Acts Bible Study

Acts: Paul and Barnabas in Iconium and Lystra


v1 What happened in Pisidian Antioch also happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue. Because of the manner in which they spoke, they persuaded many Jews and Gentile believers. v2 But the Jews who did not believe made the other Gentiles get angry. They persuaded those Gentiles to oppose the brothers. v3 Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a long time. And they spoke bravely about the Lord. The Lord gave to them power to do miracles and wonderful things. By that means, he proved that their message about his grace was true. v4 But the people in the city divided themselves into two groups. One group was on the Jews’ side. The other group was on the apostles’ side. v5 Then some Gentiles and Jews, with their leaders, decided to cause trouble. They wanted to throw rocks at Paul and Barnabas. They wanted to kill Paul and Barnabas in that way. v6 The apostles heard about that and they got away. They went to the cities called Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia. They also went to the region around these cities. v7 And they continued to preach the good news.

Verses 1-3 Again, Paul and Barnabas preached in the synagogue first. Many Jews became believers. So, did many Gentiles. But again, some Jews were jealous and they opposed Paul and Barnabas. Luke calls Paul and Barnabas ‘the brothers’ here because believers are like one big family. So, Paul and Barnabas were like brothers in that family. Some Gentiles did not believe. The Jews said bad things about Paul and Barnabas to those Gentiles. But Paul and Barnabas did not run away. They stayed and they continued to preach. Miracles proved that their message was true. When people preach God’s message with faith, miracles can happen today, too. God cures sick people. Evil spirits leave people.

Verses 4-7 This time, Paul and Barnabas’s enemies planned to kill them. Jews usually punished people who blasphemed. (To blaspheme means to insult God.) Jews threw rocks at such people until the people died. They had killed Stephen like that (Acts 7:58-60). The Jews said that he had blasphemed. He had said that Jesus had the same authority as God. And they thought that he should not have said that. (Look at the note about Acts 7:57.) They organized a trial for Stephen. But they did not organize a trial for Paul and Barnabas. Instead, they tried to make the crowd murder the missionaries. Paul and Barnabas knew that they could not stay there any longer. So, they went to Lystra and Derbe. Lystra was about 29 kilometers (18 miles) south-west from Iconium.

A miracle happens in Lystra, 14:8-13

v8 In Lystra, a man was sitting in his usual place. When he was born, there was something wrong with his feet. He had never been able to walk. v9 He sat. And he listened as Paul spoke. Paul looked straight at him. Paul saw that the man had faith. So, God could cure him. v10 Paul shouted, ‘Stand up!’ The man jumped up and he started to walk about. v11 The crowds saw what Paul had done. So, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have become human. They have come down to us!’ v12 They gave Barnabas the name ‘Zeus’. And they gave Paul the name ‘Hermes’. This was because Paul was the chief speaker. v13 Zeus’s temple was very near to the city. Zeus’s priest brought bulls (male cows) to the gates of the city. And he brought flowers there. He and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas.

Verses 8-10 Lystra was a Roman city. Paul was a Roman citizen. Perhaps Paul thought that he would be safe there. But the people there were simple people from the country. There were not many Jews. It seems that there was no synagogue. So, Paul preached in the street. He saw a man who could not walk. Luke, who was a doctor, describes this well. What happened next astonished the crowd. Paul saw that the man had faith. He told him to stand up. The man stood up.

Verses 11-12 But Paul and Barnabas did not expect what happened next. The crowd saw that a miracle had happened. The miracle had been powerful. But the crowd thought that the power came from Paul and Barnabas. The crowd thought that these missionaries were gods. The people understood Greek, the language that Paul and Barnabas spoke. But the people were so excited that they shouted in their own language. They called Barnabas ‘Zeus’. This was the chief Greek god. They called Paul ‘Hermes’. Hermes was Zeus’s son. He was the god who brought messages. But Paul and Barnabas did not understand the people’s language. So, at this time, they did not understand what the people were saying.

Verse 13 Zeus and Hermes were important gods to the people in Lystra. The people told a story about them. In this story, Zeus and Hermes once visited the region. Those gods pretended to be human. They wanted a place to stay. But the people would not invite them into their homes. There was an old man who was poor. He and his wife had a small cottage. At last, that man and his wife let the gods stay in that cottage. The gods gave a reward to them. But the gods destroyed the other peoples’ homes.

That is why the people in Lystra were so excited. They thought that Zeus and Hermes had come back to visit them again. This time, they wanted to welcome them. They wanted to give sacrifices to them. They did not want Zeus and Hermes to destroy their homes!

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