And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke…
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.
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.