The Iconium Experience: Acts 14:1-7
“1) In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. 2) But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. 3) Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. 4) But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5) And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, 6) they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; 7) and there they continued to preach the gospel.” Acts‬ ‭14‬:‭1‬-‭7‬
Their time in Iconium offered suspenseful clips for every newsletter. They had a service in the local synagogue that resulted in a large number of conversions. This stirred up stiff opposition against them from both the Jews and Gentiles.
Meanwhile, as they continued to preach in the city, the power of God was present performing signs and wonders. Despite the amazing things God was doing, persecution mounted that included attempts by the rulers to stone them.
Eventually, the mission team had to flee to Lycaonia, Lystra, Derbe and the surrounding region. As they fled, they continued to preach the gospel. With all of this drama, the gospel became the focal point of every conversation.
The western church wants short term mission trips that guarantee peace and safety. From one side of our mouth we pray to be like the early church. We want to experience power, signs, wonders and many conversions. But in our very next breath we loath the idea of “suffering for the gospel.” The mere mention of the word “persecution” sends fear waves through the western church.
It appears from this text that signs and wonders go hand in hand with persecution and opposition. The gospel is sent into the heart of a lost, sinful, depraved and hurting world filled with both victims and wicked people. In this world, demons are real and money and pleasure vehemently oppose the gospel message. There are many people who hate the God of the Bible and enjoy the pleasures of sin.
We now revisit Acts 13:48. The last phrase says; “… as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” The gospel is to be preached to all, but will be received by a rather small minority. Not everyone views the “good news” as “good news.” Satan will harden many in the world against the gospel.
Noah preached for many years as he built the ark. In the end, only he and his family entered. Jesus ministered for three years with power, signs and wonders. In the end, they crucified Him. The early church preached the gospel with reliance on grace and the Holy Spirit. The results were a very mixed bag everywhere. His sheep were gathered in while the world actively opposed them.
I suspect as we enter the end times, human civilization will again be polarized. Signs and wonders will accompany the preaching of the gospel while opposition mounts against the true church. The apostate church will confuse the message and embrace the values of the world. Many will be deceived. At some point the anti-Christ will grant false signs and wonders to the apostate church and those world religions that are opposed to the true gospel. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12) Meanwhile, the bride of Jesus will be singled out for persecution.
Things have a way of going full circle. As the church age rushes to a climax, the Iconium experience will become common place. This text is ready for the big screen in contemporary society. Let’s preview the advertising; “Iconium”… “Coming soon to a town near you!”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global