This passage has SO many different themes and we can take so much from it.
One of the (lighter) things that stood out to me was the similarity between the narrative about the Proconsul and Paul and Wormtongue and Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. One the one hand there is a wise teacher trying to impart knowledge to a King and on the other there is a deceptive and dangerous individual who is trying to maintain an influence over the King. Just thought I’d throw that one out there for those of you who appreciate a good Middle Earth parallel and it helpfully can cause us to ask who we confide in and whose advice we trust?
When reading this I couldn’t help but be impressed at the overview of Scripture (both Old Testament and New) that Paul gives between verses 16 and 41. If ever someone were to ask you to explain what the Bible says in less than a minute this certainly wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
We find in Verses 42-44 that the Gospel that Paul imparted to his listeners was interesting enough to gain him a second opportunity to speak. Sometimes as Christian’s it is quite easy to forget that we don’t have a boring story, we have inherited – through the Cross of Christ – this ancient and rich story of God’s salvation plan for mankind. On top of the narrative that we are given in the Bible we also have the story of how God has worked in our individual lives, what he has saved us from and what he is transforming us into. Whatever stories we have and stories we can identify with and adopt from the Bible we do NOT have a testimony that is unappealing to listeners. The question is do we realise how important a role God has played in our lives and are we willing to tell people what he has done for us and how he has been with us through the good times and the bad times. Our stories can impact on people – Christian or non Christian in ways that we can’t imagine, don’t be afraid to reflect on your story and consider who you could share it with.
Right from verse 2 the Holy Spirit set Paul and Barnabas apart and the stories of miracles, speaking with power, people responding to the Gospel and the persecution that they came up against all followed on from this commissioning. Paul and Barnabas were obedient to the call that God gave to them; we can see the extent of their obedience and submission to God when people mistake them for gods. They tear their clothes in anguish, a practice that we find throughout the Old Testament when something disastrous happens. Paul and Barnabas are so committed to bringing glory to God that when they are given undue praise they immediately correct the Lycaonians and try to redirect the praise that they offer back to God.
It is common to find ourselves in two similar positions at some point in life, either accepting praise that isn’t due to us and therefore not giving praise to God for the praise that we receive, or raising those that we love/trust/respect up onto a pedestal that they can’t ever live up to. It doesn’t matter if they’re your parents, spouse, fiancé, girlfriend/boyfriend, your friend, a sibling or even someone who works for the Church or is a Church Leader. God should remain at all times the number one priority in our life. That way we can avoid putting someone in his place and being disappointed when they fail our unreasonable expectations and we can also avoid becoming proud and arrogant, not giving glory to God but thinking that we are deserving of praise.
Some questions for you to think of:
Who do we put our trust in?
What is our story and whom can we tell it to?
Do we neglect to praise God when people praise us?
And who do we put on a pedestal?