Whatever It Takes
So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed. (Acts of the Apostles 16:10-15 NLT)
There are several things going on here. Notice the word "we" in verse 10. This refers to Luke who is also recognized as the author of this book and the gospel of Luke. Luke is the historian who writes this book as a narrative of the first century church. The reason this book has the name "Acts" is that it refers to the acts performed in the name of Jesus by the Holy Spirit through the apostles.
Paul, Silas, and Luke immediately go to Troas (the seaport) and board a ship to Samothrace (an island in the Aegean Sea. It is about 11 miles long). From there they sailed to Neapolis, a seaport in southeast Macedonia. They, then, traveled to Philippi, a major city and a Roman colony. After staying there several days, they went to the riverbank on the sabbath (Saturday-the seventh day) in hopes of meeting some who had gathered for prayer. Paul knew that if there were any Jewish and/or Gentile worshipers of Jehovah, they would be gathered for prayer on the Sabbath. It is possible that there was no synagogue there. When he arrived at the riverbank, some women had gathered.
Women have a tendency to be more open and tender to the things of God than men. 60 % of attendees in church are women. Would to God that men would turn their ears and hearts to God!
Paul meets a woman named Lydia there at the prayer gathering. She and the others were obviously monotheistic (one God) worshipers. However, they were only aware of the Old Covenant. They had not been instructed in the things of the New Covenant. Paul shared the gospel of Jesus with them and the Lord opened her heart to the truth. She gladly accepted Jesus as her Savior and Lord and was immediately baptized in the river. Her household did the same. This could mean her family and servants or just her servants. Either way, the entire household was won to Christ Jesus. They, too, were baptized.
Lydia was well to do. She had made a good living by selling purple cloth. Thyatira, a city in Asia Minor (now Turkey), was known for its dyeing industry. Lydia was apparently a merchant of this trade from that part of the world who was now thriving in business in Macedonia. She insisted that Paul and his traveling companions stay at her residence. She wanted to show her love for Christ by taking care of the men of God. She made sure their meals were provided and any other necessary and appropriate service in order to further their ministry. I'm sure this was of great encouragement to them. Lydia is noted as the first European convert to Christ. She may have given a generous offering to support the gospel ministry as well. We need more people like Lydia in the church. Someone who loves Jesus and is willing to do whatever it takes to serve. How about you?
Preach The Gospel
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
(Acts 16:6-10 NKJV)
Phrygia was just north of Antioch of Pisidia (Asia Minor - now Turkey). Galatia was just northeast of there. Bithynia was north-northwest and Mysia was north west (all in Asia Minor). Troas was a coastal city in the most northwestern part of Asia Minor. Apparently, the Holy Spirit directed the steps and travels of Paul and Silas to a new frontier - Macedonia. Macedonia was larger in that time than it is today. The area comprised most of what we call today Greece, Northern Greece.
Perhaps the churches that were already established in the Asia Minor region were able to complete the mission efforts in that region. Others needed to hear the gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:3 says "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:"
Romans 10:17 says "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." We are commissioned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (See Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15- end of the chapter; Luke 24:47). In fact, the end of the world, as we know it, is connected to the gospel being preached in all nations. Matthew 24:14 says "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." The world that awaits us is a restoration of God's creation. No Satan, sin, sorrow, suffering, or death. (see Revelation 21:1-7). The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, has made salvation available!!! Preach the gospel saints! Preach the gospel. Eternity depends on it!
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.
(Acts of the Apostles 16:1-5 NLT)
Paul wasn't endorsing the continued practice of circumcision. He simply was protecting his protégé (one being helped by someone who is a mentor). Paul had been attacked often by some Jewish leaders over his proclamation of the gospel of the grace of God. He didn't want the issue of Timothy's uncircumcision to become a problem for Timothy, especially since his father was a Gentile (Greek). Being mixed in his race (Gentile father and Jewish mother), Timothy was already being viewed by the Jewish people in a potentially negative light. This is similar to the story of the woman of Samaria that Jesus met at the well in John 4. Jews and Samaritans didn't get along. Despite our best efforts, racism, traditional practices, and cultural customs become obstacles that we have to overcome. Timothy's circumcision had nothing to do with salvation or a requirement thereafter. Paul was disarming the enemy before a launch could be made. We see in the passage itself that Paul and Timothy went to the established churches to affirm them in their faith and practice. They proclaimed the good news of the "Jerusalem council" that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. The churches were encouraged and grew larger every day.
We, too, face cultural challenges, both in the church, and out. We must be completely firm in the proclamation of the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We must never compromise the truth. We must understand the times and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) to address the culture. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say it this way in I Corinthians 9:20-23 (NLT) - "When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings."
Let's reach forth to the world around us with the good news of Jesus Christ!!! God, give us wisdom!
We Are Human
After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. (Acts of the Apostles 15:36-41 NLT)
Until this moment, Paul and Barnabas have been inseparable as fellow workers in the ministry.
Both of these men were fine, godly men, yet they were also human. As humans, we are prone to differences.
Looking back to Acts chapter 13 will remind us that John Mark (Barnabas nephew) was an assistant to them in their first missionary journey. He was raw and young. He could be considered an apprentice (someone who trains under another to learn a trade). While serving in this capacity, he (John Mark) deserted them as they were just arriving in the region of Pamphylia (south central Coastal area of Asia Minor, the land now known as Turkey). He returned home, apparently, for no legitimate reason.
This was still an obvious concern of Paul as Barnabas suggested to take John Mark on their second journey through the cities they had previously been to in the first journey. This caused a significant dissension between these brothers in Christ. It appears that Barnabas thought John Mark needed a second chance. Perhaps Barnabas had spoken to his nephew and/or observed his growth in Christ Jesus. Since he was his relative, it is certainly possible that he would know more about this young man than would Paul. Barnabas, by definition, means encourager. Barnabas was a tender heart and a compassionate man. Paul, on the other hand, appears to be a more rigid, regimented man. He may have been a good drill sergeant. His background as a Pharisee required discipline and dedication. These characteristics could have influenced his view of John Mark. We can only speculate. Either way, the result of their contentious conversation was separation in their work. I do not believe that these men had less respect for each other, only that they could not agree on this controversial matter to the extent that it separated them in their direction of ministry. This is a difficult thing to consider when you think about the maturity of these men. How could they separate without resolution? It is a difficult passage.
Simply put, we all have moments in our Christian life where we have differences with other believers, even fellow workers in ministry. We need to work for resolution in every way possible. When no resolution is reached, we must be sure not to carry bitterness or any other contaminating, sinful attitude into our decided direction.
This story simply verifies that we are in a human, fallen world, even in church ministry. We must strive to live in love and fellowship in all possible ways (see Romans 12:18). When we must go out separate ways, let's not carry the garbage of hatred, bitterness, malice, or any other evil. We cannot minister in the name of Jesus when our spirit is grieved by the fleshly conduct of sin.
I believe that Paul and Barnabas maintained respect for each other and, perhaps later, came to a more agreeable position concerning John Mark. Paul asks for him in 2 Timothy 4:11 "Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry." Sometimes we look back on our lives and realize our mistakes. We all make them. Let's make sure we don't act or react harshly and too quickly. Let's remember that Jesus is patient with us when we desert Him. He still loves us.
One last thing: though we fail Him, let's learn from our mistakes and let Jesus make us better.
Life is too short to carry hold grudges and not forgive. Think of how many times Jesus forgives you!!! Remember “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NLT)
Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole church, resolved to select men from among their number and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, [both] leading men among the brethren, and sent them. With [them they sent] the following letter: The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings: As we have heard that some persons from our number have disturbed you with their teaching, unsettling your minds and throwing you into confusion, although we gave them no express orders or instructions [on the points in question], It has been resolved by us in assembly to select men and send them [as messengers] to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men who have hazarded their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will bring you the same message by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to lay upon you any greater burden than these indispensable requirements: That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from [tasting] blood and from [eating the meat of animals] that have been strangled and from sexual impurity. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Farewell [be strong]! So when [the messengers] were sent off, they went down to Antioch; and having assembled the congregation, they delivered the letter. And when they read it, the people rejoiced at the consolation and encouragement [it brought them]. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God), urged and warned and consoled and encouraged the brethren with many words and strengthened them. And after spending some time there, they were sent back by the brethren with [the greeting] peace to those who had sent them. However, Silas decided to stay on there. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch and with many others also continued teaching and proclaiming the good news, the Word of the Lord [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in God's kingdom]. (Acts 15:22-35 AMP)
After James, the pastor in Jerusalem, had made his decision, delegates were chosen to be sent to Antioch to report, by official letter, this decree.
As we recall the setting, Antioch of Syria was the place where the men of Judea had made their claim that the Gentiles were to be circumcised in order to be saved. It was necessary, then, to send a delegation to Antioch to address the issue on behalf of the authority vested in the overseer of the churches, James. He was the overseer of the entire church body. After hearing the counsel of the men under his charge, he made a decision. We see a very significant point here. Peter, Paul, the rest of the apostles, Barnabas, and all the other believers were in submission to their Pastor. This is something that has been lost in our time. Pastors are looked at as hired employees that do the preaching, teaching, visiting, baptizing, marrying, burying, and other "ministerial" duties. This is, most certainly, honorable service. However, there is an anointing and calling from God that supersedes these things. The pastor is an overseer (see I Thessalonians 5:12-13; I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:7,17; I Peter 5:1-4). The word "Pastor" means shepherd. He is one who leads. Sheep don't lead sheep. Shepherds lead sheep. There was no denominational handbook to refer to as an official declaration of doctrine. The Jerusalem church, under the godly leadership of James, Jesus brother, was in complete agreement with their Pastor. They accepted his decision and determined to send witnesses of this to Antioch to verify it in person and letter. The church was in its infancy and had come out of the roots of Judaism. Jesus was the center of their message. He was the New Covenant Truth. God's grace was the revelation of the church. This was hard for some to swallow since they had been wrapped up in such tradition and liturgy in their years of devotion to Judaism (Jewish faith and practice). Great anointing, wisdom, knowledge, and boldness was needed to preach, teach, and establish the foundation of the New Testament church. No wonder God took Paul into the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12. He had to receive, without question, the absolute truth of the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ and to understand the hardships that would befall him and others as they would be sent to declare it. This is why he was given the thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 as well. This thorn would keep him from getting too haughty in the depth of his God given revelation.
The church sent, to Antioch, Judas (Barsabbas), and Silas to accompany Paul and Barnabas as they relayed the declaration to the church. Antioch already knew Paul and Barnabas, but, in order to give further verification of their proclamation, they sent these two brothers in Christ along with them. Judas and Silas were godly, seasoned ministers of Christ. This gave further credence to the letter. After the church heard the reading of the letter, they rejoiced. They were relieved and encouraged. Judas and Silas spoke to the congregation to exhort them in the truth. Following this, they were sent back to Jerusalem. Judas returned, but Silas stayed.
Honorable and Respectful
Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity might seek the LORD, including the Gentiles— all those I have called to be mine. The LORD has spoken— he who made these things known so long ago.’ “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” (Acts of the Apostles 15:12-21 NLT)
This meeting is called "The Jerusalem Council" and is the first official meeting of the church collectively to address a matter of controversy. A few days ago, we saw that some people from Judea had gone to the church in Antioch of Syria to proclaim that the Gentiles had to be circumcised just like the Jews in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas vehemently argued against the idea. Now, we must remember that Paul was a staunch Pharisee in his past. He was even circumcised as a Jewish child himself (see Philippians 3:5-6). It was then determined that they would send Paul and Barnabas, along with some local church people, to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders to discuss the problem. On their way, they stopped in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers there. They told them the good news of the Gentile's reception of the gospel and they were joyous. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were gladly received by the church laity (non-leadership) as well as the apostles and elders.
After Peter had rehearsed the details of his own experience concerning the Gentiles reception by God in Acts 10, Paul and Barnabas took the floor. They, too, rehearsed the miracles and wonders God did among the Gentiles on their first missionary journey. The apostles and elders in the audience were listening intently. Finally, after hearing the various speakers, James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (the first New Testament church and seat of authority) stood to address the apostles and elders. There are three James mentioned in Acts; James (the son of Alphaeus) James (the brother of John, sons of Zebedee) and James the brother of Jesus. This James was the younger brother of Jesus (see Matthew 13:55). He was born to Joseph and Mary following the firstborn birth of Jesus. Jesus was born by Divine conception. His father was God.
As James addressed the gathering, he quoted Isaiah 45:21 and Amos 9:11-12 in order to connect the happenings of their time with Old Testament prophecy. He was verifying the authenticity of the Gentile's reception of God and by God. He made a decree concerning the matter at hand. His decision was that the Gentiles not be unnecessarily burdened with circumcision and other requirements of the law of Moses (Jewish regulations). The only thing he expected the Gentiles to do was to stay away from idol worship, food offered to idols, sexual immorality, and from consuming blood from strangled animals. Any pagan practice was forbidden, sexual purity was to be observed, and there was to be, absolutely, no consuming of blood.
This conduct would be honorable to God and also show respect toward the Jewish people. Anything we do must be under those two things: Honorable to God and respectful of others.
Jesus, And Jesus Alone!
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts of the Apostles 15:1-11 NLT)
It is often difficult to change our practices when we have done things a certain way for so many years. For centuries, two millennia (2000 years), the Jewish people had practiced the ceremony of circumcision on their males. This began all the way back at the time of Abraham. In Genesis 17:9-14, God instructs Abraham that each male born in the Jewish home was to be circumcised. This included any Gentile that was a follower of the Lord God Jehovah (Hebrew derivative of God's name) and any slaves that were in their homes. This was the ceremonial seal of the Abrahamic Covenant. The male foreskin was cut away as an act of removing the flesh. In the process, blood was shed. By cutting away the flesh from the male, this was symbolically indicating that each male was dedicated to God. This was to be done on the eighth day after birth (see Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3). From my understanding, there is a clotting factor present in a male’s blood on the eighth day that isn't present prior to that.
This can be looked at even deeper. The circumcision of the male also represented the commitment of the seed from the man as he would pass this seed along to his wife and they both would see the product of a child that God had given them. As each child would then be born, the covenant would be passed from generation to generation by circumcision.
It was a foreshadowing of what would come through Jesus. Through the loins of Abraham came the Messiah (Christ - see Matthew 1 and Luke 3 for a genealogical record). The apostle Paul deals with this in its finest in the book of Galatians. If you haven't read that book, please do! Jesus is the New Covenant fulfillment of this Old Testament symbolism. He, and He alone, could bear our sin (which the word flesh represents - our fallen state of human life apart from God). Only Jesus could bear our sin on the cross. By being God (Immanuel - God with us - Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14; 8:8,10), He was sinless. Though He was sorely tempted (Matthew 4; Luke 4; and Hebrews 4:15), He never once sinned. As the one, and only, acceptable sacrifice, once and for all, He took upon Himself, in his flesh, the sin of us all (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). By giving His life as a substitution for ours, He redeemed (purchased back by ransom) our dying, cursed lives. When we accept Jesus as the payment for our sins, the flesh (old nature) is removed, and the new man is resurrected (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Jews, particularly the former Pharisees, wanted to keep practicing circumcision as a part of salvation (the act of saving from eternal destruction). Their error was simple. Jesus had fulfilled all that was required for our salvation. Only our acceptance and trust in Him will bring us in right standing with God. Several scriptures declare this clearly (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 5:1; 6:23; 10:8-10,13; I John 5:13 and others). So let's be abundantly clear! Jesus, and Jesus alone can save!!!!!!!
We Need Each Other
Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples. (Acts 14:20-28 KJV)
On the next morning, Paul and Barnabas left Lystra for Derbe. Derbe was located slightly north and east of Lystra. There they preached the gospel and taught many. It doesn't indicate that there were converts, but we can assume that there were because they were well received. There was no hostility or violence towards them. I'm sure that they were relieved and refreshed to preach in a city where no Jewish group stirred up controversy or the natives tried to harm them. God knows when we need a time of renewal and rejuvenation. When they finished their work there, for which we have no specified amount of time, they returned through the cities they had been previously to fortify the faith of the new believers and to insure that the churches were standing strong and true. In spite of the risk of attack, imprisonment, or even death, they reminded the saints, (the new believers), that trouble will come to the believer in this sinful, hostile world. Following Jesus isn't a walk in the park, but, thank God, it isn't a walk in the dark. In our modern age, particularly in America, we are taught by some that following Jesus makes you immune to sickness, makes you prosper in finance, and allows you to walk in a seeming state of utopia, (ideal conditions), or euphoria, (an absolute sense of well being). Now, I realize, that even in my life, Jesus has made the distinct difference. However, my life has not been ideal or absolutely well in every natural sense. Spiritually, I live in the blessing and favor of Almighty God but, naturally, the struggles have been monumental. The stabilizing factor has been the Lord Jesus Christ. He has reminded me that He is with me, that He is greater than the enemy, (Satan), that He won't fail me, and that the world to come, (Heaven), is the land of Utopia And Euphoria!! (see John 14:1-3). Bless the Holy Name of Jesus!!! Even in John 16:33 we read where Jesus Himself said that He had taught us His Word so that we could find peace in this world because we will have tribulations. 2 Timothy 3:12 says "Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
Paul and Barnabas certainly did! These men were real men! A real man isn't measured in his natural, brute strength, education, popularity, anatomy, or financial position. Real men love Jesus and are willing to die for Him!!
Paul and Barnabas went to each established body of believers in each city they had been and, after fasting and prayer, ordained elders (spiritual leaders), Pastors. These men were not elected, they were appointed. Someone needed to be appointed to lead these believers in their faith. On their way back through, they stopped at Perga in the region of Pamphylia, and preached the word as well. No converts are recorded, but the seed was sown. We may not always gain an immediate conversion, but we are to sow the seed that, perhaps, when someone else waters it, will come alive.
(see I Corinthians 3:6). When they arrived at Attalia, they sailed from this seaport back to Syria. They came to Antioch of Syria (the church that had sent them out) and rehearsed to them the details of their journey and the grace of God that had been shed on the Gentiles. They, then, stayed for an extended amount of time of fellowship with the saints. Oh, how we need our fellow church family. Life is too tough not to have them at our side.
Never Be Ashamed
While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them. Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. (Acts of the Apostles 14:8-20 NLT)
In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas encountered a crippled man who was listening to their preaching. There were, likely, other infirmities in the crowd but this man's faith was genuine. Paul discerned this and spoke to him to rise. He stood for the very first time in his life and began to walk. The people in the crowd were amazed and began calling Barnabas Zeus(the king of greek gods) and Paul Hermes(Zeus's son and the messenger god). They were preparing sacrifices to them when Paul and Barnabas, without hesitation, tore their garments in humility to God and disgust of the situation, shouted to them to stop. They called these people friends. Paul and Barnabas were trying in a loving way, to tell them that their pagan practices were worthless and that they, themselves, were mere mortals. They proclaimed that there was only one God, not many gods, who manifested Himself to the world in the human person of Jesus Christ. They explained that the Creator is the one who sends the rain and gives us crops to harvest. This didn't seem to faze the crowd. They proceeded to fulfill their intentions. Although Paul and Barnabas had clearly stood for the truth, the people were yet spiritually blind and deaf. Some of the Jews from Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium had apparently followed Paul and Barnabas and were intent on stopping the preaching of Jesus. They stirred up the crowd in such a way that they became violent and stoned Paul, dragged him out of the town, and left him to die. The believers among the people gathered around Paul, perhaps in prayer, wondering if he would die. As they stood there, he rose from the ground to his feet. It is very possible that Paul was at the point of death or had died and that God supernaturally healed him or raised him from the dead. Most people died from stoning. What happened next is literally astounding! He went right back into the city. Unashamed, and undeterred, Paul keeps his focus and looks the enemy in the eye. He knows that God is with Him and that there is nothing that any man could do to him that God was not greater than. It is interesting that nothing was done to Barnabas. I personally believe that Satan was intent on killing Paul. Jesus had told Paul (Saul) in Acts chapter 9 that he must suffer many things for His name. Barnabas was a fine Christian man, no doubt. Satan knew, however, the anointing on Paul's life and, thus, wanted to kill him. Satan wants to kill us all. In John's gospel the scriptures say "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 KJV). May we, too, stand bold and faithful for our Lord. Let's never be ashamed of the name of Jesus. He is with us!!!
Eyes On The Prize
The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. And there they preached the Good News. (Acts of the Apostles 14:1-7 NLT)
Originally, Barnabas and Paul had left from Antioch of Syria (third largest city in the Roman Empire). They, then, set sail for Cyprus (third largest island in the Mediterranean). After crossing the entire island with the gospel (approximately 140 miles) they sailed north to Asia Minor (now Turkey) where they entered the Synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (population about 50,000). When the leaders of the city, including prominent women, were stirred up against them, they were expelled from the city.
Their next travels landed them in the city of Iconium. This city was slightly south and east. Once again, they entered the Synagogue to preach the gospel. Many people, both of Jews and Gentiles, were convinced concerning their proclamation of the Messiah, Jesus. Some of the Jews, however, were not happy about the occurrence. They stirred up some of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. Nevertheless, they stayed there for an extended time and continued to preach the message of salvation through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. God gave verification of their message with miraculous signs and wonders. Still, the people were divided about their opinions of them. In fact, some had made plans to kill them by stoning them (a common practice in that time where someone would literally be pummeled to death by a vicious mob that threw large stones at them). Thankfully, in this instance, word had gotten to Paul and Barnabas that this was the plan. They, then, set off for Lystra and Derbe, which were located just south and east, and there preached the gospel as well (More on that tomorrow).
Everywhere these men went, Satan stirred up some Jewish leaders and townspeople. Opposition lay around every turn, yet these Holy Spirit Filled men kept right on preaching with no thought of looking back. Their eyes were on the prize, Jesus!
Rev. Curtis Norris