Acts 14:2
The apostle elsewhere expresses in a sentence what was the common experience of his missionary life. He says (1 Corinthians 16:9), "A great door and effectual is opened unto me, and. there are many adversaries." And we must still accept the fact that, if we will do any special work, or manifest in work any energy or individuality, we shall soon have persons opposing, misrepresenting, and hindering us. Here, in the very outset of St. Paul's missionary career, the influence of the "unbelieving Jews" is indicated, and this fanatical Jewish party persistently followed up the apostle wherever he went, trying to destroy his work and create prejudice against him. It may be said - What great things St. Paul would have accomplished if he had not been checked by these hinderers! But a deeper view of the influence permanently exerted on the Church by St. Paul's life and writings would rather lead us to say - What sublime things St. Paul did accomplish in spite of the hinderers, and even out of the very impulse excited by their opposition; for in this, too, God made "the wrath of man to praise him"! More and more clearly is it now seen that a man's moral nobility is gained, not by silent, unresisted growths, but by the steady, persistent, often imperiling, conflict with adverse influences and open foes. And that which is true in the individual life is true of the composite Church life. We may thank God that he has overruled, for the Church's permanent good, the hinderers, the opposers, the persecutors. We may consider

(1) the sources whence hindrances come, getting illustrations from the older times, and making applications to our own;

(2) the influences which hindrances may have upon the mind and feeling of the workers; and

(3) the influences which they have upon the growth and progress of Christ's Church.

I. THE SOURCES WHENCE COME THE HINDRANCES TO CHRISTIAN WORK, They have always come both from without and from within the Church; but our thought is new chiefly confined to hindrances coming from without. Hinderers are generally:

1. Persons of antagonistic disposition, who always take "the other side," are quick to imagine some evil in everything attempted, see no good in anything with which they are unassociated, and have a sort of natural horror of things that are new.

2. Or persons who have strong religious prejudices, which they feel the fresh thing tends to undermine, and for which they consequently fight as if they were the truth of God.

3. Or persons who cling to doctrinal forms or to ceremonial rites, and fail to see that God may send forth floods of new life, too mighty to be kept within their prescribed riverbanks, and so they vainly try to hold back God's floods.

4. Or persons who have no faith in the future, and cannot trust God to oversee and overrule the future, even as he does the present and has done the past.

5. Or persons whose temporal condition may be injuriously affected by the new enterprise; as illustrated by the shrine-makers of Ephesus. The phases which these hindrances take in modern life need to he carefully observed and thought out.

II. THE INFLUENCES WHICH HINDRANCES MAY HAVE UPON THE MIND AND FEELING OF THE WORKERS. Those influences, of course, differ according to the disposition of the workers. We may divide them into these classes.

1. Hindrances will dishearten and depress some. It is characteristic of some that they are sunshine workers, and give up easily when the least cloud-shadow passes across. These are usually weakly in body and nervously sensitive, and they need encouraging and the frequent kindly word.

2. Hindrances wilt keep up in some a "dogged persistency." This expression is not the most graceful one, but no other so well expresses their condition of feeling. Like Nehemiah, they simply keep on, let other men talk, send messages, or do what they will; and if they say anything to the hinderers, it is only this, "We are doing a great work, therefore we cannot come down."

3. And hindrances arouse some to new and nobler activity. The spirit of the soldier is in them, and the very presence of a foe, and the very difficulties of an enterprise, touch and awaken the noblest within them. Direct application to present-day Church-workers should be made, and the duty of resisting the undue influence of hinderers pressed home.

III. THE INFLUENCES EXERTED BY HINDRANCES ON THE GROWTH AND PROGRESS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. Apply to:

1. Internal growth in spirituality, in development of doctrine, in practical application of principle to details of life.

2. External progress. Hinderers give publicity to the Christian Church, calling the attention of many who would otherwise not hear of it. Hinderers waken the natural sympathy of men for a resisted and persecuted thing.

3. Hinderers increase the evangelizing and aggressive fervor of the Church, and so, by means of the hinderers, Christ's kingdom steadily advances. Illustrate by the persecutions of the early Church, the history of English Protestantism, and the tale of Christian life in Madagascar. The Church may have "many adversaries," but she learns how to make their very enmity her inspiration. - R.T.







And there came thither certain Jews...Who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city.
It would not be difficult to find a parallel to this among modern converts, and it is easy to account for it. The Jews would be ready with another interpretation of the miracle. They would say that it had been accomplished, not by Divine agency, but by some diabolical magic, as once they had said at Jerusalem (Matthew 12:24). The Lystrians, whose own interpretation had been disavowed by the apostles, would readily adopt the new theory suggested by those who appeared to be well acquainted with the strangers. Their feelings changed, with a revulsion as violent as that which afterwards overtook the barbarians of Malta, who first thought Paul a murderer and then a god.

(J. S. Howson, D. D.)

One of the most curious stones in the world is found in Finland, where it occurs in many places. It is a natural barometer and actually foretells probable changes in the weather. It is called "semakuir," and turns black shortly before an approaching rain, while in fine weather it is mottled with spots of white. For a long time this curious phenomenon was a mystery, but an analysis of the stone shows it to be a fossil mixed with clay and containing a portion of rock salt and nitre. This fact being known, the explanation was easy. The salt, absorbing the moisture, turned black when the conditions were favourable for rain, while the dryness of the atmosphere brought out the salt from the interior of the stone in white spots on the surface. How many men are like these rocks, variable and changeful according to their surroundings. At one moment they will applaud a certain person, or course Of action, but when their enthusiasm cools down they will seek to destroy the one they had previously exalted. It was so in the days of our Lord and the apostles, and is so still (Acts 14:11-19).

S. S. Times.
1. Stones are the answer of those who have no arguments.

2. Those who have no arguments are wont to try to inflame the passions of the people.

3. When God has a great work for a man to do, his enemies cannot take his life.

4. When a true servant of God is made to suffer in one city, he will not cease to work, but will go on to the next.

5. When a true servant of God is made to suffer, he will intermit his work as little as possible. "On the morrow," if he can, he will take it up again.

(S. S. Times.)

(text and 2 Corinthians 11:25): — That is no ordinary heap of stones. See, there is blood on it, the blood of one of earth's best sons. Only a dozen years between the man who held the clothes of Stephen's murderers and the martyr Paul, for he was a martyr then in intention, and for anything we know he literally died for the truth, For he tells us, "Whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell." Persecutors may become helpers. The pirate may yet carry lawful cargo. Do you wish it were so? Then haul down your ensign and run up the white flag and red cross. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. "Sermons in stones." Yes, there are many homilies in such a blood-stained stone heap as this.

I. THE WAY THE WORLD USES ITS BENEFACTORS. Stone the man who healed the cripple! That is the way we always do. Does not the world often starve its geniuses? Who expects wealth for an inventor? The history of poets and painters tells us of hunger and nakedness. Some of the books that live were written in garrets and cells. Don't expect gratitude if you are doing good. You will be better off than God if you get thanks for kindness. Look at the Cross.

II. BIGOTRY BRUTALISES IGNORANCE. "Certain Jews persuaded the people." You have the history of persecution epitomised in that nineteenth verse. The priests have pulled the strings before today, and are trying to get hold of them now. Let us beware of ignorance. Education has always been the foe of priestcraft. But let us not content ourselves with our children learning everything but the Word of God. Popery has no chance so long as the Bible is understood by the people. Do not fear new ideas. There will be quite enough to throw stones at the man with a new idea without your throwing one. If a man loves God he has been promised "a crown of life," and you will not like, should you see him crowned, to think of the time when you threw a stone at his head! Religion will not save you from bigotry; there are no bigots like religious ones. Let us learn to tolerate the man who loves God, seeing that we shall have to live with him forever.

III. PERSECUTION IS LIMITED IN ITS RESULTS. "Once was I stoned." Paul lived twenty years after this, but never was stoned again. The enemy had tried to do it before, but was not able. I was stoned, not killed; at least, though left for dead, I rose up and came into the city. The foes of God may beat out our brains, but they cannot kill the truth. Paul did not give up the work to which he was called because he had to suffer. No, brave little man. He comes into Lystra again. Here was good for evil. Mark how the Christian hero makes his very sufferings useful, telling the Church, and every scar illustrated the truth that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." By and by he visited Lystra again, and found fruit remaining. How true it is that the blood of the martyr is the seed of the Church. Such men as Timothy are cheap at such a price. Let us trust God, even when we are hurt in doing good; out of our wounds there may flow that which shall heal many.

(T. Champness.)

The next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
I. THE APOSTLES' WORK ON THE WAY shows that duty in them was superior —(1) To fear. They pass through the scenes where they had endangered their lives. "They counted not their lives dear unto them."(2) To convenience. They could have reached Antioch much easier and sooner. Their work was —

1. Indoctrinating. The apostles confirmed them in the faith —(1) By urging duty. They had embraced the faith, and there were strong influences tending to loosen their interest in it. There is no better way of strengthening our souls in the faith than by continuing our duty in relation to it. Obedience is the best interpreter of doctrine. "He that doeth the will of God," etc.(2) By inculcating principle. "We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God." The principle is that trial is the condition of true elevation. We must sow in tears to reap in joy. The vine must be pruned to make it fruitful. Heavenly dignities are reached, not as some voyagers reach their haven while sleeping, but as heroes reach their laurels by agony. "These are they that have come up out of great tribulation," etc. What a Divine work was theirs! What is the work of the mere sage, hero, politician, artist, compared with the work of making souls strong in all that is true in thought, holy in sympathy, and righteous in purpose.

2. Organising. "And when they had ordained them elders in every Church." Because the oldest men are supposed to have the greatest knowledge and experience, the most influential officers in the Church are spoken of as "elders." The Churches were young and inexperienced. The apostles, therefore, took from their number some of the most competent to take charge of the Churches in their own absence.

3. Dedicating. "And had prayed with fasting," etc. They did not commend them to the officers they had appointed, but to "the Shepherd and Bishop of souls." Probably they had no prospect of seeing them again.

II. THEIR WORK WHEN THEY REACHED ANTIOCH (vers. 26-28).

1. This is the first missionary meeting, and therefore of special interest.(1) The scene was Antioch, and no fact in its history was more important than this. There were many good reasons for holding the meeting here.

(a)It was a very populous place, and the meeting was likely to obtain large publicity. The two great sections of the ancient world, Jews and Gentiles, would have an opportunity of knowing something about the triumphs of this new religion.

(b)Its wealth, too, would enable it to render support to the good cause.

(c)It was, moreover, the place whence the mission had originated (Acts 13:1).(2) The deputation was Paul and Barnabas. These two men were very different. Barnabas does not seem to have had the force and fire of Paul; still, however constitutionally dissimilar, they were morally harmonious. They were missionaries. Missionary meetings should be addressed by missionaries rather than by men who have only long purses or tongues.(3) The audience was the Church. The mission was theirs, they had probably contributed to its support, and they were bound to sustain it.(4) The speeches were narrations. They "rehearsed all that God had done." They did not deal in tricks of oratory to wake loud applause. They merely "rehearsed" — related what they had done; and they had wonderful things to tell.

2. The following things are taught by this first missionary meeting: — That the missionary enterprise —(1) Is unquestionably right. It is based upon the authority of Christ, and supported by the conduct of the apostles. "Go into all the world," etc.(2) Demands our prayers. Paul and Barnabas had been "recommended to the grace of God" (see also Acts 13:1-3). The true missionary should have the prayers of the Church.(3) It is the cause of the Church. "They gathered the Church together"; not any particular officers. It was that which concerned every individual member.(4) Has a history worth relating. These missionaries "rehearsed all that God had done with them." We have a short account of their tour (chaps. 13 and 14). There is no history no interesting or valuable as that of the triumphs of the gospel — She strongest arguments for the common origin of the race and the Divinity of Christianity.(5) Is under the special direction of God. This missionary deputation regarded Him as giving access to the Gentiles. "He had opened the door." There has been an immense amount of clap trap about this. Men have spoken of war as opening the door for the gospel of peace. Violence must ever shut the door of the heart. The breaking down of the walls of China by military violence, instead of opening a door for the gospel, may only be the building up a barrier.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. The enemy can be as active as the friend; sometimes we think can outdo him in energy. The Jews had no easy work to get to Lystra. They also had to travel the hundred and thirty miles which separated the towns. But what is that when the heart is burning with hatred?

2. Paul was but once stoned, and he never forgot it! "Once was I stoned." No man can forget that experience. Those who stoned Stephen lay down their clothes at a young man's feet whose name was Saul. The wheel of Providence turns round! There is justice at the very heart of things.

3. They left Paul, "supposing he had been dead." Many a time has Christianity been stoned and "supposed to be dead," but the error is in the supposition. Whatever is true rises again. It may be thrown down; over it all hell may have a moment's laugh — but it finds its feet again! "Truth is great, and must prevail."

4. The next day Paul travelled twenty miles with Barnabas to Derbe; and the thought came to them that they would go, step for step, along the road they had come. People do not know you on one visit. Paul and Barnabas, therefore, went back, "confirming," etc., with this line added: "we must through much tribulation," etc. We cannot copy pathos. We must learn it by life. We may not write our sermons with ink, for then they would be but rhetorical emptiness. We must live them. Paul was suffering when he said those words. There was a subdued sob in the man's emphasis as he said this. Strangers might not detect it, but the speaker himself was conscious that a new thread — a golden one — was being run through the web of his eloquence as he exhorted the Christians to accept tribulation, not as a discredit, but as an endorsement.

5. Paul and his colleague came back to Antioch. Into no speech with which I am acquainted is so much meaning condensed as there is in ver. 27. Look at it.(1) "And when they bad gathered the Church together." How easily we say these words! How much they may possibly involve! The Church did not live on the open street, or in the fine houses. The Church was a scattered people, perhaps often communicating secretly — despised amid the pomp and splendour of the Syrian Antioch. But why not tell the little missionary story on the open thoroughfare to the passers-by? Because it is useless to speak to men in an unknown tongue. Only the Church can understand the speech of the Church.(2) They connected the whole story with God. The statement does not read that Paul put his hand upon his head, and said, "Oh, what I have suffered for you!" Stoning and hunger and peril and persecution — these things God has done! It is because we do not recognise that fact that we suppose ourselves to be the victims of circumstances and the butt of enemies. It is part of the Divine education. The Lord reigneth.

6. They left one impression upon the Church — how God "had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." There is no whine in that tone! They were very heroes. Instead of saying, "The way is very difficult," they said, "The door is open." The stoning was a very little thing when the apostles thought that the Gentile provinces were to be added to the empire of their Lord.

7. Nor was this all. An incident happened not recorded here. Twenty years afterwards Paul wrote a letter to his "own son in the faith," and in that letter he said, "Thou hast fully known my...afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra," etc.; and in the loving Timothy, who would carry on his own noble work, he found a compensation for the stoning at Lystra. We do not always know what we are doing, but the Master knows, and that is enough.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. SUFFERING FOR THE FAITH. Willingness to suffer for Christ is the highest test of devotion to Him. Persecution soon unmasks hypocrisy, while real piety has a face that appears the more beautiful and saintly.

1. The stoning of Paul. Note —(1) The persistency of the persecution. "There came Jews thither from Antioch," over a hundred miles away, "and Iconium," near fifty, to carry out the purpose they had failed to execute in their own cities. The hatred of the gospel was as remarkable in the one case as was its power over the hearts of men in the other.(2) The fickleness of popular favour. "Having persuaded the multitudes." The multitudes were in a condition easily to be persuaded. Their vanity had been wounded. They had supposed Paul and Barnabas to be gods, and having made a blunder so mortifying, their resentment was natural. Therefore, when these Jews intimated, as probably they did, that the miracle was worked through Beelzebub, the reverence of the people was changed to horror. There is no truth in the apothegm, "The voice of the people is the voice of God."(3) The stoning of Paul. Stoning was the sign which marks the deed as the Jews'. Had Lystra been a Jewish city, they would have scrupulously taken the apostle outside its walls. But here they had no ceremonial punctiliousness. And after the stoning was over, they dragged the supposed lifeless body outside the gates, thus subjecting their victim not only to indignity, but to further injury.His recovery. Observe —(1) The fidelity of the disciples. Their affection for Paul, and their mourning for his death, are hinted at in their gathering around his body.(2) Paul's unexpected recovery. Perhaps a miracle here is intimated; but it looks, rather, as though the apostle merely had been stunned. His work was not yet over. God had still greater things for him to do — and to suffer.

3. His departure. Paul was indomitable, He did not lose a day's work because of his stoning. Such a witness for Christ is a host in himself.

II. CONFIRMING IN THE FAITH.

1. Preaching the gospel. The missionaries were as eager for souls as ever. The cause that we suffer for becomes the more dear to our hearts. At Derbe the two appear to have met with no opposition. Paul omits it in the list of places where he suffered (2 Timothy 3:11).

2. Confirming the disciples.(1) The return of the apostles. They went back to the very places out of which they had been driven. They could have gone a nearer way, but duty called them again to face danger, and they obeyed the call.(2) Their work. They devoted themselves to the upbuilding of the disciples they had won. In this they set a lesson for the Church of today. They confirmed the converts, first, by exhortation. Such exhortations on the part of those established in the faith do young converts good. Second, by warning. "That through many tribulations," etc. The apostles did not represent the Christian life as a bed of thornless roses. Their words were emphasized by the marks of Paul's recent experience. Men make the best soldiers who enlist expecting to face great dangers.

3. Organising the churches. In their up journey, a body of believers had been gathered in each place. On their way down, the apostles "appointed for them elders," giving them a form of organisation apparently much like that of the synagogue. The object seems to have been not so much church government, as the securing of leaders to whom the disciples could look for encouragement and instruction. Thus the two missionaries ensured permanency to their work.

III. REPORTING THE PROGRESS OF THE FAITH.

1. Returning home. The return journey was a sort of triumphal tour, very different from the going. Then they were unknown — now, multitudes of disciples were eager to give them greeting. Persecutions awaited them then — blessings now. They came back, as come the husbandmen from the harvest fields, with their arms full of sheaves.

2. Reporting to the Church. The first missionary report contained —(1) What God had done with them. They did not rehearse what they had done.(2) How God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. The door the Jews had shut God had opened, and it has never been shut since.

(M. C. Hazard.)

Sermons by the Monday Club.
I. PAUL COMING FORWARD AS THE GREATEST MISSIONARY TO THE GENTILES.

1. What position he should take, how he would discharge the duties of his office, were unsettled questions when he was separated to this work. When the parties set out, their names stand Barnabas and Saul. Now the pen of Luke seems naturally to write, Paul and Barnabas.

2. He went out with the sanction of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit today, as then, calls and makes genuine missionaries; not churches, not missionary societies. We cannot say how this call may come. We are not to look for visions and voices. The knowledge of one's own powers, the circumstances of life, the trend of thought, and the outward invitation from authorised sources, it may be, may constitute a clear call of God.

3. He wrought miracles to attest his place as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Elymas and the lame man at Lystra.

4. More remarkable, and far more lasting in its power, was Paul's true eloquence. He so spake that great multitudes believed. Now, to produce these immediate effects, we ought to remember that he did not address those to whom the gospel was a tale that had been told. This is the position of the modern Christian audience. But the mind of Paul was originally broad, penetrating, and fertile. He had been well trained, and to his native strength and careful culture must be added his marvellous experience at conversion. Yet his chief power was that which we may share — the power of the Holy Spirit.

5. Throughout the journey Paul showed the highest forms of Christian courage. The journey was attended with manifold perils. He was stoned and left for dead at Lystra. In all this he bore up bravely and patiently. He endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He fought the good fight of faith. In all respects, he came back to Antioch approved as a workman.

II. THE REJECTION OF CHRIST BY THE JEWS. They were in all the places whither the apostles came. It was natural and necessary for the apostles to make the offer of salvation to their own countrymen first, nor was this in vain; but the fires of jealousy burst forth when they heard the Gentiles invited to come to their own feast. So Paul was compelled to take a new and definite position, saying, "Lo! we turn unto the Gentiles." Unto the Gentiles! Has the Church of Christ remembered the words of Paul, and been true to his spirit? Christ's ministry was chiefly to the lapsed and overlooked classes. Centuries of history show little effort on the part of the Christian body to reclaim the lost sheep wandering in the wilderness.

III. THE OPEN DOOR AMONG THE GENTILES. At Cyprus, Sergius Paulus was eager to hear God's Word. At Antioch, the whole city came out to hear Paul. Even the superstition that led the Lycaonians to propose Divine honours to Paul and Barnabas was in itself a force that might be turned to useful channels. The heathen were not prejudiced against the gospel as the Jews were.

IV. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CHURCHES. The new faith must have a new form. It would not do to let the zeal of first love expend itself in individualised work. There must be organisation and order. We cannot determine precisely the form of these young apostolic churches, nor is it necessary that we should. Christ left no external organisation, but gave over this work to the Holy Spirit who should come to guide into all truth.

(Sermons by the Monday Club.)

1. Wounds received in the service of his Lord (vers. 19, 20).

2. Souls gained for the kingdom of Christ (vers. 21-23).

3. Psalms sung by the assistance of God (vers. 26, 27).

Conrad and Louis, each with an army at first of seventy thousand men, marched through part of the districts traversed by Paul and Barnabas alone and unprotected. The former came to fight the battle of the Cross with human power, and their journey was encompassed with defeat and death; the latter, too, passed through much tribulation, bus from victory to victory, for the Lord was their tower and shield.

(J. S. Howson, D. D.)

And when they had preached the gospel.
I. PREACHING. Announcing the glad tidings; proclaiming that gospel which is the power of God unto salvation, and so securing conversions.

II. TEACHING. Instructing the converts in the doctrines, displaying the privileges, and enforcing the duties of the new faith.

III. CONFIRMATION — establishment in the faith.

IV. EXHORTATION. Stimulus and encouragement to higher privilege and nobler endeavour.

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