Directions according to Wikipedia. Which could mean anything…
Tuesday, 7 February 2023
they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. Acts 14:6
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).
Note: the NKJV doesn’t do a great job of translating this verse. Instead, it should read, “having become aware, they fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region” (CG). This will be used for the commentary.
With trouble brewing in Iconium and a violent attempt made by both the Gentiles and the Jews to stone Paul and Barnabas, the verse begins with, “having become aware.”
Without telling the details, we see that Paul and Barnabas somehow were apprised of the plotting of those opposed to their message. Because of this, “they fled to the cities of Lycaonia.”
Of this area, Charles Ellicott provides a remarkable description –
“The very name Lycaonia, interpreted traditionally as Wolf-land (the local legend derived it from Lycaon, who had been transformed into a wolf), represented but too faithfully the character of the inhabitants. The travellers were also losing the protection which a Roman citizen might claim in a Roman province, Lycaonia, which had been annexed in A.D. 17 to the Roman province of Galatia, having been assigned by Caligula to Antiochus, King of Commagene. So wild a country was hardly likely to attract Jewish settlers; and there is no trace in St. Luke’s narrative of the existence of a synagogue in either of the two cities. For the first time, so far as we know, St. Paul had to begin his work by preaching to the heathen. Even the child of a devout Jewish mother had grown up to manhood uncircumcised (see Note on Acts 16:3).”
This is the only time that the area of Lycaonia is mentioned in Scripture. As stated by Ellicott, the name comes from lukos, a wolf. Even to this day, the name inspires movies about people that have transformed into wolves. Of this area, two main cities are named, “Lystra and Derbe.”
Both names are introduced here. The meaning of the names isn’t certain. Along with visiting these cities, the apostles also evangelized “the surrounding region.” Charles Ellicott continues his narrative of the area, saying –
“Of the two towns named, Lystra was about forty miles to the south-east of Iconium, Derbe about twenty miles further to the east. The former, which lies to the north of a lofty conical mountain, the Kara-dagh (=Black Mountain) is now known as Bin-bir-Kilisseh, i.e., ‘the thousand and one churches,’ from the ruins that abound there. The addition of ‘the region that lieth round about’ suggests the thought that the cities were not large enough to supply a sufficient field of action. The work in the country villages must obviously—even more than in the cities—have been entirely among the Gentiles. Among the converts of this region, and probably of this time, we may note the names of Timotheus of Lystra (see Note on Acts 16:1), and Gaius, or Caius, of Derbe (Acts 20:4).”
Of the actions of these apostles, it is common to read commentaries that say their travels are in accord with Matthew 10:23 –
“When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.”
This sounds appealing. The apostles were persecuted in Iconium and so they took the words of the Lord to heart and went to evangelize another city. Unfortunately, this fails to consider the continued words of the same verse from Matthew –
“For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
The entire context of the passage from Matthew refers to Israel. The continued words of Matthew 10:23 clearly indicate that Israel was the subject of the command. Therefore, it is wholly inappropriate to use this verse in Acts as a fulfillment of the apostles’ obedience to the command of Matthew 10:23. Rather, they are doing what the Lord instructed as is recorded in Acts 1:8 –
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
These men had been sent out as missionaries and they are doing what missionaries are to do in the context of the church age. As apostles, they bore an additional set of gifts and abilities as the word was being established. Now that it has been compiled, the word is the tool to be used for the evangelization of the nations.
Life application: On the morning of preparing this commentary, a video was received entitled “Iranians Meeting Jesus in Dreams, Experiencing Radical Transformation.” If this were true, there would be no need to evangelize. But the Bible says otherwise.
How convenient it is to say that Jesus is popping into people’s heads at night and converting them. It sure takes the pressure off those who are too timid (or too lazy) to do what the Bible instructs.
God has given us the tools we need to evangelize the world, He has empowered us to do so, and yet we sit and watch videos that are contrary to the very message that we are supposed to be proclaiming. Someday, all will have to stand before the Lord and give an account of what they did with their time.
Those who make up false stories of visions, dreams, and conversations with Jesus will have to face Him someday. Be wise and discerning. Get out and tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ. This is how people are evangelized. It will not come about any other way.
Heavenly Father, help us to be reasonable in our approach to Your word. May we not take liberties with it that are contrary to its message. Rather, help us to accept it as written, follow through with what is instructed, and be willing to share the good news with those we encounter. It is what You have instructed. May we be obedient to Your word. Amen.