Acts 14:25

Quechee covered bridge. Vermont.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. Acts 14:25

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The previous verse refers to the apostles passing through Pisidia and coming to Pamphylia. With that short note to cover whatever happened in that area, it next says, “Now when they had preached the word in Perga.”

This is something that they may or may not have done when passing through the first time. In Acts 13, it said –

“Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.” Acts 13:13, 14

Scholars either ignore the reason why this area was not previously evangelized, or the comments are generally in line with the thought that they could tell there was no visible fruit and so they simply ignored the area. But the context of the passage may explain itself. One cannot know if there is “visible fruit” unless he first goes forth and preaches.

The most likely reason is that they did, in fact, preach to the people in Perga, but because there was no synagogue mentioned, it means the only preaching that occurred was to Gentiles. John Mark may have not appreciated this and got bent out of shape and departed. Or it could be that without any synagogue, they decided to go directly to where a known synagogue was, which was in Antioch. If this was so, then maybe the opposite occurred. John Mark may have said, “Why aren’t we preaching here instead of heading off to Antioch?” Not appreciating the situation, he packed up and left.

Either way, it is in Perga that John Mark became disaffected. With that remembered, it now notes definitively that this time they did preach in Perga. With that noted, it next says, “they went down to Attalia.”

Perga was not on the coast. Rather, it was upriver. The location of Attalia is described by Cambridge –

“A seaport of Pamphylia, at the mouth of the river Catarrhactes. … The Apostles had sailed, as they came from Paphos, directly to Perga, which they reached by coming some way up the river Cestrus. Now they go by land from Perga to the seacoast at Attalia, where there was more likelihood of finding a vessel in which they could sail into Syria.”

Of the city itself, it is next described by Albert Barnes –

“Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamus, whose dominions extended from the northwestern corner of Asia Miner to the Sea of Pamphylia, had built this city in a convenient position for commanding the trade of Syria or Egypt. When Alexander the Great passed this way, no such city was in existence; but since the days of the kings of Pergamus, who inherited a fragment of his vast empire, Attalia has always existed and flourished, retaining the name of the monarch who built it. Its ancient site is not now certainly known. … It is probable that it is the modern Satalia.”

This is the last stop of the missionary journey before returning home. Nothing is recorded of evangelizing here. It may simply have been used as a transit city to return home, at least as far as Luke’s records indicated.

Life application: Nothing is said of evangelization on the way from Perga to Attalia, nor of the time spent in Attalia. Nothing will be said of the trip from Attalia back to their home station. But this does not mean that the apostles didn’t preach to the people. Just as with Perga where nothing was recorded in Acts 13, to say that no evangelization took place is what is known as an argument from silence.

This is a logical fallacy where the failure of the source (in this case, Luke) to mention a given fact, or facts, becomes the ground for an inference. Such an inference is then turned into a conclusion that the supposed fact is untrue, or the supposed event never occurred.

In this case, the fallacy would be, “Because nothing is spoken of concerning evangelization of the people in Attalia and on the ship back home, the apostles failed to tell any of those people about Jesus.” The only facts we have are what Luke has recorded. Paul and Barnabas may have had many converts in Attalia, and it may be that the entire ship converted to Christianity on the way home. Luke is recording what the Holy Spirit inspired him to write. That is what we need. Everything else is silent and we cannot add to the historical record by making unfounded claims either way.

The point is that just because nothing is recorded concerning such things, we cannot use that silence to say, “I don’t need to tell people about Jesus at a particular time because Paul and Barnabas decided to not speak about Jesus at a particular time.”

We need to be willing to speak about Jesus all the time. Whether on a ship, on a bus, or at a stop awaiting the next part of the journey, we should look for an opportunity to open our mouths and speak. Let us do so, to the glory of God who has given us mouths to speak with. We are the redeemed of the Lord. Let us speak out the good news!

Most glorious Heavenly Father, we have been saved by the precious blood of Christ. May we not fail to tell others of this wonderful gift of healing and hope. Give us hearts to speak forth Your saving gospel message to any and all that we encounter on the path of life. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.