Summary: Hardship comes to the best of Christians. The healing power leads to the stoning of Paul . Some people just won’t quit, positive or negative.
Hardship for The Kingdom
Last week we looked at the beginning of the First missionary Journey.
Barnabas and Saul head off and during their first stop in Crete there is a name change as Saul becomes Paul and his name goes first in the telling of the story indicating leadership. They went to Pisidian (P-sid-e-an) Antioch where we can pick out Paul’s standard operating procedure.
There is the going to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, where they will normally be asked to speak. We hear a sample sermon which condenses 450 years of Jewish history into three lines of scripture and then connects the dots to Jesus Christ and the Jews rejection.
After speaking they await the response which may be delayed and while some Jews and gentiles believe most of the Jews reject and take steps to encourage Paul and his companions to leave, they are not above using force including stoning.
However, last week they left on their own accord before things go too bad. They headed off to Iconium.
Last week we really only saw the steps in the SOP and don’t recognize a pattern until we here the later experiences. By establishing the normal pattern for the missionaries Luke speeds up the story telling process.
He only has to describe the steps and we know that a message was preached and the approximate content and call for response. We also can guess what the response will be. And we know that they will move on after some period of time leaving new believers to sort things out.
This is where we pick up in today’s lesson.
The men get to Iconium and “as usual” they go to the synagogue and they speak so effectively that a Great number of Jews and Gentiles believe.
Ok, it had to feel pretty good still. In the last City they were booted out by some Jews that did not believe. But they had a good success with the Gentiles. Moving on they Get To Iconium and while it was not perfect and completely successful they have a big impact.
Except for a few Jews that “refused” to believe. They use their influence to cause distrust and doubt that what the missionaries said was true.
The scripture says they spent a “considerable” time in the city and spoke boldly. Speaking boldly was pretty good, it showed that they were passionate and willing to take the time to teach but the scripture tells us that they also had the ability to do signs and wonders.
Luke is not specific, here but it would not be to difficult to think that they healed people. Perhaps they told people about their past or gave some predictions about God’s blessings.
But, Luke does not give us a good definition of these signs and wonders so we can only guess. Generally Luke gives us detail of what he sees as important to the story and leaves out the trivia. He helps his reader to focus on the main point. So the signs and wonders themselves are not important however the fact that God gave them the ability, as evidence of His grace is.
But whatever the gifts were they did not make the apostles instantly and completely successful.
The city was split over the message they gave. Some thought the Jews must be right. These men were false teachers …even with the signs they would not be convinced.
Then others were believers in the apostles teaching and embraced the ideas and the signs were just added assurance.
After some time there is a rumor of a plot that the Gentiles and Jews against the teaching were going to mistreat (arrest – heckle – whip) and stone (execute) the missionaries.
So they left town and headed toward Lystria, about 20 miles to the South where they planned to preach the good news there and Derby and surrounding country.
So the pattern has now repeated itself. And they are on the road again.
Let me first remind you that they are along way from home. They are not able to use Hebrew in general, perhaps not even in the Synagogues so it is most likely that they are preaching in Greek.
They are not speaking the native language of the areas. They are speaking in the commercial language for doing business imposed originally by the Greek empire that conquered the area which is now under Roman occupation. Each empire stressed a common language for communication.
In Lystra we don’t hear that they have gone to the Synagogue, and it is probably because there is not one there. The town may not have enough Jews to establish one. It is likely that Paul is just taking every opportunity to preach the good news where ever he is and in the absence of a synagogue the city gate and market will have to do.