And there sat a certain man at Lystra, weak in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:…
The contents of these verses are very diversified and very full. Yet a certain unity attaches to them, and from this point of view they will be now regarded. Paul and Barnabas have now reached a people who arc almost exclusively Gentiles, and Gentiles of the Gentiles. The miracle with which this paragraph opens may be supposed to find its place here by the mind of the Spirit, less for its own particulars, interesting and instructive as they are, than for the sequel, which shows the effect of miracle upon heathen, and the way in which the apostles dealt with that effect. We may regard the passage as exemplifying three various faiths, various because they were different in their degree, and different in yet more essential respect, in their intelligence.
I. THE FAITH OF THE CRIPPLE. It is to be assumed that he was not a Jew, but a heathen. He hears Paul, presumably therein for the first time hearing pure truth, whether Paul is speaking of the things of revealed religion or of natural religion. The incident may have helped Paul to his subsequent language: "So then faith cometh by heating, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Paul speaks. The lame man listens. He listens more and yet more keenly. The "seed of the Word" is falling "into good ground." Paul's eye falls on him. Afterwards it is riveted by him. The interested, eager, imploring eye of the lame man is met by the divinely enlightened, divinely discerning, and divinely giving eye of Paul. Paul is led, as the consequence, to see that he has "faith to be healed." The question of a miracle lies with the omnipotence of God, but the question of when that omnipotence shall be exercised may lie (beyond what we think, and beyond what we can at present track) with the individual man. For this is in the deepest sense the mystery of human life and human accountability; nor can we even say where the line runs that distinguishes between the agency of God's Spirit, in the greatest miracles of all, the conversion of the heart, and the freedom of man's will. The language we have here may mean either
(1) distinctly that Paul saw that the lame man had the faith upon which the omnipotent Word would take effect, not by bare right of its omnipotence alone, but also by the more hidden harmony and sympathy of a sensitive, a quickened, a trusting, and an obedient heart; or
(2) that Paul saw that the lame man had already received the divinest gift of all the Word of God, and that he was therefore a fitter vessel to be "chosen" both to receive himself the lesser grace, and also to set forth to others the abundant grace of God. Meantime the less enlightened the nature and the less informed the actual mind of the lame man, the more are we conducted to some discrimination of faith's purest essence - its trustingness, its self-surrender, its clinging confessed dependence.
II. THE FAITH OF THE PEOPLE WHO BEHELD.
1. Their faith was of those who did believe, and did not either shut their eyes, or quibble, or blaspheme.
2. Their faith was of those who attributed the work of a miracle to powers distinctly higher. They were not of those who once said of Jesus himself, "He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils." Nor were they of those who set it down to sorcery and witchcraft, What highest they knew de facto, to that they gave or desired to give glory.
3. But their faith was of those who, believing, believed "ignorantly," believed absolutely wrongly, and believed far more wrongly (now by Scripture's most emphatic assertion) than could be justified in any way.
4. Their faith exhibited that leading mark of the lowest kind of faith which must link on the wonder done to the nearest manifest doer. It gets to a god, but it is its own god peculiarly. It gets to a god, but not to the Spirit and the Invisible, much less to the one invisible Spirit; nay, its way of getting to a god is by bringing its gods to itself" in the likeness of men." It has not reached to the conception of the great power, the great goodness, the great Being before all, who "giveth to all life and breath and all things," and, among those all things, knowledge of his own will, and power to execute it, betimes in the fullness of its majesty.
5. But when all has been justly said to the disparagement of the faith of these heathen men of Lystra, it may be put to their credit, that, even in nature's darkness, they did not believe in a faith barren of works; in which respect, at least, they may often be taken as rising up in judgment against the children of the light and of the day.
III. THE FAITH OF THE APOSTLES.
1. It was in the first place without doubt the pure faith that was wrought in them by the Holy Spirit. It was by this that Paul recognized the opportunity, and discerned in the cripple the real thing that was also in himself, and taught him to speak that word "with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet."
2. The "faith that dwelt in" the apostle was one that made the ignorance of the really Divine, now illustrated before their very eyes, and now taking advantage of their very persons, so harrowingly painful. Their impetuous rushing among the people, and rending of their clothes, and mingled expostulation and instruction addressed to the people, all prove the intensely exercised state of their own mind, almost to agony of anguish. And the anguish was the reflection of just this - an enlightened, a pure, a high faith. Many dark outer deeds had Barnabas and Paul too often seen, from which, nevertheless, their inmost soul took less wound than from this, when the enthusiastic heathen of Lystra would fain have sacrificed to them.
3. The faith of the apostles was that which struck horror into them at the very thought, if haply they should "rob God of his own" or seem to share his undivided honor. May they not be considered in this light as holding out an example to all their spiritual successors, to fear, as much as they would fear anything, lest they should be found at any time to "sacrifice unto their net, and to burn incense unto their drag" (Habakkuk 1:16), or lest they should accept the offerings of flattery to themselves which should be only offerings of praise to Christ. What a wonderful guide for the noblest life earth can know comes of the enlarged, developed, mature faith of an experienced Christian! - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: