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 14:20]
i’m not sure i’ve ever read a more understated sentence than this. paul is stoned and left for dead, and acts nonchalantly says he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with barnabas to derbe. i see a few things here based on how this was written.
this is still all about God’s glory, not man’s.
if God wanted to hype up paul and this incredible work God’s doing through him, he could have easily had luke do that here. instead, in the midst of a long list of miracles in the book of acts, we are left with the feeling that this sort of stuff was becoming the new normal. there is no way this felt normal—but paul and barnabas and luke’s gaze is on God, not on man.
Holy Spirit power characterizes the early church’s ministry
in 1 corinthians, paul says and i, when i came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. for i decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. and i was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (2:1-5) paul is not in corinth at the moment, but this is an incredible picture of what coming with power and not lofty words of wisdom looks like. God’s miracles speak for themselves, and paul desired that their faith would rest in the power of the risen God, not crafty arguments.
endurance in the face of persecution characterized paul’s ministry
scripture doesn’t say God healed paul, and so we are left to assume he left the very next day, concussed, bones broken, and bloodied, to work in the next town. luke also doesn’t hype this up; he just states it as a fact. when our gaze is focused on our God, these momentary afflictions are kept in focus. if doesn’t make them not hurt, but it does keep them in perspective. to the church in philippi paul wrote: not that i have already obtained this or am already perfect, but i press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. brothers, i do not consider that i have made it my own. but one thing i do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, i press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (3:12-14) because Christ made paul his own, he presses on. paul’s gaze is on his salvation, and remembering who God is and what he has done gives him endurance through the Spirit—endurance to move on to the next town the day after being stoned and left for dead.
how would we approach persecution differently if God’s glory and our salvation were our daily focus? Lord, make it so!
~ stephen hall