Acts 14:1-7, In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. Therefore, they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel.
It never ceases to amaze me how those with very little to risk, so often judge others with everything to lose. I would have to say that the apostles all showed great courage to take on the mission that they did in regard to sharing the Gospel message. Sometimes they withstood the crowd, and other times they made a “tactical” retreat. No matter the circumstance for any Christian, critics will always be available to skeptically evaluate the lives of the righteous. Satan has many allies in this world. Between Paul’s persistence and Barnabas’ infectious encouragement, neither lacked bravery, even after leaving Pisidian Antioch in their rear-view mirror. It seems that by the time they could see Iconium in the distance, they were becoming excited over the prospect that can only exist when one has a mission beyond their present circumstances. A new challenge and blessing for sure.
Upon arriving at Iconium they began to speak at the synagogue. Great numbers believed. (Acts 14:1) Jewish leaders immediately began to poison the populace away from the speech of God’s emissaries.
When the Herodian’s and the Pharisees found a common object to hate, they managed to place aside their previous reasons to hate each other. Even some of the Jews and Gentiles did the same for the same reason. They all managed to join in opposition to the Gospel message. Paul and Barnabas stayed for some time preaching and teaching and giving signs and wonders. (Acts 14:3
They would eventually learn of a plot against their lives. They left to preserve their lives.
I know of missionaries who travel to places where the Gospel is illegal to teach and they often find themselves avoiding local authorities to save their own lives and be able to continue to teach the Gospel in the future.
Some are critical for their leaving when they did. Shouldn’t they have stayed and trusted God to guard them since they were delivering His message? Couldn’t the same power that granted the miracles and wonders, stifle the enemies of the messengers? If this event says anything about these two brothers, it says they were smart! I’m not sure where the evidence of scripture would indicate fear on their part. They were definitely responding out of wisdom. Proverbs 22:3 points out that, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.”
Jesus often chose prudence. “After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.” John 7:1 On one occasion some sought to stone Jesus and He slipped away. (John 8:59) No reasonable person is going to mistake this action of Jesus for cowardice. “Matthew 26:1-2, When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, (2) ”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”
Why didn’t Jesus just slip away again, before He was crucified? John’s Gospel says, “John 7:30 so they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.” The sacrificial time had not yet come. While the time may come for man to make the most noble and pure sacrifice, it is also true that “that” particular time may be a future moment. God could have swallowed up the enemies of his apostles at any time. He could also use the minds of His devoted messengers to simply leave a situation and move on to another opportunity. They were delivered through the mind that God gave them.
Miracles were used to establish the authenticity of the message. They also existed in moments when natural means were not available or conceivable. Whether God uses natural means or supernatural means to save us from danger, He still saves us. Both are divine provisions. God provides every good person we have in life. From the stranger who comes to our aid, to the people we have known, and loved, all our lives – God has blessed us with those people. God is always good to us! This is the basis for living in faith and never in fear.