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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Acts 14

 

 

Verses 1-28

IN ICONIUM, THE next place visited, the work was similar to that at Antioch. The synagogue was visited and the Word so preached that a multitude of both Jews and Gentiles believed. Again the Jews became the opposers and persecutors, and in view of riotous doings the Apostles fled to other cities.

At Lystra a remarkable miracle was wrought through Paul. A man lame from birth was healed; a miracle almost the exact counterpart of the one wrought by Peter, which we read of in chapter 3. That was done in the very heart of Judaism, and while it gave a great opening for testimony it also brought upon the Apostles the wrath of the Jewish leaders. This was done in the presence of the heathen, who interpreted the wonderful happening in the light of their false beliefs, and would have made an idolatrous festival, had not the Apostles protested, seizing the opportunity to declare to them the true and living God, who is the Creator. The Lycaonians would have done exactly what Paul charges the heathen with doing in Romans 1:25, saying they “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.”

The fickleness of men is illustrated in verse Acts 14:19. The people who would have deified Paul are very easily persuaded against him by certain Jews who followed his footsteps, and they stone him, as they thought, to death. Paul now undergoes the very thing he had helped to bring upon Stephen. In the case of Stephen God did not intervene; in Paul’s case He did. Whether Paul was really dead, or whether only battered nearly to the point of death, we have no means of knowing: whichever it was, his restoration, almost in an instant, to ordinary health and strength, was a miracle. The next day he journeyed forth to preach the Gospel in another city, just as though nothing had happened to him.

Their outward journey terminated at Derbe, having been one of evangelistic labours and sufferings. On the return journey they gave themselves to pastoral work, so that the souls of the disciples might be confirmed and established in the faith. It is worthy of note that they did not hide from the disciples that suffering was before them, but rather they told them that it was inevitable. They did not say that we may through some tribulation enter the Kingdom, but that we must through much tribulation.

That saying stands true today. We may try to evade the tribulation, but we do not succeed. If through cowardice we shrink from conflict with the world, we get the trouble in our daily circumstances, or even in the bosom of the church of God. The Apostle Paul himself wrote, “Our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Today we have to say something similar, only we so often have to reverse the latter clause and say that we have too many fears as to the “without” to do much fighting, and consequently we are too often involved in fightings within the circle of the saints of God—it is, “without were fears, within were fightings.” Either way however the tribulation is ours.

On the return journey they also found that amongst the older converts some were manifesting the character that marked them out as fit to exercise spiritual supervision, and these men they ordained as elders. Apostolic discernment was needed in making the choice, and also a real spirit of dependence on God—hence, prayer—and a refusal of the desires of the flesh—hence, fasting. And when the elders were chosen so that all might recognize them, they did not commit the rest of the believers into the hands of the elders. No, they “commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” Each believer was set in direct connection and communion with the Lord by faith. Elders were instituted, not to intercept the faith of the saints, but to incite it to more reality and depth.

Cyprus was not touched on the return journey, and from Attalia they took ship for Antioch direct; and there, the church being gathered together, they told the story of their mission. They had not been sent by the church at Antioch but by the Holy Ghost, yet the church had a very deep interest in these servants who had gone forth from their midst. On their part the servants told what “God had done with them.” God was the worker, and they but the instruments He had been pleased to use; and it was God who had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. The first missionary journey had proved this beyond all dispute.

Yet, though this was so, the manner of their service was not beyond all dispute. No one challenged them in Antioch itself during their long stay there, but then most in that church were of Gentile extraction. When certain men came down from the Jerusalem area, all was changed by the teaching that the observance of circumcision was absolutely necessary for salvation, and Paul and Barnabas had not practised this. When reading the early part of Acts 11:1-30, we saw that the Judaizing party in Jerusalem had questioned Peter’s action in evangelizing Gentiles, in the person of Cornelius and his friends. Their opposition was overruled, and it was accepted that the Gospel was to go to the Gentiles. The point now raised was that, even admitting that, they must submit to circumcision in order to be saved, and the circumcision must be “after the manner of Moses,” thus definitely connecting it with the law system. This new demand was firmly resisted by Paul and Barnabas, and ultimately they and others went up to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this question.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/acts-14.html. 1947.

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