ALL CREDIT FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE WORKS OF FAITH MUST BE DIRECTED BACK TO GOD ALONE
Who would think of trying to rob God of His glory? Of taking credit or praise to themselves for something that God has actually accomplished? Actually each of us in our pride struggles with that temptation every day. The human spirit longs for recognition and appreciation. We want others to think highly of us and to praise us for our accomplishments. We can easily identify with the motivation of those who erected the impressive Tower of Babel: “let us make for ourselves a name.” (Gen. 11:4)
In one way or another our lips mimic the proud words of King Nebuchadnezzar: “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30) The danger is even more pronounced in the context of Christian ministry where the Holy Spirit gifts us in special ways to bring forth fruit that would be impossible for us to produce in any natural sense. But sometimes the praise of men gets misdirected to the instruments of God’s sovereign disposition rather than back to the goodness of the living God who has graciously performed the impossible.
ALL CREDIT FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE WORKS OF FAITH MUST BE DIRECTED BACK TO GOD ALONE
THREE KEYS TO GOD RECEIVING GLORY
I. (:8-10) MIRACLE OF HEALING — FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST ACCOMPLISHES THE IMPOSSIBLE (MOVES MOUNTAINS)
Something worthy of praise and glory must first occur – Are we even aware and observant regarding what God is accomplishing in us and through us and around us?
A. (:8) God Specializes in Things Thought Impossible
“And at Lystra there was sitting a certain man, without strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked.”
Remember this account is written by Luke the physician
The world is full of broken people – that brokenness manifests itself in many forms
Adunatos – concept of impossible – Matt. 19:26 “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Look at how the healing of the lame was characteristic of the miracle ministry of the Messiah:
– OT Messianic Prophecy:
Is. 35:6 “the lame will leap like a deer” reflects the glory and majesty of God; brings great joy
– Healings of the lame by Jesus:
Matt. 11:5 (Luke 7:22) should have been evidence to John the Baptist that Jesus was truly the Messiah
Matt. 21:14-16 Resentful reaction to the praise of Jesus: Hosanna to the Son of David
– Healings of the lame by Peter:
Acts 3:2-11 “walking and leaping and praising God”
Famous gospel chorus:
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through
God specializes in things thought impossible
He does the things others cannot do.
B. (9-10a) Only Faith Can Make a Person Whole
“This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze upon him, and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’”
1. Faith is always a response to the message of the Word of God – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Rom. 10:17
Imperfect tense – was listening as Paul was preaching – maybe over the course of a couple of days
2. No other alternative healing method
Lame man could not have purchased his healing
Lame man could not have worked for his healing or earned it in any way
3. Faith should inspire Boldness in Proclamation
This was not a miracle done behind closed doors
This was not some tentative trial by Paul where he wondered how things would turn out
We need to be walking by faith and not by sight; confident that faith can overcome the world; bold in our proclamation; assured that Jesus has our back as we live for Him
Luke 7:50 “your faith has made you whole”
C. (:10b) God’s Works of Grace and Power are Irrefutable
“And he leaped up and began to walk.”
Did much more than just stand up – imperfect tense for walk to stress the ongoing continuation of the action
You can imagine that he did not care about the criticism of opponents of the gospel – he knew his experience was true; he had been delivered, saved (just like the man in Acts 3 account)
Matt. 17:20 “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you”
Matt. 21:21 “if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
1 Cor. 13:2 speaks of the faith which can move mountains – still needs to be exercised in love
Are we tapped into the power of faith??
II. (:11-13) MISTAKE OF HERO WORSHIP – FICKLE CROWDS WORSHIP THE HUMAN INSTRUMENTS BLESSED BY GOD
Are we caught by surprise by the human tendency to rob God of His glory? We need to be on guard against this pitfall.
A. (:11) Misdirected Vision
“And when the multitudes saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’”
Emphasis in this story is not on the man that was healed but on the strange reaction by the people of the city who witnessed this work of power
Saw the miracle but did not listen to Paul’s message of the grace of God; interpreted their experience through their grid of superstition and idolatry
Apart from the Spirit of God, natural man fails to see straight; they take the natural events and apply the wrong vision grid – our assumptions will determine our world view; that influences how we interpret the reality around us
People love to create heroes to worship – making someone much more than what he really is
MacArthur: The strange reaction by the people of Lystra to the healing had its roots in local folklore. According to tradition, the gods Zeus and Hermes visited Lystra incognito, asking for food and lodging. All turned them away except for a peasant named Philemon and his wife, Baucis. The gods took vengeance by drowning everyone in a flood. But they turned the lowly cottage of Philemon and Baucis into a temple, where they were to serve as priest and priestess. Not wanting to repeat their ancestors’ mistake, the people of Lystra believed Barnabas to be Zeus and Paul to be Hermes. [Jupiter and Mercury are Roman equivalents.]
Stott: Apart from the literary evidence in Ovid two inscriptions and a stone altar have been discovered near Lystra, which indicate that Zeus and Hermes were worshipped together as local patron deities.
Vincent: In the speech of Lycaonia. The apostles had been conversing with them in Greek. The fact that the people now spoke in their native tongue explains why Paul and Barnabas did not interfere until they saw the preparations for sacrifice. They did not understand what was being said by the people about their divine character. It was natural that the surprise of the Lystrans should express itself in their own language rather than in a foreign tongue.
Fickle crowd: start off treating Paul and Barnabas as gods; then stone them as devils
“From Throning to Stoning” was title one preacher gave this message
Key Fallacy: Minimizing the vast distinction between God and man – We are men like you
We need to take this approach as we witness; avoid coming across as self righteous
B. (:12) Misdirected Praise – Power and Wisdom
“And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.”
Barnabas probably more impressive in physical stature and appearance
Dale Miller: EVERY CULTURE HAS A SUPERMAN. IN THIS CULTURE, IT WAS ZEUS AND HERMES.
ZEUS WAS THE GOD OF THE GODS IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY. HE WAS THE GOD WHO GAVE ALL THE OTHER GODS THEIR JOBS. HE OVERSAW THE UNIVERSE. HE IS MOST OFTEN PICTURED STRIDING FORWARD WITH A LIGHTNING BOLT IN HIS HAND, OR SEATED IN MAJESTY. HERMES IS THE GREAT MESSENGER OF THE GODS IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY. . .
THE TRUE HEROS, ARE NOT THOSE WHO LEAP TALL BUILDINGS. THE TRUE HEROS ARE THOSE THAT HONOR THE TRUE GOD. THOSE WHO SPEAK THE TRUTH, EVEN WHEN IT MAY COST THEM. THE TRUE HEROS ARE THOSE WHO LOVE JESUS AND SERVE HIM.
YOU DONT NEED A SUPERMAN TO SAVE YOU. YOU NEED JESUS.
God’s servants are merely conduits of His grace – ministering His healing power – trying to draw attention and dependency to God, not to themselves
C. (:13) Misdirected Sacrifice
“And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.”
Picture the horse winning the Preakness and the garland of flowers put over him as a mark of victory
To the gates of the temple or of the city??
Longenecker: We can visualize the priest of Zeus bringing out sacrificial oxen [bulls] draped in woolen “wreaths” and preparing to sacrifice at an altar that stood in front of the Temple of Zeus, hard by the city gates. And as the idolatrous worship proceeded, Paul and Barnabas began to see that they were the object of it.
Illustration — Stedman: Paul could have played to this attention and had a cushy experience:
I was recently in Hawaii where I again visited the wax museum in Honolulu and saw the diorama depicting the landing of Captain James Cook of the British Navy on the shores of Hawaii, at Kealakekua Bay. He was welcomed as the god, Lono, and he and his men were given anything and everything. Believe me, that means everything they wanted. They were attended day and night. But strangely, though Captain Cook thought this was wonderful and accepted their worship, one day as they were about to launch their boats and return to their ship, a native who was angry with him for some reason grabbed hold of the captain. Without thinking, Captain Cook swung at him and knocked him down. The native retaliated, hitting him on the head with a club, and the Captain groaned. When the natives heard this, one of them cried out, “He groans. He is not a god!” and they fell on him, and killed him. You can see a memorial at the site today. .
III. (:14-18) MINISTRATION OF HUMILITY – FAITHFUL MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL REDIRECT MISPLACED PRAISE TO THE GOODNESS OF THE LIVING GOD
Are we aggressive in redirecting people’s attention to the goodness of the living God and His gracious activity?
Reaction of Humble Servants of God when praise and worship is directed their way:
A. (:14-15a) Shock and Dismay
“But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things?’”
Someone had to inform them about the significance of what was happening since they did not speak the native language – took them a little while to catch on
Lenski: The act of tearing the garment consisted in grasping the tunic at the neck with both hands and giving a downward pull and tearing a rent of four or five inches in the tunic. It was always the tunic which was worn next to the body that was thus torn and not the long, loose outer robe . . . The robe was made of heavy material that was too solid to be torn and hung loosely upon the body.
Matt. 26:65 – high priest responded in this way to demonstrate revulsion and horror at what he thought were words of blasphemy
Wiersbe: How easy it would have been to accept this worship and try to use the honor as a basis for teaching the people the truth, but that is not the way God’s true servants minister (2 Cor. 4:1-2; 1 Thess. 2:1-5).
B. (:15b) Setting the Record Straight
1. Argument from Man’s Makeup
“We are also men of the same nature as you,”
Stott: although the substance of his message was invariable, he varied his approach and emphasis. The context within which he preached to the Jews in Antioch was Old Testament Scripture, its history, prophecies and law. But with the pagans in Lystra he focused not on a Scripture they did not know, but on the natural world around them, which they did know and could see.
The contradiction of the self-made man – we are incapable of changing ourselves in a transformational sense; we are who we are; we receive what we have by the gift of God
Instructed not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think
Paul’s self evaluation: I am not worthy of Jesus Christ because I am the chief of sinners – could certainly identify with anyone in the town
2. Argument from Ministry Motivation
“and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God,”
turn = change orientation – from the empty, useless, lifeless things
Guzik: That you should turn from these useless things: These were strong words from Paul to people who took their pagan worship seriously, but Paul wasn’t afraid to confront this mob with the truth. And the truth was that their idolatry was wrong.
Lenski: contrast between “useless ones” and God “living” – The evidence for his living existence is before the eyes of even the pagan world
3. Argument from Majestic Might
“who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them.”
How important is the doctrine of Creation?? So many evangelicals giving up valuable ground here; conference coming up on this subject – Why are we caving in to so-called science? Don’t we see the bias of the academic community??
the sovereign of all creation demands the obedience and service of all
C. (:16-17) Spelling out the Goodness and Patience of God
“And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
Toussaint: Up to the time of the church, God gave no direct revelation to the nations (i.e., Gentiles) so they were responsible only for their reactions to the general revelation discernible in Creation.
Lenski: The plural [“ways”] signifies that the Gentiles followed many different ways, their very multiplicity revealing that they were wrong ways. . . “rains” are mentioned because they came “from heaven” and thus from God.
Bruce: The providence of God in giving men rainfall and harvest is an OT theme (cf. Gen. 9:22), and the conjunction of “food and gladness” (v. 17; cf. Ch. 2:46) is a feature of OT language (cf. Ps. 4:7; Isa. 25:6; Eccl. 9:7); for the idea of the heart’s being satisfied with food cf. Luke 21:34.
D. (:18) Sticking to Their Guns
“And even saying these things, they with difficulty restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.”
Look at the drive to have a visible hero to worship; so difficult to worship an invisible God
Matt. 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”