Lesson 42 - Chapter 14:1-18

Lesson 42 - Chapter 14:1-18

Lesson for February 19, 2017

The Book of Acts

Chapter 14:1-18

“In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel. At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.”

Verses 1-18 are the ministry of the apostle Paul to south Galatia. He began at Iconium. Every opportunity that Paul had in the major cities came through synagogues, with several exceptions where the only way that he could gather a crowd was through a miracle. But Paul did not work primarily through miracles, they were only incidental. A synagogue was a speaking situation. Paul was a Jew as well as a Roman citizen, and he could go into a synagogue where he would generally be permitted to speak, and where he would have his first opportunity to present the Gospel. Later he would go and speak to the Gentiles in various areas. The result in Iconium was that a number of both Jews and Gentiles believed.

“But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren.” Verse 2 describes the opposition to the Gospel – religious Jews. They were very legalistic, adhering to the Mosaic Law as their system of salvation. The unbelieving Jews heard the Gospel and rejected it. Religion always rejects grace. The Greek word for stirred up means to arouse through “mob action.” They embittered or poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas.

“Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” The greater the pressure, the greater their confidence was in the Lord. The pressure was not real to them; the promises of God were real to them. The very fact that he spoke boldly indicates that he understood and applied Bible doctrine, and through Bible doctrine he was not only occupied with the Person of Christ but he was aware of the significance and purpose of his life.

Paul knew that every time he stepped out of the house his life was in danger, but he also knew that every time he spoke up for Christ was one more step of triumph and advance in the Angelic Conflict. The word spent a long time means to go to a place and stay where it is unpleasant. The Greek word is —“diatribo” [dia = through; tribe = to rub, friction], and it means that the entire time spent there they were under “friction” from the unbelievers. Everyone has a place where they are under great pressure, where life is miserable and horrible, and humanly speaking they would like to get out immediately. Everyone has a “diatribe” situation that lasts for a long time, but whether there is a deliverance from it or not God has provided for each believer personally in that situation, but never allows you to have more difficulty than you can handle with doctrine. (I Corinthians 10:13)

“Who was testifying to the word of His grace.” In other words, the Lord was keeping his Word. Paul was in a “pressure cooker” situation, but God provided His grace and His grace is always sufficient. Under grace God is free to bless us, and He is just as free to bless us in the pressure situations as He is when our lives are not in turmoil.

In Antioch of Pisidia there was preaching only; in Iconium there was preaching plus miracles. Because the Holy Spirit permitted miracles in Iconium, it does not follow that there will be miracles everywhere for success. The same success was achieved in Antioch of Pisidia by preaching and teaching alone, without miracles. A believer cannot compel the Holy Spirit to provide miracles such as tongues or healing just because He permitted this in the past. The demand for miracles, healing and tongues is tantamount to dictating to God as to how He will proceed. We do not dictate to God; He dictates to us through His Word. Furthermore, miracles only had one point in mind. They were not to alleviate suffering but to focus attention on the Gospel. By emphasizing miracles we either detract from the message or we have no message at all. The Holy Spirit emphasizes the message of the Word of God. Any modern emphasis on miracles, tongues or healing, obscures the issue of doctrine and therefore opposes the plan of God.

“But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.” The Gospel is a divider. Wherever the Gospel is preached it arouses the antagonism of the forces of Satan, and in addition Satan has systems for persecution in many forms since he is the ruler of the world system. (Matthew 10:34-36; John 3:36)

“And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel.” Everyone knew that Paul and Barnabas were in danger so they passed the word on to them and they fled, which means more than just running away, they fled for refuge according to a norm or standard. It means that God revealed to them that it was the right time to run away—katapheugo [kata = norm or standard; pheugo = to flee or run away].

Sometimes to get out of a situation is the correct thing to do, as in this case. It wasn’t God’s will for Paul and Barnabas to be killed at this time. This time they were to leave. God has many ways of leading us out of danger. At Antioch in Pisidia they were under persecution but they escaped unharmed. Next they went to Iconium and they are now running from Iconium. God overruled the danger and having been warned they escaped unharmed. The next stop was Lystra and Paul would not escape the danger this time, he would be stoned to death. II Timothy 3:11 indicates that God took care of Paul at Iconium, Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, and all of them; but He delivered him in different ways. Sometimes there was deliverance from suffering and sometimes there was deliverance in or through suffering. Through it all Paul and Barnabas remained faithful to the Gospel.

“At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk.” Healing was always designed to focus attention on the message, and the communication of the message was what was important. (Romans 1:16) At Antioch in Pisidia and Iconium the message was given without miracles because there was a synagogue where a crowd was gathered. But not so at Lystra where a miracle was necessary because there must be a way of gathering a crowd and getting their attention to the Gospel. Since there was no synagogue the gift of healing will take up the slack. This man was a cripple all of his life. He was a well-known person in Lystra, and the apostle Paul would use this miracle to get an audience for the preaching of the Gospel.

The words “to be made well” do not occur in the original text. It says he had faith to be saved. Paul observed that this man had faith. Apparently this was in the market and there were many people around, and Paul was already in the process of communicating a message. He spoke with a voice that could be heard in the market place and said, “Stand” followed by a word which means to be erect. He didn’t just get up, he jumped up and began walking!

“When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.” Verse 11 – the reaction. the reason for this is that right next door to Lycaonia is Phrygia. The Phrygians liked to tell the story that one day Zeus and Hermes, or for the Latin, Jupiter [the father of the gods] and Mercury [the god of speech] took a trip to Phrygia to take a look at the women. While they were going along they found a really nice couple called Bacchus and Philemon, and stopped at their house. This couple were really happy. Jupiter and Mercury were so impressed with these two that Jupiter revealed himself and said he would give them anything they wanted. And Bacchus and Philemon said that they were so desperately in love that they just wanted to live forever so that they could love each other forever. So Jupiter and Mercury held a little conference. They walked back in and snapped their fingers, and Bacchus and Philemon disappeared. Bacchus became a beautiful tree, and Philemon became a beautiful tree. And they were there in that day as a memorial to the four or five couples who were happily married in the world at that time. That is the story. So now the Lycaonians were saying that at last they had something which was as great as the Phrygians, i.e. we have Jupiter and Mercury with us now. And we don’t have Bacchus and Philemon, we have a man who was crippled, and Jupiter and Mercury have seen fit to heal him! So they are all excited. Now they have had a visit from the gods.

“And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” The Greeks generally sacrificed pigs, but on a special occasion they would sacrifice oxen. The garlands simply indicated that they were entertaining “gods.”They are in a house when they hear this and they now face a tremendous peril: the subtle temptation of approbation lust to be recognized as a god, and to be entertained as a god. Because of their orientation to grace they came out of it well. At this point it didn’t bother them at all, except that they wanted the record straight. They did not want Satan converting a miracle into something that would obscure the Gospel which was what he was attempting to do by his influence over these people.

Paul and Barnabas wanted them to understand that they were mere mortals like their audience and were certainly not gods. Pagan idolatry and offering sacrifices to Zeus and Hermes was part of the religion of the Gentiles, so Paul and Barnabas wanted to make it clear that their message was about the one and only true God. And they point out that the one true God made the heavens and the earth and He had always recognized the free will of man. And when man rejects Christ as Savior, even before Christ came—in times past means right up to that moment—God always recognizes the right of the individual to reject Christ, He does not coerce people to accept Him. Notice what Paul and Barnabas said: they should turn from these vain (empty) things (false gods) to the living God, Jesus Christ, who made all of these things according to Colossians 1:16.

“In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” This means that Jesus Christ Himself has been revealed since the beginning of time. Messiah was revealed long before He came to the earth. Adam was saved by faith in Christ, Abraham was saved by faith in Christ; there is absolutely no other way to be saved, there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ. Never in the history of the human race has there been a person who was positive at the point of God-consciousness who has not heard the Gospel and had the chance to respond through faith in Christ. So God revealed Himself in the conscience of man, but He also revealed Himself in nature. And His blessings in nature benefited everyone, believer and unbeliever alike. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; I John 5:12)

“Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.” The apostles said a lot more, so this is merely a summary of what they said, but they got their point across and no sacrifices were made. Believers are commanded to have nothing to do with idolatry according to

I Corinthians 10:14-21, 19:14 and II Corinthians 6:16. Idolatry is a form of demonism according to Deuteronomy 32:17. Idolatry caused Israel to enter into immoral degeneracy according to Psalm 106:34-39. Idolatry is caused by rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior. Rejection of Christ creates a vacuum in the soul into which is drawn idolatry. Idolatry begins in the mind and ends up as an overt practice. In other words, idolatry can be anything that a person worships other than God. (Romans 1:18- 25; Jude 2:10-13; Ezekiel 14:7)