The text used is that of the Douay-Rheims. What appears in the NAB and other modern bibles as Acts 14:19-28 is, in the DR, 14:18-27. To help avoid confusion I’ve placed the modern verse numbers first, followed by those of the DR.
Background: At the beginning of Acts 14 Saints Paul and Barnabas arrived in Iconium and preached in a synagogue where they succeeded in converting many Jews and Greeks (Acts 14:1). However, some individual Jews “stirred up and incensed the minds of the Gentiles against the brethren (Acts 14:2). This induced the missionaries to stay in the city longer, “dealing confidently in the Lord, who gave testimony to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (acts 14:3). This led to a division among the people (Acts 14:4, see Luke 2:34; Luke 12:51-53. God, His Son, Their messengers, and the word bring judgment, and hence division; see Isa 8:11-15; John 7:1-13; John 9:39; Rom 9:30-33). It appears their success aggravated things, and both Jewish and Gentile opponents of their message conspired to have them stoned, and this with the collusion of thie respective leaders (Acts 14:5). As a result, the missionaries were forced to leave Iconium, and so they traveled to the cities of Lystra and Derbe and their environs, where they continued to preach the Good News (Acts 14:6-7).
In Lystra a crippled man heard Paul speaking and believed. Recognizing this fact Paul ordered him to stand and this healing set the people off. They began to proclaim Saints Paul and Barnabas gods, naming the former Hermes-for Paul apparently had done most of the talking/preaching-and Barnabas they called Zeus-perhaps because Barnabas was from a well-to-do family and had a noble bearing about him. These people, along with a priest from the temple of Zeus, attempted to offer sacrifice to them, a desire the missionaries quickly, but with difficulty, prevented from happening. It appears they did this at their own expense, however, for some of those who had caused them trouble in Iconium came to Lystra and turned the people against them. These opponents and those they riled up stoned Paul and, thinking him dead, dragged him from the city. But Paul recovered and boldly entered the city again. The next day he and Barnabas made their way to Derbe (Acts 14:8-20).
Act 14:19 (14:18) Now there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium: and, persuading the multitude and stoning Paul, drew him out of the city, thinking him to be dead.
Antioch (Acts 13:13-52) and Iconium (Acts 14:1-7) were places already evangelized by St Paul and his companions. They had met with success in both places initially (see Acts 13:42-44 and 14:1), but a small cadre of opponents arose in both places , instigating trouble for the missionaries (Acts 13:45, Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2). It appears that the group from Antioch joined with those from Iconium and carried their opposition to the gospel into Lystra.
Persuading the multitude and stoning Paul. The translation reflects the stark, quick, participial construction of the Greek text. In his commentary, Luke Timothy Johnson suggests that the Greek sentence structure is intended to convey a mob action. The persuading of the multitude was not the result of logical arguments or valid debate, rather, it was the persuasion born of passions being inflamed by angry rhetoric, lies, innuendo, all the standard and destructive tricks of trouble makers.
Stoning Paul. Recall that we first met Paul (then called Saul) at the stoning of St Stephen (Acts 7:54-60).
Drew him out of the city. A better translation: Dragged him outside the city. It was customary to stone people outside the city, but here the process is reversed, perhaps to emphasize the effect of mob rule. The word drew (dragged) was used in Acts 8:3 to describe Saul’s persecution of Christians.
Thinking him dead. He who only recently was considered a god by the populace is now, by members of that same populace, considered dead.
Act 14:20 (14:19) But as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and entered into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
The disciples (missionary companions and converts) gather around St Paul, perhaps to protect him or, if they too thought he was dead, to mourn.
Act 14:21 (14:20) And when they had preached the gospel to that city and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch:
Notice that the Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch by way of the cities in which they had encountered near deadly opposition. This should be seen in relation to the next verse.
Act 14:22 (14:21) Confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith: and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.
The shortest route back to Antioch would have been through the Cilician Gates, but the missionaries have their obligations. If Paul and Barnabas suffered so much in these cities it is not unreasonable to assume that those who converted suffered as well, hence the need for the missionaries to return to them and confirm (literally, “set fast”) their souls, and exhort them to continue in the faith. The situation here foreshadows what would later take place in Thessalonica. Paul’s preaching their met oppositon and he was force to leave that city. Soon after this he received news that his new converts were suffering at the hands of their fellow citizens but he was unable to immediately return to them, a fact which caused him much grief (see Acts 17:1-10; 1 Thess 1:2-3:8, note the number of references to affliction and suffering in the latter passage).
Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God. Calls to mind our Lord’s teaching on discipleship which immediately follows his passion predictions; most notably Mark 8:31-38, but see also 10:32-45. Sandwiched between these two extremes, both of which call for dying if necessary, is the second passion prediction and the teaching which follows it (9:30-10:31). There are bloodless crucifixions we must undergo, relating to ambition (Mark 9:33-41), temptation (Mark 9:42-50), family (Mark 10:1-13), and riches (Mark 10:17-31).
Epistle of Barnabas: Thus also, says He, “Those who wish to behold Me, and lay hold of My kingdom, must through tribulation and suffering obtain Me.”
Peter of Alexandria: For what they set before themselves, first and foremost, was to do the work of an evangelist, and to teach the Word of God, in which, confirming the brethren, that they might continue in the faith, they said this also, “that we must out of much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Continue in the faith. Stay, stand, abide in the faith. The faith can be lost: And you, whereas you were some time alienated and enemies in mind in evil works: Yet now he hath reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted and blameless before him: If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church (Col 1:21-24).
Suffering afflictions for the faith is of value for the sake of others: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort: Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we also may be able to comfort them who are in all distress, by the exhortation wherewith we also are exhorted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound. Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation: or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer. That our hope for you may be steadfast: knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation (2 Cor 1:3-7).
Act 14:23 (14:22) And when they had ordained to them priests in every church and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed.
The Greek word used here for ordained is χειροτονέω (cheirotoneō), which means “to stretch out the hand.” The word is not used in the Greek Septuagint (the LXX), but it is found in the writing of Josephus, the Jewish priest/historian, who uses it for the ordination of priests. Luke uses the word several times for the laying on of hands to confer a spiritual gift (Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; Acts 9:17; acts 13:3).
Prayed with fasting. Not prayer and fasting as in the NAB and RSV. The actions of the missionaries here call to mind the sending of Paul and Barnabas in 13:2-3. It also has similarities with events following Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:9, Acts 9:17).
Commended them to the Lord. The Greek word translated here as commended is used in the LXX for the deposit of something sacred to a priest: “I have given it to them as their portion” (Lev 6:10 NAB). One of its basic meanings is “to entrust.” “They are being entrusted to the one in whom they have placed their trust” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Acts Of The Apostles, pg 255).
Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution On The Church #20: That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world,(147) since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors.
For they not only had helpers in their ministry,(4*) but also, in order that the mission assigned to them might continue after their death, they passed on to their immediate cooperators, as it were, in the form of a testament, the duty of confirming and finishing the work begun by themselves,(5*) recommending to them that they attend to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit placed them to shepherd the Church of God.(148) They therefore appointed such men, and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry.(6*) Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning,(7*) are passers-on of the apostolic seed.(8*) Thus, as St. Irenaeus testifies, through those who were appointed bishops by the apostles, and through their successors down ln our own time, the apostolic tradition is manifested (9*) and preserved.(10*) The footnotes and references in this text appear at the end of this post.
Pisidia and Pamphylia are regions, not cities. Pisidia is in the central southern area of Asia Minor, with the region of Galatia to its north, and the region of Pamphylia to its south. The capital of the Pisidia region was Pisidian Antioch. This city Paul evangelized in Acts 13:13-51. Perge was in the region of Pamphylia, located on the coast, not far from the port of Attalia. It was at Perge that St Mark abandoned the mission (see Acts 13:13).
The missionaries had previously passed through Perge but had not (apparently) preached there, but they do so now.
Act 14:26 (14:25) And thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been delivered to the grace of God, unto the work which they accomplished.
Delivered to the grace of God. Literally, “handed over to the grace of God.” Refers to what was narrated in Acts 13:1-3.
Unto the work which they accomplished. The work which the Holy Spirit had called them to in the verse just mentioned. The word translated here as accomplished is the same word used in Acts 13:41, a quoatation from the Prophet Habbakkuk 1:5 which St Paul employed in his address in the Jewish Synagogue at Pisidain Antioch.(contrary to popular belief, Hab 2:4 is not the only quote this Prophet had to offer!). This quotation in the context of Paul’s speech was very important. In the first part of his speech Paul focused on how the Jews of Jerusalem had fulfilled the oracles of God by not recognizing Jesus and having him put to death, and how God had raised him up as Scripture foretold (Acts 13:26-37) and what the implications of this were (Acts 13:38-39). But then he goes on to give a warning to the Diaspora Jews, quoting Habakkuk: Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken in the prophets: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which you will not believe, if any man shall tell it you (Acts 13:40-41).
As we saw in last weeks reading from Acts this prophetic warning was fulfilled: And the Jews, seeing the multitudes, were filled with envy and contradicted those things which were said by Paul, blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas said boldly: To you it behoved us first to speak the word of God: but because you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord hath commanded us: I have set thee to be the light of the Gentiles: that thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth. And the Gentiles hearing it were glad and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to life everlasting believed (Acts 13:45-48).
This statement was programmatic and it recalls the very first preaching Jesus ever did in Luke’s Gospel, which took place in his own hometown among those who knew him best (Luke 4:16-30). No prophet, he said, is accepted by his own. And he went on to speak of Elijah being sent to the pagan widow in Zarephath; and of Elisha cleansing the Pagan leper Naaman, even though there were many widows and lepers among their own people of Israel. This led to his attempted murder.
The rejection of Jesus, his message, and his messengers by their fellow countrymen/co-religionists, and its implications for the spread of the Gospel to Gentiles, is a major theological/prophetic motif in Luke, but it is impossible to deal with it here. For those seeking information on this issue Luke Timothy Johnson, in his commentary on The Acts Of The Apostles, part of the Sacra Pagina Series, is highly recommended.
Act 14:27 (14:26) And when they were come and had assembled the church, they related what great things God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
The rejection of the Gospel by St Paul’s fellow Jews expedited the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The phrase opened the door of faith recalls a number of passages from Paul’s letters (see 1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12; Col 4:3), where it refers to the opportunity to preach the Gospel.
Act 14:28 (14:27) And they abode no small time with the disciples.
Notes to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church #20~
(6) S. Clem. Rom., ad Cor. 44, 2; ed. Funk, I, p. 154 s.
(7) Cfr. Tertull., Praescr. Haer. 32; PL 2, 52 s.; S. Ignatius M., passim.
(8) Cfr. Tertull., Praescr. Haer. 32; PL 2, 53.
(9) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 3, 1; PG 7, 848 A; Harvey 2, 8; Sagnard, p. 100 s.: manifestatam.
(10) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 2, 2; PG 7, 847; Harvey 2, 7; Sagnard, p. 100: . custoditur ,., cfr. ib. IV, 26, 2; col. 1O53, Harvey 2, 236, necnon IV, 33, 8; col. 1077; Harvey 2, 262.