Acts Chapter 14
Ministry in Iconium:
(Read Acts 14:1-7)
Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium which was located east south of Antioch in Asia Minor. They went to the Jewish synagogue and preached the gospel with power and a great number of Jews and Greeks believed in Christ. However, some of the Jews stirred up opposition against them. But the apostles were able to remain there and preach the gospel. Wherever the gospel preached, they experienced opposition. Here the gospel is called “the Word of God’s grace”. The message of the gospel is the message of grace. When Jews incited riot, Paul and Barnabas fled to Lystra and Derbe. There they continued to preach the good news. Their ministry always had an evangelistic purpose. All our ministries should be gospel centered.
Stoning at Lystra:
(Read Acts 14:8-18)
At Lystra, apostles healed a crippled man. When people saw the power of God at work, they mistakenly thought that Paul and Barnabas are divine. They considered Barnabas was the Greek god, Zeus and Paul as Hermes. They wanted to offer sacrifice to the apostles. But apostles tore their garments and stopped them from offering sacrifice to them. They said to the people that they are only human beings and they have come to bring the good news that they should turn from their vain things to the living God who created all things. Apostles said that the power to heal the crippled man came from Jesus and gave glory to God. Paul reminded them that in the past God permitted all the nations to go in their selfish ways but never left them without witness (Genesis 10, 11). Early Christians never considered themselves worthy of worship and sainthood. They were servants of God carrying out the great commission. Those who proclaim the gospel must realize that they are no more than engaged in the rescue mission of lost souls. May God help us to follow their example.
Paul Surviving the Stoning at Lystra:
(Read Acts 14:19-23)
At Lystra, some Jews, who came from Antioch and Iconium, opposed the preaching of Paul and incited the crowd to stone him. They dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around Paul, he rose and entered the city. After surviving an attempted execution, Paul continued preaching the gospel and encouraged believers to continue in faith. He reminded them that they must enter the Kingdom of God through many tribulations (Acts 14:22). Paul refers to this experience in 2 Corinthians 11:24, 25. The next day they left for Derbe and preached the gospel and made many disciples. Many scholars believe that Paul led Timothy to Christ during this time. The apostles returned to each city they had visited before and encouraged the believers. This power for continuing in faith and enduring suffering comes from God who works in us (Philippians 2:12-13). God never promises to keep us out of troubles, but He does promise to help us through them. We should cooperate with God by accepting the resources available in Christ. God who has begun the good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Apostles appointed elders in each church. The elders shared the spiritual oversight of the local church among believers. In fact, they are appointed by God to minister under His authority. They must obey God’s agenda which is teaching the Word of God and shepherd the flock. The greatest need in leadership roles is the wisdom that comes from God (James 1:5; 3:13-18). Shepherds are under authority to guide the sheep to the chief shepherd (Hebrews 13:20). They should obey God's Word and pray that they may be motivated to serve sincerely and, in a God honoring way. The local church was independent and there was no hierarchical structure in the early church.
The End of the First Missionary Journey:
(Read Acts 14:24-28)
Finally Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. Upon arrival in Antioch, they called the church and reported everything God had done through them. They testified how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. They stayed in Antioch for a long time with the disciples. It is assumed that the first missionary journey took about one year covering 900 miles. They preached Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were willing to suffer for the gospel. They discipled the new converts and established them in the faith. They also enjoyed the support and fellowship of the sending church. And they did all things for the glory of God. May God help us to follow their example! Pray that the love of Christ would compel us to witness Christ to the lost and dying.