Paul and Barnabas continue on their first missionary trip in Acts 14. They continue on land through modern day Turkey making stops in various cities through the region. Paul’s first missionary journey goes through the island of Cyprus and then goes to Turkey. Paul returns the same way that he came except he bypasses a stop at Cyprus on his way home.
In Iconium an attempt was made by some Gentiles and Jews to stone Paul and Barnabas, they fled for Lystra and this is where their lives start to get interesting. Paul and Barnabas are hailed as gods because they heal a crippled man. After Paul addresses them with a beautiful statement about the general revelation of God to the Gentiles in v.17, the people who had attempted to stone him in Iconium find him in Lystra.
The Jews from Iconium find Paul and drag him out of the city and stone him. We can’t really completely understand what it is like to be stoned while trying to preach the gospel. The experience of being hit with stones on your body and head from many people until they think there is no way you are alive is unfathomable for us. The purpose of a stoning was to kill a person. It is completely a miracle by the grace and love of God that Paul survived this attack.
Paul’s friends come to him. We must assume that this is hours after Paul is stoned and left for dead because if the Jews had seen his friends Paul’s friends probably would have been stoned. Paul endures this stoning more than likely by himself.
Paul’s legend grows here. After his friends gather around Paul he goes back into the city, where all the danger would have been. If you get beaten so badly that people think you are dead it would take a few days(probably weeks) to recover. The next day Paul goes to another city to preach the gospel. We see in this incident Paul living out Philippians 4.13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul demonstrates an enormous strength just continuing on the next day.
Paul’s example of strength and boldness didn’t stop here. Paul after preaching in Derbe returns to the city he was just stoned outside of to encourage those disciples. Then he goes to the city where the people who stoned him lived and strengthened the disciples there. Paul’s lack of regard for his own safety is by all measures of today reckless. Paul demonstrated that he found more value in strengthening his disciples than in his own safety. Paul believed that he could do and make it through whatever lies ahead because God’s spirit was strengthening him.
The first thing to take away from Paul in these incidents is Paul did not stop. I think too many people walk around setting artificial limits on themselves. We don’t face our problems thinking I have Christ in me and God’s spirit strengthening me. When problems arise my first thought is maybe I should take a break. There is power available in God’s spirit that lives within us (Acts 1.8).
The second take away from Paul in Acts 14 is courage. I think Paul’s courage came from his death to himself. Paul’s motto was to live is Christ and death is gain. When death is viewed as gain and you lack fear of it, being courageous is much simpler. For Paul’s own words on this subject read Philippians 1.18-26.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What limiter are you putting on yourself that God didn’t put there?
- Are you depending upon God’s spirit working in you for strength in your life?
- In what areas of your life are you living for yourself and therefore lack courage?
- Do you believe Paul was made of the same dust of the ground that you are?