Acts 14:1

I. THE PRIVILEGE OF PREACHING. The apostles at Iconium "so spake" (ver. 1), i.e. wit such force, persuasiveness, fidelity, that "a great multitude believed" (ver. 1); "they abode speaking boldly in the Lord" (ver. 3), i.e. they urged the truth with fearless vigor, their confidence being grounded on God's presence and support; "there they preached the gospel" (ver. 7). There is no vocation which any man can engage in which gives such scope for the exercise of his highest powers as that of the Christian minister or missionary. To preach the gospel of the grace of God as it should and may be proclaimed, is to do that in which the fullest intellectual energy, the utmost spirituality, the largest beneficence, the greatest strength of will, all the supreme faculties of redeemed and elevated manhood, should be lavishly poured forth.

II. THE DISCHARGE OF SUBSIDIARY DUTIES. It was an apostolic function to work miraculous cures: "signs and wonders were done by their hands" (ver. 3). This does not fall to our share, but it is always the missionary's and frequently the minister's office - as an auxiliary to his more spiritual work - to try to heal bodily complaints; and always is it his concern to devise and encourage those institutions and habits which tend to health, harmony, comfort, domestic peace.

III. THE JOY OF REAPING SPIRITUAL RESULTS. How deeply gratified must have been the hearts of the apostles as they saw that "multitude" of Jews and Greeks "acknowledging the truth and power of the gospel which they were preaching (ver. 1)! All the harvest is not to be reaped here; much of it "after many days;" much of it by other hands (John 4:38). But God does give increase for our own eyes to see and our own hands to reap. And of all the joys with which he fills our human hearts there are few, if any, comparable to that of seeing the pleasure of the Lord prosper in our hand (Isaiah 53:10).

IV. THE PAIN OF WITNESSING OPPOSITION. It must have been with a keen pang that Paul and Barnabas witnessed the evil machinations of those "unbelieving Jews" (ver. 2), hindering, as they must have done, the good work which was proceeding. Too often the Christian teacher has to look on at such scenes and grieve at the sad mischief which is being wrought. At such times he can only cast himself on God, fleeing to the Rock of his refuge, remembering that it is the work of the Infinite and Almighty One in which he is engaged.

V. THE DUTY OF PERSISTENCY. It is not by a slight obstacle that the Christian workman is to be daunted. He is to act like Nehemiah, whom neither the menaces nor the stratagems of his enemies could move. He is to act as Paul and Barnabas did, who "long time abode, speaking boldly in the Lord" (ver. 3). He is to show himself a faithful servant of his fearless Master, ready to encounter the contempt, or the ridicule, or the slander, or the turbulence of the evil-minded, so long as there is any good to be accomplished by his steadfastness. But it is not to be forgotten that there is -

VI. THE POSSIBLE NECESSITY FOR RETIREMENT. (Vers. 5, 6.) When the time comes that it is quite clear that persistency would only involve the one side in the guilt of murder and the other in the complete arrest of usefulness, then must the Lord's counsel be taken (Matthew 10:23). The hour comes when continuance in peril is not faithfulness, but foolhardiness; not commendable martyr-zeal, but censurable indiscretion. We must use our intelligence to discriminate between the two; but for retirement when persistency is useless and even mischievous, we have the example of our Lord himself (Matthew 12:15), and of his apostles here. - C.







And it came to pass in Iconium.
A considerable city of Asia Minor, generally considered as belonging to Lycaonia. It lay in a fertile plain at the foot of Taurus, on the great line of communication between Ephesus and the more eastern cities of Tarsus and Antioch, and the Euphrates. From Pliny's description it would appear to have been a populous and important city at the time of Paul's visit. Under the Byzantine emperors it was the metropolis of Lycaonia, was subsequently captured by the Turks, and made the capital of an empire whose sovereigns took the title of Sultans of Iconium. During this period of its history it acquired its greatest celebrity. It is now called Koniyeh, and has a population estimated at from twenty to thirty thousand. The houses are mostly of stone or sun-dried brick, and are poorly built, except the mosques and palaces. The place contains some remains and inscriptions, mostly of the Byzantine period.

(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)

Here are four things noteworthy.

I. AN EXTENSIVE CONVERSION (ver. 1). The preaching that ends in enlightened practical faith is that which Christ ordained, and what the world wants. There is a preaching that produces —

1. Mere passing emotion.

2. Superstition.

3. Scepticism.

II. A VIOLENT OPPOSITION (ver. 2). The spiritual victories they won in the synagogue roused the antagonism of the unbelieving Jew, who used his great social influence to their injury. They "stirred up the Gentiles," i.e., excited and embittered their minds with hostile passions. It is ever true that those who reject the gospel seek to deter others from accepting it. "Ye go not in yourselves, and prevent those who would," is a Divine allegation, ever true of the rejectors of Christianity.

III. A DIVINE DEMONSTRATION. Opposition neither drove them at once from the sphere of their labour, nor lessened the displays of Divine power. Divinity appears —

1. In their subject. The "Word of His grace," His gracious Word, the gospel. Whatever doctrines men draw from the gospel that are not gracious, are not true.

2. In their spirit. "Speaking boldly." They show a heroism more than human in continuing and speaking in the very scene of persecution.

3. In their miracles. The stronger the evil one appeared in Iconium opposing the mission of the apostles, the higher rose the manifestations of God in their behalf. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."

IV. A SOCIAL SEPARATION (ver. 4). "Divided" — the Greek word from which schism is derived. There was a rent created through the ministry of the apostles. Such unity of sympathy as existed before in the population was divided, and part flowed towards the Jews and part towards the apostles. The searching ministry of the apostles made bare the hearts of the people. Those who took part with the Jews made "an assault" upon the apostles. The storm raised, however, was under the direction of God. It was a Divine breeze, to bear the precious seeds of truth to regions farther on. The apostles fled unto Lystra and Derbe, not from fear, but from the instinct of duty.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. WHAT THE MISSIONARIES DID. They went immediately to work. They did not stop to complain of the treatment they had received at Antioch. Persecution made them change their place, but not their purpose. Neither did they abandon their method of working. Though they had turned to the Gentiles, they had not turned away from the Jews.

II. HOW THE MISSIONARIES SPOKE. So convincingly, that Jews as well as Greeks believed. Care should be taken so to speak as to give effect to the Word.

III. HOW THE MISSIONARIES WERE OPPOSED. As was natural, the Jew who did not accept the gospel, was its bitterest enemy. The man who is acting against God and his own conscience must permit himself no rest. He cannot endure To see others accept what he has rejected. Hence he tries to make the souls around him "evil affected."

IV. HOW THE MISSIONARIES WERE PROSPERED.

1. They continued their work. Not because of the opposition, but in spite of it, and for the reason that so many were believing. So long as a harvest was to be reaped, they would not abandon the field.

2. They spoke boldly. The threatening cloud of danger did not abate their courage. "Boldly in the Lord." Their courage came from Him, and not from themselves.

3. They were borne witness to by the Lord. He spoke through their hands as well as their lips. He made it impossible for any but the incorrigible to doubt that they were His ambassadors.

4. They divided the city (ver. 4). The division appears to have been pretty even. Whether evenly or not, the gospel always divides a community. Every one must be on the one side or on the other.

V. HOW THE MISSIONARIES WERE DRIVEN OUT (ver. 5). They were not rash as well as bold. There was no call here to lay down their lives. So, being persecuted in this city, they followed the Saviour's injunction, and fled into the next. "And there they preached the gospel." Persecution was God's plan for propagating His gospel. Having furnished certain seeds with wings, God sends rough winds for their transportation.

(M. C. Hazard.)

I. THERE IS A MODE OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL WHICH IS ADAPTED TO SECURE THE FAITH OF HEARERS. The gospel itself is adapted to beget cordial faith and repentance in men. For evidence of this, I would call your attention to the fact that the Holy Spirit employs the gospel for this very purpose.

II. TO POINT OUT SOME OF THE THINGS WHICH ARE ESSENTIAL TO SUCH A MODE OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL. I would remark that to secure a manner of preaching the gospel adapted to success, it seems essential —

1. That it should be preached with a heart deeply intent on the very design of securing the cordial faith and obedience of hearers. Cicero has justly remarked, that if the feelings with which you represent a fact and the fact itself do not accord, you have not in reality presented the truth, but have misrepresented it to the minds of your hearers.

2. That it should be preached as a system of consistent truths, bearing with one harmonious design on the great object of repentance and salvation.

3. That it should be preached in a way of application to the hearers, so as to call for the decision of their hearts at the time.From this subject I remark —

1. The dependence of preachers of the gospel on the cooperating power of the Holy Spirit to give success to their labours, is of all reasons the weightiest why they should speak in a manner adapted to beget repentance and faith in their hearers.

2. We may learn what are some of the important qualifications for a skilful and successful handling of the Word of life.

(E. T. Fitch, D. D.)

The work done in these two places, together with the varied experiences of the missionaries, may suggest that —

I. THE MANNER OF PRESENTING GOSPEL TRUTH HAS MUCH TO DO IN PRODUCING RESULTS ON THE HEARERS. They "so spake that a great multitude believed." Paul afterward told the Corinthians, "that he came not with excellency of speech," etc. He evidently did not disregard the character of his audience, the kind of evidence he should produce, and the manner of expressing his thoughts, any more than he showed carelessness as to his subject, which was always "Christ, and Him crucified." Increase depends more upon the good seed and soil, and warm rains and sunshine, than upon the sower, yet the skilful sower is the successful husbandman. So in the economy of grace the teacher and his methods have a prominent place in the production of results. To the teacher the responsibility of speaking rightly is as great as the responsibility of trusting supremely.

II. PRESENT THE TRUTH AS WISELY AS WE MAY, DIFFERENT RESULTS WILL BE PRODUCED AMONG THE HEARERS. "Part held with the Jews and part with the apostles." There were divisions in Iconium before, but so soon as the Word was spoken the people were newly classified.

III. THE WISDOM OF PRESERVING AN UNTARNISHED REPUTATION ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO WOULD WIN SOULS TO THE TRUTH. We read, "long time therefore they abode." Wherefore? Because the "Gentiles had been stirred up and their minds evil affected against the brethren." Whatever the allegations were, the two resolved to stay and confront those who circulated them, and live down their calumnies. It took a "long time," but the end to be gained was worth the time it took to reach it. Very often the enemy tries to weaken the power of the teacher by damaging his reputation. It may take a "long time" to lift the name fairly above the cloud, but for the sake of the truth we love and the souls we would help it may be duty to abide where we are till this is done.

IV. POPULARITY NEED NOT, AND MUST NOT, TURN FROM STEADFASTNESS TO THE TRUTH. At Iconium they were bad men, to be shunned. They stood that test, and by their lives gave the lie to the base charge. At Lystra they are not men, but the chief among the gods, the great Jove and his attendant. But they refuse the homage and make the offering a text from which to preach a telling sermon against all forms of false worship.

V. MIRACLES, EVEN WHEN ADMITTED, HAVE BUT LITTLE INFLUENCE IN LEADING BITTER OPPOSERS OF THE TRUTH TO ACCEPT IT. They deified the worker, and then stoned him. Miracles strengthened the faith of those who believed on other testimony; but neither where philosophy ruled, nor where untutored Nature guided, did the supernatural lead the mind set bitterly against God to accept him.

VI. GOD'S CLAIMS MAY BE FEARLESSLY MAINTAINED ANYWHERE. It is the first time the gospel has met idolatry pure and simple, and it promptly and confidently offers a better God than the greatest in their list. Notice the marked difference between Paul's method of attacking idolatry and that adopted by the modern opposers of the God Paul worshipped. He would take every idol out of Lystra, but he would leave a God far better in their stead. But these would take away our God, and then leave us alone and hopeless with the ruin they have wrought.

VII. HOW FICKLE IS THE FAVOUR OF MEN! The distance is short between the garlands and the stones, between "Hosanna!" and "Crucify him!" but the favour of God endureth, and it satisfies the soul.

VIII. LET US BEWARE OF WRITING ALL ADVERSE THINGS AS DISADVANTAGEOUS. I doubt if there was a place in all Paul's wanderings to which he looked back with such delight as Lystra, because it was the home of Timothy, the best beloved, the choicest fruit ever given to his ministry. "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong come forth sweetness."

(T. H. Hanna, D. D.)

The peril of —

I. MISCONSTRUCTION. It is always easy to pervert what a preacher says, and so arouse prejudice (ver. 2). We are not told just how these jealous Israelites sought to inflame the Gentiles. In one instance (Acts 19:26), opposers raised the workingman's question. In another (Acts 16:20, 21), it was wickedly suggested that an attack on social and political institutions was concealed under the pretence of inculcating religion. There is a tale considered authentic in the papal church, of one called "St. Thekla," who was converted by Paul. She had been previously betrothed to a heathen, but now refused from conscientious scruples to marry him. So the ingenious opposers might have told the populace that this was the way in which Christianity was going to break up their closest relations. Anything can be started among ignorant people.

II. POSITIVE VIOLENCE (ver. 5). No one can recall one of a hundred histories of cruelty and death inflicted by popular outbreak under malicious instigation, without knowing that there is always the one danger, in every land and generation, of losing life (Mark 8:35).

III. SPIRITUAL DISTRUST OF GOD. The day of miracle working has passed away, but great risks have to be run, and now and then the hearts of God's people fail them through fear. We detect here nothing of this sort; Paul stands up and works a stupendous miracle, without apparently a misgiving or a tremor.

I. PAUL MADE HIS PREACHING FIRST. He performed miracles. But the miracle was a secondary thing — but a bell ringing. The disciples were commissioned to preach, and the triumphs of the gospel are owing to that. But the term covered teaching and "religious conversation." The Saviour preached to the woman of Samaria. But that mode of discourse is peculiarly preaching in which the truth is presented to masses of hearers. At Iconium, at Lystra, and in fact everywhere, with Paul preaching was the first and the leading agency. God has honoured this above all others.

II. PAUL PREACHED BOLDLY, i.e., fearlessly, unequivocally, but especially with power. The preacher should be persuasive, but above all, powerful. This trait Paul very highly valued. He urged his disciples to pray for him, that he might speak the Word boldly. The Spirit endues us with this holy boldness. By this we commonly intend plain speaking upon politics, temperance, morals, etc. But in nothing do we so need boldness as in the preaching of the simple truths of redemption.

III. PAUL'S PREACHING WAS WATCHFUL. He had spiritual discernment to see the effects of his preaching (ver. 9). Preachers of his discernment are ready for digression. Earnest preachers are bent upon saving, not sermons, but men. Paul stopped his discourse when he saw that the cripple had faith to be saved. He saw an opportunity to extend the interest in his message. How much fruit we lose from lack of spiritual watchfulness! Deacon Safford was deeply interested for a young man in his Sunday school class. One day Dr. Kirk preached a sermon which seemed to the deacon precisely adapted to reach his young friend. He watched him. He thought he saw the evidences of conviction in the intent face. In passing out of church he said in a low, earnest tone, "What are you going to do about it?" The impression was fixed. By that timely word the young man was saved. The gift of the Spirit is as needful to make us watchful as to make us bold.

IV. IN HIS PREACHING PAUL FOLLOWED UP IMPRESSIONS MADE. Long time he tarried in Iconium. The ability to follow up a work is quite distinct from that to begin it. Many persons can make an impression, but want the knowledge, the patience, or perhaps the interest, to develop it. Revivalism outside the Churches involves the danger of producing a class of immature, weak, enthusiastic disciples, who may be left at critical stages of experience; ready, with proper care, to become established Christians, but ready also, without long and wise nurture, to become enemies or schismatics. Faithful Christian work in the pulpit, the Sunday school, the home, will aim at two ends — conversion, and the training of converts.

V. THE THEME OF PAUL'S PREACHING WAS THE GOSPEL. When the first Moravian missionaries were about leaving for Greenland, a solid and pious minister advised them to give the natives "a sound body of divinity, beginning with the being and attributes of God, following with the doctrine of sin, and thus leading on at last to Christ and the Cross." This learned counsel was followed, and for several years their labour was in vain. One day, at a funeral service, quite by accident, a missionary told the story of the Cross, and explained its meaning. To his astonishment the truth made a profound impression. Conversions followed. Thereafter the missionaries began with the Cross.

(G. R. Leavett.)

Themistocles, the Athenian general, by warmly urging a point in a council of war, is said to have so provoked the displeasure of Eurybiades, the Spartan, the commander-in-chief, that the latter lifted up his cane over his head in a menacing posture. "Strike," said the noble Athenian, "but hear me!" He did hear him, and the country was saved. And why may not a Christian act, or rather forbear to act, on the same principle, and for an infinitely greater end, even the eternal salvation of his enemies? What else has been the language of the noble army of the martyrs from the beginning? Have they not practically said to an enraged world, "Strike, but hear us"?

(A. Fuller.)

The Shanghai correspondent of the Bombay Guardian narrates the following suggestive item of information: "The captain of a steamer, plying on the Yangtse river, told me that when he stopped on a dark night at one of the stations on the bank, several of the inland missionaries came on board among a crowd of Chinese seeking a passage in the steerage, as they invariably do. They had encountered a mob of anti-foreign natives, which it is still very easy to do in this country, and had been well pelted and bespattered with mud. One of the ship's officers, seeing especially the ladies in their humiliating condition, exclaimed with the customary profanity, that he wondered they did not leave the Chinese to go to hell if they preferred to do so. That is the world's view of the case; and, as I said to the captain, there would have been no other view in the world today if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had not taught it and set an example of it, and bestowed the grace for the imitation of it."

There is nothing which the world resents so much as an attempt to carry out a better measure than existed before. A man who would benefit the world must take leave of his own reputation first; for the world never let a man bless it but it first fought him; it never let him give it a boon without first giving him a buffet. If with one effort you should raise a tree twenty feet high, so as to make it forty feet high, you would not do more violence to its roots than you do to society, when you attempt suddenly to elevate it above its former level. If there were a hundred violins together, all playing below concert pitch, and I should take a real Cremona, and with the hand of a Paganini should bring it strongly up to the true key, and then should sweep my bow across it like a storm, and make it sound forth clear and resonant, what a demoniac jargon would the rest of the playing seem! Yet the other musicians would be enraged at me. They would think all the discord was mine, and I should be to them a demoniac. So it is with reformers. The world thinks the discord is with them, and not in its own false playing. All those rosy philosophers who go dancing along the ways of life, and expect to reform men through ease and pleasure, and are surprised when at first snowflakes are thrown at them, and then icicles, and then avalanches, had better fold their gauzy wings at once. They are not wanted. They are not of that heroic race who advance the world.

(W. H. Beecher.)

S. S. Times.
Wherever the gospel is proclaimed with power —

1. It secures believers. The Word of God does not return to Him void.

2. It secures some bitter enemies. It divides every community into two parties.

3. People are not content with merely rejecting the gospel for themselves. They stir up the minds of others to make them evil-affected against its preachers.

4. The Lord is sure to bear witness unto the Word of His grace.

5. Its preachers must expect personal attacks of some kind or other.

(S. S. Times.)

I. WHEREIN IT CONSISTS.

1. Not in the degree of the external sufferings endured on account of faith, but in the measure of the fidelity displayed for Christ.

2. The apostles waited on their ministry with perseverance and joyful courage, and therein lay their fidelity.

3. They forsook the places which had become dear to them as soon as they were made away, that the Lord had no further use for them there.

II. WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT? Because —

1. There is nothing in it to flatter our refined selfishness. There is wanting the "halo before the world," for fidelity is clothed in homely garments.

2. It destroys self-will. Perhaps death was easier than flight.

III. IN WHAT LIES ITS BLESSING.

1. It secures God's will, not man's.

2. Therefore it is rich in fruits of all kinds —

(1)Faith (ver. 1).

(2)Divine manifestation (ver. 3).

(3)The conversion of calamity into blessing (ver. 7).

(Lisco.)

The apostles had finished their work at Antioch in a storm. Can that be true; the gospel dividing quiet cities into hostile camps? Surely the heavenly Word will bring heavenly peace along with it. No! The Son of man came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword. But now that the apostles have come to Iconium they will act in a different manner and correct their mistake. No; there again we have angry division, and stoning! How is this? These histories throw some light upon —

I. WHAT IS CALLED UNANIMITY. Unanimity is no virtue, nor sincerity, nor earnestness; we must ascertain what the unanimity is about, and what men are sincere and earnest in, because good fire may be used for forging of bad instruments. Surely it was a pity for two wandering tentmakers to go from town to town disturbing the unanimity of families and of townships! Why not let families and corporations alone? Why this propagation of a fighting faith? This is the way of Christianity. It will not let people alone. Hence we find some light thrown upon —

II. CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. It was not a little puzzle to please the fancy, nor a pyrotechnic display to gratify children. It saves or slays. What wonder if it came upon sleepy towns like a thunderstorm? Christianity is not a compromise; it does not propose to give a little and take a little, and make a pacific arrangement with anybody. Christianity insists upon having everything; it makes room for nothing else. What wonder, then, that everywhere it broke up families. Seeing your hand locked in evil friendship, it does not hesitate to rend your hearts asunder. Christianity says, "Behold, I make all things new." It will not say to a man, "Hand me your work, and I will complete it; it comes with a mighty hammer, and shatters our idols and all our best performances.

III. CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Christian service —

1. Is the supreme passion; it puts out everything else, it has no partnerships, no relations except those which it can press into its own sacrifice.

2. Exposes to daily danger. If we have escaped the danger, it is because we have escaped the service. When did we ever rebuke a wrong-doer? We have talked about him when he was not there — that I admit; and that has proved our unchristianity. When did we ever say to a man face to face — "You lie"? That would now be called discourtesy; but when were we ever licensed to be courteous to falsehood? Christianity is not a book of etiquette — it is a book of commandments, a gospel of righteousness as well as a gospel of compassion. When did we ever stand before a house and say, "This house must come down if the price be fivefold what it will fetch in the market; it is a trapdoor into hell, and it must fall"? Let a man say that, and he will soon see that England is like Antioch and Iconium. But if we come into the church, pass through the services, and lose ourselves in controversy that has no heavenly savour, I wonder not that, lulled by some theological narcotic, we think we are going to heaven. It is no heaven we are going to! It may have written heaven above its portals, but that inscription is a lie! "If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecution.

3. Divides public opinion (ver. 2). That is how it ought to be always. There are those who say they do not believe in sensationalism. What do they believe in? Are they in sympathy with the ministry of their own professed Lord and Master? If Christianity were amongst the Churches today, men, instead of criticising sermons, would go out and borrow any chair, or stand on any stone at the street corner, and if they could not preach the gospel, they could at least read it. Fifty thousand men at the street corners today reading, with one voice, the third chapter of John! — why, apostolic times would have come back again! Nothing divides society like Christianity: its voice is, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate; the good to the right, the bad to the left."

4. Survives all ill-treatment. The time had come when the Jews determined to use the apostles despitefully. And as soon as the apostles became aware of it they "fled unto Lystra and Derbe"; and then in ver. 7, as if nothing had happened before, "there they preached the gospel." They preached better for their persecution. We should have wonderful preaching if we had more stoning. We should, too, have wonderful hearing as well as wonderful preaching! If we had to steal into the church by some back way, and had to listen in fear and trembling lest the oppressor should lay his iron grip upon us — oh, how we should listen! Do not say that Antioch was at peace until the apostles visited it; there is a so-called peace that is only a false name for death.

IV. SO-CALLED HERESY. The heretics may be Paul and Barnabas with modern names. If men come amongst us denying the Bible, then have no part or lot with them; but if men of spotless character and sacred devotedness arise and say, "We have found the interpretation of this Scripture or of that," hear them, though many an old notion may be displaced. We use heretics of that kind most basely! What was the fault of Paul? This: that he said a prophecy has been fulfilled — nothing more; and so he was stoned. And Christianity has its prophecies; Christian doctrine has yet its issues brighter than our fancy has measured; and if any man shall say, "Let us together read the Holy Word, and hear what I believe to be its true meaning," let us not take up stones against him, but listen, knowing "that God hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His Holy Word."

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Which gave testimony unto the Word of His grace
I. THE PROPRIETY OF THIS APPELLATION: "the Word of His grace." The gospel is so called, because —

1. It originated in unmerited mercy, and was sent to us as a matter of free favour.

2. It is a proclamation of grace and mercy. The law is a ministration of wrath, accusing, convincing, and condemning the sinner. The gospel reveals the grace of God, as abounding in our salvation.

3. It is grace alone that renders it effectual. Sinners own their conversion, saints their edification, mourners their comfort, and the oppressed their relief to it. But it derives all its influence and energy from the grace of the Holy Spirit. The gospel reaches only the ear; grace renews and sanctifies the heart. The gospel is a means, but God performs the work, and to Him we must ascribe the glory.

II. THE WAY IN WHICH GOD BEARS TESTIMONY TO THE WORD OF HIS GRACE.

1. By miracles wrought in confirmation of it.

2. By raising up a constant succession of ministers to propagate and defend it. He who sends the message, can be at no loss for want of messengers. As soon as one earthen vessel is broken, the heavenly treasure is put into another; and though the grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth away, yet the Word of the Lord endureth forever.

3. By the awe impressed upon the consciences even of wicked men. God will magnify His Word, whether it be a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. Felix's trembling, Agrippa's being almost persuaded, and Simon Magus's hypocritical profession, were so many testimonies, though involuntary ones, to the truth of the inspired Word.

4. By rendering it effectual to the salvation of all them that believe. Having tasted its sweetness, and felt its power, the believer has the witness in himself. When the dark understanding is enlightened, the conscience awakened, the heart softened, and the sinner truly converted, what greater proof can we have of the power and efficacy of the gospel, or of its being worthy of its Divine Author?

5. By the life and conversation of such as walk worthy of the gospel. The grace of God revealed in the gospel, teaches "men, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly" etc. What can be a stronger confirmation of the reality of religion, than the change it produces in the lives and manners of its professors?

6. By the triumphant deaths of His saints. To see a Christian exulting in death is an amazing instance of the power of faith, and of the reality of true religion. Many an unbeliever has turned pale at this, and been confounded with the evidence which he had not power to resist.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

I. THIS GOSPEL IS THE WORD OF GOD'S GRACE because —

1. It is the revelation of His grace. Its very errand is to make known that "by grace are ye saved, through faith" etc.

2. It is the history and delineation of the grace of God. Study the Bible with this key, then, from the first promise to the last you find that the keynote of grace sounds through the whole glorious concert.

3. It is the great instrument of grace; for God works by His gospel; and it is "the power of God."

II. THE LORD GAVE TESTIMONY TO THE WORD OF HIS GRACE, AND HE DOES SO STILL.

1. God has given testimony to the Word of His grace —(1) In that wondrous chain of prophecy of what was come upon the world. The chain is still unbroken, though we may not always see it — as is the case sometimes in a chain across a river, the two ends are visible, but the chain is in the depth of the river — but it is not the less knit together because you cannot trace it.(2) By miracles.

2. But it is said with some plausibility, these supernatural signs were wrought in times past; show us some now. Now, this challenge may be fairly met. Surely every reflecting and reasonable man will admit that, as far as mind surpasses matter, so much further must the mighty power put forth in the mind surpass that put forth in the body. Therefore, whether is it the greater miracle, to make the deaf spirit to hear, the dumb spirit to sing, the dead spirit to have life return to it, or to raise the bodily infirm or dead? But were these miracles confined to the past? Could we not show these scornful philosophers who tell us there is nothing wonderful or preternatural now, the infidel, who has become devout and humble? not the drunkard, who has become sober, the publican and the harlot, who have become just and pure?

3. God bears testimony to the Word of His grace, and to that only. It is natural that He should be jealous of His own blessed specific, lest it should be either marred or corrupted by human traditions, or macerated by man's vain and subtle explaining it away, or destroying its miraculous nature. Wherever the simple grace of God has been set aside by self-righteousness on the one hand — as it is largely by the Church of Rome — or, on the other hand, its mysterious and miraculous character denied by those who deny the divinity of Christ and the efficacy of the atonement, there may have been some moral influence; but where are the results that show the new creature? The apostles, reformers, martyrs, with one voice proclaimed that God bears testimony to the Word of His grace. Application: It is in the power of the humblest and plainest to give one of the very best evidences of the power of the gospel that ever can be given, by leading a holy life.

(H. Stowell, M. A.)

I. THE MIRACLES WHICH THE APOSTLES WROUGHT IN ATTESTATION OF THE TRUTH OF THEIR DOCTRINE. And when the infidel sneeringly asks, "What connection is there between truth and power, or can the truth of a doctrine be established by a miracle?" we reply, by asking him, "What connection is there between a man's signature and the validity of the bill or bond which he has subscribed? What connection is there between the credentials of an ambassador and his right to transact the business of his sovereign?" Miracles are God's subscription to the truth of Christianity; and as no man could have wrought them unless God was with him, so in proportion to their number was testimony given to the gospel of grace.

II. THE SUFFERINGS TO WHICH THE APOSTLES AND FIRST CHRISTIANS WERE EXPOSED.

III. THE EARLY AND RAPID PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL. Considering the circumstances in which Christianity was introduced, we should not have been surprised had it made but slow progress in the world. Not only are its principles distasteful to the natural feelings of mankind; it opposed itself to the firmest prejudices, to the most established opinions of those to whom it was first addressed.

IV. GOD STILL TESTIFIES TO THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL BY ACCOMPANYING ITS PROCLAMATION WITH A SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE.

(James Jeffrey.)

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