Acts 14:4

ESV But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.
NIV The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.
NASB But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, while others, with the apostles.
CSB But the people of the city were divided, some siding with the Jews and others with the apostles.
NLT But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.
KJV But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

What does Acts 14:4 mean?

Déjà vu is the feeling one is reliving a particular moment from the past. Paul and Barnabas might have experienced that during the events of this passage. They are in the synagogue of Iconium, sharing that Jesus of Nazareth was sent by God to provide salvation—just as they had in Pisidian Antioch. And just like in that previous town, some of the Jews and Gentiles believe while others try to undermine their message. The two apostles respond by staying longer, teaching further, and sharing more about Christ. The town becomes even more divided.

This division had followed Jesus throughout His entire ministry. The issue has to do with the Mosaic law and the Jews' misunderstanding of the Law's purpose. God chose the Jews to be His people and to display to the world that they are His people by following His laws. If the Jews agreed to value their relationship with God and do what He told them to, He would bless them beyond measure with peace from enemies, verdant fields, and fertile animals. If they refused to obey Him and looked to other gods to provide for them, He had a list of things He would allow to happen to get their attention (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). Eventually, half the nation was destroyed by Assyria, and the other half was taken into exile in Babylon.

When the exiles from Babylon returned, they changed their ways. They eventually became relatively obedient to the Law; unfortunately, instead of a relationship with their God, their approach to "doing" the Law became the focus of their religion. The Pharisees, especially, enforced the law with little regard for how God loved His people.

Iconium is in the district of Galatia, the audience of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Much of Paul's letter addresses the Galatian church's obsession with a legalistic approach to Old Testament law. He tells them that the gospel of grace is the only gospel (Galatians 1:6–9); that they should seek to please God, not men (Galatians 1:10); that Jesus-followers are justified by faith in Jesus, not by the Law (Galatians 2:16); and that even sanctification—becoming more Christlike—is through faith, not by rigid obedience—even obedience itself is a gift of God (Galatians 3:2–6).

For those humble enough to recognize they can never please God, the gospel of grace is a welcome gift. For those who have been taught that the only way to God's heart is strict obedience, the gospel is hard to take.
What is the Gospel?
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