19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.
27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
Antioch (v.19) is over 100 miles from Lystra, but the hatred of the Jews was so great that they traveled that distance to oppose Paul.
The people of Lystra turned quickly from worshiping Paul (v.11) to allowing the Jews to stone him (v.19). (Stoning was a Jewish form of punishment.)
The Jews accomplished in Lystra what they had failed to do in Iconium — stone Paul (Acts 14:2, 5). Paul’s persecutions were almost always carried out by Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16).
rose up (v.20) — This was probably a miracle. The next day, he went on a journey of 30 miles.
Derbe (v.20) — See Acts 14:6.
many disciples (v.21) — probably including Gaius (Acts 20:4)
Derbe was about 30 miles, over the mountains, from Paul’s home town of Tarsus, from where it would have been a short journey back to Antioch. Instead, he retraced his route back through the cities where he had been persecuted (v.21).
strengthening (v.22) — always used of strengthening the faith of new believers with counsel and encouragement
tribulations (v.22) — afflictions from without — with a sense of crushing weight (2 Timothy 3:12; Romans 8:17)
Paul’s use of this term [kingdom, v.22] is no indication that he offered the kingdom, i.e., its earthly establishment, until the close of Acts, for even after that he speaks of entering, or failing to enter the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5). The kingdom is now in heaven, vested in the exiled Christ. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 239.
appointed (v.23) = to elect by stretching out the hand — voting
elders (v.23) — responsible for the care of the congregation and conduct of public worship
passed through (v.24) = itinerated through — a journey with stops for preaching
through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia (v.24) — See Acts 13:14.
Perga (v.25) — See Acts 13:13.
Attalia (v.25) — This town was founded near the mouth of the river Catarrhactes, by Attalus II Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, in the middle of the second century B.C., and called after him. It had a good harbor. The apostles had formerly sailed up the river Cestrus direct to Perga; now they go by land, about 16 miles, from Perga to the seaport Attalia, to find a ship there bound for Syria. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 319.
all that God had done (v.27) — They gave all credit for their successes to God.
opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (v.28) — without circumcision or adherence to the law — the issue that would cause problems in the next chapter
long time (v.28) — at least several months, perhaps as long as six years
There has been a good deal of debate among commentators as to whether or not Paul was actually killed on this occasion, and then miraculously raised from the dead.
Those who believe that Paul was actually stoned to death and then raised again advance the following arguments among others:
- The people evidently meant to put Paul to death, since stoning was a form of execution.
- The word rendered “supposing,” in verse 19, comes from the Greek root nomizo, which has to do with the intellect, not the imagination. As used in the New Testament it means to hold or take for granted from custom, or to conclude from evidence, but never to imagine.
- The suddenness with which Paul arose and came into the city seems to indicate a miracle.
- In 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 the apostles relates how he had been caught up to the third heaven in an experience which had taken place approximately “fourteen years ago” — just about the time he had visited Lystra. Concerning this experience, he says: “Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth” (2 Corinthians 12:3).
While we do not contend dogmatically that Paul did not die on this occasion, yet we are not convinced that any or all of the above arguments prove conclusively that he did.
It is doubtless true that Paul’s persecutors meant to put him to death and thought they had accomplished their purpose, but this does not prove that they had accomplished it. Nor does the suddenness with which he arose and walked about necessarily indicate he had been raised from the dead. He may merely have been stunned, rendered unconscious, by the stones hurled at him and then suddenly have regained consciousness again.
Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12, if they refer to this experience, as we are inclined to agree they do, should rather keep us from coming to any definite conclusion in the matter, for he says, by the Spirit, “whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell.” — Stam, pages 233-235.