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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Acts 14

This chapter concludes the account of the first missionary journey, detailing the experiences of Paul and Barnabas in Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, and also their revisiting all of the Galatian cities of this first tour, strengthening the churches, appointing elders, and their preaching at Perga which had been skipped at the beginning. It concludes with an account of their return journey to Syrian Antioch and the report of their labors to the sponsoring church.

After their experiences on Cyprus, outlined in the previous chapter, all these places Paul visited were in the Roman province of Galatia, as then constituted; hence their designation as "the Galatians." See under Acts 13:16. There were two districts in Roman Galatia, which were Phrygia and Lycaonia.

Lycaonia contained two cities, Lystra and Derbe, along with many villages. Iconium was reckoned by popular native opinion as being in Phrygia; ... but all these cities were included by the Romans in the province they called Galatia. F1

The length of time Paul and company had spent in Antioch of Pisidia included at least "the whole winter of A.D. 46-47," F2 due to the severe winters which made traveling nearly impossible for the ancients. Between Antioch and Iconium, a distance of 90 miles, lay rough mountainous terrain, Antioch having an altitude of 3,500 feet and Iconium having an altitude of 3,300 feet. Scholars are uncertain as to the exact duration of Paul's labors at any given place on this first tour, and also as to the time of the whole tour, their educated guesses ranging from one to three years. All that is certainly known is that it took place in the period A.D. 45-50. Certainly Paul stayed long enough in Pisidian Antioch to teach and firmly establish the church there.


 
Verse 1
And it came to pass in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.

ICONIUM

This old Phrygian city, then a part of Roman Galatia, had a history reaching back into prehistoric times; it was located on the site of the modern city of Konia, a portion of the ancient name being still retained. Greek mythology relates that King Nannakos ruled there, that an oracle warned him of a world-wide flood, which he vainly sought to avert through tears and entreaties to the gods. The flood came; and when the waters receded, Prometheus and Athena made images of mud into which the winds breathed life; so was the earth repopulated. The word "images" in the Greek ([eikones]) gives us the English "icon"; and similarly Iconium found a name! F3 Such a legend of course was grounded in the fact that the flood mentioned in Genesis actually occurred.

It stood on the edge of the plateau, well watered, a wealthy and productive region. Claudius honored it by calling it Claudiconium; Hadrian made it an honorary colony. "In New Testament times, the juridicial powers of the assembly were vested in the two magistrates elected annually." F4

They entered together into the synagogue ...
MacGreggor expressed surprise that "after burning their bridges" (Acts 13:46), they should so soon have appeared in another synagogue; however, Paul's "Lo we turn to the Gentiles" had reference only to the situation in Pisidian Antioch and not to any purpose of henceforth refusing to enter synagogues. This particular synagogue in Iconium had an unusually large number of Gentiles in attendance, many of whom were also proselytes; and it provided a major opportunity for Paul. Walker commented on the fact that it was "easier to interpret prophetic utterances concerning Christ to the Gentiles," F5 because the Gentiles, unlike the Jews, were not blinded by the malignant carnal nationalism which dominated Jewish thought and was the prime reason for their rejection of Christ.

And so spake ...
Not merely preaching, but preaching in such a manner as to reach men's hearts, characterized the work of the apostles. As De Welt said:

We would do well to follow closely the message and method of the apostles that we too might "so speak" as to reach the hearts of those to whom we preach. F6

A great multitude ... believed ...
Wherever such an expression is used in the New Testament, "believed" is a figure of speech standing for all that is involved in becoming a Christian. Such a comment as the following demonstrates the religious error which fails to take this into account:

The Christian missionaries had learned to declare that faith, and faith alone, was the ground of admission to God's kingdom ... Barnabas and Paul found the faith condition quite sufficient ... and required no other of their Gentile converts. F7

If such a comment is true, why did Paul command the Philippian jailer to be baptized at midnight? (Acts 16:33). There are two uses of "believed" in the New Testament, one as a synecdoche for the primary steps of obedience, and the other as an identification of one of those steps. It is used in the first of these senses here. In such an expression as "faith alone," which is both unscriptural and anti-scriptural, there is a clear and undeniable perversion of the word of God. The only mention of "faith alone" in the entire New Testament affirms that men are not justified "by faith only" (James 2:24; 2:24 ). See the next verse.


 
Verse 2
But the Jews that were disobedient stirred up the souls of the Gentiles, and made them evil affected against the brethren.

The Jews that were disobedient ...
This is the antithesis of "a great multitude ... believed" in Acts 14:1, proving that not faith alone, but faith and obedience are included in the meaning there. "Disobeying is frequently used in the New Testament as the opposite of believing." F8 Thus it is impossible to understand "believing" in such passages as anything other than a short form for believing and rendering obedience to the gospel. The apostle John said, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life" (John 3:36).


 
Verse 3
Long time therefore they tarried there speaking boldly in the Lord, who bare witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

It was the extensive Gentile character of Iconium which resulted in the "signs and wonders" God performed there by the hands of the apostles, thus "confirming the word" as had been promised (Mark 16:20). In situations more completely Jewish, such "signs of an apostle" (2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:18) were not necessary. The Jews already professed to receive the Scriptures as the word of God; but the Gentiles knew nothing of the Scriptures, or at least but little; hence the appearance of signs.

The opposition mentioned above in Acts 14:2 was perhaps frustrated by the mighty miracles performed by Paul (Galatians 3:5). At any rate the preaching continued without abatement for some time.

It is of interest to note that each time miracles are mentioned they are associated with apostles, or persons on whom the apostles had laid hands. Never do we hear of the Christians in these towns working miracles through their great faith. F9

Some have vainly supposed that if modern Christians only had faith like the apostles they could perform miracles of healing; but such a view does not take account of the purpose for which miracles were given in the apostolic age. The miracles in view here were God's way of "bearing witness to the word of his grace," and were in no sense merely for the benefit of the suffering.


 
Verse 4
But the multitude of the city was divided; and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

City was divided ...
In Luke 12:51-53, Jesus had clearly foretold the divisions that would inevitably follow the faithful preaching of the word. This division invariably issues from the polarization of men's hearts, either toward the Lord or against him. The two divisions here are the Christians and the non-Christians, with the latter probably being the majority.

The apostles ...
Paul and Barnabas were not apostles in the sense that the Twelve were, the term being used here in a secondary sense. Boles pointed out that Paul applied the term to James the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19), to Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), to Silvanus and Timothy (Acts 18:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:6), and even called the Judaizing teachers "false apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:13). F10

The name "apostle" is here applied to Paul for the first time in the New Testament. Milligan defined the secondary meaning of "apostles" in the New Testament as "missionaries or messengers." F11


 
Verses 5, 6, 7
And when there was made an onset both of the Gentiles and of the Jews and their rulers, to treat them shamefully and to stone them, they became aware of it, and fled unto the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the region round about; and there they preached the gospel.

The opposition mentioned in Acts 14:2 could be contained only for a time. The increasing success of the gospel finally precipitated the riotous and illegal action in view here. Ramsay referred to this impending mob action as "a riotous and illegal conspiracy"; F12 but when the apostles learned of it, they yielded ground, as the Master had commanded, and fled to Lycaonia. Luke's geographical note here to the effect that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia implies that Iconium was NOT in Lycaonia. Bruce noted that:

Sir William Ramsay has recorded how it was this geographical note in Acts 14:6 that led to his first "change of judgment" with regard to the historical value of Acts convincing him that the statement was entirely correct. F13

No errors of any kind have ever been discovered in Luke's writings.

The climate for gospel preachers proved to be no better in Lycaonia than it had been in Iconium and Antioch. The pagan population were a fierce, primitive breed.

The very name Lycaonia, interpreted traditionally as Wolf-land (the local legend derived it from Lycaon who had been transformed into a wolf) faithfully represented the character of the inhabitants. F14

It is a tribute to the Christian gospel that such a population should have responded to the truth, giving to Christianity no less a person than Paul's friend Timothy.

LYSTRA

Lystra was the first stop, being only about eighteen or twenty miles eastward from Iconium; but the distance was not measured merely in miles, for it lay in a different political division of Galatia; and the people spoke a different language.

This was a primitive place, singled out by Augustus as a colony, probably for the defense of the southeastern frontier of the Galatian province.

Throughout the countryside the old Anatolian village-system prevailed, and the native language of Lycaonia was spoken. Lystra was the market-town, with streets crowded by the local peasantry on market and festal days. F15

There was a temple dedicated to Zeus before the gates of the city; and the people had faith in a legend recorded by Ovid to the effect that the gods had once visited their district.


 
Verses 8, 9, 10
And at Lystra there sat a certain man, impotent in his feet, a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked. The same heard Paul speaking: who fastening his eyes upon him, and seeing that he had faith to be made whole, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet, And he leaped and walked.

A certain school of critics, intent on establishing a theory that Luke invented certain incidents to force a parallel between the lives of Peter and Paul, like to point out similarities between this episode and the healing of the impotent man at the Gate Beautiful by Peter (Acts 3:3ff); but there are monumental differences. Here the healed person had great faith; there the inference is that the impotent man had none at all. Here the man was listening to Paul's teaching; there the beggar was intent on alms alone. There Peter professed poverty; here there was no mention of poverty. There the miracle was followed by Peter's sermon; here the mob tried to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas. In fact, there are far more differences than similarities.

In performing the signs of an apostle, Paul had observed that the impotent man was attentive to the message, obviously believing it; and, as Paul had doubtless made many references to Christ's healing all manner of diseases, it suddenly appeared to Paul that the condition of the man's heart was such that he could be healed; hence the command and the startling result. It is a mistake to view the man's faith as enabling Paul; it enabled him to receive God's blessing through Paul.


 
Verses 11, 12
And when the multitude saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercury, because he was the chief speaker.

In the speech of Lycaonia ...
This accounts for the fact that Paul and Barnabas were not aware of the intention of the people until later. As Bruce said,

The crowd's use of Lycaonian explains why Paul and Barnabas did not grasp what was afoot until preparations to pay them divine honors were well advanced. F16

Some very important deductions derive from this inability of the apostles to understand the Lycaonian dialect. As Boles said, "This shows that the gift of tongues did not give the apostles power to speak or to understand all dialects." F17

Another thing in this episode is the evident belief of that primitive people in the supernatural. "The gods are come down to us ..." "No such cry could have been possible in the great cities where the confluence of a debased polytheism and philosophical speculation had ended in utter skepticism." F18

They called Barnabas Jupiter ...
Having a more imposing appearance than Paul, Barnabas was ascribed the chief honor. "Jupiter" here is a mistranslation of the Greek which has "Zeus." Again, certain translators were "protecting" people against Luke's ignorance; but, as so frequent]y, the spade of the archeologist has proved Luke correct.

Zeus was the patron deity of the Lycaonian countryside, as indicated by archeological evidence strikingly confirming the narrative of Luke. Two inscriptions unearthed from Lystra record the dedication of a statue to Zeus, and make mention of "the priests of Zeus." F19

And Paul, Mercury, because he was the chief speaker ...
Here again, the translators were wrong. The Greek has Hermes instead of Mercury; and the same inscriptions mentioned above link the name of Hermes with that of Zeus.


 
Verse 13
And the priest of Jupiter whose temple was before the city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the multitudes.

That enterprising priest of Zeus was what may be described as being "on the ball"; if a miracle had occurred, as indeed there had, he would channel the influence of it into the worship of his deity.

Oxen and garlands ...
This is an interesting glimpse of pagan worship. The beasts to be sacrificed were decorated, their horns gilded, and their necks circled with white ribbons and other decorations. The ancient poets Ovid and Virgil both sang of this:

Rich curling fumes of incense feast the skies, A hecatomb of voted victims dies, With gilded horns and garlands on their head, In all the pomp of death to th' altar led. - Ovid
The victim ox, that was for altars prest, Trimmed with white ribbons and with garlands drest, Sank of himself without the god's command, Preventing the slow sacrificer's hand. - Virgil. F20


 
Verse 14
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they rent their garments, and sprang forth among the multitude, crying out.

When they heard of it ...
has the meaning of "when they became aware of what was taking place." The rending of the garments was a traditional reaction to blasphemy; and the offering of sacrifice to mortal men was thus interpreted by Paul and Barnabas. Being unable to get attention otherwise, they frustrated the ill-conceived plan by running among the people and crying out as in the next verse.


 
Verses 15, 16, 17
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. And yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.

This appeal to God as revealed in nature was appropriate for a pagan audience with little or no knowledge of the word of God; and there are a number of very important points in this speech. The fact that God is one, a unity, and that he created everything; also the fact of being, not a dead or inanimate god such as Zeus, but a living God; and likewise the goodness of God as revealed in his providential care of mortals - all these concepts appear in Paul's address here.

It is appropriate to note how many intimations of Paul's writings in his epistles are suggested by the words here. The reference to their "turning from these vain things to the living God" is like 1 Thessalonians 1:9; God's suffering "the nations to walk in their own ways" is like Romans 3:25, etc. The whole passage is so characteristically Pauline that any idea of Luke's putting these words in Paul's mouth is fantasy.


 
Verse 18
And with these sayings scarce restrained they the multitudes from doing sacrifice unto them.

As Walker observed:

The sacrifices here proposed were those accorded the gods whom they were supposed to be; and the preservation of the institution of sacrifice among heathen peoples in all ages is evidence enough that God originally commanded sacrifices to be offered unto himself. Despite the fact of the institution of sacrifices having been perverted and changed in many ways, nevertheless, no one can explain its universality on any other ground than that here suggested. F21

Although Luke did not mention Paul's success at Lystra, there were, nevertheless, some who accepted the gospel. Boles pointed out that

Among the more conspicuous converts were the devoted Jewess, Lois, her daughter Eunice, and the young Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). F22


 
Verse 19
But there came Jews thither from Antioch and Iconium: and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul, and dragged him out of the city, supposing, that he was dead.

The enemies of the gospel traveled a distance of more than a hundred miles in order to oppose the truth. It would be commendable if advocates of the truth would be as diligent. McGarvey said, "It is difficult to comprehend the malignity of those Jews." F23 It is not difficult, however, to understand their modus operandi. They would first have enlisted the aid of the priest of Zeus, already infuriated by the defeat of his self-serving device of offering sacrifice to the apostles; then, they would have related how the apostles had been compelled to leave both Antioch and Iconium, alleging, as they did of Jesus, that the wonders the people had seen were accomplished by the power of Satan. The fickleness of human nature made the rest easy. The same mob that would have sacrificed to them as gods one day was ready to murder them on the next day.

They stoned Paul ...
This was a favorite method of execution with the Jews and indicates their predominance in this attempted murder. There is no suggestion whatever of any formal charge, or any trial.

And dragged him out of the city ...
Trenchard commented that

There was no need for Luke to stress the fickleness, cruelty and violence of men living under demon-controlled systems of idolatry. The simple statements of two verses (Acts 14:18,19) reveal both the hatred of religious enemies and the crazy reactions of the Lystra mob, who stoned the "god" of yesterday and dragged him out of the city. F24

The Jews who took part in this had no scruple against profaning the streets of a pagan city by such a murderous act; but in their perpetration of an identical thing in the martyrdom of Stephen, they scrupulously refrained from killing him within the city. Satan had indeed blinded such men.


 
Verse 20
But as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and entered into the city: and on the morrow he went forth with Barnabas to Derbe.

Why was Paul stoned, and not Barnabas? The Jews were more discerning than the pagans of Lystra; the latter might indeed suppose Barnabas to be the king of the gods and Paul only a spokesman; but the Jews knew better, recognizing in Paul the greatest advocate of Christianity that was produced by the apostolic age. We cannot resist the conjecture that young Timothy was among those disciples that gathered around the battered body of the beloved apostle, and that with others he was overjoyed to learn that he still lived. It is possible that Paul spent the night in Timothy's home.

On the morrow ...
Derbe was a good many miles farther toward the border of Galatia; and one is amazed at the physical stamina and endurance exhibited by a man who, having been stoned "to death" one day, was able to travel such a distance on the next. Surely the Lord must have strengthened him.

DERBE

For many years scholars have presumed that Derbe was about "twenty miles" from Lystra; F25 but the New Bible Dictionary has this:

The site of Derbe was identified in 1956 by M. Ballance at Kerti Huyuk, 13 miles North Northeast of Kavaman (Laranda), some 60 miles from Lystra (whence Acts 14:20b; 14:20b must be translated, "and on the morrow he set out with Barnabas for Derbe"). F26

The Greek text will allow the suggested translation, since it was their going forth from Lystra that is said to have occurred "on the morrow," but there is no mention of their arrival at Derbe on the morrow.

It was situated almost on the border of eastern Roman Galatia; any farther east would have taken them into the kingdom of Antiochus. Of the "many disciples" recruited in Derbe, Paul's fellow-traveler Gaius (Acts 20:4) is the only one whose name has come down to us.


 
Verse 21
And when they preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch.

When Paul and company were at Derbe, only the Taurus Mountains separated them from Paul's native province and the city of Tarsus; and one wonders if there were any emotions tugging at his heart for a visit there. However that was, the verse before us summarizes an extensive and successful preaching experience in Derbe, after which the missionary party backtracked, visiting again the cities they had already evangelized. In view of the hardships Paul encountered in those cities, MacGreggor thought that "It is a little difficult to understand why the apostles at this point deliberately turned back to towns from which they had been expelled." F27 Blaiklock, however, pointed out that the magistrates in those cities held office for only one year and that they might easily have returned "when other magistrates took annual office." F28 See also footnote 4 under Acts 14:1. The reason for Paul's determination to revisit the cities of South Galatia, however, is not far to seek: it was for the purpose of strengthening the Christians and ordaining elders in the congregations which they had established.


 
Verse 22
Confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.

Confirming the souls ...
In order to avoid the overtones of the word "confirming," as it is erroneously associated with the so-called "seven sacraments," Plumptre suggested that it should be rendered "strengthening," as it is rendered in Acts 18:23. "It is not the same word as that used by later writers for the ecclesiastical rite of confirmation." F29 Of the so-called "seven sacred sacraments," only two, namely, baptism and the Lord's Supper, have Greek names, a fact which automatically removes the other five to post-apostolic times and denies them any identification whatever with New Testament Christianity. What is meant here is simply that Paul desired to communicate encouraging and helpful admonition to the new converts God had given through his preaching. Living, as they did, in a wild, pagan society, they must surely have needed such strengthening as could come only from one like Paul.

Continue in the faith ...
"The faith" here has the meaning of "Christianity." In fact this comprehensive meaning of "faith" is frequent in New Testament usage of the word. Many of Paul's expressions regarding salvation "through faith" or "by faith" have no bearing whatever on the Lutheran heresy of redemption by "faith only," but mean simply that men are saved through, or by, Christianity, or the Christian religion.

Through many tribulations we must enter ...
The significance of "must" as applied to all of God's creation is discussed in my Commentary on Matthew, under Matt. 18:7. In focus here is the necessity of sufferings, persecutions, etc. for those who will obey the gospel and enter God's kingdom. The lives of the Christians in these Galatian cities afforded ample proof of this, as did also that of the great apostle who had brought them the message of redemption. We might paraphrase Paul's words thus: These tribulations we are suffering as a consequence of our entering God's kingdom are normal and necessary.

We must enter into the kingdom ...
MacGreggor thought that the tribulations in this passage are "those which are to precede the end" and that the kingdom of God carries its "eschatological meaning." F30 We do not believe this at all. There is nothing in Paul's writings that supports the notion that he expected the end of time in his lifetime. His warning of the great apostasy in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, as well as his prophecy of the hardening of secular Israel throughout the "times of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:25), makes it absolutely certain that Paul neither believed nor taught any "quick return" of Jesus. The implication of comments like that of MacGreggor that Paul was giving a pep talk to these Christians and reinforcing it by suggesting that their tribulations heralded the immediate unfolding of eschatological events, such as the Second Advent of our Lord, the resurrection of the dead, and the eternal judgment, etc., is totally wrong.

Paul wrote certain young Christians whom he had converted, telling them that "The Father delivered us ... and translated us out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Colossians 1:12-13). The kingdom, therefore, which these young Christians of South Galatia had entered (past tense) was a present reality. However, this is not to deny the reality of a future and final phase of God's kingdom which is associated with the eventual triumph of Jesus over all things.


 
Verse 23
And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed.

Elders in every church ...
This is the first mention of appointing elders in the New Testament, and the fundamental truth of there being a plurality of elders in each congregation is thus evident from the very first.

Appointed ...
Arguments based on this word which would require elders to be voted upon are not valid. As MacGreggor noted:

The word "appointed" means literally "chose by show of hands" and, strictly speaking, should imply some form of popular voting. But it had come to be used of choice in general without reference to the means. F31

The New Testament simply does not bind upon Christians any certain method of choosing either elders or deacons. It was Paul who appointed the elders in these churches, and it would be a mistake to suppose that he yielded the right of choice to ignorant Gentile congregations, described by himself as "weak, base, despised, and foolish," without taking the utmost precautions and providing firm guidance for them. Strong agreement is felt with Boles, who said, "Any method (of appointing elders) which promotes unity and does not violate a principal may be used." F32

ELDERS

Trenchard wrote that:

It is widely agreed that during the apostolic age, elder = bishop (overseer) = pastor, and that there was a plurality of these in each local church, forming the presbytery. F33

As a matter of fact, there are no less than six New Testament words which refer to exactly the same office, that of elder mentioned here.

Bishop ([Greek: episkopos]) translated "overseer"
Presbyter translated "elder"
Pastor translated "shepherd"

Furthermore, the term "stewards" is associated with this same office in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 4:1,2). Also, Paul said, "The bishop must be blameless as God's steward" (Titus 1:7).

One of the most significant things regarding Paul's appointment of elders in these churches is that of their inexperience. None of those appointed had been Christians any longer than two or three years at the most, and some of them, no doubt, a much shorter time. In the light of this, those settled congregations of our own day who "operate" for ten or thirty years without naming any elders are proving by their failure their unwillingness to follow the pattern in evidence here. The usual excuse is that "none are qualified"; and if it is supposed that absolute perfection in meeting the qualifications Paul himself laid down for this office is required of all who may be appointed, it may be that none were ever qualified in the history of the church. However, the overriding commandment is "to appoint"; the "qualifications" are guidelines; and to make the guidelines an excuse for nullifying the commandment is sinful.

Prayed with fasting ...
Despite the fact of there having been no formal or ceremonial fasts prescribed for Christians, either by the Lord or by any of the apostles, it is quite evident that fasting was an approved device for deepening spirituality and that even apostles observed occasions of fasting. There is no reason why devout persons in any age should not follow their example.


 
Verses 24, 25
And they passed through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

Regarding the chronology of this event, Ramsay said: "Paul and Barnabas crossed Taurus (probably in A.D. 48, certainly in the summer season) and returned through Pamphylia to Syrian Antioch." F34

Luke here tells us nothing of the success of the missionaries in Perga, only that they spoke the word of the gospel there. It may be surmised that Paul had intended taking ship from Perga back to Antioch; and the circumstance of his traveling overland to Attalia was probably due to the timely arrival of a ship there, instead of at Perga. Perga was situated inland a few miles on the Cestrus river and Attalia likewise on the Catarrhactes, two of the three rivers crossing the Pamphylian plain. Ancient cities were often located upstream to diminish the attacks of pirates. Paul, finding no ship at Perga, simply crossed overland to Attalia and sailed from there.


 
Verse 26
And thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled.

This return to the sponsoring church must have been a dramatic and exciting event. It is possible that no word had been received of their labors, except perhaps for a report from John Mark of results in Cyprus; and therefore it must be assumed that a great throng gathered to hear the report of what God had done through his servants on that first journey.


 
Verse 27
And when they had come and gathered the church together, they rehearsed all things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles.

Opened a door of faith to the Gentiles ...
Yes indeed, the mission had been a success. There were now a number of Gentile churches holding forth the truth of God in pagan Gentile territory; and the evangelization of the "uttermost parts of the earth" was firmly under way.


 
Verse 28
And they tarried no little time with the disciples.

Much of the time between A.D. 45 and A.D. 50 is covered by this first journey, including the indefinite period mentioned here, which was probably a period of a couple of years; but, as Milligan said, "How much of the time was devoted to the mission, and how much to the labors in Antioch, we have no means of knowing." F35

SUMMARY OF THE FIRST JOURNEY

They set out from Syrian Antioch.
Went down the Orontes to Seleucia.
Sailed to Cyprus, landing at Salamis.
Crossed the island lengthwise to Paphos.
Sailed to Perga in Pamphylia.
Journeyed to Pisidian Antioch.
Went to Iconium.
Continued to Lystra.
Evangelized Derbe.
Returned through all of these cities to Perga.
Went overland to Attalia.
Sailed to Syrian Antioch (Seleucia).

The length of this journey was no less than 1,300 miles, some 500 miles of this being by water, and the other 800 miles having taken them over some of the roughest and most dangerous terrain on earth. It is not known if Paul had the advantage of any animal-powered transportation or not; but the wildness of most of the terrain, the absence of good roads, or of any roads at all, plus the total absence of any hint to the contrary, must allow the conjecture to stand that Paul and company negotiated the whole excursion on foot. Marvelous were the sufferings and labors of that dauntless company who thrust themselves into wild and inhospitable regions of that ancient world for the purpose of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ and salvation in his holy name.


Footnotes for Acts 14
1: Sir William M. Ramsay, Pictures of the Apostolic Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1950), pp. 129-130.
2: Ibid., p. 128.
3: E. M. Blaiklock, Cities of the New Testament (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1965), p. 27.
4: The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1962), p. 551.
5: W. R. Walker, Studies in Acts (Joplin, Missouri: College Press), II, p. 14.
6: Don De Welt, Acts Made Actual (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1958), p. 185.
7: R. Tuck, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishers, 1950), p. 457.
8: G. H. C. MacGreggor, The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1954), Vol. IX, p. 185.
9: Don De Welt, op. cit., p. 186.
10: H. Leo Boles, Commentary on the Acts (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1953), p. 221.
11: Robert Milligan, Analysis of the New Testament (Cincinnati, Ohio: Bosworth, Chase and Hall), p. 365.
12: Sir William M. Ramsay, op. cit., p. 129.
13: F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishers, 1954), p. 288.
14: E. H. Plumptre, in Elliott's Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 59.
15: E. M. Blaiklock, op. cit., p. 31.
16: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 291.
17: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 223.
18: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 90.
19: E. M. Blaiklock, op. cit., p. 32.
20: Alexander Campbell, Acts of Apostles (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation), p. 98.
21: W. R. Walker, op. cit., p. 16.
22: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 226.
23: J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on Acts (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1892), p. 44.
24: E. H. Trenchard, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 316.
25: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 227.
26: The New Bible Dictionary, op. cit., p. 306.
27: G. H. C. MacGreggor, op. cit., p. 191.
28: E. M. Blaiklock, op. cit., p. 30.
29: E. H. Plumpire, op. cit., p. 92.
30: G. H. C. MacGreggor, op. cit., p. 192.
31: Ibid., p. 193.
32: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 229.
33: E. H. Trenchard, op. cit., p. 317.
34: Sir William M. Ramsay, op. cit., p. 133.
35: Robert Milligan, op. cit., p. 367.
36: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 149.
37: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 359.
38: Jack P. Lewis, Historical Backgrounds of Bible History (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1971), p. 144.
39: Ibid.
40: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 5, p. 781.
41: Jack P. Lewis, op. cit., p. 144.
42: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 360.
43: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 53.
44: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 162.
45: John Peter Lange, op. cit., p. 101.
46: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 825.
47: John William Russell, op. cit. p. 295.
48: Alexander Campbell, op. cit., p. 18.
49: As quoted by Campbell, ibid.
50: E. H. Plumptre, The Acts of Apostles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 15.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 14". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ac&chapter=014>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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