The first missionary journey continues with visits to Iconium (vv. 1–7), Lystra, and Derbe (vv. 8–20). The visit to Iconium features bold proclamation of the gospel, signs, and wonders. At Lystra, Paul’s first miracle of healing takes place (vv. 8–10).
There are striking parallels in Luke’s description of the public emergence of Jesus and Paul:
- Luke 4:1–13: Jesus confronts the Devil; Acts 13:4–12: Paul confronts the child of the Devil.
- Luke 4:14–30: Jesus preaches in the synagogue and is rejected by the Jews; Acts 13:13–50: Paul preaches in the synagogue and he too is rejected by the Jews.
- Luke 4:38–44; 5:17–26: Jesus heals many and a paralytic; Acts 14:8–10: Paul heals a paralytic.
Just as the Saviour ministers publicly among the Jews, so does His primary representative in the Gentile world. Paul is in solidarity with Jesus and Jesus continues His work through Paul.
There is also a parallel here with Peter’s healing of the paralytic (Acts 3:1–10). This demonstrates Paul’s apostleship is of the same order as Peter’s.
The people of Lystra want to give Paul and Barnabas divine status. The apostles’ response (vv. 14–15) is a clear contrast to Herod’s in Acts 12:19–23.
Paul responds to these people, whose lives are dominated by agricultural cycles, with a clear message (vv. 15–17). Firstly, he insists on the humanness of the messenger. Secondly, that God the Creator has shown kindness by giving rain, crops, food, and joy. Thirdly, people should turn from worshipping idols (e.g. Zeus and Hermes), or “worthless things”, to the living God (v. 15). Finally, the Gentiles’ position before God has changed. Now that the gospel is proclaimed, their past ignorance of God will no longer be tolerated (v. 16; see Acts 17:30).
Once more the non-believing Jews win over the crowd and consequently, Paul is stoned and left for dead. Later, Paul and Barnabas retrace their steps to Antioch, encouraging new believers along the way and preparing them for what is to come (v. 22).
We must not be unrealistic about the opposition we will face as followers of Christ. Unrealistic expectations always cause doubt. See how Jesus tells the disciples what is ahead of them (John 16:1, 4, 33).
Such warnings are given to us for the same reason as the first Christians in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe—for “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them [and us] to remain true to the faith” (v. 22).
Prosperity theology is often popular, teaching that following Jesus leads to health and wealth. How do the events of Acts 14:22 challenge this kind of thinking and teaching?
Opposition to the gospel is inevitable. What response is called for in the face of such opposition?