Journal Acts 14 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “Now at Iconium (in Greece) they (Paul and Barnabas) entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of other Jews and Greeks believed.
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So, they (Paul and Barnabas) remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews (with their rulers) to mistreat them and stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe (cities of Lycaonia) and to the surrounding country and there they continued to preach the Gospel.” Acts 14:1-7
Observation: The Acts of the Apostles recounts what the early church did, using the focus of a few of the Apostles’ stories. Paul and Barnabas (especially Paul) are the focus of the mid to end of the book of Acts.
Analysis: I couldn’t help but think of the end of the preamble to the TV show Law and Order: “…And here are their stories…” Or Joe Friday in Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am…” That is what Acts is for me.
Fact: There is a Jewish community in Greece (Iconium).
Fact: This Jewish community has been there long enough to establish a synagogue.
Fact: There is an open forum to speak that Paul and Barnabas take advantage of.
Supposition: The Word of the Risen Savior is not unknown, just needed to be explained better.
Fact: Due to Paul and Barnabas speaking, there becomes a division: Believing and Unbelieving.
Fact: Due to unbelieving Jews speaking, Gentiles became poisoned in mind (thinking and reasoning) against Believers and perhaps Paul and Barnabas specifically.
So how did Paul and Barnabas respond?
This is interesting: In the previous chapter, resistance at Antioch incited Paul and Barnabas to shake the dust off their feet as a sign against them—significant preaching but no signs and wonders. Here, resistance in Iconium caused Paul and Barnabas to dig in. Luke (the reporter) recounted that they spoke boldly about the Word of Grace and performed signs and wonders. Only when the threat of bodily harm became at such a level that they needed to take notice did Paul and Barnabas fled.
So here I am, not in the Early Church, but in a later generation of the Church. Using Antioch and Iconium as biblical examples, what should I do (given a similar situation)?
If anyone is thinking like me, the obvious answer is, “Shucks, I have no idea!!” The question I have is that the decision at Antioch vs. Iconium would be, “Are these knee jerk decisions?” My thought is no, they are not; but neither are they planned in advance options.
I think these decisions were accounted for in Paul’s injunction to Timothy: “Study to show yourself approved; a workman not ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth.” Not just getting the Doctrine right (muy important) but training myself in the word and works of righteousness so that, if I come to a decision point like the difference between Antioch and Iconium, I decide in righteousness and in being honorable and worthy of the Gospel.
Frail man that I am, I probably make an extraction plan given my perception of the environment, but hopefully not out of fear of man.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for these lessons/case studies. They are necessary to be able to ascertain the direction of your Spirit, although not absolutely needed. As these are studied and peeled apart, they become foundational and reflexive later.
Help me continue to learn and grow in the knowledge of You and your ways.
Ricky Two Shoes