THEREFORE ABODE THEY
Acts 13:51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. 14:1 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. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, 6 They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:
The progress of preaching the gospel is advanced into it’s next location by rejections and persecutions. This is the manner in which our Sovereign Lord has determined. Is this not how almost the entire christian presence was removed from Jerusalem after thousands were saved there at Pentecost? Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. This was an unleashing of satanic fury so great that all the thousands dwelling in and around the temple area, (depending upon the apostles to feed them with the monies that were laid at their feet by newly born christians, selling their private property, and giving that income to the Lord’s work), were ALL scattered abroad!
And here is the Lord’s commanding instruction concerning this: Matthew 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. We know that the Lord shall eventually and finally come in bodily presence to deliver us from all persecution, but he continuously comes to his church throughout the gospel age, and is here also speaking of “granting relief in these desperate matters.” (Calvin).
But the title of our lesson gives us an entirely opposite response of the Apostle Paul and Barnabas in this particular persecution in Iconium! It is true that they eventually fled, but only after a physical assault was planned to stone them (which these same Jewish gospel rejectors accomplished by the hands of the pagans in Lystra – see 14:19). But that did not occur until, therefore abode they long time! Notice that word, therefore! It points to the unbelieving Jews stirring up the Gentiles, and making their minds “malignant” against the brethren. For this word, therefore, clearly instructs us that even with the early persecutions, they planted their feet, set their minds and “dug in,” (as it were), and extended their evangelistic efforts to the development of the souls that had been brought into God’s regeneration!
But how do we know when to do this? How did they know not to flee ye into another city at the beginning of this persecution? Let us borrow the Apostle Paul’s words concerning this very thing in his first letter to the Corinthian church. 1 Corinthians 16:8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
Here we see that although there were many adversaries, the apostle determines to tarry for the simple reason that Christ, the sovereign Lord, with the keys to open the door of gospel opportunity which no man can shut, had opened such to them here in Iconium, even in the face of adversity and persecution! Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. For the church in all ages must learn like the Apostle Paul, that even though there are many adversaries, their faithfulness is not determined by the matter of their comfort, but by the Spirit’s granting success to their preaching of the word!
This kind of knowledge is of a spiritual awareness sovereignly invested within the regenerate soul! It is that which the scriptures refer to as, unction! It is from that inner knowledge – that inner anointing, which accompanies the indwelling Holy Spirit! 1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
This kind of wisdom is solely expressed from those who have been spiritually born of God! Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. And it is effectual in its working!
Fleeing is a christian action! Sheep flee from strangers! John 10:5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. And this is why the Forerunner, John the Baptizer, posed the question to the hypocrites coming to his baptism, whom he knew had no interest in Christ, and therefore not to be allowed the description of fleeing sheep! Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? And his point is well taken. For not being believers, they were not fleeing from anything! They had no awareness of personal sin, and therefore, were comfortable in their outward practice of traditional religion. They were elite religionists of an elect nation! Their purpose in being there was only of a judgmental nature.
In order to picture a soul’s being brought to life in Christ, John Bunyan’s main character in his Pilgrim’s Progress is said to flee to the wicket gate in fear of losing his immortal soul. “So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now, he had not ran far from his own door, but his wife and children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return, Lu. 14:26; but the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on, crying, Life! Life! Eternal life! So he looked not behind him, Genesis 19:17, but fled towards the middle of the plain.”
The twofold purpose concerning the time of delayed flight:
1.) It is a witness to the wicked! Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
That twenty eighth verse of that Philippians passage contains both of our reasons. It is both a “standing in the face” of the adversaries, which causes them to know that they are dealing with more than just a bare human effort; even to the point of it being an evident proof of their future damnation. And it is most assuring to the individual enduring the affliction of their true salvation provided by God Himself! For this type of personal fortitude does not come from the birth in Adam, but of that in Christ!
The Apostle Paul also instructs the Thessalonians that their steadfastness in the face of afflictions was after the same pattern of the suffering saints among the Jewish nation, and even after the pattern of our suffering Lord. And he tells them that God’s wrath upon such is inevitable! 1 Thessalonians 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
2.) It is a witness to the righteous!
Those given the opportunity and power to endure God-ordained afflictions are those noted by the church to be looked to for spiritual leadership. 1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
And it is for the true shepherd’s relationship to the wolf that the sheep clearly understand the difference between an hireling and a true, godly shepherd! John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Also notice in verses 21 through 23 of the fourteenth chapter of Acts that the Apostle, not at all terrified by his adversaries, returns to these same cities, using the very subject of those persecutions by which to edify the individual, regenerated souls! Acts 14:21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
It was by the faithful conduct in their afflictions which caused the apostle to boldly tell those believers in Thessalonica that he knew of their election! 1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
And it was also in these very afflictions in these very cities that the Lord made it plain to a newly forming minister, who would become very dear to the Apostle Paul, that Paul was truly an Apostle of Christ! And this was Timothy, to whom Paul spoke of as my own son in the faith. (1 Tim. 1:2). In this following passage he first speaks to Timothy of false apostles. But then he sets forth his proof of being a true apostle by these very persecutions that Timothy must have witnessed, since he lived in Derbe! Acts 16:1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Here are his statements to Timothy of who are, and who are not true apostles, based on persecutions. 2 Timothy 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. 10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
This is also what the apostle referred to as he wrote to the Galatian church. Galatians 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. For the scars from being stoned, as well as his other afflictions were marks of confirmation as his having entered into the fellowship of Christ’s suffering! (Phil. 3:10).
2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Zephaniah 3:12 I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
May God have mercy on the American church!
Pastor Gene Breed March 8, 2013