The Battle for Iconium

The Battle For Iconium

Pastor Don Carpenter

The Gospel On Tour / Acts 14:1–7

 In his book Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes: There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson. So I just went back to paying the bully. Too many people feel it is easier just to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him.

Unfortunately, this is also true when it come to spiritual warfare – we would rather give in to the devil than to fight him.

From a sermon by Mark Schaeufele, A Warrior Messiah, 10/28/2009

As we continue our series “The Gospel on Tour” we see once again that the life of a missionary involves a great deal of spiritual warfare. Paul and Barnabas did not simply preach and go soul winning. They were involved in a move/ countermove strategic battle with the Forces of Darkness.  Later The Apostle Paul states:

2 Corinthians 2:11 KJV

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Tonight let us learn from these first missionaries that sometimes we need to level up rather than giving up when doing the work of the ministry. Let us learn from their tenacity in their Battle for Iconium.

ICONIUM (???????, Ikonion). One of the four major cities the Apostle Paul visited during his first missionary journey. A prominent Christian city in Asia Minor for several centuries. The city dates to the third millennium bc, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world. The ancient city of Iconium, known today as Konya, was located in central Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) about 90 miles southeast of Pisidian Antioch. Elder notes that there are no archaeological remains of the ancient site: “Little if anything of the city Paul saw has remained. The old city was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt” (Elder, Archeology and the Bible, 155).

Missions Level 1: Meet Where The Crowd Is

Acts 14:1 KJV

And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.

Although Iconium was a wealthy and prosperous town, it was hardly the size of a city like Ephesus or Smyrna. Whereas urban culture in the empire tended to be uniformly Greco-Roman, rural society preserved local language and customs, and a town like Iconium would have its share of both. Traveling teachers would undoubtedly have drawn more attention in a town like Iconium than in larger cities. Because the native language of Iconium was Phrygian, Paul and Barnabas may address mainly the Greek-speaking upper social strata, or they may speak through interpreters (cf. 14:11, 14); but it is more likely that most of the crowd understands Greek, even if it is not their first language.1

1 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ac 14:1–4.

 • Speak in such a way as to draw a mixed crowd

 • Speak with a clear message so that a mixed crowd gets saved

Counter Attack Level 1: Spread Poison

Acts 14:2 KJV

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.

 • Unbelieving Jews stir up the Gentiles. Perhaps it is the staunch unbelievers stirring up the uncommitted or as yet to be convinced.

 • It is not just against the message but against all the brethren.. all the new believers.

But if some Jews and Gentiles were united in faith, others were united in opposition. For the Jews who refused to believe (literally ‘disobeyed’, since faith and obedience go together, as do unbelief and disobedience), stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers (2) by and unscrupulous slander campaign.1

1 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 228–229.

Missions Level 2: Dig In For the Long Haul

Acts 14:3 KJV

Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

 • They committed a long time

Long time therefore. It seems probable that there were here no forcible or public measures to expel them, as there had been at Antioch (ch. 13:50), and they therefore regarded it as their duty to remain. God granted them here also great success, which was the main reason for their continuing a long time. Persecution and opposition may be attended often with signal success to the gospel.1

1 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Acts, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 216.

 • They Spoke Boldly – Powered By The Lord

Acts 4:31 KJV

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Ephesians 6:18–19 KJV

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

 • They Demonstrated the Power of God in Miracles

God also enabled the men to perform signs and wonders as their “credentials” that they were indeed the servants of the true God (see Acts 15:12; Gal. 3:5; Heb. 2:4). Faith is not based on miracles (Luke 16:27–31; John 2:23–25), but faith can be bolstered by miracles. The important thing is “the word of His grace” that performs the work of His grace (Acts 14:26).1

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 459.

Counter Attack Level 2: Division Between Light and Darkness

Acts 14:4–5 KJV

But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 

And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,

 • The unbelieving factions Jew and Gentile unite. Folks still refused to believe in spite of being eye witnesses to supernatural miracles.

 • Plan violence

Among the deities that the Gentiles of Iconium worshiped, the most prominent was Cybele, the Phrygian mother goddess; Phrygian mystery cults were also common. But inscriptions testify that the Christian faith spread and Iconium later became a major center of Christianity in Asia Minor.1

1 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ac 14:1–4.

Missions Level 3 Flee Now Fight Again Later

Acts 14:6–7 KJV

They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: 

And there they preached the gospel.

Iconium was in Phrygia near the border of Lycaonia, which contained Lystra and Derbe. Some people considered flight undignified, but Jewish teachers preferred it to death, unless flight required denying the law of God.1

1 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ac 14:6–7.

The result? The city was divided and the Christians were threatened with public disgrace and stoning. Obedient to their Lord’s counsel in Matthew 10:23, they fled from that area into a different Roman district and continued to minister the Word of God.1

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 459.

 • Preach the gospel where they land

14:6 Lycaonian cities—Lystra and Derbe These cities were, respectively, 18 miles south and 55 miles southwest of Iconium (Acts 14:1).1

1 John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ac 14:6.

In warfare, there is always an objective. In many wars, the objective is land. For example, in the Middle East, Israel and the Palestinians are fighting because they both want to have the same land. In Afghanistan we’re fighting because we want to destroy the power base of terrorism. Hitler fought because he wanted to create a “superior” race. The Southern states fought the Civil War because they wanted to be free from the oppression of the Northern States. The Gulf War was fought because the U.S. wanted to end the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, so they could have access to oil. I mention all of these wars, not because I want to say who was right or wrong, but to show that in every war, there is an objective. There is a reason we are fighting the war. And the same is true with spiritual warfare. If we are going to wage war on Satan’s kingdom, we have to know what our objective is. Our objective, our mission is to rescue people from Satan’s grip. To free them from his control. So let us learn to replicate the strategies we saw tonight in the Battle for Iconium.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 7:29 PM July 29, 2021.

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