First Missionary Journey (Acts 13:42-14:28)
First Missionary Journey (Acts 13:42-14:28)
Response to the Sermon (13:42-52)
After Paul’s sermon in the synagogue, many of the Jews were “begging” him to speak to them again the next week. The fact that Paul and Barnabas were “urging them to continue in the grace of God” means that many must have become partakers of grace. The sermon had such an impact that it seemed as though “the whole city” showed up to listen to Paul the following Sabbath. When the Jews saw it, they were moved to jealousy which led to contradicting slander against Paul and Barnabas. By rejecting the word of God which Paul and Barnabas were speaking, they were blaspheming God Himself. Paul points out that the choice they are making to “repudiate” God’s word evidences that they have made the determination that salvation is not for them. They have chosen to cling to religious morality, thereby rejecting the gift of eternal life.
In response to Paul and Barnabas’ message, the Jewish leadership incited the religious women and lured the Gentile leadership to all band together to persecute Paul and Barnabas. Just as Jesus had ordered His disciples, so also Paul and Barnabas wipe the dust from their feet as a symbolic act against opposition, leaving defilement behind and moving on (Luke 9:5). It was a clear demonstration that the Jews who reject Jesus and the gospel were not part of Israel and were no better than unbelievers.
Relying Upon the Lord (14:1-7)
In Paul’s ministry, there is a noticeable and repeated pattern when he enters a city for ministry: preach, response, opposition, division, persecution, flee to the next city, and repeat. In this case, oddly enough, the Jews found something in common with the Gentiles, those whom they would never give the time of day. Despite the opposition that was being stirred up against them, Paul and Barnabas “spent a long time there.” Through reliance upon the Lord, they were ministering both in word and action, speaking “the word of His grace” and performing “signs and wonders.” The opposition’s attempt to stone them leads them to flee to other cities, where they continued proclaiming the word.
Refusing Regal Robes (14:8-18)
Seeing the miraculous power displayed in the healing of the crippled man, the crowds in Lystra began praising Paul and Barnabas as though they were gods. Being extremely concerned that the right God receive the honor, Paul and Barnabas took immediate action to disclaim any idea of their own deity. Not only did Paul reject the honor and sacrifice of the people, but he seized the opportunity to instruct the people on the true nature of God. Once again we see his flexibility and willingness to understand his audience and appeal to them based on their current understanding and situation.
Retracing and Encouraging (14:19-23)
Though the crowds in Lystra had just attempted to deify Paul and Barnabas, they are now swayed by the traveling Jewish persecutors and partake in the attempt to murder Paul. Due to this round of persecution, Paul and Barnabas go to Derbe to preach and make disciples. Though there appears to have been no persecution in Derbe, they did not stay there. Instead, they begin their trip back to Antioch through Lystra and Iconium in order to encourage the churches in each city. Specifically, they were encouraging the saints to “continue in the faith.” Just as Jesus had taught, those who continue in His word are those who are truly His disciples.
Reporting Grace (14:24-28)
Paul and Barnabas could have shared many negative aspects of their missionary journey in their report. But instead of talking about their own struggles and discouragements, they instead rejoiced with the saints that “God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Remaining true to 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, Paul was determined to know nothing “except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
- Though Paul and Barnabas would have had reason to be discouraged, they were instead continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Rejection and persecution did not stop the gospel’s progress, and the disciples continued to move forward. How do you respond to setbacks, rejection, and discouragement? Do you allow discouragement to overshadow the far greater reasons we have to rejoice in Christ and the progress of the gospel? What are the reasons that you have today to rejoice rather than complain?
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