Witnessing with Boldness
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. 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. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 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. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 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: (continue to read up to Acts 14:22).
As we read the account of Paul and Barnabas in the city of Lystra, we will see not only Paul’s boldness in his witness for Christ, but also his humility. The stage is set for us in verse 8 of chapter 14, in the book of Acts. Paul is preaching in the city of Lystra, a Roman province of Galatia. There is no mention of a synagogue here, Paul is preaching to a crowd of people which may have gathered in the market place or town square. As Paul begins to speak, he fastens his eyes upon a man that has been crippled from birth–– perceiving that he had faith to be healed. With a loud voice, Paul commands the man to stand up and as he did the man leaped up and walked.
When this miracle took place, the men of the city lifted up their voices and cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” According to tradition or folklore, the gods Zeus and Hermes visited Lystra incognito, asking for food and lodging but all turned them away except one old man and his wife. This so displeased the gods, that they took vengeance upon the people of the city drowning them by a great flood. The couple that took them in were spared this plight and their humble home was made into a temple where they served as a priest and priestess. The people of Lystra did not want to repeat the same mistake their ancestors’ had made and believed Barnabas to be Zeus, Jupiter and Paul to be Hermes, Mercury.
They could have allowed the people of the city to treat them as gods for one day, after all, some would say, they deserved to be treated with kindness and respect. The men of the city went to gather the oxen with garland placed around their necks to offer sacrifice with the people of Lystra. Paul and Barnabas didn’t become proud or haughty desiring this sacrifice or praise but, rent their clothes, a Jewish expression of distress or alarm towards blasphemy. They began to cry out to the people of Lystra, “stop this ritual we are men as you are,” and then continued to preach to them about the true and living God, the Creator of Heaven and earth.
Paul and Barnabas restrained the crowd from offering sacrifices to them but as they were in the midst of the people, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium had come to Lystra and persuaded the crowd to stone Paul. One minute they were wanting to sacrifice oxen for these two men and now they are stoning Paul and dragging him outside the city leaving him for dead. (Note: Paul was the main speaker that’s why he was stoned and not Barnabas.) Acts 14:20 reads, 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. Notice the word, disciples. Paul had preached the Gospel to the crowds gathered in Lystra and souls were converted to Christ even amongst such great turmoil.
Thought: Paul is revived from his stoning, stands up, goes back into the city where he spends the night and leaves the next day for Derbe. What? He didn’t take a rest or turn around and quit? No, Paul, convinced that the love of Christ constrained him, continues to go forward and preach the Gospel wherever the Lord would lead him. His boldness to preach Christ is absolutely amazing and his humility to continue for the cause of Christ no matter the cost is truly distinctive of Paul. May we be as bold in our witness for Christ as Paul giving to Christ all honor of sacrifice and glory due His name.