Paul and Barnabas at Iconium. (1-7) A cripple healed at Lystra, The people would have sacrificed to Paul and Barnabas. (8-18) Paul stoned at Lystra, The churches visited again. (19-28)
Verses 1-7 The apostles spake so plainly, with such evidence and proof of the Spirit, and with such power; so warmly, and with such concern for the souls of men; that those who heard them could not but say, God was with them of a truth. Yet the success was not to be reckoned to the manner of their preaching, but to the Spirit of God who used that means. Perseverance in doing good, amidst dangers and hardships, is a blessed evidence of grace. Wherever God's servants are driven, they should seek to declare the truth. When they went on in Christ's name and strength, he failed not to give testimony to the word of his grace. He has assured us it is the word of God, and that we may venture our souls upon it. The Gentiles and Jews were at enmity with one another, yet united against Christians. If the church's enemies join to destroy it, shall not its friends unite for its preservation? God has a shelter for his people in a storm; he is, and will be their Hiding-place. In times of persecution, believers may see cause to quit a spot, though they do not quit their Master's work.
Verses 8-18 All things are possible to those that believe. When we have faith, that most precious gift of God, we shall be delivered from the spiritual helplessness in which we were born, and from the dominion of sinful habits since formed; we shall be made able to stand upright and walk cheerfully in the ways of the Lord. When Christ, the Son of God, appeared in the likeness of men, and did many miracles, men were so far from doing sacrifice to him, that they made him a sacrifice to their pride and malice; but Paul and Barnabas, upon their working one miracle, were treated as gods. The same power of the god of this world, which closes the carnal mind against truth, makes errors and mistakes find easy admission. We do not learn that they rent their clothes when the people spake of stoning them; but when they spake of worshipping them; they could not bear it, being more concerned for God's honour than their own. God's truth needs not the services of man's falsehood. The servants of God might easily obtain undue honours if they would wink at men's errors and vices; but they must dread and detest such respect more than any reproach. When the apostles preached to the Jews, who hated idolatry, they had only to preach the grace of God in Christ; but when they had to do with the Gentiles, they must set right their mistakes in natural religion. Compare their conduct and declaration with the false opinions of those who think the worship of a God, under any name, or in any manner, is equally acceptable to the Lord Almighty. The most powerful arguments, the most earnest and affectionate addresses, even with miracles, are scarcely enough to keep men from absurdities and abominations; much less can they, without special grace, turn the hearts of sinners to God and to holiness.
Verses 19-28 See how restless the rage of the Jews was against the gospel of Christ. The people stoned Paul, in a popular tumult. So strong is the bent of the corrupt and carnal heart, that as it is with great difficulty that men are kept back from evil on one side, so it is with great ease they are persuaded to evil on the other side. If Paul would have been Mercury, he might have been worshipped; but if he will be a faithful minister of Christ, he shall be stoned, and thrown out of the city. Thus men who easily submit to strong delusions, hate to receive the truth in the love of it. All who are converted need to be confirmed in the faith; all who are planted need to be rooted. Ministers' work is to establish saints as well as to awaken sinners. The grace of God, and nothing less, effectually establishes the souls of the disciples. It is true, we must count upon much tribulation, but it is encouragement that we shall not be lost and perish in it. The Person to whose power and grace the converts and the newly-established churches are commended, clearly was the Lord Jesus, "on whom they had believed." It was an act of worship. The praise of all the little good we do at any time, must be ascribed to God; for it is He who not only worketh in us both to will and to do, but also worketh with us to make what we do successful. All who love the Lord Jesus, will rejoice to hear that he has opened the door of faith wide, to those who were strangers to him and to his salvation. And let us, like the apostles, abide with those who know and love the Lord.
Acts 14:1-7 . MEETING WITH SIMILAR SUCCESS AND SIMILAR OPPOSITION AT ICONIUM, PAUL AND BARNABAS FLEE FOR THEIR LIVES TO LYSTRA AND DERBE, AND PREACH THERE.
"After this detailed account of Paul's labors at Pisidian Antioch, Luke subjoins only brief notices of his further labors, partly because from the nature of the case his discourses must have embraced nearly the same topics, and partly because the consequences that resulted assumed quite a similar shape" [OLSHAUSEN].
1. they went both together into the synagogue--Though Paul was now the prominent speaker and actor, yet in everything Barnabas went along with him.
a . . . multitude . . . of the Greeks believed--meaning probably the religious proselytes, as opposed to "the Gentiles" mentioned Acts 14:2 .
3. Long time therefore abode they--because in spite of opposition they were meeting with so much success.
speaking boldly in the Lord--rather, "in dependence on the Lord," that is, on their glorified Head.
who gave testimony to the word of his grace--a notable definition of the Gospel, whose whole burden is GRACE.
and granted--"granting," that is, who confirmed the Gospel by granting miraculous attestation to it. (The "and" is wanting in the best manuscripts).
5. an assault made . . . to stone them--rather here, "an impetuous movement" with a view to stoning them: for in 2 Corinthians 11:25 , Paul says, "Once I was stoned," and that was at Lystra, as expressly related in Acts 14:19 . (PALEY'S remarks--Horæ Paulinæ--on this singular coincidence between the Epistle and the history are very striking).
fled--(See Matthew 10:23 ).
6. unto Lystra and Derbe--the one some twenty miles to the south, the other some sixty miles to the east of Iconium, somewhere near the bases of what are called the Black Mountains and the roots of Mount Taurus; but their exact position has not yet been discovered.
Acts 14:8-21 . AT LYSTRA PAUL HEALING A CRIPPLE, THE PEOPLE ARE SCARCE RESTRAINED FROM SACRIFICING TO THEM AS GODS, BUT AFTERWARDS, THEIR MINDS BEING POISONED, THEY STONE PAUL, LEAVING HIM FOR DEAD--WITHDRAWING TO DERBE, THEY PREACH AND TEACH THERE.
There being no mention of the synagogue at Lystra, it is probable there were too few Jews there to form one.
8-10. there sat there a certain man . . . a cripple from his mother's womb . . . The same heard Paul speak--in the open air and ( Acts 14:11 ) to a crowd of people.
9. who steadfastly beholding him--as he did Elymas the sorcerer when about to work a miracle on him.
and perceiving that he had faith to be healed--Paul may have been led by the sight of this cripple to dwell on the Saviour's miracles of healing, and His present power; and perceiving from the eagerness with which the patient drank in his words, that he was prepared to put his own case into the Redeemer's hands, the Spirit of the glorified Physician came all upon Paul, and "with a loud voice" he bade him "stand upright upon his feet." The effect was instantaneous--he sprang to his feet "and walked."
11-13. in the speech of Lycaonia--whether a corruption of the Greek tongue, which was well enough understood in this region, or the remains of some older tongue, is not known.
The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men--the language of an unsophisticated people. But "that which was a superstition in Lycaonia, and for which the whole "creation" groaned, became a reality at Bethlehem" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
12. they called Barnabas, Jupiter--the father of the gods, from his commanding mien (CHRYSOSTOM thinks).
and Paul, Mercurius--the god of eloquence and the messenger and attendant of Jupiter, in the heathen mythology.
13. the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city--that is, whose temple stood
before their city, brought oxen and garlands--to crown the victims and decorate, as on festive occasions, the porches.
14-18. when . . . Barnabas and Paul heard--Barnabas is put first here, apparently as having been styled the "Jupiter" of the company.
they rent their clothes and ran in--rather (according to the true reading), "ran forth."
among the people, crying out . . . Sirs, why do ye these things?--This was something more than that abhorrence of idolatry which took possession of the Jews as a nation from the time of the Babylonish captivity: it was that delicate sensibility to everything which affects the honor of God which Christianity, giving us in God a reconciled Father, alone can produce; making the Christian instinctively feel himself to be wounded in all dishonor done to God, and filling him with mingled horror and grief when such gross insults as this are offered to him.
15. We . . . are men of like passions, &c.--How unlike either imposture or enthusiasm is this, and how high above all self-seeking do these men of Christ show themselves to be!
unto the living God--This is the most glorious and distinctive of all the names of God. It is the familiar phraseology of the Old Testament. which, in such contrast with all that is to be found within the literature of heathenism, is shown to be, with its sequel, the New Testament, the one Book of the true religion.
who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all . . . therein--This idea of creation, utterly unknown alike to rude and to cultivated heathenism, would not only define what was meant by "the living God," but open up a new world to the more thoughtful part of the audience.
16. Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways--that is, without extending to them the revelation vouchsafed to the seed of Abraham, and the grace attending it; compare Acts 17:30 , 1 Corinthians 1:21 . Yet not without guilt on their part was this privation ( Romans 1:20 , &c.).
17. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness--Though the heinousness of idolatry is represented as so much less in the heathen, by how much they were outside the pale of revealed religion, he takes care to add that the heathen have divine "witness" enough to leave them "without excuse."
he did good--scattering His beneficence everywhere and in a thousand forms.
rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons--on which human subsistence and all human enjoyment depend. In Lycaonia, where, as ancient writers attest, rain is peculiarly scarce, this allusion would have all the greater effect.
filling our hearts with food and gladness--a natural colloquialism, the heart being gladdened by the food supplied to the body.
18. with these sayings scarce restrained they the people that they had not done sacrifice to them--In spite of this,and Peter's repudiation of all such honor ( Acts 10:26 ), how soon idolatrous tendencies began to show themselves in the Christian Church, at length to be systematized and enjoined in the Church of Rome!
19. came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium--Furious zeal that would travel so far to counteract the missionaries of the Cross!
persuaded the people--"the multitudes." to have let alone; Paul, as the prominent actor and speaker, being the object of all their rage. The words seem to imply that it was the Jews who did this; and no doubt they took the lead ( Acts 14:19 ), but it was the act of the instigated and fickle multitudes along with them.
drew him out of the city--By comparing this with Acts 7:58 it will be seen that the Jews were the chief actors in this scene.
20. as the disciples stood round about him--sorrowing. So his labors here had not been in vain: "Disciples" had been gathered, who now rallied around the bleeding body. And one appears to have been gained on this occasion, of far more importance than all the rest--TIMOTHEUS. (It could scarcely have been at the subsequent visit, Acts 14:21 , for the reason given in 2 Timothy 3:10 2 Timothy 3:11 ; while at the third visit, Acts 16:1-3 , he was already a Christian).
he rose up--It is possible that this recovery was natural; the insensibility occasioned by such treatment as he had received sometimes passing away of itself, and leaving the patient less hurt than appeared. But certainly the impression naturally left on the mind by the words is that the restoration was miraculous; and so the best interpreters understand the words. This is confirmed by what follows.
came into the city--Noble intrepidity!
next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe--a journey for which he could hardly be fit if his recovery had been natural. (As to Derbe,
21. and when they had preached . . . to that city and had taught many--rather, "had made many disciples" (Margin); but probably without suffering any persecution, as Derbe is not mentioned along with Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra ( 2 Timothy 3:11 ).
Acts 14:21-28 . PAUL AND BARNABAS RETRACE THEIR STEPS, RETURN TO ANTIOCH IN SYRIA, AND THUS COMPLETE THEIR FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
21, 22. they returned . . . to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls, &c.--At Derbe, Paul was not far from the well-known pass which leads down from the central tableland to Cilicia and Tarsus. But his thoughts did not center in an earthly home. He revisited the places where he had been reviled and persecuted, but where he had left as sheep in the desert the disciples whom his Master had enabled him to gather. They needed building up and strengthening in the faith, comforting in the midst of their inevitable suffering, and fencing round by permanent institutions. Undaunted therefore by the dangers that awaited them, our missionaries return to them, using words of encouragement which none but the founders of a true religion would have ventured to address to their earliest converts, that "we can only enter into the kingdom of God by passing through much tribulation" [HOWSON].
23, 24. when they had ordained them elders--literally, "chosen by show of hands." But as that would imply that this was done by the apostles' own hands, many render the word, as in our version, "ordained." Still, as there is no evidence in the New Testament that the word had then lost its proper meaning, as this is beyond doubt its meaning in 2 Corinthians 8:19 , and as there is indisputable evidence that the concurrence of the people was required in all elections to sacred office in the earliest ages of the Church, it is perhaps better to understand the words to mean, "when they had made a choice of elders," that is, superintended such choice on the part of the disciples.
and had prayed with fasting--literally, "fastings," thus setting them solemnly apart. This last clause confirms our interpretation of the former. For if "ordination" was by prayer and fasting (see Acts 13:3 ), why should it be said they first "ordained elders," and after that "prayed with fasting?" Whereas if the first clause refer to the choice and the second to the ordination, all is natural.
them--that is, all these churches.
to the Lord--Jesus.
25. when they had preached the word in Perga--now doing what, for some reason, they had not done on their former visit, but probably with no visible fruit.
they went down into Attaila--a seaport on the Gulf of Pamphylia, drawing to itself the commerce of Egypt and Syria.
26. sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been
27. when they had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, &c.--As their call and mission had been solemn and formal, in the presence of and by the Church as well as the Holy Ghost, they dutifully, and no doubt with eager joy, convened the church and gave their report of "all that God had done with them," that is, by and for them.
and how--in particular.
he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles--to such even as before had not been proselytes. see 1 Corinthians 16:9 , 2 Corinthians 2:12 , Colossians 4:3 ). The ascribing directly to God of such access to the Gentiles is to be noted.
28. there they abode long time--"no little time." From the commencement of the mission till they left Antioch to go up to attend the council at Jerusalem, some four or five years elapsed; and as the missionary journey would probably occupy less than two years, the rest of the time would be the period of their stay at Antioch.