Chapter 14 shows how hard it can be when you bring Christ to others. There were people who constantly told lies about Paul and Barnabas that conditioned people not to believe. They became violent against them. Paul heals a crippled man by the power of Jesus. The people think that they are gods. They start to offer sacrifices for them. Paul and Barnabas tear their garments and tell the people not to do this, but they would not listen. Instead, a group of people from Iconium (the previous town) that did not believe in what they preached came to town (Lystra), and the people believed those who opposed Paul and Barnabas. What a strange turn of events. Paul heals a man and they think he is a god. Paul then tries to correct them. They don’t listen to Paul, but those who lie about him and end up stoning him think he is dead.
Some people say that they do not see the Catholic Church in the Bible. This story shows me that things have not changed much in the Church today. Believers still waver back and forth and have just as real of a struggle in faith today as they did two millennia ago. We always seem to think that the community was picture perfect during the apostles’ time; far from it. Everywhere they turned they had to put out fires in the faith and give direction to the people. Some did not accept it, but most did.
What we see then, is a bit different in certain aspects. First, if people did not believe, they chose not to be part of it. Whereas today, people will be part of the community, but choose not to believe the faith, and/or be an active part of it. This is so sad. Many people choose to believe the lies that the media and so-called academia produce more than Holy Mother Church. Professors will take advantage of those who have lesser degrees and tell them things that are not true. They choose to have more faith in lies than the truth. The people live a lie because they choose to live according to the lies they are told. They end up hurting themselves and others in the process, and wonder why they are suffering so much. Their slavery to lies has blinded them to the healing power that our faith has ready for them. They are so blinded by the lies that they hate the truth and anyone who proclaims the truth. Jesus did not promise us a bed of roses. If Jesus was crucified and His apostles were put to death for proclaiming the truth, then why would He expect anything different from us? But far better for us to live the truth, which sets us free, than live a lie which binds us.
In verse 23 they appointed presbyters (priests) for the towns they went through. There is a pattern of making sure a priest is left in every town the faith is established in. So, the Church is being established town by town as an organization. Again, prayer and fasting is applied this time to dedicating the new priests to God. The priests dedicate themselves to serving God’s people. Paul and Barnabas pray and offer fasting for the priests they leave behind. This is the start of the succession of the apostles and the setting up of dioceses before they were known as such.
By this time in the Acts of the Apostles, there are deacons and priests and dioceses are being established. In Chapter 15, we will see the Churches first Council held to settle the debate about circumcision.