Left side of room, probably the senate. Vermont State Capitol.
Friday, 3 February 2023
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Acts 14:2
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
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Paul and Barnabas are in Iconium, having gone together to the synagogue of the Jews. In speaking there, it said in the previous verse that a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed. Now, the narrative continues, saying, “But the unbelieving Jews.”
The word translated as “unbelieving” is apeitheó. It signifies “to refuse to be persuaded.” It is, therefore, the withholding of belief. It is a word that is often translated as disobedient. But in the case of the word of the Lord, the two thoughts are really synonymous. To not believe the word of the Lord is to be disobedient to the word of the Lord, even if there is no command involved. This is because the word of the Lord is fixed.
If something is certain to be the word of the Lord, such as the message Paul and Barnabas are conveying, then to not believe is to disobey. To believe, but not act is also to disobey. To believe and to act is to be obedient. If something is presented which is not the word of the Lord, the Book of Mormon, for example, to believe is to be disobedient to the Lord.
The parameters are already set, such as Galatians 1:6-8. There, we have been told that any other gospel than the one preached by the apostles, and which is now recorded in Scripture, is anathema. Therefore, we are to reject it. In the case of these Jews in Iconium, they have heard the true gospel and they have been disobedient by not believing it. Because of this, they “stirred up the Gentiles.”
Here is a word used for the second and last time in Scripture, epegeiró. It signifies “to rouse upon.” In other words, their influence is used upon the minds of the people to stir them up against the message that has been conveyed. The only other time it was used was in Acts 13:50 where the same thing occurred –
“But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up [epegeiró] persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.”
The apostles gained a foothold among the Gentiles through the presentation of the gospel, and the Jews – probably out of jealousy – then troubled the minds of the Gentiles, twisting the words of Scripture against the truth. As it next says, “and poisoned their minds.”
The word translated as “poisoned” signifies “to harm.” The Jews damaged the minds of the Gentiles. They had believed and then they were told what they believed was false. This is just what Paul writes about in 1 Thessalonians 2 –
“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.” 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
In that case, they forbid Paul and his companions from speaking to the Gentiles. In this case, they have called into question what was spoken to the Gentiles. But the same attitude is behind both. As for the poisoning of the minds of the Gentiles, Luke next records that it is “against the brethren.”
The attack is personal. Rather than directly attacking the message, they have maligned the integrity of the believers in some way. Maybe they said they were unqualified. Maybe they said they were heretics. Whatever the reason, personal attacks were levied against them. The next verse will show that the Lord was with them. He was there to defend the word that was being carried by His apostles.
Life application: Nothing has changed in the past two millennia. There are those who attack those who carry the true gospel, and there are those that defend it. Sometimes, it is necessary for someone who is rightly teaching the Bible to include a verbal attack against the false teacher as well, explaining why the person is not to be trusted. In such cases, that attack should be based upon a deviation from the word.
In other words, an unjustified attack is known as an ad hominem fallacy. The words mean “to the man.” Such attacks are directed at the person instead of their doctrine. This is improper. One might say, “Pastor Joe is a false teacher. He lives in a million-dollar house and drives a Mercedes Benz.”
Those things are irrelevant. They say nothing about the doctrine of the person. Unless the amount of wealth a person has or the lifestyle he leads is somehow connected to his false teaching, it is simply a red herring intended to harm the person without any reason behind it. However, if the doctrine of Pastor Joe is incorrectly centered on money to make him rich, and if that can be substantiated, then calling this out is justified. All such things must be based on the word. If they are, then what is wrong is properly highlighted.
This was seen in the previous chapter where Luke recorded that “the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city.” He was highlighting that the intent of the Jews was to maintain control over the wealth and influence of these people. From the context, it can be inferred that they already had this control, and they simply didn’t want to lose it.
Have care in how you deal with such things. Once one enters into fallacious attacks or diversions, the argument is tainted. Ask yourself, “Does this have any bearing on the word?” If it does not, do not bring it up, or do not allow it to affect you if others have brought it up.
Lord God, help us to think clearly and rationally as we evaluate Your word and how it is presented by others. Also, help us to rightly defend it, not getting caught up in improper discussions or misdirection away from what is right. May we consider all things in light of what You have presented in Your word, allowing it to be the standard for our thoughts and conduct. Amen.