April 19, Sunday
Upon their arrival in Iconium, they went to the Jewish synagogue and spoke with such conviction that a very large number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But again, some unbelieving Jews stirred up some of the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. Nevertheless, they remained there for a long time and spoke fearlessly for the Lord. He confirmed their testimony by granting power to perform signs and miracles.
The people of the city were divided in their opinions, some taking the side of the Jews, and some that of the apostles. Finally, when the apostles got wind of a conspiracy by both Gentiles and Jews in collaboration with the authorities to have them stoned, they fled to the nearby cities of Lystra and Derbe and continued to proclaim the Message throughout the surrounding countryside.
At Lystra they encountered a lame man who had suffered this handicap since birth. He was listening to Paul as he spoke, and Paul, looking him straight in the eye, perceived that he had the faith to be made well. So he said in a loud voice, “Stand straight up on your feet!” Immediately he sprang to his feet and began walking. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” They began to call Barnabas, “Zeus,” and Paul, “Hermes,” since he was the spokesman. The next thing they knew, the high priest of the temple of Zeus had brought oxen to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifices to the two men.
As soon as Barnabas and Paul realized what was going on, they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowd, crying at the top of their voices, “Men, stop! Why are you carrying on like this? We are only human beings with feelings just like yours! We are here to tell you Good News, that you should turn from these meaningless things to the living God! He is the One who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. In the past He allowed all nations to go their own ways — not that He left you without evidence of Himself. In His kindness He sent you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, providing you with food and making your hearts content.”
It was all they could do to keep the crowd from making sacrifices to them — that is, until some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, who turned the minds of the people against Paul so that they stoned him and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. But while the disciples were gathered in a circle around him, Paul got up and walked back to the city. The next day he left there, taking Barnabas with him, and went to Derbe where they proclaimed the Good News and made many disciples.
From Derbe they retraced their steps back through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, encouraging the disciples along the way, urging them to stand firm in the faith, and reminding them that it is “through many difficulties that we must enter into the Kingdom of God.” They appointed elders in each church and with prayer and fasting commended these men to the Lord in Whom they had believed. They continued on their journey through Pisidia to Pamphylia, on to Perga where they spoke the Word, and then down to Attalia.
Having finished their assignment, they sailed back to Antioch, to the church from which they had been commissioned to this special task by God’s grace. When they arrived there, they called the church together and reported to them the amazing things God had done and how He had opened the door of faith for the Gentiles. They remained at Antioch with the disciples for a long time.
At one point, some men came down from Judea to Antioch and began teaching the Gentile believers that they had to submit to circumcision as prescribed by Moses in order to be truly saved. Paul and Barnabas argued and debated long and hard until finally the believers decided to send them to Jerusalem along with a few others to settle the issue with the apostles and elders there.