Acts Chapter Fourteen
The First Missionary Journey
In chapter 13, Paul and Barnabus were on their first missionary journey. They had preached in Antioch of Pisidia and as a result of opposition from the Jews, the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, they were expelled out of the city. That did not deter them. They had a truthful and powerful message to declare and they would not be deterred. They went down the road a few miles to a city called Iconium and they were joyous. cf. Hebrews 11:32-38; I Peter 2:19-25.
Now we see them continuing their journey winning souls to Christ and building churches. Many hardships are endured and many great things are accomplished for the Lord.
I. The Division -- Vs. 1-7.
Vs. 1-They went together. They were a team. Team work is very important in God's work. We must work together to be most effective for our Lord.
They "so spake" that a great multitude was saved.
Dr. John Rice said, "Not only the message they gave was of God, but their manner of speaking was also of God. There is a foolish idea abroad that if the Word of God is preached, it will bring the same results, whether preached fervently or lukewarmly, whether preached with strong personal application or not, whether preached in the power of the Holy Ghost or in the wisdom of men. That simply is not true. The Word of God is 'the Sword of the Spirit' (Eph. 6:17). The Holy Spirit must use His sword. Speaking on this matter in II Corinthians 3:5 and 6, Paul was inspired to say. 'Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God: Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for, the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth Life.'"
There is no sufficiency in man for preaching the Gospel . Paul had divine "sufficiency" to make him an able minister of the New Testament, "Not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
Note carefully that the letter, even of the Word of God, kills. The Pharisees and Sadducees read the Scriptures in the synagogues and went on in their unbelief. Churches which never teach people to be born again have regularly assigned Scriptures to read in the services. I have known preachers who knew nothing about salvation by grace and the new birth, who could quote many passages of Scripture. The two divine elements in regeneration of a sinner are mentioned in Titus 3:5, the "washing of regeneration" and "the renewing of the Holy Ghost." Those in Christ's church, cleansed "with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26), but the Holy Spirit must empower the Word. Orthodox preaching is not enough: we need Spirit-filled preaching. One might outline this great truth as follows:
1. They spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Therefore, there was great boldness (vs. 3) to denounce sin, and demand decision.
3. They so spake because of a holy abandon that continually they risked death, persecution, abuse, misrepresentation."
Preaching should be done with an urgency of manner and tone so as to emphasize the importance of the truth's of God's word. They so spake!
Vs. 2. The Jews, thinking this was a new religion promoting another God, were vehemently opposed to their preaching. There is always opposition to Gospel preaching.
Vs. 3. God did a mighty work there. Souls in great numbers were saved and many lives were noticeably changed. Notice they were speaking boldly in the Lord.
Vs. 4. The Gospel causes divisions. cf. Matthew 10:35,36.
Vs. 5-7. This illustrates the fact that plain, bold, Spirit-filled preaching will have opposition. They went to Lystra and Derbe, twin cities of Lycaonia. Once again the purpose of their journey was to preach the Gospel. The great purpose of our life is to see that the Gospel is furthered on this earth.
They fled. Jesus commanded in Matthew 10:23, when He sent His disciples out to go two by two over Israel. "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, til the Son of Man be come." They were not intentionally to stay and be killed. They were not necessarily to defend themselves. They were not to quit preaching. But they were to simply go somewhere else and start over.
II. The Deliverance -- Vs. 8-10
Vs. 8. This certain man is a picture of a lost person, lost in their sin. Impotent- unable to do the things he should do. A cripple from his mother's womb- We come forth from the womb speaking lies. We are sinners from birth. Paul said, "For I know that in me ( that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing ...." Romans 7:18a. "All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God." Romans 3:23.
Vs. 9. This man had the good fortune of hearing the great apostle Paul speak. It is so unfortunate that so many people never hear the Gospel from the lips of another person. Romans 7:14. "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
"He had faith." Without faith it is impossible to be saved. cf. Hebrews 11:6.
Vs. 10. In faith, He did things he had never done before. He stood, he leaped; and He walked. Christians, with Jesus dwelling inside, can do things effectually they could never do before. They can pray, they can witness, they can lead a soul to Christ, they can live above the world, they have power over sin, they can worship, they can live a life pleasing to God. cf. Matthew 6:9-15; Acts 1:8; John 1:41,42; Romans 6:11-14; Hebrews 11:6.
III. The Deification -- Vs. 11-18
Vs. 11- 12. What happened to the man at Lystra was a miracle just as every conversion or New Birth is a miracle. The province of Lycaonia is on the peninsular across the strait from Greece which shortly before this had ruled the world. Greek religion (mythology) had a number of gods. They believed their gods on occasion would come down and visit the earth. Jupiter is the latin word for the chief national god of the Greeks, Zeus. Mercurius represents the Greek god Hermes. They are here called by Roman names. Matthew Henry supposes that because Barnabus was probably older, perhaps more portly amd distinguished than Paul, he is thought to be the chief god, Jupiter. Paul, although perhaps younger and not as handsome and distinguished looking but active and fiery, is called Mercurius or Hermes. Paul was the chief speaker.
Vs. 13. The priest in the city who represented Jupiter said, "We must sacrifice to these gods." The heathen people of the world made animal sacrifices to their gods. The Jews had followed the practices of the heathen nations at one time and had learned a vital lesson from Jehovah that they must always worship Him and Him alone. Deuteronomy 6: 4-9.
Vs. 14-15 Paul and Barnabus were very fearful of these actions so they interrupted the proceedings and began to preach unto them the truths of God. They pointed the people to the living God who is the creator of all things.
Vs. 16. God had permitted people to walk in their own ways. cf. Romans 1:18-32.
Vs. 17. God hath witnessed to all the people of the world of the fact of His being. Other supposed gods have done nothing for man. God is good. God has shown us in nature how good He is.
Everything in nature points to God.'The Heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1.
(1) The mountains remind us of the steadfast, unchanging nature of God.
(2) The recurring seasons tell us of His fidelity.
(3) The rainbow tells us that He always keeps His promises.
(4) The clouds remind us of how He led His people toward the Promised Land.
(5) The sea reminds us that He said, "I have cast thy sins into the deepest sea.
(6) The river reminds us of the River of Life that flows by the throne of God.
(7) The troubled waves reminds us of Him who stilled the storms.
(8) The rocks remind us of the Rock of Ages.
(9) The stars remind us of Jesus Christ, the Bright and Morning Star.
(10) The sun reminds us of the Son of Righteousness, shining into our hearts, dispelling all of our doubts and darkness.
(11) The trees and the flowers and the waving grain remind us of the One who gives life and sustains life.
Yes, all of nature unites to say, "God lives, God loves; God provides for every need and fills our lives with gladness."
Vs. 18. The people were still reluctant to not give sacrifices to these false gods. "The fool hath said in his heart that there is no god." Psalm 14:11. Only a fool can say that here is a universe with no creator.
IV. The Decease -- Vs. 19-20.
One day the people are exalting Paul and Barnabus, calling them gods, and the next day they are stoning Paul. All because of religious persecution and gossip. We should not seek to destroy or annihilate those of other religions. We should pray for them and try to persuade them of the truth of the Gospel. We should not be participants of gossip. cf. Proverbs 6:16-19; I Peter 4: 15.
Was Paul dead? We do not know. The Bible does not say so. The inference is that he was not, but there is no clear statement here. Was this what paul refers to in II Corinthians 12:2-4. Usher's chronology says Paul was stoned in 45 A. D. and the writing of II Corinthians as A. D. 60. Paul says it was above fourteen years ago when the event happened, it probably was the same event. Whatever, it was a great event in Paul's life.
Paul rose up. God delivered him. Satan meant it for evil but God allowed it for good. At Lystra, Timothy was saved as also his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. cf. Acts 16:1;
II Timothy 1:5. He would come to be a faithful and dedicated servant for the Lord
V. The Development -- Vs. 21-23
Vs. 21. They then went to Derbe. They preached the Gospel there and taught many. It is important that young Christians be preached to, for that means being exhorted as well as being instructed. However there is much that needs to be learned by teaching and explaining the word of God. They then retraced their steps, going to the places where they had ministered. Their fearlessness is to be noted. At Lystra they had been stoned. At Iconium, they were forced to flee because an assault was made on them. Note verse 5. At Antioch, they were expelled. They knew that God had a hedge around them as He did with Job and all Christians, so that they could not be harmed unless the Lord allowed it. Such harm would only come if a loving, protecting God permitted it for their benefit. cf. Job 1:10. They were unafraid for they had important work to do there.
Vs. 22 - 23. They did two notable things in these churches. They confirmed the souls of the disciples or recent converts there. They encouraged them and gave them further instruction in the deeper things of the Word. They exhorted and challenged them to be faithful and diligent in their study and service for the Lord. They challenged them to be faithful regardless of the trials and persecution they may have to endure. We all must realize that "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but it has been tried and found difficult." We must keep on keeping on.
The second thing they did was to organize the churches by appointing leaders. They ordained Elders or Pastors. They then, after praying with fasting, they commended them to the Lord. They left the matter to the Lord to work out His will and Way with the church and the people. This is the way to do mission work. Go to an area, win souls, organize them and get them working for the Lord. They will then instruct others about their new found Faith. The missionary can then go on to other areas and start other congregations.
VI. The Description -- Vs. 24-28.
Vs. 24-26. They then retraced their steps as they returned to Antioch in Syria. The Antioch they visited on their first missionary journey was Antioch in Pisidia, whereas the church from whence they had been sent was Antioch in Syria.
Vs. 27-28. This was a joyous occasion. As Paul and Barnabus rehearsed their experiences and how God had saved so many Gentiles, as well as Jews, it was enlightening and thrilling. Not many gentiles had been saved up until now for there had not been a concerted effort to do so. On this missionary journey the door of Faith had been opened to the Gentiles. Jesus is the Saviour for all. I John 2: 1-2. Now they could enjoy the ministry of these two giants of the Faith for a season as God gave them a respite from the rigors of their journey.
Conclusion: The first missionary journey is completed. The missionaries and the sending church are rejoicing over the accomplishments and the victories God has given over Satan who had ensnared the lost, but now many have been saved. Let us support the missionaries with our financial support and our prayers. Let us also be missionaries wherever we are until Jesus comes.