Paul and Barnabas at Iconium
14 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
Paul Stoned at Lystra
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.
Acts 14 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Soren Kierkegaard tells a story, almost a parable of sorts about the geese who used to make their home on his childhood Danish farm. Each spring he would watch as a new gaggle of goslings hatched and grow. And over the course of their short lives, these geese would gorge themselves at constantly refilled troughs of grain until they were so fat they could hardly walk, let alone waddle.
He imagined they felt their lives were perfect as every need they had was catered in abundance.
When autumn came, the truth became apparent. The wild geese that had spent the warm summer months in Denmark would gather in preparation for their southerly migration. They would circle the skies above the farms, calling out to any stragglers to join in their flight.
At this point, the farmed geese would lift their heads from the feeding troughs and looking into the skies at their untamed cousins.
Listening to the call of the wild, they would become animated, running as best they could around their enclosures emulating flight. Of course, their gluttonous diet and life of luxury meant they were far too heavy to become airborne, and they probably didn’t really want to join their untamed cousins on such a perilous journey – but their instincts drove them to emulate flight on the ground. They would then go back to their everyday existence, not realizing they were destined for the farmer’s dinner.
Kierkegaard’s parable goes on to tell of a wild goose who looked with dismay at his domesticated cousins. In the interest of food and relative luxury, they had given up flight for the mediocrity of the barnyard. With splendid motivation, he decided to spend some time w/ them in order to help each awaken to their true calling and join the others in wild flight. Sadly, he lived there until he himself was tamed. Every year, when the wild geese would honk in flight overhead, he, like the others, would flutter his wings, rise a bit and resolve to join them. But he never did. Instead, he became content to remain with the tamed and flightless – destined for the table.
Kierkegaard ends his parable with a warning: while a wild goose can be tamed, seldom does a tame goose become wild again.
As disciples of Christ, were called to an untamed existence. Like the wild geese, we are meant to live wild and dangerous lives, flying above the heads of our own generation, calling them to the authenticity of what they were created to do. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to be dulled into a life of mediocrity, where the only wild journeys we ever take are in our dreams. And we live in a barnyard – having settled.
Paul and Barnabas who are on a journey of sorts in calling others beyond where they have settled – the same calling is upon us. They knew no boundaries as to where they would go and what they would proclaim – that of a new life, a hope-filled life in Christ was available to those who believed. They called out for others to join in the flight of a remarkable journey. And this is our mission. Not everyone believed, but it did not deter their determination to continue to call.
We are surrounded by those who are searching. We are bombarded by those who have settled into a barnyard existence, even within the church, when God is calling them to join the flight to places He has destined them for. God is calling us to the untamed adventures of living.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Think about this fact alone of being and living an untamed life; A life that is not burdened again by the yoke of slavery; A life that soars and has purpose.
Untamed by definition is wild, in a natural state, not tamed or domesticated. This was Paul and Barnabas. Both men knew their calling, they knew their destiny to make a difference in the lives of people, to proclaim Christ everywhere they went. They were far from being tamed. The chains of tradition that had gripped them for years were broken and they were not going back to some form of spiritual domestication. They were not going to allow mediocrity to slip into their existence. They were ready and willing to go in uncharted territory – where God was leading.
There is a mediocrity that so easily slips into our own lives, our own way of thinking. There’s a domestication of sorts in our spirituality and we’ve settled. So much of the time, the fire that was lit by God’s Spirit within each one of us, flickers and grows dim. And why? Why does this happen?
Probably many factors play into it. Sometimes it is going back to the very things Christ has brought freedom to us from. Sometimes it is because our love for Him is not strong and we are not feeding our souls. We are not spending time alone with Him and searching Him out. Instead, we simply go through our days living an existence of, whatever happens, happens. With no thought that the day was ordered by God and He has purpose for us in it. And sometimes, the barnyard is very comfortable.
Many are not living on that edge of expectation of what God can do. Not living a life that He has called us to. We’ve become spiritually domesticated.
The most important thing in our life is our relationship with Christ. It’s the most important thing –yet let’s be honest, for some it’s not. We’ve been called to make a difference in our world, to live as a salt and light to those whom we encounter – and yet, there is no real change going on.
God is calling us to an untamed pursuit of Him.
Acts 14 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
When Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra speaking to the people, they saw a lame man who gazed intently at them as they spoke. Prompted by the Spirit, Paul asked the lame man to stand to his feet. Miraculously, he stood up and began walking. The people were so amazed that they immediately considered Paul and Barnabas to be gods. They thought Paul was Hermes and Barnabas was Zeus! There was a reason for this.
In Roman mythology, the poet Ovid wrote a story in which Zeus and Hermes disguised themselves as humans who needed lodging. After they were denied entry from one thousand different homes, they finally found rest with an elderly couple. As a reward for accepting them, the gods turned the couples’ cottage into a vast temple with a golden roof and marble columns. Then, they destroyed the houses of all those people who turned them away.
After witnessing the healing of the lame man, the people must have immediately thought of this story. They didn’t want to be punished for being rude, so they quickly began serving Paul and Barnabas. The point of the matter is that people came with preconceived ideas. Seeing a miracle was not enough. In fact, in this case, seeing a miracle actually provided an extra hurdle for the Gospel to move forward.
Miraculous signs and wonders which are not accompanied by an explanation of the Gospel message will not provide saving faith. Paul and Barnabas had to help the people understand who they were and ultimately who Jesus was. Although God provided a sign to get the conversation going, there was still the responsibility of witnessing to the individual.
Many today wrestle with similar struggles. We come with preconceived ideas. There are moments when others witness God moving but attribute it to coincidence or to a pseudo-spiritual encounter. This is why Jesus gave us the command to make disciples of all nations. There is something deeply personal about the Gospel that can only take place within the context of a relationship.