The Theology of Heathendom
Acts 14:11-13
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia…

In the words and acts of these heathen Lystrians, there comes out the native theology of human hearts everywhere and in all conditions. There are three great theological beliefs involved in their conduct:

I. THAT THE DIVINITY IS ALWAYS MANIFEST IN THE MIRACULOUS. Though logically, perhaps, it could not be proved, man everywhere believes it. Whenever anything extraordinary in nature occurs, the human spectators, as well in civilised as savage states, involuntarily feel that God is at work. This doctrine, thus held by the heart of depraved humanity, accords with the teachings of the Bible.

II. THAT THE DIVINITY ASSUMES HUMAN FORMS. "In the likeness of men." This was the general belief of heathendom. This may be regarded —

1. As a dim memory in the soul of paradise, where God held fellowship with man.

2. As a prophetic sentiment of that grand incarnation "when the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us."

III. THAT THE DIVINITY IS TO BE WORSHIPPED WHEN APPEARING IN THE HUMAN FORM. These heathens, believing that Barnabas was Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius, began their worship, Now, the theology which comes out from the hearts of these heathens, and which is written in the souls of all, serves several important purposes.

1. As an eternal hindrance to the reign of atheism. Atheism is a contradiction to the profoundest faith of the human heart. Whatever system of doctrine is contrary to the intuitions of humanity cannot stand.

2. As indicating the responsibility of heathens. "There is a light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." God has left no man without some measure of inner light.

3. As presumptive evidence in favour of the gospel. The gospel agrees with the primitive beliefs of human hearts.

4. As a guarantee for the spread of Christianity. The congruity of Christian theism with the theism of the soul is a pledge of its ultimate triumph. The gospel brings God to man in miraculous works and in a human form, and all this that he might worship.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

WEB: When the multitude saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying in the language of Lycaonia, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!"

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