Acts 16:1-40 – Being lead by the Spirit


While Paul and Barnabas worked well together in spreading the gospel to the north-west of Israel, they disputed over working together with Mark (formerly known as John). Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus but Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia.



  • 1-15 The Spirit leads them to Lydia (gathering gospel partners along the way)
    • 1-5 Paul picks up Timothy
    • 6-10 Paul is led by the Spirit and picks up Luke
    • 11-15 Paul meets Lydia
  • 16-40 The Spirit leads them to the Jailer
    • 16-18 Paul rebukes a spirit
    • 19-24 Paul is imprisoned
    • 25-34 Paul and Silas convert the jailer
    • 35-40 Paul escorted out of jail

1-15 The Spirit leads them to Lydia (gathering gospel partners along the way)

1-5 Paul picks up Timothy

“…a disciple named Timothy…” This young man would become a very close and invaluable partner in the gospel for Paul. He is mentioned in almost all of Paul’s letters (excluding Galatians and Ephesians and Titus), two of which were written directly to him. Timothy was regarded as a son, a brother and a co-worker in the gospel to Paul. His mother was a believing Jew while his Father was a Greek. There is no mention of his father’s faith but his mother and grandmother taught him well from youth about the scriptures (2 Timothy 3). Paul met Timothy while travelling and found a young man who was already growing steadily in the faith and in good regard in his neighbourhood. These are two excellent agendas for life: to grow in love for the Lord and be respected in the community – particularly when the latter flows out of the former. Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

“…he circumcised him because of the Jews…” In light of the previous chapter, you may think this is a hypocritical decision. The point though is about being received by the Jewish community so that the gospel can be heard. The circumcision decision was not done for the purpose of religion. Remember 1 Corinthians 9:22 tells us to become all things to all people so that by all possible means (even circumcision) we might save some.

“…as they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles…” Even while Timothy had been circumcised, they intended to continue the encouraging message that life in Christ brings freedom and unity between Jew and Gentile.

6-10 Paul is led by the Spirit and picks up Luke

“…kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching…” Who knows how the Spirit did this. The means are not really important (or else we might be told) but when doorways are closed to the disciples, they regarded this as a sign from the Spirit of Jesus (v6 and 7). When some doors are closed, others are opened and one town that received the gospel as a result is Galatia – the church there would receive the Epistle to the Galatians – a book filled with gospel truths and a strong argument against staying with the law now that Christ has come.

“…concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel [in Macedonia].” This conclusion was reached after Paul had a night vision. Some people claim to receive words from the Lord like Paul did here. I don’t wish to dismiss things too quickly. But the practice overall is that we walk by faith in the knowledge of the word of God. This is the norm. To expect anything else as the norm or more common is to regard the books of the bible as average and common stories. In the first century, the gospel is fresh and the mission of God was to take the name of Jesus to the nations (Acts 1:8). Some areas had been restricted in the wisdom of God but others were opened and Paul was being lead by God to go to Macedonia.

“…we got ready at once…” Notice the pronoun ‘we’. For the first time in the book of Acts, it is written in the first person. Introducing Dr Luke to the story. He doesn’t make note of his joining in the mission and he comes in and out of the narrative without further attention (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16).

11-15 Paul meets Lydia

“…we travelled to Philippi…of Macedonia. And we stayed…” Philippi is described as the major city of the area of Macedonia and we know that Paul founds a Christian church here which he will write to later in the New Testament. They stopped here since this is where God had directed them and this is where they planned. This is where the story unfolds and we meet Lydia.

“…to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.” Interesting that they are further and further away from Jerusalem and the use of Synagogues is not as common. Fewer Jews means less money to build such things. But a river makes for a great meeting place to reflect on the creator. Remember that this is where the Israelite exiles met in Ezekiel – they were by the Kebar River and recall Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

“…The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” A little reminder that it is not Paul’s persuasion but God’s pull to the gospel of grace. Many scholars have read the bible and discussed it thoroughly without seeing clearly that Jesus is Lord. It is with the mind and the Holy Spirit that we hear the good news and respond. Remember what Jesus said to Peter when he finally confessed that Jesus is the Christ, “Blesses are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matt 16:17)

“…her heart…” This is also a little reminder that the gospel ought to be felt. Tears of repentance, grief over sin, thankfulness for mercy and joy to be free.

“…When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home.” Paul invited her whole household to hear and respond to the gospel. She accepted and the household presumably followed her lead. Paul and Silas and Luke and Timothy had no place to stay, but when the gospel found a home in someone’s heart, a home was opened to them. Once they were strangers but now, through faith in Jesus, they are brothers.

16-40 The Spirit leads them to the Jailer

16-18 Paul rebukes a spirit

“…a spirit by which she predicted the future…” Who knows what access the spirit world has to future events? Who even knows what access the Almighty has to it? That’s not to suggest that the future is out of his control or takes him by surprise, but can we ever resolve the coexistence of God’s sovereignty with man’s free will? The spirit was in a slave girl and her owners were profiting from her apparent skill. Paul did not know the future, nor did the Spirit of Jesus reveal it to him (except that he should go to Macedonia), but the Spirit of God will lead Paul to the ears of a jailer. We don’t need to know the future to be sure that God has the future under his control. We walk by faith and obedience.

“…he turned and said to the spirit…” For some bizarre reason, the spirit which turned out to be an annoying spirit, was proclaiming the truth that Paul and co were working for the Most High God and are here to show the way to salvation! At first, this might have amused Paul since it was the truth. But even the truth said over and over with no purpose can be counterproductive. Paul cast out the spirit in the name of Jesus – apparently not a spirit ion the side of Jesus.

19-24 Paul is imprisoned

“…her owners realised that their hopes of making money was gone…” The love of money will take many people to hell. Paul’s message of salvation was, to them, a message of poverty and ruin. And they hated him for ruining their livelihood. Their idol was greed and wealth and wanted nothing to do with Paul’s message.

“…the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas…” Like some of the towns around Judea that rose up against Jesus, the apostle is up against crowd mentality.

“…and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.” So, they were locked up as public nuisances and found themselves with an audience ordered to be with them. God works in mysterious ways. Who could have planned for Paul to find his way to this jailer – but God worked all things out for good. Though the townsfolk meant their actions for evil, God intended it for good. They will still receive their condemnation for rejecting the gospel of life but their actions were used by God to bring the gospel to one who would respond.

25-34 Paul and Silas convert the jailer

“…praying and singing hymns to God…” The mission has come to a halt – or so it seems. Locked up in a prison cell with only themselves and a guard. Far away from their home church in Antioch where their friends would not know to be praying for their release. But Paul and Silas continued to trust in the Lord. Why not take the time to remind one another of God’s goodness and to praise Him from the heart. While many were safely sleeping in their beds, these missionaries were chained up, perhaps cold, probably uncomfortable, they were awake and praising God. We can’t help associate the earthquake as the intervention of God.

“…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This is the sort of question every Christian longs to be asked. It’s really the most important question. Is God real? Is the bible God’s word? Why does God allow suffering to go on? These are all very good questions too but ought to lead everyone to the first question: what must I do to be saved? This question, of course, is answered with, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Both the question and the answer are loaded with side issues and questions, for sure. But this is the heart of importance. John’s entire gospel is aimed at answering this question. Romans 10:9 explains that “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The difference between heaven and hell is this one decision: do you believe in the Lord Jesus. Not simply that a guy named Jesus lived – but that he is Lord. He is your Lord. He is the Lord of all. This is the difference between life and death. Perhaps the jailer understood that the Almighty took care of Paul and Silas and also that the prisoners were not desperate to preserve their own freedom. He may have witnessed the power of God over nature as well as the power of the gospel in the lives of these two men. Whatever he perceived, he was struck to ask these two men about salvation.

“…he was filled with joy…” Oh I wish that we could perpetuate that feeling. If only the church – all of us – would perceive the joy that it is to know Jesus. Our faith is one of knowledge of the truth. We can speak with philosophers who wonder and say that we know God. We can speak with scientists who study and say we know who did this. We can speak with the lost and say that we know the solid rock who gives us freedom from sin. We can speak to those burdened by religion and say that we know the mind of God and his invitation to come and find rest. We can speak to those who have sold themselves to money and say that we know the God of hope who has prepared an inheritance for all who turn to Jesus and believe the good news. We can also talk to God, the one whom we know in truth, and we can ask him to fill our hearts with joy – the joy that comes by faith in believing.

35-40 Paul escorted out of jail

“When it was daylight…” Between midnight and dawn, a man had been delivered from darkness to light. An earthquake had taken place and a man’s whole household had been baptised in response to the good news that Jesus is Lord. A man who previously only knew the fear of his Roman authorities, now was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God. He had opened his home to the prisoners and apparently lead them back to their cell before morning. When the morning came, officers of the magistrate may have thought they were bringing good news to Paul and Silas to release them. But that is no news at all compared to the release of the jailer from his bondage to sin and death.

“…No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” The boldness of Paul makes me smile. An earthquake came and opened the doors for him to be free, yet he stayed. The jailer took him home and fed him and yet Paul and Silas returned to their cell before morning. Now they are given permission to leave and yet they want to demand their rights as Roman citizens. It’s quirky of Paul. But it illustrates his co-citizenship of earth and heaven. The gospel that he preaches is ultimately about right and wrong. If you are on the wrong side of Jesus you are in the wrong, so turn to him and be saved. He has been dealt with wrongly as a citizen of Rome and he chooses to make an issue out of this too. Sure, he could have dismissed it and gone on with his mission. But he has an opportunity here to declare that they are in the wrong! According to their rules, they have wronged him and they need to make amends.

“…they went to Lydia’s house…” This had become a base in Philippi for the believers and Paul encouraged them with the news of what had happened to him and Silas just as Peter encouraged the believers in Jerusalem after his rescue from prison by the hand of God. He undoubtedly let them know about the jailer and his family. When he left the believers, they supported him financially in his mission and even sent money to him when he was abroad (Philippians 4:14-16)


Finding people and places to preach the gospel is as much a part of following the lead of the Spirit as it is setting an agenda and a plan. The plan will fail without the Spirit of God. But the plan must be to preach where the Spirit opens doors (or locks you in). The gospel itself is a work of the Spirit to open the hearts of the elect to respond. And our message must be directed to Jesus as Lord – this is the good news.


  1. Discuss ways in which you have seen the Spirit of God directing you in your life? How have you been aware of this? What principals must we follow to know whether it is the Spirit of God or not?
  2. Our plans do get changed and it is important to understand the sovereignty of God in all situations. Bad events in life are also used by God for his good purposes. Do you have examples of this in your life? How might you see your current situations (today, this week, a specific function) as an opportunity to spread the gospel and to glorify God?
  3. Would you describe your life as full of joy for knowing God? Would you use the word joy at all to describe your life? Why or why not? Discuss.

Acts 15:1-41 – The First Church Council – It’s a gospel issue


After persecution broke out in Jerusalem (Acts 7), most of the believers were scattered abroad and preached the gospel wherever they went. To the north of Jerusalem and all of the Jewish region is the major city of Asia-minor, Antioch. The gospel was well received in Antioch and many Gentiles turned to Jesus for salvation. Paul and Barnabas preached there and were sent out from Antioch in Syria to go on their first missionary journey through Cyprus, Paphos, Pamphylia, Iconium and Lycaonian. Check out a map in your bibles or online to see where these locations are.

Peter had also experienced God’s teaching on Gentiles being included in His salvation plan. He was taught by God that He does not show favouritism. Peter saw the Holy Spirit come upon the household of Cornelius and he baptised them into the Christian faith. Peter remained based in Jerusalem along with James, while Paul and Barnabas enjoyed the fellowship in Antioch.



  • 1-4 Paul and Barnabas return to Jerusalem
  • 5-6 The council’s issue
  • 7-11 Peter’s opinion
  • 12 Paul and Barnabas present evidence
  • 13-21 James’ opinion
  • 22-35 The Epistle to the Gentiles
  • 36-41 The dream team have a Barny

1-4 Paul and Barnabas return to Jerusalem

“Certain people” They are not named, however, verse 24 tells us that they came from Jerusalem without the authorisation of the apostles there and verse 5 tells us that the Pharisees were somehow behind the thinking of these people (whether they were of the Pharisee group is unknown and unlikely but they were perhaps influenced by their teaching).

“Unless you…you cannot be saved” This is a classic gospel issue. Many can have opinions and practices of conscience which are practiced and adhered to quietly and be saved by grace. Examples of this are abstaining from alcohol; not working on a Sunday; or going to church in a specially made building for church. These practices, when they are personal decisions of faith while trusting only in the blood of Jesus for salvation, are disputable matters (Romans 14:1). But any time someone says something like, you must only worship in this building or else you cannot be saved – then we have a gospel issue. We are saved through Christ alone. There is no additions to this statement. Christ’s blood PLUS [insert something here] is a false gospel.

“Unless you are circumcised…” The Jews followed the custom of circumcision since the days of Abraham. It was a physical sign of faith and obedience to Yahweh. Of course, only the males did this, but it was a national ritual indication inclusion in the people of God. As the Old Testament explains, however, the issue of circumcision was an outward sign of an inward reality and God was more interested in the inward devotion to Him from the heart (Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4). “Certain people” from Judah were convinced that if the Gentiles were to be included as the people of God, then they needed to be circumcised. It’s a forgivable mistake that they were making. In their minds, being the people of God meant that you were circumcised. Now that God is welcoming in the Gentiles, they ought to be circumcised to participate as the people of God. Missionaries encounter this type of problem all the time – how do you distinguish between our Christian culture and the raw gospel that we preach. What things do others need to adopt? To become a Christian, do you need to become like other Christians?

“…sharp dispute…” Paul and Barnabas had strong views on this issue and disagreed clearly with the people from Judah. The story in chapter 15 begins with a sharp dispute which finds a happy resolution before ending finally with another sharp disagreement – in the end it will be Paul and Barnabas who disagree with one another. The issue in the first place is a gospel issue and deserves stern, clear, precise argument. The issue in the end will be a matter of opinion and perhaps could have been resolved in a more godly manner.

“…as they traveled…they told how the Gentiles had been converted…” Paul and Barnabas had seen many Gentiles turn to Jesus and believe the good news. As they travelled to Jerusalem through many Jewish towns, they told people of what God was doing through them and many were encouraged and glad to hear it. By and large, the Jewish-Christian community were enjoying the news that God is loving the Gentiles too. Paul and Barnabas received the same welcome in Jerusalem. The church of Christ was growing strong.

5-6 The council’s issue

“The Gentiles must … keep the law of Moses.” The issue is a lot bigger than just circumcision now. It called in the whole law of Moses. The Pharisees were infamous for loving the law of Moses so much that they expounded on them and expanded their reach to include all sorts of minute detail. Jesus regularly sparred with the Pharisees over their hypocritical lives and love of the law over their love of God. To caricature the Pharisees, they saw the law that God gave to Moses but failed to see the character of God behind the law.

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia about these very matters and described the law of Moses like a guardian – like the parent of a child before the child is old enough to know better. He wrote, “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” Galatians 3:23-25 (see also 3:26-4:7).

“The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” The organisation of the church now included apostles, elders and deacons. This simple structure allowed for the word of the Lord to be taught to the believers. The apostles and elders were trustworthy men of the faith, able to teach the word of God. The deacons were equally trustworthy men of faith but had the role of administering the funds to help widows and orphans and the needy in the church. The believers of Christ were not all growing in faith directly through the Holy Spirit and disconnected from one another – rather, they were a Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus by sitting under the leadership of the apostles, elders and deacons. The Holy Spirit taught the church, through the word of God, using the gifts of people to teach and exhort and preach. Church structure began very early.

7-11 Peter’s opinion

“God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.” Peter made a case against this statement by showing what God has decided to do among them. Peter was instructed to go and preach to the house of Cornelius the gospel of grace. Peter witnessed that household be saved. Peter has seen first hand that the gospel is for the Gentiles as much as it is for the Jews.

“He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” He had witnessed the Holy Spirit come upon them and believed that God had affirmed their faith right then and there. Peter is arguing that the Gentiles are not lesser than the Jews but are equal before God.

“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Here is a simple statement of faith and notice the order that Peter states – this is how ‘we’ are saved – just as ‘they’ are. He is not only arguing that the Gentiles need not take up the law of Moses, but that the Jews also are freed from such a ‘yoke that neither [they] nor [their] ancestors have been able to bear’ (v10). The gospel is freedom to serve God outside of the law.

12 Paul and Barnabas present evidence

“The whole assembly became silent…” I wonder how Peter might have felt when Paul and Barnabas follow his one story and involvement in ministry to the Gentiles with their many stories of God’s grace being spread across the known world! The church in Jerusalem may have been mildly excited by the idea of God’s word going to the Gentiles when Peter had one experience of it – now they are gobsmacked to hear how fast the gospel is moving.

13-21 James’ opinion

“Simon has described to us…” James, the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19), was a chief pillar in the Christian church. He firstly affirms that Simon Peter had experienced the hand of God saving the first people from the Gentiles in a significant way.

“The words of the prophets are in agreement…” James confirms that what is happening fits with what the scriptures have said. He tests the experiences of Peter and Paul against the word of God. This is a great illustration of decision making and discerning the will of God. Things can look beneficial and promising but not everything is in line with the word of God.

“as it is written…” James quotes from Amos 9:11-12 but he is quoting from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

“It is my judgement, therefore…” James’s conclusion is to agree with Peter. He doesn’t see why they should make things difficult when God has not imposed this on them. Rather than making things harder, we ought to encourage our new brothers!

“…telling them to abstain…” Rather than rules and rituals to overload them, they send advise and recommendation to help them live holy lives. They are three areas which emphasise separation from previous life of ignorance on to their new life of truth. 1) Remove yourselves from the idol worshiping practices by abstaining from the food offered to idols. 2) Sexual immorality was closely linked to idol worship also. It is the first thing to go when people take their eyes off God and his grace. As Paul reflects in 1 Cor 10:6-8, the Israelites sinned as soon as they left Egypt by revelling in sexual immorality. 3) The meat of strangled animals and from blood – another element of idol worship. 4) The law of Moses has been preached in every city – this could be added as enticement to continue to learn from the law of Moses. Just because we are not wanting to burden people with rules and regulations, it is still good and excellent that the word of God be known as it has been for centuries, near and far.

22-35 The Epistle to the Gentiles

“…the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch…with the following letter…” Another wonderful moment in the history of the church – unity, approval, action, encouragement and gospel thinking. It would be wonderful to continually see the activities we take part in as participating in the mission of the gospel rather than in keeping things afloat and salvaging old ways and traditions and practices. And in seeing the church across the planet as one church under God.

“The apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile believers in Antioch…” This short letter follows the same formula as most of the letters in the New Testament and is possibly the shortest epistle that we have access to! It’s lovely that they are greeting the Gentiles in Antioch and so on as brothers!

“You will do well to avoid these things.” A gentle encouragement to avoid these things for their benefit – that’s the language of love and care. There have been no mandates or consequences described. There is only the advice from one brother to another.

36-41 The dream team have a Barny

“…sharp disagreement…” The beautiful conclusion to this chapter is soured by the “sharp disagreement” between Paul and Barnabas. The language of verse 2 in the Greek is much harsher than the language of verse 39. Although Paul and Barnabas held different opinions here, it seems that they were so separate in their thinking that they couldn’t resolve the issue. So, they parted ways. Paul went on the mission that he had proposed but took Silas with him, while Barnabas took Mark and went on a different mission. By the grace of God, this expanded the mission teams and enlarged the area being covered for mission.


Unity in the gospel comes through putting the mission and vision of God before our own. For the church to grow as one body, it must function together with the word of God at the head.


  1. The Anglican Church exists in order to preserve a common way of thinking about church life. It contains a list of 39 articles to describe what we all hold commonly together. What are the pros and cons of denominations such as the Anglican Church?
  2. The Clark family are doing God’s work in Germany and Karen Darda is serving the Lord in Japan. How can we encourage them and the churches that they are ministering to?
  3. Romans 14:1 contains instructions on avoiding quarrels over disputable matters. Discuss what you know about such things and how that applies to this passage.
  4. What advice would you give to a young Christian in the faith? What would you recommend as beneficial to them?

Acts 14:1-28 – Lost in translation


The mission of Jesus exploded in Jerusalem and has been spreading abroad. Barnabas and Saul (now called Paul since chapter 13) left Antioch to take the gospel to the Gentiles (13:3). They had sailed to Cyprus, preached in Paphos, parted with John in Perga and proclaimed Jesus the Saviour to the Pisidian Synagogue.. The word of the Lord had been received by some Jews but rejected by many others. It had also been received well by Gentiles and yet not all believed. Always, the message was the word of the Lord and the proclamation that Jesus is Lord. Freedom from sin comes to everybody who believes. This word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But Paul and Barnabas left Pisidian Antioch once it was clear that many were rejecting the gospel.



  • 1-7 – Division at Iconium
  • 8-10 – A lame man healed in Lystra
  • 11-18 – Mistaken for gods
  • 19-20 – Mistaken for dead
  • 21-28 – Returning to base, strengthening along the way

1-7 – Division at Iconium

“…went as usual into the Jewish synagogue.” This has been commented on in previous posts. The logical place to begin spreading the gospel is in the place where the word of the Lord has already been preached – where the seeds have been sown. Paul and Barnabas continued to use this strategy even after they had seen the gospel rejected in the previous town.

“but the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Logic says, if it’s true then believe it. If it is not true then show it to be either wrong or highly unlikely and let it go! But the human response to God doesn’t work that way. Some will remain in the discussion to speak reasonably and debate, but the majority who do not believe will attack the messenger instead of the message.

“the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” Interestingly that when the character of the preachers were attacked rather than the message, then the Lord fought for them by enabling them to do signs and wonders – miracles. This is a good little verse to show how miracles serve to confirm the gospel, not be an addition to it nor a necessity in the church.

“The people of the city were divided…a plot afoot…to mistreat them and stone them…” The message was rejected. The miracles were rejected. The disciples were rejected. Such a passionate rejection to the gospel. Interestingly, the world was not lapping up the gospel like modern skeptics might want to believe – like the gospel is for a naive time but now we are much more sophisticated. The gospel has always been met with resistance and rejection. It’s amazing that it has survived so many thousands of years! Obviously because, despite persecution, the apostles “continued to preach the gospel.”

8-10 – A lame man healed in Lystra

In these verses, we have a story very familiar and routine. Jesus healed lame people, Peter did, and now Paul has. The man had been listening to the gospel and Paul saw that his response was to believe – he had faith which Paul recognised. Paul, who had been performing miracles, called for the man to walk for the first time in his life. And he did! As mentioned earlier, miracles like this went with the Apostles who were taking the word of the Lord into the world for the first time. It was a kind of testimony from God that the message is to be believed.

11-18 – Mistaken for gods

“…in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us…” Paul and Barnabas may not have understood what was being said about them until later when they heard of the offerings of sacrifice brought to them. The miracle showed the locals that it was the power of God with them but the mistake was to understand the men as gods instead of messengers of God.

“…telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God…” The message of the gospel needed to be retold to these people, focusing on who God is rather than who Jesus is. That is, they need firstly to turn from a total misunderstanding about God to worshipping the one true God. This is a reality that the Jews had been taught from the scriptures. These locals needed to hear the basics: that there is one God who, in the past, has not spoken directly to you. But he has been blessing you with a general blessing by sending rain and crops and a sense of joy. Now, this God wants you to know who he is.

19-20 – Mistaken for dead

“Jews came from Antioch and Iconium…” Paul and Barnabas were not the only Jews on a mission. While they were spreading the gospel, Jews who they had previously met were following to derail their ministry. Both believed they were doing the work of God I suppose. The former explained the truth from the word of God while the latter raised up enemies to take these missionaries down.

“thinking he was dead.” Paul was left for dead. Probably not actually dead. But still a miracle to read that a man who had been physically hit with rocks to the point of death could get up and walk!

21-28 – Returning to base, strengthening along the way

“They preached the gospel in that city…” In Derbe, all we hear is the the gospel was preached and many believed. But the rest of the chapter is committed to the strengthening of the gospel in all the places they had been before. They returned to Antioch where they had set out on this missionary journey but visited Lystra and Iconium on the way. Each time, their plan now was to strengthen those who had believed and encourage them to stand firm through the hardships they will face (v22).

“…appointed elders for them in each church…” The believers would need people appointed to lead them. Paul and Barnabas were not just ‘fly by night’ missionaries. They had formed a strategy for beginning their missions (to go first to the Jews) and they were forming strategies to keep the gospel established in each town they left.

“…reported all that God had done through them…” Once back in Antioch, they encouraged the church there with stories of the work that God was doing in the world.Psalm 4 says, “Fill my heart with joy, when their grain and new wine abound.” The last part of that verse describes the blessings of God on the land. The Psalmist wants to find his joy, not in how God is blessing himself, but in how God is blessing the world that he lives in. When he sees the work of God and how people are receiving life and blessings, that should fill our hearts with joy.


The shape of the gospel message will look different, depending on who you speak it to. A person with the understanding that there is one god may be asked, “how are you saved?” while someone who thinks of many gods or many religions as equal may be asked, “who is ultimately in charge of everything?” and someone with an atheistic or agnostic background may be asked, “how do you know right from wrong?” The same gospel can take different approaches depending on your audience.


  1. What are some common objections to the Christian faith? After raising a few, can you think of some clear responses to each?
  2. The gospel must pass through huge walls of cultural conviction. The Jews responded to the gospel by attacking the messengers. The Lycaonians responded to the gospel by treating the messengers as gods! Both groups needed to be convicted of the truth and to respond to that. What cultural obstacles do we face in our area as we try to preach the gospel?
  3. What things have you seen God doing in the past few months that give you joy? What has been an encouragement to you in watching the mission of God unfold around you?