Paul and Barnabas continue on their mission to the gentiles and are received by many, but also face harsh opposition from those that rejected the message. But they continue from city to city then retrace their route, even going back through Iconium where Paul had been stoned and left for dead in Acts 14:19-20. As they returned, they strengthened the churches and when they ended their journey back in Antioch in Acts 14:26-27 they reported that “he (God) had opened a great door of faith for the Gentiles”. But in Antioch they found another threat to the church, not the external threat from the unbelieving, but an internal threat from the religious. The apostles and elders in Jerusalem debate and agree in Acts 15 and Peter reminds them how God had poured out his spirit on the Gentiles and in Acts 15:9 “and he made no distinction between us and them” then concludes with Acts 15:11 But we believe we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way those also are.”
Speaking Boldly For the Lord
Paul and Barnabas follow the custom of the day and in Acts 14:1 Now it happened that in Iconium they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews and spoke in such a way that a large number of both Jews and Greeks believed. And this is the same message Paul brought previously in Psidia Antioch in Acts 13:16-41. I suppose it isn’t any surprise in Acts 14:2 But the Jews who were disobedient stirred up and ⌊poisoned the minds⌋b of the Gentiles against the brothers. But here, their lives were not being threatened and in vs. 3 So they stayed there* for a considerable time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be performed through their hands. Miracles were happening.
It then says in Acts 14:4 But the population of the city was divided, and some were with the Jews ⌊and some⌋d with the apostles. But this wasn’t a problem because God was working in many peoples lives until in Acts 14:5 So when an inclination took place on the part of both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their rulers, to mistreat them* and to stone them, it was then, that Paul and Barnabas moved on in Acts 14:6-7.
It is the trouble makers that are the trouble.
He Leaped Up and Began Walking
As Paul and Barnabas continue their mission and God is doing signs and wonders in Acts 14:8-10 And in Lystra a certain man was sitting powerless in his feet, lame from ⌊birth⌋,e who had never walked. 9 This man listened while* Paul was speaking. ⌊Paul⌋,f looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet!” And he leaped up and began walking. For Paul and Barnabas, God was doing miracles as he had before, but these people had never seen this kind of creative power. For them, the gods are all powerful but no one knows when or how they will show up and when they do, you can’t know their disposition. For them, the Gods were fickle and could just as easily destroy you as bless you. So in Acts 14:11-12 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices in the Lycaonian language, saying, “The gods have become like men and* have come down to us!” 12 And they began calling Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the ⌊principal speaker. And as the cheers of the crowd increased, in Acts 14:13 And the priest of the temple* of Zeus that was just outside the city brought bulls and garlands to the gates and* was wanting to offer sacrifice, along with the crowds. If the gods were visiting the city, the temple priest didn’t want to offend them. They were all reacting with a mix of fear of the gods an confusion about what happened.
The Living God
When Paul and Barnabas heard, they spoke to calm the crowd in Acts 14:15-18 and the message they would have been speaking is the same about a Savior and King Jesus Christ, but Paul adds two important comments for these pagan Gentiles and these two points are still true today and are useful for our witness to the world:
- You were allowed to go in your own way: In Acts 14:16 (God) who in generations that are past permitted all the nations to go their own ways”.
- God gave a witness by doing good for you: In Acts 14:17 (LEB) And yet he did not leave himself without witness by doing good, giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and your hearts with gladness.”
Then the instigators, the trouble makers, the disputers, showed up and in Acts 14:19–20 (LEB) 19 But Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and when they* had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him* outside the city, thinking he was dead. They still think they can stop the gospel by killing the messenger then in Acts 14:20 But after* the disciples surrounded him, he got up and* went into the city. And on the next day he departed with Barnabas for Derbe. Paul got up, went right back into the city, and the next day went on his way!
They Entrusted Them to the Lord
Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news in Derbe and in Acts 14:21 “made many disciples” and then “returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch”. They had been sent from Antioch so returning there makes good sense, but they had real opposition in Lystra and Iconium, why go back there? People saw what had been done to them and they went back to, in Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them* to continue in the faith and saying,* “Through many persecutions it is necessary for us to enter into the kingdom of God.” Paul needed these new disciple to know that God was for them and they should “continue in the faith”. Then in Acts 14:23–24 (LEB) And when they* had appointed elders for them in every church, after* praying with fasting, they entrusted them to the Lord, in whom they had believed. They left the church with structure and stability through leaders who God was raising up.
Continuing on their course, they make a few more stops in Acts 14:24-25 And they passed through Pisidia and* came to Pamphylia. 25 And after* they proclaimed the message in Perga, they went down to Attalia, where they are “proclaiming the message”. And then on to Antioch.
One last thing, “they reported all that God had done” in Acts 14:26-27. But their report isn’t what you might think. It isn’t recorded that they were run out of towns or that Paul was stoned to death. Their message was in Acts 14:27 “he (God) had opened a great door of faith for the Gentiles”. Many souls were added, churches were started, the gospel was planted all across these regions.
There Was No Little Strife and Debate
This is a turning point as Church leaders draft a doctrinal letter to all of the Churches.
In Acts 15:1 (LEB) And some men came down from Judea and* began teaching* the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved.” But this wasn’t what had been happening as Paul and Barnabas were going from city to city. And this wasn’t what had happened when Paul went to Cornelius, in fact, God had told Peter “don’t call what I have cleansed unclean”.So, in Acts 15:2-3 there was much debate and an agreement to take these questions “to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem”.
In Acts 15:4–5 (LEB) 4-5 And when they* arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of those who had believed from the party of the Pharisees stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them* to observe the law of Moses!” and the debate was on. Then in Acts 15:6-9 Peter is listening and finally stands up to tell everyone again how God had poured out his spirit on the Gentiles vs. 9 “and he made no distinction between us and them”.
Today, we have so many denominations, so many doctrines, what are we wanting to add to the gospel? It is God that draws people. And it is by his Holy Spirit that he confirms his acceptance of them. Let God confirmed who he will.
This Thing You Are Asking Isn’t Good
In Acts 15:10 Peter continues and asks “why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? In other words, this thing you are asking isn’t good. Then he makes a clear doctrinal statement in Acts 15: 11 But we believe we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in ⌊the same⌋b way those also are.” This is the gospel we preach and they all responded in silence vs. 12 as they accepted the wisdom of these words. And in vs. 12, everyone “listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them”.
James steps up and in Acts 15:13-21 declares what God is doing right in front of them in vs. 14 “to take from among the Gentiles a people for his name” and in vs. 16 how he will restore the “tent of David that has fallen” and he proposes in vs. 20 a letter to the churches and it is letters like these that we today read as our New Testament.
Some From Among Us Have Thrown You Into Confusion
These verses from Acts 15:22-29 give the content of the letter that was to be distributed. It is simple, but establishes the leadership of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem and clarifies what is required for disciples. This was an important point in the development of the church and brought clarity.
- Acts 14:14–20
- Acts 14:21–28
- Acts 15:10–21
- Acts 14:1-28
- Acts 15:1-29