Lystra: A Lame Man Healed & the Reaction Part 4

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

Scripture (Acts 14:19-20a; KJV) Part 4
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
20a Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city:

19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
20a Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city:

A little background at this point may help us understand what caused this incident. A report of the presence of Paul and Barnabas in Lystra came to the Jews in Iconium and Antioch. They were still jealous over the success of the Gospel among the Gentiles and decided to hound the heels of the apostles in their new area of work.

The apostles evidently worked for a while in Lystra, which is indicated by the presence of disciples (converts) there (20a). One would have thought that Lystra would be particularly receptive because of its mainly Gentile population and the fact that they had even thought the apostles were gods. But crowds are fickle, especially when their expectations are not fulfilled. Perhaps their regard for the apostles soured when they discovered that they were not bringing them the material blessings of the gods. In any event, they were turned against Paul and Barnabas by a group of Paul’s former Jewish opponents who had come from Iconium and Pisidian Antioch (100 miles from Lystra). In an act of mob violence, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, believing he was dead. One minute, Paul was a god to be worshipped; the next minute he was a criminal to be slain. Luke doesn’t indicate just why Barnabas was spared. He evidently was not present when Paul was attacked. Some of the disciples from Lystra came out of the town and encircled Paul’s body, perhaps indicating that they had some question about his death and desired to protect him from further harm. They were new believers, and this was a crisis situation for them. They were a minority, their leader had been stoned, and their future looked very bleak. But they stood by Paul! It is likely they joined hearts and prayed for him, and this is one reason why God raised him from the dead—suddenly Paul rose in their midst and was able to accompany them back into the city. The question has often been raised whether Paul was actually raised from death. Luke’s reference to their “supposing he had been dead” (v. 19) would indicate that this was not the case. A miracle did occur, however. God delivering His own from a frightful threat like this is a special testimony to His protective providence1, and that is always a miracle. In his catalog of trials, Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:25, “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea.” The one time he had been stoned, probably refers to this incident at Lystra: “persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Tim 3:11).

Allow me to ask you that question I mentioned at the beginning. I know that the predominant opinion is that Paul was not dead, but what do you think? I’ll tell you what I think. I think he was dead. Later Paul writes of the experience he had: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Co. 12:2-4). Who was that man? It was Paul himself. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Co. 12:7). I don’t think that crowd left him there half dead; I think they left him dead. There was every reason to think that Paul was dead; the violence that had been done to him was enough to kill him; he looked dead. I believe that God raised him from the dead.

Why would God permit this stoning? Galatians 6:7 tells us: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Paul reaped what he had sowed. He had ordered the stoning of Stephen. Maybe someone will object, saying, “But now he is converted.” Yes, but even after we are converted we will reap whatsoever we have sown. This is a law of nature as well as a law operating in our lives. We shall reap whatever we sow. Because Paul took part in the stoning of Stephen, years later the same thing happened to him.

1 The foreseeing care and guidance of God over the creatures of the earth.

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