Friday, October 7th. Acts 14:1-7

“The same thing occurred in Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to the word of his grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them. But the residents of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. And when an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, the apostles learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they continued proclaiming the good news.”  Acts 14:1-7

 

The first thing about this story that we might have missed by reading too quickly is that Paul and Barnabas went into the “Jewish synagogue” to talk about Jesus.  This sounds weird in our ears.  We just don’t do that these days. Polite mainstream middle class Christians don’t try to proselytize Jews. 

 

Then, if we read closely, we are also surprised to see that the results of their efforts in speaking of Jesus within the synagogue include the conversion of both Jews and Greeks.  That too is weird – what are Gentile Greeks doing in the synagogue in the first place?

 

Again we are surprised to read that, though they faced extreme opposition, including the “unbelieving Jews” stirring up the Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas stayed in Iconium “for a long time.”  Eventually it says the whole city was stirred up.  Only later, when it appeared that divided opinion might become a serious physical threat, did Paul and Barnabas beat feet to Lystra and Derbe.

 

What do we make of this?

 

First we remember that Paul often went first to a local synagogue when he traveled to a new town.  That is a long held tradition.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin in his book “Thou Shall Prosper” says that one of the keys to business success among Jews is the social networking available when a minimum of ten Jewish men (non-Orthodox Jews count women too) gather for daily prayers at a synagogue.  A traveling businessman would be welcomed into the “minyan”.  Prayers would later lead to conversations and introductions and perhaps, partnerships.  It is a pretty good idea.

 

In the first century, the local synagogue would be a gathering place for Jews who were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah – Paul went to the synagogue to find the local Christians.  But Paul went beyond social networking, and he and Barnabas didn’t seem to care who they talked with.  They also weren’t terribly interested in being polite.  Too much was at stake!

 

They told the story of how Jesus had changed their lives, and in the process, they brought hope and promise into the lives of others.  Their story was compelling.  The results of people coming to faith, of people being healed and restored, were amazing. 

 

We read these accounts and then compare them to so much of what we experience in church.  How often did Paul worry about who was going to pick up the styrofoam cups at Costco and who was going to vote for a budget increase for extra coffee?  It makes what we see and do in local congregations seem trite, mundane, silly.  But that is never the whole story.

 

Pay attention.  Look closely.  You will still see turbulence going on.  Many of the little squabbles that congregations get into are really only the outward signs of God working emotional and psychological transformation within the lives of the participants as they work through what “growing up” means for them.  Many family and friendship networks get strained over differing understandings of the faith.  We might not risk public beatings, but there is plenty of “opposing the gospel” going on in our world.

 

The real driver behind Paul and Barnabas wasn’t social networking, it was the Holy Spirit doing the God thing in the world.  That hasn’t changed.  Thank God for that!

 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, continue to stir up our hearts and minds as you work in and around and through us.  Give us courage in the face of difficulty and give us appreciation for the little signs and wonders that happen among us.  Thank you for the privilege of joining in the work of Paul and Barnabas.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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2 Responses to “Friday, October 7th. Acts 14:1-7”

  1. Diane Joseph Says:

    Thank you, Pastor Kerry, for sharing Devotions with me again. I’ve “shopped” around and tried other email devotions. I really feel so much closer to the Father in your daily devotions.

  2. Resources for Acts 14:1 - 7 Says:

    […] Bible Chapel | Acts – Chapters 13 and 141Monday Acts 14:1-7 | Gary's Devotion Comments1Friday, October 7th. Acts 14:1-7 « Daily Devotions […]

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