Swirly lines and chandelier. Vermont State Capitol.
Sunday, 5 February 2023
But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. Acts 14:4
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
After the Jews poisoned the minds of the brethren, the previous verse noted that Paul and Barnabas stayed in Iconium for a long time speaking boldly. Along with their words, the Lord granted them signs and wonders to be done by their hands. With that, it next says, “But the multitude of the city was divided.”
The Greek word is schizó, a schism. This shows that the signs and wonders were not enough to convince those who simply refused to believe. And more, those who believed did so based on hearing the word of God, as Acts 14:1 plainly noted –
“Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.”
It is obvious that the signs and wonders, then, were given to edify those who believed, but they also were intended as a sign to those who did not believe, something that actually hardened their hearts as happened with Pharaoh in Egypt and as is seen elsewhere. This is what Paul poignantly indicates in 1 Corinthians 11 –
“Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” 1 Corinthians 11:22-25
Because of the faith of those who believed, and because of the hardness of those who refused to believe, “part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.” This is not at all unlike what will occur in Thessalonica –
“And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. 5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” Acts 17:4, 5
The Jews have a knack for placing themselves carefully within a society in order to influence its workings. This is not just in the times of ancient Rome, but it has continued, even until today. As Lionel Blue said, “Jews are just like everyone else, only more so.” In other words, whatever they put their hand to, it will be just like others, but with a boost of steroids added in. This trait resulted in their ability to divide Iconium, and it was based on their rejection of the name of Jesus. It was a division that began in their own land as He walked among them –
“So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.” John 7:43, 44
Life application: There are innumerable people who believe that God continues to provide signs and wonders in the world today, coming to people in their sleep and telling them they need Jesus, or appearing to people in the deep recesses of the jungle and telling them that missionaries are coming who need to be listened to.
These stories are as common as lies from the left, but are they based on reality? It has been clearly shown that the signs and wonders that Paul and Barnabas exhibited did not convert the Jews, nor did they convert the Gentiles who sided with the Jews. Rather, they are a sign to them and will stand as a testimony against them. But those who believed did so based on the word of God that was spoken to them.
This is exactly how Paul says people are converted today. Sharing the gospel and the word is the means, the mode, and the method by which man can be saved. The Bible, the word of God expressed on pages of paper stamped with ink, is the sign to the world that condemnation already exists in humanity. It is the word that documents how we got in this mess, it is the word that explains what God has been doing to get us out of it, and it is the word that reveals His coming in human flesh in the Person of Jesus to make it possible for man to be saved.
To claim that God is going around His completed word to effect His purposes is self-defeating. It means that the very purpose that the word was compiled for isn’t effective in accomplishing what it was intended to do. Those who spread these falsities diminish the work of God in Christ, they diminish the work of God through the word, and they are trusting in the words of man rather than the words of God. It is not a good place to be.
All men, saved and unsaved, will stand before God for judgment. Those who are unsaved will have the Bible to speak against them. Those who are saved will have the Bible to judge their faith and their deeds. On that day, the word of God alone will be the standard. Why would anyone believe that it is any different now? Have faith in the word, speak out the word, and share the gospel with those who are perishing. God has chosen this method for man to be saved. Trusting that He will show up in someone’s sleep is simply punting to Him the ball you should be carrying.
O God, help us to think clearly about how we handle Your word and what our responsibilities are in relation to it. Help us not to get drawn into the lies and deceit of those who make things up out of their own heads. Instead, help us to have confidence in Your word and to stand on it as it is written. In this, we will be effective in doing what You have instructed us to do. Amen!