The Apostolic Testimony Against Heathenism
Acts 14:15-18
And saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you…

Derbe and Lystra would be as different from Iconium and Antioch as villages in India would be from the larger towns of the presidencies. But we need not go so far to find illustration. In spite of railways, telegraphs, newspapers, and cheap postage, there are many quiet places in our own land where the pulses of our great national life are feebly felt, and where the people are living very much as their fathers did fifty years ago. The gospel message confronts totally fresh circumstances. At Lystra there was heathenism densely ignorant and loyal, there were superstitions much less easily dealt with and destroyed. Three things are here declared —

I. A LIVING GOD OF REDEMPTION, AS AGAINST HERO WORSHIP. I do not see much to choose between the ancient heathen deification of heaven, and its more modern form of the canonisation of saints. I do know, however, that the men so dealt with would recoil from such worship. There was only one that accepted homage and worship. Angels and apostles repudiated it. And yet there has always been a readiness to offer homage to the heroes in every age, and especially when the honour is useless to him to whom it is paid. The fathers persecute and slay the prophet, whose sepulchre their children build. Is it wrong, then, that men should honour human greatness? By no means. No true man can read of heroisms of calm, patient endurance, as well as of daring, without having his nobler pulses stirred. But hero-worship has its dangers. It may be paralysing instead of inspiring. Because, when you come to think about it, a man's heroism is a lonely and incommunicable splendour. And the greatest men have their imperfections. Then what glad tidings are these of the apostles of the Christ, leading the generous and appreciative instincts of men aright! Our hopes and prayers, our trusts and appeals, are turned to Him from whom all heroes have their nobility, and in Him all we also may live and move and have a grander being. Our life is in the living God, and the gospel has not done its perfect work until the trust of the soul is drawn up away from all things lower and temporal, and fixed upon Him whom to know is life eternal. Then in our own kind and way we shall have heroes also.

II. A LIVING PROVIDENCE AS AGAINST THE WORSHIP OF NATURAL FORCES. Who shall say that this is aimed but at the superstition of a barbaric age, and that there is no such heathenism now? Heathenism is ignorance. Anciently it was an ignorance by reason of the clearer truth having been not yet proclaimed. Today it is an ignorance through rejection of the message of the Most High. The older heathenism is the nobler of these two. But better, happier than either, the glory of the gospel which points to the living God, who is the careful, loving Providence of all His children. To know this is to fear no evil; it is to live in the house of the Lord continually.

III. A LIVING GOD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE COMMAND, AS AGAINST SELF-WILL. Who shall tell us what is right and good? Man's own reason and instinct, the agreement of society. Thus speaks heathenism, and its morality has been a disastrous failure. The nations who have walked, and still walk, in their own ways, are not the benefactors of the world. The gospel says national interests lie in the path of national duty. Selfishness is never right. Violence carries its own death sentence. A man is too wayward to guide his life in safety, too weak, too changeful to be left to fashion his own destiny. Thank God for the word He has spoken and the doings of His activity; good unto all, even to the unthankful and evil. The very heart of the glad tidings is the fact of a personal, living Lord. Not a force, not a general drift of things, but a Father, who is eager to redeem His children unto Himself.

(D. Jones Hamer.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

WEB: "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the sky and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them;

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