How, when, or why did differing denominations enter the early Christian church of believers? We find in Acts 15 one of the reasons for this split be it conscious or consequential; but mostly due to tradition. We see this in the opening verse of Acts 15:
Acts Chapter 14b (personal postscript confession to the original C14 article from last week)
An opening note that may upset some with how it will contradict our routines and traditional praying in church and at home: (also see my confession at the end of this article)
In Lystra, Paul healed a man crippled (Acts 14:8) from birth; similar to Peter, cf. 3:1-10.
By itself most who read this article will question how such a short statement quoted directly from the bible might somehow violate his or her predispositions or bible understanding. Well…. find where it states or suggests they performed a “faith healing” and but hid behind the qualifier often used in today’s prayers and churches, “If it be thy will oh God.” Look hard; NOT THERE.
Silver and gold have I not but what I do have I give to thee. Stand up and walk (paraphrased). Paul gives a sweeping summary statement in Ephesians 1:11, “In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” This verse alone may not clear up this above comment “in thy will”, but think about how shallow is our faith; i.e. the faith of a mustard seed as in Matthew 17:20!!!! We should not pray in hope of but in anticipation of God’s will but pray we MUST. It is “predestined according to the purpose of him who WORKS ALL THINGS according to the counsel of [his] will.”
So, why do we add this “if it is thy will” statement in our prayers? Here is where it will upset some who read this article. We hide behind that statement because our faith is so weak. We try to qualify and prepare ourselves and others for a letdown; no healing . We don’t want to believe a negative answer somehow reflects our prayer and closeness to God demonstrating our lack of faith. But it takes more. Keep reading.
More discussion on this at the end of this article but for now, give it consideration. Yes, it is in the “Lord’s Prayer” but there it is talking about God’s will already being done in heaven and in anticipation of WHEN it will be the same on earth. “We have not because we ask not; then when we do ask, we ask with the wrong motives.” [James 4:2-3, 6]
The opening of Acts 14 is a repeat of almost all of Paul’s travels. He heads for the synagogue to speak. Back during this time the synagogues were often used as platforms of speech-making. The offer for someone to speak while in attendance at a synagogue was usually prefaced by, “Do you have something of the Lord to share with us today?” Yes, Paul and Barnabas always had something but not what the leadership and people in attendance expected. We might think Paul to have been a captivating speaker. In his own words he was not.
“I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.” [2 Corinthians 11:6; NIV]
According to Bible Tools website per Acts 14:
- At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so …
- But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against …
- So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed …
- The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.
The oddity of this time in Iconium is the gentiles of this city were either siding with the Jews in the synagogue or with Paul and Barnabas. Acts 14:5 tells us once again they are run out of or fled from a planned stoning designed for one purpose…to *silence them. This may not be the first additional thought to come to mind in reading this passage, but it is very reflective of End Time when Satan tries to silence any witness (example: of the two witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation 7 years, Revelation 11) or *cause a great war that will take the lives of millions of unbelievers which means Satan also takes them to hell with him; one war during and at the end of the Tribulation and at the end of the Millennial Reign of “God and the Lamb”; he leaped to his feet.
*Satan keeps every soul from heaven when anyone dies without Christ.
When they fled “Dodge” (Iconium) they ended up in neighboring cities, towns, and villages. In Lystra they come upon a cripple from birth beggar who overhears Paul and Barnabas sharing the faith. All in the city KNEW he had NEVER WALKED. Examine Acts 14:9 & 10 closely. We will better understand the point made in the opening of this article.
He (the cripple from birth) listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, (v10) said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.
Several points to be made by perceiving what verses 9 & 10 actually state when read in context. Crippled from birth; heard the Word (testimony); Paul perceived the “faith” of the cripple who was not yet healed; Paul commanded in a loud voice demonstrating no hesitancy, “Stand up on your feet” (ESV).
Two major factors…the cripple believed he WOULD (not could) be healed and Paul was not hiding his command to be healed in a subtle voice hidden behind the statement, “If it be they will oh God.” The man did not stand or even struggle to stand. The word JUMPED in Greek is hallomai. It means to leap, spring up or gush as in a fountain springing forth from the ground.
The people saw this miracle and were in awe thinking Paul and Barnabas, probably included Luke, were gods’ i.e. Barnabas as Zeus (Jupitar) and Paul as Mercurius (Hermes). CAUTION: This is a subtle but good example of what happens when someone is healed by the command of another man. S/he is perceived as a god in and of him or herself. Paul and Barnabas immediately tried to put a stop to this huge incongruity, but the locals persisted. This is also what James 4 (above quote) is warning of when he states, “…we ask with the wrong motives.” Won’t we be great among men if we could perform miracles? Sometimes it is the heart of the one praying for healing that is the chink in the full armor of God.
Confession Time: This article’s author has taught bible studies for years and sometimes with a strong following. At times it tends to make him feel a bit “swelled of head and heart” to know it is through him so much learning is occurring. Today, while writing this about our relationship in full faith, prayer, then giving credit to the source, not the tool (me), in translating words from the Greek or Hebrew to help us better understand scripture, I literally stumbled upon what Martin Luther wrote in German in 1545… “Zuletzt, meine Brüder, seid stark in dem HERRN und in der Macht seiner Stärke.” This verse from Ephesians uses my last name twice and was not just a little subtle in reminding me of my source; God; NOT ME. The above German means: “Finally my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS strength.” Interpretation as a message to me…God has blessed me with knowledge but only after giving credit to him to pursue that knowledge seeking understanding with prayer, then sharing it in HIS STRENGTH.
Rev Dr. Jstark
“And it came to pass that they spoke so well in Iconium and in the Spirit that a great number of Jews and Greeks came to Christ that day.” Paul and Barnabas, probably including Luke, were in southern Turkey of today and anointed in the Spirit. They were drawing large crowds of “wanna learn” people in this melting pot territory. Yes, the venue was again the synagogue. These people were hungry for actuality, not someone’s personal reality or perception of actuality.
At our Bible School, Cadillac Community Bible School, a junior college for bible studies, we have a motto take from Romans 10:14…
We Teach – You Decide
This is the purpose of missionary work be it in one’s own backyard or across the great seas. Recall in an earlier Acts study article of Barnabas and Paul were set aside by the Holy Spirit even though at that time they were not bible school graduates; never attended a seminary. This raises a question MOST who say or claim to be Christian do not wish to address. Why do we sometimes invite a person to church to get the message of Christ when that is supposed to be our own nature?
The Acts 14 the synagogue leaders couldn’t stand idly by and watch their financial sources move away from Judaism to Christianity (The Way). It was more than just tithers they were losing, but power over them. So what do they do? These Jewish leaders within the synagogue did what is one of Satan’s more powerful tools of deception…planting doubt in the minds of the new believers who were still ignorant of their new found faith. So many in the past and present have tried to find faith but are left up to their own initiatives to become learned, remaining milk of the word believers.
This takes us back to the Pyramid of Learning once again. Skip a step and the nose of the “iceberg” sinks lower into the water. Let’s explain for those who have not or are not familiar with this learning principle.
This same principle is the basis of Romans 14:10 which already is mentioned in this article. Let’s put it in today’s terminology. How can one be aware of anything unless someone tells him or her? How can one gain knowledge or begin to take root, unless someone teaches then nurtures and feeds them? How can one gain understanding without knowledge of the subject? How weak must be one’s (faith) without these key steps: awareness, knowledge, and understanding? Removing each step in this learning pyramid simply drops the level above the water line of confidence and evidence.
This is what the synagogue leaders knew well. Strike quickly or plant questions in the minds of those who have little knowledge and even less understanding of their new found faith. Satan planted a question of assurance in the minds of Eve, Adam, Judas, Cain, Peter, the kings of the Kingdom of Israel (northern ten tribes), and so on.
This was quick to happen. In verse 5 of Acts 14 the rogue unbelieving Jews and Gentiles designed to stone Barnabas and Paul but verse 2 tells us it was already in their mind. They had to flee for their lives. They ended up in Lycaonia, a district in the Roman province of Galatia. Lystra was about 18 miles from Lycaonia, and was the home of Lois, Eunice and Timothy (16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5).
JIV NOTE: Keep in mind that but one chapter back (Acts 13:50) Paul and company had been ruthlessly kicked out of Antioch, *Pisidian. *This is in what we today call Turkey. This is not the Antioch just north of Jerusalem.
So what do Paul and Barnabas do after fleeing a place for the second time? They go right back into the den of opposition at the local synagogues in Galatia and Lycaonia.
NOTE: William Ramsay demonstrated that Lystra and Derbe were indeed together in the Roman province of Lycaonia, but only between A.D. 37 and 72, the exact period these events in Acts took place. This kind of accuracy persuaded Ramsay that the Biblical account was true, especially in an age when they were all thought to be fables and made-up stories.
In 1852, age 5, William Ramsey began his education at Mr. Stark’s Preparatory School in Glasgow, Scotland. In about 1863, age 10, William began attending Glasgow Academy. William entered the University of Glasgow in October 1866, age 14. One might say, he had a great mind and became known as a top scientist and researcher in his lifetime.
Please note: Mr. Stark’s Preparatory School is not Dr. Jstark; but a distant family member who lived in Scotland. One of mine and Mr. Stark’s relative was the Admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet when Japan attacked Hawaii. It was a group of Israeli Tribe of Gad family that went to the British Isles.
In Acts we find Paul and a man who was known by the entire community as crippled from birth; a beggar of alms. He overheard when Paul and Barnabas shared their testimonies and gospel message. We find this episode in Acts 14:8 – 10. However, the crowd calls out that they must be gods; Zeus (Paul) and Hermes (Barnabas). They had to stop them from offering sacrifices to them.
We can easily overlook what Acts 14:16 is telling us about man’s free will. ”In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.” “He,” meaning God; “all nations” meaning mankind. Paul and Barnabas tried diligently to persuade them that they were not Zeus and Hermes. What did the trick? The evil doers from Antioch and Iconium who followed them. They did the same thing as was done in Antioch and Iconium. They planted doubt in their ignorant minds of limited knowledge. Recall that earlier these evil doers (most likely Jews) wanted to stone them. They still had this on their minds after catching up with Paul and Barnabas. This time they did stone Paul after dragging him out of the city.
Probably thinking their evil mission accomplished, these bad guys left the city and returned home because in v19 we read they supposed Paul to be dead. Some of the disciples (learners) gathered around Paul’s body probably to bury him. But, he gets up, walks back into the city where he was just stoned and continues his mission.
Rev. Dr. Jstark
PS; “And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” This was very likely the very first Missionary Conference in Christendom history.