Summary: Let’s be careful to represent God to people the way He has represented Himself; as gracious provider, protector, benefactor.
…and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them. And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
The last time we were here we charged the people of Lystra, both pagans and Jews, with failing to listen. We concluded that they missed out completely on what Paul and Barnabas had to offer because they weren’t really hearing what was being said to them.
In verse 18 of this chapter, the verse following our text verses today, Luke tells us that “…even saying these things, they with difficulty restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them”. Meaning, they still weren’t paying attention.
So before we move on from this chapter I’d like to stop and look at what Paul was trying to tell the people of Lystra, and as we do let’s be careful not to repeat their error. Let’s go slowly and carefully so as not to miss the blessing.
THE WITNESS OF GOD IN CREATION
Ps 146:6 I Cor 8:5,6 Rom 1:18-20
The first way God witnesses to man concerning Himself is in creation. We call it general revelation, and for some of you this point might take your mind back to Romans 1, where Paul says,
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
These pagans already believed that all the natural world was a result of creation. What Paul wanted them to understand was that it was done by the one true God, not the many gods that they worshiped.
The ‘vain things’ he referred to in verse 15 were those very gods and the forms of worship and sacrifice that were exercised in their ceremonies. The gods were false and therefore the rituals were useless. Vain.
This is a topic Paul had many opportunities to address; probably many more than are recorded for us in scripture.
To the Corinthians, he wrote: “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
Christians need to realize that the greatest stumbling block to the preaching of the gospel to the unchurched world, is the theory of evolution.
At least these pagan worshipers were starting from a place of recognizing their duty to some deity; someone higher than themselves.
We now live in a society where two and going on three generations of people have been brought up in a school system that subtracts God from the equation completely.