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Acts 14

Thursday Evening Bible Study

January 9, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 4400 words

On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began to grow.

By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution. Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. One of the main men behind the persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus to pursue the Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light and he met Jesus.

By chapter 10, the gospel began to reach even the Gentiles.

In chapter 13, we began a new section of Acts as we began to focus on the ministry of Saul, now known as Paul.

Play Antioch to Iconium map clip

After much prayer, the church in Antioch of Syria sent out Barnabas and Paul to preach the gospel and plant churches.
They made their way across the island of Cyprus, then up into the area of Galatia where they spent time in Antioch of Pisidia where preached the gospel, many Gentiles got saved, and then they met with persecution and have moved on to the city of Iconium.

14:1-7 Rejected at Iconium

:1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.

:1 to the synagogue of the Jews

It was Paul’s practice to always preach first to the Jews of a city, and then to open up his messages to the Gentiles.

Paul wrote to the Romans,

(Ro 1:16–17 NKJV) —16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
The gospel is powerful.  It’s a message that can change lives.
In his daily devotional from January 4, Greg Laurie writes:

“We often underestimate the raw power of the gospel in reaching even the most hardened heart. We think we need to add to it, dress it up, make it ultra-contemporary, gloss it over, or even complicate it. But there is distinct power in the simple message of the life, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Never underestimate its appeal. Never be ashamed of its simplicity. Never add to it or take away from it. Just proclaim it, and then stand back and watch what God will do.”

The gospel is all about how man can achieve the “righteousness of God”, but it’s only through faith in Jesus, the one who died to pay for our sins.  When we trust in Jesus, God removes our sins and gives us the righteousness of Christ.
As Paul spoke in the synagogue, a “great multitude” believed.

:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.

:2 the unbelieving …poisoned their minds

poisonedkakoo – to oppress, afflict;  to embitter


Beware bitterness

There are people who are miserable with their concept of God, and they want you to be miserable with them.
Atheists – these are the people who claim to know that there is no God.  Yet I wonder just how much they know of all that can be known.  Is it possible that God exists outside their sphere of knowledge?  Isn’t it foolish to claim to know that God doesn’t exist, when it’s very possible that you just don’t know about Him?
Agnostics – these people claim to be more honest, claiming that they just don’t know whether or not there is a God.  It’s based on the Greek for “not knowing”.  The question to me is, why are they trying to make everyone else as miserable as they are?  The Latin word for agnostic is “ignoramus”.
It is important to think about a person’s “world view” when we listen to their opinions.
It’s not that we can’t learn anything from an atheist or agnostic, but be careful what you are learning from them.

:3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

:3 the word of His grace

Paul and Barnabas are in the area known as Galatia.


Spirit and Grace

Paul will one day write to the Galatians, reminding them perhaps of these very days.
(Ga 3:1–5 NKJV) —1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
We can see back in their history as a church that they had indeed experienced “signs and wonders” as Paul was preaching grace, not law.

:3 granting signs and wonders

signssemeion – a sign, mark, token; of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s

wondersteras – a prodigy, portent; miracle: performed by any one

Some would argue that signs and wonders need to be performed to reach the lost.  Certainly God did “grant” that these things be done in Iconium, but for Paul, the central message of the gospel was the cross – Jesus died for us.  Paul would write later to the Corinthian church:

(1 Co 1:18 NKJV) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul went on to write:

(1 Co 1:22–24 NKJV) —22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The cross is both a “sign” (the “power of God”) as well as “wisdom”, that God would give His Son to pay for our sins.

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

:5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them,

:6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.

:7 And they were preaching the gospel there.

:6 they became aware of it and fled

Paul and Barnabas had no intent to stick around and die.

:6 Lystra and Derbe

Play Lystra and Derbe map clip

Lystra is 21 miles south of Iconium.
Derbe is another 47 miles east of Lystra.

:6 cities of Lycaonia

Paul and Barnabas are moving into a different region where the culture is different and the people speak a different language.  They might be preaching in Greek and using translators.

14:8-20 Lystra miracle

:8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked.

I wonder if the inhabitants of Lystra were called “Listerines???  J

:8 a cripple from his mother’s womb

This man had never walked in his life.  His muscles were not only unable to carry him, but they had never learned the simple coordination of working together.

:9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed,

:9 seeing that he had faith to be healed

How did Paul “see” that the man had faith?

observing … intentlyatenizo – to fix the eyes on, gaze upon; to look into anything
to be healedsozo – to save, keep safe and sound; to make well, heal, restore to health
You could also translate this that he had the “faith to be saved”.
Somehow Paul knew that this man could be healed.

:9 he had faith to be healed

Sometimes we make too much of what “faith” is required for God to work.

The “word of faith” preachers make it sound as if God can do nothing without our faith.
And when God doesn’t heal a person, they easily can “blame” the person for having a lack of faith.

Yet faith can be an important ingredient to God working in our lives.


The value of faith

This morning we read about some of Jesus’ miracles:
(Mt 9:2 NKJV) Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
(Mt 9:22 NKJV) But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.
Jesus later said,
(Mt 21:22 NKJV) And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Faith is important
(Heb 11:6 NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Faith grows from “hearing”
(Ro 10:17 NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Keep in mind that this man had been “listening” to Paul when this happened…

:10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.

:10 he leapedhallomai – to leap; to spring up, gush up: of water

This is the same word used in when Peter and John healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful:

(Ac 3:8 NKJV) So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.
That man was also lame from his mother’s womb…

:11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”

:11 in the Lycaonian language

Because the people start crying out in their native Lycaonian language, it appears that Paul and Barnabas don’t realize at first what’s happening.  It’s not until the priest shows up with a sacrifice that they begin to realize what’s going on.

:12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

:11 The gods have come down

They respond by thinking that Paul and Barnabas must be gods, healing a man who had been born lame.

Play Star Wars C3PO worshipped clip

:12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes,

The people considered Barnabas Zeus because he seemed to be the one in charge, and he was the more older “brother” among the two apostles.

They called Paul Hermes because Hermes was the “messenger” of the gods.

You know Hermes as the FTD flower deliveryman.

:13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

:13 intending to sacrifice

That’s what you do for your “gods”.  You present sacrifices to them.

If I were Paul or Barnabas, I might be tempted to let them.  After all, when was the last time they had a good steak dinner?  What would it hurt to let the people think they were gods, even if just for awhile?  Like Han Solo said when the Ewoks bowed before C3PO, why not use your “divine influence” help us the gospel???

:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out

:15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,

:16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.

:17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

:17 He did not leave Himself without witness

These are Gentile people.  Paul doesn’t quote the Old Testament to them, but refers to nature instead as a witness of God.

:18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

:15 We also are men

Paul and Barnabas were terrified to think that the people might think that they were gods.

We too are no better than anyone else on this planet.

Paul wants nothing to do with a ministry based on deception.  Only truth.


God uses ordinary people

Sometimes it’s because we admire the way God uses certain people.  Sometimes it’s because we don’t think we’re anything that God could use.  But the problem is we think that God can use other people, but not us.
There aren’t too many people that God has used as mightily as the prophet Elijah.
He declared that it wouldn’t rain anymore unless he said so, and it didn’t rain for 3 ½ years (1Ki.17:1).  When the widow took care of him, she never ran out of flour or oil, miraculously (1Ki 17:16).  When the widow’s son died, Elijah raised him from the dead (1Ki 17:22).  When he challenged the priests of Baal, he prayed and fire came down from heaven, consuming his sacrifice. (1Ki 18:38)
(Jas 5:16–18 NKJV) —16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Was Elijah some kind of “superman”?  No.  He was just an ordinary guy.  An ordinary guy who learned how to pray.

We look at the apostle Paul and think he was some kind of superman, some kind of mythical character from the past.
He was just an ordinary guy, just like you and me.
Could God use you?
All He’s looking for is someone who is available, not like the gals I tried to date in high school who always had to wash their hair or something.  They were “unavailable.”

God is looking for someone who, when He asks, “Who will go for us?” that he hears a “Lord, here am I, send me” from us.

:19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.

:19 they stoned Paul

One minute they want to present sacrifices to them, the next they are throwing stones.


Futile People Pleasing

If you are living to please people, you are going to be greatly disappointed.
One moment you’re a god, the next you’re dead meat.
Think about ball players.
Last year when the Angels signed Josh Hamilton, everyone in Southern California was cheering.
When Josh went through his slump, they were booing him.
People are fickle and are going to change all the time.  It’s best that we learn to please God and not worry about what people think.
(Col 3:22–24 NKJV) —22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

There is one Person we ought to be concerned about pleasing.  God.

:20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

:20 he rose up and went into the city

Some think that this was when Paul got his glimpse of heaven.

Perhaps he had actually died, but when the disciples prayed, he was raised from the dead.  We think Paul is actually talking about himself when he wrote…
(2 Co 12:2–4 NKJV) —2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Some have suggested that Timothy and his mother Eunice, may have been in the circle around Paul.  Paul will later write to Timothy, a young man who got scared at times, a young man from “Derbe and Lystra” (Acts 16:1) some twenty years later Paul reminds Timothy that all who want to follow Jesus will be persecuted (2Tim. 3:12)

14:21-28 Back to Antioch

:21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,

:21 they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch

It’s at this point that Paul and Barnabas make a strategic decision to go back and visit the cities where they have just been, places where young struggling churches have been left in place.

Play Derbe Tarsus Antioch map clip

I find it interesting that when they are in Derbe, they make the decision to turn around and go back to strengthen the churches that they’ve just planted, rather than moving on to possibly Tarsus, Paul’s home town, which is only another 95 miles (and through some mountains) from Derbe.
And in the bigger picture, it would have been a quicker way eventually back to Antioch in Syria as well.

I think it hints for us what kind of priorities Paul and Barnabas have.

They are concerned that these new believers are built up and established in their faith rather than what seems expedient or comfortable for them.

:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

:22 strengtheningepisterizo – to establish besides, strengthen more; to render more firm, confirm

:22 soulspsuche – breath; the soul; the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.)

:22 exhortingparakaleo – to call to one’s side, call for, summon; to admonish, exhort; to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort; to instruct, teach

:22 to continueemmeno (“in” + “to remain”)  – to remain in, continue; to persevere in anything, a state of mind etc.; to hold fast, to be true to, abide by, keep

:22 through many tribulations enter

The Christian life is not an easy life.

tribulationsthlipsis – a pressing, pressure; oppression, affliction, distress

If you were under the impression that when you accepted Christ that all your problems would be over, someone wasn’t honest with you.

The truth is, there will be difficulty in this life.

They are not saying that you only get to heaven if you’ve lived a rough life.  They are saying that the road to heaven is going to take you through tough things.

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been tried and found difficult!”    -- G.K. Chesterton

:23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

:23 appointed elders in every church

Keep in mind that these people have only been believers for weeks or months.

:23 commendedparatithemi – to place beside or near or set before; to intrust, commit to one’s charge

I like the picture of “placing” these people “beside” the Lord.

They are putting them in God’s hands.

:23 they had believed

The verb is a “perfect” tense.  The idea is that they had in the past “believed”, but the results of their past action continue on into the present.  They are still believing.

:21 made many disciples



That’s a hint at their priorities
Jesus didn’t command us to just make “converts”.  He didn’t ask us to get a lot of people to pray the “Sinners’ Prayer” with us.  He told us to make “disciples”.
(Mt 28:19–20 NKJV) —19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Jesus gave us the definition of discipleship:
(Mt 16:24–25 NKJV) —24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not just about going to church, it’s about laying down your life and following Him.

Notice how Paul and Barnabas are encouraging these people with reality – it’s going to be tough to be a Christian, there will be many “tribulations”.

Thomas À Kempis (C. 1380–1471) wrote,  Jesus has many lovers of the heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of his cross. He has many desirous of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions of his table, but few of his abstinence. All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him, or with him. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup. Many reverence his miracles, few follow the ignominy (humiliation) of his cross. Many love Jesus so long as no adversities befall them, many praise and bless him so long as they receive any consolations from him; but if Jesus hides himself and leaves them but a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too much dejection of mind.”
Paul and Barnabas are now going back through the places they’ve been, tracking down the people who were following Jesus, encourage them and help them.
It would have been easier and closer if they had just gone home after their time in Derbe, but they choose instead to go back and build up the people they had led to the Lord.
They are reminding people that following Jesus may involve difficulty.

:24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

:25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

:26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

Play Antioch to Antioch map video

So they went from Antioch in Pisidia to the region of Pamphylia where they stopped first in Perga, where they had preached earlier.  Then they went down to the port city of Attalia, where they hopped onto a boat back to Antioch in Syria where they had started their missionary journey.

This ends the “First Missionary Journey” of Paul.

:26 commended to the grace of God


Trust God’s Grace

The word “commended” means literally “to hand over, to betray”
Betray yourself to God’s grace.  Hand yourself over to God’s grace.
Stop trusting in your own abilities to accomplish the work God has for you.
Expect God to do the work.  He will.
"The Touch of the Master's Hand"
"Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought
it scarcely worth his while.
To auction off the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
"What am I bid for the old violin?
Who'll start the bidding for me?
One dollar. One. Who'll make it two?
Two dollars. Who'll make it three?"
Going for three ... but no,
From a room far back
a gray-haired man
came forward and picked up the bow.
Wiping the dust from the old violin,
and tightening up its strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
as sweet as an angel sings.
The auctioneer,
with a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, "What am I bid for the old violin?"
as he held it up with the bow.
"One thousand, one, who'll make it two?
Two thousand, who'll make it three?
Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
going and gone" said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We don't quite understand,
What changed its worth?"
Quick came the reply,
"The touch of the Master's hand."
Many a man,
with life out of tune,
battered and torn by sin,
Is auctioned off to a thoughtless crowd,
much like that old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
a game, and he travels on.
He's going once, he's going twice,
he's going ... he's almost gone.
Then the Master comes,
and the thoughtless crowd
can never quite understand.
The worth of a soul
and the miracle that's wrought
by the touch of the Master's hand.

- Author Unknown

God can use anyone.  Anyone willing to trust themselves to His Grace.

:27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

:28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

:27 they reported all that God had done

they reportedanaggello – to announce, make known; to report, rehearse

It kind of reminds me of the scene in Star Wars, The Return of the Jedi, where C3PO is telling the Ewoks all about their adventures…

Play Star Wars Campfire Stories clip

Paul and Barnabas had been gone some 18 months, traveled some 700 miles by foot, and some 500 miles by sea.

I think a valuable part of mission work comes with these “reports”. 

It’s important to let the church know what has happened.  It lets people know how their prayers had been at work.  It challenges some to think about going next time.  It encourages people to step out in faith to tell others about Jesus.

It has been suggested that Paul might have possibly written the letter to the Galatians at this point, from Antioch, to the churches he’s just established. The date is around AD 49.