Acts 14: 8-18

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Understanding And Applying the Text

After the Iconiumians ran them out of yet another town, Paul and Barnabas end up in Lystra. It was about 18 miles south of Iconium. In 6 b.c. Augustus fortified Lystra and made it a Roman colony. It was in the province of Galatia. Augustus settled the colony with Roman army veterans.

Here, Luke records a great miracle. Paul heals a lame man. Or rather, God heals a lame man through Paul. This showed God’s power. The man had never walked. From the time he left his mothers womb He was crippled. The description “lame from birth” makes clear how real the condition was.

In front of a crowd, at Paul’s command, the man did not stand up. He sprang up. His legs had been useless. They were now nimble and strong.

But that was only part of the miracle. Have you have ever watched a child learn to walk? Walking is a learned skill. They fall. They stumble. They wobble. This man leaped up. He walked without stumbling.

God had given him the physical ability to walk. God also gave the man the skill and coordination to walk. He did not spend months learning to stand. He did not need physical therapy. He did not need to learn how to place one foot in front of the other without falling down. God gave him all he needed to walk.

Luke tells us the man first listened to Paul speak. Then he had faith. Faith is not generated out of nothing. Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17).

But why did he believe God would heal him? God does not command us to hope for everything. He command us to hope in His promised salvation. He does not promise wealth. Nor does He promise health and happiness. This passage does not teach that. This passage does not teach if you have enough faith God will heal you or anyone else. Many have faith and are not healed.

Paul looked at the man and saw he had the faith to be held. How did Paul know? We all know how deceitful men are. Looking at a man does not reveal his heart. Men are very good at showing one thing while meaning another. The Holy Spirit revealed the man’s faith to Paul.

This passage is a historical account. It tells of a specific event in history. It teaches the power of God. It teaches how God demonstrated His power at that time, in that place. It is not instructions on how to manipulate God.

The healing of the lame man was God decision. Paul was an instrument God chose to use. The lame man received both faith and healing from God. This was all God.

Satan had failed to stop the spread of the Gospel. His direct assaults had not worked. He had threatened and attempted murder. Now Satan changed tactics. He tried flattery. Men tried to worship Barnabas and Paul as gods.

Rather than giving glory to God. The people believed Barnabas and Paul were gods.

There was a legend in the area that Zeus and Hermes had come down before. They sought hospitality. Only one couple offered it. The rest of the people refused them. As a result the couple that offered hospitality received blessings. Their cottage changed in to a temple. It had a golden roof and marble columns. Zeus and Hermes destroyed the houses of those who refused them hospitality. The Lystrans did not want to make that mistake.

The priest of Zeus rushed to make sacrifices. Zeus was the chief Greek deity. They worshiped Zeus throughout the Greco-Roman world. The Romans called him Jupiter. Hermes was another Greek god. Hermes was the messenger of the gods. He was the god of oratory. The Romans called him Mercury.

When Paul and Barnabas heard what was about to happen they tore their clothes. This was a sign of great distress and grief. Tearing your garments was also a Jewish response to blasphemy. They rushed into the crowd shouting, Stop, we are not gods. We are men like you. They did not want God’s glory stolen and given to them.

Luke records only two speeches in Acts Paul gives only to a pagan audience. This is the first. Acts 17, in Athens, is the other. In both Paul focused on God as Creator. This was a common link between the pagan world and the Jewish world. The Old Testament scriptures had no context for pagans.

Paul and Barnabas pointed out they were mere men. They were nothing special. They came to give them good news. They came to tell them about a living God. The God they proclaim made everything that is, the earth, moon, stars and sea. Everything!

How different this is than the faith healers of today. They will admit it all comes from God. But God needs them. God can only do want we allow Him to do. That is, God could not do it without them. They are the medium. They are special. They are the center of attention. They are the gatekeepers. If God wants something done He must go through them.

Paul and Barnabas had none of that. “We also are men, of like nature with you.” They desired no praise. They desired no special treatment. They were an instrument God chose to use. They realized God could choose another. Everything was 100% God, 0% Paul and Barnabas. Oh that we may realize our place. God does everything. He does not need us. We do nothing. We are nothing. We are nothing outside of Christ.

Paul anticipated an objection from the Lystrans. They could have objected they knew nothing of the God Paul proclaimed. Their objection would be if this God exists our fathers would have told us. Paul stated God let them live in their ignorance. Even so, God revealed Himself. There is a lot of evidence in creation. The evidence is so abundant we ignore it. Everyone sees the evidence. Most do not believe it. This is not because of a lack of intellect. It is from lack of moral will. We do not want t believe it.

They found it difficult to restrain the people. Even with Paul’s bold proclamation they were men not gods. The legend of the gods coming before may have played a part. They may have been afraid not to. This could have been a test. Luke does not tell us. But we see their passion ran deep.

The Lystrans were sincere. They were passionate. They truly believed. But believing in something does not make it true. It did not matter how much they believed Paul and Barnabas were gods. Their belief did not make them gods. Paul and Barnabas were mere men.

The claim “it does not matter what you believe so long as you are sincere,” is demonstrably false here.

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