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​The Spiritual Battle

Acts 14:1-6

The most likely route taken by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, from Antioch in Pisidia to Iconium would have been an 85 mile walk through the wilderness of Pisidia and Phrygia, part of the southern Roman province of Galatia.

Paul and Barnabas just left an intense situation in Antioch, as unbelieving Judeans rose up to incite other unbelievers to violence against Paul and Barnabas. Why would the religious leaders of Antioch act in such a manner, when Paul and Barnabas are only speaking about what God has accomplished in Christ? The answer is envy and jealousy.

Paul and Barnabas are not stopping anyone from believing whatever they desire to believe. Nor are they preventing anyone from speaking whatever they want to say, even if it is against Paul and Barnabas. So, why are the synagogue leaders inciting violence against Paul and Barnabas? The answer is the Adversary. The origin of jealousy. (See Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14)

There are points and principles that can be seen pertaining to both sides of the situation in southern Galatia. How and why the Adversary moves against those who believe, and what happens with those believers, who choose to stand, can be seen in this first missionary trip. If you were to say the darkness of Paul’s day, under the Roman Empire, are not the same as our modern day, you would be right. Our day is darker than Paul’s day under the Romans. How can I say that? Today the Adversary is unseen.

Read a scientific opinion.

“In October 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that, yes, he most certainly believes in the existence of Satan. But why don’t we see him? Well, “you know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore … It’s because he’s smart … What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

Huh? What? The devil is “smart”—like, he has a degree in chemistry? He knows how to translate Sanskrit into Estonian? And he somehow gets people not to believe him? And the evidence of all of this is …? This man, Scalia, mind you, interprets the Constitution for the nation, declaring what is legal and illegal for millions of citizens.

How can people seriously believe in the devil? The year is 2015, not 1315. And yet, the fact remains that tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that there is a magical, wicked, evil—oh, and smart—being out there doing magical, wicked, evil deeds and presiding over a fiery realm, where demons crawl and witches cackle. Oh, wait. No cackling witches. Just demons, right?

According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 57% of Americans believe in the devil. And yes, that is 57% of American adults—not kindergarteners. But hey, it's probably the same percentage among that demographic, too. Only a completely uninformed, poorly educated mind with little knowledge of things like evidence, could believe in the devil. Oh wait, scratch that. Actually, top neurosurgeons and Supreme Court justices can. And millions upon millions of other well-educated, upstanding men and women, too.

But there is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world—Christianity and Islam—teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans who tried their best to explain why bad things happen to good people, why good people sometimes do bad things, and why there is so much needless suffering in the world.

But wrong and infantile as it is, the belief continues. Big time. And this is quite a problem: how can we understand and explain why people believe in such absurdities?” 

Science has determined there is no Adversary. Further, science has no idea how intelligent people could believe in such a thing. For as much knowledge as exists in the different fields of science in our day, one area of knowledge that science severely lacks is spiritual knowledge.

The Adversary has stayed hidden in our day by getting people to believe he does not exist. The Adversary has stayed hidden because science cannot analyze him. The Adversary stays hidden because too many Christian leaders deny his existence. 

He is an old superstition of irrational minds, he is an absurditiy.

Matthew 13:3-8
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Jesus shared a parable with the people, later he explained the parable to his disciples.

Matthew 13:18-23
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it, which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Jesus Christ believed in an Adversary!

John 8:44
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Jesus Christ believed in the Devil, then again Jesus was not a scientist.

There are three methods in this parable the Adversary uses to steal God’s Word from individuals. He steals it when a person first hears it, (it is foolishness, it was written by men, it is old wives’ tales, it is not very scientific). Or he pressures people off God’s Word, (what will your friends think, do you know what kind of person is teaching you?). Or he finds a price, (more money, more praise, your heart’s desire coming to pass).

1 Corinthians 1:21-24
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Paul speaks of his journeys in southern Galatia in his second leadership epistle to Timothy twenty some years later.

2 Timothy 3:11-14
Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Why? If you stand with God, why would persecution come at your life? The simple answer is this, Adam turned this world over to God’s enemy (Genesis 3:6 and Luke 4:6). Therefore, if you stand with God, God’s enemy is your enemy also. 

But there are a few points from Paul and Barnabas’ time in southern Galatia, I want you to see and hold in your mind. Yes, the world will stand in opposition to your walk with God. But you can handle it. 

First, Paul and Barnabas endured affliction. 

“Endured” in 2 Timothy 3 is the Greek word hypophero. Hypo means being under and phero we just looked at in the previous teaching with diaphero, to carry throughout. Here hypophero refers to carrying on while under pressure, moving forward even with opposition.

1 Corinthians 10:13
There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [hypophero = carry on while under pressure] it.

1 Corinthians 10:13
 Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
Good News Translation

The Greek word dynamai is translated strength and able in these two versions. Dynamai means to have the power, the ability, the internal resources, and strength to endure, hypophero. How do you have this power, this ability? You have it because you have God’s gift of holy spirit within you, that is your dynamai. Further, God has promised there will be a way out.

That brings in the next point from 2 Timothy 3, “out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

Acts 26:17
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee.

Jesus Christ told Paul at the very beginning that the people he was trying to save would also attack him, but that he would be there to rescue Paul from these people.

Many times, when trying to save a drowning person, out of fear and panic, the savior can be harmed or even drowned himself. The same is true when holding forth the greatness of God’s words to a spiritually drowning person. Some, who refused to believe, incite fear, and panic that results in violence. 

We have already seen the pressure and persecution in Antioch, but we have also seen diaphero as they carried the word of the Lord throughout the area before they moved on. The last principle for those who believe to remember is shaking off the dust.

Acts 13:51
But they shook off the dust of their feet against them and came unto Iconium.

No animosity. It is always an individual’s choice to believe or not believe.

Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Our contest is not with the people the Adversary has fooled or tricked, not against flesh and blood. Therefore, we carry no animosity when a person chooses to reject God’s Word. The next time they hear and receive.

Now, in Iconium Paul and Barnabas carry on under pressure, hypophero, from both Judeans and Gentiles.


Acts 14:1
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.

Paul and Barnabas move on to Iconium from Antioch after shaking the dust off their feet. Paul and Barnabas had places to go and people to see and from the response in Iconium they were at the right place and spoke to the right people. 

“A great multitude” both of Judeans and Greeks believed!

The word translated Greeks here, hellen, and is speaking strictly of Greeks. In Acts 6:1 we saw the word hellenistes which speaks of Greek speaking Judeans. Then, the Greek word ethnos is usually translated Gentiles but can refer to a nation, a group of people, or a race.

Acts 14:2
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles [ethnos], and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.

The word “unbelieving” is the Greek word apeitheo, meaning to disobey or not to be persuaded. These had God’s Word stolen from them as they heard it. It is their right to believe or to reject the words of God. God has given everyone that freedom of will. Notice however, that those who do not believe, many times, have deemed it their right to take away the free will decision of others. 

These unbelieving Judeans “stirred up” a multitude of people in Iconium. To stir up means to arouse, as in to wake up. Everyone can remember back to school days when your mother or father would come into your room and gently wake you. This is not like that. This is comparable to a cold bucket of water thrown in your face with someone screaming “Get Up!”

Can you imagine the effect this waking would have on your day? Will this person be jumping out of bed to say “good morning” to the first person he sees?

Acts 14:2
Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas.
New Living Translation

Acts 14:2
but the unbelieving Jews [who rejected Jesus as Messiah] stirred up and embittered the minds of the Gentiles against the believers.
Amplified Bible

Those who did not believe were, like in Antioch, out for blood! Because they did not believe, they wanted to poison minds, and evil affect minds, and embitter minds. 

The Adversary continues to marshal those who walk in darkness to rise up in opposition. They are easily led because they are in darkness, and it is hard to see clearly in the dark. The spiritual battle is often unseen, and unrecognized, yet no one is untouched by it. Our Adversary’s greatest disguise is blending into the scenery. 

Acts 14:3
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. 

I know of no defining characteristic of the phrase “long time therefore” to declare how long a period of time this is. But A.T. Robertson, 1863-1934, in Word Pictures of the New Testament, says this phrase “long time therefore” means “accusative of duration of time (possibly six months) and note μεν ουν.” 

In verse 2 we have unbelievers arousing minds, to bitterness and to poison, seeking to evil affect others against Paul and Barnabas. Yet here in verse 3 we have Paul and Barnabas long time speaking boldly the gracious words of the Lord. Like in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas carry on under pressure from the Adversary as applied by those who stand with the Adversary.

The word “boldly” is parresiazomai and when you study this word you see its meaning is to speak freely, openly, without reservation, a fearless confidence. That is hypophero, moving forward under pressure. 

Obviously, there is no fear in the hearts of Paul and Barnabas as they continue to stand and speak.

Acts 14:4
But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

The Greek word for “divided” is schizo and is defined as to cleave asunder, to rend. The division was great. But one side believes in violence. One side promotes violence. Paul and Barnabas just shook the dust off of their feet in Antioch. No animosity, they simply moved on.

Acts 14:5
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.

Acts 14:5
And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to treat them abusively and to stone them,
New American Standard Bible

Those who stood with the Adversary moved to kill the Apostles, for death is the result of stoning. 

Why? In Antioch it was because the synagogue leaders were jealous, they were filled to overflowing with envy.

What is the motivation in Iconium?

Remember the Gospel of John, “the thief comes to steal, to kill, to destroy!” It is the Adversary’s nature and the closer you stand to him, the more it becomes your nature.

Acts 14:6
They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:

Remember, God promised, there will be a way out.

Why did they flee? The Greek word is katapheugo and means to flee for refuge. They fled to find refuge. 


1. The Devil? Seriously? Phil Zuckerman Ph.D., Posted September 28, 2015, Psychology Today

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A Journey through the Book of Acts