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.” Entered for went both, Authorized Version;
Jews for the Jews, Authorized Version; and for and also, Authorized Version;
Greeks for the Greeks, Authorized Version. Observe how in every case Greeks are
found attending the synagogue. So spake, etc. This illustrates the statement in
Romans 10:17, that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
2 “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil
affected against the brethren.” The Jews that were disobedient for the unbelieving
Jews, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; stirred up the souls of the Gentiles,
and made them, etc., for stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds, etc.,
Authorized Version. The Jews that were disobedient. The Received Text
(ἀπειθήσαντες – apeithaesantes – unpersuading; being stubborn) may equally
and even better be rendered, the Jews that were unbelieving (compare John 3:36,
where πιστεύων – pisteuon – one believing and ἀπειθῶν – apeithon – unpersuading;
being stubborn are opposed to each other, and Romans 11:30-32, where the idea of
belief is far more appropriate than that of obedience). Stirred up the souls, etc. Paul
speaks with much warmth of the constant opposition of the Jews, "forbidding us to
speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved" (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
Hinderers of Christian World (v. 2)
The apostle elsewhere expresses in a sentence what was the common
experience of his missionary life. He says (I Corinthians 16:9), “A great
door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”
And we must still accept the fact that, if we will do any special work, or
manifest in work any energy or individuality, we shall soon have persons
opposing, misrepresenting, and hindering us. Here, in the very outset of
Paul’s missionary career, the influence of the “unbelieving Jews” is
indicated, and this fanatical Jewish party persistently followed up the
apostle wherever he went, trying to destroy his work and create prejudice
against him. It may be said — What great things Paul would have
accomplished if he had not been checked by these hinderers! But a deeper
view of the influence permanently exerted on the Church by Paul’s life
and writings would rather lead us to say — What sublime things Paul
did accomplish in spite of the hinderers, and even out of the very impulse
excited by their opposition; for in this, too, God made “the wrath of man to
praise Him!” (Psalm 76:10) More and more clearly is it now seen that a man’s
moral nobility is gained, not by silent, unresisted growths, but by the steady,
persistent, often imperiling, conflict with adverse influences and open foes.
And that which is true in the individual life is true of the composite Church
life. We may thank God that He has overruled, for the Church’s permanent
good, the hinderers, the opposers, the persecutors. We may consider:
(1) the sources whence hindrances come, getting illustrations from the
older times, and making applications to our own;
(2) the influences which hindrances may have upon the mind and feeling of
the workers; and
(3) the influences which they have upon the growth and progress of
CHRISTIAN WORK, They have always come both from without and from
within the Church; but our thought is now chiefly confined to hindrances
coming from without. Hinderers are generally:
Ø Persons of antagonistic disposition, who always take “the other side,”
are quick to imagine some evil in everything attempted, see no good in
anything with which they are unassociated, and have a sort of natural
horror of things that are new.
Ø Or persons who have strong religious prejudices, which they feel the
fresh thing tends to undermine, and for which they consequently fight
as if they were the truth of God.
Ø Or persons who cling to doctrinal forms or to ceremonial rites, and fail
to see that God may send forth floods of new life, too mighty to be kept
within their prescribed riverbanks, and so they vainly try to hold back
God’s floods. (“But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply
ye be found even to fight against God.” - ch. 5:39)
Ø Or persons who have no faith in the future, and cannot trust God to
oversee and overrule the future, even as He does the present and has
done the past.
Ø Or persons whose temporal condition may be injuriously affected by the
as illustrated by the shrine-makers of
The phases which these hindrances take in modern life need to be carefully observed and thought out.
THE MIND AND FEELING OF THE WORKERS. Those influences, of
course, differ according to the disposition of the workers. We may divide
them into these classes.
Ø Hindrances will dishearten and depress some. It is characteristic of some
that they are sunshine workers, and give up easily when the least cloud
shadow passes across. These are usually weakly in body and nervously
sensitive, and they need encouraging and the frequent kindly word.
Ø Hindrances wilt keep up in some a “dogged persistency.” This
expression is not the most graceful one, but no other so well expresses
their condition of feeling. Like Nehemiah, they simply keep on, let other
men talk, send messages, or do what they will; and if they say anything to
the hinderers, it is only this, “We are doing a great work, therefore we
cannot come down.” (Nehemiah 6:3)
Ø And hindrances arouse some to new and nobler activity. The spirit of the
soldier is in them, and the very presence of a foe, and the very difficulties
of an enterprise, touch and awaken the noblest within them. Direct
application to present-day Church-workers should be made, and the duty
of resisting the undue influence of hinderers pressed home.
GROWTH AND PROGRESS OF CHRIST’S CHURCH. Apply to:
Ø Internal growth in spirituality, in development of doctrine, in practical
application of principle to details of life.
Ø External progress. Hinderers give publicity to the Christian Church,
calling the attention of many who would otherwise not hear of it. Hinderers
waken the natural sympathy of men for a resisted and persecuted thing.
Ø Hinderers increase the evangelizing and aggressive fervor of the Church,
and so, by means of the hinderers, Christ’s kingdom steadily advances.
Illustrate by the persecutions of the early Church, the history of English
and the tale of Christian life in
may have “many adversaries,” but she learns how to make their very
enmity her inspiration.
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.” They tarried there for abode they, Authorized Version;
bare witness for gave testimony, Authorized Version; granting for and granted,
Authorized Version. For the phrase long time (ἱκανὸν χρόνον – hikanon chronon –
enough; considerable time), compare ch. 27:9, "much time," and "many days"
"for a long time" (ἐκ χρόνων ἱκανῶν – ek chronon hikanon). Speaking boldly
(παρρησιαζόμενοι – parraesiazomenoi ) in the Lord (ἐπὶ τῷ Κυρίῳ - epi to Kurio);
i.e. having the Lord for their support. It was the special prayer of the Church that
God would "grant to His servants that they might speak the Word with all boldness
(μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης – meta parraesias pasaes – with all boldness)," and in answer
to that prayer they were enabled to speak "the Word of God with boldness"
It was no small evidence of the power of the Holy Ghost that the apostles were able
to speak with such uncompromising fidelity in the face of such bitter opposition.
that we ought, perhaps, to understand here τῷ Κυρρίῳ - to Kurrio - of God the Father
rather than of "His holy Servant Jesus."
4 “But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and
part with the apostles.” Was divided (ἐσχίσθη - eschisthae); hence σχίσμα –
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,”
Made an onset for an assault made, Authorized Version; of the Jews for also of
the Jews, Authorized Version; to entreat them shamefully for to use them despitefully,
Authorized Version, as I Thessalonians 2:2. As regards ὁρμή - horme – onset; rush,
neither the Authorized Version’s assault nor the Revised Version’s onset expresses
it exactly. Ὁρμή means the strong bent of the mind, as in James 3:4, where it expresses
the strong will of the steersman directing the ship against the force of the winds. Here
it means that both Jews with their rulers, and Gentiles, under the influence of violent
passion, had determined and agreed to assault Paul and Barnabas. To entreat them
shamefully. Ψβρις – Hubris and ὑβρίζω – hubrizo - denote "violence," as Matthew
even legally inflicted, as Proverbs 19:18 (Septuagint).
6 “They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and
unto the region that lieth round about:” Became aware for were ware, Authorized
Version (συνιδόντες – sunidontes – being conscious), see Acts 12:12; the cities of
Lycaonia, Lystra, and Derbe, for Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, Authorized
Version; the region for unto the region, Authorized Version; round about for that
lieth round about, Authorized Version.
7 “And there they preached the gospel.” They preached; were preaching - not
once or twice, but continuously. Lystra and Derbe were cities of southern Lycaonia,
obscure and remote from
civilization, situated north of
country somewhere between Ak Ghieul on the north, and the volcanic region of
Karadagh on the south. They seem to have been included at this time in the
dominions of Antiochus, king of Commagene (Lewin). Lystra is thought to be now
represented by Bin-bir Kilissete (the thousand and one churches) (Lewin and Renan),
though this is doubtful; and Derbe distant about twenty miles from Lystra, and the
capital of that part of Lycaonia called Isaurica, is thought to be the modern Dioli
where the ruins of an ancient town are found.
Apostolic (ministerial) Experience (vs. 1-7)
spake” (v. 1), i.e. with such force, persuasiveness, fidelity, that “a great
multitude believed” (ibid.); “they abode speaking boldly in the Lord”
(v. 3), i.e. they urged the truth with fearless vigor, their confidence being
grounded on God’s presence and support; “there they preached the gospel”
(v. 7). There is no vocation which any man can engage in which gives
such scope for the exercise of his highest powers as that of the Christian
minister or missionary. To preach the gospel of the grace of God as it
should and may be proclaimed, is to do that in which:
Ø the fullest intellectual energy,
Ø the utmost spirituality,
Ø the largest beneficence,
Ø the greatest strength of will, and
Ø all the supreme faculties of redeemed and elevated
manhood, should be lavishly poured forth.
function to work miraculous cures: “signs and wonders were done by their
hands” (v. 3). This does not fall to our share, but it is always the
missionary’s and frequently the minister’s office — as an auxiliary to his
more spiritual work — to try to heal bodily complaints; and always is it his
concern to devise and encourage those institutions and habits which tend to
health, harmony, comfort, domestic peace.
gratified must have been the hearts of the apostles as they saw that
“multitude” of Jews and Greeks acknowledging the truth and power of the
gospel which they were preaching (v. 1)! All the harvest is not to be
reaped here; much of it “after many days;” much of it by other hands
(John 4:38). But God does give increase for our own eyes to see and our own hands to reap (I Corinthians 3:6). And of all the joys with which He fills our human hearts there are few, if any, comparable to that of seeing the pleasure
of the Lord prosper in our hand (Isaiah 53:10).
with a keen pang that Paul and Barnabas witnessed the evil machinations of
those “unbelieving Jews” (v. 2), hindering, as they must have done, the
good work which was proceeding. Too often the Christian teacher has to
look on at such scenes and grieve at the sad mischief which is being
wrought. At such times he can only cast himself on God, fleeing to the
Rock of his refuge, remembering that it is the work of the Infinite and
Almighty One in which he is engaged.
Christian workman is to be daunted. He is to act like Nehemiah, whom
neither the menaces nor the stratagems of his enemies could move. He is to
act as Paul and Barnabas did, who “long time abode, speaking boldly in the
Lord” (v. 3). He is to show himself a faithful servant of his fearless
Master, ready to encounter the contempt, or the ridicule, or the slander, or
the turbulence of the evil-minded, so long as there is any good to be
accomplished by his steadfastness. But it is not to be forgotten that there is:
When the time comes that it is quite clear that persistency would only
involve the one side in the guilt of murder and the other in the complete
arrest of usefulness, then must the Lord’s counsel be taken (Matthew
10:23). The hour comes when continuance in peril is not faithfulness, but
foolhardiness; not commendable martyr-zeal, but censurable indiscretion.
We must use our intelligence to discriminate between the two; but for
retirement when persistency is useless and even mischievous, we have the
example of our Lord himself (Matthew 12:15), and of his apostles here.
The Gospel at Iconium (vs. 1-7)
There was a series of acts and events such as seem typical of the progress
of the gospel elsewhere.
Many, Jews and Greeks, believed. This is the one test of true preaching. Is
the truth “commended to the conscience”? Are great moral laws brought
out distinctly, so that the heart of the people leaps up, in truth set free? He
who preaches out of his heart alone reaches to the heart. The arguments
that have convinced ourselves are the arguments that can alone be
expected to convince others.
the gospel. But the gospel acquires force as it goes, and actually roots itself
the more firmly in men’s minds from the very fact that it is able to
power to work and to effect good. Deeds of good done to the suffering
body or mind are silent words; just as true words are spiritual deeds. We
do not look for miracles, but we ought to look for “signs” that God is with
us in the word we speak and the work we do for others.
siding with the Jews, some with the apostles. It is by opposition of opinions
and feelings that the world is carried on. It does not follow, because
division takes place, on the entrance of a new light, that it will be
permanent. God’s method seems to be to lead men through divisions to
deeper unity; by experience of the futility of partial opinions to the deeper
insight which reconciles and satisfies. These divisions were prophetic of
what has ever to be in the history of the Church. Ever has there been
division marked at every era of new light and progress. He is in the right
who follows the light within; all who seek to follow the living Savior, and
such alone, enjoy under every name that is supposed to divide, “the unity
of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Faithful Service: Iconium (vs. 1-7)
attempt to thwart it, a powerful testimony to its adaptation both to Jews
OF THE TRUTH must be set over against the fickleness of their hearers
and the obstinacy and envy of evil-minded men. The Lord bears witness to us when we speak boldly in his Name.
Fly to other places when the testimony is persistently rejected. “Cast not
pearls before swine.” (Matthew 7:6) The true wisdom is seen exemplified in
this instance.The preachers remained at their post until their lives were actually
in danger, and God said clearly, “Go.”
The Calm Force of the Gospel Amid Many Distractions of Men
This portion of the history names Paul and Barnabas to us for the first time
as apostles (v. 4). It is noticeable also as substituting the expression,
“preaching the gospel,” for speaking “the Word of God” (v. 7). But it is
remarkable much more as giving us such a distinct impression of the way in
which the new truth, “the gospel,” bore itself amid many a variety of
opposition and unexpected combinations of foes. Let us notice some of the
groupings amid which the gospel made its way, either with their help or
against their hindrance.
THE FIRST GROUP. As the gospel is still persistently first preached to
the Jew and from the pulpit that the synagogue constituted, so it seems that
generally some of the Jews (and of course not infrequently Greeks with
them) believed. Not however, it is a great multitude of these. Probably the
early and trenchant conquests of the gospel again availed to waken all the
bitterest and more active hostility in the new scene, whatever it might be,
of labor. The first group shows Jew against Jew therefore.
TO THEMSELVES THE GENTILES, AND THIS IS THE SECOND
GROUP. Jew and Gentile seldom worked together for good — at least not
in any way directly or indirectly connected with religious matters. But now
not only do they combine forces for evil, but it is at the instance of the
Jew. “The same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together” (Luke
23:12). Very true it is any way that enmity against Christ and the gospel of
His truth and love will need all the combined force possible, and will need
to try every possible variety of combination, not then to succeed, but to
prove to itself how vain its opposition and anger are.
OF THE NEXT GROUPING. And this grouping is one that shows a
Ø Not divided into its ordinary numerous civil, political, or ecclesiastical
divisions. It owns to a very simple classification indeed. It is rent in just
Ø And the separating line, traversing all other considerations, is determined
simply by men’s attitude with regard to these two men, lately arrived at
after expulsion from
Who “hold” with these two men, or who do not hold with them? — for
“holding with the Jews” is merely the converse of this. Whatever may be
true of these two men and of their word, evident, it was in those days and
in that city that they were forces that had to be reckoned with. And go
where the gospel will, this at least has always been found.
· THE NEXT GROUP EXHIBITS A MULTITUDE OF GENTILES,
JEWS, AND THEIR RULERS. They are not, indeed, openly and
compactly and homogeneously massed together, but they are ready to drop
all differences for twenty-four hours, and are preparing to do so, that in
untrained multitude they may try the effect of brute force. These were
meditating an assault upon the two unarmed defenseless preachers. They
were organizing themselves, truly after very rough sort, for this purpose.
And if the purpose be ever done, when it is done there will soon be an end
of their harmony.
· THE LAST GROUP CONSISTS OF THE TWO APOSTLES AND A
THIRD WITH THEM, THOUGH INVISIBLE. These, passing from the
midst of an angry people, went their way to preach the same gospel, serve
the same Master, trust the same Savior, but to do these things elsewhere.
They “flee,” not for fear, not from cowardice, not from love of their own
life, but from love of the life of their gospel and their mission, and in
obedience to the plain command of the great Captain (Luke 10:23).
How strong that gospel was! How strong their heart was! And these gave
strength both to limb to go elsewhere and to voice to speak and preach
elsewhere. Often must those apostles and their converts too of the Jews
have thought of the old words of impassioned prophetic expostulation:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? the kings
of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against
the Lord and against his Anointed.” For they are “broken as with a rod of
iron;” they are dashed “in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” But Jesus and His
gospel survive, and reign with a reign further and wider; they strew
blessings their whole way along, and wake ten thousand voices of praise.
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:” At Lystra there sat, etc.,
for there sat... at Lystra, Authorized Version; a cripple for being a cripple,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.
9 “The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving
that he had faith to be healed,” Speaking for speak, Authorized Version; fastening
seeing for perceiving, Authorized Version; made whole for healed, Authorized Version.
Heard. The force of the imperfect ἤκουεν – aekouen - would, perhaps, be better given
by "listened" to Paul speaking. There is great resemblance between this miracle of
healing, and that of the lame man laid at the gate of the temple, who was healed by
Peter (ch. 3:2-10), and, not unnaturally, considerable identity of expression in the
narratives. Both men were lame from their birth; the apostles fastened their eyes
upon both; both, when healed, leaped and walked; and in both cases the miracle
had a great effect upon the multitudes who beheld it.
10 “Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.”
Leaped up for leaped. Authorized Version.
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.” Multitudes for people, Authorized Version; voice for voices, Authorized
Version. In the speech of Lycaonia. It is not known what the language of Lycaonia
was, whether Cappadocian, or Celtic, or Lycian; but we learn incidentally from
Stephanus Byzantinus, that there was a Lycaonian language, for he tells us that
Delbia (as some write the name Derbe) was the Lycaonian for ἄρκευθος –
apkeuthos - a juniper tree or berry. No other Lycaonian word is known .
The Lycaoniaus doubtless understood Greek as the language of intercommunication
all over Roman Asia, but among themselves would speak their native dialect. The
belief that the gods were come down in the likeness of men, and that these gods
were Jupiter and Hermes, or Mercury, was most natural to Lycaonians, who were
conversant with, and doubtless believed, the Phrygian legend of Philemon and
Baucis, who entertained hospitably Jupiter and Hermes, when no one else would
take them in, and whose cottage was by the gods turned into a temple (when all
the neighborhood was drowned by a flood), of which they were made priest and
priestess during life, and simultaneously metamorphosed into an oak and lime tree
when their life ended (Ovid, 'Metamorph.,'8:611, etc.). Ovid places the scene of the
legend at Tyana, the site of which
has been ascertained by
legend itself seems to have been that which influenced the people of Lycaonia
in their conduct towards the two strangers: "Cura pii dis sunt, et qui coluere
coluntur," which may be Englished, "Them that honor me I will honor"
12 “And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he
was the chief speaker.” Mercury for Mercurius, Authorized Version. For the
Latin Jupiter and Mercury the Greek original has Zeus and Hermes. Jupiter is
Jovis Pater, where Jovis or Diovis or Dies (in Diespiter) is the Latin form of Zeus,
gen. Δίος - Dios. Mercury is Hermes in his special character as the god of markets
and trade. But the Lycaonians here thought of him in his principal character of
herald and messenger of the gods, and hence the god of eloquence and speech.
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.”
And for then, Authorized Version; whose temple was before the city for which
was before their city, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the multitudes for
the people, Authorized Version, as in v. 12. The priest of Jupiter. The words,
ὁ δὲ ἱερεὺς τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ ὄντες κ.τ.λ. – ho de hiereus tou Dios tou ontes k.t.l. –
the yet sacred of Zeus, etc., may be construed in two ways - either as in the
Authorized Version, or the priest of the temple of Jupiter, etc., understanding,
by a common ellipse, ἱεροῦ - hierou - priest, or, ναοῦ - naon - temple, after Διός –
Dios – Zeus, as in the Latin phrase," Ubi ad Dianae veneris;" "When you come
before the city, meaning the
translating is to take the full phrase as being ὁ ἱερεὺς τοῦ Διός ναοῦ or ἰεροῦ,
the article τοῦ - tou – of the - belonging to ναοῦ, and Διός being, as in so many
instances, without the article. The gates; viz. of the city. The temple was just
outside the gates; the lame man, it is likely, sat inside near the gates through
which men were passing in and out. Paul and Barnabas would address the
people in the square or open space inside the gates. Seeing a stir at the gates,
and hearing that it was the priest of Jupiter coming with oxen and garlands to
sacrifice to them, they immediately ran forward to prevent it. The ox was the
proper sacrifice for Jupiter.
14 “Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their
clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,” But... heard of it for which ...
heard of, Authorized Version; garments for clothes, Authorized Version; sprang
forth for ran in, Authorized Version; multitudes for people, Authorized Version,
as before. The conduct of Barnabas and Paul, in abhorring the honors offered
to them, has been well contrasted with the profane vanity of Herod in accepting
Divine honors (ch.12:23).
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:” Bring you good tidings for preach unto you, Authorized
Version; vain things for vanities, Authorized Version; who for which,
Authorized Version; the heaven and the earth for heaven and earth,
Authorized Version; that in them is for things that are therein, Authorized
Version. For the declaration, We also are men of like passions with you, compare
Peter's saying to Cornelius (ch.10:26), "Stand up; I myself also am a man." Paul
finely contrasts the utter vanity, i.e. the impotence, lifelessness, uselessness, and
unprofitableness of the idols, with the power of the living God, who by His word
created heaven and earth and sea, and filled them all with beauty, shape, and life.
No gods, but THE ONLY GOD (v. 5)
The subject may be introduced by such a sketch of the incidents as will bring
prominently forward these points.
1. The apostles wrought a miraculous healing.
2. Their act was seriously misconceived.
3. Pagan sentiments overwhelmed the Christian teaching.
4. The apostles most deeply felt the insult which the proposed sacrifice
offered to the Divine honor and sole claim.
Remember that the first and supreme truth to a Jew is the unity and spirituality
of God, and observe that this should be as firmly and jealously conserved by the Christian as by the Jew. One of the most marked features of the pious man in
all ages is supreme jealousy of God’s sole honor. In describing the miracle out of
which the incidents grew, the necessity for a moral preparation before we
can receive Divine intervention and deliverance may be pointed out. Men
may be set so as to receive, or so as to be indifferent to, God’s saving
grace. Our Lord pleads thus, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have
life” (John 5:40) The evident eagerness of this cripple marked him out to the quick insight of the apostle as one on whom a work of power could be wrought. It is
evident on the face of the narrative that it was not every cripple or every sufferer
that Paul would have attempted to heal; it was only such as, so to speak, met
halfway the exertion of spiritual power by their own ardent faith. Fixing
attention on the serious error of the excited populace, and the earnest
efforts of the apostles to correct it, we notice:
impulsive idea of them likely to spring up in men’s minds. Things that are
evidently beyond human power must be wrought by DIVINE POWER,
and persons by whom the wondrous work is wrought must be Divine persons.
Such reasoning was strengthened by the legends and superstitions of
heathenism, and it may be shown that there lingered in the particular
district of Lycaonia, traditions of incarnations of the deity (see instances in
the exegetical portion of this Commentary). But the first and natural
argument from miracles cannot be sustained when knowledge is advanced
and critical thinking gains power. That they are wrought by Divine power
and signs of Divine presence is not the only possible explanation of them.
Men properly test their so-called miraculous character, and then they test
the agency by which they are wrought. Therefore God never bears upon
men with the force of miracles alone, and we are led to consider.
necessary connection the heathen could not see, and to this day many
Christians do not see. A miracle is nothing standing by itself; it may be
most valuable as related to, and the exposition or illustration of, some
truth. Renan says rightly that the ancient heathen had no conception of a
miracle as the evidence of a doctrine. And Archbishop Trench points out
that our Lord’s miracles are never called merely wonders, “because the
ethical meaning of the miracle would be wholly lost were blank
astonishment or gaping wonder all which they aroused. They are also
‘signs - σηµεῖα - saemeia – signs, miracles, tokens, wonders and pledges
of something more than and beyond themselves.” It may be urged that miracles are never wrought save for the sake of THE TRUTH! Even when they are at first sight attestations of a person, they confirm our faith in him only for the
sake of the truth which he brings, and they only fulfill their mission when they produce in us receptivity to the truth taught. This is fully illustrated in the incidents connected with our text. The people stayed with what the miracle seemed to say concerning the persons Barnabas and Saul. The apostles
earnestly urged that the miracle was but designed to open their hearts to the
TRUTH. Much of the difficulty felt concerning the miraculous, would be removed if we dwelt more fully on its moral use, as producing a receptivity for the truth.
CLEARLY THROUGH THE MISTAKE MADE CONCERNING IT. It
had been designed to aid in securing attention to the apostles’ message as
sent from God. It came to be a means of correcting men’s fundamental
error on the being of God. Ordinarily the truth received may be left to push
out cherished error. Monotheism, conceived from the Christian standpoint,
will of itself destroy all polytheistic conceptions. But sometimes
fundamental doctrinal errors need to be resolutely dealt with. The apostles
dare not dishonor their Master by permitting a vital error to be cherished.
So, at the utmost personal peril, they declare that there are no gods; THERE
IS ONLY GOD and that they themselves are only men, His servants, who are
permitted to put forth gracious power, as a persuasion to men to receive
Chrisit’s blessed message of pardon and life.
16 “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.”
The generations gone by for times past, Authorized Version; the nations for
nations, Authorized Version.
God’s Ways with the Nations (v. 16)
Attention is called to the sentence, “Who, in times past,” or in bygone
generations, “suffered all nations,” or all the heathen, “to walk in their own
ways.” On this sentence Olshausen writes, “In the first place, Paul
contrasts the present time, as the time of the Messiah, with former times, in
which the heathen world, with no such light as the Jewish nation
possessed, lived on in their own ways. In this thought is to be found the
apology for the design of the people of Lystra, so blasphemous considered
in itself. But again, this situation of the Gentile world was not sufficient to
free them altogether from guilt, for Nature herself, with all the wonderful
arrangements which she exhibits, furnished the means of rising to the idea
of the true God, who summoned the whole fabric into being.” (See Romans
long prevailed that God altogether left the heathen nations alone, doing
nothing for their intellectual or their moral life, and only preserving their
physical being by His providence. It is a sentiment which can only be
cherished so long as men do not think, and so long as they limit the
teachings of the Divine Word by their prejudices. “The God of the whole
earth must He be called” (Isaiah 54:5), and “all souls are His.” (Ezekiel
18:4) (Reader have you ever considered the parameters of this? - CY –
2017) If they are His, He must be concerned in their well-being in every
respect, and can never have stood aloof from their mental, moral, and spiritual needs. It pleased God to grant a special revelation to the Jews for the whole world’s sake; but this does not assume that He gave no revelations at all to
others. In comparison, God’s ways with the nations may be called a “leaving
them to their own devices;” (Psalm 81:12); Romans 1:24) but He watched over them while thus carrying out self-devised plans, and overruled even this to become a kind of preparation for that gospel revelation which could be made
to the whole world. Each nation worked out a great experiment; we cannot
always be sure what each experiment was, but we can see it precisely in some cases. It may have been — Can man’s final good come through:
Ø his imagination,
Ø his intellect, or
Ø his artistic taste,
Ø his governmental faculties, or
Ø through his activities and energies?
Put generally, we may say that God’s ways with the nations were to let them
be free to find out for themselves whether in man’s own nature there was any power by which he could free himself from sin and secure the perfection of his being. Such an experiment or series of experiments had to be made in the
interests of the whole race, and only when the failure of all such experiments was well proved could the revelation of salvation for men by A DIVINE
INTERVENTION be made. Man must find out that he cannot save
himself before he will be willing to look up and say, “Lord, help me!” The following passage from F. W. Robertson expresses the same view of God’s
ways with the nations in another and a suggestive form: — “Recollect that the Bible contains only a record of the Divine dealings with a single nation; his proceedings with the minds of other peoples are not recorded. That large other world — no less God’s world than Israel was, though in their bigotry the Jews thought Jehovah was their own exclusive property — scarcely is, scarcely could be, named on the page of Scripture except in its external relation to Israel. But
at times, figures as it were cross the rim of Judaism, when brought in
contact with it, and passing for a moment as dim shadows, do yet tell us
hints of a communication and a revelation going on unsuspected. We are
told, for example:
Ø of Job; no Jew, but an Arabian emir, who beneath the tents of Uz contrived to solve the question to his heart which still perplexes
us through life — the coexistence of evil with Divine benevolence;
Ø of one who wrestled with God as Jacob did, and strove to know the shrouded Name, and hoped to find that it was love. (Genesis 28)
Ø We find Naaman the Syrian (II Kings 5), and
Ø Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian, under the providential and loving
discipline of God. (Daniel 4)
Ø Rahab the Gentile harlot is saved by faith. (Joshua 2)
Ø The Syro-phoenician woman by her sick daughter’s bedside, amidst
the ravings of insanity, recognizes, without human assistance, the
sublime and consoling truth of a universal Father’s love in the midst
of apparent partiality. (Mark 4:24-30)
The ‘Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ had not left them in darkness.” How this may be applied to God’s ways with heathen nations
now requires to be thought out. THE UNIVERSAL REVELATION IS
YET TO BE MADE IN JESUS CHRIST yet requires to be universally made known.
VINDICATED. To their view and to our view there is much that seems to
need vindicating. For instance:
Ø is there not much sign of favoritism in the Divine ways?
Ø do not multitudes of men morally perish while God withholds from
them His revelation?
Ø however the experiment may serve the great interest of the race, it
brings the ruin of the individual; and
Ø THE DARKNESS into which man sinks when left alone is so awful that even the gospel light seems powerless to dispel it.
In such ways we find utterance for our questionings and doubts. And yet
already God’s ways are being justified.
Ø We are getting fuller and worthier conceptions of the Divine Being
Himself, which bring a most restful assurance that what He does for all His creatures is more than RIGHT, is LOVINGLY RIGHT!
Ø Philosophy is helping us to a truer knowledge of the individual man, and
of the purpose of race and climatic diversities of man, and enabling us to
conceive how God may deal with humanity as a whole, and with each
part in the interests of the whole.
Ø The Christian revelation declares that the mystery of earth will be
unfolded by-and-by, and will even pass out of our thought as we
CONTEMPLATE THE EXCEEDING GLORY OF ITS PERFECTED REDEMPTION!
Ø Christian missions are spreading THE ONE SAVING REVELATION
OF GOD amongst the nations in a way that assures of the coming fulfillment of our largest hopes. Till the day of vindication fully dawns,
we must strive to understand better God’s ways, and above all to make
full present response to God’s grace in Christ Jesus as revealed unto us.
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.” And yet for nevertheless, Authorized Version; you from heaven rains for
us rain from heaven, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; your for our,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Observe how the apostle adapts his preaching
to his hearers. How different this address to the heathen Lycaonians from those to Jews
and proselytes! Here he leads them from nature to God; there from prophecy to Jesus.
The Witness of Harvest-Times (v. 17)
For the point as presented to a very different audience, see Romans 1:19-20;
here ch. 17:28. It has been remarked that the Greek words here
used by the apostle are “so distinctly rhythmical that they suggest the
thought that Paul quotes from some hymn of praise which he had heard
in a harvest or vintage festival, and which, as with the altar to the
Unknown God at
worshipped.” A sentence from Neander may give the key-note to the
sermon. He says, “The whole creation, as a revelation of God, especially of
His almightiness and goodness, is designed to arouse the spirit of man to a
perception of the inward revelation of God.” Introduce the subject by a
picture of the scene connected with it. An occasion was made for declaring
the relations of nature with religion. Fix thought on the one nature-scene of
harvest, and apply Paul’s teaching; first showing how fully in harmony
with his views this representation was, and what support Holy Scripture
gives to it.
NATURE, AND HE DOES THUS SPEAK TO THEM ALL.
Ø God must use some agency in revealing His mind to His creatures.
Ø The agency He uses must be in relation to our bodily senses.
Ø It need not be fashioned into precise words, because man’s heart can
be reached through the eye, the ear, the taste, as well as by verbal statements.
Illustrate the impressions of beautiful landscape, music of the waters,
thunderstorms, etc. Any of the things that man can feel God can use to
convey His mind and message to Him. The voices of God in nature are
translated for us by our poets, who are — if they fit into their true mission
— ministers of God’s will to men, or rather, ministers revealing God
Himself to men. See how the psalmist recognizes the universal witness of
this nature-voice: “Their sound is gone out through all the earth, their
words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:4) and apply especially to the
harvest-time of earth, which knits the millions of earth together in the joyful recognition of God’s loving care and providing mercies.
Ø The truth of the Divine unity; for it is plain to all that nature is a design
— SOME ONE PERSON’S DESIGN! Its perfect harmonies suggest this. And increasing knowledge corrects the notion of two agents, which men have been tempted to accept, when impressed with the seemingly injurious forces working in nature.
o Science, in making more plain the perfect harmony of all nature-forces, is giving her testimony to the unity of God.
And then comes on us this consideration: if there be but one God, our
supreme concern is to BE IN RIGHT RELATIONS WITH HIM!
Ø The truth that He is infinite in power; for nature shows us that He is
infinite in resources.
Ø The truth that He is infinitely good; for nature shows Him to us fitting allthings together to secure the general well-being. Nature suggests the
attractiveness and beautifulness of God.
TO THE CHRISTIAN? The Christian man comes back upon nature with
the illuminations of that higher and fuller revelation which has for a time
absorbed him — from the vision of God, manifest in Christ Jesus, which
was so glorious as for a while to occupy his thought and feeling wholly.
But coming back with these new thoughts of God, he finds Nature has new
voices and new messages, and her provisions tell him:
Ø Of God’s care.
Ø Of God’s long-suffering and mercy; for he knows now that man has no
deserts upon which he might claim, and positive ill deserts which might
reasonably lead to the removal of his common every-day mercies.
Ø Of God’s great love to man’s soul, which seems shown by its overflow
in God’s gracious provision in nature for all the wants of his body.
Ø Of God’s faithfulness to all His promises, which are assured in His
yearly fulfillment of that earliest promise that “While the earth
remaineth, seed-time and harvest… shall not cease.” (Genesis
8:22) Press, in conclusion, how Paul urges that the proper influence
of nature is a constant and mighty persuasion to turn from all our
vanities to the loving and hearty service of the one living God, and to accept of the full salvation which He has provided in the person of
His Son Jesus Christ.
18 “And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not
done sacrifice unto them. The multitudes for the people, Authorized Version;
from doing for that they had not done, Authorized Version.
The Light Shining in Darkness — Lystra (vs. 8-18)
The heathenish state of the population. So much the brighter seemed the
light. The effect of the miracle on the cripple. A warning against making a
superstitious use of men’s credulity — as the Romish Church has done.
Ø Of their faithfulness to the truth. Had they been willing, as the Church
afterwards was, to mingle heathenism with Christianity, they might have
accomplished more in captivating the minds of the people.
Ø Of their humility and self-sacrificing zeal. They put aside men’s worship
that they might be free to serve God. What an example to their successors!
Ø Of their inspired wisdom and discretion. They knew how to restrain an
excited people whose homage might easily be turned into fury. They made
the occasion an opportunity for preaching a gospel of love and purity.
IS IN JESUS.
Ø Gaping after wonders. Led by priests; worshipping men of like passions
o ignorant of the true character of God,
o ungrateful in the midst of His abundant mercies, and
o unobservant of the witness which He bears
to Himself in nature and in the course of providence.
Ø The glad tidings brought into the midst of such a world. At first not
understood; but the preachers must follow the example of the apostles,
and, beginning at the testimony which surrounds men in their own life, lead
them to the higher truth of revelation. Missionaries should study the field
in which they labor.
Three Instances of Faith (vs. 8-18)
The contents of these verses are very diversified and very full. Yet a certain
unity attaches to them, and from this point of view they will be now
regarded. Paul and Barnabas have now reached a people who arc almost
exclusively Gentiles, and Gentiles of the Gentiles. The miracle with which
this paragraph opens may be supposed to find its place here by the mind of
the Spirit, less for its own particulars, interesting and instructive as they
are, than for the sequel, which shows the effect of miracle upon heathen,
and the way in which the apostles dealt with that effect. We may regard the
passage as exemplifying three various faiths, various because they were
different in their degree, and different in yet more essential respect, in their
Jew, but a heathen. He hears Paul, presumably therein for the first time
hearing pure truth, whether Paul is speaking of the things of revealed
religion or of natural religion. The incident may have helped Paul to his
subsequent language: “So then faith cometh by heating, and hearing by the
Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Paul speaks. The lame man listens. He
listens more and yet more keenly. The “seed of the Word” is falling “into
good ground.” (Matthew 13:23) Paul’s eye falls on him. Afterwards it is
riveted by him. The interested, eager, imploring eye of the lame man is met by
the divinely enlightened, divinely discerning, and divinely giving eye of Paul. Paul is led, as the consequence, to see that he has “faith to be healed.” The
question of a miracle lies with the omnipotence of God, but the question of
when that omnipotence shall be exercised may lie (beyond what we think,
and beyond what we can at present track) with the individual man. For this
is in the deepest sense the mystery of human life and human accountability;
nor can we even say where the line runs that distinguishes between the
agency of God’s Spirit, in the greatest miracles of all, THE CONVERSION
OF THE HEART, and the freedom of man’s will. The language we have
here may mean either:
Ø distinctly that Paul saw that the lame man had the faith upon which the
omnipotent Word would take effect, not by bare right of its omnipotence
alone, but also by the more hidden harmony and sympathy of a sensitive,
a quickened, a trusting, and an obedient heart; or
Ø that Paul saw that the lame man had already received the divinest gift
of all the Word of God, and that he was therefore a fitter vessel to be
“chosen” both to receive himself the lesser grace, and also to set forth to
others the abundant grace of God. Meantime the less enlightened the
nature and the less informed the actual mind of the lame man, the more
are we conducted to some discrimination of faith’s purest essence:
o its trustingness,
o its self-surrender, and
o its clinging confessed dependence.
Ø Their faith was of those who did believe, and did not either shut their
eyes, or quibble, or blaspheme.
Ø Their faith was of those who attributed the work of a miracle to powers
distinctly higher. They were not of those who once said of Jesus himself,
“He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.”
(Luke 11:15) Nor were they of those who set it down to sorcery and witchcraft, What highest they knew de facto, to that they gave or desired to give glory.
Ø But their faith was of those who, believing, believed “ignorantly,”
believed absolutely wrongly, and believed far more wrongly (now by
Scripture’s most emphatic assertion) than could be justified in any way.
Ø Their faith exhibited that leading mark of the lowest kind of faith which
must link on the wonder done to the nearest manifest doer. It gets to a
god, but it is its own god peculiarly. It gets to a god, but not to the Spirit
and the Invisible, much less to the one invisible Spirit; nay, its way of
getting to a god is by bringing its gods to itself “in the likeness of men.” (v. 11) “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself:
but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”
(Psalm 50:21) It has not reached to the conception of the great power,
the great goodness, the great Being before all, who “giveth to all life
and breath and all things” (ch. 17:25), and, among those all things, knowledge of His own will, and power to execute it, betimes in the fullness of its majesty.
Ø But when all has been justly said to the disparagement of the faith of
these heathen men of Lystra, it may be put to their credit, that, even in
nature’s darkness, they did not believe in a faith barren of works; in
which respect, at least, they may often be taken as rising up in
judgment against the children of the light and of the day.
Ø It was in the first place without doubt the pure faith that was wrought in
them by the Holy Spirit. It was by this that Paul recognized the
opportunity, and discerned in the cripple the real thing that was also in
himself, and taught him to speak that word “with a loud voice, Stand
upright on thy feet.”
Ø The “faith that dwelt in” the apostle was one that made the ignorance of
the really Divine, now illustrated before their very eyes, and now taking
advantage of their very persons, so harrowingly painful. Their impetuous
rushing among the people, and rending of their clothes, and mingled
expostulation and instruction addressed to the people, all prove the
intensely exercised state of their own mind, almost to agony of anguish.
And the anguish was the reflection of just this — an enlightened, a pure,
a high faith. Many dark outer deeds had Barnabas and Paul too often
seen, from which, nevertheless, their inmost soul took less wound than from this, when the enthusiastic heathen of Lystra would fain have sacrificed to them.
Ø The faith of the apostles was that which struck horror into them at the
very thought, if haply they should “rob God of his own” or seem to
share His undivided honor. May they not be considered in this light as holding out an example to all their spiritual successors, to fear, as much
as they would fear anything, lest they should be found at any time to “sacrifice unto their net, and to burn incense unto their drag” (Habakkuk 1:16), or lest they should accept the offerings of flattery to themselves which should be only offerings of praise to Christ. What a wonderful guide for the noblest life earth can know comes of the
enlarged, developed, mature faith of an experienced Christian!
19 “And there came thither certain Jews from
persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city,
supposing he had been dead.” But there came Jews thither for and there came
thither certain Jews, Authorized Version; and having persuaded the multitudes,
they stoned for who persuaded the people, and having stoned, Authorized Version;
and dragged for drew, Authorized Version; that he was dead for he had been dead,
Authorized Version. But there came Jews, etc. Observe the persistent enmity of the
unbelieving Jews. The same fickleness of the multitude which led those who had cried,
"Hosanna!" to turn round and say, "Crucify him!" here led those who would have
worshipped Paul as a god, now to stone him as a blasphemer. This is, doubtless, the
instance to which Paul alludes when he says "Once was I stoned," (II Corinthians
Dangers and Successes (vs. 19-28)
The unstable multitude open to rapid changes of feeling. “Hosanna!” to
day; “Crucify Him!” to-morrow. Paul’s miraculous escape a great help to
the faith of disciples. Possibly his suffering a reason for speedy return to
PREPARATION FOR THE FUTURE.
Ø The necessity of patience.
Ø The importance of making the work thorough and confirming the weak.
Ø The relation of aggressive work to orderly Church life. Both in the new
Churches elders appointed,
WATCHFULNESS, even at the risk of personal suffering. It was
dangerous for Paul and Barnabas to visit the same places again, but “the
souls of the disciples” were more in their eyes than their own comfort or
Ø True confirmation is a recognition of present grace.
Ø The experience of the more advanced should help the new converts
and the young. The Church has often neglected this duty.
Ø Trouble must always attend faith. The blessings which we care not to
fight for we shall soon lose.
Ø The appointment of superintending elders is apostolic. They were
doubtless from among the new Churches themselves, but chosen with
discretion and in dependence on the blessing of God. All was done
with prayer and self-denial. The presence of the Lord is the one true sanction.
ENCOURAGEMENT TO GOD’S PEOPLE.
Ø In the gathered Church, not merely in private; for the Church is the
true center from which all proceeds and to which all is brought.
Ø The true missionary work is that which the Church maintains in its
united capacity. Individual and isolated efforts are not so likely to be
Ø The special importance of the mission of Paul and Barnabas in showing
the open door of faith to the Gentiles. Such a fact could not have wielded
the same influence had it not been rehearsed thus solemnly to the
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.” But for howbeit,
Authorized Version; entered for came, Authorized Version; on the morrow for the
next day, Authorized Version; went forth for departed, Authorized Version. It is
pleasing to observe the fidelity of the converts, who, in the face of violence and death,
clave to the apostle, even when they thought he was dead. It does not appear how
The Insufficient and the Efficacious (vs. 7-20)
We ask such questions as these — What is it that will convince the minds
and convert the souls of men? What avails to establish the kingdom of
Christ in any town or neighborhood? What will secure the practical
acceptance of Divine truth? The answer is that some things are strong but
insufficient; one thing only is efficacious.
Ø The hand of God in nature does not suffice. “The living God which
made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein,”
has “not left himself without witness” anywhere; everywhere He has “done
good, and sent rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts
with food and gladness” (vs. 15-17), pouring out, with the lavish hand of
Divine beneficence, beauty and plenty, love and joy, peaceful memories and
inspiring hopes, on to the path and into the heart of man. But what nations
of the earth has this great gift of His hand saved from the most shameful
and pernicious idolatry? How many thousands of hearts are there today
that are not drawn by this to filial gratitude and holy service?
Ø The miraculous does not avail (vs. 8-13, 18). The healing of the man
who had been lame from his birth, so far from producing a favorable effect
and leading to a general acceptance of the Divine message, led to an
outburst of idolatrous zeal. The people immediately deified the human
agents and set about to worship them. If we turn back to the pages in
which the miraculous appears — to the times of Moses, Samuel, Elijah,
Elisha; or if we consider the treatment of our Divine Master Himself, whose
beneficent power reached so many human homes; or if we go on to the
(miraculous) enjoyed by the
truly said to have enjoyed them; — whithersoever we look, we see that the
effect of the visibly supernatural was far less potent for good than we, in its
absence, should have imagined it would be. Those who wait for the marked
and unmistakable interposition of God before they take the one right step
seriously imperiling their own souls (see Luke 16:31).
Ø The exhibition of holy zeal is not sufficient (vs. 14-17). Though Paul
and Barnabas energetically disclaimed any title to be treated as gods, and
resolutely refused the proffered honors, and though they were laboring
without remuneration, and giving every possible proof of their disinterested
love, yet they did not succeed in winning the strong esteem of the
Lycaonians; these men proved fickle and faithless. Very soon indeed the
hands that were diligently employed in paying sacrifice to the apostles were
busy in hurling stones at them. Enthusiasm and even holiest heroism will
not of itself prevail against the prejudice and passion of unrighteousness.
Lystra, for they stood round and sheltered Paul when he was murderously
assailed (v. 20). We also know that these disciples were gained by the
preaching of the gospel (v. 7). We are not told here, but we are
abundantly assured elsewhere, that the preaching of the truth was made
effectual by the agency of the Holy Spirit of God. So that we may say that
Ø Divine truth was the weapon,
Ø the Holy Ghost the agent,
Ø human faith (see v. 9, illustration) the condition, of the successful
work of the apostles at Lystra, as these will be of all efficacious
ministry everywhere now.
Healing of the Lame Man at Lystra (vs. 8-20)
The event is chiefly remarkable for the effect it produced upon the minds of
the people of the country and the illustration of the apostolic temper and
spirit thereby called forth.
Ø His complaint was congenital, and, according to ordinary ways of
thinking, incurable. This brings all the more his faith into relief. It is the
very power and property of faith to conquer what seems to reason
unconquerable. It is impossible to show that any diseases are in themselves
incurable; they may baffle human skill, but not the healing energy of God.
Ø “Faith comes by hearing, and bearing by the Word of God.” (Romans
10:17) The sufferer seizes on the truth that God is a Savior, and that in Him
is to be found full, present, immediate salvation from passing ills. Faith
realizes the unseen as if it were the seen.
Ø Faith recognized by the minister of God. Paul sees that the lame man has
faith to be healed. There is sympathy between souls in God. The minister of
God’s mercy, of Christ’s saving energy, is directed to his object, and the
object is directed to him. If God has entrusted us with a good to dispense,
it will not be long before we find the soul who needs it. So Paul bids the
sufferer arise; the word of authority is echoed by the consciousness of new
power in the sufferer’s breast: he rises, he walks, he bounds with joy. It is a
representation of what ever will take place and does take place when true
words are spoken to the souls of men. Oh, let us believe in the energies of
the soul, by which we may lay hold on Divine power in our own weakness,
both that we may receive good and impart it to others!
Ø They thought that they were receiving a visit from the gods. The air of
the ancient world was full of such stories. Doubtless the story of Zeus
visiting Philemon and Baucis was well known to them. These so-called
“myths contain a deep meaning; they are prophecies of the human heart, of
that intercourse between God and man which the gospel declares to be the
fact of facts in religion.
Ø They were mistaken in the mode of the truth. Paul was not Zeus, nor
was Barnabas Hermes. But they were not mistaken as to the substance of
the truth. They were mistaken in offering worship to men like themselves,
but not mistaken in the heart-instinct by which they recognized behind the
healing power put forth the energy of God. The understanding may be in
error when the heart speaks true. When this is the case, instruction,
missionary effort, has always hopeful ground to work upon. The error and
unbelief of the heart alone is invincible and fatal.
Ø Their horror and indignation. They rend their garments, and rush into
the crowd with exclamations of astonishment and anger. We must be
capable of a holy anger if we are capable of a holy love. Worship belongs
to THE DIVINE ALONE! What would the apostles say now to the worship
of their bones or other relics, real or pretended?
Ø Their clear protest. “We too are men of like passions.” Suffering,
sorrowing humanity is no object of such honors. To accept them is to
dishonor the Divine majesty, and to do injustice at the same time to
ordinary humanity. The true teacher will never magnify himself, and will
ask for nothing more than serious attention to his arguments and teachings.
If the teacher shows that he considers himself on a level with ordinary
humanity, the unconverted and self-humiliated will look up with hope of
their own deliverance from misery; and the awakened are warned not to
confound the imperfections of the teacher with the substance of his
message. The treasure is in earthen vessels, that THE EXCELLENCY
OF THE POWER MAY BE OF GOD, and not of us!
Ø True views of God set forth.
o He is the living God; and all in the world not derived from Him and
resting on Him is of no value. All worship directed to finite objects misses its supreme mark, and is a vanity, a “nothing.” The idol
itself is “nothing in the world.” (I Corinthians 4:8) All love is lost
save upon God alone!
o He is the Creator. This is a thought brought into emphasis in the
preaching and teaching of Paul, as in his Epistle to the Romans and his
discourse on Mars’ Hill. (ch. 17) Having made all things, he contains
all things in Himself. (“by Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17), “....without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3) Man is His creature; and if man offers even his whole self upon the
altar to God, God but receives His own.
o He respects the freedom of man. The nations were suffered to walk in
their own ways and to work out their own course of life. And in their
aberrations they justified the truth and ways of God. Our freedom is our
solemn heritage for weal or for woe. No explanation can be found for
the dark facts of human sin, except that which goes back to the freedom of the soul to decide between good and evil.
o The unfailing goodness of God. The seasons fail not; food and
enjoyment are provided out of the abundance of the earth. In every
happy and healthy mood of mind the heart breaks into song, and
THANKS GOD for the boon of existence. In every sunny scene,
every glimpse of pure and healthy happiness and domestic joy, there is the reflection of the “joy of God to see a happy world.” “God is
wisdom, God is love; “ — this is the refrain of the heart true to itself;
nor can the occasional discords of bodily pain or mental perplexity mar the sweetness of the music or obscure the clearness of the evidence.
The Stoning of Paul (vs. 19-20)
“Once was I stoned” (II Corinthians 11:25). The brevity of the record of the
incident of these verses may, perhaps, point to the modesty of Paul. Probably the historian of the Acts of the Apostles was not at this time with Paul and Barnabas
at Lystra. Paul is his informant, therefore, of what now befell him. The event
was treasured, as well it might be, among the great perils and sufferings,
but also among the great deliverances of Paul’s career. The event, as so
briefly detailed, nevertheless teaches:
pursue Paul and Barnabas here.
INGRATITUDE OF HUMAN NATURE. Those who were thus
persuaded to stone Paul were of the very people who had offered, as it
were the day before, to sacrifice to him as God. It is a repetition of the
“Hosanna!” of yesterday being turned into the “Crucify, crucify!” of today.
FAITHFULNESS MAY VERY POSSIBLY FOR A TIME INTENSIFY
OR PRODUCE DANGER. Perhaps the people of Lystra would never have
been “persuaded” to stone Paul, if Paul and Barnabas had not yesterday so
faithfully sought to persuade them that they were but men like themselves.
And probably the emissaries of Iconium and
to face the wild enthusiasm of Lystra, with their evil insinuation and malign
ARE FAITHFUL TO HIM. And Paul, who had wrought through the
mighty power of God, miracles for the deliverance of others, is the subject
of a miracle himself now. And it is the Divine favor, as no human minister
of it served the occasion. Paul has been stoned, drawn out of the city; foe
and friend take him for dead — nay, perhaps he was so; if not, there was
but a little “step indeed between him and death.” Yet he rises up, uncalled
by human voice, unhelped by human hand, and comes into the city.
to another city.” He comes into that city. He could well trust the God who
had delivered him and would deliver him “in deaths oft.” And he was well
prepared to echo the words of the psalmist, “This God is my God for ever
and ever, and he will be my Guide even unto death.”
HUMILIATING FAILURE OF IT. The enemy’s work is exposed and is
undone. Christ triumphs with fresh manifestation. And His truth and glory
21 “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many,
they returned again
to Lystra, and to
for taught many, Authorized Version; returned for returned again, Authorized Version;
ἱκανοὺς mathaeteusantes hikanous – making disciples considerable); compare Matthew
28:19. What admirable constancy thus to run fresh risks to life and limb in order to win
souls to Christ!
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
Exhorting for and exhorting, Authorized Version; through many tribulations we must
for we must through much tribulation, Authorized Version. Paul spoke from his own
experience: "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more
It is very touching to see the tender care of the apostles for the young converts, lest
Spiritual Confirmation (v. 22)
“Confirming the souls of the disciples.” Connect with the narrative,
showing that spiritual aggressiveness at
true spiritual life. The haste and superficiality of the teaching from place to
place. Confirmation not a ceremony, but a process.
and subjective; not a creed alone, if that was given at all, but the real root
or spiritual life. Faith was discipleship.
“Ordained [or, ‘appointed’] them elders in every Church.” A settled
ministry; an orderly maintenance of worship. Preparation for work in the
the future. Tribulation prepares for higher life.
Through Tribulation to the Kingdom (v. 22)
The force of a man’s preaching must, to a great extent, come out of his
personal experiences, and new experiences will give his preaching new
force. This is illustrated in the associations of our text. The apostle was in
measure fitted, by all he had borne and suffered, for exhorting the disciples
and comforting and confirming the Churches; but he had just passed
through a new and almost overwhelming experience. Excited by Jews from
thinking they had killed him, had dragged his body outside their city gates.
“Paul, liable at all times to the swoons which accompany nervous
organizations, had been stunned, but not killed; and while the disciples
stood in an agonized group around what they thought to be his corpse, he
recovered his consciousness, and raised himself from the ground.” But he
must have been terribly bruised and suffering, and it would seem that he
never fully recovered the effects of this scene. This new experience had put
a new tone of tenderness upon his ministrations; and, when visiting again
the Churches, he could add this new assurance, “that we must through
much tribulation enter into the
familiarized to the Christian mind by the verse —
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to that land where sorrow is unknown.”
trouble as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) It is often said that a world of
sinners must be, and indeed had better be, a world of sufferers. Troubles take
a variety of forms, but they come into every individual life and into every
form of associated life. They are necessary results of:
Ø The disorder which man’s sin has produced in God’s world.
Ø The lost self-control which sin has occasioned to each man.
Ø The willfulness which persists in adjusting human relations to
man’s idea and pleasure, rather than according to God’s order.
Ø The hereditary evils left from the past of men’s iniquity.
This is at once sealed and explained by the word “tribulation,” as the
Christian synonym for earthly troubles. The Latin origin of the word, as
taken from tribulum, the threshing-roller, should be explained. The
sorrows of life may seem but as the crushing of a great roller; they are
but the separating of the chaff from the wheat, and the gracious means by
which the sufferer is sanctified. The Christian system proposes no less a
thing than the full recovery of a man from sin and his full confirmation in
holiness, and it uses a variety of agencies for the perfecting of its work; but
it should ever be a wonder and a joy to us that it should propose to take
over the whole burden of human sorrow and trouble, and use even it for
effecting its blessed design. So, though no affliction can, even to the
Christian, seem other than grievous, not joyous, yet we may be sure that
God’s hand — God’s good hand — IS UPON IT ALL and that “afterward
it will yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness, if only we are duly
exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11) And at last it even comes to be
the glory of the Christian that he is under God’s tribulum; and the glory
of the Christians by-and-by that “they have come out of great tribulation,
and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the
Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)
TO ENTER. Whether we conceive the kingdom as entered now or as to be
entered when we pass from earthly spheres, the one essential feature of it is
holiness, full deliverance from sin. THAT KINGDOM “nothing entereth
that defileth or that maketh a lie.” (Revelation 21:27) As a matter of actual experience, it may be urged and illustrated that the “meetness for the
inheritance of the saints in light” can only be wrought out of trouble.
Trials, testings, discoveries of secret sins, even the humiliations of affliction,
bear directly on the fitness for the kingdom. When we feel what heaven is,
we find out what A GREAT WORK WAS DONE TO FIT US FOR IT!
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.”
Appointed for them for ordained them, Authorized Version (χειροτονήσαντες
- cheirotonaesantes – hand stretching; selecting) ; had believed for believed,
Authorized Version. The original meaning of χειροτονέω – cheirotoneo - is "to stretch out the hand," and the substantive χειροτονία – cheirontonia - is used in the Septuagint
of Isaiah 58:9 for "the putting forth of the finger" of the Authorized Version. But the common meaning of the verb is "to vote by stretching out the hand" and hence "to elect" by a show of hands (II Corinthians 8:19), or simply "to appoint," without any reference
to voting. In the choice of an apostle the election was by lot (ch. 1:26), in the appointment of deacons the choice was by the people, how indicated we are not told (ch.6:5); the question here, on which commentators disagree, is whether the use of the word χειροτονέω indicates voting by the people, selection by the apostles, or simple creation or appointment. As χειροτονήσαντες is predicated of Paul and Barnabas, it cannot possibly refer to voting by the people, who are included in the able, as those on whose behalf the χειροτονία (choosing; electing; appointing) was made. It seems simplest and most in accordance with the classical use of the word and its use in ch. 10:41 (προκεχειροτονημένοις – prokecheirotonaemenois – ones having been selected before), to take it in the sense of creation or appointment. There is no reference to the laying
we see that πρεσβύτερος – presbuteros – elder was synonymous with ἐπίσκοπος – episkopos – bishop; overseer). From πρεσβύτερος is formed prester, priest, in French prestre, pretre. Compare ch 13:3, for fasting and prayer as accompaniments of ordination. Hence in the Church ordinations are preceded by the Ember days. They commended them to the Lord (compare ch. 20:32). In v. 26 the word used is παραδεδομένοι – paradedomenoi – had been recommended; having been given over.
The Christian Leader and the Novitiate (vs. 21-23)
Driven from Lystra by the turbulence of the people, Paul and Barnabas
went to Derbe, and there they “preached the gospel;” they seem to have
been unmolested, and consequently they “taught many people” (v. 21).
Having traveled so far eastward towards
whether they should go on or return. Thus we come, as they came, to
Christian novice. We gather from the action of the apostles on this
occasion that it is the teacher’s duty:
Ø To be earnestly concerned for his young disciples, and to go out of his
way to serve them. It would certainly have been the more desirable course,
the flesh,” to go
through the Cilician Gates, and so home to
rather than return and face the enraged populace from whom they had been
obliged to flee. But a deep sense of what was due to those whom they had
induced to forsake their old faith and enter on a new and trying course
constrained them to forego the inviting and to pursue the perilous path. To
encourage those who are beginning to live the Divine life, and who will
probably find themselves beset with unexpected and serious difficulties, we
should hold ourselves ready to go far out of our way and to run some
Ø To impart additional instruction. The apostles not only repeated what
they had said before, but they added sound Christian doctrine; especially
they taught that we must expect to bear the burdens before we enter into
the glory of our Lord; that it is through much tribulation we enter the
kingdom (v. 22). Christian truth is large and deep. It has its portion for
the idolater, another for the novitiate, another for the matured. The true
Christian leader is he who varies his instruction in accordance with the
spiritual condition of his disciples.
Ø To exert a powerful personal influence, The apostles “confirmed the
souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith” (v. 22); i.e.
they brought to bear on their minds and hearts all the moral influence
which they could exert by the weight of their love and their urgent
solicitation; they appealed to them by every consideration which would
touch their souls to remain steadfast in the faith, loyal to the Lord their
Ø To make permanent provision for Christian culture (v. 23).
Ø To make them the object of earnest prayer (v. 23).
§ To recognize the earnestness of his spiritual guide, and to give him his
best attention. We have no truer friend, none to whom we owe more, not
one who has a greater claim on our reverent regard, than the teacher who
has led us to God.
§ To expect a fair share of struggle and endurance. There is no kingdom,
even painful experiences. The Christian disciple must lay his account with
this fact: he is to understand that whoever will follow Christ must take up
his cross to do so (Matthew 16:24); that there will be ridicule to be
endured, opposition to be overcome, disappointments to be surmounted,
inward evils to be subdued, many things that will demand a holy and
§ To submit to those who are appointed to exercise authority — the
“elders in every Church;” and to avail himself of those means of grace and
growth which they may institute.
§ To keep in view the consummation of Christian hope, the blessed
and better life is shadowed with dark clouds, when the way is long and
toilsome, then the disciple is to look on and up, beyond the plains and hills
of earth to the
glory which is to be revealed. (“For I reckon that the sufferings of
this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that
shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) “For our light affliction
which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory.” (II Corinthians 4:17)
24 “And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
They passed through for after they had passed throughout, Authorized Version;
they, Authorized Version; spoken for preached,
Authorized Version; to for into, Authorized Version. Paul
and Barnabas had come from
by Lystra, Iconium,
25 “And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:
But, instead of taking ship at Perga, after preaching the Word there they went down to Attalia, now Adalia or Satalia, the chief seaport of Pamphylia, some miles west of the month of the Cestrus, probably hearing that a ship was about to sail thence to Antioch. It does not appear that they made any converts or even preached at Attalia.
26 ‘And thence sailed to
Prayer as a Recommendation to the Grace of God (v. 26)
The Syrian Antioch is here referred to as the place “from whence the two
great missionaries had been recommended to the grace of God,” and from
ch. 13:3 we learn in what this recommendation to the grace of God
consisted: “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on
them, they sent them away.” We fix attention, then, on the point that we
know what were the prayers of these Antiochene disciples. They were
intercessory prayers, and they lovingly commended the Christian laborers
to the grace of God. When prayer, for any reasons, cannot be precise and
definite request for particular things, it can still be offered, and take this
every-way satisfactory form, a commendation of those for whom we pray
to the grace of God. We may show how:
(1) such a kind of prayer may satisfy our love and our longing for the good
of others; and
(2) how it may secure for them even better blessings than any precise
requests, based only on our thought of their well-being. What can we do so
well for our friends as bring down over them the hallowing shadow of the
THE GOOD OF OTHERS. For, after all, just the one thing we want for
them is to have God for their portion. No requests for temporal blessings
can adequately express our hearts’ desires. Ask what we may, we feel that
we have not asked enough or asked the best things. So we get no rest in
prayer for others until we learn simply to commend them to the grace of
God. The same may be shown by pointing out that our knowledge of our
friends’ needs is never adequate, and we may make serious error by asking
unsuitably. There can be no mistake if we ask for them God’s grace.
FRIENDS. For IN HAVING GOD THEY HAVE ALL! To be within
the grace and keeping and supply of God is to have the best blessings, in
fittest adaptations. Illustration should be taken from the first missionary
journey of Barnabas and Paul. They were prospered and preserved because
they were within the grace of God.
27And 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. All things for all, Authorized Version; how that for how, Authorized Version;
a door for the door, Authorized Version. A door. The door is preferable, because "the faith" limits the door to one kind of opening. In Colossians 4:3 the case is a little
different both in the Authorized Version and the Revised Version, though in the latter "the door of the Word" would be a truer rendering. Observe how the leading idea of
the narrative is the conversion of the Gentiles.
The Door of Faith (v. 27)
When may it be said that God has “opened the door of faith” through which men
may enter? This is true, as described in the text when:
HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP IN SOME FORM OF ERROR. It was
opened, through the hand of Paul, to the Gentiles, and multitudes entered
in thereat. This may be said when:
gradually widened as their intelligence opens; it is not long before it is
sufficiently open for the soul to pass through and hold intimate and living
converse with the Divine Friend.
IN AN APPRECIABLE FORM. Always essentially and fundamentally the
same, the truth may be represented in such form as to be wholly
inappreciable by some minds; but, on the other hand, it may be unfolded in
such wise as exactly to meet the needs and satisfy the cravings of the soul.
Then there is an opening through which the satisfied intellect can pass, and
where the soul may feed and be sustained. Or when:
CONSCIENCE WITH DIVINE POWER. When all material
considerations sink into insignificance and the soul feels, profoundly, that
the living truth of God as revealed in Jesus Christ is the one supreme and
sovereign thing, then the door is opened wide, through which the soul
should pass without delay, for on the inner side of it is:
Ø eternal life.
The Door of Faith (v. 27)
The narrative of the returned missionaries, as given to the assembled
received in the countries they had visited.
And in this part of their account, one thing appeared to them to be of peculiar
interest — God had manifestly “opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
The expression is a sufficiently striking one to be made the subject of earnest
meditation. Two ways of explaining it may be suggested:
1. God had given them large and free access to the Gentiles for the
preaching of the faith in Christ.
2. God had manifestly made faith, not circumcision, the ground of
admission to his kingdom; and so the Gentiles could be saved. Gospel
privileges were offered TO EVERYONE that believed. For Paul’s use of this
figure of the “door” variously applied, see I Corinthians 16:9, II Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; and compare Revelation 3:8. The figure is a suggestive one. The
special favor of God had been enjoyed by the Jews, and in a manner limited to
them. They had been, as it were, shut up with God in His house; none else might
come in, for the door was shut. BUT NOW, in the greatness of God’s mercy to
men, He had opened the door, made a new and most gracious condition of
admission, and invited “whosoever would” to enter in. The grace of this was too surprising to the Jewish mind, and it was a long time ere it could receive the truth.
Such testimonies as Barnabas and Paul brought from Gentile lands did much to
establish the free right of all believing men to enter the one Father’s house,
through His graciously opened door.
THE GENTILES. They had gone forth fully understanding that the door
was open to preach the gospel to the Jews. They knew that, wherever they
went, they could enter the synagogues, expound the Scriptures, and preach
Christ; but events that happened brought home to them the conviction that
Jewish privileges were no longer exclusive, and that God had “granted
unto the Gentiles also repentance unto life.” (ch. 11:18) Recall the incidents which brought to the missionaries this conviction. They found Divine
providence leading them to speak to Gentile audiences. They found that
Divine grace had been before them, creating in the Gentile mind a
preparedness for and a susceptibility to the gospel message. And they found
that the condition of entrance into the new gospel standing and gospel
privileges was one which the Gentiles could meet, since faith is common to human nature, and in no sense special to any one race. It would even seem
that the missionaries felt their work among the Gentiles to be more hopeful
than that among the Jews. And it led them to cherish serious thoughts about
the vast work to be done among
the Gentile nations, now God had so evidently opened the door to them all.
Illustrate from the way in which the
Christ has been led on to preach the gospel to one nation after another, by the
opening of providential doors;
especially illustrating from
“God has opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
DECLARE THAT FAITH, AND FAITH ALONE, WAS THE GROUND
OF ADMISSION INTO GOD’S KINGDOM, They addressed an audience
that was still largely under Jewish mental bonds. Even the early disciples
seem for a long time to have cherished the idea that Christianity was only a
reformation of Judaism. The very apostles could not readily accept the
truth of salvation by faith alone. They thought that at least the Jewish
requirement of circumcision must be made. But Barnabas and Paul
rendered their testimony to the fact of their finding the “faith-condition”
quite sufficient. They had required no other of their Gentile converts, and
God had sealed them by the gift of his Spirit, and they had manifested
every sign of the true Christian life. FAITH is the only door into the
kingdom, but there is no entrance save by this door. Jesus said, I am
the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (John 10:9)
Still the gospel message is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou
shalt be saved, and thine house.” (ch. 16:31)
28 “And there they abode long time with the disciples.” They tarried for there they abode, Authorized Version; no little for long, Authorized Version. Bishop Pearson reckons it a little more than a year; Lewin, "about a year;" Renan, "several months."
No accurate statement can be gathered from Luke;s indefinite expression. With this chapter closes the account of Paul's first missionary tour. Conybeare and Howson (pp. 177, 213) assign to it a duration of about nine months, from early spring, March, to November, when the sea would be closed; bringing him to Perga in May, and thence for the next five or six months into the mountains of Pisidia, where it was the custom for the inhabitants of the lowlands to congregate during the hot months. Others, however, as Lewin (pp. 156, 157), think the circuit must have occupied "about two years;" Wieseler (p. 224), "more than one year;" but Renan assigns to it "five years" (" Saint Paul," p. 55). "Conjectural estimates vary between two and eight years" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Lewin's estimate is, perhaps, the most probable. Whatever the exact period may have been, it was a time fruitful in consequences to THE IMMORTAL INTERESTS
. The Word and the Miracle (vs. 1-28)
In the advancement of the
Himself in the days of His flesh, or by the apostles after His ascension, two
great instruments were in constant and simultaneous use:
Ø the preaching of the Word of God and
Ø the working of miracles.
In the Gospels it is difficult to say which was the most prominent feature of our
Lord’s life — His preaching the Word or His mighty works of power. He Himself
places them side by side in His description of His own course: “The blind receive
their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised up,”
and “the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22). Many
reasons may be assigned for this. The miracle gave authority to the Word
before the Word had time to assert its own authority in the conscience and
reason of the hearer. The miracle awakened attention by its irresistible
surprise. The miracle was a witness to confirm the doubtful and the
wavering. Then again the miracle, having matter for its seat, testified to the
sovereignty over all nature — the body, the sea, the air, the fruits of the
earth, the grave — of Him whose word was preached. Again, being that
evil had set its two feet, one upon the body, the other upon the soul of
men, producing in the one pain, sickness, infirmity, and death, and in the
other sin, sorrow, and guilt, the double action of the miracle, healing,
restoring, raising, the body, and of the Word, justifying, purifying, and
soul, exhibited the true nature of the
destruction of evil and the establishment of eternal joy and life. So that the
miracle, besides its other functions, was a necessary complement of the
Word in holding up a true picture of that
Christ was sent to found and to establish forever. But now, having seen the
common work of the Word and the miracle, let us note certain important
differences in their respective functions. The miracle does not sanctify. It
does not renew the inner man after the image of God. It does not prick the
conscience, or soften the hard heart, or give wisdom, or produce love. It
surprises, it alarms, it evidences, it displays power and goodness, it
corroborates the Word, but it is not in itself a spiritual power. Hence of the
number who saw Christ’s miracles, how very few became His disciples! Of
the ten lepers that were cleansed only one gave glory to God. Nearly ten
thousand ate of the loaves and fishes; how many ate of that bread which
came down from heaven? The whole Sanhedrim knew of the lame man
who was healed at the beautiful gate of the temple, but they were only the
more eager to silence the voices of those who spake of Jesus and the
Resurrection. The priests of Jupiter and the whole populace of Lystra were
ready to worship Barnabas and Paul because of the healing of the cripple,
but they were as ready immediately afterwards to stone them and cast them
out of their city. But the Word of God is a creative, quickening power in
the soul. its entrance gives light; its action gives life; its fruit is love; it does
sanctify; and it saves. At
Word preached by Paul brought faith, and life, and joy, and salvation, both
to Jews and Greeks. By the Word which they heard and believed they were
brought to God, begotten unto life, quickened with Christ, made heirs of
the Resurrection and of the
and beautify, and comfort, and exalt a human being, is wrought by the
Word of God received unto the heart. Let us, then, prize the Word of God;
let us love it; let us cherish it in our bosoms; let us yield ourselves to its
teaching, its action, its power; let us hide it in our secret soul; let us never
be content till it has brought forth fruit a hundredfold in our lives to the
glory of God the Father.
The scene quickly changed at Lystra. The multitude, wrought upon by
hero and god. Fickle world, which now brings garlands and now stones!
“Every generation stones by-and-by its own gods, but every time has its
own method of stoning.” The boldest antagonists of the kingdom of
darkness arouse most foes; Paul is stoned, not Barnabas. Perhaps his own
act comes back upon him in stoning Stephen; certainly it must be present to
his mind. God makes of our own past evil acts whips to scourge us or
stones to pelt us. But Paul rises from the ground. “Rejoice not, O mine
enemy, for though I fall I shall rise again.” (Micah 7:8) The story is told of
he lay as dead. His daughters came to bury him, whereupon he arose and went
into the city. The next day, following the marching orders, “When they
persecute you in one city, flee into another” (Matthew 10:23) Paul goes
forth with Barnabas to Derbe. Now comes a rapid sketch of busy labor.
Ø He is not to be cast down by disappointment nor defeated by opposition.
Faith, tried by fire, proves its enduring quality. The more the apostle
suffers, the more glowing becomes his love. He returns, as if by irresistible
attraction, to the scene of defeat. It is just those souls which resist us that
we must mark out for conquest; they will be well worth perseverance to
Ø He is ever seeking for new worlds to
conquer for the
Ever planting and propagating the Word in virgin ground, the motto of the
missionary is, “Tomorrow to fresh fields and pastures new.”
Ø His cares and duties are manifold. This is suggestively brought out by
the different words employed.
o He “evangelizes;” i.e. he announces the good news of the
kingdom; he proclaims, or preaches, in the proper sense,
o Next, he “instructs” (μαθητεύειν – mathaeteuein – making
learners) the converts, so that they become disciples, i.e. men
taught and ever learning more of Christian truth.
o He also “strengthens,” or “confirms,” Christian believers, by
calling to mind and applying the old truths.
o He “exhorts,” bringing the force of personal love and suasion
to bear on the will, “speaking from the heart to the heart.”
To keep men in the faith is no less an anxiety than to bring them
Ø He is the comforter, He sheds a light upon man’s troubles, by showing
that it is
through them the path lies to the
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to that land where sorrow is unknown.”
Christianity glorifies suffering; apart from it, we sink amidst them into a
cheerless pessimism or a blind resignation,
Ø He has to take part in the government and guidance of communities, The
appointment of officers over the different Churches is here mentioned.
Christianity is a social as well as an individual life, and social life must have
its organization. If we carefully study this short passage (vs. 21-23), we
find in it a compendium of the Christian minister’s duties. Truly — “‘Tis
not a cause of small import, The pastor’s care demands.”
Ø Reflex blessings on the mind and heart of the preacher; assurance
through suffering and trial and experience of Divine help. Even if a man
sees but little present fruit of his labor, he has reason to thank God for the
effect upon his own spirit and character of a work so holy on the souls of
others. Discimus docendo (we learn by teaching); and he that watereth is
Ø To those who receive the message. Instead of the wild irregularity of
passion and fancy, Christian order and sobriety takes possession of the
soul. Idle fables are driven out by the Divine Word.
Ø To the supporters and messengers of missionary work. Joyous was the
the thanksgiving at
back. And so ever; refreshment of faith, broadening of sympathies,
quickening of intelligence, ever follows upon the receipt of good news
from the fields of Christian work, and opening of new doors to the free
passage of the Word.
The Return Home (vs. 21-28)
The furthest limit of the mission of Paul and Barnabas is not reached till
their visit is paid to Derbe. After the recovery by miracle of Paul from his
stoning, the next day he advances with Barnabas to Derbe. And after some
time spent there and much work done, of which no details are given, the
two apostles set their face homeward. And it is evident that the Spirit still
leads them. For;
COURAGE FAILS THEM NOT. The apostles return by the route and the
towns and cities by which they had come. It is wonderful, and indeed it is
often of the merciful consideration of Heaven, how brave men may be
toward unforeseen dangers and difficulties. How often, however, does
courage vanish after a taste of real work and real difficulty! Not so now.
The apostles will face again, if necessary, all which they had before
of the apostles follows closely in the tracks of the very well-ascertained
needs of new converts. They would:
Ø Confirm them.
Ø Exhort them to steadfastness and endurance “even unto the end.”
Ø They would tarry to instruct them in aspects among the deepest of the
Divine life — that men “must through much tribulation enter into the
sufferings, the death of the great Captain of our salvation Himself.
And “musts” there must be in the life and work and discipline of His followers.
Ø They would also begin to organize Church life in place after place,
and “ordain elders” in the new Churches.
Ø They show an example of their faith in prayer and fasting and
“commending” individuals and Churches to the Lord, of their faith
and of their life. All these activities of:
o affection, and
were tokens and were the trustworthy tokens of men who were still
LED BY THE SPIRIT and who were still following that lead.
THEMSELVES HOME TO THEIR STARTING-POINT, IN SO
EXEMPLARY A MANNER.
They honor the
their return to receive their report. Next to being the servants of Christ,
we are the servants of the Church, and ought to hold ourselves so far
forth answerable to it.
Ø They do not carelessly forget or only slightingly remember how by the
prayers and fasting of that very Church, they also, months and years
before, had been commended to THE GRACE OF GOD!
Ø They give, in some instructive, impressive, and reassuring detail, a
o “all that God had done with them,” and
o how indisputably God “had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
Ø There awhile, in the holy fellowship of that Church, they rest from their
harder labors. They recruit their souls in the healthy air and the genial
comfort of that society, after years of fierce conflict and almost
perpetual anxiousness and keen persecution. Happy servants, happy Church, “in the midst of whom God” is present, shedding light,
peace, joy, UPON ALL!
The Work of God (vs. 24-28)
This first famous missionary tour had some features quite peculiar to itself
and is, in some respects, inimitable by us. But in other aspects it may be
regarded as a typical work of God.
Ø prompted by His Spirit (ch. 13:2, 4);
Ø entered upon after seeking Divine guidance (v. 26). Paul and
Barnabas went forth, the conscious workmen of God Himself.
They felt that what would be done through their instrumentality
would be done “by God with them.” All was, as all should ever be, “begun in Him.”
His strength. The entire account, from beginning to end, conveys the idea
that the apostles sought and found their strength in a Divine source;
indeed, nothing less would have sustained them under the difficulties and
sufferings of their mission. It was carried on and completed. It was a work
“which they fulfilled:”
Ø in spite of Mark’s discouraging defection (ch. 13:13);
Ø notwithstanding the physical difficulties of traveling and the active
animosity of the Jews;
Ø though every personal consideration would have led them to conclude
it earlier (v. 21). Undeterred by any checks, untempted by any
inducements, they went quite through their work — God’s work — and
did not cease to toil and to endure until everything was done they could do, not only to introduce but to establish the Christian faith in the heart
of the heathen land they visited. Well is it for the Christian workman
when it can be said of him that he “fulfilled” or finished his work. Sometimes:
o weariness, or
o timidity, or
o dissatisfaction, or
overtakes the laborer even in the field of holy love, and he
lays down his weapon and forsakes his work. Not his is the crown
nor “Well done!” at the hand and the lips of the Lord.
REPRESENTED. Paul and Barnabas were undoubtedly sent of God; but
they also went as members of the
regarded them as its representatives, followed them with its sympathies,
sustained them by its prayers, and received them back with its warmest
welcome. And to that Church, gathered together for the purpose, they
recounted “all that God had done with them “ — a most suitable crown to
a noble work. With eager, sympathetic, rejoicing spirits the assembly must
have received the narrative. How grateful must have been the psalms, how
fervent the prayers, how heartfelt the congratulations, that followed! A
work is not crowned until its story has been told to those who had a real
and living part in its initiation and its procedure.
Ø happy human fellowship and
Ø appreciated service.
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