Ill-informed religious people are hard to control. Once they became driven by their beliefs nothing can change them. John MacArthur relates a story in one of his books (Charismatic Chaos), describing how a certain tribe in Africa would dance and get themselves into such a trance that they would babble away in unintelligible tongues as the slashed their bodies with knives for the blood to flow. The Church at Corinth were a body filled with erroneous practices which might have spilled over into their Christianity from their pagan background. Most people read 1 Corinthian 14 and miss an important verse, which is:
1 Cor 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
This is a rebuke from God for their unorganized, ill-disciplined gatherings where everyone wanted to do as he or she pleased. God expects the man or woman of God to be disciplined and controlled. He expects the Holy Spirit to control our minds, thinking and behavior. We pick up our reading today:
Ac 14:18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
1) At times it is impossible to control the misinformed. Paul and Silas tried hard, seeking to divert attention from themselves to the True, Living God, but this was in vain!
Ac 14:18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Sometimes people are so caught in in their pagan past that irrespective what is taught, they cannot and will not change their belief system. I have learnt over the years of ministry that there are times when as a Christian you need to cut your losses. There comes a time when, because some don’t want to accept Biblical teaching and hold onto things they were taught in the past that you need to let it go. Sadly it might result in souls being lost. But know this, you have tried. You were God’s messenger and should they not want to hear, they are responsible for their eternal future, not you.
2) Another evil Jewish attack. Remember what happened in both Pisidian Antioch and Iconium? Because of threats upon their lives the missionaries needed to leave those areas … but as soon as the Jews from those cities realized Paul and Barnabas were making inroads for the Gospel in Lystra, they followed them with malicious intentions.
Ac 14:19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over.
They were successful. This style of evil onslaught continues today. Those opposed to the Gospel follow God’s servants, inciting people against them. Wherever there is a work of God, the evil one uses his agents to bring obstacles in the way of progress.
3) The seeming success of the opposition. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. Paul was the chief speaker so he became the focus of attack. They used the dreaded stoning tactic right where they found Paul after which they dragged him like a bag of sand outside the city walls, leaving him for dead for that is what they wanted. Get rid of Paul and get rid of this new message taking those cities by storm. This is always the intention of the opposition … get rid of the speaker and the movement stops. Today it is more subtle! Spread a malicious rumor about a pastor or evangelist and his ministry could end suddenly. They tried this with men such as Billy Graham and Frank Retief, but thanks be to God, they had credible people around to defend them against such attacks. Pray for and protect your pastor. Even though the stoning would have been severe and damaging to the body, they failed.
4) Needed support from faithful believers.
Ac 14:20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.
Paul was not dead. He might have been unconscious or he might have been waiting for night fall as he lay outside the city walls. Soon “disciples” arrived, and as they stood around him, perhaps protecting him from vision, he stood up and went back to the city with them. Two things come to mind here. (i) There were disciples. Their Gospel preaching yielded results. Even in the midst of the harshest people, some will believe the Gospel. (ii) Disciples always come to the assistance of their leaders, as well as their Church family. It ought not to matter how Christians find themselves in trouble … be it from persecution, physical attack, financial pressure, emotional disorder or family dysfunction, the people of God ought to avail themselves to assist within the realms of their means. Speak to those who have helped their needy brothers and sisters in Christ … they will tell you of the joy that passes our understanding that filled their hearts. Why? Because they were God’s hands, feet, ears, mouth, purse … the joy and happiness God gives such people so satisfies their hearts, not because they helped someone but because they served their Lord. 5) Mission on the move … again. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. One needs to understand that their desire was achieved in Lystra. People responded to the Gospel. Souls were saved. Disciples were hatched and they could maintain as a Gospel presence in the city. But for Paul and Barnabas, remaining there, it would be too dangerous. God had work for them in other places … and their next preaching appointment was to be in Derbe.
Ac 14:21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.
Their evangelistic efforts were rewarded with many being saved. The word “disciple” as used here must be understood as people who were saved and started to, and followed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Remaining a disciple requires teaching (Matthew 28:20). We shall see this in the following section. We do not know how long the missionaries stayed in Derbe, but we may safely say it was long enough to teach (disciple) the converts. As we have said before, converts need to be taught because coming from a non-Christian background means adopting a new mindset, a new philosophy of life … they need to develop a Biblical Worldview. In other words, theory needs to translate into lifestyle. In the Home Group I attend we have started working through a book by Dane Ortland called “Deeper”. His intention is to assist people translate Biblical Doctrine into Practical Theology.
O Lord our God, thank You that the Gospel achieves its objective, even under the worst persecution. Help us to cherish what we have, digging deeper into Gospel Truths and applying it to our personal development in grace. Amen.