A Great Multitude Believed
Acts 14:1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the gospel there. (NKJV)
Paul is traveling in Asia Minor, present day Turkey, on his first missionary journey. He is accompanied by Barnabas and other apostles.
The time is about A.D. 45-46 when they arrive in the city of Iconium, having traveled about 80 miles southeast from Antioch, located in the province of Psidia. In Antioch the Gospel had been well received by the Gentile converts to Judaism but the Jews made trouble for the party causing them to move on to Iconium. They will continue their journey through three cities in the province of Lycaonia; Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.
As was their custom Paul and the apostles attended the Synagogue in Iconium in hopes of voicing their message (v. 1a). The message of the gospel was successful as “a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed” (v. 1b). However, those Jews who did not believe the gospel message “stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against” Paul and the apostles (v. 2).
Paul and the apostles were persistent and stayed there “a long time, speaking boldly” in the name of the Lord (v. 3a). The Lord confirmed the divine nature of their message by repeatedly “granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (v. 3b).
The city was divided with part siding with the apostles and part with the Jews (v. 4). Finally the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles made an impulsive decision to carry out a “violent attempt” to “abuse and stone them” (v. 5).
When Paul, Barnabas, and the other apostles got wind of the plan they “fled to Lystra”, some 30 miles to the south (v. 6). Upon arriving in Lystra, undaunted by the threats upon their lives, they continued to preach the gospel (v. 7).
Paul and Barnabas would not be denied. They were persistent in their efforts to preach the gospel. They had been threatened in Antioch and now they have been threatened in Iconium.
Still, they were not discouraged. As soon as they arrived in Lystra they were back at their goal of spreading the gospel, being obedient to the Great Commission. The Lord had already rewarded their efforts as a great multitude believed.
The Lord always rewards obedience. As with Paul and Barnabas, it may not be easy to be obedient. We will face opposition and obstacles as we travel the road of obedience to the Lord. He never said it would be easy. However, it is always rewarding.
Online Bible Commentary