“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to ill-treat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.” NIV UK
Business as usual for the early church combined great joy and great progress with great suffering. They were rarely out of trouble.
This is a story of custom: ‘’At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue’’ (1a). As we saw in the last chapter, Paul’s habit was to offer the gospel message about Jesus to Jews first (see for example 13:46). As he understood it, this was how things had to be.
This is a story of conversions (1b). In fact, a great ‘harvest’ was gathered in.
This is a story of conflict (2, 4-6). In the wake of the ‘revival’ the apostles found themselves in more trouble. The message of Christ does divide (4). Not everyone will respond warmly and well. Christian faith is reasonable faith, but some will not believe. They dig their heels in. They set themselves against the truth, and they are angry with it.
This is a story of courage. The little word ‘’So’’ at the beginning of (3) is not what you would expect. Let me try to paraphrase (2,3): ‘Paul and Barnabas saw a tsunami of hatred heading towards them, threatening to sweep them away. SO they stood still; they did not run away. They stayed put.’ Look what God did with their faithfulness:
This is a story of confirmation (3): The Lord affirmed His Word with signs following. ‘’But where we work with Him, and He with us, the results are beyond measure astonishing, and his alone.’’ F.B. Meyer.
This is a story of continuation (7): In spite of what I said earlier, there was a time to get out of town. When it came, the apostles recognised it, and it was not cowardice to move. However, they did not let earlier suffering, or the likelihood of its repetition silence them. They were unstoppable…even if they were always in trouble!
PRAYER: Whatever happens, my Lord, help me to keep going with the same kind of dogged resolve the first Christians showed.