We're continuing our series on the book of Acts. This is number three. The study today is from Acts 14:1-20.
Small Paul was God's Goliath, a big man, history's greatest missionary. Teamed up with Barnabas these two barnstormed all over southern Asia Minor spreading the gospel. You would think that Paul would be afraid of the killers of Jesus, but he was not afraid., not Paul. He had a positive attitude. He trusted in the protection of the Holy Spirit.
Come over here in the book of Acts 14 in your Bible. Let's look at Acts 14:1 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. You know, great preaching builds up God's work. Don't ever be afraid of success in spiritual things. The devil hates great numbers in church work. I think God loves them. Numerically speaking, the church in Iconium was successful. Quickly the crowds grew. But, in verse 2 it says,
Acts 14:2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. Religious hatred is hatred of the worst kind. Most wars are kindled by religious hatred. That's where it comes from: religious differences. Islam fights the Christian invaders because of different religious ideas. The Northern Irish bomb the British. Catholics persecuted the heretics who believed differently than they believed. In Zerubbabbel's day the discouragers of the brethren worked hard to frustrate to rebuilding of the wall. - Ezra 4. In New Testament days, the Jews stirred up trouble spreading poison to kill Christianity. Why do we always have to control how somebody else lives or believes? How about a little freedom and liberty toward others? When your competitor is successful learn from him and rejoice with him. There's an interesting word here in Acts 14:16. In the past, He (God) let all nations go their own way. Why can't we do that? Why do we have to be over there trying to control everything in the world? Why can't we just give a little freedom and a little liberty. That's what God does. Why do we always have to control how somebody else believes and how they live? And how about a little liberty and freedom toward others, and when your competitors are successful, learn from him. Congratulate them.
Acts 14:3-5 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. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. It's not fun when somebody throws a mud ball. It's even worse when somebody throws a stone.
I wonder if the Devil's angels spent the first 100 years after the creation of the world going aroud digging up stones and scattering them all throughout the world so that when people started hating each other they had lots of ammunition with which to kill each other off. Have you ever noticed the concentration of stones in Palestine? There are a lot of rocks in Jerusalem. Palestine is littered with tons of stones. The devil just loves to provide ammunition, and then to stir us up and see what happens. Remember Cain and Abel? Why couldn't we allow each other to think differently? Why do we want to kill someone whom we don't like? Satan loves violence.
Paul and Barnabas shook off the bad dust from their feet and walked 35 miles to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding country in Asia Minor. There they had to doge some more stones. When Bible truth is preached some people get upset. Billy Sunday was told if he spoke against Alcohol he would make people mad. They said: it would be like rubbing the fur of a cat the wrong way. Billy said: "Let the cat turn around!"
Acts 14:7 says, ... they continued to preach the good news. That's great. They didn't quit. What was the good news they preached? Do you have any idea what the good news was that they were preaching?
That's the good news. John 3:16 says: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!"
Several years ago some visitors to the US Mint in Philadelphia listened to a worker in the foundry area. The man said that if you first dip your hand into a bucket of water, a small ladle of molten metal could be poured over the palm of your hand and it would not burn you. The worker said, "Do you believe that?" Well, they all believed that. "Who would like to try it?" A man stood there and said: "Not me!" "I'll take your word for it." The workman turned to the man's wife, and said: "Perhaps you would like to try it?" She said, "Certainly." She put her hand in the bucket of water and calmly held it out while the hot metal was poured over her hand. And it didn't hurt. I don't think she held that molten metal very long. Now, don't go try this. Both the husband and the wife believed. Was there a difference in their belief? Only the wife trusted completely. You may say she was a fool for doing that. If you trust Jesus completely you're not a fool. That's the type of trust that it going to take to be saved. That's the type of belief that it take to be saved.
You've got to completely trust your life to Him or totally believe in Him; His perfect life will be accounted to you in place of your imperfect life. You will be saved by His blood. Jesus' righteousness will be freely given to everybody who really and truly believe in Jesus. We are saved not by works but by faith or belief or trust. This is called grace. That is called the good news.
This is in stark contrast to Satan's doctrine of salvation by works. This bad doctrine says that we can attain heaven if the quantity of our good deeds out numbers our bad deeds. Now, what kind of a doctrine is that? If we read our Bible enough and attend church enough and do enough good and give enough money and pray enough we might be in heaven. That isn't what Jesus said.
The good news is that none of us can do enough to personally earn salvation, but that Jesus has already done enough to save us. All we have to do is believe in Him fully and completely.
Romans 3:23 ... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Psalm 14:2,3says, The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Isaiah 64:6 says, ...all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. The truth is that not any human being does enough good works to save himself. The good news that Paul preached is stated in Romans 3:28. ...a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. You observe the Law, not to save yourself, but because you want to honor Jesus Who already did save you. That's the reason why. A man is justified by faith apart from observing the Law.
And then, look at Romans 4:5. ...to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. So, in other words, Paul's good news is that our salvation is founded entirely on our relationship with Jesus and on His works. We're save by His works, not by our works.
Paul preached this gospel in Athens and they mocked him. He preached this gospel in Jerusalem and he was mobbed. He preached this gospel in Rome and he was murdered. The conservative class hated the gospel and still do. They killed Jesus. They believe and propagate the Devil's theology.
Let's continue on in Acts 14. Let's look at Acts 14:8-10. In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
Let;'s think about this incident. This cripple from the cradle had never walked in his whole life. He was well known in this town. Everybody knew who that cripple was. It was a small town. Wouldn't you know if there was a crippled man who had never walked in his whole life? You would know it. Paul had the gift of discernment. Do you have that gift? Can you look at somebody and says, 'Well, that person has faith. That person believes in Jesus.' Paul could see that. He saw through the lame ailment to the depths of the man's soul. Paul saw there an embryo faith that was beginning to grow. Paul was not a doubter, otherwise he might have thought of whispering in case God chose not to heal the man. But Paul shouted out, "Stand up!" What faith that Paul had! You had faith matched with faith, and you have a miracle.
Instantly the man leaped to his feet and without ever learning how he walked around with perfect poise and perfect balance. Do you picture him almost falling? I don't. The news of that miracle traveled through that town like a freight train, that the town cripple could walk. And Paul and Barnabas did it. And everyone descended upon them,.
Look at Acts 14:11,12. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.
Zeus (Jupiter) was the super father god of the city of these heathens. Barnabas must have been taller and because of his venerable appearance and dignified bearing they thought he was Zeus. Hermes, the Roman Mercury god, as the messenger god and since Paul did most of the talking they jumped to the conclusion that Paul was Hermes. These pagans thought the gods had returned to town! They were zealous to worship Paul and Barnabas, priest and all, and they began to assemble. The whole city. They started playing music, the priests came, they were going to slaughter the ox. They all began to assemble. They were more devout than some of us but they were all lost.
Notice that the heathen far outshine the believers. Remember when Jesus was born? How many people came to worship Jesus? Remember when Paul and Barnabas here healed the crippled man? The whole city came out to worship Paul and Barnabas. The heathen are going to worship just like that. The Jews and Christians were more hesitant. We are so slow to believe. It's too bad. We could take a much needed lesson from the example of these heathen gentiles who jumped at the chance to worship what they believed was God. We ought to do that.
There is a grave danger here in these verses. Do you see it? Why is it that the spectacular dazzles us, while the sermon on the good news of the gospel puts us to sleep? Why is that? People are more dazzled by a miracle. When you heal a crippled man, they're dazzled. But when you are preaching a sermon they're hardly impressed. I don't understand that. We as Christians must not be drawn by the tinsel of this world, but by the truth of the gospel. We must stand for the truth and not fall in front of the tinsel. Perhaps that is why God does not use many miracles today. I don't think He does. But there are some miracles.
Paul then lit into paganism, "Don't worship us. We're not gods. We're people just like you. We brush our teeth just like you do. I'm Paul, and this is Barnabas. Paganism is wrong." He had a strong condemnation of these false gods. Notice that Paul did not say, "All roads lead to heaven. You worship Zeus, you worship Hermes. We worship God and Jesus. Now, you guys are okay. We really admire you for what you're doing here. You worship Allah you worship Buddha. We're all worshiping the same God. We just call Him by different names. All roads lead to heaven." No! Is that what Paul says? Not by any means. No way! Paul spoke of the true and living God, the One and only God. Notice some good things he says about God in Acts 14:15 - 17. ...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. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 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." What a God the true God is! He's the one that provides you with everything. You need to worship Him.
While nations go their own way God faithfully blesses their crops and fills these heathen with joy. Our God is so great. Humans blame God for the results of their own sins. They turn their back on the living God and worship materialism and evil. Rather than lashing out at us, God sends yet another blessing our way. God tries to win us with His great love. Our God is so kind and good.
But the Devil is very bad. The very next verse shows a delegation of Jews arrived at the critical moment to spread their poison and kill the spread of the gospel. You see, the devil hates the gospel. The devil wants to always kill the spreading of the gospel. Acts 14:19. 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.
This verse could be very well be the record of the last thing Paul ever did. We would not have one book of the Bible written by Paul. Half of our New Testament would be missing.
I want you to notice how Fickle this crowd is. One minute they want to idolize Paul and the next they want to exterminate him. Notice how fickle they are. I'm glad we're not like that, aren't you? Or are we. I don't know. One day the crowd laid palm branches in front of Jesus, and cried Hosanna and a few days later they shouted "Crucify Him"! These people in the Bible were bad, weren't they? Fickle. I'm so glad we are not like that. I'm afraid sometimes we are.
One day we go to church. The next day go over here...you fill in the blank. One day we read the Bible and the next day we put the Bible down underneath and pull out something else that God would not be happy with. Are we fickle also? We ought not to be.
They were so mad they stoned him inside the city gates. Now, that's not the place when you stone somebody. The stoning place was always outside the gates. It was there that executions took place. But this mob could not wait. They dragged his bloody bruised corpse outside and left it for the dogs and vultures to do their thing.
It had been a bad day. Barnabas and other believers gathered around their dead Paul's body which was lying there on the ground. He was bleeding. Blood was everywhere. Young Timothy was there it says in Acts of the Apostles, by EG White, p.184. And many feel Paul just may have been dead right here. There is not proof that he wasn't. Then a strange thing happened. Notice when it happened. Here in Acts 14:20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.
After the sad believers encircled their fallen hero then they witnessed his, you could say, his resurrection. The word for "rose up" is Anistemi. Thirty-five times in the Bible it means resurrection. God's mighty power came into Paul and he opened his eyes and stood up with the praise of God upon his lips. Then what would you do? Run! Get out of that bad place! But not Paul. He went back into the city. That's where he had just been stoned. That is just marvelous. Paul, God's Goliath! When the stone sunk into his forehead he fell as dead. Imagine David. He kills Goliath with a single stone. The giant falls down. Everybody leaves. But suddenly Goliath stands up again and enters the camp where everybody is. Imagine the thoughts of the heathens in Lystra. They had just killed Paul and now he is back in town - alive! The pagans must have stood there wide eyed! Paul was healthy again. How do I know he was healthy? The next day he walked eighteen miles to Derby. Could you walk eighteen miles? A lot of people couldn't even walk eighteen miles even though they are healthy. But that's what Paul did.
You may live for God all your life. As you get older the Devil's diseases, like stones, will be hurled at you. You'll have to have a knee replacement, you'll have to fight cancer, you'll have to fight an ailing heart. Finally some of these will invade your body. They will knock you down. You'll eventually succumb to death. But the day is coming when new life will surge within you. You will have a brand new body. God will make you whole again. This time it will not be ordinary life, but your new life will be eternal. Praise the Lord. You will have a new body. Your kind loving God will have rescued you from the trash heap of eternal death where the devil wanted you to go forever. You will also experience what Paul experienced. So keep faithful. You're going to have eternal life someday. You're gong to leap up with the shout of praise to God on your lips. And you're going to run and you're going to walk and you're going to fly because you'll be in eternity. You're going to have eternal life, so keep faithful. Dodge the devil's stones, but put Jesus first in your life.
Hymn of Praise: #26, Praise the Lord! You Heavens Adore Him Scripture: Act 14:14-17 Hymn of Response: #602, O Brother, Be Faithful 061028#569, Acts 14:1-20
Return to McDonald Road Sermons Index
McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and
last updated 30/10/06 by Bob Beckett.