Paul Stoned and Left for Dead
"And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, 'Stand up straight on your feet!' And he leaped and walked. Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!' And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker" (Acts 14:8-12).

Paul and Barnabas left Iconium due to threats on their lives but they did not stop preaching and working miracles in the name of Jesus. As Paul was preaching in Lystra, he took the opportunity to heal a crippled man. The man had never walked but was immediately able to stand up, leap and walk by the power of God! The people, knowing the man and that he had never been able to walk previously, are amazed. However, they mistakenly deduce that Paul and Barnabas were gods in the bodies of men. In fact, they even named them Zeus and Hermes.

Be careful not to draw an incorrect conclusion from Luke's statement about Paul observing that the crippled man "had faith to be healed" (14:9). Elsewhere in the Scriptures we've seen that faith in a miraculous healing on the part of the recipient is not required. There are several examples of people experiencing a miracle without having any cognizance or hope that they would (e.g., Acts 3:4-10; 13:11; John 11:43,44). Thus, they did not have prior faith in the healing which proves that faith on the part of the recipient is not intrinsically required (faith on the part of the healer, however, was always required; cf. Matt. 17:14-21). In this case in Acts 14, I believe Paul observed the man's faith and decided to bless him consequently. It was a compassionate act and a wonderful reward for this man (Jesus also seemed to sometimes heal as a reward for faith; e.g., Matt. 8:5-13)! Had the crippled man lacked faith, such would not have inherently prevented Paul from working a miracle upon him. So, although faith was not required to have one's body healed from a physical affliction, faith is most certainly a necessity for the healing of one's soul (cf. John 8:24; Heb. 11:6)!

"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. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, 'Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.' And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them" (Acts 14:13-18).

This Gentile city had a temple for Zeus and a priest who served him. This man, also believing that Paul and Barnabas were gods in men's bodies, brought the necessary items to offer an animal sacrifice to the apostles! Would Paul and Barnabas embrace such praise (like Herod did in Acts 12)? Certainly not! As soon as Paul and Barnabas learned what was happening (and it may have taken them a while to catch on since the people were speaking in their native tongue), they acted quickly to stop it (as any created being should do; cf. Rev. 22:8,9). They tore their garments to show their strong disapproval and ran in among the people explaining that they too were only mortals. They were able to work great miracles because of the power that God--the true and living Creator--had bestowed upon them. Paul and Barnabas spoke against idolatry and false worship; it was not appropriate to worship men or made-up gods (cf. I Thess. 1:9). Zeus (who was believed to be responsible for the rain) had not done any good for the people and neither had any of the other gods they worshiped. These gods were created in the minds of men and were powerless! Paul and Barnabas explained that the true God did not leave Himself without witness. He did much good physically for mankind, the zenith of His creation (cf. Rom. 1:18-25). He (not Zeus) blessed man with rain, fruitful seasons, and numerous other gifts--including salvation by means of Jesus Christ. God had promised these things, and He keeps His word (cf. Gen. 8:22; 12:1-3)! God had allowed "nations to walk in their own ways" but now desires men to repent and prepare for the judgment (cf. Acts 17:29-31).

Despite their clear words and disapproval of the people sacrificing to them, they were barely able to restrain the multitude. The miraculous healing of the lame man had a profound impact upon the people! But, it is unknown how many were impacted by the accompanying teaching of the gospel of Christ. Miracles were intended to confirm the message being spoken as true, but sometimes the multitudes paid more attention to them than what was more important (i.e., the teaching; e.g., John 6:26). These people had been trained from childhood to believe the strange inventions of heathen mythology, and many had a difficult time letting go of what they felt confident had to be true regarding the nature of these two visitors to their city.

As a side note, the poems of Homer and Virgil are filled with accounts of how the gods took on human form and learned about human affairs and helped those they visited. These people believed those fictional stories to be true. Furthermore, Gareth L. Reese recorded the following in his commentary on Acts (pp. 504-505) which gives us a little more insight on this situation:

There was a fable among the inhabitants of Lycaonia that Jupiter (Zeus) and Mercury (Hermes) had once visited the place, and had been received by Philemon [not the Philemon of the New Testament]. According to mythology, Jupiter and Mercury one day took the forms of men and came to Lystra to visit. They walked up and down the streets, knocking on all the doors, but no one invited them in to visit. Finally they came to the last house in town, a tumbledown shack, at the edge of the city dump, the home of Philemon and Baucis. Philemon and Baucis invited Jupiter and Mercury to visit a while in the shade of an old tree. Then the mythological gods were invited to stay for a feast. Late at night, they left the city, taking with them Philemon and Baucis. When they were at a safe distance, Jupiter called down fire on the town; and all those who had refused Jupiter and Mercury were put to death. Philemon and Baucis were made priests. A new city was built by the gods, and a magnificent temple was built. In this temple, Philemon and Baucis served. Ever after that, when a stranger came to town, he was well received. This is one of the reasons they made ready to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. They were thinking that the gods had come to town again.

"Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe" (Acts 14:19,20).

The disappointment of learning that Paul and Barnabas were only mortals, set the stage for a radical swing in mood toward the apostles. Persuading the people not to sacrifice to them was just a calm before the storm, so to speak! Luke records that the unbelieving Jews have arrived (perhaps after several days or weeks have passed) and are busy causing problems again. Some of them have traveled over 100 miles just to stir up trouble for these servants of God! Clearly, they have a strong zeal for their error. Do we have this much zeal for the truth? What did they say about Paul and Barnabas that caused the people to now believe that the ones they thought were gods were suddenly worthy of being put to death? Certainly they called Paul an imposter and a fraud and spoke many other wicked lies about him. Luke does not record the specifics for us, and neither does he inform us about Barnabas. Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead (cf. 9:15,16). Did Barnabas hide or did they simply ignore him since he wasn't the "chief speaker"? We simply do not know. The fact that they supposed Paul to be dead implies that he was not actually dead. Of course, even if he had died, God could have easily restored his life if He desired to do so. When it was safe, the disciples gathered around Paul (likely to tend to what they believed was his corpse). At that moment, however, he got up and went back into the city. What courage and perseverance! A strong case can be made that Paul was healed miraculously from his injuries, even if he did not require being brought back to life. It was profitable to encourage the disciples there one more time before leaving (which is why Paul likely entered the city again after getting up), but it was not beneficial to stay there any longer. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe to continue their evangelistic efforts. They were determined to keep preaching Jesus' soul-saving word, no matter what happened to them!

Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.