July 27: Acts 14
July 27, 2010
Every time I've ever read this text, I've thought how well it describes ministry. In particular, we have here two wrong responses to ministers and their ministry of the Word.
First, people respond wrongly to ministers when they idolize them. As Paul and Barnabas are at Lystra, where "they continued to preach the gospel" (Acts 14:7), they encounter a crippled man who could not use his feet. As a confirming sign to their word ministry, God heals the man through Paul (14:9-10). The response of the people? "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" (14:11).
Before we smile too quickly, how often do we do that? God, in his mercy, pours out his blessing on a ministry in a large urban setting; our response: "This man must be favored by the gods! Let us follow him!" God uniquely gifts this particular seminary professor to speak God's Word to this generation; we say, "How I long to be just like him!" We respond wrongly when we idolize those who minister God's Word.
But there is a second wrong response: when people become disillusioned with ministers. After freely admitting that they were just "men, of like nature with you" (14:15), Paul and Barnabas had to be shocked by the next turn of events. Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and railed against Paul; the response of the crowd? "They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead" (14:19).
How often that happens! When people idolize their ministers, they can quickly turn to disillusionment and to a desire to kill them! How many pastors have been run off from their pulpits because their people, who once idolized them, became so disillusioned that they wanted their ministers gone at one, post-haste!
Of course, neither response is correct. Rather, the proper response to ministers and their ministry of the Word is to believe the Gospel they preach (14:21), to receive their encouragement and direction (14:22), to submit to the church's leadership (14:23), but above all, to remain committed to the Lord in whom they believed.
After all, ministers proclaim the Word to draw men and women to Jesus, not to themselves. "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4:5).