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