AT ICONIUM Acts Chapter 14: 1 – 7
Reference to Iconium
Iconium sat on a high plateau surrounded by fertile plains and green forests with mountains to the north and east.The residents of Iconium poised at an elevation of about 3400 feet, enjoyed a spectacle of grandeur, whenever they went outside, for in every direction, especially in the west, they saw rugged peaks, some rising to 6000 feet.
In Iconium the population was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. It was a Roman colony, but unlike Antioch, the prevailing culture was Greek rather than Roman. In its political structure, it was modelled after a Greek city-state ruled by an assembly of citizens.
The ancient Iconium must have been pleasant and verdant, with plenty of water.
A stream flows “right into the city, making the land around into a great garden, green with trees, rich in produce.”
PAUL AND BARNABAS REJOICING AT THE CREATION OF GOD
∗ The Holy Spirit guiding Paul’s and Barnabas’ steps would have surely alerted them to the kind testimony of friendly breeze, warm sunshine, and green expanse that theirs was a loving God of unlimited power, who was always at work to provide the best for His people.
∗ Surely they responded to the Spirit by looking around, and their hard exertions were relieved by joyful gazing at the beauty of nature, exhibiting the same mighty hand of God that was using them as tools to build His church.
THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE APPROACH ON PAUL AND BARNABAS
∗ Following their customary practice, the apostles made the synagogue the base of their ministry.
∗ The ruler of the synagogue here, as elsewhere, gave them the permission to speak during the Sabbath service.
∗ So, for many weeks, they declared Christ to the Jews and God-fearers who gathered for worship.
∗ Their preaching was hugely successful, apparently with greater fruit than they had seen in other places.
∗ The number who believed among both Jews and Gentiles was a great multitude.
∗ But, no work of God proceeds very long without opposition. Some of the Jews resented the new teaching and angrily rejected it.
∗ In their daily interaction with Gentiles, they slandered Paul and Barnabas, causing many citizens to view the newcomers with a dislike, quickly descending into scorn.
∗ But God is with the representatives and enables them to perform great miracles, as they stay in the city and speak boldly for Him.
GOD’S WORK BEING OPPOSED IN ALL AGES
∗ A Christian meets opposition, if his work is sincere and Christ-oriented. If not, the devil is convinced, he sees the work as no threat to the kingdom of darkness.
∗ Over coming all the troubles with the strength and power of His name, is the victory of a true Christian.
∗ Everything works out well with the grace and mercy of God.
WAS IT COWARDICE FOR PAUL AND BARNABAS TO FLEE FROM ICONIUM?
∗ Was it not better for them to continue in the work and trust in God’s protection?
∗ To remain in the lion’s mouth sounds like the most spiritual option.
∗ But, Jesus Himself counselled otherwise. He told His disciples, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matt. 10:23).
∗ In spiritual warfare as in the clash of human armies, there is a proper time for retreat. We must certainly be prepared to die for Christ, if we find no honourable way of escape.
∗ There is no merit in throwing our lives away foolishly, thus ending our usefulness to God.
∗ The wisdom in the flight of Paul and Barnabas is evident later in the story, for after a time they were able to return to Iconium and continue the work of building a church in that city (v. 21).
∗ Paul and Barnabas were aware of the violent attack thrown on them and they fled to Lystra and Derby
THE MIRACLE IN LYSTRA (Acts 14: 8-18)∗ While preaching the Gospel in Lystra, Paul saw a man impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, and had never walked.
∗ Paul physically held him and with his spiritual eyes perceived his faith to be healed.
∗ Paul with his loud voice said, stand upright on thy feet.
∗ And he leaped and walked.
∗ Without knowing the Scripture or the thorough knowledge of the true God, the people of Lystra, believed that the Greek god’s were walking among them.
∗ The people brought oxen and garlands and started sacrifice in favour of the healing of the crippled to Paul and Barnabas.
∗ Paul and Barnabas did everything in their power to dissuade the people from performing sacrifice to them.
∗ They tore their clothes to indicate extreme grief and distress.
∗ They assured the crowd that they both were just fellow human beings like them.
∗ They explained that all the good things that occurred were the result of the living God.
∗ We are also crippled like the man, whom Paul healed.
∗ Its not the physical cripple, but, we are crippled in our souls, with sins perhaps, or with fears, or with doubts. These afflictions curb us from spiritual growth.
∗ So, we sink deeper and we are unable to be out doing God’s work.
∗ The Bible says that they who carry the good news of salvation have beautiful feet (Rom.10:15).
∗ But the things that cripple our souls make our feet useless to God.
∗ How do we escape from spiritual crippling?
∗ In the same way the man in Lystra escaped from bodily cripple. Faith is the remedy.
∗ Let us grow in faith by nourishing thoughts of praise and love until faith brings healing to our souls.
Reference for the town people’s tradition
The tradition underlying the reaction of the Lystran townspeople to Paul’s miracle is preserved not only in Acts, but likely also in a story told by Ovid, the Roman poet. 22 He says that Jupiter and Mercury visited “the Phrygian hill-country” in disguise as ordinary men who sorely needed food and lodging, but nowhere, not even at a thousand doors, did they find a helping hand until they came to the poor cottage of Philemon and Baucis, an old couple with little food to spare. Yet the two aged ones of humble means hosted the two gods, treating them to a much finer meal than they could afford. Afterwards, the gods destroyed the homes of all who turned them away, and transformed the cottage of Philemon and Baucis into a splendid temple, where the two mortals served as priest and priestess until, instead of dying, they became beautiful trees. This was their traditional belief.
HOW DO WE GIFT GOD?
∗ Will God be satisfied with gifts, cheap rituals and formalities?
∗ No, He wants our whole being.
∗ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (Matt. 22:36–38).
∗ This is what God wants us to be gifted to Him.
PAUL WAS STONED AT JERUSALEM (14 : 19 – 22)
∗ A group of Jews who opposed Paul in Antioch and Iconium showed up, and before long, Paul’s stoning that had been planned in Iconium was carried out in Lystra.
∗ It’s no judicial execution of judgement; its a lynching or killing.
∗ Some people speculate that Paul actually died and came back to life, though no evidence exists to prove this theory.
∗ But equally miraculous is the fact that he was able to get up and return to the city after such experience.
∗ The next destination for both Barnabas and Paul was Derbe, which was about sixty miles away.
∗ Paul was speaking from experience, when he told the disciples that they must enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation.
∗ Paul and Barnabas were courageous to go through the same cities that they had been hostile with them.
∗ The courage was given to them by God.
∗ Surely believers in that cities recognised Paul’s and Barnabas’ dedication.
∗ What really happened to Paul when he was stoned? How badly was he hurt? Was he killed?
∗ The above mentioned questions arise in our minds.
∗ The injuries Paul suffered must have been serious indeed.
∗ He was not just knocked down by a stone thrown by someone lying in wait.
∗ His enemies evidently would have taken him into custody first.
∗ Thus, they were able to throw as many stones as they felt necessary to kill him.
∗ Before taking away Paul’s body, his executioners must have examined it and satisfied themselves. that there was no sign of life.
∗ They would have left it there, having no doubt that Paul was dead.
∗ Those were the men who knew the art of stoning and killing the people.
Reference for stoning
Moreover, stoning was extremely deadly. The victim was generally pushed into a pit, and then actual rocks, not little stones, were cast down upon him. The procedure at Lystra may have been more spontaneous. Yet the assailants were plural in number, and they did their work without hindrance from defenders. This is what is considered as in any stoning as capital punishment.
STARTLED BY THE SUDDEN STAND UP
∗ As Paul’s friends were grieving beside his body, he awoke and stood up unaided.
∗ A man with a severe head injury does not regain his feet so quickly.
∗ Then he walked back into town and set off on a journey the next morning.
∗ Again, that was not the behaviour of a man reduced to near death by stoning.
∗ Both, the cripple and Paul regained their feet quickly.
∗ Its clear that God healed Paul and the cripple.
∗ His recovery was miraculous. Its the work of God.
ELDERS APPOINTED IN EVERY CHURCH (14 : 23 – 28)
∗ This is the first mention of the men who were pastors – overseers of the churches, (ie) plurality of godly men responsible to lead the church.
∗ They soon began to occupy the leading role in the churches, transitioning from the apostles and prophets, who were foundational.
∗ In 1 Timothy 3 : 1-7 says that a bishop (overseer) must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate means wineless or clear headed, sober headed or disciplined, good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach, not to given to wine, not greedy for money, gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well, submissive and revered, not a novice with pride, and a good testimony, a steward of God, faithful children, not self willed, not quick tempered, not violent, self controlled, lover of what is good, just , holy, holding fast in accordance with Word.
Lord, You are the miraculous God in leading us,guarding us from all the difficulties and dangers of this world. Let us give the whole of ourselves to worship, praise and thank you with all our hearts and soul. Let all our responsibilities be fulfilled according to Your Word. Amen.
Glory be to God