God Taunts The Adversaries: Acts 14:19-23
“19) But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20) But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21) After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22) strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23) When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 14:19-23
Things changed very quickly for Paul. They went from calling him Hermes to stoning him within a few days. Some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came down to Lystra and stirred up opposition against Paul and Barnabas. They dragged Paul’s lifeless body out of the city supposing him to be dead. Mission accomplished… or so they thought!
As the disciples were standing around remorsefully taking in the trauma of Paul being killed, he suddenly arose and entered the city with then. According to the text, they didn’t give him CPR, first aid or life support therapy. He suddenly just stood up. They didn’t even carry him and he didn’t appear to be limping.
Wait…time out… he had just been stoned and left for dead! It would take weeks to recover from those wounds naturally. But the very next day, he went away with Barnabas to Derbe and continued to preach the gospel and make many disciples. It looks like the more they suffered the more effective and fruitful they became!
To be fair, the text does not say that Paul was raised from the dead, but he was healed from the linger wounds of being stoned. In Matthew 10:8 Jesus gave His disciples authority to raise the dead as well as heal people. It appears at the very least that Paul was healed from the lingering affects of being stoned. We are talking about weeks of natural recovery from the wounds from being stoned. Instead, he got up and went about business as usual!
What makes his story even more interesting, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 Paul shares his extended testimony. This guy was whipped five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, endured several riots against him, was shipwrecked, at one point floated in the water for over 24 hours, was put in both jail and prison, was in constant danger from wild beasts and violent men. He was familiar with being hungry, thirsty and suffering from hypothermia. At the very least, you have to admit… the guy had resilience. Out of it all, the Lord delivered him.
But what motivated him? Acts 14:22 says; “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Philippians 3:10 talks about “the fellowship of His sufferings.” Colossians 1:24 says; “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (I dare not touch the theology hinted at in that verse!)
One thing I do know; the disciples Paul and Barnabas made and the elders they appointed understood suffering for the gospel. They were the real deal! They were filled with boldness, courage, grace, the power of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to suffer for Jesus.
Let me make an observation: “miracles and suffering danced hand in hand in the early church.” These two extremes are paradoxical to our modern thinking. But many times the miracles were the byproduct of the suffering and the tribulations endured by the early Christians. You will not see many miracles until you are willing to walk through the valley of tribulation and suffering.
This is where the text gets really interesting. Instead of fleeing, verse 21 says; “… they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.” The inclusion of this point in verse 21 almost appears to be taunting.
They intentionally and very publicly walked right past the mob that had stoned Paul and left him for dead… and no one touched them again! The reader is left wondering what impact this witness had on their adversaries.
I suspect the Holy Spirit may have been at work creating more “Saul to Paul” conversion stories! Can you imagine the impact of Paul smiling and looking into the eyes of the very people who had recently stoned him and left him for dead? What an irony, his presence added validity to the gospel message and the claim of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were looking into the eyes of a walking and talking miracle which they could not explain or deny. Maybe they were persuaded to listen to his massage.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
God Taunts The Adversaries: Acts 14:19-23