Script for the July 6th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the July 6th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is Job 32-33 and Acts 14, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.
If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may answer it on the next podcast.
Acts 14:1 (CSB): “In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue, as usual, and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.”
As Paul and Barnabas continued to make a clockwise trip through southern Asia (present-day Turkey), they came to a city called Iconium. They boldly proclaimed the Gospel, and “many Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) believed.” God was greatly blessing their efforts.
However, a point I’ve made on a previous podcast is that when God is moving, be warned that an enemy attack might be around the corner. We don’t want to be pessimists or “glass-half-empty” folks, but it generally works that way.
So, what happened when Paul and Barnabas saw many souls being saved due to their Gospel proclamations?
Acts 14:2 (CSB): “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.”
We are reminded that the Gospel doesn’t always unite. Sometimes, it divides. It places a wedge between those who love the Lord and those who don’t. This reminds us of some words that Jesus told us.
Matthew 10:34-36 (CSB): “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
So were those men who showed up to cause trouble able to stop Paul and Barnabas? Did they scare God’s messengers into leaving?
Acts 14:3-4 (CSB): “So they stayed there a long time and spoke boldly for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace by enabling them to do signs and wonders. But the people of the city were divided, some siding with the Jews and others with the apostles.”
Paul and Barnabas stayed and continued to preach the Gospel in a hostile environment. But then it got out of hand. The animosity grew from trying to undermine the message to trying to kill the messenger.
Acts 14:5-7 (CSB): “When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside. There they continued preaching the gospel.”
The disciples fled to a neighboring city to the south. In Lystra, Paul healed a man.
Acts 14:8-10 (CSB): “In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ And he jumped up and began to walk around.”
You can imagine how the crowds responded when they saw the supernatural healing of the man who was born lame. They were beside themselves with excitement and interpreted the events based on their worldview. They worshipped the Greek gods, so they assumed that two of the gods had come down to them.
Once again, we see God moving powerfully, and then things turn south quickly.
Acts 14:11-13 (CSB): “When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought bulls and wreaths to the gates because he intended, with the crowds, to offer sacrifice.”
Paul and Barnabas had shown up to share the Gospel. They came to point people to Jesus. But the focus was taken off of their message when the crowds prepared to sacrifice to them.
Acts 14:14 (CSB): “The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting,”
This was sacrilege. Paul and Barnabas couldn’t allow this to occur. So they responded passionately. They didn’t just quietly tell the people not to sacrifice to them. They ripped their clothes to show their inner turmoil. Then they raced into the crowd and yelled their response so everyone could hear.
Acts 14:15-17 (CSB): “People! Why are you doing these things? We are people also, just like you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own way, although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”
Paul’s message was that God had previously let nations follow after other gods, but He has always had a witness. There has always been someone or something pointing the way to the Lord. Paul pointed to nature (“rain and fruitful seasons”) and the capacity for joy as witnesses to a gracious God who loves His creation and desires for them to know Him.
When Paul spoke about the witnesses that God has provided, it seems that he was referring to what he would mention later in his letter to the Christians in Rome.
Romans 1:18-23 (CSB): “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.”
The Gospel cannot be known by looking at the created order. However, the created order does tell us certain things about God. Nature tells us that there is an infinitely powerful God who is good, creative, benevolent, and many other things. To reject that there is a God is to deny what our eyes see and our minds comprehend.
So, Paul and Barnabas are saying that they are not gods. But there is a God in Heaven who wants everyone to know Him and enjoy Him. This mob who wanted to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas have seen evidence of this God in the natural order around them.
Acts 14:18 (CSB): “Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.”
The pendulum swings back. Paul and Barnabas have gained control of the crowd and were once again prepared to share the Gospel message and reap a harvest of souls if God so willed.
But the pendulum would swing again – quickly. Some of the people that caused so much trouble for Paul and Barnabas in the previous cities arrived at Lystra. They saw Paul and Barnabas and were going to do whatever they could to shut them up.
Acts 14:19 (CSB): “Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.”
Try to imagine this scene. To the horror of Barnabas and his companions, he watched helplessly as the mob threw rocks at Paul. The sizeable rocks that hit his chest and back landed with an audible thud. The rocks that hit his head and face would have sounded a bit louder since they were hitting bone.
When it was all said and done, Paul would have been lying lifeless on the ground. The mob left with a sense of satisfaction as Paul’s companions helplessly surrounded him. His body would have been covered with blood. There would have been cuts, some probably deep. If his mouth was open, they could see that teeth were missing. There would have been visible knots on his head, some very large. His face may have been unrecognizable.
But a believer cannot die, no matter what others may do to him or her until it is God’s time for them to inherit their eternal reward. It was obviously not Paul’s time.
Acts 14:20 (CSB): “After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.”
Paul was fearless! Instead of fleeing the town when he came to his senses, “he got up and went into the town,” stayed the night, and left the next morning.
I can only imagine that he wanted the people to realize they weren’t messing with wimps. Instead, they were messing with people serious about following the Lord and willing to give their lives so that others might know the Gospel message.
Then, they traveled about 60 miles due east and arrived at the city of Derbe. It is noteworthy that Derbe was only about 100 miles from Tarsus, Paul’s hometown. We wouldn’t have blamed Paul if he just headed home. His first missionary trip had been productive. He had stood courageously and even took a beating to share the Gospel. It would have been OK for him to head home. But he didn’t.
Acts 14:21-22 (CSB): “After they had preached the gospel in that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, ‘It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’”
So, while they were in Derbe, they preached the Gospel and “made many disciples.” They didn’t just get people saved. They were making Jesus-followers.
Then, they turned around and went back to the cities that had persecuted them. They were bold and fearless as they relied upon the Lord.
They encouraged the Jesus-followers in those cities to continue to follow the Lord. They also told them that persecution was part of following Jesus. If they wanted Jesus, they were going to experience some really hard, painful times.
But I imagine that Paul was continuing to wear the marks on his body that testified to the fact that he had been able to stand firm in times of persecution as he relied upon the Lord. Paul’s appearance may have sobered them but let them know that Paul’s words had credibility. He wasn’t calling them to anything he had not personally experienced.
We are also told in these verses that Paul and Barnabas went back to the cities that had persecuted them. They wanted to show the followers of Jesus in those cities what bold Christianity looked like. They set an example and almost certainly emboldened the Christians in those cities to live for Jesus.
One activity that Paul, Barnabas, and their companions did as they went into each city was to assign the elders/pastors of the churches. Christianity was never intended to be lived alone. It was always intended to be lived in community in churches. And churches needed elders/pastors.
Acts 14:23 (CSB): “When they had appointed elders for them in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”
Once again, we see that “elders” is written as plural, not singular. Paul and his group didn’t assign one elder for each church. Instead, they “appointed elders for them in every church.” This biblical model of church governance gave the church the benefit of shared leadership and shared wisdom, among many other benefits.
One other thing we notice is that those elders were not chosen whimsically. Instead, the selection of elders was accompanied by prayer and fasting. Those Christian leaders sought the Lord’s guidance in who would serve as elders in each church.
Eventually, they made their way back to the port city of Attalia on the Mediterranean Sea.
Acts 14:24-25 (CSB): “They passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. After they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.”
Once they arrived in Attalia, they boarded a ship, headed south, and then due east to return to Antioch.
This chapter ends with Paul and Barnabas’ report to their sending church.
Acts 14:26-28 (CSB): “From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent a considerable time with the disciples.”
I suspect that some of the folks in that congregation would have assumed that it was too dangerous to do mission work like this again. However, Paul and Barnabas’ passion for Jesus and the Gospel made it clear that mission work was well worth the danger they faced. Maybe they didn’t realize it yet, but they would eventually go on three more missionary journeys, two of which are recorded in the book of Acts.
Lord Jesus, I am reminded in the book of Acts that following You isn’t always safe. In fact, it may be that there will be difficulties that come my way because I am following You. But knowing and enjoying You is worth whatever inconvenience comes my way. Enable me, Holy Spirit, to stand strong until that day when I arrive in my Heavenly home, never to suffer again. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you next time!