ACTS 14:8-27 FEBRUARY 5, 2017
“THE DANGER IN SPEAKING THE TRUTH”
The dictionary defines truth as “conformity to knowledge, fact, or actuality. Where do we find truth? The Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter 1 states: “The Bible speaks authoritatively and so deserves to be believed and obeyed. This authority does not depend on the testimony of any man or church but completely on God, its author, who is himself truth. The Bible therefore is to be accepted as true, because it is the word of God.” For Christians the Bible is to be our standard and our final authority of what is true. Whenever we lose sight of this ultimate truth we will always slide into error and lose our way in a sea of humanism where what is false is often worshipped and glorified and leads to despair. But fair warning, following the truth of what is right in the sight of God can also be dangerous, as we will see in this passage.
Acts 14:1-3 (NIV) “1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” We should never forget that Satan will stir up opposition against the truth, and especially when large numbers of people are coming to faith in Jesus. There was a plot to harm Paul and Barnabas so they left and went to Lystra.
Paul began preaching the truth to the people of Lystra. Acts 14:8-10 (NIV) “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. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” This is one of the miraculous signs and wonders as spoken about in verse three. This is the first message that was spoken to a group of people where there was not a Jewish presence in the city. They responded to the message according to their understanding of how the world operates.
The audience was Greek. They worshipped the Greek gods. In one of their Greek myths (stories) Zeus and Hermes took human form and visited the Phrygian countryside and sought lodging. They visited a thousand homes and were consistently turned away until an elderly couple welcomed them into their poor home. The older couple, Philemon and Baucis, fed them well and prepared them a place to rest. They did not know they were entertaining gods in human disguise. Zeus and Hermes turned their home into a temple and spared them from a flood that destroyed all of the people who had turned them away. (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary)
Acts 14:11-13 (NIV) “11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The 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.” It is understandable why the crowd sought to worship them. The crowd did not want to be punished for not recognizing the two gods.
In accordance to their culture Paul and Barnabas responded in a most Jewish way. They tore their clothes as a sign of great inner distress. Paul and Barnabas were horrified that people would seek to worship them as gods. Remember that King Herod was immediately judged for allowing the people to say that he was a god in Acts 12. Paul and Barnabas came to tell them the truth.
Acts 14:14-18 (NIV) “14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 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. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet 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.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.”
God has always left evidence of his existence throughout the world he created. Most people are awe struck when they see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Romans 1:18-20 (NIV) “18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” The people of Lystra still wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods as they knew nothing about these two men.
Then they are given news that these two men are truly human and are told derogatory accusations about them. Acts 14:19 (NIV) “19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.” Did you notice the words Paul used to describe their beliefs, “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.”(vs.15) Paul called their beliefs worthless. Paul spoke the truth that they did not want to hear. The Greeks stoned them, most likely started by the Jews who opposed them as stoning is a Jewish punishment for preaching blasphemy.
Acts 14:20 (NIV) “20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” It is unclear whether God did a miracle in raising Paul to life or whether Paul was only unconscious. What is clear is that Paul did not allow this attempted murder to stop him from speaking the truth about Jesus. Paul and Barnabas went on to Derbe and preached there. Acts 14:21 (NIV) “21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples.” We must tell people the truth, even though people may reject the truth of the word of God.
Paul and Barnabas did not let the threat of persecution or death keep them from going back to teach the new believers and establish the church to keep them pointed in the right direction. Acts 14:21-23 (NIV) “21 Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”
We need to remember the essential truth that should govern our beliefs and actions. Acts 4:12 (NIV) “12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The world wants to deny this truth and say that there are many paths to God. This is a lie. Are we willing to stand up for the truth even when the truth may lead to suffering or to our death? Paul told the churches this vital truth. Paul always taught what each Christian may face. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Do not misunderstand this word to speak the truth of God. We must speak the truth in love, not in words of hate and condemnation. We must not be like the Westboro Baptist Church which has become notorious for its hate speech against LGBTQ, Jews, Muslims, military families, etc… Rather we should be known for our loving acts of kindness to all people reflecting the love of Christ.
Let us pray.