Acts 14:21

River by road. Vermont.

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, Acts 14:21

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In just the previous verse, it noted that Paul and Barnabas departed to Derbe. This was after Paul had been stoned by the inhabitants of Lystra. Once arriving in Derbe, Luke now records, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city.”

Without timidity because of what happened in the nearby city of Lystra, the men went forth and preached the gospel. Nothing is said of entering a synagogue, so there was probably no synagogue in that town. Beyond that, Luke leaves out any of the finer details and simply notes their going forth and preaching the gospel. And this was not without a positive result as is evidenced in the next words, saying, “and made many disciples.”

Rather, it is a present participle verb, saying, “and having discipled many.” They not only had converts, but they also stayed long enough to disciple those who had accepted the message of the gospel. It is evident that to these men, sharing the gospel and obtaining converts was only the beginning of the matter. They carefully ensured that those who were converted were discipled.

If this were not the case, these convert’s new life in Christ would quickly devolve into something other than what the Lord intends for those who are saved. One cannot live according to life in Christ unless he knows what is expected. With that noted, and without telling how long this process took, the narrative continues with the note that “they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.”

In reverse order of their travels as far as Lystra, the apostles returned by way of the three cities they had previously been at. Noting the circumstances in which they left each city will help provide clarity concerning the boldness of their return travels:

Lystra – “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” (Acts 14:19, 20)

Iconium – “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.” (Acts 14:4-6)

Antioch of Pisidia – “But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.” (Acts 13:50, 51)

The purpose of their return to these three hostile cities should be obvious, and it will be detailed in the verses ahead. For now, it is simply a remarkable note that the apostles were fearless in their desire to not only evangelize places that had not been previously evangelized but to return to places that were evangelized and yet where there was brutal hostility to their message.

Life application: Wherever you are, if you are a faithful believer, you should consider yourself in a mission field. Quite often, Christians are admitted to the hospital for some life-threatening physical disability or disease, and yet they are willing to share their hope in Christ during such an event. In this, they demonstrate that the physical danger to their lives is not even comparable to the spiritual danger to the lives of those around them.

Believers may sit in a restaurant and tell of the hope they possess, letting the waiter or waitress know that even though they are servants to the table, they have importance. The server may be in a second job just trying to pay the bills, and yet the message of Christ says, “Your spiritual state is more important than even your current lack of money.” Letting him know there is hope beyond the struggles of this life can be of life-changing value for him. And be sure to leave a good tip J.

These are but two examples of how you can tell others about Jesus in your daily life. Think of it! You can hand a tract to the checkout clerk at the store. You can explain what Jesus means to you at the paint store while getting a gallon to touch up your house. You can share Jesus any time and with anyone.

Have you told the lawn guy who tends to your house about Jesus? The pest control person? The mailman you see every day? Keep the word on your tongue and be willing to share it. Paul and Barnabas risked their lives to share it and then to reaffirm it in very hostile places. You can do it in a friendly atmosphere!

Lord God, how grateful we are for the salvation You have granted to us. And that didn’t just come about as we walked down the road by ourselves. Rather, we heard the word spoken, we read a tract that someone shared with us, or maybe we were saved after reading the Bible. However we heard the message, it came through the efforts of someone else getting that word to us. Help us to now go and do likewise. Amen.