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Acts 14 Commentaries

A. In the city of Iconium.

  1. (Acts 14:1) Paul and Barnabas have evangelistic success in Iconium.

Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.

  1. They went together to the synagogue of the Jews: Again, notice that they follow the familiar pattern for evangelism, beginning in the Jewish synagogue.

  2. So spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed: Paul and Barnabas have success among the Jews and the Greeks, presenting the same gospel to both. The fact that Jews and... Greeks believed shows that Paul preached the same thing to both groups: That salvation is in Jesus, and we appropriate it by our belief (trust in, reliance on) in Him.

    1. The success is refreshing, because they had just been kicked out of Pisidian Antioch, after much success there (Acts 13:50).

    2. Because Paul was inclined to stay in a region for an extended period of time, strengthening the churches and working where evangelistic efforts had already borne fruit, perhaps we should see the kind of persecution Paul had in Pisidian Antioch as God's way of moving him on to other fields.

2. (Act 14:2-6) Successful ministry in Iconium creates opposition, forcing Paul and Barnabas out of town.

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.

  1. Speaking boldly in the Lord: Paul and Barnabas did what they always did, they preached boldly despite the opposition, bearing witness to the word of His grace and touching others with the power of Jesus.

    1. Granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands: "For no apostle could work a miracle by himself; nor was any sign or wonder wrought even by the greatest apostle, but by a special grant or dispensation of God. This power was not resident in them at all times." (Clarke)

  2. Therefore they stayed a long time: They stayed as long as they could, despite the opposition, leaving only when it was absolutely necessary.

    1. Why did Paul and Barnabas decide to stay a long time if there was opposition arising? Because they knew that these Christians would need all the grounding they could get to stand strong in a city with much opposition.

  3. Paul and Barnabas preached the word of His grace, because that is the only word by which both Jews and

Gentiles can be saved on an equal basis.

  1. "The gospel is here called the message of his grace because divine grace is its subject matter." (Bruce)

d. A violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled: When forced to, Paul and Barnabas leave Iconium for Lystra (some twenty miles away) and Derbe. This shows that Paul and Barnabas did not rush headlong towards martyrdom. They did what they could to preserve their lives.

B. In the cities of Lystra and Derbe.

1. (Act 14:7-10) In Lystra, a lame man is healed.

and there they continued to preach the gospel. Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,[a] 10 said in a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he sprang up and began walking.

  1. And they were preaching the gospel there: Paul and Barnabas did many miraculous works, one of which is recorded in the following passage. But they were not traveling as miracle workers. Their focus was always preaching the gospel.

  2. This man heard Paul speaking: The crippled man heard Paul preach about Jesus. When he heard about Jesus, he knew that Jesus could touch his life. A person can hear God's word, but never come to the place where they receive God's touch personally.

  3. Paul saw that this man had faith to be healed; God is not obligated to heal because of our faith, but many people do not receive from God simply because they do not have faith.

  4. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed: How could Paul "see" this man's faith? Obviously, God gave him the gift of discernment at that moment to minister to this man. From Paul's boldness, we can also surmise that God gave him the gift of faith, to believe God would heal the man right then and there.

    1. "That this lame man had faith was made plain by his ready obedience to Paul's command to stand up." (Bruce)

2. (Acts 14:11-13) The excited crowd in Lystra declares Paul and Barnabas are Greek gods, visiting the earth.

11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.

  1. The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men! These people saw a stupendous miracle happen before their eyes, yet their idea of who God is has not changed. Therefore it seemed logical to them to consider Paul and Barnabas gods.

    1. Notice that the miracle merely attracted attention, and in a way, it was unwanted attention. The miracle itself saved no one.
  2. Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. In Greek mythology, it was common for the "gods" to come to earth in human form, though they did not always do so for the good of man.

    1. The people in Lystra had a legend that once Zeus and Hermes had visited their land disguised as mortals, and no one gave them any hospitality except for one older couple. In their anger at the people, Zeus and Hermes wiped out the whole population, except for the old couple. No wonder the people of Lystra were so quick to honor Paul and Barnabas!

  3. Hermes was known as the messenger of the gods, so it made sense to the Lystrians that Paul (the more talkative one) would be Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

  4. Saying in the Lycaonian language: "The crowd's use of Lycaonian explains why Paul and Barnabas did not grasp what was afoot until the preparations to pay them divine homage were well advanced." (Bruce)

    1. But when Paul and Barnabas saw the priest of Zeus, with oxen and garlands ... intending to sacrifice, they knew things had gotten out of hand!

3. (Acts 14:14-18) Paul appeals to the crowd, asking them to recognize the true God instead of worshipping Paul and Barnabas.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

  1. They tore their clothes: They did this for two reasons. First to show that they were completely human, just as the Lycaonians. Second, out of an instinctively Jewish reaction to terrible blasphemy. For Paul and Barnabas, it wasn't just inconvenient that they were called gods; it was blasphemy.

  2. That you should turn from these useless things: These were strong words from Paul to people who took their pagan worship seriously, but Paul wasn't afraid to confront this mob with the truth. And the truth was that their idolatry was wrong.

  3. Paul is preaching to a pagan audience, and before he can tell them about Jesus and what He has done, he must turn the hearts of the people from these useless things to the living God. Jesus just can't be "added" to their pagan ways.

  4. To the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them: Paul calls the Lystrian crowd to consider the real God, the One who stands behind all creation, not one of the lesser (and imaginary) Greek gods.

    1. The things Paul mentions in Acts 14:17 (He did good ... gave us rain from heaven ... and fruitful seasons ... filling our hearts with food and gladness) were just the kind of things these people would think that Zeus would give them. Paul is letting them know these blessings come from the true God who lives in heaven, not from Zeus.

  5. God's kindness to all men (in giving rain and fruitful crops) should be seen as a witness of His love and power, something theologians call common grace.

    1. Paul did not preach to these pagan worshippers the same way he preached to Jews or those acquainted with Judaism. He does not quote the Old Testament to them, but instead appeals to natural revelation, the things which even a pagan can understand by looking at the world around them.

  6. And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them: even with all this, Paul and Barnabas had an extremely difficult time challenging the wrong conceptions of God held by these Lystrians.

4. (Acts 14:19-20a) Persecution follows Paul.

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

  1. Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came: These Jews were not content to kick Paul out of their own region (Acts 14:5-6); they followed him and brought their persecution with them.

    1. Some of these persecuting Jews from Antioch and Iconium would have traveled more than one hundred miles just to make Paul miserable!

  2. Having persuaded the multitudes: They incited the people of Lystra against Paul and Barnabas, and instigated the stoning of Paul. This was obviously an attempt to execute Paul and Barnabas - with the rocks being thrown by the same people who wanted to worship them a short time before!

    1. We are amazed at how fickle the crowd is; apparently, their admiration of the miracle and desire to honor Paul and Barnabas as gods was extremely short-lived.

    2. It is such a dangerous thing for any spiritual leader to cultivate or allow a kind of "hero-worship." The same people who honor you one day will feel terribly betrayed when you show yourself human.

  3. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city: Paul was miraculously preserved here. Some think that he was even actually killed and raised to life again, because stoning was a pretty reliable form of execution.

    1. When Paul later says I bear in my body the marks of Jesus (Galatians 6:17), he may have had in mind the scars from this incident. He certainly later refers to this stoning in 2 Corinthians 11:25.

    2. It has been suggested that the heavenly vision described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 took place at this attack. This is possible, but only conjecture.

  4. Paul must have thought of Stephen when he was being stoned, and how he had been a part of Stephen's stoning (Acts 7:58-8:1).

  5. He rose up and went into the city: When Paul was revived, he did not flee the city that stoned him. Instead he immediately went back into it. He had been driven out of Antioch and Iconium by this traveling mob, and he was going to leave Lystra on his own terms!

    1. In Acts 16:1, we learn of a young Christian in Lystra and his mother - Timothy. Perhaps Timothy saw all this and was inspired to the high call of the gospel by noticing Paul's courage and power in ministry.

5. (Acts 14:20b-21a) Paul leaves Lystra for the city of Derbe, where they find more evangelistic success.

And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples.

  1. When they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples: despite the persecution they found in Lystra, the work of God continues. It just continued in a different place, Derbe. But Paul and Barnabas continue their work: preaching the gospel and making disciples.

C. The return trip home to Syrian Antioch.

1. (Acts 14:21b-22) The message of Paul and Barnabas on the return trip.

They returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."

  1. Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith: As Paul and Barnabas decided to head back home to Antioch, they passed through the cities they had visited before, to strengthen and encourage the Christians in those cities. Paul and Barnabas wanted to do far more than get conversions; they had a passion to make disciples.

    1. How many Christians need strengthening in their souls! How many need exhorting ... to continue in the faith! It is no small thing to walk with the Lord, year after year, trial after trial. It takes a strong soul and an encouraged faith.

  2. How did Paul and Barnabas strengthen and exhort these disciples? By bringing a simple message, born of Paul's personal experience: We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. Paul could preach that message because he had lived that message!

    1. Sadly, for many people, this is a forgotten message. They consider any kind of tribulation completely counter-productive to Christian living, failing to note the significant place suffering has in God's plan for us.

2. (Acts 14:23) The work of Paul and Barnabas on the way home.

So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

  1. Paul and Barnabas were committed to not just making new Christians, but in establishing new churches, places where these new Christians could grow and be established in the Lord.

  2. When they had appointed elders in every church: Paul and Barnabas knew that these churches must have proper administration, so they appointed elders in every city where there were Christians.

    1. "It has more than once been pointed out that more recent missionary policy would have thought it dangerously idealistic to recognize converts of only a few weeks' standing as leaders in their churches; perhaps Paul and Barnabas were more conscious of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the believing communities." (Bruce)

  3. And prayed with fasting: Paul and Barnabas demonstrated their great concern for the health of these churches by their prayer and fasting.

  4. But in the end, they can only trust in God's ability to keep these churches healthy, having commended them to the Lord, because it is in the Lord they had believed, not in Paul or Barnabas or the elders. The church belongs to Jesus.

3. (Acts 14:24-26) The itinerary of Paul and Barnabas on the way home.

And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

  1. The words the work which they had completed are beautiful, yet only partially true. Although the immediate mission was accomplished, the work of planting new churches and strengthening existing ones has never ended.

4. (Act 14:27-28) Paul and Barnabas arrive back in Antioch.

Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

  1. They reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles: Their success with evangelism among the Gentiles, and the blessing of God that it demonstrated, showed that the work which was being done in Antioch was not unique. God wanted to replicate this work all over the world.

  2. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples: Back at their home church in Syrian Antioch, we can assume that Paul and Barnabas took a long break and found plenty of ministry to do back there.

    1. What will it take for you to back down from doing God's will? What kind of temptation or obstacle or opposition will do it? Can we have the heart of Paul and Barnabas and allow nothing to stop us? Nothing stopped Jesus from doing God's will on our behalf; as we look to Him, we won't be stopped either.

The Lame Man of Lystra - Acts 14:8-20

We are not told that Paul and Barnabas went to a synagogue in Lystra and preached there, as was their custom. This may mean that there was no synagogue, but it may simply be that Luke has chosen to focus on this healing, and on the ministry to Gentiles-pure pagans-as opposed to Gentile God-fearers, who would be found at the synagogue. It would seem that Paul and Barnabas were engaged in "street preaching" here, which they may have also done from city to city, especially if they were not welcomed in the synagogue.

A lame man was sitting nearby, who heard the preaching of Paul and whose face must have manifested not only keen interest but faith, a faith sufficient to both save and heal him.309 Paul, knowing that he had the power of the Spirit to heal the man, and that the man had the faith to be healed, commanded the man to stand up and walk, much as Jesus and Peter had done before.310 The man leaped up and began to walk. If this man was like his predecessors, he probably went leaping about, following after Paul and Barnabas and testifying to what had happened through their hands.

The response of this pagan crowd was indeed enthusiastic, but it took some time for Barnabas and Saul311 to recognize exactly what was happening. It took even more time and effort to convince the multitude to cease what they were doing. Paul and Barnabas were truly in heathen territory. Paul was probably preaching in the Greek language, which was not the native tongue of these Lycaonians (v. 11), but it was a language which they would have used commercially. In their excitement, the crowds of Lystra reverted to their native tongue, a language which neither Paul nor Barnabas seem to have understood.

You can imagine the puzzled looks on the faces of these two men, as they heard the excited speech of the people and as they saw that preparations were being made for some kind of ceremony. They did not, however, know what the nature of this ceremony was. Did they ask questions of the crowd, in Greek, to determine what was happening? Probably so, although we are not told. Somehow, they discovered that the were about to be worshipped as an incarnation of the "gods," Zeus (the principal god) and Hermes (the son of Zeus, and his spokesman). They were horrified at the thought of such worship. It was precisely the opposite of what they hoped would happen. Immediately, they began to fervently convince the crowds to stop.

The response of Barnabas and Paul (note the order in verse 14) was not an evangelistic message, not a proclamation of the gospel, so much as it was an argument intended to stop this heathen worship-of them, no less. The actual argument is very similar to that found in chapter 17, spelled out in more detail. But in its more concise form, the appeal of the apostles was as follows:

  1. Worshipping them was wrong because they were mere men, too.

  2. Worshipping them as gods was opposed to the gospel which they preached.

They were only men. They were not incarnations of the gods. They had come as the representatives of the one true God, not as manifestations of the heathen gods which this crowd sought to worship. Their God was the Creator of the heaven and the earth, the Creator of all things. He gave them rains and seasons, crops and happiness. He was not just the God of the spectacular miracles, such as the healing of this lame man; He was the God of the orderly, the day-to-day blessings of life. If they would see the hand of God, they must look not only for spectacular interventions, but for the constant (and seemingly "natural") blessings as well. This God was not only the God of the supernatural, but of the natural.

In the past, God had let the heathen go their own ways, but even in this He had not left men without a witness to Himself in nature. There should have been, as well, the witness of Israel, called and commanded by God to be a light to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:47). But now, the gospel was being proclaimed in its full form to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas had not come to confirm the heathen worship of these people, but to confront them with the true God and with His good news of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They had come to turn men from their heathen worship, to that which was true. How could they allow these men to worship them? With a sigh of relief, Paul and Barnabas noted that they, finally, were able to convince the crowds to cease their "worship."

How quickly things reversed. Those who came with a sacrifice and with garlands now press upon Paul312 with stones. The reason for the sudden change in the sentiments and actions of the crowd seem to be the result of at least two major factors:

  1. The Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who had resisted and opposed Paul and Barnabas in their home towns, now came to Lystra, and instigated this stoning. The Jews at Iconium had wanted to stone Paul and Barnabas, but were thwarted by their escape. They were not about to let Paul get away this time.

  2. The gospel was now clear to them, as that which would do away with their religion. They welcomed (and sought to worship) Paul and Barnabas, because they thought they were the consummation of their heathen religion. Now they knew that they were competition to their religion. When this fact became clear, there were many who would gladly be rid of Paul, rather than to be rid of their religion. The gospel has often been welcomed in history because it was misunderstood, and then resisted when its meaning and implications are made known. So it was in Lystra.

What amazing restraint and simplicity we see in Luke's account of Paul's "rising" and departure. He seems to feel no need to have a miracle here, and thus he makes no effort to describe the event as miraculous.313 Luke, the medical doctor, does not tell us that Paul was dead. He tells us rather that the hostile crowds "supposed him to be dead." They left him for dead. We are not told that the disciples who gathered around Paul were praying, though they may have been. We are simply told that Paul was left for dead, that the saints gathered about him, and that he got up and went back to town. If there is a miracle here, it is that Paul returned to Lystra, not that he got up. The next day Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe,314 where they preached the gospel and many came to faith (14:21).


Acts 14:10
Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

Said with a loud voice - See the notes on John 11:43.

And he leaped - See the notes on Acts 3:8. Compare Isaiah 35:6.

Acts 14:11
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

They lifted up their voices - They spoke with astonishment, such as might be expected when it was supposed that the gods had come down.

In the speech of Lycaonia - What this language was has much perplexed commentators. It was probably a mixture of the Greek and Syriac. In that region generally the Greek was usually spoken with more or less purity; and from the fact that it was not far from the regions of Syria, it is probable that the Greek language was corrupted with this foreign admixture.

The gods ... - All the region was idolatrous. The gods which were worshipped there were those which were worshipped throughout Greece.

Are come down - The miracle which Paul had performed led them to suppose this. It was evidently beyond human ability, and they had no other way of accounting for it than by supposing that their gods had personally appeared.

In the likeness of men - Many of their gods were heroes, whom they worshipped after they were dead. It was a common belief among them that the gods appeared to people in human form. The poems of Homer, of Virgil, etc., are filled with accounts of such appearances, and the only way in which they supposed the gods to take knowledge of human affairs, and to help people, was by their personally appearing in this form. See Homer's Odyssey, xvii. 485; Catullus, 64, 384; Ovid's Metamorph., i. 212 (Kuinoel). Thus, Homer says:

"For in similitude of strangers oft.

The gods, who can with ease all shapes assume,

Repair to populous cities, where they mark.

Th' outrageous and the righteous deeds of men."


Acts 14:12
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

And they called Barnabas, Jupiter - Jupiter was the most powerful of all the gods of the ancients. He was represented as the son of Saturn and Ops, and was educated in a cave on Mount Ida, in the island of Crete. The worship of Jupiter was almost universal. He was the Aremon of Africa, the Belus of Babylon, the Osiris of Egypt. His common appellation was, The Father of gods and men. He was usually represented as sitting upon a golden or an ivory throne, holding in one hand a thunderbolt, and in the other a scepter of cypress. His power was supposed to extend over other gods; and everything was subservient to his will except the Fates. There is the most abundant proof that he was worshipped in the region of Lycaonia and throughout Asia Minor. There was, besides, a fable among the inhabitants of Lycaonia that Jupiter and Mercury had once visited that place, and had been received by Philemon. The whole fable is related by Ovid, "Metam.," 8, 611, etc.

And Paul, Mercurius - Mercury, called by the Greeks Hermes, was a celebrated god of antiquity. No less than five of this name are mentioned by Cicero. The most celebrated was the son of Jupiter and Maia. He was the messenger of the gods, and of Jupiter in particular; he was the patron of travelers and shepherds; he conducted the souls of the dead into the infernal regions; he presided over orators, and declaimers, and merchants; and he was also the god of thieves, pickpockets, and all dishonest persons. He was regarded as the god of eloquence; and as light, rapid, and quick in his movements. The conjecture of Chrysostom is, that Barnabas was a large, athletic man, and was hence taken for Jupiter; and that Paul was small in his person, and was hence supposed to be Mercury.

Because he was the chief speaker - The office of Mercury was to deliver the messages of the gods; and as Paul only had been discoursing, he was supposed to be Mercury.

Acts 14:13
Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.

Then the priest of Jupiter - He whose office it was to conduct the worship of Jupiter by offering sacrifices, etc.

Which was before their city - The word "which" here refers not to the priest, but to Jupiter. The temple or image of Jupiter was in front of their city, or near the gates. Ancient cities were supposed to be under the protection of particular gods; and their image, or a temple for their worship, was placed commonly in a conspicuous place at the entrance of the city.

Brought oxen - Probably brought two one to be sacrificed to each. It was common to sacrifice bullocks to Jupiter.

And garlands - The victims of sacrifice were usually decorated with ribbons and chaplets of flowers. See Kuinoel.

Unto the gates - The gates of the city, where were the images or temple of the gods.

Would have done sacrifice - Would have offered sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul. This the priest deemed a part of his office. And here we have a remarkable and most affecting instance of the folly and stupidity of idolatry.

Acts 14:14
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

Which, when the apostles - Barnabas is called an apostle because he was sent forth by the church on a particular message (Acts 13:3; compare Acts 14:26), not because he had been chosen to the special work of the apostleship - to Dear witness to the life and resurrection of Christ. See the notes on Acts 1:22.

They rent their clothes - As an expression of their abhorrence of what the people were doing, and of their deep grief that they should thus debase themselves by offering worship to human beings. See the notes on Matthew 26:65.

Acts 14:15
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

And saying, Sirs - Greek: Men.

Why do ye these things? - This is an expression of solemn remonstrance at the folly of their conduct in worshipping those who were human. The abhorrence which they evinced at this may throw strong light on the rank and character of the Lord Jesus Christ. When an offer was made to worship Paul and Barnabas, they shrank from it with strong expressions of aversion and indignation. Yet when similar worship was offered to the Lord Jesus; when he was addressed by Thomas in the language of worship, "My Lord and my God" John 20:28, he uttered not the slightest reproof. Nay, he approved it, and expressed his approbation of others who should also do it, John 20:29. Compare John 5:23. How can this difference be accounted for except on the supposition that the Lord Jesus was divine? Would he, if a mere man, receive homage as God, when his disciples rejected it with horror?

Of like passions with you - We are human beings like yourselves. We have no claim, no pretensions to anything more. The word "passions" here means simply that they had the common feelings and propensities of people - the nature of people; the affections of people. It does not mean that they were subject to any improper passions, to ill temper, etc., as some have supposed; but that they did not pretend to be gods. "We need food and drink; we are exposed to pain, and sickness, and death." The Latin Vulgate renders it, "We are mortal like yourselves." The expression stands opposed to the proper conception of God, who is not subject to these affections, who is most blessed and immortal. Such a Being only is to be worshipped; and the apostles remonstrated strongly with them on the folly of paying religious homage to beings like themselves. Compare James 5:17, "Elias (Elijah) was a man subject to like passions as we are, etc."

That ye should turn from these vanities - That you should cease to worship idols. Idols are often called vanities, or vain things, Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Kings 17:15; 1 Kings 16:13, 1 Kings 16:26; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 10:8; Jonah 2:8. They are called vanities, a lie, or lying vanities, as opposed to the living and true God, because they are unreal; because they have no power to help: because confidence in them is vain.

Unto the living God - 1 Thessalonians 1:9. He is called the living God to distinguish him from idols. See the notes on Matthew 16:16.

Which made heaven ... - Who thus showed that he was the only proper object of worship. This doctrine, that there is one God who has made all things, was new to them. They worshipped multitudes of divinities; and though they regarded Jupiter as the father of gods and human beings, yet they had no conception that all things had been created by the will of one Infinite Being.

Acts 14:16
Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

Who in times past - Previous to the gospel; in past ages.

Suffered all nations - Permitted all nations; that is, all Gentiles, Acts 17:30. "And the times of this ignorance God winked at."

To walk in their own ways - To conduct themselves without the restraints and instructions of a written law. They were permitted to follow their own reason and passions, and their own system of religion. God gave them no written laws, and sent to them no messengers. Why he did this we cannot determine. It might have been, among other reasons, to show to the world conclusively:

(1) The insufficiency of reason to guide people in the matters of religion. The experiment was made under the most favorable circumstances. The most enlightened nations, the Greeks and Romans, were left to pursue the inquiry, and failed no less than the most degraded tribes of people. The trial was made for four thousand years, and attended with the same results everywhere.

(2) it showed the need of revelation to guide man.

(3) it evinced, beyond the possibility of mistake, the depravity of man. In all nations, in all circumstances, people had shown the same alienation from God. By suffering them to walk in their own ways, it was seen that those ways were sin, and that some power more than human was necessary to bring people back to God.

Acts 14:17
Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

Nevertheless - Though he gave them no revelation.

He left not himself without witness - He gave demonstration of his existence and of his moral character.

In that he did good - By doing good. The manner in which he did it, Paul immediately specifies. Idols did not do good; they conferred no favors, and were, therefore, unworthy of confidence.

And gave us rain from heaven - Rain from above - from the clouds, Mark 8:11; Luke 9:54; Luke 17:29; Luke 21:11; John 6:31-32. Rain is one of the evidences of the goodness of God. Man could not cause it; and without it, regulated at proper intervals of time and in proper quantities, the earth would soon be one wide scene of desolation. There is scarcely anything which more certainly indicates unceasing care and wisdom than the needful and refreshing showers of rain. The sun and stars move by fixed laws, whose operation we can see and anticipate. The falling of rain is regulated by laws which We cannot trace, and it seems, therefore, to be poured, as it were, directly from God's hollow hand, Psalm 147:8, "Who covereth the heaven with clouds; who prepareth rain for the earth."

And fruitful seasons - Seasons when the earth produces abundance. It is remarkable, and a striking proof of the divine goodness, that so few seasons are unfruitful. The earth yields her increase; the labors of the farmer are crowned with success; and the goodness of God demands the expressions of praise. God does not forget his ancient covenant Genesis 8:22, though man forgets it, and disregards his great Benefactor.

Filling our hearts with food - The word "hearts" is used here as a Hebraism, to denote "persons" themselves; filling us with food, etc. Compare Matthew 12:40.

Gladness - Joy; comfort the comfort arising from the supply of our constantly returning needs. This is proof of everwatchful goodness. It is a demonstration at once that there is a God, and that he is good. It would be easy for God to withdraw these blessings, and leave us to want. A single word, or a single deviation from the fullness of benevolence, would blast all these comforts, and leave us to lamentation, woe, and death, Psalm 104:27-29; Psalm 145:15-16.

Acts 14:18
And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

And with these sayings - With these arguments.

Scarce restrained they the people - They were so fully satisfied that the gods had appeared, and were so full of zeal to do them honor.

Acts 14:19
And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

And there came thither certain Jews - Not satisfied with having expelled them from Antioch and Iconium, they still pursued them. Persecutors often exhibit a zeal and perseverance in a bad cause which it would be well if Christians evinced in a holy cause. Bad people will often travel further to do evil than good people will to do good; and wicked people often show more zeal in opposing the gospel than professed Christians do in advancing it.

Antioch and Iconium - See the notes on Acts 13:14, Acts 13:51.

Who persuaded the people - That they were impostors; and who excited their rage against them.

And having stoned Paul - Whom they were just before ready to worship as a god! What a striking instance of the fickleness and instability of idolaters! And what a striking instance of the instability and uselessness of mere popularity! Just before they were ready to adore him; now they sought to put him to death. Nothing is more fickle than popular favor. The unbounded admiration of a man may soon be changed into unbounded indignation and contempt. It was well for Paul that he was not seeking this popularity, and that he did not depend on it for happiness. He had a good conscience; he was engaged in a good cause; he was under the protection of God; and his happiness was to be sought from a higher source than the applause of people, "fluctuating and uncertain as the waves of the sea." To this transaction Paul referred when he enumerated his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:25, "Once was Istoned."

Drew him out of the city - Probably in haste, and in popular rage, as if he was unfit to be in the city, and was unworthy of a decent burial; for it does not appear that they contemplated an interment but indignantly dragged him beyond the walls of the city to leave him there. Such sufferings and trials it cost to establish that religion in the world which has shed so many blessings on man; which now crowns us with comfort; which saves us from the abominations and degradations of idolatry here, and from the pains of hell hereafter.

Supposing he had been dead - The next verse shows that he was really not dead, though many commentators, as well as the Jews, have supposed that he was, and was miraculously restored to life. It is remarkable that Barnabas was not exposed to this popular fury. But it is to be remembered that Paul was the chief speaker, and it was his special zeal that exposed him to this tumult.

Acts 14:20
Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Howbeit - Notwithstanding the supposition that he was dead.

As the disciples stood round about him - It would seem that they did not suppose I that he was dead; but might be expecting that he would revive.

He rose up ... - Most commentators have supposed that this was the effect of a miracle. They have maintained that he could not have risen so soon, and entered into the city, without the interposition of miraculous power (Calvin, Doddridge, Clarke, etc.). But the commentators have asserted what is not intimated by the sacred penman. The probability is that he was stunned by a blow - perhaps a single blow and after a short time recovered from it. Nothing is more common than thus by a violent blow on the head to be rendered apparently lifeless, the effect of which soon is over, and the person restored to strength. Pricaeus and Wetstein suppose that Paul feigned himself to be dead, and when out of danger rose and returned to the city. But this is wholly improbable.

And came into the city - It is remarkable that he should have returned again into the same city. But probably it was only among the new converts that he showed himself. The Jews supposed that he was dead; and it does not appear that he again exposed himself to their rage.

And the next day ... - The opposition here was such that it was vain to attempt to preach there any longer. Having been seen by the disciples after his supposed death, their faith was confirmed, and he departed to preach in another place.

10) so he said loudly, "Stand straight up on your feet." And the man jumped up and began walking.

- Paul spoke loudly because this miracle would be a credential for his preaching. What a marvelous response from the man with the handicap! He began walking.
11) And when the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the dialect of Lycaonia, "The gods have come down to us in human form." - The crowd connected the preachers with their own local deities. It was a day for shouting when the gods visited. But the apostles would soon be shouting, too. (Verse 14)
12) So, they called Barnabas, "Zeus," and Paul "Hermes," because Paul was the principal speaker.

- Zeus and Hermes are Greek gods. Zeus is known elsewhere as Jupiter, Ammon, Belus and Osiris.

- Hermes, known elsewhere as Mercury, was the messenger of the gods.

13) Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance of the city, brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the gates [of the heathen temple], wanting to offer [animal] sacrifices on behalf of the crowds. - The pagan worship was dynamic. They intended to DO something. This is probably the most honor the preaching team would encounter anywhere.
14) But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard about what they were trying to do [to them], they tore their clothes [i.e., as an expression of frustration] and rushed over to the crowd and shouted,

- Luke speaks of Barnabas first, probably because he was viewed as the chief god Zeus. Paul, the lead preacher, was thought to be a servant of Zeus.

- Tearing the clothes was a Jewish custom showing extreme displeasure. Although there was a language barrier (verse 11), the crowd must have understood this gesture.

- Now the preachers were shouting.

15) "Gentlemen, why are you doing these things? [Do you not know that] we are also human beings with the same kind of feelings that you have? And we are just bringing you the good news that you should turn away from these useless things [i.e., idol worship] and [turn] to the living God, who created the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.

- The crowd was multi-lingual and understood Greek, although the statements of verse 11 were spoken in the local dialect and the team did not understand them.

- The ability to speak in tongues was not the same as understanding other tongues.

- The mythological gods did not share human feelings, but these preachers had them. - They didn't build a month-long foundation. They did not do the politically correct thing. The preachers immediately called the local deities useless and pointed towards the living God, the Creator of everything they touched.

16) God allowed all nations to go their own way in past generations,  
17) and yet He did not leave them without evidence about Himself. He gave you good [things], brought rain from the sky, [provided] fruitful harvests and filled [your bodies] with food and your hearts with joy."

- Paul pointed to evidence of God in nature. He is seen in the rain, harvests and ultimately their own joy.

- It would have been pointless to quote from the Old Testament for these people who lacked this heritage of the revelation of God.

18) And [even though] they said these things, it was difficult to restrain the crowds from offering [animal] sacrifices to them.

- These sentences were not very convincing to people that were certain their god was with them. But this is all about to change in the next sentence.

19) But Jews came to [Lystra] from Antioch [in Pisidia] and Iconium. When they persuaded the crowds [to reject Paul's message] they stoned him and dragged him out of town, assuming he was dead.

- We have meet these angry people before in chapter 13:50 and 14:5. The team stayed in Lystra long enough for news to reach these distant cities. These troublemakers came immediately.

- The instigators were from the synagogue because of the form of punishment.

20) But as the disciples stood around [Paul's apparently lifeless body], he [surprisingly] stood up [fully restored to health] and entered the town. On the following day he went with Barnabas to Derbe.

- The team had converts because there are disciples. Evidently both those who threw the stones and the believers believed Paul was dead.

- Luke did not claim a resurrection for Paul, but some miracle must have been involved because he went walking the next day.

- Was this the same as 2 Corinthians 11:25?