Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PUSHING THE GOSPEL INTO LYSTRA”

Acts 14.6-20

In Acts chapter one, the Lord Jesus Christ was taken up and a cloud received Him out of the sight of His disciples. He has been at the Father’s right hand ever since, awaiting the time of His second coming in power and great glory, while His enemies are made His footstool.[1] In Acts chapter two, the Day of Pentecost came and the Spirit of God was poured out on the disciples, leading to the conversion and baptism by immersion of 3,000 believers under the preaching of Simon Peter. In Acts chapter three, Peter and the other apostles continued their anointed preaching, with yet more thousands coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in the city of Jerusalem. In Acts chapter four, we see official reaction to the apostle’s ministry and threats being made to them. However, Peter and the others preached to the rulers and to the people, conversions continued, and poverty overcame the believers who had only planned to remain in Jerusalem for the holy days, but remained for several years to be taught by the apostles after they came to Christ. In Acts chapter five, we read of some Christians selling all to provide food for hungry believers, God’s intervention to take the lives of a husband and wife engaged in deception about their giving, more consternation and opposition from the religious hierarchy, while the gospel advanced: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”[2] In Acts chapter six, we read of the appointment of deacons to minister to the physical needs of poor widows, of rising opposition to the gospel, and of a conspiracy on the part of some to oppose the anointed ministry of Stephen, one of the first deacons. Acts chapter seven preserves a portion of a sermon preached by Stephen, and is the best concise history of Israel found in the Bible, along with his charge against his accusers: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”[3] In response, Stephen was stoned to death and became the first of the millions of Christian martyrs who died for refusing to death to bow to the mob and bowing only to king Jesus. In Acts chapter 8, the gospel begins to spread ahead of terrible persecution. In Samaria, we read of an outbreak of revival and the false profession of a man identified as Simon, a sorcerer, as well as the conversion of a lone man, an Ethiopian. The gospel is now spreading to the north as well as to the south. In Acts chapter 9, we read of the astonishing conversion of one Saul of Tarsus, who had conspired against Stephen. On his way to Damascus, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. At about the same time in another location, Simon Peter was being prepared by God to certify the spread of the gospel to Gentiles. In Acts chapter 10, the Apostle Peter travels to an encounter with a Roman named Cornelius and baptizes him. In Acts chapter 11, Peter returns to Jerusalem and testifies to the Jewish believers there what had happened with Cornelius. The gospel is now spreading more rapidly abroad, so much so that Barnabas is sent by the apostles to the city of Antioch, where “a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.”[4] Barnabas sees the task is so great in Antioch that he went to Tarsus to fetch Saul, soon to be known as Paul, to labor with him in that city. In Acts chapter 12, persecution in Jerusalem intensifies. The Apostle James is martyred. Peter is imprisoned, but is miraculously delivered in answer to prayer. The prison guards responsible for Peter were then slain. Herod blasphemed God and was slain by God. “But the word of God grew and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.”[5]

The stage is now set for Paul’s first missionary journey. Turn with me to Acts 13.1-3, where we read of events in Antioch:

1      Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2      As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

3      And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Notice that the leadership of this church was comprised of Jewish and Gentile Christians, with Lucius being from Cyrene (which is in Africa) and Simeon having the nickname Niger (meaning black).

In verses 4-12, we read of events on the island of Cyprus:

4      So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

5      And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

6      And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

7      Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

8      But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

9      Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

10     And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

11     And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

12     Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Three things to note in this passage: First, John Mark is with them, verse 5. Next, Luke refers to Barnabas and Saul, note the order the names. Third, note that Saul is first referred to as Paul, in verse 9.

We do not have time to read the rest of Acts chapter 13, which is a history of the missionary journey to a city named Perga and a second city named Antioch (in Pisidia), both in a region known as Galatia. Observe, in Acts 13.13, that John Mark wimped out and went home to mommy: “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” This was dangerous territory, and John Mark just plain chickened out. As well, notice that it is now “Paul and his company” and not “Barnabas and Saul.” Paul is now the unquestioned leader of the missionary group. Throughout the rest of the chapter, Paul’s role in the mission becomes ever more prominent, and by verses 43, 46 and 50, we read of “Paul and Barnabas,” “Paul and Barnabas,” “Paul and Barnabas.” For years after his conversion in Damascus, Saul had lived in Tarsus, serving God and growing in the faith. Then, in Antioch, Saul of Tarsus followed the leadership of the more mature and more experienced Barnabas. However, during this first missionary journey his ministry blossomed, he adopted a new name, and his calling came into full view.

Two weeks ago I preached a message titled “A Divisive Ministry,” with Acts 14.1-6 as my text. For that reason, I will not cover that ground again. You can read that sermon on the church web site. Suffice it to say that Paul’s ministry in the Galatian city of Iconium, as was the case almost everywhere else, was divisive. When you are spiritual, and you are serving God, there will always be opposition from the unsaved, who are God’s enemies.

If you now take a step back and consider Paul’s Christian life, you will note that he initially ministered in places where the gospel had already penetrated. With this missionary journey with Barnabas, however, he is taking the gospel to new regions. In the time we have left, I want to review Luke’s account of Paul and his team pushing the gospel into the region of the city of Lystra. On the map in the back of your Bible you will notice that Lystra is located in what is present day Turkey, and was then in the region known as Galatia. It was a Roman colony city, as was a city we are somewhat more familiar with, a city Paul has not yet visited in his first missionary journey, the city of Philippi.

Three parts to Luke’s record of Paul pushing the gospel to Lystra:

First, THE MINISTRY AT LYSTRA

6      They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:

7      And there they preached the gospel.

8      And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked:

9      The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,

10     Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

Let me make three observations about Paul’s ministry at Lystra:

First, there is the preaching of the gospel, verse 7: “And there they preached the gospel.” It is characteristic of apostolic ministry, and it should be characteristic of anything in our day claiming to be Biblical Christianity, that they preached the gospel. After all, what do we have to offer in Christian ministry beside the gospel message and the savior named Jesus? Can we offer a charmed life free from difficulties? Not if Paul’s life is any indication. Can we promise prosperity to those who embrace our message? Not if Paul’s experiences are any indication. Paul preached the gospel because he realized that the gospel is really all that we have. He wrote in First Corinthians 9.16, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” That should be the admission of every pastor and missionary.

Next, there was the healing of the sick, verses 8-10. Your understanding of this passage will be greatly dependent upon your theological perspective. If you are of Pentecostal persuasion, you will see this as an incident in which Paul came upon a lost man, perceived that he had sufficient faith, and then healed him to the glory of God. However, if you are of a more Biblical persuasion, you will see this as an incident where God sovereignly chose to validate Paul’s gospel ministry in a visible way by working a miracle in the life of a sinner who had only moments before come to faith in Christ, then healing this now saved man of his congenital disability.

Consider this man’s healing as being a picture of the gospel. First, notice how Luke strongly reinforces the reader’s understanding of this man’s physical impotency, verse 8: “And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked.” He was impotent in his feet, unable to walk. He was crippled from birth, suggesting that he was born with the fallen nature of Adam. And he had never walked, marking that this would be a completely new experience for the crippled man. Next, notice that he heard Paul speak. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” Romans 10.17.  After he heard Paul speak, Paul “perceiving that he had faith to be healed,” the word perceiving translating the Greek word oida, to know.[6] How did Paul know? Perhaps the man said something. Perhaps Paul noticed a particular reaction to the gospel and concluded that this man had come to faith in Christ. However it came to pass that Paul had knowledge of this man’s faith, “Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked,” verse 10. Thus, the Apostle Paul demonstrated the signs of an apostle. In Second Corinthians 12.12, he wrote, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” Allow me to digress for a moment to make some comments about spiritual gifts. There are four kinds of spiritual gifts given to believers; special gifts, serving gifts, speaking gifts, and sign gifts. Special gifts are gifted men, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.[7] Serving gifts would include helps, ruling, and giving. Speaking gifts would include prophesy (or preaching), teaching, and exhortation. Sign gifts would be miracles, healings, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Only apostles would possess sign gifts, and when apostles passed off the scene, so did their sign gifts. Thus, we see that Paul was first and foremost a gospel preacher, though God enabled him from time to time to heal the sick for the purpose of powerfully illustrating the gospel truth that the spiritually impotent and helpless can be saved by the power of God, just as a cripple can be made to walk for the first time.

Next, THEIR MISPLACED WORSHIP

11     And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

12     And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

13     Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.

14     Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

15     And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

16     Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.

17     Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

18     And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

After witnessing the miracle of the lame man being healed, the people mistook Paul and Barnabas for their pagan gods. After all, being someone they had known to be crippled from birth, there was no doubt whatsoever that a miracle had been performed. The Greek gods named are Zeus and Hermes (the messenger god), translated into their Latin counterparts in this verse Jupiter and Mercury. According to Greek legend, Zeus and Hermes had visited before in the likeness of men. Therefore, people of the city assumed these Greek gods had returned and prepared to sacrifice to them.

Notice that when Paul and Barnabas realized what was happening they tried to stop it and point the people in the right direction, rending their clothes and crying out to them. Interesting, is it not, that when they were stoned, Paul and Barnabas did not rend their clothes? However, they were so pained by this mistaken idolatry, these men who sought to glorify God and not themselves, that they rent their clothes in protest. In their pleadings, they directed the idolaters of Lystra to the Creator and Sustainer of all life, barely preventing them from blaspheming God through their misplaced worship.

Finally, OPPOSITION COMES AGAIN

19     And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

20     Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Jews from Iconium and Antioch had followed Paul and Barnabas to Lystra. Why would they do that? It is likely that they thought Paul was an apostate Jew, bent on destroying their ancient faith. Therefore, they would not rest until they saw him dead, never minding that the gospel which he preached was wonderfully foretold in their own Hebrew scriptures. What they were unable to accomplish elsewhere they were successful at doing in Lystra. They stirred up the people and they stoned Paul. Imagine stoning a man who minutes before he persuaded you to stop you were gong to offer sacrifices to as a god. My, how fickle people are. One minute the crowd favorite, and the next minute deserving only death.

Remember, however, that Paul had been tenacious in his attacks against Christianity even to the point of consenting to the stoning of Stephen. Now the situation is reversed and Paul had become the object of pursuit and wrath against Christianity. The law of sowing and reaping at work. The custom in that day was to kill the victim and then drag the body outside the city for the dogs and other beasts to devour. This they did to Paul. Was he dead? I believe he was. I doubt if this angry mob would stop short of being absolutely sure he was dead, but God miraculously raised him up. As the disciples stood round about him after the mob had departed (perhaps praying?), he rose up and went into the city, and on the next day left with Barnabas for Derbe. Definitely not the actions of one who had been stoned, except for God’s wondrous power.

The rest of Acts chapter 14 informs us that Paul and Barnabas preached in Derbe, taught many people there, and then returned to Lystra, and Iconium, and then returned home to Antioch. Upon their arrival in Antioch, they “gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”[8]

Upon reflection, what lessons can be learned from Paul’s efforts to advance the gospel to Lystra? Besides the fact that Paul was first and foremost a gospel preacher? In addition to the fickleness of the people to try to worship him one minute and kill him the next minute? Of course, there is the healing of the man crippled from birth, showing the helplessness of every sinner and the need every man has for God’s saving grace. However, Luke sums up the primary lesson for us in verse 22, preserving what Paul taught all along the way as he pushed the gospel ahead: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

We need to make sure that new Christians understand this. We have been spoiled for so long in the United States, and things are changing back to normal after almost 200 years of unusual protection for Christians. “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” It will be tough to live for Christ and to serve God, but He expects us to face up to it by His grace and get it done anyway.



[1] Psalm 110.1

[2] Acts 5.42

[3] Acts 7.51

[4] Acts 11.21

[5] Acts 12.24-25

[6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 693-694.

[7] Ephesians 4.11

[8] Acts 14.27



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org