Acts 14

This chapter ends Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, but not before Paul gets stoned and taken for dead. This chapter includes preaching, a healing miracle, and other signs and wonders. He tailors his message for towards pagans for the first time; then he is challenged by opponents.

As I write in every introduction:

The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.

At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Preaching and Persecution (Acts 1:1-7)

1 It happened in Iconium in the usual way: they went into the synagogue of the Jews and spoke in a such way that a large crowd of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But Jews who were not persuaded stirred up and made the minds of the Gentiles to turn against the brothers and sisters. 3 And so they spent a long time boldly proclaiming the Lord who attested to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to happen through their hands. 4 The population of the town was divided: those with the Jews and those with the apostles. 5 And there was an impulse of both the Gentiles and the Jews with their leaders to assault and stone them. 6 Realizing this, they fled to the towns of Lycaonian Lystra and Derbe and environs, 7 where they continued to preach the good news.

Comments:

Throughout this chapter, you can look up all these towns online with Bible maps. Go for it!

1:

“In the usual way”: it comes from the phrase kata eis auto (pronounced kah-tah ace owtoh) or literally “according to itself.”

“they went into synagogue”: Yes, Paul was called to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-10), but Jesus spoke to him from heaven that he was also called to the Jews (Acts 9:15), and the Jews get to hear the gospel first (Rom. 1:16).

“in a way”: it comes from the adverb houtōs (pronounced hoo-tohss). The NIV says “so effectively.” Yes, and may we see more preaching that wins entire towns! But one gets the impression from Paul’s recorded sermons in Acts and letters that he does not shriek and freak and scream. He had no electronic public announcement system to project his voice, so he had to talk loudly (v. 14), but his last teaching in the synagogue was orderly and logical argumentation (Acts 13:16-42), backed by the anointing of the Spirit. He was effective enough that a large number of both Jews and Greeks believed. That’s the power of the Spirit.

“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.

True acronym:

F-A-I-T-H

=

Forsaking All, I Trust Him

Here it is connected to “saved.”

Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Word Study on Faith and Faithfulness

Note that these people believed. Faith coming from the heart can bring salvation. There is no need to over-analyze verse with an overlay of the “order of salvation” or the theology that says a man must be born again before he can believe for salvation and other such things. Instead, they heard the gospel and believed it. It is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16).

2:

“not persuaded”: it comes from the verb apeithō (pronounced ah-pay-thoh), and the a– in front is negation (un- or not) and peith– means to “persuade” or “convince,” so here it could be translated “disbelieved,” and the outcome of unbelief is disobedience. Yes, faith and obedience (acting on faith) are linked. I went with “not persuaded.”

“made … to be bad”: it comes from the Greek verb kakoō (pronounced kah-ko-oh), and it could be literally translated as the awkward non-English word “evilized”; “they evilized the minds of the Gentiles.” It is better translated as “embitter” (NAS) or “poisoned” (NIV). I went with the literal meaning, as suggested by F. F. Bruce (1990).

“minds”: it comes from the noun psuchē (pronounced psoo-khay, and the “p” in ps- is also pronounced). It can be translated as “soul.” As Renewalists generally believe, the soul is made up of the mind, will and emotions. It is entirely possible to have one’s mind or soul poisoned or embittered. The mind needs to be renewed. Please see Rom. 12:1-2 for how to do this. Also, think on these things listed in the epistle to the Philippians: “Things that true; things that are honorable; things that are righteous; things that are holy; things that are lovely; things that are praiseworthy; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise—think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

It is so important to think right because all battles start in the mind. Don’t let it turn bad.

As for whether we are two or three parts, see my posts:

Word Study on Spirit, Soul, and Body

Is Humankind Two or Three Parts?

“brothers and sisters”: Here it is addressing the converted Christian believers, not the generic Jewish community. In this verse, it is an expressive word denoting close fellowship and kindred spirits. They were part of the Christian community.

3:

This verse is a good one for the Renewal Movement, so let’s spend some time here. It sets the atmosphere as supernatural, so we can interpret the entire chapter in that way, when Luke omits some details.

“boldly proclaiming”: This comes from one Greek verb parrēsiazomai (pronounced pah-rray-see-ah-zoh-my), and it combines boldness and speech. Paul had been an over-zealous Pharisee, and now his zeal was channeled and tempered by the Spirit towards preaching Jesus. Paul and Barnabas were emboldened and did not cower in fear.

Please, please, don’t shrink away when you encounter opposition. Jesus was bold when the Pharisees and teachers of the law challenged him. He answered their questions and challenged them right back (Mark 2:6; 2:16; 7:1-5; 8:31; 9:14; 10:33; 11:18, 27-28; 14:1, etc.). People over-interpret his silence before his accusers during his trial (Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9). These interpreters don’t take into account that he was destined to give up his life, although he could have asked the Father for twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53).

If you find yourself timid before opposition, you can pray every day for the inner strength and anointing and power to stand and not to flag or fold during satanic and broken human attacks. I pray this almost every day, and it works!

You know the Spirit is flowing through you when you have boldness. God has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity (2 Tim. 1:7).

“attested”: it comes from the verb martureō (pronounced mahr-too-reh-oh), and it can also mean “bear witness to” or “testify.” Here it can be expansively translated as “backing up” his word. In these contexts it always means witnessing or testifying through the power of the Spirit.

“Word”: it comes from the noun logos (pronounced loh-gohss) and is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

Let’s explore this versatile Greek noun a little more deeply.

I repeat the following comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word Word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.  Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.

“grace”: It comes from the Greek noun charis (pronounced khah-rees) and has these meanings, depending on the context: graciousness, attractiveness; favor, gracious care, help or goodwill, practical application of goodwill; a gracious deed or gift, benefaction. In some contexts, it means “exceptional effects produced by divine grace,” in other words, empowerment to accomplish a task. In this case it means his ability to do wonders and great signs. God gave him the grace and power to accomplish them.

Let’s go deeper, by repeating part of what I wrote in the post Do I Really Know God? He Is Gracious. Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words teaches us about the Hebrew and Greek words. The Hebrew noun ḥen (pronounced khen) “describes that which is favorable or gracious, especially the favorable disposition of one person to another” (p. 302). The Greek noun further means “the acceptance of and goodness toward those who cannot earn or do not deserve such gain” (p. 303). The verb in Hebrew is ḥanan (pronounced khah-nan) and means to be gracious, “to show mercy favor, be gracious” (ibid.).

Here is a quick definition. God’s grace means he gladly shows his unmerited goodness or love to those who have forfeited it and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation.

Good news! We do not have to suffer condemnation for our past sins because God hands us his grace.

What Is Grace?

Grace to You

Law versus Grace

“signs and wonders”: As noted, this puts the entire chapter on a supernatural footing. So now we can interpret the chapter through that lens.

“signs”: sēmeion (pronounced say-may-on). In the singular it is mostly translated as “sign” or “miraculous sign.” A sign points towards the loving God who wants to heal and redeem broken humanity, both in soul and body. Signs are indicators of God breaking into his world, to help people and announce that he is here to save and rescue them and put things right.

“wonders”: teras (pronounced teh-ras). It is often translated as “wonders” and is always in the plural. Only once does it appear without “signs,” in Acts 2:19, where wonders will appear in the sky. Wonders inspire awe and worship of God through Christ who performs the wonders. The purpose is to patch up and restore broken humanity. They testify that God in his kingdom power is here to save and rescue people.

For nearly all the references of those two words and a developed theology of them, please click on this link:

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

“through their hands” Renewalists believe that God works miracles through believers’ hands. In the OT, the ritual of laying on of hands had these functions: it ordained Levites (Num. 8:10); it ordained leaders (Num. 27:18, 22-23); it transferred guilt to the sacrificial animal (Lev. 16:20-21).

In the NT, laying on of hands transfers healing (Mark 6:5l; Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8); it transfers the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6); it ordains missionaries (Acts 13:3); it ordains church leaders (Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

From those verses, Renewalists believe these things about laying on of hands: (1) hands can be the conduit of the presence and power of God; (2) public acknowledgement that the leaders or friends are close to and support the receiver of the hands; (3) the leaders or friends identify with the receiver; (4) combining all three, it means commissioning. Here it means the fourth.

Further, Renewalists believe those four points because they have seen it happen with their own eyes. And it starts and ends with God, not the human vessel. Here it is the first purpose.

4:

The multitudes were divided. The Greek verb is the source of our modern word “schism.” Here is a relevant verse: “the word of God is living and energetic, sharper above any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides the soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb. 4:12). Another verse: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). He goes on to say that his gospel will cause family division (not a literal sword; cf. Luke 12:51).

Here in v. 4, the town was divided. Truth does that. Don’t be afraid of opposition and division when you preach the gospel. And don’t worship your family so much that you never receive the gospel and Jesus in your heart. He may call you to leave them behind, either throughout your life if you are in danger, or for a season.

“apostles”: here Paul and Barnabas are called apostles, when the term is normally reserved for the twelve. But the term is expanded. Also, Renewalists believe that the first generation of apostles established the church and instilled its institutional DNA, but God has not left his church without guidance from present-day apostles. They are usually missionaries and other church planters plus their gradual rise to leadership over a movement. In other words, a man (or woman) who plants a church is not necessarily an apostle, but a man (or woman) who leads many churches may qualify as one, but not necessarily. He must also be recognized by the larger church—not the worldwide church, which is logistically difficult—to be rightly called an apostle. In other words, does the movement he leads consider him (or her) to be an apostle? If so, then this is a legitimate office for him or her.

Do NT Apostles Exist Today?

5:

“impulse” It comes from the noun hormē (pronounced hohr-may), and it means a “psychological state or strong tendency, impulse, inclination, desire” (BDAG). (Yes, we get our word hormone from this stem.) It is used only here and in Jas. 3:4 (“pilot”); the verb is usually translated as “rushed” (Matt. 4:32; // Mark. 5:13; // Like 8:33; Acts 7:37; 19:29). Translations like the NIV and the NAS translate the noun here as “plot.”

“with their leaders”: The Gentiles had their city leaders, as described in Acts 13:50. Inscriptions and literary references demonstrate beyond doubt that the leading women were rich in their own right and power, without being subjected to male guardians or tutors. They handled their own money. They contributed to public works from their own wealth in this or that town, and the town in turn honored them with inscriptions. They also occupied high local political offices. The same is true of men, too. As for the Jewish leaders, they led the synagogue and read from the Torah (first five books of the Bible) and the prophets (Acts 13:15). They saw the threat to Judaism that Paul’s gospel posed. It would wreck the full force of the law of Moses and hence Judaism.

6:

“Realizing”: it comes from the verb sunoraō (pronounced soon-hohr-rah-oh) and combines the preposition sun (with) and the verb horaō (see or notice). It could be translated as “taking stock” or “sizing up the situation.” Most translations just go with “learning” of the “plot” or “impulse.”

Fleeing is sometimes a viable option. Jesus said to do this during persecution (Matt. 10:23). Paul said he had to flee Jerusalem because people there would not accept his testimony (Acts 22:17-18). Wisdom and prudence to leave danger and not seek martyrdom is sometimes the best policy.

7:

“preaching the good news”: it is in the present tense, so Parsons and Culy went with “continued to.” I followed their translation. This phrase comes from one Greek verb: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh) Eu– means “good” or something positive, and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!” “Preaching or spreading or announcing or proclaiming the good news” is traditional and better, however.

Keener: “Signs do not guarantee belief; they merely make the message impossible to ignore, usually demanding faith or rejection. Yet they appear important for the gospel breaking into new regions (Rom. 15:18-19; 2 Cor 12:12)” (p. 349).

GrowApp for Acts 14:1-7

A.. After your success, opponents may go on the attack. After you were saved, how did your ex-friends or family attack you and hold you back?

B.. Never forget that Christians around the globe are being persecuted. Join a mailing list about this and then pray for them.

A Lame Man Is Healed (Acts 14:8-13)

8 In Lystra, a certain man sat with disabled feet, lame from birth, who had never walked. 9 He heard Paul speaking, who fixed his gaze on him. He saw that he had faith to be healed and 10 said with a loud voice, “Get up on your feet, upright!” He jumped up and walked. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul did, they raised their voice in the Lycaonian dialect, “The gods becoming like men have come down to us!” 12 And they began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, since he was the lead speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus of the temple outside the town, along with the crowds, brought to the gates bulls and wreaths and were wanting to sacrifice them.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and ran into the crowds and shouted out: 15 “Men! Why are you doing this? We too are men with the same natures as you! We proclaim the good news to you to turn away from these empty things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them! [Ex. 20:11; Ps. 146:6] 16 In the past generations, he permitted all the nations to go along their own paths. 17 And yet he did not leave himself without a testimonial of doing good acts, giving you rains from heaven and crops growing in their seasons, satisfying with food and gladness of your hearts. 18 After saying these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.

Comments:

This is Paul’s first recorded miracle, though we learn that he had been working signs and wonders throughout his ministry.

8-9:

The point here is that the man has never walked, and everyone knew it, so his need was great, but so was the miracle. He did not have an injury from a job, which would heal naturally over time. The man needed a miracle for the impossible.

The lame man heard Paul speak, and faith grew in his heart. The Word must be preached before a miracle—even a little word, like this: “God spoke to me that you have a back problem. Can I pray for you? It will show you how much God loves you.” That may be enough to ignite faith in the receiver’s heart.

“fixed his gaze”: it comes from the verb atenizō (pronounced ah-teh-nee-zoh) and also means “stare intently or intensely.” Luke is fond of it: Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 1:10; 3:4; 3:12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. Then Paul uses it twice: 2 Cor. 3:7, 13. You know you have God’s authority when you can stare at a man lame from birth and see a healing coming.

“seeing”: it is the verb horaō (pronounced hohr-ah-oh), which is used 448 times, so it is very common. In other words, Paul from his own insight and his ability did not perceive the man had the faith to be healed. He received the supernatural gift of the word of knowledge, which he later taught on in 1 Cor. 12:7-11. This takes place when God speaks or somehow communicates with the Spirit-filled believer a piece of knowledge or information that the believer would not know in any other way. And God communicate this to Paul for the lame man.

“faith”: it was a surge of faith mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:7-11. The noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.

See v. 1 for more comments.

“healed”: it is the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times). Here is this verse it is clear that healing is part of salvation and flows from the atonement and the cross.

Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō.

Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, which is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”

The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).

Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.

As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.

All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.

Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8).

What Does ‘Salvation’ Mean?

What Is the Work of Salvation?

How Do We Respond to God’s Salvation?

10-11

Paul issued a command. Jesus healed a paralytic and also simply pronounced his healing, though in that case, sin got in the man’s way (Mark 2:3-5). Here, however, sin was not mentioned. We have to be careful about working out an unbendable system for causes of disease. They are not always sin-caused (most are not), but natural—the physical world is messed up, including the human body.

In Matt. 8:3-15, a centurion had a servant who was paralyzed and suffering terribly, but the centurion said that Jesus only had to issue a command where he stood at a distance, and the healing would happen. Jesus commended the centurion in the highest terms. And why wouldn’t he? It was a marvelous and faith-filled declaration.

Jesus also commanded a disabled man at the pool of Bethesda to “‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!’” And at once the was cured. He picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:8-9).

When you pray, speak a declaration over the diseased person. Don’t pray some flowery prayer: “O thou God, if it be thy will, heal this man.” No, not that. “Get up!”

Paul never saw Jesus heal anyone, so the Spirit had to guide him. No doubt in his travels to Jerusalem and his living in Antioch where believers from Jerusalem visited enabled him to hear stories of how Jesus worked healing.

In this verse, it worked! He jumped up and walked!

Miracles are supposed to draw people to Jesus who does the healing, but here confusion took over. People without God can be easily deceived (and so can some believers, if they are not careful).

12-13:

Zeus was the chief God, and Hermes was the messenger god. We know why Paul got this pagan name, because he was the chief speaker. But why did they give Barnabas the chief god’s name? Did they do this just to honor him with a major deity, and not a minor one? Or did they see a leadership quality in him that Luke does not record? No matter. But it is good to know that Barnabas was a leader.

In any case, a local legend says that two local gods came down to the area, but no one showed them hospitality, though doing this was very important. Only an older couple, named Philemon and Baucis shared their supplies with the unrecognized gods. The gods rewarded them by appointing them priest and priestess and eventually turning them into sacred trees (Schnabel, comment on v. 12).

A temple of Zeus was in front of the main entrance to the town.

14:

apostles: see note on v. 4.

“tore”: it is the Greek verb diarrēgnumi or diarrhēssō (pronounced dee-ah-rrayg-noo-mee and dee-ah-rray-soh), and it is onomatopoeic; that is, it is a vocal imitation of the pronunciation of the word that sounds like its meaning. It could be translated as “ripped,” which is also onomatopoeic, incidentally. Ripping clothes was a customary way of expressing distress or grief in that culture. Let’s not import it to the world today.

“ran”: it comes from the verb ekpēdaō (pronounced ek-pay-dah-oh), and it is based on the stem pēdaō, which means bounding or leaping or springing. So picture Barnabas and Paul rushing (without leaping like a gazelle) into the crowd, waving their arms in gestures to get them to stop, in addition to tearing their clothes. Paul was not afraid to run into trouble and danger (Acts 19:30). You know you have God’s Spirit anointing you when you have boldness. God has not given you timidity. If you have timidity, you can pray every day for God to give you the inner strength and anointing to stand and not to fold or flag during satanic or broken human attacks. I do this almost every day, and it works!

“same natures”: it comes from the Greek adjective homoiopathēs (pronounced hoh-moi-oh-pah-thays). It is a compound word: homoi– (like or similar) and path– (suffering, passion, feelings, and emotions). Here it can be translated as follows: NAS: “same nature”; NIV “human like you.” The Shorter Lexicon suggests “same natures.”

“proclaim the good news”: it comes from the verb euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh). See v. 7 for a closer look.

“empty”: it comes from the adjective mataios (pronounced mah-ty-ohss), and it means idle, empty, worthless, or foolish.

16-18:

This is called argument from design or the Design Argument. God made this world inhabitable for humanity. It is fine-tuned for us. Either this universe came about by chance or by design. The Bible says by design, and the designer is God. It is deceptive to hide God behind the generic label “Intelligent Designer.” No, the Bible calls him Elohim (God).

It can also be called natural theology or natural revelation. We can look at the world of nature around us and up at the night sky and come to a certain level of knowledge of God, but it cannot lead the observer in the pagan world to salvation. Combined with moral reasoning and conscience, observing nature can lead perhaps to good behavior, knowing that God can judge people for bad behavior.

Bruce on preaching the gospel to pagans (as distinct form a Jewish or God-fearing audience):

Preachers to such audience would not be expected to insist on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, as they did in addressing synagogue congregations; instead, an appeal to the natural revelation of God the Creator is put in the forefront. Yet this appeal is couched in language largely drawn from the Old Testament (See Exod. 20:11; … Esther 4:17; Jer. 2:5; 8:19) (comment on vv. 15-17).

This kind of preaching can be effective because 1 Thess. 1:9-10 says:

… They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:9-10, NIV).

No doubt Paul discussed with the Thessalonians the Son of God and then backed up his preaching with signs and wonders

Also, Paul tells the Roman audience, who already believed, the following:

19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Rom. 1:19-20, NIV)

But then Paul goes on to say that most people became dark in their thinking (Rom. 1:21-23). Human nature is weighted down with sins and often crushes moral reasoning. Polhill explains the differences between Paul’s speech here in Acts and his letter to the Romans: “Paul used the argument from creation to build bridges, to establish a point of identification with his pagan hearers. While they may never have heard of his God before, they had seen him—in his providential works of nature. In Rom 1:18–25 Paul was seeking to establish humanity’s responsibility before a just God” (comment on vv. 14-18).

It is best to tailor our preaching to the audience.

Note how Paul is using argumentation to communicate the truths of God. Argumentation does not mean getting in an unpleasant quarrel, but a logical and sequential and orderly presentation of your beliefs and passions. An argument is a “coherent series of reasons” (Webster’s).

Paul was a balanced believer in Jesus. He had the gift of the Spirit working in him and did a healing miracle in the previous section. A man lame from birth was healed. And now Paul is using a series of coherent reasons to persuade stirred-up people—barely!

Keener (p. 350): “If response to the apostles’ message was mixed in Iconium (14:1-7), it proves still more ironic in Lystra. After Jesus’s message heals a permanently disabled man (14:8-10), the crowds attempts to venerate the apostles (14:11-13); after the apostles reject such veneration (14:14-18), fellow monotheists have them stoned—for blasphemy (14:19-20a)!”

Persecution, Recovery, and Appointment of Church Leaders (Acts 14:19-23)

19 Then Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and after persuading the crowds and stoning Paul, they dragged him outside of the city, thinking he had died. 20 But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the city. The next day, he left with Barnabas for Derbe. 21 After preaching the good news to that city and making many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the minds of the disciples, encouraging them to remain in the faith, saying, “Through many hardships we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 They handpicked elders for them in each local church, praying with fasting, and commended them to the Lord, in whom they had believed.

Comments:

19:

There was communication between the towns. This was mob violence. It happened right after a miracle healing. It could be that the crowds were insulted that Paul and Barnabas denied polytheism and Zeus and Hermes, but preached monotheism in the previous section. We almost had the second recorded martyr; Stephen was the first (Acts 7:54-8:1).

“thinking he had died”: His body appeared lifeless. It did not move. He was temporarily knocked out, but apparently the body was not dead, but they thought it was.

Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. (2 Cor 11:25, NIV, emphasis added)

From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. (Gal. 6:17, NIV)

Yes, his beatings left scars, but so did the rocks.

20:

“gathered around”: It is the Greek verb kukloō (pronounced koo-kloh-oh), and we get our word cycle from its noun form (kuklo– or cycl-). It means to encircle or surround or go around or circle around. Here we need to see the disciples surrounding him for prayer. Remember, v. 3 set the atmosphere in Acts 14 as supercharged with the power of the Spirit. Here Luke omits the details of their praying, but what else did they do? Pick him up? No, because the verse says he got up (on his own). So they were praying.

“he got up”: It is clear that this is a miracle of healing—a “near-resurrection,” “near” because he probably was not dead, but they only thought he was.

He went right back into the city. Now that is courage and defiance that comes from God. As noted in 14, Paul was not afraid to run into danger. It is almost as if he wanted to show his fellow Jews and the Gentiles who were persuaded by them to stone him, that here is another miracle. Nothing can stop the new Jesus movement. He is alive and guiding his new community past Judaism and paganism.

God had worked such a miracle of bodily restoration and healing in Paul that on the next day he could walk to the next town. Amazing.

21:

“preached the good news”: it comes from the verb euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh). See v. 7 for a closer look.

“made many disciples”: it comes from the one verb mathēteuō (pronounced mah-thay-too-oh), and we get out word math from it. It means to become a pupil, student, adherent or learner. It goes deeper than win converts. Paul’s and Barnabas’s ministry was effective. They obeyed the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:20), and it is the same verb in Greek.

Word Study on Disciple

I like what Bruce says about Paul’s and Barnabas’s return: “Even so, a tribute must be paid to the courage of the two men in returning so soon to Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch—cities from which they had so lately been expelled with shameful brutality” (comment on v. 21). Bruce’s understatement is charming.

22:

“strengthened”: it comes from the Greek verb epistērizō (pronounced eh-pee-stay-ree-zoh), and the stem stēr– is where we get our word stereo. Here it means the soul’s stiffening, shoring up, steeling up (not that steel existed back then!) or reinforcing.

“encouraging”: it comes from the Greek verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh). It is related to the noun paraklēsis (pronounced pah-rah-klay-sees), and the Greek in the Gospel of John is paraklētos (pronounced pah-rah-klay-tohs) (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:6). The three words are related and can mean the following things, depending on the context—or they can mean all of them at the same time. What do you need from the Spirit? Here are some options: “counselor / counsel,” “advocate (defense attorney),” “helper / help,” “comforter / comfort,” “encourager / encouragement,” and “intercessor / intercession.”

Paul encouraged them to remain in the faith, as distinct from the law of Moses for the Jews (Acts 13:39) and paganism for the Gentiles.

“hardships”: in Greek it is the noun thlipsis (pronounced th’leep-sees). It can be translated as “affliction” or “oppression.”

“kingdom of God”: here it means the kingdom that will appear in its fulness at the Second Coming or when we die and by God’s grace enter heaven. Matt. 17:1-9 describes the glory coming down from heaven with Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Right before this remarkable scene, in the final verse of Matt. 16, Jesus told the disciples that they would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in his kingdom (Matt. 16:28). Clearly, this coming was partly fulfilled on the mountain top. And here in v. 23, it means the same thing. It is not talking about the initial entering the kingdom at conversion, going from light to dark by the born-again experience (John 3:3). Rather, from the moment we are born and then born again by the Spirit, life is full of hardships and trials and tribulations because we live in a fallen world. However, this saying of Paul does not involve God putting diseases on people. Instead, his Son spent his ministry taking diseases off of people. The context of Paul’s hardship is persecution.

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26.

“the faith”: it is a generic term for believing and remaining in Christ and also a set of beliefs that Paul was teaching them. See v. 1 for a closer look at faith and believing.

Here Paul assumes that one can drift away from the faith, after genuine salvation by grace through faith. This potential to walk away after being ground down by opponents and circumstances can become actual. The potential can become actual. This warning is not empty.

Remaining a Christian or Falling Away?

Possible Apostasy or Eternal Security?

23:

“handpicked”: it comes from the Greek verb cheirotoneō (pronounced khay-roh-toh-neh-oh), which combines the word cheir– (hand) and ton– (stretching out or reaching out). It means to appoint, choose or elect by raising one’s hand, or install. Originally and literally, people voted by raising (stretching out) their hand. Here it means to appoint or install. Wisdom and Scripture (1 Tim. 3:6) says not to appoint novices to leadership, so Paul and Barnabas were taking a risk. We have to trust that they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to have discernment and guidance to pick the right ones. But in normal circumstances, please be sure the elders have a long walk with God and also have wisdom from above (Jas. 3:17).

“praying”: It is extremely important to pray before selecting leaders and committing or commending them to the Lord, just before you leave them in charge. Jesus prayed before he chose the twelve (Luke 6:12-16), so how much more should we?

It is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God. I like to believe that they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish or heartfelt payer to a pagan deity.

Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24; Rom. 8:1); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages and our native languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). But that’s what all believers should do; however, too often theory outruns practice. Pray!

Prayer can be (1) for oneself, like overcoming sins and vices in your heart and mind or receiving wisdom from above (James 3:17) and not being double-minded about receiving it (Jas. 1:5-8), but (2) it is also for the needs of the community. It was coming under attack, so prayers were offered. Praying for boldness to reach out and spread the word is wonderful. We should do it more often. (3) Further, prayer brings down the manifest presence of God. God is omnipresent (everywhere) of course, but his presence can make itself felt and experienced. God showed up and shook the place where they were gathered.

Prayer can be visualized like a pebble in a pond, and the ripples go outward. (1) It starts with oneself and one’s needs; (2) then it goes outward to one’s own family and (3) to the Christian community (your home church). (4) It goes out to evangelism and the needs of the world around the community, (5) and finally to parts around the globe. But this prayer here in Acts varies the order, which you may do, if you like. Prayer is ultimately and most deeply a conversation with God.

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

“fasting”: this practice may be involved in selecting leaders, especially since Barnabas and Saul were newcomers to these towns. They had to get extra-clear wisdom, in a hurry.

There are all sorts of ways to fast:

Eating no food, but drinking water, which is standard;

No food and no water, but only for a short time (Acts 9:9);

No delicacies (Dan. 10:3);

And anything in between.

In the OT the purposes of fasting were, as follows:

Preparing for God’s law (Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9, 18);

Preparing for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31);

Showing grief at time of death (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12);

Showing remorse for sin (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1; Ps. 35:13);

Praying in time of national need (2 Chron. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21; Est. 4:16; Joel 2:15-17);

Praying for personal reasons (2 Sam. 12:16, 21; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3-4);

But be warned: prophets criticized fasting for outward show (Is. 58:3-7; Jer. 14:12; Zec. 7:4-10).

In the NT, the purposes of fasting were as follows:

Jesus fasted to overcome temptation and prepare for his ministry (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13);

Saul fasted after his conversion to humble himself and work out the massive change in his worldview (Acts 9:9);

Part of worship (here in Acts 13:2);

Preparing for ministry (here in Acts 13:1-3; 14:23);

Sending off for ministry (here in Acts 13:3; 14:23);

Jesus’s disciples did not fast while he was there, but when he was gone, they would fast (Matt. 9:14-15);

Jesus criticized fasting for its outward show (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 18:9-14).

You can look up those verses to expand on those reasons. It is interesting, however, that nowhere does it say in the NT that believers should fast to prove their remorse and sorrow for sin. Forgiveness is not added to or enhanced by our outer show of works (fasting is a religious work). Forgiveness of sins is received by repentance and faith in Jesus (v. 38).

“commended”: it comes from the verb paratithēmi (pronounced pah-rah-tih-thay-mee), and it combines para– (alongside or near) and tithēmi (the standard verb for putting or placing). So we should see the apostles putting the elders in the hands of the Lord, committing them to him.

Did the apostles lay hands on the elders, even though Luke does not state this openly? It is most likely that they did, because that’s what the small group did for the two missionaries (Acts 13:3). Here again we see Luke omitting details because he assumes we will fill in the gaps with the power and anointing of the Spirit inserted in those ellipses. This is why I have nicknamed him Luke the Omitter. (Or he could be called Luke the Condenser.)

Next question: did these elders receive the fulness of the Spirit and some manifested gifts, even though Luke does not record any of this—again omitting details!

Paul, after all, writing later, said he spoke in his Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18). He said he wanted everyone to pray in their spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:5) and not forbid this wonderful gift (1 Cor. 14:39).

Therefore, Luke does not need to link the fullness or baptism of the Spirit with prayer languages in every verse that talks about installing ministers. It would be like Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, intervening to tell his readers on every other page, “Don’t forget! We’re on a whaling ship!” In Acts, Luke omits some of these details, but that is how all four Gospels and Acts are presented to us: elliptical. But the entire context of Acts is Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled. The entire book is very charismatic. Luke expects us to fill in the ellipses with the power of the Spirit and manifested gifts, like prayer languages.

It is like the anointing of Jesus at his water baptism with the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove (Luke 3:31-22; 4:18-19). From then on, Jesus worked miracles of nature and healing and demonic expulsion in the third Gospel, and Luke does not have to announce every time Jesus did those things: “Remember when I wrote that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit? He worked that miracle based on those verses!” Rather, Luke expects us to fill in those omissions with the power of the Spirit. Likewise, in the many cases of Christian witness from town to town in Acts, Luke expects us to fill in the omissions with the same empowerment because of Acts 2:1-4. And so Luke-Acts is all very charismatic, which is normative for the church throughout its history. Spirit-filled empowerment and anointing continues.

It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34. Believe it or not, throughout this first missionary journey, Luke does not record one water baptism, but we can be sure they were done because that was the early practice. Luke expects us to fill in these omissions. This is why I nicknamed him “the Omitter” or “the Condenser”.

“believed”: see v. 1 for more comments.

GrowApp for Acts 14:19-23

A.. We go through many troubles from opponents and circumstances. Have you ever been ground down to such a point that you have almost walked away from God? How did your faith remain strong?

B.. Have you ever walked away from your relationship with God? How did he woo you back?

Return to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:24-28)

24 Then, when they passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 After they spoke the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they set sail back to Antioch, from where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they completed. 27 After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything that God did with them and that he opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 They spent not a little time with the disciples.

Comments:

Reaching Antioch, they complete their first missionary journey.

24-25:

“word”: this is the message of the gospel, and probably included Messianic prophecies for the Jews. We should include them in our teaching, whenever appropriate.

See a table of them here:

Messianic Prophecies

At that link, there is a long table of the NT quoting the OT, but Jesus fulfills more than just quoted verses. He fulfills the themes and patterns of the entire OT, like the entire sacrificial system and salvation.

Please see v. 3, for a closer look at the Greek noun logos.

“committed”: it comes from the Greek verb paradidōmi (pronounced pah-rah-dee-doh-mee), and it combines the prefix para– (alongside or near) and didōmi (standard verb for giving or to give). It can mean “handed over” or “given over” to the grace of God.

“grace”: see v. 3 for a closer look. Here it means the supernatural empowerment and ability to obey whatever God says to you, within the confines of moral law, which is laid out everywhere in the NT.

“completed”: it comes from the verb plēroō (pronounced play-ro-oh), and it means, depending on the context: fill, make full, fill up; influence fully, possess fully; to complete or to perfect; perform fully, discharge; realize, consummate; to accomplish, fulfill. Here it means, yes, “completed,” but it could also be translated as “accomplished” or “fulfilled” or carried out.” God is looking for his people to finish their journey and the task to which he called them. If you are tempted to give up, pray for the power of the Spirit. Seek fellowship with strong believers. Paul and Barnabas had each other and the new disciples they made, and they had the fullness of the Spirit.

27:

“church”: In Greek it is ekklēsia (pronounced ek-klay-see-ah) and the meaning has roots in both Hebrew and Greek. It literally describes an assembly or gathering. It literally means “the ones called out” or “the called out” or “the summoned” who gather together.

Jesus’s commission to go into Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth is gradually being fulfilled (1:8). It is stunning how rapidly the gospel was spreading in Israel—may it spread as quickly and widely even today in Israel. The church, wherever it is found, should be unified as one. It describes an assembly or gathering.

Some extra-enthusiastic and super-confident Renewalists say that from this definition, they can “legislate” events to happen (or something). Of course, they overstate the basic meaning of the word outside of the church context. Just because an assembly can legislate in the pagan world does not mean Christians can now do this in the Spirit world. Further, another legislative body was the Council (boulē, pronounced boo-lay), the upper chamber of the rich landowners. They had to approve of the lower chamber’s legislation. If we take the historical context too far, then where is the Council? So, to judge from the historical context, the church as the ekklēsia cannot legislate. Instead, these extra-human-centered Christians should simplify things and ask God for his intervention. Prayer to our loving Father is sufficient, without complications or convoluted trends and ideas that promote human-centered power.

Let’s look more deeply at the rich term. BDAG has a long discussion, but let’s look at only one subpoint.

By far the most Scriptures where ekklēsia appears comes under this definition: “congregation or church as the totality of Christian living and meeting in a particular locality or large geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place” (Acts 5:11; 8:3; 9:31; 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; see also 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:16; Jas. 5:14; 3 John 9). “More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22; see also 2:47) in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1); in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1); Laodicea (Col. 4:16; Rev. 3:14); in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1); Colossae (Plm. 1, subscript). Plural churches (Acts 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 8:18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13; 22; 22:16); the Christian community in Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14); in Galatia (Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1); in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20); in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1). An individual congregation or assembly (Acts 14:27).

Please see this post for BDAG’s fuller definition.

What Is the Church?

Bible Basics about the Church

Fellowship is so important for believers. Don’t believe the lie circulating in American society, particularly in social media, that not going to church is good enough. People who skip constant fellowship are prone to sin and self-deception and satanic attacks. We need each other.

This link has a list of the famous “one another” verses, like “love one another.”

What Is Fellowship?

Further, since American Christianity is undergoing discussion on the sizes of churches, let me add: the earliest Christian community met either in houses (Acts 2:46) or in Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem (Acts 3:11; 5:12) or a large number in Antioch (11:26), which could hold a large gathering—call it a mega-church—and presumably in mid-sized gatherings. Size does not matter, since it varies so widely.

Moreover, one thing that impresses me about all those above references, is that the apostles, as they planted churches, were guided by the Spirit—always—and they were also deliberate about setting them up and establishing them. Planning is Scriptural. So wisdom says: listen to the Spirit and plan. Listen as you plan and be ready to drop your plans at a moment notice, when the Spirit says so. God will grow the church as we proclaim the good news.

“did with them”: this speaks of their total surrender to God, and God working with them. One thing he did with them is to preach to the Gentiles, who were hungry for something more than just empty and tiring Greek deities like Zeus and Hermes. Who knows when these gods really came to earth because these claimed visitations are not recorded within historical parameters. Pagan religion was not fulfilling for the masses (though some stayed in it). They needed the living Lord. It could also be translated as “through them.” (See Acts 15:4 for its other use.)

“door of faith”: it is a literal translation, and it is a revealing and rich phrase. God opens the door to anyone who wants to walk through it. It speaks of an invitation from God. I believe God has to draw us to salvation by the Spirit. Then we can walk into his kingdom. But we can also resist his calling throughout our lives. We have enough free will to resist God, but not enough free will to accept him without his assistance. And yes, God wants everyone to be saved, not just a pre-handpicked few. In this case, God opened the door of faith—as distinct from the law—to Gentiles. God gave them the opportunity to receive the message of faith in Christ and not the religion of paganism—and certainly not legalist Judaism, which required circumcision and law keeping, which will be a hot topic in Acts 15.

“faith”: see v. 1 for more comments.

28:

“not a little time”: This means a long time. The phrasing is known as a litotes (pronounced lih-toh-tees), or an understatement that expresses the affirmative by a negative! Luke likes litotes: Acts 12:18; 14:17, 28; 15:2; 17:4, 12, 27; 19:11, 23; 20:12; 21:39; 26:19; 27:20; 28:2.

“disciples”: In Acts, this term refers to followers of Jesus on some level. The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”

Word Study on Disciple

Let’s summarize this first missionary journey with this table, introduced in Acts 13. Schnabel provides this timeline of Paul’s missionary activity:

Period 1 Damascus Acts 9:19-25; Gal 1:17 AD 32/33
Period 2 Arabia / Nabatea Gal 1:17; 2 Cor 11:32 32-33
Period 3 Jerusalem Acts 9:26-29; Rom. 1:16 33/34
Period 4 Syria / Cilicia, Tarsus Acts 9:30; 11:25-26; Gal 1:21 34-42
Period 5 Syria

Antioch

Acts 11:26-30; 13:1 42-44
Period 6 Cyprus (Salamis, Paphos) Acts 13:4-12 45
Period 7 Galatia (Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe,

Pamphylia (Perge)

Acts 13:14-14:23;

 

14:24-26

45-47

 

47

Period 8 Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) Acts 16:6-17:15 49-50
Period 9 Achaia (Athens, Corinth) Acts 17:16-18:28 50-51
Period 10 Asia (Ephesus) Acts 19:1-41 52-55
Period 11 Illyricum Rom 15:19 56
Period 12 Judea (Caesarea) Acts 21:27-26:32 57-59
Period 13 Rome Acts 28:17-28 60-62
Period 14 Spain 1 Clement 5:5-7 63-64?
Period 15 Crete Titus 1:5 64-65?
Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts, Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2012, p. 549. He says that a conservative estimate is that between AD 32-65 Paul traveled at least 15,500 miles (25,000 km). Of that total, 8700 miles (14,000 km) were on foot.

And Bock summarizes the regions and cities for Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, in his table:

City Region
Antioch Syria
Salamis Cyprus (Island)
Paphos Cyprus (Island
Perga Pamphylia
Antioch Pisidia
Iconium Lycaonia
Lystra Lycaonia
Derbe Lycaonia
Lystra Lycaonia
Derbe Lycaonia
Iconium Lycaonia
Antioch Pisidia
Perga Pamphylia
Attalia Pamphylia
Antioch Syria
Bock, p. 485, modified

You can look up the regions and cities online in a Bible map. Have fun!

GrowApp for Acts 14:24-28

A.. Paul and Barnabas completed their mission, even though they got persecuted. God loves it when his disciples complete his mission, which is different for each disciple. What is your mission, large or small? Have you completed yours? Do you intend to complete it, no matter the opposition?

Observations for Discipleship

Barnabas and Paul were on their first missionary journey. They traveled two by two, not alone. It is a blessing for them that they spoke the language and understood the culture, so their work was not “foreign”; that is, they were not “foreign missionaries.” Let’s not forget that. Missionaries who learn difficult languages, like Chinese (difficult for Westerners!), and live in hostile territories, like the ones dominated by Islam, have more barriers to overcome. And let’s not forget that, either.

God worked signs and wonders through the hands of Paul and Barnabas by the power of the Spirit. If our mission work does not include these power gifts that restore humanity from brokenness to wholeness, then we are missing some portions of what God has for us and the people. God loves incomplete and unhealed people and offers them good gifts like salvation and healing. These gifts might just flow through your hands. I like this caution from Schnabel: “The occurrence of miracles cannot be ‘factored in’ when missionaries plan strategies or write ‘to-do-lists’ for successful church-planting ministries. The supernatural power of God cannot be reduced to a mere ‘factor’ that we can plan, use, or execute in order to achieve preformulated goals. Miracles, should God grant them, do not make church planting automatically successful. The end result of the healing of the lame man was the Lystrans’ stoning of Paul. Miracles are easily misunderstood of their cause and meaning are not seen in the context of the proclamation of the word of God” (p. 617). I agree that miracles should not be added to a “to-do” list, but I can’t see why missionaries should not expect them. Yet Prof. Schnabel’s caution is right. It’s a full approach to church planting, mostly the word (p. 618).

Paul and Barnabas shaped their (recorded) sermons to their audience. In Acts 13:16-41, he was in a Jewish synagogue and talked about the history of the Hebrew people, and halfway through his speech he brought it to Jesus the Messiah; then he talked about Messianic prophecies. Here in Acts 14:14-18, he talked about the Intelligent Designer, that is, God. He made the universe habitable for all. Paul preached monotheism to polytheists. Some could criticize him for not preaching Jesus, but his goal was to explain to the whipped-up crowd that he and Barnabas were not Zeus and Hermes. And as they ministered in that city, they must have talked about the Lordship of Jesus, because throughout the first missionary journey, they made many disciples.

A year ago, I got a shock. I heard an interview between an aging evangelist to Africa, who could draw hundreds of thousands in his campaigns. They showcased an extended campaign in the smaller region of Lesotho, in the nation of South Africa, in the 1970s. Then I channeled-surfed away and landed on a medical show that showcased Lesotho today. It was inundated with AIDS. That’s what shocked me. Something broke down from the evangelistic campaign in the 1970s to the current time and the people’s battle with AIDS.

Paul and Barnabas installed leaders after they fasted and prayed in the local churches. Discipleship means not just converting people, but seeing and helping them grow in Christ. In Acts 16:1-6, Paul and Timothy visited the cities of the first missionary journey. They made sure the churches were established.

Fasting and praying may be essential for us if we want to grow in Christ. Are we willing to go deeper? It’s a difficult path to fast, but it breaks strongholds, mostly in our minds.

SOURCES

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.

Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.

Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.

Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.

Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.

Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.

Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.

Works Cited

 

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