Acts 14:1
And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XIV.

(1) Both of the Jews and also of the Greeks.—The latter term is used in its wider sense, as in Mark 7:26 and elsewhere, as equivalent to Gentile, but it implies that those who were so described spoke and understood Greek. In the former instance these would probably be the “proselytes of the gate” who heard the Apostles in the synagogue.

Acts

JEWISH REJECTERS AND GENTILE RECEIVERS

Acts 13:44 - Acts 13:52
- Acts 14:1 - Acts 14:7.

In general outline, the course of events in the two great cities of Asia Minor, with which the present passage is concerned, was the same. It was only too faithful a forecast of what was to be Paul’s experience everywhere. The stages are: preaching in the synagogue, rejection there, appeal to the Gentiles, reception by them, a little nucleus of believers formed; disturbances fomented by the Jews, who swallow their hatred of Gentiles by reason of their greater hatred of the Apostles, and will riot with heathens, though they will not pray nor eat with them; and finally the Apostles’ departure to carry the gospel farther afield. This being the outline, we have mainly to consider any special features diversifying it in each case.

Their experience in Antioch was important, because it forced Paul and Barnabas to put into plain words, making very clear to themselves as well as to their hearers, the law of their future conduct. It is always a step in advance when circumstances oblige us to formularise our method of action. Words have a wonderful power in clearing up our own vision. Paul and Barnabas had known all along that they were sent to the Gentiles; but a conviction in the mind is one thing, and the same conviction driven in on us by facts is quite another. The discipline of Antioch crystallised floating intentions into a clear statement, which henceforth became the rule of Paul’s conduct. Well for us if we have open eyes to discern the meaning of difficulties, and promptitude and decision to fix and speak out plainly the course which they prescribe!

The miserable motives of the Jews’ antagonism are forcibly stated in Acts 13:44 - Acts 13:45. They did not ‘contradict and blaspheme,’ because they had taken a week to think over the preaching and had seen its falseness, but simply because, dog-in-the-manger like, they could not bear that ‘the whole city’ should be welcome to share the message. No doubt there was a crowd of ‘Gentile dogs’ thronging the approach to the synagogue; and one can almost see the scowling faces and hear the rustle of the robes drawn closer to avoid pollution. Who were these wandering strangers that they should gather such a crowd? And what had the uncircumcised rabble of Antioch to do with ‘the promises made to the fathers’? It is not the only time that religious men have taken offence at crowds gathering to hear God’s word. Let us take care that we do not repeat the sin. There are always some who-

‘Taking God’s word under wise protection,

Correct its tendency to diffusiveness.’

It needed some courage to front the wild excitement of such a mob, with calm, strong words likely to increase the rage.

‘Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.’ This is not to be regarded as announcing a general course of action, but simply as applying to the actual rejecters in Antioch. The necessity that the word should first be spoken to the Jews continued to be recognised, in each new sphere of work, by the Apostle; but wherever, as here, men turned from the message, the messengers turned from them without further waste of time. Paul put into words here the law for his whole career. The fit punishment of rejection is the withdrawal of the offer. There is something pathetic in the persistence with which, in place after place, Paul goes through the same sequence, his heart yearning over his brethren according to the flesh, and hoping on, after all repulses. It was far more than natural patriotism; it was an offshoot of Christ’s own patient love.

Note also the divine command. Paul bases his action on a prophecy as to the Messiah. But the relation on which prophecy insists between the personal servant of Jehovah and the collective Israel, is such that the great office of being the Light of the world devolves from Him on it and the true Israel is to be a light to the Gentiles. These very Jews in Antioch, lashing themselves into fury because Gentiles were to be offered a share in Israel’s blessings, ought to have been discharging this glorious function. Their failure showed that they were no parts of the real Israel. No doubt the two missionaries left the synagogue as they spoke, and, as the door swung behind them, it shut hope out and unbelief in. The air was fresh outside, and eager hearts welcomed the word. Very beautifully is the gladness of the Gentile hearers set in contrast with the temper of the Jews. It is strange news to heathen hearts that there is a God who loves them, and a divine Christ who has died for them. The experience of many a missionary follows Paul’s here.

‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.’ The din of many a theological battle has raged round these words, the writer of which would have probably needed a good deal of instruction before he could have been made to understand what the fighting was about. But it is to be noted that there is evidently intended a contrast between the envious Jews and the gladly receptive Gentiles, which is made more obvious by the repetition of the words ‘eternal life.’ It would seem much more relevant and accordant with the context to understand the word rendered ‘ordained’ as meaning ‘adapted’ or ‘fitted,’ than to find in it a reference to divine foreordination. Such a meaning is legitimate, and strongly suggested by the context. The reference then would be to the ‘frame of mind of the heathen, and not to the decrees of God.’

The only points needing notice in the further developments at Antioch are the agents employed by the Jews, the conduct of the Apostles, and the sweet little picture of the converts. As to the former, piously inclined women in a heathen city would be strongly attracted by Judaism and easily lend themselves to the impressions of their teachers. We know that many women of rank were at that period powerfully affected in this manner; and if a Rabbi could move a Gentile of influence through whispers to the Gentile’s wife, he would not be slow to do it. The ease with which the Jews stirred up tumults everywhere against the Apostle indicates their possession of great influence; and their willingness to be hand in glove with heathen for so laudable an object as crushing one of their own people who had become a heretic, measures the venom of their hate and the depth of their unscrupulousness.

The Apostles had not to fear violence, as their enemies were content with turning them out of Antioch and its neighbourhood; but they obeyed Christ’s command, shaking off the dust against them, in token of renouncing all connection. The significant act is a trace of early knowledge of Christ’s words, long before the date of our Gospels.

While the preachers had to leave the little flock in the midst of wolves, there was peace in the fold. Like the Ethiopian courtier when deprived of Philip, the new believers at Antioch found that the withdrawal of the earthly brought the heavenly Guide. ‘They were filled with joy.’ What! left ignorant, lonely, ringed about with enemies, how could they be glad? Because they were filled ‘with the Holy Ghost.’ Surely joy in such circumstances was no less supernatural a token of His presence than rushing wind or parting flames or lips opened to speak with tongues. God makes us lonely that He may Himself be our Companion.

It was a long journey to the great city of Iconium. According to some geographers, the way led over savage mountains; but the two brethren tramped along, with an unseen Third between them, and that Presence made the road light. They had little to cheer them in their prospects, if they looked with the eye of sense; but they were in good heart, and the remembrance of Antioch did not embitter or discourage them. Straight to the synagogue, as before, they went. It was their best introduction to the new field. There, if we take the plain words of Acts 14:1, they found a new thing, ‘Greeks,’ heathens pure and simple, not Hellenists or Greek-speaking Jews, nor even proselytes, in the synagogue. This has seemed so singular that efforts have been made to impose another sense on the words, or to suppose that the notice of Greeks, as well as Jews, believing is loosely appended to the statement of the preaching in the synagogue, omitting notice of wider evangelising. But it is better to accept than to correct our narrative, as we know nothing of the circumstances that may have led to this presence of Greeks in the synagogue. Some modern setters of the Bible writers right would be all the better for remembering occasionally that improbable things have a strange knack of happening.

The usual results followed the preaching of the Gospel. The Jews were again the mischief-makers, and, with the astuteness of their race, pushed the Gentiles to the front, and this time tried a new piece of annoyance. ‘The brethren’ bore the brunt of the attack; that is, the converts, not Paul and Barnabas. It was a cunning move to drop suspicions into the minds of influential townsmen, and so to harass, not the two strangers, but their adherents. The calculation was that that would stop the progress of the heresy by making its adherents uncomfortable, and would also wound the teachers through their disciples.

But one small element had been left out of the calculation-the sort of men these teachers were; and another factor which had not hitherto appeared came into play, and upset the whole scheme. Paul and Barnabas knew when to retreat and when to stand their ground. This time they stood; and the opposition launched at their friends was the reason why they did so. ‘Long time therefore abode they.’ If their own safety had been in question, they might have fled; but they could not leave the men whose acceptance of their message had brought them into straits. But behind the two bold speakers stood ‘the Lord,’ Christ Himself, the true Worker. Men who live in Him are made bold by their communion with Him, and He witnesses for those who witness for Him.

Note the designation of the Gospel as ‘the word of His grace.’ It has for its great theme the condescending, giving love of Jesus. Its subject is grace; its origin is grace; its gift is grace. Observe, too, that the same connection between boldness of speech and signs and wonders is found in Acts 4:29 - Acts 4:30. Courageous speech for Christ is ever attended by tokens of His power, and the accompanying tokens of His power make the speech more courageous.

The normal course of events was pursued. Faithful preaching provoked hostility, which led to the alliance of discordant elements, fused for a moment by a common hatred-alas! that enmity to God’s truth should be often a more potent bond of union than love!-and then to a wise withdrawal from danger. Sometimes it is needful to fling away life for Jesus; but if it can be preserved without shirking duty, it is better to flee than to die. An unnecessary martyr is a suicide. The Christian readiness to be offered has nothing in common with fanatical carelessness of life, and still less with the morbid longing for martyrdom which disfigures some of the most pathetic pages of the Church’s history. Paul living to preach in the regions beyond was more useful than Paul dead in a street riot in Iconium. A heroic prudence should ever accompany a trustful daring, and both are best learned in communion with Jesus.Acts 14:1. And it came to pass in Iconium — Whither Paul and Barnabas were forced to retire from Antioch; that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews — To whom they were still disposed to make the first offer of the gospel: for though the Jews at Antioch had used them cruelly, yet they would not therefore decline preaching to the Jews at Iconium, who, perhaps, might be better disposed. Let not those of any denomination be condemned in the gross; nor any individuals of mankind, of whatever sect or party, suffer for the faults of others; rather let us do good to those whose friends and associates, or who themselves, have done evil to us; and they so spake — On the great subject of the gospel salvation; spake so plainly, so convincingly, so warmly, so affectionately, and with such manifest concern for the souls of men, and especially with such evident demonstration of the Spirit and power; that a great multitude, both of the Jews and Greeks, believed — By the Greeks here, we are to understand, not the Hellenists, or persons of Jewish extraction, who spoke the Greek language, but the Gentile Greeks, descended from heathen ancestors. Most of these, being now found in the synagogue of the Jews, were, without doubt, religious proselytes, though probably not circumcised; for few of the idolaters frequented the Jewish synagogues. It is not improbable, however, that the fame of such extraordinary teachers as Paul and Barnabas might, on this occasion, draw together many people who did not usually worship in the synagogues. From the Jews and proselytes being so numerous in Iconium, we may infer that it was a very great and populous city.14:1-7 The apostles spake so plainly, with such evidence and proof of the Spirit, and with such power; so warmly, and with such concern for the souls of men; that those who heard them could not but say, God was with them of a truth. Yet the success was not to be reckoned to the manner of their preaching, but to the Spirit of God who used that means. Perseverance in doing good, amidst dangers and hardships, is a blessed evidence of grace. Wherever God's servants are driven, they should seek to declare the truth. When they went on in Christ's name and strength, he failed not to give testimony to the word of his grace. He has assured us it is the word of God, and that we may venture our souls upon it. The Gentiles and Jews were at enmity with one another, yet united against Christians. If the church's enemies join to destroy it, shall not its friends unite for its preservation? God has a shelter for his people in a storm; he is, and will be their Hiding-place. In times of persecution, believers may see cause to quit a spot, though they do not quit their Master's work.In Iconium - See the notes on Acts 13:51. In this place, and in Antioch and Lystra, Timothy became acquainted with Paul and his manner of life, 2 Timothy 3:10-11.

So spake - Spake with such power - their preaching was attended so much with the influence of the Spirit.

And also of the Greeks - Probably proselytes from the Greeks, who were in the habit of attending the synagogue.

CHAPTER 14

Ac 14:1-7. Meeting with Similar Success and Similar Opposition at Iconium, Paul and Barnabas Flee for Their Lives to Lystra and Derbe, and Preach There.

"After this detailed account of Paul's labors at Pisidian Antioch, Luke subjoins only brief notices of his further labors, partly because from the nature of the case his discourses must have embraced nearly the same topics, and partly because the consequences that resulted assumed quite a similar shape" [Olshausen].

1. they went both together into the synagogue—Though Paul was now the prominent speaker and actor, yet in everything Barnabas went along with him.

a … multitude … of the Greeks believed—meaning probably the religious proselytes, as opposed to "the Gentiles" mentioned Ac 14:2.Acts 14:1-7 Paul and Barnabas are persecuted from Iconium by the

malice of the unbelieving Jews.

Acts 14:8-18 At Lidstra they heal an impotent man, and refuse

divine honours with abhorrence.

Acts 14:19,20 Paul is stoned at the instigation of the Jews, but

escapeth alive with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:21-28 Having passed through divers places, and confirmed

the churches in faith and patience, they return to

Antioch, and give an account of their ministry.

Iconium, a city in Lycaonia.

They went both together; Paul and Barnabas, as they were wont to do, showing as great constancy in performing of their duty, as their enemies did obstinacy in persecuting them for it.

So spake; with such evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The Greeks: See Acts 13:43.

And it came to pass in Iconium,.... When the apostles were got thither, and as soon as they were there; at least the first opportunity they had:

that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews; which was in Iconium; hither Paul and Barnabas went together, in like manner as they had done at Antioch:

and so spoke; such words, and doctrines of grace, with so much power, authority, and demonstration of the Spirit, with so much plainness, clearness, and evidence, as well as with so much boldness and courage:

that a great multitude, both of the Jews, and also of the Greeks, believed: the doctrines they preached, and in Christ the sum and substance of them; and these were not a few, but a great multitude; and not of one sort, of the Jews only, who expected the Messiah, but of the Greeks, or Gentiles also, who never heard of any; for by Greeks here are meant, not Jews born in Greece, speaking the Greek tongue, and using the Greek Bible, for these were called Hellenists, and not Greeks, but Heathens. These converts laid the foundation of a Gospel church state in this place; for that there was a church here, is certain from Acts 14:21 In the "first" century, Sosipater is said to be bishop, or pastor of this church, and also Tertius, who are both reckoned among the "seventy" disciples of Christ; See Gill on Luke 10:1. In the "third" century, Celsus was bishop of this church; and in the same century, several synods were held here, about the error of Novatus; and in the same century, Nicomes bishop of this place, assisted at the council at Antioch, which condemned the heresy of Samosatenus (f): in the "fourth" century there was a church in this place, and Amphiius was bishop of it, of whom Jerom (g) makes mention; and who read to him a book, concerning the deity and worship of the holy Spirit: in the "fifth" century, it was the metropolitan church of Lycaonia, and Valerianus and Onesiphorus presided over it: in the "sixth" century, a bishop of this church was present at the fifth Roman council under Symmachus: in the "seventh" century, it bore the character of metropolitan, and a bishop of it assisted at the sixth council at Constantinople, whose name was Paul: in the "eighth" century, Leo was bishop of it, who was present at the synod of Nice (h); and after this we hear no more of it, the place falling into the hands of the Turks, who are now possessed of it: here, according to the Roman martyrology, Tryphena and Tryphosa, mentioned in Romans 16:12 heard the Apostle Paul preach; and here the famous virgin and martyr, Thecla, was converted.

(f) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 6. c. 19. & l. 7. c. 28, 30. (g) Catalog. Script. Eccles. fol. 102. H. (h) Magdeburg. Hist. Eccles. cent. 5. c. 7. p. 418. c. 10. p. 596. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. c. 7. p. 112. c. 10. p. 254. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 4.

And {1} it came to pass in {a} Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.

(1) We should be no less constant in the preaching of the Gospel than the perversity of the wicked is obstinate in persecuting it.

(a) Iconium was a city of Lycaonia.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 14:1-2. Κατὰ τὸ αὐτό] at the same time, simul (Vulg.), ὁμοῦ, Hesych. Comp. 1 Samuel 31:6, and examples in Kypke, II. p. 69 f.; Schaefer, ad Bos. Ell. p. 210.

Ἑλλήνων] see on Acts 11:20. Comp. Acts 18:4; Acts 18:6. Yet here those Gentiles only are meant who were in connection with Judaism as proselytes of the gate (comp. Acts 13:43), and thus had not by circumcision laid aside their Greek nationality. This limitation is required by the context; for they are present in the synagogue, and in Acts 14:2 the ἔθνη are distinguished from them, so that they occupy a middle place between the ἔθνη and the Ἰουδαῖοι.

οὕτως] in such a manner, so effectively.

ὥστε] refers to the preceding οὕτως, as in John 3:16. Often so in Greek writers, e.g. Xen. Mem. i. 2. 1; Sturz, Lex. IV. p. 623.

ἀπειθήσαντες (see the critical remarks), having refused obedience (by unbelief).

ἐκάκ.] they made evil-affected, put into a bad frame of mind, i.e. ad iracundiam concitaverunt (Vulg.), like the German phrase, “sie machten bös.” This meaning, not in use with Greek writers, nor elsewhere in the N.T. or in the LXX. (Psalm 106:32?) and Apocr., occurs in Joseph. Antt. xvi. 1. 2, 7. 3, 8. 6.

κατὰ τῶν ἀδελφ.] refers to ἐπήγ. κ. ἐκάκ. conjointly. Both were hostilely directed against the Christians.Acts 14:1. ἐν Ἰκονίῳ (Konia), sometimes regarded as a Roman colony towards the end of the reign of Claudius, thus dignified on account of the title conferred upon the frontier town, Claudio—Derbe. But Hadrian, not Claudius, constituted it a colony. In Acts 14:6 the Apostles flee from Iconium to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the inference from this statement is that Iconium was not itself Lycaonian. But this inference justifies the local accuracy of the historian, as it would appear that the people of Iconium regarded themselves as Phrygian even after Iconium had been united with Lycaonia in one district of Roman administration: cf. Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 37 ff., and the testimony of the Christian Hierax, 163 A.D., before his Roman judge: “I have come hither (i.e., as a slave), torn away from Iconium of Phrygia”: on the road travelled by the Apostles see also Ramsay, u. s., p. 27 ff. Strictly speaking, Lystra and Derbe were cities of Lycaonia-Galatica, while Iconium reckoned itself as a city of Phrygia-Galatica, all three being comprised within the Roman province of Galatia. See also Rendall, Acts, p. 262. On the place and its importance, situated with a busy trade on the principal lines of communication through Asia Minor, see C. and H., smaller edition, p. 145, B.D.2. Iconium is the scene of the famous Acts of Paul and Thekla, forming a part of the Acts of Paul, C. Schmidt’s translation of which we must await with interest. See Harnack, Chronol., i., p. 493, Wendt (1899), p. 42, Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 375, and “Iconium,” Hastings’ B.D.—κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ, “together,” so R. and A.V., cf. LXX, 1 Samuel 11:11, or it may mean “at the same time”. Blass however (so Ramsay, Weiss, Rendall) renders “after the same fashion,” i.e., as at Antioch. But for this meaning cf. Acts 17:2, where a different phrase is used.—Ἑλλήνων: on the whole best taken as referring to the σεβ. or φοβ. τὸν Θεόν, because in Acts 14:2 we have ἔθνη, which would signify the Gentiles generally, as opposed to those devout persons who as proselytes had joined the Jewish synagogue.Acts 14:1-7. Preaching at Iconium. The Apostles forced to flee

1. they went both together, &c.] These words probably refer not to one special visit, but to repeated occasions on which Paul and Barnabas appeared as fellow-labourers before the Jewish congregation in Iconium.

and so spake] on various occasions, on some of which not only Jews but Gentiles were hearers of the word.

also of the Greeks] Here the word in the original is Hellenes, used in other places by St Luke to signify Gentiles, in contradistinction to Hellenistæ, by which he means Greek-Jews. It has been thought that here Greek-Jews can only be intended, and that the word must therefore be used in a sense different from that which it has in other places in the Acts. But clearly the visit of the Apostles to Iconium lasted a considerable time, and it is not to be supposed that, while there, they refrained from speaking the word in any place but in the solitary synagogue. They went, as their wont was, to the synagogue first, that was the scene of their joint labours on many occasions, and there many of the Jews were won to the faith. But they spake elsewhere the same glad tidings which they published to the Circumcision, and thus many Gentiles also were converted. This seems a simpler explanation than to make St Luke say Hellenes here, when he means Hellenistæ. The verse condenses the account of the Apostolic labours, marks that their commencement was at the synagogue, that Jews became believers, and then without further specification of a place of preaching adds “and of the Gentiles,” to describe the whole result.Acts 14:1. Κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ, together) So the LXX., 1 Samuel 31:6.—οὕτως) in such a way, and with such success. Persecution had increased their power.Verse 1. - Entered for went both, A.V.; Jews for the Jews, A.V.; and for and also, A.V.; Greeks for the Greeks, A.V. Observe how in every case Greeks are found attending the synagogue. So spake, etc. This illustrates the statement in Romans 10:17, that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
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