowerment from God to perform miracles at times.
Bottom Line: Each of us needs to ask ourselves, as a Christian, “Will I back down from the faith, from doing God’s will? What could or would make me back down, turn my back on my faith? We know nothing stopped Jesus and we know Paul persevered through a great many trials and tribulations. Many today are stopped simply be being called names. Will you be stopped? Or will you persevere?