Summary: Exposition of Acts 14:8-20 about the three witnesses left by God in Lystra as Paul ministered there
Text: Acts 14:8-20, Title: Not Without Three Witnesses, Date/Place: NRBC, 5/25/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: talk about 1 John 5:7
B. Background to passage: The story is getting a little repetitious. Paul comes to a city, preaches Christ in that city’s synagogue, the Jews get angry, the gentiles want more, some believe, some don’t, and they get run out of the city just before they get stoned, beaten, or jailed. First it was Paphos, although they didn’t get run out of town there, then it was Antioch, then Iconium, and now similar things happen in Lystra. Although in Lystra there was no synagogue mentioned.
C. Main thought: Paul tells them that God has not left Himself without a witness, and from the text we will see that there are three witnesses in Lystra
A. A Public Healing (v. 8-10)
1. This healing is very reminiscent of Peter’s healing the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. In both instances the people are convinced that something divine is going on; thus the Gr. word for “sign” means something that points to something else. Also both Peter and Paul are very quick to point the people in the direction of the sign, because in this case, their intuition was right (God is working), but their interpretation (the gods have come to visit us is wrong. Tell about the Roman writer Ovid, and his story about Lystra, the gods coming down, and the town refusing them, all except one elderly couple. Paul and Barnabas’s reaction is much more severe than Peter and John’s because of the level of reaction from the people. Make a few comments about Paul’s gift to be able to discern faith to be healed. Also comment about the possibility of Paul not praying for everyone to be healed.
3. Illustration: Her remark, as she hands a thick manila folder to him, “My doctor copied my chart, complete with medicines and prognosis…just copy it into the prayer list, please.” “God certainly can, and sometimes does, heal people in a miraculous way today. But the Bible does not teach that He will always heal those who come to Him in faith. He sovereignly reserves the right to heal or not to heal as He sees fit.” One clear purpose of miracles was to authenticate the character of Jesus and his relationship with his heavenly Father. In this regard, miracles demonstrate the following: God is with Jesus (John 3:2); Jesus is from God (John 3:2; 9:342-33); God has sent Jesus (John 5:36); Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10-11; Matt. 9:6-7; Luke 5:24-25); Jesus is approved by God (Acts 2:22). A second purpose of miracles was to authenticate the message about Jesus. This was the major function of the miracles as far as the ministry of the apostles was concerned. Mark says that the Lord "confirmed his word [that the apostles preached] by the signs that accompanied it? (Mark 16:20). When Luke was describing the ministry of Paul and Barnabas at Iconium, he said that the Lord "confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders? (Acts 14:3). Notice that in both of these texts the Lord does not confirm the apostles themselves but rather "his word? or ’the message? that the apostles were preaching. Signs and wonders do not testify to the apostles but to the message of salvation preached by the apostles. So the two principal things that are authenticated by miracles are the Lord Jesus and the message about the Lord Jesus.
4. One conclusion that we must draw is that the power of God manifested in very visible ways is a powerful way to spread the gospel, because this was a clear sign to unbelievers. But sometimes I wonder, as Ronnie and I talked this week, are we content to do church/religion without the manifest power and presence of God? Do we long for God to display His power, worth, value, etc., in ways to glorify Himself? What if that means making you sick first? Typically when God is viewed clearest is when no one else can work, but Him. Or when there are serious issues related to intense suffering? God does still heal, but should we pray for that every time? Would you be offended if I didn’t pray for healing as I didn’t the other day when someone called a prayer request in? Do you have the faith to be healed? Do you have the faith to see God moving in other visible expressions of power? If God did heal or save or deliver would you tell others? If you don’t tell them now, why would you then? Do you ever wonder why God doesn’t do miraculous or extraordinary things in our midst? Could it be that we are not living/walking close enough to him for the power of the Spirit of God to rest upon us? Could it be that God knows that people would either condemn it, gossip about those that were moved upon, ignore it, anything but look heavenward and fall prostrate on our faces in worship and deeper faith.