Acts 14: 1-7

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

Understanding And Applying the Text

The Jews forced the missionary team out of Antioch. In fact, they were not only thrown out of the town they were forced out of the region. So, they went to Iconium. It was eighty miles southeast from Antioch in Pisidia. Iconium was an ancient Phrygian town. The Greeks made it a city-state, and under Augustus, it became a city in the province of Galatia.

What was their reaction to their persecution? They shook the dust of the town off their feet and went on. They knew their assignment. Their job was not to make converts. That was God’s job. Their job was to present the Gospel. Conversion was God’s responsibility. So often we confuse our job with God’s. Our job is to present the Gospel. Only God can change a man’s heart.

When they arrived at Iconium many believed and many did not. Those who did not believe opposed them. This sounds like Antioch all over again. The missionary team knew they were not in a battle. They were in a war. They knew a single battle would not win or lose the war. The fight continues to this day. We are in a war, not a battle.

When they arrived in Iconium, they went to the synagogue. This was the same approach used in Antioch. In the first century, people believed only ancient religions were true. So it was important to show the apostles were not preaching a new religion. This was Judaism fulfilled. Christianity was not a new religion. Paul preached Jesus fulfilled the law and prophets. He preached the forgiveness of sins. The law only revealed sins. Christ’s sacrifice atoned for them.

Many Jews and Gentiles believed. Preaching to the Gentiles was not a new concept. In the first century, Judaism was very evangelistic. Jesus referred to this in Matthew 23:15. So preaching to Gentiles was not novel.

The ESV says “unbelieving Jews” stirred up the Gentiles. The Greek implies a more disobedient act. The NET translation translates it, “who refused to believe.” The translation notes in the NET says it could read. “who would not believe”. The ASV translates it as, “Jews that were disobedient”. In other words, this was more than, “I don’t understand.” Their unbelief was willful. It was more like “I know what I believe. Don’t confuse me with the facts.” They refused to listen to their own scriptures.

When we come to scripture we must come allowing it to change us and our beliefs. Do not develop a doctrine then go to scripture to support it. Lest we become like the unbeleiving Jews. Allow scripture to develop your doctrine.

These unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles. But Paul and Barnabas did not leave until their lives were in danger. They stood and proclaimed the Gospel. They remained in Iconium for a long time. They stood with confidence against those who opposed the Gospel.

Not only did they proclaim the Gospel they performed signs and wonders. The purpose of the signs was to support the Gospel. It was to draw people to Christ. These were not miracles to make the apostles rich, or popular. These miracles were not to make them look good. These were signs done by God through the apostles. The miracles were for God’s glory. This is the true use of miracles.

In verse 3 notice Luke calls the gospel “words of grace.” God is gracious to us. God gives us what we do not deserve. We deserve death. He gives life.

The people of the city were divided over who and what to believe. Why? Why did some believe and some did not? Were some smarter than others? They understood and the rest did not? Were some more righteous than others?

Paul said in Romans 3:10-18 No one seeks after God. i.e. No one wants God. Why? We are all wicked.

If Paul was correct in Romans we are asking the wrong question. Rather than ask why some believed, we should ask, why did anyone believe.

To answer that question we go back to Acts 13:48. There Luke tells us in Antioch those appointed to eternal life believed. They offered the gospel to everyone. But only those appointed to eternal life believe.

God makes the offer of salvation to all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). And we all reject it. We reject it because we have all turned aside and become worthless. (Romans 3:12) We are all called to receive it. But the ones who receive it are those appointed to eternal life.

The result of the apostles preaching the Gospel had two effects. The first was positive, many believed. The second was violence. Those who did not believe turned to violence. This will become a common theme. Those who did not believe conspired with the city leaders to kill the apostles. This went beyond talk there was an attempt to stone them.

Stoning was the way the Jews executed the death penalty for religious blasphemy.

The apostles did not seek or desire a martyr’s death. So when they learned of the attempt they left town. They feared for their life. This is the right kind of fear. Christ’s servants are not to run into the hands of their enemies to be murdered. But they do not abandon what God called them to.

The missionary team left Iconium and went to Lystra and Derbe. Lystra was about 35 miles southeast of Iconium. These two cities along with Iconium were part of the Roman province of Galatia. They were also part of the subdistrict called Lycaonia.

When they arrived they continued to preach the gospel.

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