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Acts Fourteen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 14:1 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.

Acts 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.

Acts 14:3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Acts 14:4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

Acts 14:5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,

Acts 14:6 They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:

Lystra and Derbe. Paul's experiences in the interior regions of what is now Turkey were typical of most of his missionary forays. Perga was in the Roman coastal province of Pamphylia, Antioch and Iconium in the interior highlands of Pisidia and Phrygia, respectively. Both were part of the large province of Galatia. Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia, also a territory of Galatia. Paul and his associates almost invariably would first go to the local synagogues, where they would encounter a congregation of both Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. Many would respond to the gospel, especially among the Gentiles. This would open the door to preach also to the pagan Gentiles, and this in turn would stimulate both the unresponsive Jews and the anti-creationist pagan Gentiles to organize strong opposition to their preaching.

Acts 14:7 And there they preached the gospel.

Acts 14:8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:

Acts 14:9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,

Acts 14:10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

Acts 14:11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

Acts 14:12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

Mercurius. These names in the original are “Zeus” and “Hermes,” which were the same “gods” to the Greeks as Jupiter and Mercury to the Romans. There was a local legend in the region that these two gods had once appeared there as men and brought blessing. Paul's miraculous healing of the life-long crippled man encouraged the Lystron pagans to hope the gods had returned.

Acts 14:13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.

Acts 14:14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

Acts 14:15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

these vanities. “Vanities” refers to their worship of idols, representing mere personifications of natural forces as well as demonic spirits. It is vain to attribute true creative power, such as just evidenced in the instantaneous creation of perfect new legs for the hopeless crippled man to anything other than God. Only the true Creator, or those who call on Him and speak in His name, could do such things.

living God. When Paul and Barnabas preached in the synagogues, they could begin on the premise that their hearers already believed in God, in creation of all things by God, and in the authority of the Scriptures. On this foundation, they could then preach Christ and the resurrection. When they preached to a completely pagan crowd, however, as here at Lystra and later at Athens (Acts 17:15-34), they had to begin with the evidence for one Creator God, as opposed to the popular religions which were centered either on atheism or pantheism and manifested popularly as polytheism. All of these believed in the eternity of the universe and in some form of universal evolutionism, just as most unbelievers do today.

Acts 14:16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

their own ways. God was not unconcerned with this pagan ignorance, but was patient. As Paul later told the Athenians, “God winked at” it for a time (Acts 17:30). The pagans did have ample evidence, in both creation and conscience, of the true God (Romans 1:20; 2:15), as well as the witness from the Jews in their midst, so they were “without excuse” if they did not acknowledge Him. In fact many had, indeed, already come to “fear God” and listen to His Word in the synagogues (Acts 13:16, 26, 42), even though they had been reluctant to become proselytes to the full Jewish religion. It was such as these latter who most readily responded to the gospel of Christ when they finally heard it.

Acts 14:17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

without witness. In addition to God's testimony to Himself in the power and order manifest in the physical creation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20), men should be able to discern Him also as a God of grace and love. Even though as a result of sin and the curse, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22) and man has to eat of his labors “in sorrow” (Genesis 3:17); nevertheless, life goes on and provision is made for “food and gladness” even in a world of pain. Therefore men should know, even if they don't, that there is a God of all creation—a God who makes provision for life even while He must invoke the death-wages of sin.

Acts 14:18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

Acts 14:19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

Antioch. The bitter vindictiveness of the enemies of the gospel is seen in the fact that these Jews came over one hundred miles to try to destroy Paul and his gospel.

stoned Paul. Paul had stood by approving the stoning of Stephen, so now God allowed him to suffer the same. In all probability, he was stoned to death: his murderers observed him at length as they carried him out of the city.

Acts 14:20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

he rose up. This was certainly a miracle, very likely a miracle of restoration of life out of death. It is quite possible that this was the occasion in which Paul was “caught up to the third heaven” and granted marvelous “revelations” of “paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4, 7). The disciples who saw this probably included Timothy (Acts 16:1).

Acts 14:21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,

Lystra. It is a testimony to Paul's courage and faith, as well as his concern for their new converts, that he would return so quickly to the cities where he had just been so viciously attacked. He could easily have proceeded on to his home in nearby Tarsus.

Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

much tribulation. Paul realized that, if these new disciples were really to “continue in the faith” (compare John 8:31), they needed to be organized into local churches and taught more concerning their place in God's plan. This included recognition that all true believers will be opposed by Satan and ungodly men and so must undergo tribulations. This does not mean, however, that the final generation of believers (any more than any previous generation) will go through the “great tribulation” which will be visited by God on a rebellious world in the last days (Matthew 24:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). In the meantime, however, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12), and new believers need to understand this.

Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

ordained. This is not the usual word for “ordained.” It means, “stretched out the hand,” thus suggesting an election by show of hands.

Acts 14:24 And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

Acts 14:25 And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:

Acts 14:26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

Acts 14:27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

they rehearsed. This might be called the first missionary conference, with Paul and Barnabas, the church's “apostles” (literally “sent ones,” essentially the same as “missionaries”) reporting the results of their journey to the church that had sent them. Note that they reported on what “God had done with them.” Note also 1 Samuel 30:24, on the importance of those who “tarrieth by the stuff.”

Acts 14:28 And there they abode long time with the disciples.

long time. This time was evidently about two years.