Acts 14:1-28 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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They Preached the Good News
Comments for Study 16

Acts 14:1-28
Memory Verse: 21a

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I. Preaching in Iconium (1-7)

>1. Despite what Paul and Barnabas said and experienced in Pisidian Antioch where did they go when they reached the neighboring town?

* Acts 14:1a "At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue."

* "Iconium" -Iconium is due east of Pisidian Antioch. J. Vernon McGee wrote in Thru the Bible Commentary Series, "Now in chapter 14 Paul and Barnabas face the almost impenetrable paganism of Galatia. I personally believe that the Galatia field was the hardest mission field that Paul ever entered. You need only to read the Epistle of the Galatians to discover that. Galatians was the hardest Epistle that Paul wrote. He wrote it to a group of people who had a spiritual bent in the wrong direction. They were constantly going off the track. He visited those churches more than any other.

"Let me give you this brief background of Galatia country which Paul is entering on this first missionary journey. The people for whom the province was named were Gauls, a Celtic tribe from the same stock which inhabited France. In the fourth century B.C. they invaded the Roman Empire and sacked Rome. Later they crossed into Greece and captured Delphi in 280 B.C. At the invitation of Nikomedes I, King of Bithynia, the crossed over into Asia minor to help him in a civil war. They were a warlike people and soon established themselves in Asia Minor. In 189 B.C. they were made subjects of the Roman Empire and became a province. Their boundaries varied, and for many years they retained their customs and languages. The churches which Paul established on this first missionary journey were included at one time in the territory of Galatia, so this is the name which Paul would normally give to these churches.

"The people were blond orientals. These Galtic Celts had much of the same temperament and characteristics of the majority of the America population... Europe and the British Isles. Caesar had this to say of them: 'The infirmity of the Gauls is that they are fickle in their resolves, fond of change, and not to be trusted.' Another writer of that period described them as 'frank, impetus, impressible, eminently intelligent, fond of show, but extremely inconstant, the fruit of excessive vanity.' Paul wrote them a very harsh letter because they needed that kind of letter... Martin Luther used the Epistle to the Galatians for the Reformation because it was written to folk who are like we are."

>Was the response any different? Can you think of any other message that has such reactions?

* Acts 14:1b-2 "There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers."

* "There they spoke so effectively" -Paul and Barnabas spoke the word of God. Their messages, though not recorded had improved. Paul's speech in the last chapter is perhaps typical of his message. Indeed, many of his letter contain the same themes.

* "a great number of Jews and Gentiles" -The Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of believers. No manifestations of the Holy Spirit is given, though we can assume that as with other new areas, they appeared in the new believers.

* "the Jews who refused to believe" -Not everyone believed as in all previous accounts in Acts. Those who did not believe did not just walk away. Instead they tried to stop the message at any cost.

* "stirred up" -Considered making a bowl of soup or chili. Things are bubbling and banging against each other; there is much violent action and heat. The details are not given.

* "poisoned their minds" -A poison often has a violent and noticeable reaction before it kills. Jesus' parable of the different types of soils speaks of the one where the devil takes away the seed that fell on the path. This happened to the Jews who refused to believe and the Gentiles who listened to them.

* "against the brothers" -not only Paul and Barnabas, but the new believers too.

>Is this type of reaction to the gospel happening today and in your ministry? Did Jesus tells us that this will happen in his disciples ministry?

* Paul later told Timothy, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:10-13)

* Jesus taught, "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt. 10:22)

* Jesus taught, "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." (Luke 6:22-23)

* Paul wrote, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:10)

* Paul wrote, "Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering." (2 Thes. 1:4-5 )

* John begins Revelation with, "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." (1:9)

* I recently heard a missionary report which states that believers have been murdered for the name of Jesus in the last one hundred years more than all the previous nineteen hundred years all throughout the world.

* What should we do them? Paul wrote, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Eph. 6:10-18)

>2. How did the Lord Jesus testify to the truth of their ministry? (3)

* Acts 14:3 "So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders."

* "So" -the reason they stated was to help the new converts withstand the attacks from those who rejected the word of God.

* "spent considerable time there" -Because Luke often records this it is hard to draw concrete conclusions about the time and chronology of events. This could be one month or one year. This entire mission journey is estimated to be from 46 to 48 A.D.

* "speaking boldly for the Lord" -As quoted above Paul and Barnabas used the word of God as a sword.

* "miraculous signs and wonders" -The mark of an apostle is these two. Jesus and the apostles are the only one noted to have performed miraculous signs and wonders.

* "who confirmed the message" -Miracles are to confirm the word being spoke.

* "the message of grace" -The gospel message is a message of God's grace to man. Grace is unmerited divine help.

>Even with such convincing proof what happened?

* Acts 14:4-6a "The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled"

* "The people of the city were divided" -Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'" (Matt. 10:34-36)

* "some sided with the Jews, other with the apostles" -Paul and Barnabas were Jews by ancestors, but the city saw a definite difference from the rest of the Jews.

* "among the Gentiles and the Jews" -Political and religious leaders joined forces, just as with Jesus to counter the gospel. Antichrists are a combination of politics and religion. John the Revelatory calls them and beast and the prostitute false prophet. (Rev. 13, 17)

* Even with such miracles some people still did not accept.

>What does this tell us about the nature of sin in a person's life who refuses the simple message of salvation?

* Those who hear the word and reject it will either distort it or violently oppose it and most likely both.

* John wrote about they who hear and reject saying, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 John 2:18-19)

* John also wrote about they who hear and reject, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 John 4:2-3)

II. Preaching in Lystra and Derbe (8-20)

>3. What did Paul and Barnabas eventually have to do?

* Acts 14:6b-7 "to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news."

* "Lycaonian cities" -Lycaonia was a district east of Pisidia.

* "Lystra and Derbe" -The home of Timothy.

* "preached the good news" -A missionary is to always preach the good news as of first importance. Everything else; miracles, acts of wonder, good works, etc. must back up the gospel.

>4. Who did Paul notice there?

* Acts 14:8 "In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked."

* "from birth" -Everyone knew it. This was not an injury. It was an incurable handicap.

>What does it mean to have faith to be healed?

* Acts 14:9-10 "He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk."

* "he listened to Paul" -The man accepted the gospel first.

* "Paul looked directly at him" -Jesus did the same. The two physically acknowledged each other.

* "faith to be healed" -Jesus often told people, "Your faith has saved you," and "your faith has healed you." (Matt. 9:22, 29; 15:28; Luke 17:19, 18:42) What does it mean?

Faith is something that all humans possess. We have faith in many things, not all bad. For example I have faith that my wife and daughter and son loves me. I have faith that my car has an engine in it that will start. I have faith that Ohio is not an earthquake prone zone, therefore I did not look for a home that was earthquake proof. Faith is something all humans have in our hearts, just as we can love, hate, desire, will, etc.

No matter if people deny it, in their hearts they have a "knowledge" of God. Yet most do not want to accept this truth, so they suppress it and/or rationalize it with what they want to believe about God.

All humans have faith in something regarding origins and destinations; that is, why we are here and where we are going. But only true Christians have accepted the truthful answer to these questions. Christians believe that the answer to these questions rest in Jesus. Faith in Jesus is a gift of God.

Faith has practical and potential action or actions that follow it. For more on faith read my manuscript The Believer's Future - Hope that Inspires.

>What does this tell us about salvation and the power of the gospel?

* Paul wrote, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Rom. 1:16-17)

* "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will... be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them." (2 Tim. 3:1, 4b-5)

>5. In spite of Paul's message what mistake did the people make? (11-13)

* Acts 14:11-13 "When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them."

* "they shouted" -Their gods nor priests never did such a thing before.

* "Lycaonian language" -Paul and Barnabas would not know the language. They did not know what was being said and why it was said until the offerings were made.

* "Zeus... Hermes" -Zeus was the patron god of the city, and his temple was there. People who came to bring sacrifices to Zeus apparently decided to make an offering to Paul and Barnabas instead. The identification of Zeus with Barnabas may indicate that his appearance was more imposing, and Paul was identified as the god Hermes (the Roman Mercury) because he was the spokesman (Acts 28:6). This incident may have been occasioned by an ancient legend that told of a supposed visit to the same general area by Zeus and Hermes. They were, however, not recognized by anyone except an old couple. So the people of Lystra were determined not to allow such an oversight to happen again. (NIV Study Bible)

>What did Paul and Barnabas do?

* Acts 14:14-15 "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them."

* "when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this" -Someone must have told them in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek which Paul obviously knew.

* "tore their clothes" -Tearing of clothes was an ancient mid-east sign of great anguish and regret.

* "turn from these worthless things" -Like offering sacrifices to gods made of stone and metal.

* "to the living God" -as opposed to dead idols.

>What does this tell us about how messengers of the gospel is to resist glory that comes from men?

* People tried in one form or another tried to honor and even worship the apostles. They all refused it. Once Peter bowed to the feet of an angel who also refused it. Jesus however never refused when someone bowed down to worship him for he is worthy of praise and honor and glory.

* Psalms 62:5-8 states, "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."

* John wrote in his gospel, "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (12:42-43) Paul confirms by writing, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Rom. 2:28-29) And Paul told the Thessalonians in his first letter, "We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else." (2:6a)

>6. How did and does still God work with people even when there is no one there to preach the gospel? (16-17)

* Acts 14:16-18 "In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them."

* "In the past" -before Jesus death and resurrection, before the good news started to spread.

* "he let all nations" -The list of the beginning of nations is in Genesis 10.

* "to their own way" -Jesus' parable of the prodigal son who went away (Luke 15:11-32) is a good description of the nations going their own way; in fact, the nations is what he was referring to. The other son in the parable is a description of the Jews who became jealous when the Gentiles accepted the gospel.

* "Yet he has not left himself without testimony" -God's testimony comes from all creation. The greatest testimony is from Jesus. Yet all forms of testimony about God has been either rejected and distorted or misunderstood by the sinful nature. Paul wrote, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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." (Rom. 1:18-20)

>7. Who came from previous cities that Paul and Barnabas had preached at?

* Acts 14:19a "Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over."

* "won the crowd over" -People are so fickle. One moment their offering sacrifices to them because of an indisputable miracle and the next moment they side with the devil against them.

>What did they do?

* Acts 14:19b-20a "They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city."

* "thinking he was dead" -This is not a miracle in that he was raised from the dead. It was just a misunderstanding by the people.

* "went back into the city" -Perhaps to a new converts house. It is possible that they went to young Timothy's house. (2 Tim. 3:10-11)

>What could compel someone to go so far to resist the work of God?

* Ignorance, hate, and self righteousness and determination compel us to do evil and foolish things and pat ourselves on the back for doing them.

III. The Return to Antioch (21-28)

>8. Where did they go next?

* Acts 14:20b "The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe."

* "Derbe" -Derbe is a short distance to the south-east of its sister city, Lystra.

>What was the result of their preaching?

* Acts 14:21 "They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,"

* "The next day" -They planted the gospel and moved on. Paul and Barnabas sometimes did not stay long in one place. How Paul was able to move after being stoned could be considered a miracle. Yet they did not go far.

* "They preached the good news" -The main message, and perhaps the only message was the good news of the kingdom of God.

* "won" -We are prisoners of Satan and God wins out back through Jesus Christ.

>9. Why would they backtrack considering the opposition they faced in those cities? (22)

* Acts 14:22 "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said."

* "strengthening the disciples" -A good mission report strengthens the congregation that sends it.

* "encourages them to remain true to the faith" -We should always encourage fellow believers for each receive many attacks and temptations to give up the faith.

* "to the faith" -Faith is a common theme in this chapter.

>What does this tell us must happen in our mission?

* "we must go through hardships" -No exception. When the new believers saw Paul, who was recovering and still black and blue, they might have been frightened.

* "to enter the kingdom of God" -Jesus is the king. His kingdom is where he rules. He currently rules in the hearts of believers and in heaven. He instructed us to pray, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When we leave this world we will be in the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus comes again his kingdom shall be on this earth. Our suffering to enter the kingdom of heaven is in this physical body on this earth.

* We are Jesus' servants, doing his will for those he has chosen. Jesus taught, "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:10)

>10. What did they do before they went back home? (23)

* Acts 14:23 "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust."

* "appointed elders for them in each church" -Each church should have a body of elders as later described by Paul, men like Jesus chose the twelve apostles, who can help the local congregation.

* Titus 1:5-9 records Paul writing, "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."

* "prayer and fasting" -mentioned a lot in Acts.

>What does this tell us about their faith in God's work verses their staying there?

* They trusted the work of the church would be conducted by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

>11. What did they continue to do as they went back home? (24-25)

* Acts 14:24-25 "After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia."

* "Pisidia" -Pisidia was a Roman district one hundred twenty miles (200km) long by fifty miles (80km) long north of Pamphylia.

* "Pamphylia" -Pamphylia was a Roman district eighty miles (100km) long and twenty miles (30km) long at the widest part, on the southern coast of Asia Minor.

* "Perga" -Perga was the capital of Pamphylia, a Roman district. It was a seaport and a few miles inland.

* "Attalia" -The best harbor in Pamphylia.

>What did they do when they returned to Antioch? (26-28)

* Acts 14:26-28 "From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples."

* "had been committed to the grace of God" -when we go out of the local body of believers we are committed, dedicated, and loyal to the grace of God.

* "God had done through them" -God works through his people to accomplish his plans for spreading the gospel. No angels are ever recorded in giving the gospel message in acts.

* "opened the door to the Gentiles" -The door was cracked open at Cornelius' house and in Antioch. Now it was wide open.

* "stayed there a long time" -Estimated to be two years.

* After the decree from Jerusalem in chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas stay for awhile in Antioch teaching the word of God. (15:35)

>What does the fact that they stayed in Antioch a long time tell us about their faith in God's work the new churches that were planted?

* God is the one who works in those he has called. Our first jobs as Jesus' servants is to preach the gospel. We are not responsible for them accepting the word of God (as presented in the Bible) for that is the work of the Holy Spirit. All by itself the word planted will grow in a person through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we pray, fast, study the word and obey Jesus by faith the plant from the seed of the word of God grows and produces fruit. A disciple working can trust that God will bring to completion what he has started. We only need to be ready to plant, water, and fertilize the seed planted in someone with the word of God, prayer, fasting and other spiritual disciplines.

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