14 At Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue as usual. They spoke there with great power. Large numbers of Jews and Greeks became believers. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up some of the Gentiles who were there. They turned them against the two men and the new believers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent a lot of time there. They spoke boldly for the Lord. He gave them the ability to do signs and wonders. In this way the Lord showed that they were telling the truth about his grace. 4 The people of the city did not agree with one another. Some were on the side of the Jews. Others were on the side of the apostles. 5 Jews and Gentiles alike planned to treat Paul and Barnabas badly. Their leaders agreed. They planned to kill them by throwing stones at them. 6 But Paul and Barnabas found out about the plan. They escaped to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding area. 7 There they continued to preach the good news.
The theme of blessing and conflict in the ministry of Paul and Barnabas continues here. They are now in Iconium, a city 2 or three days walk from Antioch. Again they go into the Jewish synagogues to preach the gospel of Jesus and a great multitude of Jews and gentiles believe. Again the Jews make trouble – poisoning the minds of the new believers. I love the word ‘therefore’ in verse 3; it implies that Paul and Barnabas were inspired to ramp up the passion of their mission because of the Jewish opposition. They speak boldly, but it is the Holy Spirit’s presence that is bearing witness through them. Paul and Barnabas remain there while the Holy Spirit directs, but when it turns to violence against them it’s time to leave, as they had left Antioch, and travel to the next city.
God sent the two missionaries to Iconium. It was His mission and He was with them all the time with power, inspiration and protection. He gave them the words and the courage to preach in public to the crowds hungry for the good news. He chose the time for them to leave when it got too dangerous. The new believers would not be alone, they also have the Holy Spirit with them. We don’t have powerful preachers and evangelists with us all the time but we always have the Holy Spirit with us. We are to be like the believers in Iconium, nurturing the brothers and sisters that God has put us with. ‘Keep faith and carry on’ building our gospel communities. Let’s grow and flourish here because we have an amazing gift of grace to share.
Lord Jesus thank you for saving me from my sin and placing me in a church that you have planted. Help me to grow and to help others become strong in you.
Written by Dimity Milne