The religions of man can be complicated as well as interesting. In many there is a knowledge to and a need to placate their gods. They understand their behavior made their gods angry and by sacrificing an animal, shedding its blood they would be able to reduce the anger of their gods. The huge difference between them and Christianity is that they, like the Levitical Priesthood in the Old Covenant, they would need to offer animal sacrifices repeatedly whilst in the New Covenant we find the Blood of Jesus was shed once for all sin of all believers of all time. On top of this, the Christian God does not only forgive sin once and for all, through Jesus He reconciles believing sinners to Himself and adopts them as sons into His Kingdom. With adoption comes responsibility as a son (used for male and female believers) through worship, love, service and behavior, followed by accountability … as well as equal shares in inheritance with a seal by the Holy Spirit that the adoption cannot ever be reversed. Please read:
Ac 14:13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
1) Pagans venerating man. The priest of Zeus brought bulls to sacrifice to the missionaries whom they believed were gods and wreaths to decorate around their necks. The fever of falsehood ran deep. We ought not to be too distraught about this intended exercise! Just think of how the pope and his cardinals and bishops are venerated. This is true in other Churches who have archbishops and bishops, not forgetting those religions who mix Christianity, Judaism and Tradition Religions … or just have Tradition Religions or Spiritual Leaders. Their leaders are equally placed upon pedestals. In Christianity there is one God, one Lord, one King and one Savior … and He God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He is one true living God (v15d). Only He and none other, not even the greatest amongst men may take from His glory to themselves.
2) Christian missionaries pointing to the Living God. Paul and Barnabas were distraught. To them this act was anathema! All they were, were servants (doulos – slaves) of the true God. Look at what they did, hoping the people would cease their actions.
(i) They acknowledged their humanness. Apart from being believers, they were of the same race as these pagans. Pastors and Christian Workers must never forget who they are. If people put you on a pedestal, climb off it immediately. I have tried over the years to help people understand that a pastor is no different to any other member of the Church. He might work full time and be paid. His designation is pastor. That is his job title and job description. But is he different to the pianist, usher, singer, elder, deacon or refreshment provider? We all the serve exercising our gifts for the glory of God. In the economy of God we are all equal and all useful, contributing to the common good of the Body of Christ. Consider the following two passages:
Ro 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
1Co 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
I am certain that without any explanation, you will agree that if we are all equal, all serving the one cause to glorify the one, living God … He alone is to be worshipped, loved, adored and served, not any man!
(ii) They pointed to the Living God. The news they brought had nothing to do with the pagan gods they were said to be. These gods were “worthless things”. This is all they are. All images, relics, statues or paintings … just that and in the final analyses, they are worthless. The only Living God (Yahweh, Jehovah, LORD) is the Creator God. He made the heavens (everywhere other than this planet of ours), our planet earth and the sea … as well as everything on the earth and in the sea and in the skies … all animal life, plant life and human life! Paul and Barnabas is pointing to the supremacy of the Creator God and the message they bring is from this God. They plead with them to turn away from their worthless gods to the living God.
(iii) They say that previously God left the nations to go their own way but never blocked the knowledge of Himself. His testimony to Himself is His provision of rain followed by crops according to their season so that people everywhere has sufficient food to satisfy their needs. Is this not what we read elsewhere?
Rom 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
We shall return to this tomorrow … but right here we have sufficient information to give to those who say there is not God! Take creation and the way, when used correctly, it provides for mankind … surely as we look around we see the handiwork of God everywhere! Today we drove through a forest area to where I took my driver’s knowledge and skills test. It reminded me of the bush and once again I marveled at the handiwork of God. Do things like this, be it a forest, bush, farm lands, the sky, mountains or the seas not draw you in awe and wonder to the reality that your God, the Living God, the Creator God made it all?
Father, thank you for revealing Yourself through Your creation to mankind. We believers are filled with joy as we look and see and ponder upon our God’s creativity. Thank You precious God for eyes to see and emotions to enjoy Your wonders. Amen.