Lystra was a fortified Roman outpost just south of Iconium, which was about 18 miles away. Paul and company had been encouraged to leave Iconium (via a possible stoning) so he started speaking in Lystra. There was no mention of there being a synagogue in this city. (Later in Acts, we find that there were Jewish believers there.) Before, Paul had been invited to speak in the Jewish service but not here in Lystra. No, he just started to speak to the crowds.
This passage first deals with the man who was lame.
8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking.I am sure that such people as this cripple are found in most cities but this is the second big time such a person is found in the letter of Dr. Luke. Back when Peter and John were central to the message's proclamation, a lame man was sitting outside the gate to the Temple. He was looking for handouts or money. There was no proclamation of any Gospel-at that time, just: “What I have I give to you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, walk!”
Do you remember what happened? He not only got up, he danced! God's message was heard and understood and some people really hated to see that happen. BUT there was an understanding. Let's not get ahead of the story.
Paul, while he was speaking, saw or understood that the man, who was crippled, had the faith to be healed. That is some interesting bit of news…
1. God's Power Shown. Acts 14:8~10
While the man was listening to Paul, faith grew inside him. He was given Faith to believe and this was visually apparent to Paul. He saw that he had faith to be healed … What kind of faith was that?
Last week, we spoke of the man with the son who needed faith to support his little faith. Mark 9:20-25 “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Now here, Paul sees a new kind of faith. Visible Faith. It was seen in his eyes? Did his face shine? Was he was breaking out in words on his forehead that said: “I have faith to be healed!”?
All it said in this passage was that:
10 and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.Paul KNEW where this man was spiritually, one way or the other. He had a faith that could heal him. Romans 10:13 says: "Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved." This lame man's faith was not a salvation kind of saving faith. It was physical. Yet, I can't believe that the man did not believe, as he became the topic of the drama that came up soon thereafter.
Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed
What kind of Faith do you have? Faith that needs help: an overcoming-your-unbelief-kind-of-a-faith! Or do you have a heart that can be seen as ready for faith to be healed?
Many are ill and sick at ICCS. It says in the Word that we are to pray for those who are sick, lay hands on them and anoint them with oil and ask God to heal them; to ask for forgiveness and confess our sins to one another. Here was a man who Paul saw that he had faith to be healed. Do you have that kind of faith? Do you need help in your unbelief that God can do a healing in your life?
What will it take to believe God for a healing? Are miraculous healings ALWAYS a sign of God's blessings? Is it the way to approach a non-Jewish/Christian worldview? Being called “Power evangelism” such a case could be understood and followed. Such acts of Divine Power would certainly be seen and understood by a pagan world as being divine. Or would they? That is the 'stuff' of our next point of being misunderstood.
Some say that “Rarely was church growth attributed to preaching alone…signs and wonders were the catalyst to evangelism.” John Wimber on church growth in 1986. Others would limit the use of signs and wonders to only the age of the apostles. I wonder. How can we limit God's Hand? Can He not do what He wants or does He need our permission to do what come divinely natural for Him; healing and creation?
As we spoke last week, when the Power of the Gospel is present, THERE is the working of God's creative power. The lady who touched Jesus' robe was healed because she touched a powerful robe or because she had the faith to believe in touching the robe, Jesus could and would heal her? She had visible faith as well.
The important item to remember is for healings of this kind to happen, the Gospel ALWAYS needs to be present and as the focal point of the work of God. God's Power to Save goes hand and hand with the Gospel to be made whole. Not all touches need to be healed but the Gospel will not return void. The Gospel will glorify God.
2. Power Misunderstood: Acts14:11-13
Well, the man was healed. He was sure happy. The crowd around Paul and Barnabas went crazy! And they went crazy in their own language!
Something was going on that the Team did not follow. I am sure this has never happened to you. The 'group' you are with speaks another language and you do not speak that language. They decide to go or do something and they begin to act on that decision. You are cut off from any understanding. They are really excited about this new plan yet you cannot find a clue what they are talking about! Some get their coats, while others do something else. All this excitement about something yet no one has told you. They are just caught up in the excitement and of course they feel you will follow and understand the whole thing.
There is both a total excitement and a total lack of understanding. They do not comprehend at all!
And you are left in the dark.
Then, they get you to stand up and give a message on the excitement they are all experiencing. You are lost.
Think how these men felt! The lame man needs an other name now that he is dancing around the streets! There is excitement! There is joy! There is gross miscomprehension!
It takes them three verses to learn what is going on! And what is going on? The people are yelling in their foreign language that the gods have come among them!
Talk about missing the point! Paul is responding to the lame man's acceptance to the Faith message. His message was about the way God had shown Himself to the world and all these people wanted to do was to offer them the blood of bulls!
Leaders and lay people alike were caught in this web of misunderstanding. They had given them new names and they were generally and honestly excited about what just happened. Problem was, it was not gods among them. Zeus and Hermes were not there in the flesh.
They misunderstood the message. BUT not the message they knew of. A while ago, it was reported that the two, Zeus and Hermes did visit earth and visited over 1,000 homes to find kindness and found no one to show kindness to them EXCEPT Baucis and Philemon. They took them in and took care of the god-made-flesh gods. The Roman poet who told this tale was known by the name Ovid. He wrote that the gods were so upset that caring was void in that region; a flood would destroy the area. The couple's shack was transformed into a marble-pillared, gold-roofed temple and they became the priest of the new temple. These folks did not want to be wrong again! They wanted to do it right and according to legend, offering the blood of bulls would be a good thing to do.
But they did not really hear what Paul and Barnabas were saying in their message. And what was the message? It was lost except in the healing of the lame man. HE understood it, it seems. But the real message was spoken even later.
The crowd's response was, in fact, the right one, IF such things could happen. They wanted to avoid divine punishment and passed on the blessing in the form of the flowers and the blood of the bulls. They saw these two gods as the ones who would ensure good harvest in that agricultural area. Zeus was the weather god and Hermes was his messenger.
Here Paul enters a problem most missionaries have when they attempt to reach a people group they do not know or understand. Here was Paul, a good Jewish boy with good Torah upbringing. He knew the Law and the Prophets BY HEART. He knew all the 600+ laws and had kept them since his youth. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. He was a First Class Jewish Man.
And here he was in a pagan city that saw him as a visiting god of weather. Blasphemy!
If Paul and Barnabas accepted the praise of the people and went along with it for a time, the real meaning would be lost for a lifetime. The manifestations of the miraculous left unchecked would lead them to reinterpreted this healing in the only way they could understand it: in terms of their non-Christian religious beliefs and values. In that way real problems would arise that would allow this misunderstanding to persists and become syncretistic, allowing other worldviews to maintain them over against Christian Truth claims of a Changed Life.
Unless the Holy Spirit can open the hearts of the new listeners of the Message, it would be lost in their world-view. Both Jewish and Pagan religions had teachings of the divine visitation that lived and walked on the earth. Where was the kingpin idea that would tie their hearts to the Gospel?
In Japan, I was told a number of years ago the kingpin was KANJI. Hidden in the KANJI of old was the message of Salvation. Mr. Kazama, a while ago, showed us the Message of the Gospel in the bamboo stick mats. Some feel it is in the fact that Japanese honor their ancestors as the key. Others feel that it is in the tea ceremony. The key is that it MUST be in the Biblical Teaching of the Gospel. And that is where he went next.
3. The Power Spoken; Acts 14:14~18
The number one way, back then, to show someone you are sick of them or that you violently disagree with them is to tear your clothes. They went at it with real gusto! This idea was revolting to them. “NO! We are not gods! We are only humans-like you!” They were not trying to blend in. They were not going to allow this misunderstanding take away the Glory of God. This MUST be cleared up!
They ran into the crowd to stop them from continuing with this worship thing. That was a very serious thing to do! Think about it. The people of Lystra were devoted followers of Zeus. They had this history of this happening before and they were not going to let it pass. Worship was necessary and worship is what they were going to get!
He goes for their gut in attacking this form of worship. He was not going to put on kiddy gloves. He hits hard.
Turn to Jeremiah 2: 5
This is what the LORD says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”
Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.
3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good." 6 No one is like You, O LORD; You are great, and Your Name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not revere You, O King of the nations? This is Your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like You. 8 They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. 9 Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple- all made by skilled workers. 10 But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King. When He is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure His wrath. 11 "Tell them this: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.' "12 But God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. 13 When He thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from His storehouses. 14 Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. 15 They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. 16 He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for He is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of His inheritance-the LORD Almighty is His name.
The Ten Commandments are not there to make our life more difficult. Not there to keep us so busy doing the right things that we don't have time to do wrong things. They are not mere suggestions! They are there to support the reason we are alive.
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
To Love God and to Enjoy Him Forever.
Paul's message follows this way of thought:
1. We are human beings like you.
2. We are really here to bring you Good News
3. Turn from these worthless things
4. Turn to the Living God
6. He has shown His kindness by sending
Paul's message can become a model for those who are speaking God's Message to followers of a non-Christian followings or lifestyles. Finding common ground is important. All men are made in God's image with the ability to reason and evaluate life's experiences. Paul needed to know where in their religious belief system did they pull away for the Truth found in Scripture. How Good does the Good News have to be to be sought after without compromising the Truth? Such knowledge of the Divine needs then to be brought to a head with the understanding of personal consequences of this information. It is, indeed, not just a philosophy of life but one of life and death issues. Here is God who loves you and has provided all for your enjoyment; why not trust Him, love Him, serve Him?
It is hard to believe that this message almost does not work in stopping them. Kind of hard to stop a mob with Reason but then just when you think all is well, in walks the bad guys from Antioch and Iconium. When bad guys from two different groups get together, WOW, watch out!
Which brings us to the next point of PAIN.
4. The Pain of Growth: Acts 14:19~20
The people of Lystra were not allowed to worship who they thought was Zeus and Hermes. They were ready for a festival. Having been disappointed, they were really ready for the bad words from the gents from Antioch and Iconium. They were incited to riot and stoned Paul! Having done their worst, they dragged out, what they thought was a corps, outside the city limits and walked home enormously content with life, thank you very much.
Think of Paul's friends… They were horrified. They stood over the bloody heap of flesh and, to their amazement; Paul stood up and walked BACK INTO THE CITY AGAIN! Maybe he had hit his head! Maybe he was not able to understand what had happened! Why go back? Because he was not finished.
He spent the night in Lystra and on the next day, he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
This will not always happen this way. If it does go bad for you, you will need to remember this time in Paul's life and get up, dust yourself off and start afresh in the morning. Press on. Acts 14:22
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”Even when there are miracles and powerful transformation of lives, times still can get pretty tough. There are no guarantees EXCEPT for the fact of His Word to us that He will not forsake us. Persecution will happen. Live with it.
His Word needs to be heard even in Tokorozawa and esp. in your homes.
Will you be part of the solution or part of the problem?
Next week, we go to Derbe. But, for now, let's prepare our hearts to come before His Remembrance Table to celebrate the Lord's Last Supper.