Mission Iconium: Reflections on Acts 14:1-7

Posted: 02/28/2011 in Acts of the Apostles

14:1 The same thing happened in Iconium 1 when Paul and Barnabas 2 went into the Jewish synagogue 3 and spoke in such a way that a large group 4 of both Jews and Greeks believed. 14:2 But the Jews who refused to believe 5 stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds 6 against the brothers. 14:3 So they stayed there 7 for a considerable time, speaking out courageously for the Lord, who testified 8 to the message 9 of his grace, granting miraculous signs 10 and wonders to be performed through their hands. 14:4 But the population 11 of the city was divided; some 12 sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 14:5 When both the Gentiles and the Jews (together with their rulers) made 13 an attempt to mistreat 14 them and stone them, 15 14:6 Paul and Barnabas 16 learned about it 17 and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra 18 andDerbe 19 and the surrounding region. 14:7 There 20 they continued to proclaim 21 the good news. – NET

 

V.1:  I’m struck by the phrase “spoke in such a way that a large group of both Jews and Greeks believed.” If the gospel words by themselves were sufficient to persuade men to saving faith, almost the whole world would already be in Christ.  Seemingly, the more often I speak out with a boldness and a confidence in the message of grace, the more I perceive God’s grace empowering me to speak better, more persuasively.  May I not be a polished orator so much as a gifted speaker.  “Gifted” implies grace.  God grant me the grace and the opportunities to “speak in such a way” that the unbelievers of my generation and those coming after me will be persuaded to believe the gospel to the saving of their souls.

V.2:  Notice the phrase, “who refused to believe.” Understand that unbelief is usually not a pure rejection of the reasons for the hope that lies within us, nor is it a rejection of our Christian character (however imperfect).  It appears most often to be a matter of one’s will.  It’s not that they couldn’t believe or that the Christian faith is unreasonable.  There are simply some “who refuse to believe.”   The other frustration in evangelism is the tragic reality that those voices of bitterness are not satisfied with their own refusal to believe – they must also poison the minds of others who are more open to the gospel.  This is a vexing evil. Deliver us from this evil.

V.3-7:  Is it possible that if we speak courageously for the Lord in the face of poisonous opposition that He will testify on behalf of His word through signs and wonders?  Do we sometimes lack the miraculous because we have shrunk from poisonous opposition – losing our voices – rather than speaking courageously for the Lord?  It’s fascinating to me (as I have seen it in Scripture and in my experience living for God) that signs and wonders confirming the message of Christ do not convince or convert everyone.  Such is the power of the fallen human will – to refuse to believe in the very face of the miraculous. God allows His miracle-working servants to be mistreated to the point they run for their lives. Seems as if miracles could be done at our whim, that would have been a good time to whip one out.  Rather than give up in frustration with a sovereign God and their experiences with bitter men, the apostles soldiered on. God may I ever persevere as as a faithful soldier of the Cross – undeterred by experiences with embittered men and unshaken in faith if my King orders an unexplained retreat when I know He has a supernatural arsenal. What is the answer in the face of these evangelism frustrations and opposition?

“…they continued to proclaim the good news.”

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