Acts 14:3

ESV So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
NIV So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.
NASB Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be performed by their hands.
CSB So they stayed there a long time and spoke boldly for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace by enabling them to do signs and wonders.
NLT But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders.
KJV Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

What does Acts 14:3 mean?

In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas are teaching that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah promised in Jewish Scriptures, come to offer reconciliation with God. Many Jews and Gentiles believe but others push back, contradicting their message (Acts 14:1–2). In response, the two apostles decide to stay and teach more. God validates their message by allowing them to perform miracles: the true purpose of signs gifts such as healing and tongues.

Paul has been threatened by civil and religious leaders (Acts 9:23–25; 29–30), but he has yet to suffer real persecution. At this point, preaching boldly doesn't come with immediate risks. The original apostles already understand the need for God's provision of courage to speak their message (Acts 4:29). Soon, Paul will experience the same pressure (Ephesians 6:19). "The word of his grace"—the spread of the gospel—deserves no less.

For Paul and Barnabas, staying to teach and even debate would be a natural response. Judaism included several different sects, like Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots. Even Paul's Pharisees aligned themselves under different teachers. Each sect and each school had slightly different interpretations of Jewish theology, and rabbis spent much time debating and recording their views.

This tradition turns out to be essential for the development of Christian theology. Without conflicting assumptions about God's will, we wouldn't have the answers recorded in the book of Galatians (Galatians 1:6–7) or 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:4). We'd be without 1 John, the apostle John's response to Gnosticism. Debates about theology continued into the first few centuries of the church. It was the introduction of heresies that pushed church leaders to codify their understandings of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ, and the role of the Holy Spirit. This drove the creation of terminology used to summarize Christian ideas much more efficiently. We often don't know what we believe until we're forced to compare it to something else. And sometimes teachers don't know what to teach until they're confronted with the lies their students or congregations are exposed to.
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