And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke…
This portion of the history names Paul and Barnabas to us for the first time as apostles (ver. 4). It is noticeable also as substituting the expression, "preaching the gospel," for speaking "the Word of God" (ver. 7). But it is remarkable much more as giving us such a distinct impression of the way in which the new truth, "the gospel," bore itself amid many a variety of opposition and unexpected combinations of toes. Let us notice some of the groupings amid which the gospel made its way, either with their help or against their hindrance.
I. A LARGE NUMBER OF JEWS AND GREEKS BELIEVING FORM THE FIRST GROUP. As the gospel is still persistently first preached to the Jew and from the pulpit that the synagogue constituted, so it seems that generally some of the Jews (and of course not infrequently Greeks with them) believed. Not however, it is a great multitude of these. Probably the early and trenchant conquests of the gospel again availed to waken all the bitterest and more active hostility in the new scene, whatever it might be, of labor. The first group shows Jew against Jew therefore.
II. THE JEWS WHO DID NOT BELIEVE CONDESCEND TO ALLY TO THEMSELVES THE GENTILES, AND THIS IS THE SECOND GROUP. Jew and Gentile seldom worked together for good - at least not in any way directly or indirectly connected with religious matters. But now not only do they combine forces for evil, but it is at the instance of the Jew. "The same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together" (Luke 23:12). Very true it is any way that enmity against Christ and the gospel of his truth and love will need all the combined force possible, and will need to try every possible variety of combination, not then to succeed, but to prove to itself how vain its opposition and anger are.
III. THE WHOLE CITY ITSELF CONSTITUTES THE MATERIAL OF THE NEXT GROUPING. And this grouping is one that shows a whole city:
1. Not divided into its ordinary numerous civil, political, or ecclesiastical divisions. It owns to a very simple classification indeed. It is rent in just twain.
2. And the separating line, traversing all other considerations, is determined simply by men's attitude with regard to these two men, lately arrived at Iconium after expulsion from Antioch. The question has come to be - Who "hold" with these two men, or who do not hold with them? - for "holding with the Jews" is merely the converse of this. Whatever may be true of these two men and of their word, evident, it was in those days and in that city that they were forces that had to be reckoned with. And go where the gospel will, this at least has always been found.
IV. THE NEXT GROUP EXHIBITS A MULTITUDE OF GENTILES, JEWS, AND THEIR RULERS. They are not, indeed, openly and compactly and homogeneously massed together, but they are ready to sink all differences for twenty-four hours, and are preparing to do so, that in untrained multitude they may try the effect of brute force. These were meditating an assault upon the two unarmed defenseless preachers. They were organizing themselves, truly after very rough sort, for this purpose. And if the purpose be ever done, when it is done there will soon be an end of their harmony.
V. THE LAST GROUP CONSISTS OF THE TWO APOSTLES AND A THIRD WITH THEM, THOUGH INVISIBLE. These, passing from the midst of an angry people, went their way to preach the same gospel, serve the same Master, trust the same Savior, but to do these things elsewhere. They "flee," not for fear, not from cowardice, not from love of their own life, but from love of the life of their gospel and their mission, and in obedience to the plain command of the great Captain (Luke 10:23). How strong that gospel was! How strong their heart was! And these gave strength both to limb to go elsewhere and to voice to speak and preach elsewhere. Often must those apostles and their converts too of the Jews have thought of the old words of impassioned prophetic expostulation: "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed. 'For they are "broken as with a rod of iron;" they are dashed "in pieces like a potter's vessel." But Jesus and his gospel survive, and reign with a reign further and wider; they strew blessings their whole way along, and wake ten thousand voices of praise. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.