Acts 14

Acts 14:1 they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews

"Missionary methods of the Church in the New Testament were first established by Jesus. He went to the synagogues and the marketplaces. The first Apostles followed his lead.

"There is a distinct pattern to Paul's missionary approach. He almost always began his activities in each city at the Jewish synagogue. Paul had conversed with the resurrected Lord. He had a perfect knowledge of Christ's reality, and was so well acquainted with the Old Testament that he had no fear or reluctance to engage in discussion and to 'reason' with the Jews on the meaning and purpose of the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets about the Messiah (Christ) to come.

"Not only would Paul's activity at the synagogue give him opportunity to engage the Jews in conversation but it also put him in direct contact with Gentile proselytes, which was a door to the larger work among the Gentiles. The 'proselytes' he would meet at the synagogue would have family and friends (Gentiles) who had not joined the Jews' religion. The proselytes could give him access to them in a type of referral system.

"The first Gentiles to come into the Church of Christ in New Testament times were those who had already converted to the Jews' religion. This gave them a common background and familiarity with the prophets of the Old Testament. In like manner, as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have gone to traditionally non-Christian cultures such as in the Far East and Africa, the first converts have come from those who have been converted first to Catholic or Protestant churches, which has given them a familiarity with the Bible and thus made it easier for them to respond to the fulness of the gospel as restored in the last days through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

"After Paul and his companions had converted and baptized a number of people in an area, they would then ordain elders and organize branches (Acts 14:23)." (Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 316-7.)

Acts 14:3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord

"After receiving threats of violence, Paul and Barnabas took the dusty road east of Pisidian Antioch, and eighty miles brought them to Iconium. In a few verses Acts summarizes the synagogue preaching, conversions, anger, threats, and again leaving under duress. Yet these events took a 'long time' (Acts 14:3), an indication of how many details are left out of Acts." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 49 - 50.)

Acts 14:8 a certain man...impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb who never had walked

There is something completely indisputable about healing an individual who has been afflicted since birth. Such an affliction is obviously beyond the powers of the physicians of the time. Such an affliction is known to all the townspeople so that there can be no detractors who could accuse the man of faking his healing for the sake of Paul's reputation. Indeed, this healing, like so many others performed by Christ, Peter, or others, was no magic trick-it was evidence of the power of God. As Christ warned the people, 'But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.' (Lu 11:20)

Acts 14:9 perceiving that he had faith to be healed

Healings are performed by virtue of the priesthood, but they are really a manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. There are four gifts of the Spirit which are operative in this particular miracle. To the crippled man it was 'given to have faith to be healed.' To Paul it was 'given to have faith to heal,' as well as the gift of 'the working of miracles.' The fourth gift was also operative in Paul as he perceived by the Spirit that he had faith to be healed-evidence of 'the discerning of spirits' (DC 46:19-23).

Acts 14:12 they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius

A brief review of Greek and Roman mythology is in order. The Romans adopted much of Greek culture, including their gods. Their mythology and powers remained the same but their names were changed. Jupiter was the Roman god of the sky who ruled the other gods. He is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus. Mercury, or the Greek god, Hermes, was the god of commerce and acted as the messenger of the gods. Barnabas was probably larger in stature than Paul (Joseph Smith taught that Paul was only five feet tall) and was therefore was assumed to be Jupiter. Paul, it seems, did most of the talking-making him "the messenger of the gods."

From a latter-day perspective, the idea that these apostles were Greek gods is absurd. But the influence of Greek culture, Hellenism, on the people of Asia Minor cannot be overemphasized. While the theocracy of Hellenism as adopted by the Roman world seems to us like a polytheistic caricature, much of the rest of Greek culture has withstood the test of time. Of the powerful influence of Hellenism, Alfred Edersheim noted:

"Jews of the West are known by the term was, in the nature of things, impossible that the Jewish communities in the West should remain unaffected by Grecian culture and modes of thought...Witness here the many converts to Judaism among the Gentiles; witness also the evident preparedness of the lands of this 'dispersion' for the new doctrine which was to come from Judaea...That restless, searching subtle Greek intellect would penetrate everywhere, and flash its light into the innermost recesses of his home and Synagogue...when the Jew stepped out of the narrow circle which he had drawn around him, he was confronted on every side by Grecianism. It was in the forum, in the market, in the counting-house, in the street; in all that he saw and in all to whom he spoke. It was refined; it was elegant; it was profound; it was supremely attractive." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 12-14)

Acts 14:14 the apostles, Barnabas and Paul

Bruce R. McConkie

"The apostles: Luke, for the first time, so designates Paul and Barnabas...Only Barnabas, Paul, Matthias, James the Lord's brother, and the original Twelve are singled out to carry the apostolic appellation. The clear inference thus is that the name is being reserved for those who were ordained to the office of apostle in the Melchizedek Priesthood and therefore that Paul and Barnabas were members of the Council of the Twelve, having filled vacancies in the normal course of events. President Joseph Fielding Smith has written: 'Paul was an ordained apostle, and without question he took the place of one of the other brethren in that Council.' (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 153.)" (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 130.)

Acts 14:15 We also are men of like passions with you

Unlike Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20-23), Paul and Barnabas were careful not to take the credit for the Lord's work. Such is the duty of the servants of the Lord. Peter would not allow Cornelius to worship him (Acts 10:25-26); Nephi's brethren, ironically, fell at his feet to worship until they were forbidden (1 Ne 17:55). Sometimes, while performing the work of the Lord, ordinary men are mistaken for something they are not. Boyd K. Packer taught:

"It was true then, as it is true now, that the prophets were 'ordinary men.' Paul of Tarsus, the tent-maker, said it was true in his day, and he used words similar to those of James: 'We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God.' (Acts 14:15.)

"Those references, and there are others we could cite, teach a lesson worth fixing in our minds. The prophets and the Apostles-for Apostles are prophets as well-are not uncommon men either in their backgrounds or in their physical appearance. They come from various walks of life. Some may be short of stature, others impressively tall, but in general appearance they are like other men." (The Holy Temple [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 101.)

On the other hand, Joseph Smith often met people who thought he should act more prophet-like. When they saw him behave as an ordinary man, they became offended and fell away.

"The story is told that he (Joseph Wakefield) became critical of the Prophet Joseph because Wakefield observed the Prophet leaving his study, where inspired work was taking place, and immediately playing with children. Wakefield did not see the activity of playing with children as being compatible with the role a true prophet should occupy, and thus became disaffected with the Church." (Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 623.)

Acts 14:20 as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up...and the next day he departed with Barnabas

Paul had just been stoned and dragged out of the city. His attackers had injured him so severely that they supposed he was dead. He was most likely unconscious from an unbelievably brutal beating. Yet, miraculously, he survives only to continue his work the very next day. The rest of us would have taken a month off to recover from our wounds-wallowing in self-pity and righteous indignation, but Paul had time for neither. For him the work of the Lord could not wait.

The story is reminiscent of one of the Lord's other great servants, Joseph Smith, who was tarred and feathered one night and preaching to the saints the very next day. The narrative begins as his beating ends:

"They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar away from my lips, etc., so that I could breathe more freely, and after a while I began to recover and raised myself up, when I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them and found it was Father Johnson's. When I had come to the door I was naked, and the tar made me look as though I was covered with blood; and when my wife saw me, she thought I was all mashed to pieces and fainted...

"My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body, so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among them came also the mobbers, viz., Simonds Rider, a Campbellite preacher and leader of the mob; one McClentic, who had his hands in my hair; one Streeter, son of a Campbellite minister; and Felatiah Allen, Esq., who gave the mob a barrel of whisky to raise their spirits; and many others. With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals." (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother [Salt Lake City: Stevens & Wallis, Inc., 1945], 221.)

Acts 14:21-22 they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch ... exhorting them to continue in the faith

"And the next morning Paul left with Barnabas for Derbe, the farthest point of the first mission. Yet this final city was not the final scene of the mission. If conversion were salvation, following up of converts would not be necessary. The close of the first mission was revisiting, a process that Paul later repeated when he had opportunity. Obviously, he considered growth in the gospel as much a critical part of salvation as first belief. Years later he would write to the Ephesians that general and local priesthood offices were given 'for the perfecting of the saints' (Eph. 4:12), a constant goal for Paul in addition to conversion. Such work could continue only by the general authority raising up local authority. Thus, at the risk of their lives, Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities of opposition and violence, 'confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed' (Acts 14:22-23).

"Thus Paul and Barnabas established branches of the Church of Christ in every city of their converts, returning to Antioch not with some sort of mailing list but after the bold achievement of organized local churches with priesthood leaders." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 49 - 51.)

Acts 14:22 we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God

"There is scarcely a principle that proves itself more true to the Saints of the Most High, and is more often commensurable with their experience, than 'that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.' This was the inheritance promised to the Saints in early times. These are the best promises that are given to us now. 'In the world ye shall have tribulation; and ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake,' (Jn 16:33) says our King. Let us be of good cheer, then, since they met with the same obstacles, and were more than conquerors, through Jesus Christ, who delivered them, why should we fear the same obstacles, as we tread the same path? And since God saw fit to perfect the Prince of our salvation through suffering, and made him a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief-and since all our brethren went through the fiery forge, before they could be purified, we too will be disappointed if we expect a good life and daily abundance, and expect to live on the world's delicacies, soft pillows, the popularity of the age, rather than troubles, trials, persecutions, and much opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil. 'If we be without chastisement, then we are bastards, and not children' (Heb 12:8)." (Dan Jones, Prophet of the Jubilee, trans. and ed. by Ronald D. Dennis [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1997], Nov. 1846.)

Neal A. Maxwell

"The Lord has spoken of temptations 'to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart.' (Deuteronomy 8:2.) If we link that scripture up with one in Jeremiah in which the Lord says, 'I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways' (Jeremiah 11:20, 17:10), we see the ultimate expression of agency and divine justice. If each of us really finally receives that which has been really wanted, none could quarrel with the justice of God. Trials and tribulations tend to squeeze the artificiality out of us, leaving the essence of what we really are and clarifying what we really yearn for. Therefore, the record will be clear.

"Paul said that 'we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.' (Acts 14:22.) 'Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.' (1 Corinthians 3:13.)" (Things As They Really Are [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 89.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"'Tribulation worketh patience,' (Rom. 5:3; 12:12; D. & C. 54:10), and it is only 'through much tribulation' that men may 'enter into the kingdom of God.' (Acts 14:22.) 'He that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings.' (D. & C. 58:2-4; 103:12.) Exalted beings are described in these words: 'These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' (Rev. 7:14.) The saints glory in tribulation. (Rom. 5:3; D. & C. 127:2.)" (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 809.)

Acts 14:23 they had ordained them Elders in every church

"Elders are mentioned also in the New Testament, where they are called, in Greek, presbyteros, which is sometimes translated 'presbyter' in English: 'And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.' (Acts 14:23.) Mosheim wrote of elders: 'Three or four presbyters, men of remarkable piety and wisdom, ruled these small congregations in perfect harmony....' (Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1, Cent. I, p. 76.) Even today, each ward and branch of the Church is generally governed by three holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood." (John A. Tvedtnes, The Church of the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 29.)