Acts 14:1-7 Paul spoke in the synagogue in Iconium where many Jews and Greeks believed. But again, the unbelieving Jews stirred up things for Paul, trying to cause division among the brethren. The Lord caused Paul and Barnabas to perform miracles to support their preaching of the Word. The city was divided on Paul’s teaching, and the unbelievers plotted to stone Paul and Barnabas, so they fled to Lystra and Derbe and continued to preach the Word.
Acts 14:8-18 Paul healed a crippled man that had faith. The people who saw the miracle credited their false gods, saying that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes (Greek gods). The priest of the city brought sacrifices to perform before Paul and Barnabas, but they pleaded with the people to do no such thing! Paul explained they were men and that their (the people of Lystra) belief system was false and therefore need to listen to the truth. Paul said that the one and only true God has been patient of their ignorance in times past, but now that the Christ had been revealed, a new and final way has been established, and that God demands all to know the truth and to obey it.
Notes: The strange reaction by the people of Lystra to the healing had its roots in local folklore. According to tradition, the gods Zeus and Hermes visited Lystra incognito, asking for food and lodging. All turned them away except for a peasant named Philemon and his wife, Baucis. The gods took vengeance by drowning everyone in a flood. But they turned the lowly cottage of Philemon and Baucis into a temple, where they were to serve as priest and priestess. Not wanting to repeat their ancestors’ mistake, the people of Lystra believed Barnabas to be Zeus and Paul to be Hermes.
Because the crowd at Lystra was pagan and had no knowledge of the OT, Paul adjusted his message to fit the audience. Instead of proclaiming the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he appealed to the universal and rational knowledge of the One who created the world. God’s providence and his creative power testify to man’s reason of his existence (Rom. 1:18–20), as does man’s own conscience, which contains his moral law (Rom. 2:13–15).
Acts 14:19-22 The unbelieving Jews from Antioch and Iconium traveled to Lystra, and when they found Paul, they had him stoned and dragged out of the city, supposing Paul to be dead. Paul rose up, and the next day went to Derby with Barnabas. After making disciples there, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and then to Antioch where they strengthened and encouraged the disciples there to continue in their new faith. Paul and Barnabas helped appoint elders and leaders for their churches. They prayed with them and committed their future to the Lord and then left for the city of Pamphylia.
Acts 14:23-28 Paul and Barnabas went to Perga, Attalia, and then returned to Antioch in Syria from where they started their missionary journey. They told the brethren in Antioch all that had transpired on their journey and how the Gentiles received the Word gladly. Thus ended Paul’s first missionary journey.