Friday, November 30, 2007

Acts, Chapter 14

The entire book of Acts is filled with miracle, after miracle, after miracle. It seems like an old message at this point reiterating that God accomplished so much in the face of opposition that He left no doubt about the church in the minds of believers, but we are shown that again here in chapter 14. It is safe to assume that this theme plays out through most of the rest of the book of Acts, but it is no less amazing because chapter 14 marks the midway point through the book, yet the miracles and wonders keep coming.

Personally, I marvel at the conviction of Paul and Barnabas for continuing to preach even when chased away from one city. Keep in mind that this is still the first century. They couldn't hop a flight from city to city. They could only go as fast as their legs could carry them, and if enough people were behind them making them flee their ministry could have faltered. Still, as we see in the beginning here great numbers of people believed. If they can continue to preach under these conditions I can continue to spread the news to anyone who accesses this page by spending a few minutes on a computer each day. Just imagine what someone like Paul could accomplish today with the internet!

11When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" 12Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. – Acts 14:11-13

This is an interesting passage because it is one of the first times we get an insight into what other cultures thought of Barnabas and Paul. Up to this point we have seen them preaching in areas that had Jewish or Roman roots. Now they were in an area that was almost exclusively Gentile, and obviously not rooted in Jewish culture. Why wouldn't they think they were Gods based on what they were doing right before them? Of course they appeared to be miraculous beings because the power of the Holy Spirit working through them would appear to be almost magical and certainly divine to someone who had no idea of what the Holy Spirit was.

15"Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." 18Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. – Acts 14:15-18

I find this verse slightly troubling because of the promises of God, and I admit that I must accede to the fact that His ways are not our ways. It is troubling because, if God is willing that none should perish, why would He let some nations go their own way until this point? We had had several thousand years of human history before this point, so what about all those people that lived before the good news, or those that the good news was unable to reach until centuries later? It is wonderful that God began to reach out to all people and that Paul was preaching to all people regardless of their background, but why did God wait until now? Once again Paul and Barnabas faced adversity as some Jews won the crowd over and Paul was stoned, but the message had been passed. As they were forced to leave they still met with success in Derbe, proving once again that the Word of God will always bear fruit wherever it is preached.


  1. Why would God's Word be effective in one city (like Derbe) but not in another (like Lystra)?
  2. How did this set the stage for the future spreading of the gospel?
  3. Why would God let all nations go their own way in the past?

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