“…they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Acts 14:19b
The Apostle Paul having just healed a lame man, so captivated the people of Lystra they extolled him and Barnabas as incarnate gods (Acts 14:8-11). But envious, wicked Jews came from Iconium and Antioch and persuaded the multitude to turn violently against Paul. Poisoned by Satanic lies of the Jews, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead (Acts 14:19). Scripture records moments later when his disciples gathered around him, he arose and entered the city. Amazingly, the very next day he and Barnabas traveled approximately fifty miles to the city of Derbe and once arriving there, preached the gospel (Acts 14:20). The Lord must have performed a supernatural healing of Paul, for he was most likely a bloody pulp and in a moribund state, if not dead. What is even more amazing than Paul’s miraculous survival, was that from Derbe he returned to Lystra–the very city where his murderers resided (Acts 14:21). So why did Paul return to such a hostile and pernicious venue? Most believers, if not all, would have fled fast and far from such an inflammatory environment; but not Paul, he did not faint from valiantly risking his life. Selflessly, he hoped to encourage the brethren, who may have witnessed firsthand or heard of the pandemonium which culminated with his stoning. Paul exhorted them to abide in faith, declaring: “…Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b).
Paul’s fearlessness was not foreign to him, it was the power of the Holy Spirit engrained within him (Jn. 14:17, 2 Tim. 1:7). For example, when he had called the Ephesian elders together, to instruct them with a parting exhortation, he said: “And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:22-24). When Paul was departing Caesarea, he was warned by brethren there of the imminent danger awaiting him at Jerusalem: “…a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” And when we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” (Acts 21:13).
We can glean from these passages, that Paul’s brave return to Lystra was consistent of his character and demonstrated his unwavering faith in God to care for his soul. Paul was a paradigm of both courage and encouragement to the brethren, because they truly had witnessed fearless faith in action. Furthermore, Paul’s return demonstrated a man willing to take up his cross daily to follow Christ (Luke 9:23). Additionally, and as previously mentioned, he returned to Lystra for the sake of his brethren, who perhaps became disheartened after witnessing his violent rejection.
Paul said: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1). By emulating the Christ-like life of the Apostle Paul, a believer’s act of faith can serve as encouragement for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Some may not necessarily have to risk their lives as Paul had done, however bold decisions despite hardships, can motivate fellow believers to set their mind on the glorious things above: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Even with discouragement, difficulties, or unrelenting persecution from Satan and his emissaries, Christians may be encouraged by the words of Jesus Christ who earnestly declared: “…I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” (Matt. 16:18b). Amen!