In the final message of the series, we look at what happened when Paul and Barnabas went to the city of Lystra in Asia Minor. First, Paul was enabled by the Holy Spirit to do a great healing. A man, lame from birth, was enabled to stand and walk under his own power for the first time in his life. This ‘outward’ display of healing mirrored or pictured God’s ‘inward’ work of bringing healing (salvation) to the man.
This great healing leads to a great misunderstanding. The people of Lystra believed that two of their pantheon of gods had come down to earth in human form (Zeus & Hermes) and so they must be worshipped. While their explanation of events might seem strange to a modern person, it makes perfect sense that they filtered what they saw (the miracle) through their common understanding of the universe. It’s not disparaging of the to say they misunderstood the Gospel message and what had taken place.
Misunderstanding actually turns out to be the third great barrier to the Gospel that Paul and Barnabas encountered on their mission trip. And just like the Gospel was misunderstood in the ancient world, it is misunderstood today. Some hear only a message about religion and rules. Others hear a message about cultural or religious power. Many simply here a privatized, self-help message. Misunderstandings of the Gospel are numerous.
The important third part of the passage in Acts centers on Paul & Barnabas’ great response to the great misunderstanding. First, they tear their clothes, a sign of great distress over the misunderstanding which drives them to want to correct it. Second, they stress their common humanity with the people of Lystra. They are not, in fact, gods but ordinary humans who have simply received God’s extraordinary gifts; the very same things the people of Lystra were invited to do. Finally, and most importantly, they give glory to God so that the people might have a better understanding of who He is (the Living God, Creator God, and Sustaining God).