Hebrews 3

Overview

  • The author says:
  • So, my family members – brothers and sisters – we who are heaven-bound, keep 100% focused on Jesus who is God’s #1 ambassador and the best spiritual leader ever, for all time.
  • Jesus is committed to doing God’s will among his family – his tribe, just like Moses was committed to doing God’s will with all the tribes of Israel back in the day.
  •  In fact Jesus is greater than Moses, because as the founder of God’s house (i.e. his people) he is greater than any one of its members (i.e. Moses).
  • God is the one who builds everything, right? So he’s in charge.
  • You should remember that one time when Moses’ leadership was questioned by his own family (Aaron and Miriam – Moses’ brother and sister) and God responded by saying, “My (God’s) family is Israel and I put Moses in charge because he is a faithful servant. “
  • Well, Jesus is even more faithful and he’s in charge over Moses because he’s the Son of God, not just a servant. Jesus is directly related to God, not just working for him.
  • So we should take courage and display confidence and faith because we are part of God’s family through Jesus. We can have hope because we’re in the right place under the right leader.
  • Remember what the Holy Spirit says: “If you can hear God’s voice today, don’t ignore it, like your ancestors did during their rebellious years in the dessert after the exodus.
  • “That generation literally took up residence in a place called “Testing” and “Trying” because even after 40 years of helping them, saving them, caring for them, all they did was complain and doubt.
  • “That’s why God was so angry with them he said, ‘They don’t get it. They love their complaining more than me. I swear I won’t let them get to the end of the journey and enter the Promise Land. No restful reward for you!'”
  • So, my family, my brothers and sisters, don’t be like your forefathers (and mothers). Make sure your heart is always pointed towards God–the one who gives life–not away from him.
  • Encourage each other everyday, because everyday is the “today” the Holy Spirit spoke of.
  • Don’t be deceived into thinking God isn’t caring for you.
  • We’re a part of Jesus’ family, and all the awesome things that entails, so long as we can keep believing along this rough journey.
  • Remember what I just quoted: “If you can hear God’s voice today, don’t ignore it, like your ancestors did during their rebellious years in the dessert after the exodus.”
  • Who rebelled? All the people who were miraculously rescued from Egypt via Moses.
  • And who was God angry with? Those same people who doubted God every step of their journey in the wilderness and ended up dying there.
  • And who didn’t get to go into the Promise Land? Yep. Them. They didn’t make it for one reason: unbelief.

Historical Context

Moses

To the Jews, there was no man greater than Moses. He set his people free from slavery, he delivered the Law, he built the tabernacle, and he lead God’s people to the promise land. To say  the man Jesus was greater than Moses was a substantial claim.

Rabbis said that “the soul of Moses was equivalent to the souls of all Israel.” The Cabbalistic process called Gematria (the numerical value of the letters) has the value of the words “Moses our Rabbi” is the same value of the letters of “Lord God of Israel.” They said that “the face of Moses. was like the Sun;” that he alone “saw through a clear glass” not as other prophets “through a dim glass,” and that there were fifty gates of understanding in the world, and “all but one were opened to Moses.”5

Israelites in the Wilderness

Throughout the wilderness journey of 40 years the Israelites both praised and despised God.

Starting after the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea on dry ground, they sang songs of deliverance, praising God for their miraculous deliverance and anticipating their possession of the Promised Land by the defeat of their enemies (Exodus 15:1-18). But soon after this, the people come to Marah, where the water is too bitter to drink. The people grumble at Moses, demanding to know what they are going to drink. God instructs Moses to throw a tree into the waters to sweeten them, and thus the Israelites are able to drink the water (15:22-26).3

When the Israelites arrive at the wilderness of Sin (virtually a month after the exodus), the people begin to grumble because they are concerned about what they are going to eat. Already they have forgotten the horrors of Egypt, and they now speak of it longingly, especially in terms of the food it seemed to offer them. They accuse Moses and Aaron of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them. God provides them with manna and quail.3

Soon after they camp at Rephidim, where there is no water. The people once again quarrel with Moses and accuse him of bringing them to this place to kill them. In obedience to God’s instruction, Moses strikes the rock with his staff, and water pours forth. And thus God again provides for His grumbling people. Appropriately, the place was renamed “Massah”(“test”) and “Meribah” (“quarrel”).3

Soon they come to Kadesh, the gateway to the Promised Land. Twelve spies are sent to assess the suitability of the land and the military strength of the Canaanites. When the spies returned, they all agreed as to the fruitfulness and desirability of the land. They also agreed on the magnitude of the task of taking possession of the land. There were giants in the land, and the place was well fortified. The spies differed in their faith in God’s promises and in His ability to remove the Canaanites. Caleb and Joshua were confident that God would give them the victory; the other ten did not deem it possible. The people initially wept, but this quickly turned to grumbling and rebellion. They were ready to be rid of Moses and to appoint another leader who would take them back to Egypt.3

Soon there is the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, which ended in the rebels being swallowed up by the ground, followed by fire from the Lord which consumed those offering the incense (Numbers 16:1-35). As a result the people grumbled again against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for the deaths of those who were disobedient and died at the hand of God.3

Later, as on other occasions, the people run out of water, and the whole congregation begins to complain against Moses and Aaron. Somehow, Moses and Aaron were blamed for making the Israelites leave Egypt (as though it were against the will of the people). The people said that they wished they had died in the wilderness earlier, along with their (rebellious) brethren (20:2-5). So the Lord commanded Moses to speak to (not to strike) the rock in the sight of the people so that it would bring forth water for them to drink. Moses struck the rock, in disobedience to God’s instructions. Nevertheless, the rock brought forth water, and the people drank.3

As a result of this pattern of complaints, doubts and disobedience over the course of forty years in the wilderness, God declared he would not let anyone from that generation enter the Holy Land.

Numbers 12:7

When Moses’ sister, Miriam, and brother, Aaron, expressed their jealously of Moses’ leadership and direct interactions with God, the Lord appeared in a “column of cloud” and told them that while he speaks to prophets in visions and dreams, to Moses he speaks face to face because he is “faithful in all my house.” They were thus chastised for having doubted Moses’ leadership.

House of God

The people of God being the house of God is an oft repeated biblical metaphor (“household,” Gal. 6:10; I Tim. 3:15; “spiritual house,” I Pet. 2:5; “household of God,” 4:17). “House” is used six times in this chapter, sometimes with the connotation of a building and sometimes of a family.4

Apostle

An apostle (Greek: apóstolos) means literally, “one who is sent away” as in a messenger or ambassador. The purpose of such “sending away” is to convey messages, and thus “messenger” is a common alternative translation. The same Greek word translated in Latin is missio, from which we get the word “missionary.”2

Moses was a kind of apostle as well. Moses was clearly “sent” by God to Egypt, where he would speak to men for God. Jesus was also an apostle in the sense that he was sent to earth by the Father to lead men from captivity to freedom. As Moses was the one through whom the Law was given, Jesus was the one through whom God finally and fully spoke.3

Psalms 95

Note the attribution of this Psalm of the Holy Spirit.1

The message of the entire Psalm is that people should worship God, but that mere worship, unaccompanied by obedience, will not avail.1

The failure referred to by the psalmist was the failure of an entire generation, punctuated by sins that persisted for forty years. This was not the failure of a few, nor was it a momentary lapse of piety. It was the persistent, life-long, rebellion of an entire nation.3

Meribah and Massah

In Hebrews 3:9 the Hebrew proper names of two locations in the Exodus are translated as common nouns, The proper names, Meribah and Massah, are rendered “tested and tried.”1

In Exodus 17, we are told that the Israelites camped at Rephidim where there was no water to drink. The people complained to Moses, and Moses turned in desperation to God for help. God had Moses strike a rock and water came forth. The Israelites complaining lead Moses to rename the location Meribah and Massah.

Observations

  • The whole typical structure of Israel corresponds to many facts and events in Christianity. 1) The death of Christ is called “an exodus” (Luke 9:31); 2) Christ is the true Passover sacrifice for his people (1 Corinthians 5:7); 3) he is the lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19); 4) Christians during their probation are said to be, like Israel of old, “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38); 5) baptism is the antitype of Israel’s passage through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1); 6) Christ, the living Rock, is their guide through the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4); 7) the heavenly rest that lies before them is the counterpart to the earthly Canaan which was the goal of the Israelites.1
  • Why did the Israelite generation fail in the wilderness? 1) They feared death by starvation. 2) They saw themselves as weak, such as when observing the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, they said, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33). 3) They didn’t maintain belief that God was on their side, which ultimately lead to a state of rebellion against God.1
  • The grand and terrible lesson of Israel’s history is that it is possible to begin well and end poorly. In fact, this tragic human tendency dominates much human spiritual experience.7
  • Unbelief is not a lack of faith or trust. It is the refusal to believe God. It leads inevitably to a turning away from God in a deliberate act of rejection.7
  • “Confidence” contains the same thought as “glory.” Ancient Greek writers used this term for firmness under torture; and generally for courageous firmness of character.”1
  • “Confidence” is a translation of the Greek word hypostasis. Elsewhere it is rendered “substance,” to which it etymologically corresponds, and implies a solid reality. The substance of a material object is the material from which the object is made.
  • “Apostle and High Priest” are two titles that signal Jesus’ superiority over Moses as official messenger and Aaron as the Levitical high pries.4
  • Hebrews is the only book of the Bible to call Jesus high priest. It takes an extensive rabbinical argumentation to convince first century Jews that Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, really was a priest. The Dead Sea Scrolls community expected two Messiahs, one royal (tribe of Judah) and one priestly (tribe of Levi, cf. Psalm 110; Zechariah 3-4).4
  • The phrase “the living God” is a play on God’s covenant name YHWH, which is from the Hebrew verb “to be” (Exod.3:14).4
  • The author reminds his audience that the spiritual health and well being of every member of the church is the responsibility of every member of the church, and not just one of its staff who is paid to do so.3
  • “Encourage one another” is a present active imperative. Believers are to emulate the Spirit and the Son in encouraging faith and faithfulness. This is the same root as the Greek word paraclete, which means “one called alongside to help” and is used of the Spirit (cf. John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) and of Jesus (cf. I John 2:1).4

Discussion

  • The author of Hebrews encourages the hearing of God’s voice. How do we hear it? Have you heard it?
  • Can you lose your salvation? Are you only as saved as your last sinless moment?
  • How do we rationalize our decisions?

References

  1. Coffman’s commentary
  2. Apostle – Wikipedia
  3. Deffinbaugh’s commentary
  4. Utley’s commentary
  5. Cambridge commentary
  6. Barnes’ commentary
  7. Constable’s commentary
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First Peter Overview

Author

The authorship of 1 Peter has traditionally been attributed to the Apostle Peter because it bears his name and identifies him as its author (1:1). Although the text identifies Peter as its author the language, dating, style, and structure of this letter has led many scholars to conclude that this letter is pseudonymous.4

Simon Peter

Simon, also known as Peter or Cephas, was a native of Bethsaida, a small village in the province of Galilee on the Sea of Galilee, the son of Jonas or John. With his father and his brother Andrew he carried on trade as a fisherman at Capernaum, his subsequent place of abode.6

Peter was married (tradition represents his wife’s name as Concordia or Perpetua), as indicated in the Gospels by Jesus healing his mother-in-law from a fever.

He was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, who had been a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:29).6

Jesus gave him the name by which chiefly he is known, indicative of his subsequent character and work in the Church, “Peter” (Greek) or “Cephas” (Aramaic), which means “a stone.”6

Peter played a strong leadership role among the disciples, and is the most quoted of the Twelve in the gospels. He was in Jesus’ “inner circle” along with John and his brother Andrew, and bore witness to a few incidents that no other disciples witnessed (such as the transfiguration). He was first to confess Jesus as the Messiah, walked on water, denied Christ on the eve of his crucifixion and was among the first see the resurrected Christ.

Peter was also as an extremely important figure within the early Christian community. He lead the selection of Judas’ replacement among the Twelve, delivered a significant open-air sermon during Pentecost. He was twice arraigned, with John, before the Sanhedrin and directly defied them. He undertook missionary journeys to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea, and became the first to evangelize the Gentiles by converting Cornelius. He was put in prison by King Herod, and subsequently rescued by an angel, and at the Council of Jerusalem (c. 50AD) he played an important role in preventing Gentile from having to convert to Judaism to be Christians.7

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.7

Two general epistles in the New Testament are ascribed to Peter, and the Gospel of Mark was traditionally thought to be based on Peter’s preaching and eyewitness memories.7

Peter is often depicted as zealous, pious, and ardently attached to the Lord, but at the same time impulsive in feeling, rather than calmly and continuously steadfast.6

An author other than Peter

Modern scholars have listed several reasons for doubting that 1 Peter was not authored by Peter as the text states.

First is that it is not listed in the Muratorian Fragment, an early list of canonical books compiled in Rome between a.d. 180 and 200.2

Secondly, the Greek that the letter is written in is good, polished Koine Greek, which is considered surprising from an “uneducated”  Galilean fisherman.It ranks, in terms of vocabulary and syntactical subtleties, just below Hebrews and Acts. Further, the author uses the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) when citing Scripture, rather than translating from the Hebrew, as an “uneducated” Jew like Peter would be expected to do.3

Another argument is that the letter sounds too much like Paul’s writings in Romans and Ephesians. It is thought that Peter would not have been so strongly influenced by Paul’s letters.2

Additionally, many scholars think the letter’s description of persecution better fits a later date (Domitian 81-96 AD, and/or Trajan – 97 – 117AD).2

Lastly, if the letter came from Peter, a disciple who was very close to the historical Jesus, it is surprising in it’s lack of personal details concerning Christ.4

Peter as the author

Many modern scholars, and throughout the majority of history, the authorship of the book has been attributed to Peter. Several arguments support these claims.

Though it is not listed in the Muratorian Fragment, the early church uniformly affirmed Peter as the author. There are parallels to the text in the writings of the early church fathers, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas. Polycarp quotes directly from it, though he does not identify the quoted material as coming from Peter. Irenaeus quotes from it, and regards it as a genuine work of Peter. From the later part of the second century on, this letter is frequently regarded as Petrine, and is cited by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Theophilus of Antioch.There was little debate about Peter’s authorship until the advent of biblical criticism in the 18th century.4

Secondly, Peter was not necessarily uneducated, but considered untrained in a recognized rabbinical school. Also, the thirty years between Peter’s trial before the Sanhedrin (where he is labeled “uneducated”), and the writing of this letter (generally thought to be c. 60-64AD) provided ample time for him to become more educated.

The skilled writing the the parallels to Paul’s works are also thought to be connected through Peter’s use of Silas (Silvanus) as a scribe (5:12). Silas was one of Paul’s travel companions and may have helped bring Peter’s thoughts and Paul’s together in the work.

Lastly, the types of persecution Peter discusses in his work do not necessarily seem systematic or mandated by the Roman government, as later persecutions under later emperors were. Peter would, himself, have been experiencing persecution under Nero, and regional persecutions of Christians led by local governments, Jews and tradesmen were not uncommon in the first century.

Date and Location

The date of the letter is obviously related to authorship. Tradition links Peter’s and Paul’s deaths in Rome under Nero, probably 65AD. If so, then 1 Peter had to have been written about 60-64AD.2

Scholars who think 1 Peter was written by another author favor a date during the reign of Domitian (81-96AD).

The author is most often considered to have written the work from Rome based on the mention at the end of the book of greeting from “she who is in Babylon” (5:13). This phrase is taken to mean the church in Rome. Many scholars suggest that this type of cryptogram was used as a security measure to protect the Roman church in case the letter fell into the wrong hands during Nero’s persecution. “Babylon” was a term used as a symbol of the Christian’s exile in the world.3

Audience

The book is written to “those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” These Roman provinces are located in northern modern Turkey. These areas are apparently places that Paul did not evangelize (cf. Acts 16:6) nor did Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). Possibly these churches originated from Jewish converts who returned home after Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:9-11).2

The existence of Christian communities in the five provinces witnesses to the extent of unrecorded mission-work in the Apostolic age. The foundation of the Churches in Galatia and Asia is, of course, traceable to Paul (Acts 16:6; Acts 19:10); those in Pontus may possibly have been due to the labours of Aquila, who was a native of that region (Acts 18:2). Bithynia had once been contemplated by Paul as a field for his labours (Acts 16:7), but we do not read of his actually working either there or in Cappadocia.5

The order in which the provinces are listed may reflect the route to be taken by the messenger who delivered the circular letter. 4

Many think that Peter wrote this letter partially because Paul had recently died, and wrote to people who were secondary converts of Paul. Further, he wrote it to encourage them in the faith in light of persecutions. Certainly one of the nagging doubts that all of Paul’s converts would have would be the genuineness of their faith. Paul, after all, was not one of the original Twelve. After he died, this doubt would increase, and it is quite probable that false teachers would exploit it. But if a letter from Peter—the very man Paul had rebuked at Antioch, and had written the Galatians about—confirmed their faith and told them not to give up, this would indeed be great encouragement. Peter would tacitly be affirming both Paul’s doctrine and the Gentile mission.3

The audience seems to be both Jewish and Gentile in composition.

The audience is presumed Jewish based on (1) the Jewish overtones of 1:1 (“elect strangers of the dispersion”), (2) the heavy use of the OT by the author, and (3) that the gospel was typically shared with Jews first in their synagog, then Gentile second.3

The audience is also considered by be Gentile based on phrases in the book such as: (1) “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers”; (2) “once you were no people, but now you are the people of God”; (3) “let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do”; and (4) “they are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy.”3

Historical Context

The author writes of his addressees undergoing “various trials” (1:6), being “tested by fire” (1:7), maligned “as evildoers” (2:12) and suffering “for doing good” (3:17). Based on such internal evidence, the addressees’ situation appears to be that of undeserved suffering.4

Exhortations in the letter to live blameless lives (2:15; 3:9, 13, 16) may suggest that the Christian addressees were accused of immoral behavior, and exhortations to civil obedience (2:13–17) perhaps imply that they were accused of disloyalty to governing powers.4

Some scholars believe that the sufferings the epistle’s addressees were experiencing were social in nature, specifically in the form of verbal derision. Internal evidence for this includes the use of words like “malign” (2:12; 3:16), and “reviled” (4:14). It is significant that the author notes that “your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering” (5:9), indicating suffering that persecution is widespread.4

A possible context for 1 Peter is the trials and executions of Christians in the Roman province of Bithynia-Pontus under Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia who wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. In Pliny’s letter, he asks the emperor Trajan if the accused Christians brought before him should be punished based on the name ‘Christian’ alone, or for crimes associated with the name. Generally, this theory is rejected mainly by scholars who read the suffering in 1 Peter to be caused by social, rather than official, discrimination.4

Major Theme

Suffering

The major issue discussed throughout the book is suffering and persecution. This is done in two ways: (1) Jesus is presented as the ultimate example of suffering and rejection (cf. 1 Pet. 1:11; 2:21,23; 3:18; 4:1,13; 5:1), and (2) Jesus’ followers are called on to emulate His pattern and attitude (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 2:19; 3:13-17; 4:1,12-19; 5:9-10).2

The theme of 1 Peter is experiencing God’s grace in the midst of suffering.3

1 Peter is sometimes seen as a midrash (both an interpretation and application) of Isaiah 53, the narrative that tells the story of the Suffering Servant, identified by Christians as Jesus and his saving actions for humanity on the cross.3

Discussion

  • Why do you think Peter wrote a letter to a bunch of churches he didn’t know personally? Do you think that the letter was well recieved by these churches?
  • If Peter didn’t write this book, would you think of it any differently? The authorship of several New Testament books is suspect, and most of the Old Testament has no authors or editors names attached to them. How big of a deal is it to know the author? Is the credibility lessened? What makes a book divinely inspired and worthy of being included in the Bible?
  • Why do you think the early church respected Peter so much? What was it about his story that was so compelling?
  • Why do you think there is suffering in the world? What do you think God’s role in it is? Is there a purpose to it? Is it brought on intentionally by God? Why? Why not?

References

  1. Coffman’s commentary
  2. Utley’s commentary
  3. Wallace’s commentary
  4. First Epistle of Peter
  5. Cambridge commentary
  6. Jamieson commentary
  7. Saint Peter

Acts 14

Scripture: Acts 14:1-28

Highlights:

  • Paul and Barney head off to Iconium after a spat with the Jewish leaders in Pisidian Antioch
  • In Iconium their preaching is well recieved until the Jewish and Gentile leaders rile up some people and threaten to stone them
  • P & B head off to Lystra and heal a lame man (much like Peter did in Acts 3)
  • The crowd is wowed by the miracle and declares the apostles to be Zeus and Hermes (more on that below)
  • Just as the people are about to sacrifice a bull to them, Paul and Barn tell them that they’re only human and that they should worship the living God (you know, that nice supreme deity who provides food and rain and whatnot?)
  • Then the Jews show up… again, and rile up the crowd… again (noticing a pattern here?)
  • This time they stone Paul and leave him for dead
  • Paul is tougher than he looks and goes back into town with the disciples, then leaves for Derbe
  • Paul and Barnabas then head back home pretty much the way they came
  • As they revisit each of the towns they started churches in, the apostles appoint elders as leaders
  • Once they get home, Paul and Barney share all that happened on the road, then chill for a bit

Historical Context:

Zeus and Hermes

Ovid the Roman poet relates a legend of a previous visitation by Zeus and Hermes to the Phrygian region. They came in human form and inquired at one thousand homes, but none showed them hospitality. Only a poor elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon, took them in. The pair were rewarded by being spared when the gods flooded the valley and destroyed its inhabitants. The couple’s shack was transformed into a marble-pillared, gold-roofed temple, and they became its priests. (IVP)

The temple or image of Jupiter (Zeus) would’ve been in front of the city, near the gates. Ancient cities were supposed to be under the protection of particular gods; and their image, or a temple for their worship, was placed commonly in a conspicuous place at the entrance of the city. (Barnes)

It was common among Gentiles to suppose that the gods appeared to men in human form. The poems of Homer, of Virgil etc., are filled with accounts of such appearances; and the only way in which they supposed the gods to take knowledge of human affairs, and to aid men, was by their personally appearing in this form. (Barnes)

Zeus’ name is derived from a combination of ancient words for “sky god” and was thought to be the king of all gods. Hermes’ name was derived from the Greek hermeneus (“the interpreter”), reflecting Hermes’s function as divine messenger. The word “hermeneutics”, the study and theory of interpretation, is derived from the same word.

On an archeological note: Two ancient inscriptions discovered in 1909 from close of Lystra testify to the worship of these two gods in that city. One of the inscriptions refers to the “priests of Zeus,” and the other mentions “Hermes Most Great”” and “Zeus the sun-god.”

Parallels between Peter and Paul in Acts

In this chapter Paul heals a lame man much in the same way Peter did in Acts 3.  Luke uses several parallel expressions to relay the similarities: The man was “lame from birth”; Peter/Paul “looked directly at him”; The man “jumped up and began to walk.”  However, note that Peter’s healing brought joy to the people but scrutiny from the Sanhedrin and near punishment (i.e. stoning), whereas Paul’s healing ability is received too well by the public, then the tide is turned against him by Jewish leaders and he actually is stoned.

Throughout the rest of the narrative of Acts, several more parallels will be drawn. Below is a simple list:

  • Both delivered inaugural sermons focusing on the Davidic Covenant (2:22-36; 13:26-41) in which both used Psalm 16 to explain the resurrection (2:25-28; 13:35)
  • Both healed cripples (3:1-10; 14:8-10)
  • Both were renowned for extraordinary miracles, Peter healing with his shadow, Paul with kerchiefs that touched him (5:15-16; 19:11-12)
  • Both transferred the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (8:14-17; 19:6)
  • Both confronted and rebuked a magician. (8:18-24; 13:6-11)
  • Both raised the dead (9:36-41; 20:9-12)
  • Both refused divine worship (10:25-26; 14:11-15)
  • Both were delivered from prison miraculously (12:6-11; 16:25-34)

Observations:

  • Iconium’s name is derived from the legend about the “eikon” (image), or the “gorgon’s (Medusa’s) head”, with which Perseus vanquished the native population before founding the city. (Wikipedia)
  • Note Paul’s basic argument to Gentiles: “Rather than showing how Christianity is the logical outgrowth of Judaism, as he does in speeches before Jews, Luke says that God excuses past Gentile ignorance and then presents a natural theology arguing for the recognition of God’s existence and presence through his activity in natural phenomena.” (NCC) This is a very similar arguement to the one Paul makes in Romans 1.
  • “Paul’s call to conversion and his explanation of God’s permissive will in allowing all nations to go their own way assume human accountability. He is explaining why in every past generation God did not act in judgment as he did in Noah’s generation.” (IVP)
  • Paul and Barnabas insist that the works of creation should lead us to understand that God is kind and merciful. God does not fall into a rage in response to minor matters (as Zeus and Hermes supposedly did when they destroyed people who failed to show them hospitality). (GCI)
  • Paul calls God the “living God” to distinguish him from idols.
  •  All these places Paul visited in Acts 14 were in the Roman province of Galatia. It is most likely to these towns that the letter to the Galatians was written.
  • The name “apostle” is here applied to Paul for the first time in the New Testament.  Paul would go on to introduce himself as an apostle in the introduction of several of his letters.
  • When they dragged Paul out of the city to stone him is was probably in haste, and in popular rage, as if he was unfit to be in the city, and was unworthy of a decent burial (Barnes).
  • Throughout his life Paul would recall the abuse from these Galatian towns. Near the end of his life he asks Timothy to remember the “persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:11)
  • Lystra is where Timothy is from. In Acts 16, when Paul travels back through Lystra on his second missionary journey he meets Timothy and takes him along with him.
  • Instead of moving straight east to Tarsus, a straight shot of 150 miles, Paul and Barnabas decide to retrace their steps. As will become Paul’s practice, the apostle will maintain contact with the churches he has planted, providing ongoing counsel and encouragement. (IVP)
  • The structure of the early churches is patterned on the model of the Jerusalem community with a group of elders as leaders.

Discussion:

  • Why do you think the popular opinion turned so quickly on Paul and Barnabas (from being considered a god to being stoned)?
  • Do you think Paul’s basic argument regarding God to the Gentiles (God made everything, he can be seen in nature, he is merciful, and now he wants people to know him) would still be effective today?
  • If someone did a miracle in front of a crowd of people today, who might our culture claim they are? Would they be “worshiped” or “stoned”?

References: