This section of scripture has two very interesting insights. Paul and Barnabas had come to lustration and one of the first things they did as they were preaching the word was to heal a man who was a crippled from birth.
It was this action that caused the people of Lystra to mistake these two men of God for being Gods. And it was what occurred after this happened that is interesting and provides us with two significant insights.
How They Handled It
Initially Paul and Barnabas had no idea what was going on as the people lifted up their voices in their local language crying out that Paul and Barnabas were two of their gods come down amongst them.
Barnabas they called Zeus, and because Paul was doing most of the talking, they presumed he must have been Hermes who was the Greek god that was the messenger of the gods. But Paul and Barnabas were unaware of what was going on as they could not understand the tongue of the people in Lystra.
It was not until the pagan priest of Zeus came down from the temple and was going to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas that they understood what was happening. We see them do two things in how they handled this situation.
First they immediately downplayed their role in this situation. They took no credit for the healing and tore their clothes to show the people that they were no gods but mere men. And they used the opportunity to preach the word of God. They told the people that the one true God was responsible for this healing and it was He who should be praised.
Compare this to the way Herod behaved when he was likened to a god in Acts 12:20-23. The people called out after Herod gave an oration saying his was the voice of a god and not a man. Herod did not give the credit to God and he was cut down and killed by an angel of The Lord. Paul and Barnabas in the same situation said in essence, “No. Give God the glory!”
The second interesting point in this episode has to do with speaking in tongues.
There are many today who say that speaking in tongues was only given in the early days so that the apostles and disciples could go out and preach to the world. They say tongues was for then and not for today. They also believe that when a person speaks in a tongue they can understand what is said.
None of this aligns with what the bible has to say about the subject of tongues. Here are a few scriptures to back this up.
1 Corinthians 14:2, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”
Acts 2:38-39, “38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
In these two scriptures we see first that the purpose of tongues was not to speak to men but to speak to God. It is a form of prayer to praise and worship God. Second, we see that the promise was not just to those in the early church, but to all generations, for we are those who are “far off” and we too are among those who are”…everyone whom The Lord our God calls to himself.”
Now what we see in the scriptures about Paul and Barnabas in Lystra is the proof that tongues did not allow them to understand the language of these people and nor did they use tongues to speak to and preach to them.
Paul had preached the word and then spoken to the man crippled from birth and The Lord raised him up, healing his legs so that he could walk.
It was after this that the local people of Lystra were amazed and raised their voice in their own tongue, which Paul and Barnabas did not speak or understand, proclaiming the gods were among them. They did not realise what was going on until the pries of Zeus was about to offer sacrifices to them.
If we accept the beliefs of those who say tongues enabled the disciples to preach the word in those days, then this would not have occurred. I must also add that those who say such things typically are people who have not received the gift of tongues and therefore do not know what they are talking about. They do not understand because they have not experienced it yet and the Holy Spirit has not opened their eyes to the true purpose of tongues, which has to do with walking in the spirit.
If you would like to know more on this, there are a number of links below that will give you more insight into this matter and the real purpose of tongues both in those days and today.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng provided by Michael Niemis)
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