But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. – Acts 14:19-23
I have experienced only one time when I felt that I was in danger of being physically harmed by someone (beyond childhood fights and squabbles). I was a foolish 16-year-old and had irritated someone who decided he’d had enough. We were in our cars, and he chased me down onto a dead end street. I was pretty scared when he got out of the car and came menacingly in my direction. Fortunately he didn’t do anything but bluster. I was young and foolish – and graciously protected by God!
When trouble came looking for Paul and Barnabas on this occasion it did not back down. Nor did God protect Paul and Barnabas from grave harm. He had proclaimed the Good News of Jesus and had made an impact in the Jewish synagogues and communities. The men from Antioch and Iconium wanted to stop them from doing anything further to change their world or undercut their worldview. So they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, leaving him for dead.
Paul, however, is not to be intimidated or dissuaded from sharing the gospel. After going on to Derbe, and preaching the gospel there, he returns to the very places where he was attacked and troubled. He must have realized that the disciples in those places would need encouragement and bolstering of their faith.
His message is not a gospel of prosperity, but a reminder of God’s calling – even to the point of suffering for the sake of the gospel. The spread of the gospel by means of faithful servants teaches us that Jesus-style salvation is not about gold, glamor, and the greatness of man’s abilities. Salvation, Jesus-style is a call to faith in the One who entrusted himself to God perfectly and completely.
Jesus did for us: he obeyed perfectly and then suffered unjustly without losing faith in his Heavenly Father. His was the perfect faith. His righteousness and perfect faithfulness is ours through faith in him. Our faith will never be perfect, but our Savior is perfect. He is our righteousness.
Blessings and pleasantly-drawn lines may come and go. But God’s faithful servants will point us to the Good News of Jesus again, and again, and again. Thanks be to God!