Acts 14: 1 - 29
1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 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. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
We now enter Iconium and we repeat the story. Paul and Barnabas go to the local synagogue. Both Jews and Gentiles believer. Local Jewish leaders are not happy and try to start some trouble. But unlike previous experiences, they are able to stay longer than usual. The Jews apparently didn't not get the Gentiles on their side quickly. Without their support they would not be able to run Paul and Barnabas out of town.
Verse 3 it says that they were able to speak boldly for Jesus. In return Jesus backs up what they are saying with signs and wonders. No matter how you read the book of Acts, you cannot deny the fact that Jesus never lets His people down. They place their faith in Him and He will meet their needs.
In time, things finally turned ugly and before they could stone Paul and Barnabas to death they left town.
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 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. 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.
Now we have a language problem. Paul and Barnabas don't speak Lycaonian. When this miracle took place, the people got so excited that they reverted back to their original language. If you speak two languages you understand what happened. If you don't, just take my word for it. They thought the Greek gods had come down to pay them a visit. The priest of the temple of Zeus arrives with sacrifices to make to Paul and Barnabas. With they realize what is happening they react immediately.
The act of ripping their clothes was a sign of grief and dismay. They openly declared that there were men just like them. That they were they to bring good news that would turn their life around.
Paul now does something you haven't seen before. He preaches the Gospel without mentioning the history of Israel, the Old Testament prophecies or use Biblical language. Why? Because these people have no frame of reference to these things. Instead, takes them back to creation, to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. He talks about how God has made his presence known, because he is the one who gives rain, seasons which bring them food and joy. Still they were having a hard time keeping the people from making sacrifices.
What happened? Well Luke doesn't say, "They were successful." He lets his readers connect the dots.
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.
Think about this. Paul was willing to give his life to a people who A) Believed in idol worship and B) hated him with a passion. It doesn't seem fair that God would ask this of Him. But it isn't about fair. Think about this. God so loved the world (that's you and me) that He gave His Son Jesus (who came and willing died on a cross for our sins so that we could be forgiven). Paul loved these people so much that he was willing to die, if necessary so that they might know this message. If you still don't get it let me put it this way. Paul loved these people as much as God loved them.
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia,
#2 - They were there to appoint leaders in each church. Some read this to mean that the Apostles appointed someone. But in fact, the Apostles were there to help the church choose the right person of the job. They know what we know today. A church that has leadership and is organized around the Word of God is much more powerful and effective than one who isn't.
26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.
English Standard Version (ESV)