And saying, Sirs, why do you these things? We also are men of like passions with you…
The subject may be introduced by such a sketch of the incidents as will bring prominently forward these points.
1. The apostles wrought a miraculous healing.
2. Their act was seriously misconceived.
3. Pagan sentiments overwhelmed the Christian teaching.
4. The apostles most deeply felt the insult which the proposed sacrifice offered to the Divine honor and sole claim. Remember that the first and supreme truth to a Jew is the unity and spirituality Of God, and observe that this should be as firmly and jealously conserved by the Christian as by the Jew. One of the most marked features of the pious man in all ages is supreme jealousy of God's sole honor. In describing the miracle out of which the incidents grew, the necessity for a moral preparation before we can receive Divine intervention and deliverance may be pointed out. Men may be set so as to receive, or so as to be indifferent to, God's saving grace. Our Lord pleads thus, "Ye will not come unto me." "The evident eagerness of this cripple marked him out to the quick insight of the apostle as one on whom a work of power could be wrought. It is evident on the face of the narrative that it was not every cripple or every sufferer that Paul would have attempted to heal; it was only such as, so to speak, met half-way the exertion of spiritual power by their own ardent faith." Fixing attention on the serious error of the excited populace, and the earnest efforts of the apostles to correct it, we notice -
I. THE NATURAL ARGUMENT FROM MIRACLES. We mean the first impulsive idea of them likely to spring up in men's minds. Things that are evidently beyond human power must be wrought by Divine power, and persons by whom the wondrous work is wrought must be Divine persons. Such reasoning was strengthened by the legends and superstitions of heathenism, and it may be shown that there lingered in the particular district of Lycaonia, traditions of incarnations of the deity (see instances in the exegetical portion of this Commentary). But the first and natural argument from miracles cannot be sustained when knowledge is advanced and critical thinking gains power. That they are wrought by Divine power and signs of Divine presence is not the only possible explanation of them. Men properly test their so-called miraculous character, and then they test the agency by which they are wrought. Therefore God never bears upon men with the force of miracles alone, and we are led to consider.
II. THE RELATION OF MIRACLES TO TEACHING. This close and necessary connection the heathen could not see, and to this day many Christians do not see. A miracle is nothing standing by itself; it may be most valuable as related to, and the exposition or illustration of, some truth. Renan says rightly that the ancient heathen had no conception of a miracle as the evidence of a doctrine. And Archbishop Trench points out that our Lord's miracles are never called merely wonders, "because the ethical meaning of the miracle would be wholly lost were blank astonishment or gaping wonder all which they aroused. They are also signs' and pledges of something more than and beyond themselves." It may be urged that miracles are never wrought save for the sake of the truth. Even when they are at first sight attestations of a person, they confirm our faith in him only for the sake of the truth which he brings, and they only fulfill their mission when they produce in us receptivity to the truth taught. This is fully illustrated in the incidents connected with our text. The people stayed with what the miracle seemed to say concerning the persons Barnabas and Saul. The apostles earnestly urged that the miracle was but designed to open their hearts to the truth. Much of the difficulty felt concerning the miraculous, would be removed if we dwelt more fully on its moral use, as producing a receptivity for the truth.
III. THE TEACHING OF THIS MIRACLE CAME OUT MORE CLEARLY THROUGH THE MISTAKE MADE CONCERNING IT. It had been designed to aid in securing attention to the apostles' message as sent from God. It came to be a means of correcting men's fundamental error on the being of God. Ordinarily the truth received may be left to push out cherished error. Monotheism, conceived from the Christian standpoint, will of itself destroy all polytheistic conceptions. But sometimes fundamental doctrinal errors need to be resolutely dealt with. The apostles dare not dishonor their Master by permitting a vital error to be cherished. So, at the utmost Personal peril, they declare that there are no gods; there is only God; and that they themselves are only men, his servants, who are permitted to put forth gracious power, as a persuasion to men to receive his blessed message of pardon and life. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;