Event(s): Idolatry at Lystra; Paul is stoned and escapes to Derbe; Paul continues to strengthen the converts
Today’s Text: Acts 14:8-28
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 15:1-21
Paul and Barnabas’ journey continues on to Lystra, another Roman colony, which was about 20 miles south of Iconium. Unlike the previous cities where they entered, there is no mention here of Paul and Barnabas entering the synagogue first. This is because the further out they traveled, the fewer Jews there were. So it is quite likely there was not even a synagogue in Lystra. Our scene opens up with the miraculous healing of a man who had never – never walked.
Acts 14:9 “observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed…” In the spiritual realm, faith is visible. It was visible to Jesus, when he looked through the crowd to find the woman with the issue of blood, who in faith, had reached for the hem of His garment (Matthew 9:22). What exactly did Paul see in this man? It’s not said, exactly. However, he was most likely learning in, listening attentively, hanging on every word and responding with a such a strong desire, visible in his countenance, before he had even spoken a word.
“The man’s heart shone out in his face, and the Spirit within the Apostle [Paul] recognized that here was a fit object to be made, by his cure, a sign unto the men of Lystra.” –The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Acts 14:11 “the gods have come down to us…” This culture was drenched in Greek philosophy and mythology. Zeus was known as the chief god in the Greek pantheon, and Hermes was his herald. So, as the people heard Paul and Barnabas, they assumed that “Zeus” and “Hermes” had once again visited them and so they offered them praise.
“If Satan cannot derail Christian witness with persecution, he will try praise. Too much persecution has destroyed many preachers, and too much praise has ruined many others. One of the problems with miracles is that they often draw more attention to the miracle worker than to God.” –Dr Constable, Bible scholar
Acts 14:15 “turn from these useless things to the living God” The word used here that translates as useless is the Greek word, mataios, which means empty, futile, frivolous, unproductive, unreal. Paul and Barnabas did not acknowledge the existence of a lesser god. They were in essence communicating to the people, turn from Zeus and Hermes, who never lived, to the one true God, the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all the things that are in them.
Acts 14:19 “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there…” These were the same people who had thrown Paul and Barnabas out of the synagogues in their respective cities. As they came to Lystra, they sought to persuade the people, claiming that Paul and Barnabas were imposters.
They stoned only Paul because he was the one communicating. Stoning was not simply a form of punishment; it was a method of execution. How ironic, the one who just moments before they were ready to worship as a god, now they are picking up stones to execute. This only goes to show how fickle idolatrous hearts can be, as unstable and as uncertain as the waves of the sea.
Acts 14:20 “when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up…the next day…” After being stoned, dragged through the streets of the city and left for dead, Paul is miraculously healed – not even losing a day. Instead, he gets up, as in perfect health, and travels to Derbe, which is about 60 miles away.
Acts 14:22 “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Entering the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ does not exempt us from trials and persecution. Neither does our endurance through suffering earn entrance to the kingdom. But living a life empowered by the Holy Spirit allows our attitudes to be characterized by victory and triumph.
Throughout the book of Acts, one of the main things we notice is that so much of what people experienced in the kingdom had to do with how they received the message of the kingdom. How they responded when they heard the truth of Jesus…how they responded when they saw miracles taking place among them…how they welcomed those who brought the message of truth, determined what they received from the message and the messenger.
In almost every account in which we see something miraculous take place, our author, Luke, takes the time to mention that faith preceded experience. Today, it would be a very good idea to ask ourselves, “What do we have faith for?” Do we believe God heals? Do we believe He can (and wants to) use us as vehicles through which the miraculous can take place? This is an honest question, which can be asked and talked through in a very safe way in the presence of God. He will never respond condescendingly. If there’s anything keeping us from believing, what is it and why? Once we’ve identified what that is, let’s ask God for the answer, seek it in Scripture, or talk this through with a fellow believer who may be able to provide some answers. There’s simply too much to be had – far too much to be experienced in the kingdom to allow any road block stand in our way.