Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass in 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.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.
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.The unbelieving, or disobedient, Jews, who did not believe the truths or obey the precepts of the gospel,
stirred up the Gentiles; urging, persuading, and pressing of them, who of themselves (though as yet ignorant of Christ, and his word) would not have been so cruel.
The brethren; the apostles themselves, and others that were converted by them, whose common father God through Christ was, and were accordingly endeared one to another.
Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.Long time therefore abode they, to strengthen the new converts against the opposition they met with in the way of Christ, willingly partaking with them in their afflictions for Christ’s sake.
Speaking boldly; with great courage, and humble confidence, as knowing in whom they had believed.
In the Lord;
1. In the Lord’s cause, a business which he had sent them about. Secondly, And in the Lord’s strength, who enabled them in it. The word of his grace; the gospel: first, Wherein the grace of God is manifested.
2. Whereby it is offered.
3. Wherewith, to such as receive, it is conveyed.
4. And out of grace disputed and allowed to some, hidden and withdrawn from others.
Granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands; God, by his miraculous confirming the doctrine of the apostles, showed that it was from him.
But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.Was divided; as it was about our Saviour and his doctrine, John 7:43.
The apostles; Paul and Barnabas, who were called to be apostles, 1 Corinthians 9:5,6.
And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,Rulers, such as were called the chief men of the city, Acts 13:50.
To use them despitefully; thus they that were called to the marriage of the king’s son, Matthew 22:6, entreated the servants despitefully.
And to stone them; they would have used them as such who were not worthy to live, and then have taken away their lives from them, as they did by our Saviour; first they spat upon him, and then crucified him.
They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:And fled; the apostles did not flee so much to save their lives, as to husband their time best for the glory of God in other places; and this they were commanded to do, Matthew 10:23,
When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another. Lystra and Derbe; these were cities further in the country of Lycaonia than Iconium was.
Lycaonia; a part of the Lesser Asia, nigh unto the mountain Taurus.
And there they preached the gospel.Thus was verified what St. Paul observed, Philippians 1:12, that all those things fell out unto the furtherance of the gospel, which spread the further for the scattering of the apostles and preachers of it; and thousands had not heard of Christ, if persecution had not driven the ministers of the gospel unto them: God working good out of evil, and causing the sun, when it leaves one part, to shine upon another.
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:Such defects as are from nature, are incurable by art, and only to be helped immediately by the God of nature.
Who never had walked; this is observed and enlarged upon, to make the miracle the more appear to be the only work of God: Acts 3:2.
The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,This Paul might know by a prophetical Spirit; and that extraordinary gift of discerning of spirits might be in this case bestowed upon him. But withal, it is not unlikely but this lame man’s attention to the word, eyes, gesture, and countenance, might speak as much.
Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.As Acts 3:6,8, to shew that he was perfectly recovered of this lameness; as all miraculous cures (being the work of God) were perfect.
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.In the speech of Lycaonia; which was a dialect of the Greek tongue, that language being in the Lesser Asia ordinarily spoken.
The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men; the heathens (especially their poets) did frequently believe such kind of apparitions; probably at first from the appearing of angels unto the patriarchs and others, which by tradition they might have heard of.
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.Jupiter; whom the heathens took for their chief God.
Mercury was feigned to be the messenger of their gods, and therefore represented with wings; as also the interpreter of the gods, which caused their applying of his name to Paul.
Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.Before their city; the temple of Jupiter, whom they took for the patron of their city, was in the suburbs.
Garlands; these were usually in the form of crowns put upon the oxen which they intended to sacrifice; and, by this sign, showed that they were dedicated to Jupiter, whom the heathen blasphemously called, The king of kings, and placed him sitting in his chair, or throne, with a crown on his head.
Unto the gates; the gates or doors of the house where the apostles lodged.
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,They rent their clothes; which was a sign of their greatest detestation of, and sorrow for, such abominations.
And ran in among the people, crying out; expressing their greatest zeal for the glory of God, and earnestness to hinder the idolatry of this people.
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:We also are men of like passions with you; we stand in need of food and raiment, are liable to diseases and death, as well as you.
Vanities; so idols are frequently called, 1 Kings 16:13,26 Jer 14:22, because they disappoint the hopes that are placed in them, and are empty of any good which is expected from them, and have nothing but what vain men (their makers) bestow upon them.
The living God; the true God is called the living God, Deu 5:26 Joshua 3:10, in opposition to those false gods, who usually were only dead men, which out of love or fear were deified; as also in that he lives from himself, and gives life to every living creature.
Which made heaven, &c.: by this also the true God is distinguished from false gods, as Jeremiah 10:11,12; and is a good argument against all idol worship; for Divine worship is a tribute we owe and pay to him that made us, Psalm 100:3,4. It should be considered with what a respective compellation the apostles speak unto this heathen rabble, calling them, Sirs, or masters; a term surely then not unlawful to be given to our equals or betters.
Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.There were two main objections which these heathen idolaters might make against the gospel, and the worship of the true God: and they are, first, from the antiquity, secondly, from the universality, of that false worship; both which the apostle here gives a critical answer unto, telling them, that the reason why so many, and for so long a time had followed idols, was from the just judgment of God upon them, as Psalm 81:12 Romans 1:24,28.
Their own ways; ways of our choosing, and not of God’s commanding, are false ways.
Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.These words are to prevent that cavil, Why does God yet complain? and inform them, that though God had not given them, nor their ancestors, his laws written in tables of stone, as he had given to the Jews; yet they had the law written in their hearts, which they had not obeyed, though God’s manifold mercies, his works of creation and providence, had testified unto them, that he only was to be feared and worshipped. How many witnesses hath God against sinful man, when every creature and providence speaks his power, wisdom, goodness, &c., and call upon us to love and obey him? Every creature tells us that God made it, &c.
And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.So hard a matter it is to persuade any to leave off these sins they are accustomed unto, or to rectify such errors in religion which men are brought up in.
And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.Certain Jews; such as mention was made of, Acts 13:50.
Persuaded the people; a strange and incredible fickleness; but that we know how the same multitude who cried Hosanna, did more suddenly alter their note, and cry against our Saviour, Crucify him, crucify him; so uncertain a thing is worldly honour.
Stoned Paul; the malice of Satan is every way great; if he cannot destroy the souls of these blessed apostles, by making of them to accept of Divine worship, he will do his utmost to kill their bodies.
Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.Stood round about him; either in order to bury him, thinking him to be dead, as well as his persecutors did; or else to defend him, as much as possibly they could, from the rage of his enemies in that popular fury. Their spite was most against Paul, because he spake most, and preached unto them the way of life.
He rose up; being by the power of God suddenly restored to his strength again.
Derbe; a city near to Lycaonia, some say in it.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,Had taught many; had made many disciples by teaching, and also by baptizing of them, Matthew 28:19. For as by circumcision they were made Moses’s disciples, so by baptism they are made Christ’s disciples.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.It is not enough to sow the seed of the word, but it must be watered also, frequent endeavours must be used that it may be fruitful. Thus the apostles return to visit such as they had preached unto; the persecution they had endured, increasing their resolution for God, and their strength from him. Lest they should be offended at what they saw St. Paul had endured, or themselves might be called to endure, they preach unto them the doctrine of the cross, not hiding from them the miseries which in this world the profession of Christ and his truths might bring upon them. God hath indeed dealt all along thus with his people. The troubles which the Israelites met with in the wilderness, in their journey towards an earthly Canaan, did typify the calamities which God’s people will meet with in this world, as they journey towards the heavenly Canaan, or Jerusalem which is above.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.Ordained; the word properly signifies a stretching out of the hand, such as was used when they gave their suffrages in the election of their magistrates, whereby was showed for whom they gave their voice; and afterwards it was commonly used for to constitute or appoint, or, as here, to ordain to any office or place; which might the rather be done by stretching out or laying on of the hands of the apostles, because by that means the Holy Ghost (or a power of working miracles) was frequently bestowed, Acts 8:17,18, which in those times was necessary to authorize their doctrine to the infidel world.
Elders; such as might instruct and govern the church.
They commended them; they commended the disciples as their jewels and chiefest treasure; as all sufferers are to commit their very souls to God, 1 Peter 4:19.
To the Lord; to Christ, the best and faithful Keeper, that he should keep and further them in grace and goodness; to whose providence they wholly had committed themselves.
And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.Going the same way back which they had come, as appear by Acts 13:13,14.
And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:The word; the gospel, the word of the Lord; or Christ, who is the word, and who is the sum of what the ministers of the gospel preach about.
Perga: mentioned Acts 8:13; a city, or as some, a country, in Pamphylia, by the sea side. But the bounds of provinces were often altered by the Romans, and some made larger, and others lesser.
And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.Antioch; that Antioch which was in Syria, as appears Acts 13:1-3, to which this relates; and is a sufficient proof that they had not sought God in vain, and that there is no better preparation or provision towards any business, than faithful prayer unto God concerning it; doing our duty, and leaving the event unto his disposing.
And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.All that God had done with them; God being with them, and they being labourors with God, 1 Corinthians 3:9 2 Corinthians 6:1. They showed how much God had honoured them in making them his instruments in the conversion of so many souls.
He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles; he had given the Gentiles an opportunity of knowing and believing the gospel. The fleece alone had been wet before, and all the ground round about it dry; and now all the ground is wet, and that fleece was dry; to allude to Judges 6:37-40, by which this mystery was presignified, and can only be resolved by that of our Saviour, Matthew 11:25,26: Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
And there they abode long time with the disciples.To confirm them, as Acts 14:22; and also, as our Saviour withdrew himself from the multitudes, they chose there to refresh themselves a while, out of the heat of contention and persecution.