What does Acts 14 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Acts 14 records the last half of Paul's first missionary journey. He and Barnabas left their home base in Syrian Antioch with Barnabas' cousin John Mark and sailed to the island of Cyprus, where Barnabas was from. After rescuing the proconsul from a Jewish false prophet, they sailed north to the southern coast of modern-day Asia Minor. John Mark left them there and returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas traveled north to Pisidian Antioch and shared how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish Messiah. Surprisingly, a great number of Gentiles believed them while the Jewish leadership and the Gentile city leaders drove them out of town (Acts 13).

Paul and Barnabas head about 90 miles southeast to the trade city of Iconium. They have a similar experience to that in Pisidian Antioch—many Jews and Greeks believe their news about Jesus, but those who don't convince many Paul and Barnabas are false teachers despite the miracles the apostles perform. Paul and Barnabas stay and continue to teach until their antagonists threaten to stone the two, and they flee south to Lystra (Acts 14:1–7).

The small town of Lystra is no less troublesome, but for a different reason. After Paul heals a man born lame, the pagan-influenced populace declare that Barnabas is Zeus and Paul, who has done most of the speaking, is Hermes. This seems to be influenced by a local story where those two deities drowned most of the town due to inhospitality. The two evangelists barely keep the priest of Zeus from leading a sacrifice to them in worship. Just when things are calming down, Jewish leaders from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium arrive. They incite the crowd in Lystra to stone Paul, drag him outside the city, and leave him for dead. Jesus isn't finished with Paul, so the bedraggled apostle survives and the next day he and Barnabas travel east to Derbe (Acts 14:8–20).

In Derbe, Paul and Barnabas' farthest point, they make more disciples. Then, instead of crossing the mountains to Tarsus and then making the relatively short trip back to Syrian Antioch, the two return the way they'd come, encouraging the new churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. They travel south to Perga where they share Jesus' offer of salvation, then go to the port town of Attalia on the southern coast. From there, they sail home to Syrian Antioch and tell the church how God worked in the hearts of Jews and Gentiles and established new churches (Acts 14:21–28).

The missionary journey of Acts 13—14 is important because people came to a saving relationship with Christ and positioned the church to reach into Europe. But it also sets the stage for the controversy of Acts 15. The church started with Jesus' Jewish followers in Jerusalem, and until now the church has mostly been comprised of Jews. Paul and Barnabas get a glimpse of how Jesus' story will spread to Gentiles. The Jews still see Christianity as a fulfillment of their own religion; what does it mean when Gentiles, who are not under the Mosaic law, follow the Jewish Messiah? Paul and Barnabas will travel back to Jerusalem and give their testimony so Peter, James, and the other church leaders can figure out just what the Holy Spirit has in store.
Verse Context:
Acts 14:1–7 records how Paul and Barnabas fled persecution in Pisidian Antioch and arrived in Iconium. As becomes their habit, they share Jesus' story in the local synagogue and watch many Jews and Gentiles agree to follow Jesus. Like in Pisidian Antioch, other Jews and Gentiles reject their message. The pair stay as long as they can, teaching and starting the church, until their antagonists threaten to stone them. Paul and Barnabas leave the new believers and travel south and east to establish new churches but will return on their way back through (Acts 14:21).
Acts 14:8–20 finds Paul and Barnabas in Lystra in the province of Galatia in modern-day Asia Minor. This city's reaction is the extreme opposite of what happened in Pisidian Antioch and Iconium, where they were threatened with stoning (Acts 13:50; 14:5). In Lystra, they are initially worshiped as gods. The two Christian missionaries are horrified by this reaction and do their best to stop it. Before long, however, antagonistic Jews from their previous stops arrive and convince the locals to stone Paul. God's warning that Paul would suffer greatly for Him begins to come true (Acts 9:16), but Paul considers being left for dead a small price to pay for his salvation through Jesus (Romans 8:18).
Acts 14:21–28 tracks Paul and Barnabas' journey home from Derbe, the farthest point they reach in Paul's first missionary journey. Instead of taking the quick route south, they return west, building up the churches in cities they had fled due to persecution. They then travel south to the Mediterranean and preach about Jesus in Perga before catching a ship to take them east, back home to Syrian Antioch. Their experiences will prove vital for the leadership of the church in Jerusalem who must decide how to properly integrate Gentiles in Jesus' church (Acts 15:1–35).
Chapter Summary:
Acts 14 describes the last half of Paul's first missionary journey. He and Barnabas leave Pisidian Antioch, near central modern-day Asia Minor, and travel southeast to Iconium where they establish a new church. In Lystra, Paul heals a man born crippled. The amazed people insist Barnabas is the Greek deity Zeus, and Paul is Hermes. They attempt to offer sacrifices to them, much to the horror of the two evangelists. When antagonists from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium arrive, Paul is stoned but survives. The pair travel to Derbe, then retrace their steps, encouraging the new churches before sailing back to Syrian Antioch.
Chapter Context:
Paul's first missionary journey, recorded in Acts 13—14, gives a glimpse of issues that the church will face throughout its entire existence. When presented with Jesus's story, some will accept Him while others will not. Opposition is sometimes violent. Some integrate into church life easily, but for centuries the church has struggled with how to integrate those from vastly different cultures. This raises the crucial question of which aspects of faith and worship are biblical, making them universal, and which are cultural, and therefore optional? In Acts 15, the church leadership will start a discussion on that subject which continues even today.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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