Paul and Barnabas preached in Iconium, and a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles against the believing brothers and sisters. They stayed for a long time, performing many signs and wonders. But the divided city resulted in a conspiracy of both Jews and Gentiles to persecute and to stone Paul and Barnabas. When they learned of this, they fled the city.
From there they went to Lystra and other places. In Lystra Paul healed a man who was crippled from birth. When he began walking, many people started calling Paul and Barnabas gods, referring to Paul as Hermes, and Barnabas as Zeus; and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices. When they saw this, they were tremendously distressed and, assuring the people that they were just men, preached to these polytheists about the one true God and how he is evidenced in all the things of this world.
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and they turned the minds of the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him from the city, leaving him for dead. In verse 20, the disciples gathered around him and he rose up and went into the city. The Scripture does not tell us that this was a miracle, or even what Paul’s actual condition had been. Enough to say that the Spirit was with him, and he was not deterred. The next day, he and Barnabas went to Derbe. After preaching and making many new disciples there, they returned to Lystra and Iconium, and to Antioch. They encouraged and strengthened the disciples in those places and appointed elders for them in every church.
In chapter 15, we learn of what is commonly called “the Jerusalem Conference.” Despite Peter’s vision, and the fact that the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles in chapter 10, the acceptance of Gentiles in the church was still meeting resistance. In Acts 6:7, we are told of a significant number of priests that believed and were added to the church. Many of these would be of the Pharisaic party referred to in verse 5. There were people being taught that all had to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses, causing Christianity to be looked upon as a sect of Judaism (and to some, a sect that had gone very wrong). The time had come to deal with this issue once and for all.
Peter spoke to the council in verses 7-11, reminding them of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then Paul and Barnabas related the signs and wonders God had done through them on their journey. James, the Lord’s brother, then affirms by quoting Amos 9:11-12 in verses 16-18. The apostles then chose men to go with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, and sent a letter with them, affirming with one accord that the Gentiles were not to be burdened with the requirements that the circumcision party was trying to impose. The stipulations referred to in verses 20 and 29 were to make clear that they were to abstain from behavior that would make them appear to the world as the idol-worshipers that were so common (sexual immorality was a predominant theme in idol worship).
Bible Reading Schedule for this month
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