1In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went together to the synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Gentiles believed. 2But the Jews who spurned God’s message stirred up distrust among the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas, saying all sorts of evil things about them. 3The apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. The Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4But the people of the city were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.
5A mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. 6When the apostles learned of it, they fled for their lives. They went to the region of Lycaonia, to the cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area, 7and they preached the Good News there.
8While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. 9He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. 10So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
11When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human bodies!” 12They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes. 13The temple of Zeus was located on the outskirts of the city. The priest of the temple and the crowd brought oxen and wreaths of flowers, and they prepared to sacrifice to the apostles at the city gates.
14But when Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings like yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16In earlier days he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17but he never left himself without a witness. There were always his reminders, such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and joyful hearts.” 18But even so, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.
19Now some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the crowds into a murderous mob. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, apparently dead. 20But as the believers stood around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
21After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned again to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations. 23Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church and prayed for them with fasting, turning them over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had come to trust. 24Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. 25They preached again in Perga, then went on to Attalia.
26Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun and where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported about their trip, telling all that God had done and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. 28And they stayed there with the believers in Antioch for a long time.
Points of Interest:
- ‘The Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders’—Paul and Barnabas don’t just make good arguments. By the help of the Holy Spirit, they demonstrate what this good news they’re telling can actually do in a person’s life.
- ‘Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed.’—faith often, though not always, plays an important role in healings. Paul picks this man out of the crowd as someone who especially has faith in what Paul is preaching. It seems like having this model of faith is particularly helpful here, where the people have pretty much no knowledge of the God of Israel. A sermon simply based on unpacking the Jewish scriptures would be particularly inadequate here.
- ‘We are merely human beings like yourselves!’—The demonstration of God’s power is almost too effective. The people’s only category for power is their pantheon of gods. They are used to sacrificing to their local gods in order to gain security and prosperity. In their experience such a big miracle could only be attributed to the very highest-ranking gods. The issues are so different here than in working with the Jews or even the God-fearers.
- ‘some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the crowds into a murderous mob.’—as the success of the mission grows, so does the opposition. There is now an active group traveling to cities many miles away to try and kill Paul and Barnabas. This is evidence of the region wide influence they are beginning to have.
- ‘They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, apparently dead.’—it’s unclear whether Paul actually dies or only almost dies. Either way, it’s pretty amazing that he simply gets back up and goes back to work. By the Holy Spirit’s help, nothing can get in Paul’s way.
- ‘Paul and Barnabas returned again to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia,’—they were almost killed in all of these cities. What are they doing going back? Apparently, they see it as God’s job to protect their lives–as God did indeed do at Lystra. Their job is to make sure that Jesus’ good news firmly takes root in this entirely non-Jewish region. What started in Jerusalem 15 years before as a completely Jewish movement, has now truly become a rapidly multiplying, multi-cultural movement. Paul and Barnabas want to make sure that the momentum continues.
- ‘Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church’—when are people ready to lead? It seems Paul and Barnabas don’t waste much time raising up indigenous leadership among these young churches. We know from the content of the letter of Galatians–a letter from Paul to this very group of churches– that these new leaders make many mistakes. Paul does not seem to regret this choice and probably feels that this in fact is the best way to train up new leaders – through actual experience.
Taking it home:
- Through you: If today’s passage is any indication, as we hear God’s voice and follow God’s direction for our lives, there are two things that are certain: we’ll discover incredible rewards; and we’ll run into trouble. Pray for God’s courage to fill you so that God can work greater works through you even in the face of hardship. If you haven’t been doing so already, consider fasting from food for a meal a day or for a whole day once a week for the rest of the 40 Days. Fasting is a way to train us in depending on God for life rather than the comforts of food.
- Through your six: In Paul and Barnabas’ work, the transition time from people coming to know Jesus to when they are given leadership is short, probably less than a year. Who knows? Some of your six may be leading others towards Jesus in a year. Pray in faith for God to bless this work in their lives.
- Through our church: Because of the nature of their mission and because of the opposition they faced, Paul and Barnabas quickly turn over leadership to relatively new members of their community and relatively recent followers of Jesus. This turns out to be one of the best leadership development tools ever. In our church, small groups are a great place for a similar quick turnaround in taking on leadership. If you are not in a small group, seriously consider joining one. If you are in a small group, ask your small group leader how you can help lead. If you are a small group leader, ask God to help you raise up new leaders.