Daily Devotional

October 8, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 14:1-28

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 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.” (Acts 14:21-22)

The dictionary indicates that the word preach means “to deliver a sermon or religious address to an assembled group of people, typically in church” or “to publicly proclaim or teach a religious message or belief.” While those definitions accurately describe how Paul and Barnabas taught, sometimes a song also can be a way of preaching.

Through the years, I have been privileged to sing with many choral groups, performing a wide range of musical styles. One of my favorite numbers, and one that certainly preaches the Gospel, is a traditional spiritual entitled “Good News, Chariot’s A-Comin’.” The lyrics powerfully communicate the longing for an eternal home that was handed down musically from generation to generation. As I sing it, I cannot help but mourn the suffering and oppression — some of the “much tribulation” alluded to in our focus verse — that led to such a song. However, I also marvel at the hope that transcended the circumstances of those early singers. The words are simple and repetitive, yet they offer reassurance about what awaits beyond this life:

Good news, chariot’s a-comin’
   and I don’t want it to leave me behind
There’s a long white robe in Heaven I know
   and I don’t want it to leave me behind
There’s a starry crown in Heaven I know
   and I don’t want it to leave me behind
There’s a golden harp in Heaven I know
   and I don’t want it to leave me behind
Good news, chariot’s a-comin’
   and I don’t want it to leave me behind

The song shares the good news that one day all who have experienced new life through Jesus Christ will be taken into an eternity with Him. It proclaims the blessed hope that our current circumstances, no matter how troubled, are only temporary. The joys that await us in Heaven will be eternal. Now that is very good news!

According to our focus verse, Paul and Barnabas “preached the gospel” in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. The word “gospel” comes from a Greek word meaning “good news,” and without doubt, the message of encouragement these two men preached was good.

Today, there are many sources of news in our world — everything from word of mouth to electronic messaging that can span the globe in mere seconds. There is plenty of bad news that graphically demonstrates the fact that humanity is broken and in great need of help. Yet, good news is also available! We can have hope of a bright future through Christ. That is the Gospel message which Paul and Barnabas preached, and which God also calls us to preach — through words, through our lives, or through song!

Background

Acts 14 continues the account of Paul’s first missionary journey, focusing on his ministry in Galatia, an area that today is located in central Turkey. Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, had traveled from Antioch in Syria across the Mediterranean Sea to the island of Cyprus, on to Perga in Pamphilia, and then to Antioch in Pisidia near Asia Minor. Chapter 14 gives details of their time spent in Iconium (verses 1-7), Lystra and Derbe (verses 8-21), and their return to Antioch (verses 22-28). Themes of preaching the Gospel, embracing the truth (particularly by Gentiles), and withstanding persecution recur throughout the passage.

Because of the threat of stoning in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas departed from that city and went about twenty miles south to Lystra, and soon after that, east to Derbe, which was a distance of sixty miles. In Lystra, because of the healing of a man with crippled feet, the superstitious Lycaonians hailed Paul and Barnabas as incarnations of the Greek gods Jupiter and Mercurius (Roman equivalents for the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes). Jupiter was the most popular god in Galatia, and was the patron god of Lystra, where a temple had been built in his honor. According to an ancient legend, the two gods had visited the city many years before. An old couple had extended hospitality and were rewarded for their kindness. Possibly with that legend in mind, the people of the city brought garlands (used in religious rites) and oxen for sacrifices, with the intent of showering the two missionaries with gifts and honor.

Paul used this misunderstanding as an opportunity to direct the multitudes toward “the living God,” describing Him as Creator of the universe (verse 15). He cited as proof the people’s own geography and climate conditions, noting that the rain and abundance of crops were signs of God’s goodness to them, because the climate of the central Anatolian plateau typically was semi-arid. Paul stated that God “left not himself without witness” (verse 17) even to those unfamiliar with His revelation to the Jews.

On this portion of his trip, Paul experienced a threat of stoning (verse 5) in Iconium, and subsequently was stoned and left for dead by Jews angry about his message, (verse 19). Paul later referenced this incident in 2 Corinthians 11:25.

The home of Timothy, the younger minister mentored by Paul, was likely in this area. Acts 16 indicates that during the Apostle’s second visit to Lystra, Timothy was invited by Paul to join him, so he may have been converted during this first missionary journey. Another detail supporting this supposition is that in 2 Timothy 3:10-11, Paul referenced Timothy’s familiarity with the persecutions he had endured in that region, making it probable that the younger man had been in the vicinity when those persecutions occurred.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
    A.    The first missionary journey of Paul
        3.    The activity in Galatia
            c.    Ministry at Iconium (14:1-7)
            d.    Ministry at Lystra (14:8-20)
                (1)    The miracle (14:8-10)
                (2)    The response of the multitude(14:11-13)
                (3)    The message of Paul and Barnabas (14:14-18)
                (4)    The persecution of Paul (14:19-20)
            e.    Ministry in Derbe (14:21)
            f.    The return to Antioch (Syria) (14:22-28)

A Closer Look

  1. According to verse 19, what group of people stirred up the citizens of Lystra and persuaded them to stone Paul and leave him for dead?

  2. Why do you think Paul and Barnabas continued to preach even after their lives were threatened in Lystra and Derbe?

  3. How can you use your current situation to give “testimony unto the word of his grace”?

Conclusion

We have received good news! While we may not all be preachers, we should all proclaim the Gospel through our words and our lives.

Reference Materials