And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul…
I. SUFFERING FOR THE FAITH. Willingness to suffer for Christ is the highest test of devotion to Him. Persecution soon unmasks hypocrisy, while real piety has a face that appears the more beautiful and saintly.
1. The stoning of Paul. Note —
(1) The persistency of the persecution. "There came Jews thither from Antioch," over a hundred miles away, "and Iconium," near fifty, to carry out the purpose they had failed to execute in their own cities. The hatred of the gospel was as remarkable in the one case as was its power over the hearts of men in the other.
(2) The fickleness of popular favour. "Having persuaded the multitudes." The multitudes were in a condition easily to be persuaded. Their vanity had been wounded. They had supposed Paul and Barnabas to be gods, and having made a blunder so mortifying, their resentment was natural. Therefore, when these Jews intimated, as probably they did, that the miracle was worked through Beelzebub, the reverence of the people was changed to horror. There is no truth in the apothegm, "The voice of the people is the voice of God."(3) The stoning of Paul. Stoning was the sign which marks the deed as the Jews'. Had Lystra been a Jewish city, they would have scrupulously taken the apostle outside its walls. But here they had no ceremonial punctiliousness. And after the stoning was over, they dragged the supposed lifeless body outside the gates, thus subjecting their victim not only to indignity, but to further injury.His recovery. Observe —
(1) The fidelity of the disciples. Their affection for Paul, and their mourning for his death, are hinted at in their gathering around his body.
(2) Paul's unexpected recovery. Perhaps a miracle here is intimated; but it looks, rather, as though the apostle merely had been stunned. His work was not yet over. God had still greater things for him to do — and to suffer.
3. His departure. Paul was indomitable, He did not lose a day's work because of his stoning. Such a witness for Christ is a host in himself.
II. CONFIRMING IN THE FAITH.
1. Preaching the gospel. The missionaries were as eager for souls as ever. The cause that we suffer for becomes the more dear to our hearts. At Derbe the two appear to have met with no opposition. Paul omits it in the list of places where he suffered (2 Timothy 3:11).
2. Confirming the disciples.
(1) The return of the apostles. They went back to the very places out of which they had been driven. They could have gone a nearer way, but duty called them again to face danger, and they obeyed the call.
(2) Their work. They devoted themselves to the upbuilding of the disciples they had won. In this they set a lesson for the Church of today. They confirmed the converts, first, by exhortation. Such exhortations on the part of those established in the faith do young converts good. Second, by warning. "That through many tribulations," etc. The apostles did not represent the Christian life as a bed of thornless roses. Their words were emphasized by the marks of Paul's recent experience. Men make the best soldiers who enlist expecting to face great dangers.
3. Organising the churches. In their up journey, a body of believers had been gathered in each place. On their way down, the apostles "appointed for them elders," giving them a form of organisation apparently much like that of the synagogue. The object seems to have been not so much church government, as the securing of leaders to whom the disciples could look for encouragement and instruction. Thus the two missionaries ensured permanency to their work.
III. REPORTING THE PROGRESS OF THE FAITH.
1. Returning home. The return journey was a sort of triumphal tour, very different from the going. Then they were unknown — now, multitudes of disciples were eager to give them greeting. Persecutions awaited them then — blessings now. They came back, as come the husbandmen from the harvest fields, with their arms full of sheaves.
2. Reporting to the Church. The first missionary report contained —
(1) What God had done with them. They did not rehearse what they had done.
(2) How God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. The door the Jews had shut God had opened, and it has never been shut since.
(M. C. Hazard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.