And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” And with these sayings, they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18)
Right God. Wrong God.
The missionary journeys of Paul, Barnabas, and Silas established many churches and brought many souls to Christ. Their preaching was forceful and plain, and often facing persecution for the clarity of their message. Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles, often teaching in Synagogues and the marketplaces. With the accompanying signs of the Holy Spirit, Paul opened the word of God with proof of divine inspiration showing powers no man could do. These miracles confirmed the word bringing people to know the gospel. But the miracles did not always get the desired result, with people seeing the working of the Lord God and coming to see the saving power of Christ.
In the city of Lystra, a city of Lycaonia, a man who had been crippled in his feet since birth sat begging. Paul took any opportunity to preach to a crowd, and during one of those times, he observed the lamb man listening intently to his message. Few in the crowd took notice of this nobody among them. He had been forgotten by society as a cripple with little regard for his existence. He caught the eye of the apostle, who could tell this man was hungering for the truth. As Paul examined the man, he could tell he had the faith to be healed. He cried out to the crippled man from birth to stand up straight on his feet. And he did. This astonished the multitude to see a man crippled from birth immediately standing and walking and leaping about with joy. A great miracle had been done through the power of God. Paul had shown the city of Lystra something they had not seen before. What they witnessed was a sure testimony of Jesus Christ. What they did was not.
Seeing the man leaping about, the people raised their voices praising the power of the gods that came in the likeness of men. Instead of giving honor to God the Father, the people worshiped Paul and Barnabas, calling them gods. Barnabas, they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes. The priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gates to offer sacrifices with the multitudes. Everyone in the city came to sacrifice to the gods in human form for the wondrous miracle that was done. The man who had been healed was ignored, and attention was given to Paul and Barnabas. While the festivities were going on, Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes, running in among the multitudes trying to stop the people from worshiping them. Paul pleaded with them to turn from the useless things to the living God and know the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was to no avail. The people would not listen. Paul and Barnabas could scarcely constrain the people. Shortly afterward, Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and dissuaded the crowds, who then took Paul out of the city, stoning him and leaving him for dead. One moment they worship him as Hermes, and the next, they are killing him.
The right God was shown to the people who embraced the wrong god. Paul would survive his stoning – not because he was a god – but through the providence of the true God. The evidence was clear and demonstrative for the city of Lystra to know the living God. A miracle of unparalleled power was done, and all they could see was the work of the wrong gods. The man had been crippled from birth, and everyone in the city knew this fact. No one could have imagined how such a man could be healed in an instant. When Paul spoke to him (without touching him), and the man stood and leaped about, the multitudes should have bowed on their knees to praise the work of the one true living God. Instead, they hardened their hearts and gave glory to their useless gods. When the Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and persuaded the people Paul was not a god, they stoned him.
There is an incredible amount of evidence of the one true God. Throughout the universe and the known world, the handprint of the Creator is everywhere. Creation testifies to a Creator. The Bible exalts the word of God as divine. No book has ever matched its power and glory, and no doctrine or faith will merit consideration compared to the Bible. The New Testament church is the kingdom of God ruled by His Son as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No kingdom is greater than the church belonging to Christ. The message of the resurrection is the greatest miracle in the history of humanity and the redemption through the Son of God the greatest hope. Everything man needs to find eternity is found in Jesus Christ’s message, yet men still reject him for their own gods. Those gods can be a false religion, pleasures of the flesh, pride, riches, fame, and the mistaken belief there is no God. When the final day of judgment comes for all men, there will be two things known to all: the right God and the wrong God. Which one do you serve?