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In Lystra and Derbe August 24, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 14:8-20.

Summary: In this passage, Paul and Barnabas preached the Gospel message in Lystra. Paul then miraculously healed a man who had been crippled since birth. This action, though, caused their audience to view Barnabas and Paul as the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes, respectively. They attempted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas – who strove to dissuade them, stating that they were only representatives of the one true God who created all things. Later, some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and lead them in stoning Paul. He miraculously survived this assault, though; on the following day, he and Barnabas departed from Lystra.

Thoughts: In verses 11-13, we see that the people of Lystra viewed Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods after Paul performed a miracle. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 15:

People in Lystra believed there was more than one god. Paul and Barnabas showed, on the contrary, that there is only one Creator of the world. After they had removed the false idea of a multiplicity of gods, their way was open to teach the nature of the God who was the Creator of heaven and earth.

This passage caused me to ponder the fact that other religions feature creation myths; for example, consider the stories of Izanagi and Izanami in Shinto mythology, Marduk in Babylonian mythology and Brahma in Hindu mythology. Diverse worldviews actually converge on the point that a deity created the heavens and the earth. Thus, we should remember that the Christian worldview is unique in its focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ – especially His resurrection. As believers, we should strive to bolster our faith in that dramatic event and communicate our certainty regarding it to nonbelievers who may not grasp the uniqueness of Christianity in this pluralistic age.

In verses 14-18, we see that Paul and Barnabas emphatically rejected the attempts of their audience to offer sacrifices to them. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 14:

The apostles’ tearing their clothes and rushing out into the crowd showed how zealous they were for the glory of God. Not content with words, they disrupted the preparations for sacrifice as much as they could. Sometimes even hypocrites decline excessive honor, but all that happens is that their pretense of modesty makes simple people give it to them.

Admittedly, I struggle with feelings of pride when other believers praise me or thank me for a particular act of service. While I generally attempt to deflect their words, I know that pride courses through my veins in those moments. Thus, I admire Paul and Barnabas, who were so full of the Holy Spirit that they could not tolerate any praise that was not directed at God Himself. I pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to work in me so that I can maintain my humility in those moments. On a related note, I should dwell on the fact that I can do nothing without God’s assistance.

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