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Courage Brother, Do Not Stumble. Acts 14:1-7

15/09/2020

Courage Brother, Do Not Stumble!

Acts 14:1-7

Christian ministry, in fact any aspect of the Christian life and Christian work will require COURAGE.  That’s exactly what we are taught in this chapter.

Courage

Paul and Barnabas…

1 They Had Stubborn PersistenceNow it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews

Don’t give up too easily! In our last study we found that Paul had ‘wiped the dust off his feet’ after the events at Antioch in Pisidia, Paul had reason, I supposed to be discouraged.  But now, we find them in Iconium, in Asia Minor, one of the regions of Galatia, and Paul is once again pursuing his missionary strategy, to preach the gospel at the Jewish synagogue, where he would be sure to get an opportunity to address the gathering of Jews, proselytes and and God-fearers, and, when those who had believed the gospel, Jews and Gentiles alike, were eventually expelled from the synagogue, to establish them into a Christian assembly, leaving a witness in the town.   

  • They went to the Jews.  to the synagogue of the Jews.  Now despite what we have observed as Paul’s missionary methods,it would be a great error to think that Paul was cynical in his missiology; that he was using the Jews and their meetings for worship to reach past them to the gentiles, without any regard for the Jews themselves.  That is not so.  Paul’s love for his own people is not in doubt, and many Jews came to know Christ, and became the backbone of those first Christian churches.    Romans 10:1  After all, in Romans chapter 1 and 2, Paul explains that salvation is for the Jew first, and then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16   So, despite the treatment that they were receiving from the Jewish local leaders in almost every town, Paul and Barnabas persisted, bringing the gospel to people who were antagonistic to it, but who needed to hear it.  We must not give up!
  • They presented a united front. they went together to the synagogue Two witnesses carry a greater judicial authority. Deuteronomy 17:6.   Matthew 18:16  2 Corinthians 13:1   So the missionaries went to the synagogue TOGETHER.  
  • They were greatly rewarded.  and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. You see, a GREAT NUMBER of the Jews and Greeks believed!  I wonder how many?  It was a GREAT number – maybe hundreds or even thousands of people!  We should be careful never to write anyone off, and especially to never write off any group of people as ‘unreachable.’  The Jews and the Greeks who were saved were saved on the same grounds, salvation by grace through faith alone, and they were untied as one body in Christ.  In the synagogue, they were separated, in the church they were united in Christ!  Ephesians 2:14-16 

All of this is good news.  The stubborn persistence of the missionaries paid off, they were not put off by their disappointments in Antioch, they were not put off by their experiences with the Jewish leaders, they just kept on going, and the Lord blessed their labours.   Galatians 6:9  

2 They Resisted Malicious Gossip.

But although a great number of Jews and Greeks believed, a great number also did not.  And they became resentful and antagonistic, both to the message and to the men.  I find the structure of verses 2-3 to be extremely interesting, particularly in the use of the conjunction, ‘THEREFORE!’  There is a consequence to an action here.  

Gossip
  • The actions of the unbelievers.  2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.  The Jews did their deadly work, at first simply by using their tongues!  Cf James 3:5-10  
  • The reaction of the missionaries.   Now, here’s where we notice the deliberate use of that conjunction… 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing, witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.   Their reaction to the whispering campaign of the unbelievers was 
    • To stay all the longer, and work all the harder in the cause of the Gospel.   
    • To speak out more boldly!  
    • To trust more in God’s presence!  

The reaction to the malicious slander was to dig in their heels, to stay all the longer, to refuse to be cowed, and to be all the more forthright in proclamation.  And the Lord honoured their faithfulness and persistence, for signs and wonders were done!

3 They Exercised Discernment4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region

The gospel always divides people. In Iconium, the city was divided, and the division was between those who believed in Jesus and everyone else.  That’s always the case.  

  • The unity of the opposition. The Jews and the Gentiles detested each other, but in this cause they were totally united.  They both hated the church and they hated Christ and his gospel, and they found common cause to plot against the new church and they now had the city elders on their side.  Of course, when wicked men get together to do evil, they excel in it, and they try to outdo each other in their vehemence.  They want to abuse the missionaries, they want to stone them.  Matthew Henry notes that this is a two pronged approach, designed to destroy the work of God.  They would ruin the reputation of the apostles and then remove them, permanently, and thus not only stop future evangelism, but destroy the work they had already done.
  • The flight of the apostles.   That couldn’t be allowed.  There always comes a time to weigh up the situation, and decide that for the good of the Lord’s work, it is time to go.  So they fled that city, – after all, they had been there for a long time already:
    • They found safety. They went to Lystra.  They were not pursued by the people from Iconium, and for a short time they found respite and safety.
    • They found service.  Luke records… 7 And they were preaching the gospel there.  The Lord opened another door for them!  

Now you will see that the common thread running through this narrative, is the courage of these men.  They would need it, for before much longer Paul was going to be stoned and left for dead.  And he was going to need that courage.  It comes from walking with the Lord, and knowing that whatever this world may present us with, our strength comes from the Lord alone.  

© BobMcEvoy September 2020

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