We read an interesting account of Paul and Barnabas in the town of Lystra during their missionary journey (Acts 14:8-20). A man crippled from birth, was healed by Paul. This was obviously an astounding act that shook the consciousness of the people in that town. For the gospel to make an inroad it usually requires an unusual act- a miracle in the form of an event or a life lived differently or an argument that drives you out of your comfort-zone. This unusual act shakes the spiritual equilibrium that manages to keep people under the grip of spiritual darkness. However once that happens, people usually try to react in a way that somehow avoids the truth and attempt to settle down to a less painful reality.
The first reaction of the people is to interpret the event in the light of what they already believed in. The temple of Zeus had a stronghold in that town and how convenient to interpret all this as the manifestation of the gods they believed in.
‘When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” (Acts 14:11).
When the gospel of Jesus is presented to a person coming from a polytheistic background, one of the natural responses is to believe but add Jesus to the pantheon of gods that he already has. What is more difficult is convince the person that when you worship Jesus, you can have no other! The Christian gospel is an entirely different worldview and cannot be interpreted in the light of what the person already believes in.
The second reaction is to worship men.
‘—they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them’ (Acts 14:18).
Paul and Barnabas were aghast that the people of the town were rushing to worship them and hail them as gods. Flattery and exaltation of men, no matter how justified it might appear, can never lead you to truth. Man has a natural tendency to exalt and worship what is seen and tangible. It might be people, money, assets, one’s profession and so on. But to worship God in truth and spirit requires faith, and does not come naturally to men. Both worshipping and encouraging worship of material things or people is far removed from worship of God.
Finally, when they saw that Paul and Barnabas would not have any of their convenient substitutes, they turn upon them. Instigated by some Jews from Antioch, they stoned Paul, and left him for dead outside the city. Rather than believe in the truth, they resorted to persecution and attempted to silence the voice of truth. Is it not interesting that at one moment they wanted to worship Paul and the next they were stoning him? Goes to prove that both had their origins in the demonic and not in anything godly! Beware of those who profusely flatter- nothing good can come out of them.
The people of Lystra responded to the power of the gospel with a willingness to believe anything but the truth.
Yet through it all, a few came to the faith and we see disciples gathering around Paul and healing him and later along with Barnabas, Paul returns to Lystra and encourages the church that had formed there. God always has the last laugh!
- BEING WATCHFUL
- WALKING ON WATER