Paul and Barnabas do their typical thing and enter the synagogue first. The text says that they spoke in “such a manner” that lots of people believed. (I am initially reading from the NASB.) The amplified version says, “with such power and boldness.” The NIV says that they, “spoke so effectively.” Other versions simply say that they spoke. Now, if we begin to think that they crafted their speech as to sway, with their words, we begin to wonder the power of these men. But they most assuredly would disagree that it wasn’t their power that many believe. For even though faith comes through hearing (Rom 10:17), we ultimately know that it is the Holy Spirit that converts a man, that has him understand as to believe. Even Paul said that it wasn’t because of his persuasive words (1 Cor 2:4). If we begin to think it is us doing the convincing, we’ve got another think coming.
The Jews are losing their culture, the ones that only find their culture valuable. This is a great message for us today. We attempt to change the culture today to fit what we think it should be because of who we are, forgetting that we don’t change the culture for our sake, but that our change is the most important thing we should focus on. The culture can defend itself. We share the word, and individuals are changed. Then we focus on individuals. If we think by changing our culture we can change people, we’ve got another think coming.
Verse 3 confirms that the words they were speaking, was done in the reliance of God. He gave them grace and signs and wonders “done by their hands. This being said, the people of the city became divided. It’s what Christ does. He divides. Anyway, a plot was afoot and the apostles were being mistreated and there was an attempt to stone them. They became aware of the plot and fled, but continued to preach the gospel. I begin to wonder at this point… How does the gospel affect us when there is mistreatment? Generally I think that fear stops us. Fear of being misunderstood, or misaligned. But, mistreated? How do we have to fear that? We all say in our own little studies something to the effect of, “Oh, it’s coming,” when considering true persecution. Is that when we stop, or when we start preaching the gospel. We think that there has to be a perfect moment, a perfect opportunity, or perhaps a divine appointment(?) to say something. Do we wait, or do we go? When is the time? The time is now? Everything in our society seems to be based on timing. When to buy a house. When to sell. When is the right time to invest? Should I just use the bank? Or a Credit Union? I don’t mean to insult the idea that God can work out in a specific and right moment, because HE ALWAYS DOES, but for us, that thinking might be a bit skewed. If we think there is a perfect time to wait and share the gospel with someone, we’ve got another think coming.
In one of the places they fled, they performed one of those aforementioned sign and wonder: a man who could not walk from birth, stood up and walked. Seemingly, Paul either spoke it within hearing of the man, or he shouted for the man to get up and walk. But the reaction of the crowd is the interesting thing here, at least to me. They are considered as gods. Offerings are prepared. Worship is intended. But Paul and Barnabas tear their robes, go immediately to the people and tell them that they are only men as they are. Their purpose is to show them that their worship of these gods has no purpose. To reveal the God, the True God as creative and generous. Man, in general, receives blessings from God; rain and food and life. This is the God they are intending to reveal, and a misunderstanding of their “signs and wonders” is a sorrowful thing. They went immediately to the men. How often do we allow our goodness, our love to be misunderstood as just us? And this ignores the question about signs and wonders anyway… What are they really? Healing? Or simply speaking boldly? Both? When we don’t act like the world in following Christ, we should be giving credit to him. Instead, there are many out there claiming the name of Christ and acting too much like the world. If we think our goodness and love in following Christ can be done in our own power, we’ve got another think coming.
Those Jews who were so upset about Paul and Barnabas in Iconium, heard about the goings-on at Lystra. They went there and won the crowds over, stoned Paul until they thought he was dead, and dragged him out of the city. What a strange turn of events. First they’re considered gods, the next thing they’re being stoned by the people. You wonder at the stuff the bible leaves out sometimes… How did the Jews, convince a bunch of god offering fanatics, to stone those that they thought were gods just a little bit ago? The work of God goes on. Those we think are dead, are revived to preach another day. I get the feeling that what was most concerning to the Jews wasn’t just their culture, but it may have been the fact that they believed God was being misrepresented by these… Christians. Sure the means of their fervor should have made them question their hearts, but maybe, deep down, they believe they were doing the work of God. I may be too condemning at times towards people who seem to be arguing that God is this way or that way. One thing we’ve learned so far in our study of Acts, is that God ain’t gonna do the same thing in the same way no how, no way. Of course the Jews stand against the growth of the Church isn’t necessarily doing the work of God. But in all… well, most of these summary statements in Acts tell us that the Church grew, despite persecution or corruption or tribulation. God’s work does not stop. I have to wonder again though, am I a help to the gospel, or a hindrance. Is my inaction less helpful than my actions? There are many things to speak out against in our Christian culture here in America, but does it help? If we think we “help” God out in all our actions against those who would call themselves Christians, we’ve got another think coming.
Ultimately, the book of Acts is a compelling read that leaves a lot out that we might want to know. But God gives us what we need to know. Our words are what lead people to believe. By being part of the culture means it should be changing around you because of our influence. God does call us for specific times to do specific tasks. Sometimes it is a very tough decision on our part to love someone we so much despise. So much of the time we need to expose a lie that is disguised as the truth. We are individuals called to individual purposes and corporate purposes. Our gifts complete the Church. We are needed where we are. God will complete the work He has through His people. But the one thing we cannot do is say, “this is how it was done in Acts, we should be able to replicate it.” Are there God’s people out there today lifting a man from his mat he spent his whole life on, to walk for the very first time? I pray to God that there is! Have I seen that happen? No. But that does not mean it doesn’t. God Can Do Anything. Is He limited by my inaction? No, only I choose to limit Him. Our God is an amazing God not limited by time or circumstance. We are limiting Him by our unbelief. I think if there is one warning I come away with by studying Acts is, don’t limit Him to a method, or an experience, or even by my own weak faith. Strengthen my faith, oh my God. That I may see your signs and wonders worked out through your Church. If I think my life is enriching simply by knowing Him, but not taking part in His work, I got another think coming.