Biblical Commentary        
Paul worshipped,
then stoned
Acts 14:8-20
Acts 14:8-20

In the city of Lystra there was a certain man who had no strength in his lower extremities,
having been a cripple from the time he was born, he had never walked.

This man heard Paul preaching. Paul watched him, and seeing that he had faith to be
healed, told him loudly, "Stand up on your feet immediately!" And, immediately he leapt to his
feet and walked.

When the citizens of Lystra saw the miracle performed by Paul, they cried out in Lycaonian,
"The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" They thought Barnabas was Zeus
(or Jupiter - the chief god of Greek and Roman mythology), and Paul was Hermes (or Mercury
- the messenger of the gods of Greek and Roman mythology) because he spoke more than
Barnabas.

The priest of the god Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gates of the city from the temple
of Zeus, to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas along with the crowd.

When Paul and Barnabas realized what they were doing, they ran into the crowd tearing their
clothes (in the manner of Mid-eastern mourning) and shouting. Why are you doing this?
There was nothing special about Barnabas and Paul that would place them on an equality
with God to accept worship and sacrifice, they too were mere men, equal in the sight of God
with all those in the crowd. Their message to those in Lystra was to turn away from doing
things like this, no longer offering sacrifices to false gods or to men. The idols and gods
which they worshipped were dead stone and incapable of doing anything, in contrast with the
living God who has made the sky, the land, the water and all that are in all
three. Sod had not, in the past, said anything to the Gentiles, but now he has sent his
message to all men. That is the message which Paul and Barnabas were preaching to them.

However, he did not leave even the Gentiles without a way to know him, giving rain and
harvest and food and gladness to everyone.

Even at that, Paul and Barnabas barely kept the crowd from offering sacrifices to them.

Following this demonstration by the Lystrans, the Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived in
Lystra, and persuaded the same people who were going to offer sacrifices to Paul and
Barnabas to stone Paul, then drag him out of town, believing him to be dead.

But, when the brethren gathered around his seemingly lifeless body, Paul got up and went
back into Lystra. The next day, he and Barnabas went to Derbe.

lessons to be learned ~

1. The miraculous gift of Paul.

Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, separated to be an apostle after seeing the resurrected
Jesus on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9 & 22). Thus, the promise of the gift of the Holy
Spirit in its full measure was his. There was no question as to the validity of Paul's ability to
do the miraculous (much the same as was done by Peter and John - Acts 3). His miraculous
power was immediate and complete. It was not done in a vacuum, with no one knowing the
person being healed. He was a well-known personage with a well-known affliction. Paul's
discussion of gifts of the Holy Spirit in both I Corinthians and Ephesians showed that others,
even beyond the apostles, were able to perform miracles of healing and more. The extent of
this gift was through the laying on of the apostles hands (Acts 8).

2.  People can/and do misunderstand the meaning of miracles.

The people who witnessed the healing of this lame man thought that it showed that Paul and
Barnabas were gods.

But, the truth was that the miracles are not necessarily reflective of the person performing
them, other than to substantiate that they have the approval of God (Hebrews 2). Miracles are
a sign of God's approval. This miracle was for the purpose of showing that the message
delivered by Paul and Barnabas did come from God.

3. No man should be worshipped, not even an apostle.

It has been emphasized since the giving of the commandments at Mt. Sinai, and even before,
that no one or no object was to be worshipped other than the Lord God Almighty, who created
heaven and earth. To worship is to "bow down before" or "prostrate oneself before" or "kiss
the hand toward." Thus, Mordecai would not bow before Haman (Esther 3:2). No priest,
prelate, prince nor preacher is worthy of worship, not even an apostle of Jesus Christ. We
should not bow before, nor kiss the hand of any man. But, God and his Christ are worthy of
our worship.

4.  God made everything.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1). All worship and
reverence of God depends upon the acceptance of this fundamental truth. "The heavens
declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork." "The fool has said in his
heart there is no God." This God is the Creator of all that is.

5. God allowed men to continue in idolatry; but, did not leave them without testimony of His
existence.

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being
understood by the things that are made, even his eternal Godhead; so that they are without
excuse:..." (Romans 1:20; see thru 24). "Wherefore remember, that you being in past time
Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by those who are called the circumcision
in the flesh made by hands; that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and
without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made
near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians2:11-13).

"You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too religious. For as I passed by, and
beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Him
whom therefore you ignorantly worship, I declare to you. God that made the world and all
things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with
hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he
gives to all life, and breath, and all things; and has made of one blood all nations of men to
dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the
bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if by chance they might feel after
him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and
have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like
gold, or silver, or stone, engraved by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance
God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: because he has
appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has
ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the
dead." (Acts 17:22-31). Everyone has always been able to know that there is a God in heaven.

6. God calls all men to repentance.

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is
longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

"When Jesus heard it, he said to them, They who are healthy have no need of the physician,
but they who are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:17)
Not only does God call for the religious people to follow him, but calls all men. Jesus died for
all men (John 3:16). He commanded that the gospel be preached to all men (Matthew
28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46-48). No matter how good or how evil an individual may
be at the present, God calls them to repentance and to himself.

7. Crowds and popularity can turn quickly.

The same people who were going to worship Paul and Barnabas are the people who stoned
Paul and left him for dead. It has been said there is a fine line between love and hate. The
unreliable oscillating nature of popularity make it an absurd source for authority in what to
believe or what to do. What is right today is wrong tomorrow. "You shall not follow a multitude
to do evil." Allow the word of God to direct your mind, heart and life. "And be not conformed to
this world: but you be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is
that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2)
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