Monday, October 22, 2007

Acts 14:19-28

We're not sure how much time transpires before this next section, but soon some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came to stir up trouble. Who were these men? It's most likely that they were devout Jews who felt very strongly that Paul was undoing all that they believed in. He had to be stopped. They were apparently following him from city to city. That's why I believe they arrived very soon after this incident.

Nonetheless, upon arriving they stirred up the crowd and convinced them that these two men deserved to be stoned. In some ways this is hard to believe. I can understand that the people ofLystra might have been a little humiliated that they thought these two men were gods, but still, was that a reason to stone them? These Jews must have been very persuasive. They were definitely passionate about preserving their faith.

Paul was about to suffer greatly for the gospel. He was apparently taken while Barnabas was somewhere else. He was dragged to the center of the city. His clothes were torn from his body. Men, women and children from the crowd bent down, picked up rocks, and began throwing them at this servant of God. After it was over they dragged Paul out of the city. They supposed that he was dead. One normally "supposes" that someone is dead when there is no breathing, so it is safe to assume that Paul was in fact dead.

Soon Barnabas and the disciples found Paul and began praying for him. Luke says that Paul rose up, went back into the city, and the next day he and Barnabas fifty to sixty miles to Derbe. I can imagine that traveling fifty to sixty miles one day after being stoned would not be pleasant. After preaching the gospel in Derbe, and seeing many people become disciples, they began the trip back to Antioch, stopping along the way in each of the cities where they had been. If I had been Paul, I think I would have wanted to skip Lystra. It couldn't have held good memories for him. However, he went back. I wonder what that was like. Here is this man whom everyone in the city thought was dead. He wasn't dead.

In each city, Luke says that they strengthened the disciples and appointed elders for each church. I have always been fascinated by this. Here is a group of people who have not been disciples for very long. Their leaders have been run out of town but they have now returned. Unfortunately, they are leaving again. Yet they are raising up leaders, new spiritual parents. Paul had an unwavering faith that God would do the real work of ministry. Luke points out that Paul and Barnabas, through prayer and fasting, committed these new churches to the Lord.

I love verse 27. Returning to Antioch, to the church that had commissioned them, must have been quite the celebration!

"And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles."

No comments: