And there they preached the gospel.…
We ask such questions as these - What is it that will convince the minds and convert the souls of men? What avails to establish the kingdom of Christ in any town or neighborhood? What will secure the practical acceptance of Divine truth? The answer is that some things are strong but insufficient; one thing only is efficacious.
I. THE INSUFFICIENT.
1. The hand of God in nature does not suffice. "The living God which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein," has "not left himself without witness" anywhere; everywhere he has "done good, and sent rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (vers. 15-17), pouring out, with the lavish hand of Divine beneficence, beauty and plenty, love and joy, peaceful memories and inspiring hopes, on to the path and into the heart of man. But what nations of the earth has this great gift of his hand saved from the most shameful and pernicious idolatry? How many thousands of hearts are there today that are not drawn by this to filial gratitude and holy service?
2. The miraculous does not avail (vers. 8-13, 18). The healing of the man who had been lame from his birth, so far from producing a favorable effect and leading to a general acceptance of the Divine message, led to an outburst of idolatrous zeal. The people immediately deified the human agents and set about to worship them. If we turn back to the pages in which the miraculous appears - to the times of Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha; or if we consider the treatment of our Divine Master himself, whose beneficent power reached so many human homes; or if we go on to the gifts (miraculous) enjoyed by the Corinthian Church, if indeed they can be truly said to have enjoyed them; - whithersoever we look, we see that the effect of the visibly supernatural was far less potent for good than we, in its absence, should have imagined it would be. Those who wait for the marked and unmistakable interposition of God before they take the one right step into the kingdom of Christ, before they "lay hold on eternal life," are most seriously imperiling their own souls (see Luke 16:31).
3. The exhibition of holy zeal is not sufficient (vers. 14-17). Though Paul and Barnabas energetically disclaimed any title to be treated as gods, and resolutely refused the proffered honors, and though they were laboring without remuneration, and giving every possible proof of their disinterested love, yet they did not succeed in winning the strong esteem of the Lycaonians; these men proved fickle and faithless. Very soon indeed the hands that were diligently employed in paying sacrifice to the apostles were busy in hurling stones at them. Enthusiasm and even holiest heroism will not of itself prevail against the prejudice and passion of unrighteousness.
II. THE EFFICACIOUS. We know that there were disciples gained at Lystra, for they stood round and sheltered Paul when he was murderously assailed (ver. 20). We also know that these disciples were gained by the preaching of the gospel (ver. 7). We are not told here, but we are abundantly assured elsewhere, that the preaching of the truth was made effectual by the agency of the Holy Spirit of God. So that we may say that
(1) Divine truth was the weapon,
(2) the Holy Ghost the agent,
(3) human faith (see ver. 9, illustration) the condition, of the successful work of the apostles at Lystra, as these will be of all efficacious ministry everywhere now. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there they preached the gospel.