There came thither certain Jews from Antioch - Those were, no doubt, the same who had raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, at Iconium and Antioch, before: they followed the apostles with implacable malice; and what they could not do themselves they endeavored to do by others, whose minds they first perverted, and then irritated to deeds of fell purpose.
And having stoned Paul - Alas! of what real worth is popular fame? How uncertain, and how unworthy to be counted! These poor heathens acted just like the people of Malta, Acts 28:4-6. When the viper fastened on the hand of Paul, they concluded he was a murderer: when they found it did him no damage, they changed their minds, and said he was a God! When the Lycaonians saw the miracles that Paul did, they said he was the god Mercury: when the persecuting Jews came, they persuaded them that he was an impostor; and then they endeavored to stone him to death.
Supposing he had been dead - They did not leave stoning him till they had the fullest evidence that he was dead; and so, most probably, he was.
And there came thither certain Jews - Not satisfied with having expelled them from Antioch and Iconium, they still pursued them. Persecutors often exhibit a zeal and perseverance in a bad cause which it would be well if Christians evinced in a holy cause. Bad people will often travel further to do evil than good people will to do good; and wicked people often show more zeal in opposing the gospel than professed Christians do in advancing it.
Who persuaded the people - That they were impostors; and who excited their rage against them.
And having stoned Paul - Whom they were just before ready to worship as a god! What a striking instance of the fickleness and instability of idolaters! And what a striking instance of the instability and uselessness of mere popularity! Just before they were ready to adore him; now they sought to put him to death. Nothing is more fickle than popular favor. The unbounded admiration of a man may soon be changed into unbounded indignation and contempt. It was well for Paul that he was not seeking this popularity, and that he did not depend on it for happiness. He had a good conscience; he was engaged in a good cause; he was under the protection of God; and his happiness was to be sought from a higher source than the applause of people, “fluctuating and uncertain as the waves of the sea.” To this transaction Paul referred when he enumerated his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:25, “Once was I stoned.”
Drew him out of the city - Probably in haste, and in popular rage, as if he was unfit to be in the city, and was unworthy of a decent burial; for it does not appear that they contemplated an interment but indignantly dragged him beyond the walls of the city to leave him there. Such sufferings and trials it cost to establish that religion in the world which has shed so many blessings on man; which now crowns us with comfort; which saves us from the abominations and degradations of idolatry here, and from the pains of hell hereafter.
Supposing he had been dead - The next verse shows that he was really not dead, though many commentators, as well as the Jews, have supposed that he was, and was miraculously restored to life. It is remarkable that Barnabas was not exposed to this popular fury. But it is to be remembered that Paul was the chief speaker, and it was his special zeal that exposed him to this tumult.
The experiences of the apostle Paul and his instruction regarding the sacredness of the minister's work are a source of help and inspiration to those engaged in the gospel ministry. Paul's heart burned with a love for sinners, and he put all his energies into the work of soul winning. There never lived a more self-denying, persevering worker. The blessings he received he prized as so many advantages to be used in blessing others. He lost no opportunity of speaking of the Saviour or of helping those in trouble. From place to place he went, preaching the gospel of Christ and establishing churches. Wherever he could find a hearing, he sought to counteract wrong, and to turn the feet of men and women into the path of righteousness. AA 367.1
Paul did not forget the churches that he had established. After making a missionary tour, he and Barnabas retraced their steps and visited the churches they had raised up, choosing from them men whom they could train to unite in proclaiming the gospel. AA 367.2
This feature of Paul's work contains an important lesson for ministers today. The apostle made it a part of his work to educate young men for the office of the ministry. He took them with him on his missionary journeys, and thus they gained an experience that later enabled them to fill positions of responsibility. When separated from them, he still kept in touch with their work, and his letters to Timothy and to Titus are evidences of how deep was his desire for their success. AA 367.3Read in context »
The day following the stoning of Paul, the apostles departed for Derbe, where their labors were blessed, and many souls were led to receive Christ as the Saviour. But “when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many,” neither Paul nor Barnabas was content to take up work elsewhere without confirming the faith of the converts whom they had been compelled to leave alone for a time in the places where they had recently labored. And so, undaunted by danger, “they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith.” Many had accepted the glad tidings of the gospel and had thus exposed themselves to reproach and opposition. These the apostles sought to establish in the faith in order that the work done might abide. AA 185.1
As an important factor in the spiritual growth of the new converts the apostles were careful to surround them with the safeguards of gospel order. Churches were duly organized in all places in Lycaonia and Pisidia where there were believers. Officers were appointed in each church, and proper order and system were established for the conduct of all the affairs pertaining to the spiritual welfare of the believers. AA 185.2
This was in harmony with the gospel plan of uniting in one body all believers in Christ, and this plan Paul was careful to follow throughout his ministry. Those who in any place were by his labor led to accept Christ as the Saviour were at the proper time organized into a church. Even when the believers were but few in number, this was done. The Christians were thus taught to help one another, remembering the promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. AA 185.3Read in context »
Those who closely connect with God may not be prosperous in the things of this life; they may often be sorely tried and afflicted. Joseph was maligned and persecuted because he preserved his virtue and integrity. David, that chosen messenger of God, was hunted like a beast of prey by his wicked enemies. Daniel was cast into a den of lions because he was true and unyielding in his allegiance to God. Job was deprived of his worldly possessions and so afflicted in body that he was abhorred by his relatives and friends, yet he preserved his integrity and faithfulness to God. Jeremiah would speak the words which God had put into his mouth, and his plain testimony so enraged the king and princes that he was cast into a loathsome pit. Stephen was stoned because he would preach Christ and Him crucified. Paul was imprisoned, beaten with rods, stoned, and finally put to death because he was a faithful messenger to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. The beloved John was banished to the Isle of Patmos “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” 4T 525.1
These examples of human steadfastness, in the might of divine power, are a witness to the world of the faithfulness of God's promises—of His abiding presence and sustaining grace. As the world looks upon these humble men, it cannot discern their moral value with God. It is a work of faith to calmly repose in God in the darkest hour—however severely tried and tempest-tossed, to feel that our Father is at the helm. The eye of faith alone can look beyond the things of time and sense to estimate the worth of eternal riches. 4T 525.2Read in context »
But Satan was stirring up the Jews to destroy Paul, and Jesus bade him leave Jerusalem. In company with Barnabas, he went into other cities, preaching Jesus and working miracles, and many were converted. As one man was healed who had always been lame, the people who worshiped idols were about to sacrifice to the disciples. Paul was grieved, and told them that he and his fellow laborer were only men and that the God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein, must alone be worshiped. Thus Paul exalted God before the people; but he could scarcely restrain them. The first conception of faith in the true God, and of the worship and honor due to Him, was being formed in their minds; and as they were listening to Paul, Satan was urging on the unbelieving Jews of other cities to follow after Paul to destroy the good work wrought through him. These Jews stirred up the minds of those idolaters by false reports against Paul. The wonder and admiration of the people now changed to hate, and they who a short time before were ready to worship the disciples, stoned Paul and drew him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But as the disciples were standing about Paul and mourning over him, to their joy he rose up and went with them into the city. EW 203.1
Again, as Paul and Silas preached Jesus, a certain woman possessed with a spirit of divination followed them, crying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” Thus she followed the disciples many days. But Paul was grieved; for this crying after them diverted the minds of the people from the truth. Satan's object in leading her to do this was to disgust the people and destroy the influence of the disciples. Paul's spirit was stirred within him, and he turned and said to the spirit, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her”; and the evil spirit was rebuked, and left her. EW 203.2
Her masters were pleased that she cried after the disciples; but when the evil spirit left her, and they saw her a meek disciple of Christ, they were enraged. They had gathered much money by her fortunetelling, and now the hope of their gain was gone. Satan's object was defeated; but his servants caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place, unto the rulers, and to the magistrates, saying, “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city.” And the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks. But the angels of the Lord accompanied them within the prison walls, and caused their imprisonment to tell to the glory of God, and show to the people that God was in the work, and with His chosen servants. EW 204.1Read in context »