1. Again they start in the synagogue. This stop in Iconium is typical of many of their stops. They preach in the synagogue and many of the Gentiles there convert but enough Jews remain steadfast that they oppose Paul's presence. Eventually the opposition becomes great enough that they have to move on to other areas. Miracles did occur at the hands of Barnabas and Paul in order to confirm to the people their teaching. Eventually they leave Iconium and flee southwest to Lystra and Derbe.
8ff. In Lystra, Paul heals a lame man that had been lame from birth. As a result of the healing, the people proclaim Paul and Barnabas to be gods.
Apparently, the people in Lystra had a legend that Zeus and Hermes had visited their land disguised as mortals, and no one gave them any hospitality except for one older couple. In their anger at the people, Zeus and Hermes wiped out the whole population, except for the old couple. No wonder the people of Lystra were so quick to honor Paul and Barnabas! One student in our class, suggested that the pagan priests could have co-opted this legend to protect their own interest rather than the people embracing the faith of Paul and Barnabas.
Paul obviously opposes this pagan identification and preaches to the people the Gospel. Jews from Antioch and Iconium come to Lystra and stir up the people to oppose him. The opposition becomes so great that the people stone Paul and drag him from the city. The Christian disciples gather Paul from and he recovers then leaves for Derbe.
23. This is a summary of what they had done in each city that they traveled through . They did not leave the believers to flounder but had ordained elders in each place. The word elder in Greek is presbuteros where we get the English word presbyter which linguistically became prester and then the shortened form priest.
Luke summarizes the message of Paul and Barnabas to the existing disciples. The message given was to encourage and strengthen them, but may seem contrary to our comfort loving ears. The message was "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Our culture is used to a soft Christianity that promises blessings and comforts. When these blessings are not present, one begins to question the quality of faith. God must be angry and need appeased and once again the blessings will fall. This is paganism. Christianity is the way of the cross, and to deny the cross is to deny the way of salvation.