3. The Gospel moves out from Antioch, 13:1-15:41

iv] The mission to Lystra and Derbe


Leaving Iconium, Paul and Barnabas move to Lystra. While at Lystra, Paul heals a crippled man. Those who witness the miracle stir up an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. A problem develops when the crowd concludes that Paul and Barnabas are gods come down to earth. The missioners are only just able to restrain the local pagan priests from preparing a sacrifice for them. Things turn sour when some troublemakers from the Iconium synagogue arrive in Lystra and turn the local population against Paul and Barnabas. The missioners are set upon and only just escape to Derbe.


The word of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation; signs can only confuse.


i] Context: See 13:1-12.


ii] Background:

iSigns and Wonders in Acts, 4:23-31.

iThe theological structure of the gospel; 3:11-26


iii] Structure: The mission to Lystra and Derbe:

A lame man is healed, v8-10;

An enthusiastic response gets out of hand, v11-13;

The apostles try to explain the miracle, v14-18;

Opposition forces a retreat, v19-20.


iv] Interpretation:

The town of Lystra was turned into a fortified Roman colony in 6BC and was used to house retired Roman soldiers; they served as administrators over the local Lycaonians (Anatolians who spoke their own language). The town was joined to Iconium by a Roman road known as the Via Sebaste, and it was along this road that Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Lystra.

It is very likely that the missioners followed their usual strategy of presenting the gospel to the members of the local Jewish synagogue before taking it to the wider Gentile population. Luke has already established this pattern for us, and so he doesn't need to constantly repeat it. What he focuses on in Lystra is the story of the healing of a lame man, a healing reminiscent of Peter's healing of a lame man at the temple, a healing which is also misunderstood.

The healing aligns the apostleship of Paul and Barnabas with that of Peter (ch. 3), obviously a significant point as far as Luke is concerned - the man is lame, he evidences faith, his healing is complete ("leapt up and began to walk"). Yet, Luke's focus is not on the healing and its alignment with Peter's similar healing, rather, his focus is on how people perceive the miracle and what the apostles have to say about that.

Clearly, there is confusion all-round. The crowd is using their own Lycaonian dialect, so Paul and Barnabas have no idea what they are talking about, while the crowd itself has no idea about the significance of the healing, other than in the terms of their own pagan ideology. It does seem likely that Luke is making a point here - signs have no revelatory significance for pagans; they only confuse. The confusion may relate to the poem Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid, of how Zeus and Hermes assume human form. At any rate, they are confused, and that confusion extends to the priests of Zeus, from temple outside the city, who prepare to sacrifice some bulls.


In this passage, Luke provides a short summary of a gospel presentation for pagans, likely uneducated pagans - Paul and Barnabas are men euaggelizomenoi, "communicating important / good news" (the use of this word indicates that the gospel is in mind, rather than an argument explaining why the crowd should not sacrifice to the missioners). The first thing to note about the address is that it contains no scriptural quotes - a point worth noting, given our own inclination to judge the worth of a gospel presentation by the weight of its Biblical references (particularly those related to Jesus' sacrificial shedding of his blood for the expiation of sins!). And of more important note, there is no mention of Jesus himself, or his work. Marshall argues that this is an example of a gospel presentation for the pagan world prior to the incarnation of Christ, but his argument is rather speculative.

Paul is indeed announcing God's important news, the gospel, a message concerning the coming kingdom of God, of salvation, namely: "the possibility of escaping from the futility of idolatry and coming to know the living God", Peterson D. The presence of this God is evident from without (his providential care offered to humanity, "rains from heaven and fruitful season"), and is evident from within ("the joy of our hearts"). This God may have ignored the wilful neglect of his person in the past, but now is the time to turn from dumb idols, mataiwn, "worthless things", "nothingnesses", and serve the living God.

The time is fulfilled;

The kingdom of God is at hand;

Repent and believe.

It quite obvious that Paul would go on to explain to seekers how it is possible to know and serve the living God through faith in Jesus - Luke doesn't need to spell out everything for us!

As for his introduction to the gospel, Paul notes the commonality of humanity; Paul and Barnabas are, in like manner to these pagans, mere humans, humans with an important message to relay - "We are mortals just like you." Today we would emphasise our shared human frailty - "We are flawed just like you, but flawed as we are, we do have some good news to tell you." It is often difficult to get past the notion, widely held by unbelievers, that churchies see themselves as holier-than-thou.


v] Homiletics: Eternity

[Sydney Harbour bridge with Eternity displayed] Everything we see about us, and everything we feel, tells us that there is a personal, all-powerful, all-loving creator God. But at the same time, everything we see and everything we fell tells us that there is something terribly wrong with ourselves and our world. God has put up with this lunacy in the past, but now he calls on everyone to turn from the pursuit of nothingness to the pursuit of eternity.

Text - 14:8

The mission to Lystra and Derbe: i] A lame man is healed, v8-10. Luke does seem to align this miracle, performed by Paul, with that of Peter, Acts 3:1-10, and even Jesus, Luke 5:17-26 - the man is lame from birth, unable to walk, sitting "at the gates", and is up and away on being healed. So, what we have is an authentication of Paul's apostleship.

en + dat. "in [Lystra]" - [and a certain man] in [lystra was sitting]. Local, expressing space; "located in Lystra."

toiV posin (iV ewV) dat. "-" - [powerless, unable] in the feet. Culy suggests that the dative is adverbial, reference / respect "without strength with respect to his feet." This is the first of three modifiers, specifying the degree of the man's disability - without strength in his legs, lame from birth, and never walked.

ek + gen. "from birth" - [lame] from [womb of mother of him, who never walked]. Temporal use of the preposition; "lame from birth."


In the synoptic gospels, there is a strong link between the words pisteuw, "to believe, have faith", and swzw, "to save", and as is so often the case, "saved" easily moves between the eternal / heavenly realm and the earthly realm, as if the earthly signifies the heavenly. In Acts, Luke retains this pattern, such that the lame man has faith swqhnai, "to be saved" (forgiven, possessed of eternal life, enabled to enter the kingdom of heaven), or in the immediate context, "to be healed", "made well", "cured", ..... As Bruce notes, quoting Ramsay, "there lies latent in it (the verb swqhnai, "to be healed / saved") some undefined and hardly conscious thought of the spiritual and the moral, which made it suit Paul's purpose admirably." We should add that it is unwise to use such texts to support a healing ministry, as if God has promised physical healing for those who have faith. Such a proposition is more likely to undermine a person's faith than to heal them.

tou Paulou (oV) gen. "Paul" - [this one heard] paul. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear."

lalountoV (lalew) gen. pres. part. "speaking" - speaking. Genitive complement of the direct object "Paul", standing in a double genitive construction and asserting a fact about the object "Paul".

atenisaV (atenizw) aor. part. "looked directly at" - [who] having looked intently at [him, and having seen]. As with "having seen", attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say." The a prefix verb "to look intently at" takes a dative of direct object, here autw/, "him".

oJti "that" - that [he has faith]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what he has seen.

tou swqhnai (swzw) aor. pas. inf. "to be healed" - to be healed [he said]. The genitive articular infinitive may be either epexegetic, or final (even possibly consecutive). Culy opts for epexegetic, but Kellum opts for purpose, purpose and result, Rogers Gk.; "faith necessary for the purpose of saving", Bock.


It is interesting to note that the Western text includes a number of additions that align with Acts 3:1-6.

fwnh/ (h) dat. "-" - [he said] in a [loud] voice. The dative is adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", or modal, expressing the manner in which Paul spoke to the cripple man.

orqoV adj. "-" - [stand up] straight, upright, erect [upon the feet of you, and he jumped up and was walking around]. The adjective is used as an adverb modifying the imperative "stand up"; "stand erect on your feet", Barclay.


ii] An enthusiastic response gets out of hand, v11-13. Luke seems to be making the point that Paul and Barnabas are slow to pick up on what is happening due to their inability to understand what the Lycaonians are saying. The idea of god's visiting the world is commonplace in Greco-Roman thought, and it was not unusual to view people of note as gods in human form.

te "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

idonteV (oJraw) aor. part. "when [the crowd] saw" - [the crowds] having seen [what paul did]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" [lifted up the voice of them in lyconian] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to raise up", redundant, serving to introduce direct speech.

oJoiwqenteV (oJmoiow) aor. pas. part. "[came down to us] in [human] form" - [the gods came down toward us] having been formed in the likeness of [men]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the coming down of the gods, as NIV. The verb oJmoiow takes a dative of direct object, here anqrwpoiV, "men".


Paul gets the name of Hermes the messenger (very appropriate) and Barnabas the name of the high God of the Olympian Pantheon, Zeus (he must have had a managerial air about him).

epeidh "because" - [but/and they were calling barnabas zeus and paul hermes] because. Causal conjunction introducing a causal clause.

oJ hJgoumenoV (hJgeomai) aor. part. "chief" - [he was] the one leading. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative object of the verb to-be, "he was."

tou logou (oV) gen. "speaker" - of the speech. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "the one leading", usually treated as attributed, "the chief spokesmen", Moffatt, as NIV, but sometimes verbal, objective, "because he led the conversation", Berkeley.


The garlands ("wreaths") were intended for the bulls as part of their decoration for sacrifice. As to where they were to be sacrificed, it is unclear whether it was to take place at the gates of the temple outside the city, or the the gates of the city itself.

tou o[ntoV (eimi) gen. pres. part. "whose temple" - [but/and, the priest of the idol / temple of zeus] who (which) was [before the city]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "of the idol of Zeus".

enegkaV (ferw) aor. part. "brought [bulls and wreaths]" - having brought [floral garlands upon = up to the gates]. Attendance circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to wish [to offer]"; "The priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance of the town, brought bulls and garlands to the gates, and with the crowds wished to offer sacrifices", TNT.

sun + dat. "and [the crowd]" - with [the crowds]. Expressing association / accompaniment.

quein (quw) pres. inf. "[wanted] to offer sacrifices" - [was wishing] to sacrifice. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to wish, will, want."


iii] The apostles try to explain the miracle, v14-18. Bruce Gk., suggests that the reason Paul and Barnabas tear their cloths is due to their "horror of blasphemy." Note that Luke gives the title of apostle to both Paul and Barnabas, and that for some reason, he reverts again and gives Barnabas the lead. Did the crowd assume that Barnabas was the leader?

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when [the apostles]" - [but/and the apostles] having heard. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

BarnabaV kai PauloV "Barnabas and Paul" - barnabas and paul. Nominative, standing in apposition to "apostles",

diarrhxanteV (diarhgnumi) aor. part. "they tore" - having torn [the garments of them, rushed out into the crowd]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to rush out."

krazonteV (krazw) pres. part. "shouting" - calling out. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their rushing out into the crowd. "When Barnabas and Paul finally realized what was going on, they stopped them. Waving their arms, they interrupted the parade, calling out", Peterson.


At this point, Luke uses the verb euaggelizw, "to communicate important news", indicating that what follows is the gospel (the eu prefix, when used as an adverb, means "good", although in usage it gives the sense "important" to the verb aggelw, "to announce"). It's good news that the creator God has eiasen, "passed over", the human inclination to create representations of the creator of everything (including the idols!), but now he calls on everyone to "turn around from" (epistrefein) such vanity. It's bad news if we ignore that call. Note the two-sided nature of repentance (conversion): a turning from, and a turning to.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - [and] saying. Standing with the participle krazonteV, "crying out", v14, we could classify the participle as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Paul's rush into the crowd, but technically it is attendant circumstance, redundant, serving to introduce direct speech, and so left untranslated.

tiv "why" - [men,] why [do you do these things]? Interrogative pronoun serving to introduce a rhetorical question.

uJmin dat. pro. "[like] you" - [and = also we are men like = of the same nature as] you. Dative complement of the adjective, ", like, similar, of the same nature as"

euaggelizomenoi (euaggelizomai) pres. part. "we are bringing you good news" - communicating important news to [you]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men"; "we are men who communicate important news"; "We are here to bring you an important message."

epistrefein (epistrefw) pres. inf. "telling you to turn" - to turn. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the message; "that you turn."

apo + gen. "from" - from [these empty, vain things]. Expressing separation, "away from."

zwnta (zaw) pres. part. "the living [God]" - [and that you turn upon = to god] living [who made the heaven and the earth and the sea]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "God."

ta "[everything in them]" - [and all] the [in them]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in them" into a substantive modified by the adjective panta, "all."


en + dat. "in" - [who] in. Temporal use of the preposition, introducing a temporal clause.

taiV parwchmenaiV (paroicomai) dat. perf. part. "the past" - [the generations] the one having gone by. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "generations", "the generation which had passed by"; "In bygone ages", Moffatt.

poreuesqai (poreuomai) pres. inf. "go their own way" - [he passed over, let go, allowed all the nations] to go. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to allow"; "God let the different nations go their own way", Peterson. The accusative subject of the infinitive is "all the nations."

taiV oJdoiV (oV) "[their own] ways" - the ways [of them]. The dative is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "in their own ways", ESV.


As against idolatry, where the martureon, "witness, evidence", of God's presence is in the idol itself, in monotheism, God's presence is witnessed in creation, both outward and inward.

kaitoi "yet" - although. Concessive conjunction, introducing a concessive clause; "though not leaving Himself without evidence as Benefactor", Berkeley.

amarturon adj. "[himself] without testimony" - [he left him = himself not] without witness. Accusative complement of the direct object "him", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object "him". The double negative forms a litotes, so emphasising the positive; "he showed himself to be there by the good things he did", CEV.

agaqourgwn (agaqoergew) pres. part. "by" - doing good. The participle is adverbial, probably instrumental, expressing means, "by doing good", although note RSV, "because he was doing good", ie., causal.

didouV (didwmi) pres. part. "giving" - giving [rains from heaven and fruitful seasons]. The participle is adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the "doing good" by God"; "by doing good, namely, by abundant rain and bumper crops."

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "for you."

trofhV (h) gen. "fills" - filling. The participle is possibly also epexegetic, as for "giving", so Culy, although Kellum suggests that it is adverbial, consecutive, expressing result; "with the result that you are satisfied with food and gladness."

trofhV (h) gen. "with plenty of food" - of food [and of joy the hearts of you]. As with "of joy", the genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / content, "filled full of."


On pacifying the crowd, the Western text has the people returning to their homes.

kai "even" - and. Ascensive, "even", as NIV

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "[with these] words" - [these things] saying. The participle is adverbial, usually treated as instrumental, expressing means, "by means of / with", as NIV, but sometimes concessive, "even though they said this", Barclay.

mokiV adv. "difficulty" - scarcely, hardly, barely, with difficulty [they stopped the crowds]. Adverb of manner modifying the verb "to put to rest, stop = dissuade, restrain, hinder."

tou mh quein (quw) pres. inf. "from sacrificing" - the not to sacrifice. The genitive articular infinitive can be epexegetic, but here it expresses result, particularly with the sense of "hindered from sacrificing to them", ie., after verbs of hindering, this infinitival construction takes the sense "from", so Zerwick. Presumably "the crowds" serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive, with the whole infinitival construction serving as the object of the verb "to stop, hinder."

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - to them. Dative of indirect object.


iv] Opposition forces a retreat, v19-20. We know that within the Jerusalem church a party developed who contended with Paul over the issue of God's free grace. They saw obedience to the law as an essential element in sanctification, and felt that Paul's gospel devalued the place of the law in the Christian life. Known as the circumcision party, judaizers, these believers followed up on Paul's mission churches to provide what they thought was that essential extra for progress in the Christian life. The "Jews who come from Antioch and Iconium" are obviously not members of the circumcision party; they are not believers. They are a lynch-mob who regard Paul as a heretic and seek to deal with him accordingly, namely, by stoning. Along with all the vagaries of life, Paul will have to contend with violent opposition from his own countrymen, cf., 2Cor.11:23-29 ("by Jews ..... stoned once", v25).

de "then" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

apo + gen. "from" - [jews came] from [antioch and iconium]. Expressing source / origin.

peisanteV (peiqw) aor. part. "won [the crowd] over" - [and] having persuaded [the crowds and having stoned paul]. As with "having stoned", the participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "and after winning over the crowd and pelting him with stones." The crowd would, by now, be disillusioned with the missioners - just ordinary men hawking a foreign religion.

esuron (surw) imperf. "dragged" - they were dragging him [outside the city]. The use of the imperfect here is unexpected. Culy notes that sometimes an imperfect is used after an aorist participle to convey the onset of the action expressed in the participle. So, possibly with the sense that he was dragged off and stoned. Barrett suggests that "it will point to an attempt to get rid of the (supposed) corpse terminated by the punctiliar action of the disciples (kuklwsantwn, "having surrounded"), and of Paul (anastaV, "having arisen")." The dumping of dead bodies on a rubbish tip outside a city wall was standard practice.

numizonteV (numizw) pres. part. "thinking" - thinking, supposing [him]. The participle is adverbial, causal, "because they thought that he was dead."

teqnhkenai (qanhskw) perf. inf. "he was dead" - to have died. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of perception expressing what they thought, namely, that Paul was dead.


Luke's condensed account is expanded by the Western text with the crowd withdrawing, darkness hiding the escape, and Paul only surviving with difficulty. For Luke, the progress of the gospel through trial and suffering is the point he wants to make. As Barrett argues (esuron above), it is likely that the disciples intervene kuklow, "to surround", Paul, ie., defensively encircle him - presumably "the disciples" are those converted in Lystra, and/or members of the mission team.

kuklwsantwn (kuklow) gen. aor. part. "after [the disciples] had gathered around [him]" - [but/and the disciples] having surrounded, encircled [him]. The genitive participle at its genitive subject "the disciples" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "he got up" - having arisen [he entered into the city]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to enter into"; "he arose and entered the city", ESV.

th/ dat. "the [next day]" - [and] in the [tomorrow he went out with barnabas into derbe]. The dative article serves as a nominalizer, turning the adverb "tomorrow" into a substantive, "the next day", the dative being adverbial, temporal, "on the next day."


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]