We are journeying our way through Acts and we come to an amazing passage. Think about the complexities and the contradictions in this passage:
This is a passage where the Apostles can heal someone yet be stoned in the same passage, really?
This is a passage where Paul will be stoned and left for dead and preach so that people can receive real life immediately after that, really? Preaching the Gospel you were just stoned to death for? They are killing you, but others are receiving real life!
This is a passage where we realize Paul’s ability to identify with an audience in preaching. We see an abbreviation of a sermon which he will preach in Acts 17:16ff.
Who’s your god? Do we make people gods as well? Paul and Barnabas wouldn’t allow themselves to be worshipped
Back when I was a kid in school I remember studying the ancient Greek culture and all the gods and the goddesses that they worshipped. The idea was that they had many gods while we only worship the one God. We were studying in public school so the majority of class either believed that in today’s time we don’t believe in many gods and many people do not believe in or worship a God at all. The idea is that we have advanced we know that these things about Zeus and Hermes, etc just aren’t true. Looking at the church across America I wonder, have we really advanced? The Ten commandments say, “Do not Commit Idolatry.” Do we?
I remember when I have gotten a new car. Can you remember a time when you have gotten something new. For me it is hard to get something new and not let that “thing” consume me. When I have gotten a new car that is all that I think about. I might even commit idolatry with that man made thing. It has been said that worship is our response to what we value most. It has been said, “If you will follow the trail of your time, energy, passion, money you will find out what you worship.. could be $, yourself, friends, things, your past, etc..” Point is that were created to worship.
We are about to turn to a passage in the New Testament where people who have worshipped Hermes and Zeus now try to worship Paul and Barnabas. Let’s look at that passage:
Read Acts 14:8-18
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Notice that Paul and Barnabas were God focused.
Paul and Barnabas were God focused; therefore they would not accept worship. Nor would they worship anyone else or anything. Notice how that impacts what they do. Let me explain this passage verse by verse. But first let’s look at the context.
Context is everything. Look at the previous 7 verses. Paul is on what we call his second missionary journey. Paul had left for this journey back in 13:4. They had already gone to Pisidian Antioch and preached there. While still in Antioch, in 13:46 the Jews got jealous and so Paul and Barnabas moved on to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. This seemed to start a precedent for Paul that he would always go to the synagogue first and then to the gentiles. In 13:50 the text tells us that the “Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.” That leads us to the beginning of chapter 14. They have now moved on to Iconium. They followed the same procedure in Iconium as they had in Pisidian Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had gone first to the synagogue and spoke to the Jews. Many Jews and Greeks believed. In 14:2 the text tells us that the Jews who disbelieved “stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren.” However, Paul and Barnabas stayed around and spoke boldly, the text even emphasizes with “reliance upon the Holy Spirit.” Still, verses 5 and 6 tell us that there was an attempt to stone them and Paul and Barnabas found out about it and left. They then went to Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region. Verse 6 told us where they went and then verse 7 particularizes that by stating that they continued to preach the Gospel in those locations. Now, that brings us to verse 8. It seems that verse 8 is particularizing an event that happened while at Lystra.
Do you notice it? Do you notice how Paul and Barnabas are so persistent that they keep preaching the Gospel.
They tried to stone them! In verse 5 it says this. Did that shock you? It didn’t shock me. The first century person would have been shocked by this. Stoning was a terrible punishment. The accused would usually be taken outside the city and stripped Then the witnesses would cast the first stones followed by everyone else. I have heard that they would throw stones until the person is buried.
Despite this happening in the previous city because of Paul and Barnabas preaching the Gospel, they still move on in order to preach the Gospel.
Paul and Barnabas were focused then but what is about to happen would have definitely tested me.
Verses 8-10: now they are in a city called Lystra. This is a city in what would be modern day Turkey.
Verse 8 simply tells us that a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet. How long was he lame? The Bible tells us from birth. Then the same verse gives an extra emphasis by saying that he had never walked. Now, if the text has already said, “Lame from his mother’s womb.” Why does the text need to say that he had never walked? The writer is making the emphasis that this man had never ever walked. The writer is preparing the reader for what is about to happen. Why? What is about to happen is a miracle.
Hearing versus listening. This man was interested in the Gospel.
Paul looks at him and can tell that this man had faith to be healed. What does that mean?
Dave Wray was the man who was my youth pastor when I was in high school. About 10 years before I met Dave he was at a country church called Pleasantview Missionary Church. While there their daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. They prayed for healing and did extensive treatments. However, after a few years there daughter passed away and went to be with the Lord. During this illness there were people who really thought that she was not healed because of a lack of faith.
I totally reject that. Jesus didn’t heal everyone and Paul himself had a thorn in his side that wasn’t taken away. (2 Cor. 12)
We can’t be sure what this passage means by saying, “Faith to be made well.” What I think is that the Holy Spirit supernaturally showed Paul that he believed in Christ and did have faith. It is over reaching to take this passage and say that everyone who is not healed doesn’t have faith.
In verse 10, Paul said to this man to stand upright. This man leaped to his feet.
I notice no hesitancy in Paul’s voice, I notice no physical therapy for this man. He leaped to his feet.
Many of you are parents and grandparents. Remember with the children that you had started to walk. Did they just leap and started walking? Of course not! There was a slow process of learning to walk. Not in this case!!
The application is that when God is involved things can happen quickly. God needs no time period.
This is the 3rd time in Acts that a lame man is healed (Acts 3 and 9:34)
God doesn’t heal everyone; however, we do need to understand that the Holy Spirit is still alive and active today. The Spirit hasn’t hidden in a cave or gone into retirement. I pray every day for Meagan to be healed of her M.S. I pray every day for the doctors to give is a medical cure so that all can be healed of M.S. However, if that request is not granted that doesn’t mean that I started saying there is a secret sin or a lack of faith. This means the Lord doesn’t will this at this time.
He may in ten years or two or when it is her time to go and be with the Lord. Then there is complete healing.
One last thing about this, when someone is made well do to our medical advanced, yes give the doctors credit but mostly give the Lord the credit. God works.
In verses 11-13 we see the reaction to what God had done.
It appears that a whole crowd had seen what God had done through Paul.
The crowd started speaking in the Lycaonian language. The people were probably speaking in Latin to begin with. It appears that at this location they knew Latin and Greek. There is also evidence that this native language was used up until the 6th century A.D. “There is evidence that two Christian monasteries in Constantinople (Byzantium) founded in the sixth century used the Lycaonian language in their liturgy.”
Why would they think that the “gods” had come down? One reason would be the miracle. Just imagine, you are sitting at the hospital with someone who can’t walk and all of a sudden they jump to their feet!!! This would be amazing!
Another reason is this: IVP: Local Phrygian legend told of an ancient visitation by Zeus and Hermes to Phrygia. In the story only one couple, Baucis and Philemon, received them graciously; the rest of the population was destroyed in a flood. Knowing some form of the story in their own language, the Lycaonians are not about to make the same mistake ancient Phrygia had made; they want to honor Paul and Barnabas, whom they mistake for gods. People sometimes considered miracle workers as gods.
Do we do this today? Do we worship people? What about actors? Athletes? Do we worship video games and things? Cars? Houses? Careers?
A visiting minister was substituting for the famed pastor Henry Ward Beecher. A large audience had assembled to hear the popular pastor. At the appointed hour, the visiting minister entered the pulpit. Learning that Beecher was not to preach, several began to move toward the doors. The visiting minister stood and called out, “All who have come here today to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church! All who have come to worship God, keep your seats!” No one then left.
Verses 14-18 show that Barnabas and Paul will not be worshipped
They tear their clothes which is a sign that they have seen idolatry. They say:
We are men like you
We preach the Gospel that you should turn to the living God who:
God has given you a witness of Himself that He gave you rain, food, and fruits.
They said these things and with difficulty restrained these crowds.
Do you notice it? They were being worshipped! They could have accepted it, but instead they turned the attention to God. They were God focused!
7587 Queen Stands At “Messiah”
When Queen Victoria had just ascended her throne she went, as is the custom of Royalty, to hear “The Messiah” rendered. She had been instructed as to her conduct by those who knew, and was told that she must not rise when the others stood at the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. When that magnificent chorus was being sung and the singers were shouting “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” she sat with great difficulty.
It seemed as if she would rise in spite of the custom of kings and queens, but finally when they came to that part of the chorus where with a shout they proclaim Him King of Kings suddenly the young queen rose and stood with bowed head, as if she would take her own crown from off her head and cast it at His feet.
—J. Wilbur Chapman
No matter who we are we must turn the attention to God.