Apostle Paul Preaches in Iconium

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We continue Paul's first missionary journey with him and Barnabas (Mark left the group at Perga) leaving Pisidian Antioch and arriving in Iconium (modern name: Konya). After Paul and company arrive in the city the same kind of events took place here as in Antioch, and almost in the same order.

The two apostles went first to the synagogue in Iconium, and the effect of their discourses was such that great numbers both of the Jews and Greeks (i.e. Proselytes or Heathens, or both) believed the Gospel (Acts 14:1). The unbelieving Jews, however, raised up an indirect persecution against Paul and Barnabas by exciting the minds of the Gentile population against those who received the Christian doctrine (verse 2).

Paul and Barnabas, however, persevered in their preaching. They remained in Iconium some considerable time, having their confidence strengthened by the miracles which God worked through them in confirmation of the truth they taught (Acts 14:3).

There is an apocryphal narrative of certain events assigned to this residence at Iconium. We may innocently adopt so much of the legendary story, as to imagine Apostle Paul preaching long and late to crowded congregations, as he did afterwards at Assos (Acts 20:7 - 11). This would be followed by his enemies bringing him before the civil authorities, with the cry that he was disturbing their households by his sorcery, or with complaints like those at Philippi and Ephesus, that Paul was "exceedingly troubling their city," and "turning away much people" (Acts 16:20, 19:26).

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
Jacob Symonsz Pynas, 1627 - 29

We learn from an inspired source (Acts 14:4) that the whole population of Iconium was ultimately divided into two great factions (a common occurrence, on far less important occasions, in these cities of Oriental Greeks), and that one party took the side of the Apostles, the other that of the Jews. But here, as at Antioch, the influential classes were on the side of the Jews.

A determined attempt in Iconium was at last made to crush both Barnabas and Paul, by loading them with insult and planning to ultimately stone them to death (Acts 14:5)! Learning this wicked conspiracy, in which the magistrates themselves were involved, the pair fled to some of the neighboring districts of Lycaonia, where they might be more secure, and have more liberty in preaching the Gospel.

And when an assault was about to be made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers to insult and stone them, they became aware of it; so they fled to Lyconia, into the cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding region (Acts 14:5 - 6, HBFV).

It would be a very natural course for Paul and Barnabas, after the cruel treatment they had experienced in the great towns on a frequented route, to retire into a wilder region and among a ruder population than in Iconium. In any country, the political circumstances of which resemble those of Asia Minor under the early emperors, there must be many districts, into which the civilization of the conquering and governing people has hardly penetrated.

Thus, in the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire there must have been many towns and villages where local customs were untouched, and where Greek, though certainly understood, was not commonly spoken. Such, perhaps, were the places, other than Iconium, which now come before our notice in the Acts of the Apostles, small towns, with a rude dialect and primitive superstition (Acts 14:11 - 12) "Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia" (Acts 14:6). In it to such locations that Paul takes us next.

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