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.
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.
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.