God’s Word for You
Acts 14:5-7 Paul and the Galatians
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, June 27, 2020
5 Then a plot was made among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled for safety to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.
This plot or horme (ὁρμή) may not have been fully formed yet when Paul and Barnabas left. The word merely implies a desire, as in James 3:4, “wherever the pilot ‘wants’ to go,” or a hot emotion: “in the anger of my spirit” (Ezekiel 3:14). Paul and Barnabas saw it coming, but having finished their instruction, they were content to depart before things got physical this time. The term “flee for safety” reflects a term used by Moses for a man who “flees for safety” to one of the cities of refuge established in Deuteronomy 4:41-42.
Lystra and Derbe are to the south of Iconium, but on the same major road that brought Paul and Barnabas from Antioch to Iconium. The names of the towns are from the old Lycaonian language, a local language unrelated to Greek or Phoenician, and something I will try to remember to talk about more in connection with verse 14. The Bible student should be aware that this region, Lycaonia, is not the same as Laconia which comprises two of the three southern “fingers” of Greece that stretch into the Mediterranean Sea. Lycaonia, which is pronounced as if we take our word “lye,” add the name “Kay” and then say the ending “-onia,” formed the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia. Therefore, these cities (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe) were the main communities Paul was writing to when he sent his Epistle to the Galatians in 48 or 49 AD when a dispute occurred about whether the uncircumcised can be saved (Acts 15:1-2).
The work in this area was not confined to the two towns, but into “the surrounding country.” Luke does not mention the apostles preaching in the synagogues here, nor is there any archaeological evidence of a synagogue. They were in Gentile lands where variations of the Greek cults were the local religion. Although there were a few Jews, such as Timothy’s mother (Acts 16:1) and the Judaizers or “circumcision group” (Galatians 2:12; Titus 1:10), further evidence of the lack of any synagogue is the fact that young Timothy was not circumcised as an infant (Acts 16:3). So, working among a handful of Jews and many Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas preached and taught about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, and the number of believers grew and grew. He taught them that their salvation was foretold even to Abraham. “The Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’” (Galatians 3:8). This is the same gospel that we have heard and hold fast to, the gospel of forgiveness, peace, and everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith