13] Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.
14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15] and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you,”
This is the response of Barnabas and Paul to the efforts of the astonished townspeople and leaders of Lycaonia to sacrifice to them as a result of the miraculous healing of the man born crippled and unable to walk, as the previous verses record for us. Barnabas and Paul were greatly distressed at this misguided attempt to worship and honor them, and did all they could to dissuade the people from this, even tearing their clothes and crying out. They were barely able to stop the people, v. 18. We’ll have more to say about these verses, Lord willing, but for now want to focus on their assertion that they were just men with like nature as the Lycaonians. They were no different from them, not superior to them, not “gods”.
I think sometimes that it’s easy for us to forget this. Men, and women, are just that – men and women. And it doesn’t matter whether they are in the US or Africa or Asia or Europe or some island in the sea – they, and we, are just human, “just men”. Men and women have been able to do astonishing things, amazing things, things which might seem to belie the fact that they, and we, are “just men”. But they’re still “just men,” just human.
Paul had to deal with this problem, as well. Writing to the Corinthian believers, he said, For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each one of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you” Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:12, 13. It’s easy to set men on a pedestal. Those whose ministry has been blessed to us – it’s easy to hold them in high esteem. And Paul even tells us to do that: Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine, 1 Timothy 6:1.
The problem with these what seem to be contrary ideas is that while there is to be a certain respect paid to those who lead us in the Lord, at the same time we must remember that it is the Lord who has called these men and equipped them for their ministry. We may “plant,” and we may “water,” and indeed, we must do these things, but unless the Lord “gives the increase,” there will be no growing, no flowering and no harvest, 1 Corinthians 3:6. The reason the church, and thus the culture, is in such a mess is that we’ve forgotten that basic truth and have tried to bring about the harvest – that is, to “get results” – on our own.
There has only been one time that “the gods,” and I hate even to put it like that, “have come down to us in the likeness of men,” one time when the true God came down to this earth. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, Philippians 2:6, 7. Believers are so used to that idea that we really don’t stop to think about what that means. “Oh, yes,” we say, “Jesus was God incarnate, God in the flesh,” but do we really stop to consider that the One who walked the dusty roads of Israel was the some One who created and sustains the planet on which those roads were located. Paul mentioned this. He wanted these Lycaonians to turn from the useless false gods they worshiped to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, Acts 14:15.
We’ll have more to say about this, Lord willing, in our next post.