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  • Nov 11 / 2018
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Acts: The Book of Mission, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Be a Christian of Courage (Acts 14:1-20)

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Be a Christian of Courage

Acts 14:1-20 (Pastor Heo)

In Iconium

1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the 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 do miraculous 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 the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat 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 good news.

In Lystra and Derbe

8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.


  • Chp 13 = first half of first missionary journey
  • Chp 14 = second half of first missionary journey

In Paul’s early ministry, he went to large cities and planted churches, hoping to reach out to smaller cities from the central locations. He moved along the line of least resistance – through the open gates – and went to his own countrymen first. But when rejected, he turned to the Gentiles.

Chp 13, first half, Paul and Barnabas sailed to Cyprus, to Pamphilia, to Pisidia Antioch. Here, there were filled with joy and the HS, but they still encountered hardships and persecution. They also expelled Paul and Barnabas from their region – so the two shook the dust form their feet and moved to another place: Iconium (in chp 14 here) – about 90 miles east of Antioch.

v 1-5

“1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the 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 do miraculous 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 the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.”

v 1: “Paul and Barnabas went as usual…”

They went into the Jewish synagogues (Jewish churches). Israel was ruled by Rome at that time, and the Jews were scattered all over the world (the Diaspora), and when they scattered, they built “sune – goge” (synagogues) wherever they went.

Greek “sune” = “together”; “goge” = “bring”

This was a religious, social, public building specifically set aside for the Jewish people.

The first thing Paul did was look for a synagogue because he knew he could meet many people there.

Today, there are 10s of thousands:

  • about 10,000 synagogues in Israel,
  • 4,000 in North America,
  • 3,500 in Europe and Asia

Paul and Barnabas began preaching there, but they ran into difficulties – more serious than at Antioch. Greeks and Jews were plotting to stone them, so they had to move on.

In Corinthians, Paul writes, “I have been constantly on the move…”

2 Cor. 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life maybe expressed through ours.”

v 6-7

“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 good news.”

Whatever happened to them, whatever circumstances / surroundings, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach the gospel. Paul was a realist but also an optimist.

Are you a realist? Optimist? Pessimist?

Some preachers say like this:

  • Optimist: “85 year old man who married a 35-year old woman and moved to a 12 room house near an elementary school”
  • Optimist does not allow the facts surrounding him to take away his faith, vision, etc that something great can happen.

Remember Paul’s declaration from prison: “I know what it is to be in need, or to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in all circumstances: well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13)

Four reactions to the gospel

How are you showing your reaction to the word of God?

1. A crippled man’s response

v 8-10

“8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.”

As usual, Paul preached the gospel message – and among the audience was a crippled man.

He reacted with faith

The Word of God produces faith and by faith, he was healed.

This also should be applied in our own reaction to the Word of God. At least every Sunday, we receive the Word of God and we should react by faith.

Rom 10:17 “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of God.”

Heb 12:2 “Fix your eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith.”

2. Crowd’s reaction

v 11-13

“11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.”

The crowd tried to worship them as though they were the visual representation of gods.

Yes, miracles happen. Our lives are miracles. Salvation is the miracle of miracles.

But we know that miracles by themselves do not produce confession nor faith. Miracles must be accompanied by the Word of God.

This shows the crowd was superstitious and interpreted these things through their own mythology.

  • Zeus = Jupiter = Barnabas = chief of gods
  • Hermes = Mercury = Paul

Do you know how many gods in Japan? 8,000,000

How many in Hindu? ALL

This is “pantheism” = ALL gods

Barnabas evidently looked older, had a more noble appearance. Paul spoke for the two – and Hermes was the messenger of all gods, so that was Paul’s “unofficial” title.

What lesson can we get? Even today, Jesus is made a captive of man’s presuppositions – they do not REALLY understand Christ.

What they think, what they want him to be like, they create him as such.

  • Long ago, in the room in the inn in Bethlehem, there was no room –
    • but today, we have mansions, but no room. To many people, just is just a hero, a teacher, a priest, a culture, but not the Lord of their lives.
  • When Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly on Palm Sunday, so many people were delirious shouting “Hosannah! The King to come!”
    • But when Jesus spoke of his coming death, they became full because this did not fit their preconceived notion about him. Only days later, the SAME crowd shouted “crucify him!”

This is the same in this adulterous, unbelieving world today.

  • Yes, almost everyone will receive Christ as the greatest man who ever lived – he is the supreme psychologist of history – the most important man of all time. He is safe, and soft, and mild, and gentle.
    • But they reject him as personal Savior, Lord, God.

How about us today? We Christians often wear blinders as we read the Bible. We only see what we seek. We find our own preconceived ideas.

It is only with God’s help and the illuminating power of the HS that we can see the truth.

Another thing we can get from this attitude: (this is a basic weakness in our attitude): We often exalt the messenger instead of the message itself.

Check yourself, when you receive the sermon every Sunday, do you receive the messenger or the Message? This is a serious and important point.

We have a tendency to make human beings (rather than God) our security. We have a tendency to have our own Christian pantheism. Yes, we “know” God hates idol worship the most and we “try” to go away from idols. But we can also have “Christian idols.” So with God’s help, we must examine our hearts to see:

WHOM am I worshiping?

Are we worshiping ourselves? Our favorite Internet preacher? A Christian author? Entertainer? Or do you worship and serve Christ himself?

In the next response, P&B make it very clear whom we should serve.

How about this? If you do something great in public and the people exalt you and honor you, what attitude should you have?

3. Apostles’ response to the crowd

v 14-18

“14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they *tore their clothes*[expression of repentance, sorrow, anger] and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. “

If somebody glorifies you, tear your clothes and run away. ….

Yes, we must desire that one day God will glorify us – this is our final hope – that we share in the glory of Christ. But we should reject any kind of glory in this world from human beings.

What a great temptation this must have been for them – even Satan knew it.

How easy it would be to accept this kind of worship. They could rationalize it by saying, “Well, OK, we will accommodate them and THEN point them to the true God.” They could say, “We will use this honor to teach them the truth.” But this is not the way of God.

It is to their credit that they did not receive any kind of glory from men. They boldly told them that the gods of this area were nothing. “All kinds of gods made by men are nothing / worthless.” They cannot speak, hear, see, – they are just ideas out of man’s head.

Paul challenged them: “Turn away from your fake gods to the TRUE God.”

This is true / basic / fundamental repentance that should happen once for all in our lives.

This God is the Living God. Do you believe in a living or dead god? Living, Sustaining, Supporting, Forgiving, Self-revealing God.

Also we should follow and worship this God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

4. Mixed reactions

v. 19-20

“19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

They moved to the next small city the next day.

P&B tried to calm the crowd, but some trouble-making Jews came from Iconium and Pisidia Antioch to stir up the crowd.

  • At Antioch, they expelled P&B.
  • At Iconium, they TRIED to stone P&B, so they fled.
  • Now, in Lystra, maybe the same people came and DID stone Paul.

They thought he was dead (so he was almost dead – he was not a pretender). When they realized what they had done, they were afraid. Iconium was a Roman colony, and Lystra was an outpost. But stoning a Roman citizen (Paul) without trial was terribly illegal. They were afraid, thought he was dead, and they dragged his half-dead body out of the city and threw it away in order to escape the consequences of their riot.

A stoning is a terrible, bloody thing. Have you ever been stoned?

Jesus was crucified. This is a historical fact. Jesus was crucified to give us eternal life. Have you ever received even a single stone for Jesus Christ?

“Jesus was crucified for me. Have I ever been stoned for Jesus?”

Maybe at this time, Paul’s mind flashed back to the stoning of Stephen. At that time, Paul was there, approving of the stoning of Stephen.

In this case, they did the same to Paul. Paul was lying in a lonely place with blood, dust, dirt, his clothes torn, he was motionless.

At this time, the Christians came and stood around him, likely crying, weeping, praying. “How can we give him a funeral, a burial?” But suddenly, one eye “popped” open and he said, “It’s alright.” They said, “Paul, how are you?” “Fine, thank you. And you?” And he got up.

When he came to his senses, the FIRST THING he did was go right back into the city in which we was almost murdered. What bravery! What an act! This much pain and blood must have been quite a spectacle. This was more effective than 1,000 sermons. No one could stop P&B from preaching about Christ – because they KNEW that Jesus died “for me.”

  • Do you have this kind of courage?
  • Do you have bravery to preach the gospel?
  • Do you have courage to share the gospel message?

Today, we need this kind of courage and bravery.

  • Courage = “not the absence of fear, but the ability to be VERY afraid, and still do the right and good thing anyway”
  • Courage and “fearlessness” are not synonyms
  • Courage = doing the right thing in spite of GREAT fear

Even Christ encourages us to “be courageous” – “You will have troubles of many kinds, but take heart! I have overcome the world!”

OT and NT, God encourages us to be “strong and courageous.” (Joshua in the OT)

Be a Christian of Courage.

Challenge and encourage yourself.

We need this kind of courage in this world.

Remember Jesus was historically, truly crucified – have you ever received a stone for him?

This is our big blessing, responsibility.

God bless us. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Let’s pray.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen