19 “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.” (Acts 14:19–20)
It is within the overall context of Paul and Barnabas’ experience in Lystra that we see their high view of God. They may not say everything they could say about God, but what they do say is significant. Their Theology Proper, the Doctrine of God, is clearly displayed.
Paul and Barnabas acknowledged God as the only creator, who is living, who made the heavens the earth and the sea and all that is in them. God has also revealed Himself in His creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-21). He is the gracious God who gives rain, fruitful seasons, food and gladness; both to the saint and to the sinner (Mathew 5:45).
Paul and Barnabas would not accept any praise or worship. They understood that the only One worthy of worship and praise is God (I Chronicles 16:8-36).
However, people are not easily dissuaded, deterred or discouraged from what they want to do. If and when people are prevented from receiving from their objects of worship and praise that which they desire, or they don’t like what they receive from their objects of worship and praise, they will quickly turn against said object. Perhaps, they may even attack their object of worship and praise.
Such was the response by the people of Lystra when Paul and Barnabas would not accept their worship and praise. This rejection was instigated by the unbelieving Jews from both Pisidian Antioch and Iconium. They persuaded the Lystran crowd, who in turn stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city. They thought they had killed him.
The IVP Background Commentary provides us with valuable insight. “The visitors from Antioch had no legal authority outside their own territory, but they are able to persuade the mob to accomplish what had failed in Iconium (14:5–6). A mob could change its views quickly (cf. Lk 23:18), especially in a case like this one: when Paul and Barnabas deny the gods, they would be considered impious and hence would appear to fit a different category of ancient paganism: they were not gods after all, but dangerous magicians.”
However, when the disciples gathered around Paul’s seemingly dead body, he got up and reentered the city. The following day, both he and Barnabas left Lystra and travelled to the city of Derbe.
“Antioch was nearly a hundred miles from Lystra by road, but it is known that the cities were in contact with each other, considering themselves sister cities. See Acts 7:58 for details on Jewish stoning, but stoning was also the most common form of urban mob violence in the Gentile world. Stones, tiles and cobbles were readily available in ancient streets. When Jewish crowds stoned a transgressor, they sought the transgressor’s death; Paul’s survival undoubtedly points to divine protection. Normally such executions were performed outside the city, and they may have dragged him out of the city for purity reasons; that he not only survived but could walk afterward must be understood as miraculous.”
Paul and Barnabas were undeterred in their desire to share the Gospel and to serve God. The violent rejection they experienced at Lystra prompted them to travel to Derbe and minster the Gospel there as they had in previous cities. You may have experienced your own kind of rejection for sharing the Gospel. Do not be discouraged. Keep on sharing your faith in the One, True God to those who need to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
Soli deo Gloria!