21 May 2014

Acts 14:8-18

“... yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good – giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” (v. 17)


In a rather comical episode, the healing of a man at Lystra leads to Paul and Barnabas being mistaken for Hermes and Zeus. These Jewish missionaries who have been rejected by their own community in Iconium are now taken to be Greek gods! The people rush to offer sacrifice, declaring that the gods have come to them in human form. Such is their enthusiasm that Paul and Barnabas have to shout to be heard. Despite their assertions that they are mortal and their declaration of the one living God, they "scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them" (v. 18).

This is an important encounter, for the people have no Jewish background to which Paul can appeal. He does not attempt to speak to them about Jesus, but begins where they are. He points to nature and speaks of the God who created it all. He reasserts that there is one God of all. The good news is not of humans with god-like powers, but of the one living God. God who created "the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them" (v. 15) is the only one worth worshipping.

Paul does not expand upon this pronouncement. He does not preach about repentance, or urge any response. He does not tell the story of Jesus. The gospel is first about God.

To Ponder

  • What can Paul's message to the heathen Gentiles (non Jews) teach us about sharing the good news?
  • Where do you see God in the world around you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.