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