Lesson 31: Paul's 1st Missionary Journey (Continued)
This is Acts lesson # 31.
The first missionary journey of Paul. His companion was Barnabas. John Mark left the work and went home. In our last lesson this preacher team came to Antioch of Pisidia located in the southern plains of Galatia; a region of Asia Minor. They found a synagogue in Antioch. They were invited to speak on the Sabbath day, after the reading of the law and the prophets. Paul's sermon, recorded here in Acts 13, was 26 verses long. The Gentiles appreciated that lesson and almost the whole city came out the next Sabbath. But the Jews were filled with envy and spoke against those things spoken by Paul. The preachers then left that synagogue and turned to the Gentiles. V.49 said; "the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. The Gentiles were excited and glad, sowing the seed of the kingdom. But the Jews were hurt and felt put down because Jesus did not fit their concept of a Messiah; and they brought on a resistance movement. You knew it was coming! Right? Acts 13:50, let's read: "But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts." So, Paul and Barnabas were EXPELLED out of their coasts. That means they were thrown out; as troublemakers. The details there would be interesting. But Luke went on to more important thing. Naturally, the persecution was strongest against Paul and Barnabas since they were the leaders. Undoubtedly, they had anticipated this. That's the way it was at Jerusalem in the beginning. Barnabas could remember well and Paul most likely WISHED he could FORGET his part in those persecutions of the Jerusalem church. But they took it in stride, recognizing that a lot of GOOD but IGNORANT women and city officials were being used in this protest. Their usefulness in Antioch had served its purpose. A local congregation had been planted. So, rather than to make more difficulty for those new local disciples, these preachers shook the dust off their feet and headed for Iconium. Let's read verse51-52, a "But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost." Did you notice in verse52 the disciples were filled with JOY? One would expect them to be filled with FEAR, having seen Paul and Barnabas EXPELLED form the city. But they were GLAD (verse48). It was a JOY for them to serve a risen Saviour. They were filled with the Holy Ghost. I know of no reason to ASSUME, this was anything more than an ordinary measure of the Holy Spirit, which every baptized believer received. It probably means those converts were genuine. It could mean, since Paul was an apostle, AND because Paul was leaving town; Paul passed on some miraculous gifts similar to what happened in Samaria. These gifts might have been used in their teaching and development in keeping with I Cor. chs 12-13-14. Again, we are NOT given a time factor. They preached in the synagogue two Sabbath days; thus they must have been in Antioch at least two weeks and possibly a month or longer. Iconium was southeast of Antioch, in the general direction of Paul's hometown of Tarsus. The distance must have been in the order of 90-100 miles. Iconium is city # 19, so post it now. Iconium was in the district of Lycaonia, located in the southern part of Galatia. You will remember, Antioch was also in Galatia, but it was in the district of Pisidia. Iconium corresponds to the modern day city of Konya, Turkey. Iconium was likely the most important city of Asia Minor in Paul's day. So, here we go chapter 14, let's find out what happened in Iconium. Let's read the first seven verses: "And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 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. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 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, they were aware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth around about: and there they preached the gospel." O.K. Does that remind you of anything? It is a replay of that which happened in Antioch. They went to the Jews first, took advantage of the synagogue to teach. Only this time they seem to have had more success "a great multitude both of the Jews and ALSO of the Greeks believed" (verse 1). Either Paul and Barnabas were learning, or they found better soil, one or the other. No sermons are recorded. But, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17). So, they must have heard. They abode there a LONG TIME, according to verse 3, i.e. compared to Antioch. They spoke boldly. The Lord granted signs and wonders by their hands. It would be interesting to know, what that involved; whom they healed or what they did. But, the Holy Spirit did not see fit to supply us these details. Possibly another Elymus: But, even this did not convince them all. Just like Antioch, Iconium had some unbelieving Jews. They, "STIRRED UP" (one of Luke's favorite expressions, he uses it 5 times in the book of Acts). The Jews STIRRED UP the Gentiles, made their minds evil. The city was divided, BUT Paul and Barnabas had convinced a significant number. Note, the Jews did not themselves do violence; but, stirred up and persuaded others to do their dirty work for them. Sound familiar? Of course, this was part of the Roman Empire AND it was UNLAWFUL to stone preachers to death. But, Paul's memory of Stephen kept him painfully aware it could be done (illegally of course). Finally, some scoundrel set up a plot to take them (most likely secretly), stealthily, similar to the way they took Jesus. But their plot didn't work! There were too many listening ears of the disciples in Iconium. Somebody made Paul and Barnabas aware. As Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium, they MUST have rehearsed old times. Remember how Barnabas and others HAD sent Paul away from Jerusalem to Tarsus, when a threat was made on Paul's life (Acts 9:29)? And Paul must have remembered his escape from Damascus by night in a basket (Acts 9:25). Preaching the gospel was dangerous duty. But Paul understood his duty. He was NO fair-weather Christian. At a later time, Paul wrote THIS to the Corinthians, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach NOT the gospel!" I Cor.9:16). I'm tempted to take TIME OUT and do a sermon on commitment, church attendance, and Christian duty, but who would listen? Most people are too busy, they just don't have time for nonsense like that. So, we'll get back on the road to Lystra and Derby, city # 20 and 21 on your map still in the direction Paul's hometown of Tarsus. Southeast 30-40 more miles, Lystra was the first stop. There was no synagogue. But, (back at the ranch just a minute), let's discuss the word "apostles" at the end of verse 4. Did you notice? Paul and Barnabas are referred to as apostles. At first glance you might be tempted to think Luke made a SLIP-UP. But ifs not that. He does it AGAIN down in verse 14. What does the word "apostle" mean? Cruden says, "Literally, one sent forth." Thus, to be an apostle of Jesus; one must be sent forth by Jesus. Do Paul and Barnabas qualify? Undoubtedly, your first thought will be Saul on the road to Damascus, the bright light, and the words, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" But what about Barnabas? The answer lies in Acts 13:2. Do you remember back in Antioch of Syria? The Holy Ghost said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have CALLED them." Thus, they were CALLED and sent forth (Apostles of the Holy Spirit). Again, do you remember the conversation of Jesus with His 12 apostles; that Thursday night before Jesus was crucified on Friday (John 14:26)? "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things." Thus, the Holy Ghost could act in Jesus' name. Some have made a BIG DEAL about more than 12 apostles because the book of Revelation refers to only twelve. Others try to create and justify apostles today. I suggest we leave that to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I'm sure they'll keep it straight. Perhaps, I should call your attention to the FACT that OTHERS were called apostles also, e.g. James the Lord's brother in Gal. 1:19; Silvanus and Timothy are included in I Thess. 2:6. O.K. that's enough! Back to Lystra, verse 8-12, let's read'em: "And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: the same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. 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. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. The apostles of the Holy Spirit used signs and wonders, as it said in verse 3, to confirm the word. Paul healed a cripple man very similar to the case of Peter and John in Acts 3:6. As has been pointed out bere: please observe the healing here was a clear-cut case that NO ONE could deny. It was NOT some vague symptoms that could NOT be seen. It was NOT some magic trick palmed-off as a miracle, like we see on T.V. today; a man that had NEVER walked SUDDENLY leaps and walks. Notice, also, Paul did not get a crowd together AND put on a show, give his address and say, "send me a dollar." VERSE 11 says, "when the people saw what Paul HAD done." Obviously, they were impressed. At that time the people of Lycaonia were considered uncivilized, strongly paganistic, i.e. heathen people, the worshipers of idols and false gods. But these pagan people knew it was something DIFFERENT. They lifted up their voice in PRAISE. They tried to ASSOCIATE IT the best they could AND it is only NATURAL they associated this miracle with their pagan tribal gods they worshiped. It was something different. How could it be explained? Paul and Barnabas MUST BE gods to exhibit such supernatural powers. It was their first impulse. And if they be gods (they reasoned) then they should honor them by worshiping them, which they did. Jupiter was their tribal patron god AND Jupiter's temple stood before the gate of their city. The priests of THAT pagan temple prepared to do sacrifice. Let's read verse 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." This gives us a glimpse of Lycaonian pagan worship. The people headed for the gate of the city. Animal sacrifices began to be prepared. Flowers and wreaths or whatever garlands ARE, began to be prepared. The excitement of the people (did you notice in verse 11) must have caused them to; stop conversing in Greek and lapse into their native tongue, i.e. Lycaonian speech. When the message got through to Paul and Barnabas; they must have been surprised and shocked. Let's read verse 14-17, "Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 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: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. 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." These preachers KNEW; they had to do something and do it fast. Notice how offensive, they considered it to be worshiped as a god. Similar to Peter at the household of Cornelius they REFUSED on the grounds "we also are men of like passions with you" (verse 15). God made it clear in the third commandment of the Mosaic code, Ex. 20:5, that man must worship NOTHING except Jehovah God. Thus, for preachers to wear robes and titles, seeking the respect of men, is vanity. Every Christian is a preacher of the word AND every preacher is a man having like passions with every other man. God is NO RESPECTER of persons (Acts 10:34). Give God the praise; don't worship men. Paul and Barnabas pleed don't do these things! (I'm paraphrasing). Ifs vanity! Turn from such vanity to the living God! The God that created heaven and earth! The only TRUE and LIVING God, the MAKER and GIVER of life. Notice in verse 16 they point out God "in times past suffered ALL NATIONS to walk in their own ways." Do you remember (1) in connection with the grafting in of the Gentiles; we read Eph. 2:11-181? It said (in verse 12) that Gentiles were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." All nations walked in their own ways, as these preachers here said. They departed from God; God did not depart from them. As a matter of fact, these preachers, Paul and Barnabas make the point (in the middle of verse 17) that God "did good" even to those nations. The thrust of their plea is in verse 15 "turn from these vanities unto the living God." Now let's read verse 18. "And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them." One calamity after another! Acts 13:50 said they were EXPELLED from the coasts of Antioch. Acts 14:6 tells us, they Fled from Icorimm to Lystra. Wouldn't that be enough to cause you to give up the ministry? I Cor. 1:21 says, "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Preaching is not foolishness, but that's what many think. No converts are mention at Lystra. I have preached almost identical sermons at two different places. One place I was complimented, told it was a very scriptural, thought provoking, good lesson. The other place, they found fault and accused me of being a false teacher. Don't ever FORGET the soil is just as important as the seed. But NO SOIL will bear fruit without a seed. And the plant that ONE PRIZES, another counts as a weed, and tries to eradicate. God's word will accomplish his purpose, and HE KNOWS when and where to separate the tares from the wheat (Matt. 13). Let's read verse 19, "And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and. having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead." The headlines say, "from gods to criminals in a few short hours." Enemies of the truth are EASILY intimidated. They want to eradicate God. I sometimes think Satan has MORE ADRENALIN than has ever been found in the camp of the saints. Those Jews from Antioch TRAVELED about 130 miles, by primitive transportation, to persuade men to stone an apostle to death, i.e. a man sent from God. The Jews from Iconium traveled nearly 40 miles to participate in the stoning of this preacher. THEY had SEEN signs and wonders granted by the Lord himself according to verse 3. Where's Gamaliel? "Refrain from these men lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." (Acts 5:38). Some never learn! "having stoned Paul, threw him out of the city, supposing he had been dead." Most likely, near that SAME GATE in sight of Jupiter's temple. When Paul SAW those stones coming in all directions: how could he forget the words of Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Some talk about morality! Stack up Christianity against any system of morality you like. ALL other systems (as many as can be stacked together) and the whole heap can be placed in the shadow of Christianity. Where was Barnabas? A sad occasion! But not as sad as it could have been. Less read verse 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." After the last stone had been thrown, Paul's body lay limp. A few disciples gathered around, that we haven't met. The MOOD must have been DEPRESSION, lubricated with a few tears. And Barnabas must have been one of the saddest. Then, the body began to shall life. Paul revived! He must have been a mass of bruises. We might even expect a broken bone or two. He came into the city. The disciples must have done everything they KNEW (by way of first aid) to comfort Paul that night. But, the time had come to shake off some more dust! Move on! The next day these two preachers headed farther east 10 or 15 miles to Derbe, city # 21. Smile! Count your blessings, and have a good day.