Summary: When faced with adversity, our tendency is to panic, take our hands off the wheel, and just let it happen to us. We see in the example of Paul and Barnabas that God is in control no matter what happens and that as long as you can share the gospel you can
I took a course on defensive driving some time ago. The instructor said the most important concept to remember is to keep driving until you can’t any more. What he meant is that when faced with a crisis on the road we have a natural tendency to freak out and take our hands off the wheel and just let what happens happen. In reality we have much more control than we thought if will just keep driving.
Do you ever feel like there are forces beyond your control that constantly swirl around you, like a big windstorm, threatening to blow you off course or pick you up and dash you against some building?
I wonder if Paul and Barnabas aren’t feeling a little that way in Acts 14. Sent out by the Holy Spirit from Antioch in Chapter 13, they travel through the relatively safe environment of Barbabas’ home country of Cyprus. After successfully handling the attack of Bar-Jesus and seeing the conversion of Sergius Paulus and a great initial reception by the Jews – suddenly everything starts to go wrong.
The Jews fall prey to jealousy and force them out of town. Now they go elsewhere, up to the north to Galatia and while they find success in spreading the gospel, they also run into unexpected and tough opposition that, at times, throws them for a loop. It’s all part of God’s plan to prepare his saints to do battle for the gospel and keep going.
1 – 3
The more the Jews see Gentiles come to faith the more some of them get really upset. In the last chapter, they contradicted and reviled him to the Gentiles. Here they “poison” the minds of the Gentiles. The word comes from a root that means “evil-doer.” They put bad things into their heads. This causes Paul and Barnabas to stay in order to provide an antidote for the poison: the truth of the gospel. One of the possible reasons they could stay rather than leave right away was that Iconium was mainly a Greek city, rather than Roman, in its influence. The Greeks tended to encourage philosophical and intellectual discussion. That’s good and bad. It’s good that they didn’t stone them but bad because philosophy can act just like poison in the mind, if it is philosophy without the Lord God.
Colossians 2:8-10 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
4 – 7
Here, representatives of all factions come against Paul and Barnabas: Jews, Gentiles, even the leaders of the city. Rather than stay the “fled” to Lystra. Where they cowards? Certainly not. The idea was to “continue to preach the gospel.” That’s what drove their actions, not harm. They just figured that their ministry was done there for now. If being stoned furthers the gospel, then they’ll do it, as we’ll see shortly.
8 – 10
I wonder what was in that man’s eyes? It seems that when Paul stared at him the Spirit must have said “this guy is going to get healed and you are going to do it.”
11 – 14
Zeus was the chief of the Greek pantheon of gods, Hermes was Zeus’ son and spoke for the gods. Why this incredible response? Archeological evidence shows that both Zeus and Hermes were worshipped at Lystra. A legend, written about 50 years before this time, said that Zeus and Hermes came to Lystra disguised as mortals. They asked for lodging at a thousand homes but were only welcomed by a poor family. That family was blessed and their home turned into a temple, but the rest of the homes who did not welcome them were destroyed.
Apparently this legend was still well known when Paul came through and they saw the miracle. Perhaps they wanted to make sure nothing happened to them like the legend so they tried to sacrifice to them.
Paul and Barnabas didn’t catch on right away because they shouted in Lyconian, not Greek.
Their reaction is in stark contrast to Herod, who only one chapter previous had not stopped the Sidonians from calling him a god. Paul will have none of it, though.
15 – 18
The people in Lystra were probably mostly peasants living on the edges of the Greco-Roman civilization. They were not familiar with Judaism or with Greek philosophy, so Paul talks to them about nature (they were used to worshipping gods that controlled nature), and how the one true God provided for them and blessed them in the past but worshipping false gods is “vain” – or nothing, and that the good news they preach should bring them to a knowledge of the living God who has provided for them all this time.