Summary: God reveals himself in nature and in the Bible.
Have you ever had to testify in court? I came this close to testifying as a character witness once. I was supposed to tell the court how the accused had changed since his run in with the Law. I was happy to testify but I was a little nervous about it too. I knew that every word I would speak while on the stand would be recorded. I also knew that I would be cross-examined so that the court could determine the reliability of my testimony.
If we were to put God on trial to determine whether or not he really exists, whom do you think God would call to testify in his defence? In our sermon text this morning, the Apostle Paul tells us that God would call nature and the Bible as his key witnesses. Let’s listen to their testimonies to see what we can learn about God and his relationship to us.
The purpose of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was to convince the world that there is only one true God and that this God cares for everyone. It was for this reason Paul was in the town of Lystra on his first missionary journey around 50 A.D. There he told the people about Jesus of Nazareth who had died to pay for their sins and rose to life to prepare a place for them in heaven. As he spoke, Paul determined that one man in particular, a man who had been crippled from birth, had saving faith. Paul said to that man in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet!” (Acts 14:10) At once the man jumped up and began to walk.
Paul, of course, had not done this miracle by his own power; God was working through him. The people who witnessed the miracle, however, thought that their gods had come down to them in human form. A local legend said that Zeus and Hermes (Greek gods) had once come to visit the village but were welcomed only by an elderly couple. In their anger the gods destroyed the rest of village. Perhaps not wanting this to happen to them the crowds proclaimed Paul to be the god Hermes (since he had done the talking and Hermes was the messenger god), and Paul’s companion, Barnabas, they thought to be Zeus. When news about the miracle reached the priest at Zeus’ temple outside of town, he brought bulls to sacrifice to the two men. As soon as Paul and Barnabas figured out what was going on, they rushed into the crowd, tore their robes, and told the priest to stop. They were not gods; they were human like everyone else there! Paul went on to explain that they had come to tell them about the true God so that they would turn from their worthless worship of the Greek gods (Acts 14:16).
In this day and age when many people say that all religions lead to God, the Apostle Paul stands out as a dissenting voice. If all religions lead to God, then Paul would not have objected to the worship of Zeus and Hermes. He would have commended the people of Lystra for their piety and would not have called their religion worthless. No, it’s not good enough just to believe that there is a god; only faith in the one true God saves. Think of it this way. If I want to talk to my brother in Wisconsin, it would be foolish of me to think that I could use one of Maya’s toy phones to make a connection. While her toy phones look real, they are not real. It would not matter if I believed whole-heartedly that when I dialled my brother’s number on one those toy phones that I would get to talk to him. My faith wouldn’t suddenly turn those toy phones into real phones. In the same way it didn’t matter that the people of Lystra sincerely believed in Zeus and Hermes. Since these gods did not exist, their faith in them was misplaced and therefore worthless. Where have you put your faith? If it isn’t in the one true God, the God of the Bible, then your faith is misplaced.
But now what if we’re not even sure God exists? Before we can put our faith in God we need to know if he’s real or not don’t we? While the people of Lystra did not know the true God, they did at least know that there was a god. How did they know this? They knew it from the testimony of nature. Paul talked about that when he said, “[God] has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17). By looking at nature, that is the way in which the world is put together, one can’t help but believe that someone wise and powerful created it all. Indeed, Psalm 14:1 remarks that it’s only the fool who says in his heart there is no God.