Acts 14 – Perseverance Under Pressure
People over-worked. Tired. Over whelmed with the lack of personnel. Wondering, “How much longer can we keep going like this?” Today’s message we will find the strength to carry on.
Reminds me of the story of little Jonny standing looking at a large plaque in the church welcoming center. Pastor walks up to him and says, “Jonny, what do you think of that?” Jonny says, “what is it?” Pastor replies, “These are all the names of men and women from our church who have died in the service.” Jonny amazed says, “Wow… was that in the morning or evening service?”
End of first missionary trip. Successful Failure. Incredible perseverance. This chapter describes the first expedition of the gospel into raw pagan territories where animism and idolatry abounded. To the ends of the earth started here.
I. Rejection in Iconium (1-7)
a. Opposition to the gospel is not a closed door to God, for He can use that to open new opportunities for ministry.
i. v. 1 Paul had not given up on the Jews.
ii. v. 2 opposition came from unbelieving Jews.
iii. v. 3 instead of shaking the dust off they stayed a “considerable time”
iv. Signs and wonders – purpose
1. Jesus performed as evidence of who He was
2. same way here (Heb 2:4)
v. v. 4-6 finally did leave after attempt made to physically harm them.
1. there comes a time to move on.
2. Matt 10:23 “When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next.”
vi. v. 7 new opportunities.
II. Rebellion in Lystra (8-20)
a. God rarely asks Christians to seek physical abuse for the cause of the gospel, but in the providence of God, sometimes such abuse and persecution cannot be avoided.
i. Gospel preached and a lame man healed (8-10)
ii. Homage paid to missionaries (11-13)
1. worldview not changed thus the misunderstanding
2. happens in our tribal works as well
iii. P&B dismayed (14-18)
1. First sermon recorded in Acts to a purely pagan group. (This is NTM territory!) Notice Paul teaches a little chronologically, and focuses on God being the Living God (as opposed to the very non living idols).
2. Paul’s clarifying talk to them, “that you should turn” NOT “metanoia” which is the word for repent. “tn Grk “in order that you should turn,” with ἐπιστρέφειν (epistrephein) as an infinitive of purpose,thus “proclaim the good news, so that you should turn,” is used, to convey that the purpose of the proclamation of good news is the response by the hearers. The emphasis here is like 1 Thess 1:9–10.”
3. testimony of creation is to the Creator – which is why the evolution debate is so strategic. George Walker, “If they will not bow to Him as creator they will not bow to Him as Savior”
4. however the sermon was cut short before getting to the Savior.
iv. from sacrificing to stoning (19-20a)
1. fickle crowd. reminds me of some of the areas in the country we work in today.
2. where was Banabas?
3. who were these disciples that checked out Paul’s body? Could they have traveled with them? Or had been converted earlier in Lystra?
4. Next day (after being pummeled to death!) left for Derbe.
5. Oh and by the way made many disciples there.
III. Review in Galatia (21-25)
a. Then they go BACK to these places where they had suffered so much. Also would have been a much shorter journey through Tarsus – Paul’s home town! Why go back? To Strengthen the disciples. Excellent missionary strategy.
i. strengthened the souls of the disciples – at the risk of further persecution. Col 1:28
ii. explaining that it is through trials and tribulations that we enter the kingdom.
1. works gospel? Not a chance.
2. Rom 8:17-18
3. vrs 22 – “certainly describes the eschatological reign of Christ on earth.” Also the NET Bible study note says, “This reference to the kingdom of God clearly refers to its future”
iii. Appointing elders – huh? Seems kind of quick? After all Paul said to Timothy in 1 Tim 3:6 not to appoint a novice. Some scholars believe that these men were most likely Jews who came out of the synagogues where they had been steeped in the Scriptures.
1. We don’t know how long he stayed in Debre. Text says “made disciples” so it had to include some time.
2. Elders were not appointed at the first visit, it was the second after some time had gone by and growth had taken place.
3. with fasting – this was serious.
4. let’s not be quick, but let’s not be too slow either! As P&B did here.
iv. 21-23 give the apostolic pattern to church planting. (again the book of Acts is not prescriptive but rather descriptive, but this is a good example to follow)
1. preach the gospel (chorological)
2. teach the new believers
3. establish and strengthen churches
IV. Report in Antioch (26-28)
a. Home Assignment
b. During this time that Paul most likely wrote Galatians.
From Antioch Pisidian
to Iconium – 90 miles
then to Lystra – 20 more miles
then to Derbe – 60 more
then back = 340 miles! And that doesn’t include all the way back to Antioch, Syria
1. Jews reject message.
2. P&B rejected at Iconium (14:1-7)
3. Paul stoned (left for dead) at Lystra (8-23)
However, many did believe and disciples were made, and then they even went back through those cites and appointed elders. Success. One big success was this is most likely were Timothy was converted (2 Tim 3:10-12). Wouldn’t have 1 & 2 Timothy without these tribulations.
The Lord has been teaching me lately about going through hard times. We all know it’s inevitable. But each time they come up we still struggle a bit and wonder, “Why?”
Satan asked to put the soon to be apostles through the fire. Jesus didn’t say, “But I told him, ‘No!’” Instead Jesus says I have prayed for you that your faith shall not fail. What? Why doesn’t Jesus just stop it? I mean that seems pretty harsh? Just to let them be abused by the enemy?
Well these rejections that P&B felt were very real, and difficult to go through. What kept them going? Principles of the faith not enough, but the Person of our faith is indeed.
Personal testimony of when I was ready to leave the tribe. Opposition was very real. What kept me there? Was it the vision? Partly. But that did not infuse me with passion to do this job. Was it the application of Scripture? You know, the Great Commission after all. But no it was not. As I laid there prostrate on the floor at 4 in the morning in tears thinking, “Lord, I just can’t do this anymore” the only thing that kept me going was the very life of Christ in me.
And I suspect it was the same for Paul and Barnabas here. Paul himself has testified to the power of the life of Christ within Him. It is only His life in and through us that provides perseverance.
Attachment to the Vine vs. Application of vision. Like the unbelieving Jews that “poisoned their minds” were standing on and applying what they thought were biblical principles, but they were lifeless. Without Christ. Apart from Him we can do nothing – even in attempting to apply scriptural principles to my life. Without my attachment to the Vine my application of truth becomes meaningless and pharisaical.
Another small application: v. 20a “But the believers gathered around him” We need to gather around each other when we are hurting. But we tend to keep our distance don’t we?
Another sub-app v. 23 with fasting. I think we make decisions to quickly. Fasting is a great way to slow down and put the focus on God alone.