Acts 14:15-17 “We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
After Paul healed a man with crippled feet the crowd wanted to worship him and Barnabas as gods. They took it into their heads that Paul was Hermes and Barnabas was Zeus. They gathered as a crowd to offer sacrifices to them. Paul tried to set the record straight and convince them of their error. It was very difficult to convince the crowd. Later under agitation from some Jews, the crowd stoned Paul and left him for dead.
Times have changed. Jesus brought mankind the Gospel and gave Himself as a sacrifice to save us. Jesus tells us; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3: 16,17)
God sent Jesus to turn on His light in our dark world so we could see clearly; “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John3:19) There is no excuse for stumbling around in the dark anymore. Since Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection we have one standard for all: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
This message is as well received today as it was in Paul’s day. It makes many many people very very angry. The world without Jesus has always been inclined to darkness; “. . . they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:4,5,6)
At Mars’ hill Paul addressed the people speaking to them about the ‘unknown god’ that they included among their pantheon of idols; “I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:23) It seems to be a universal tendency in people to propitiate their useless god(s) with empty sacrifices in order to tame them to their sins. Even those who claim some kind of Christianity are not immune and prefer to keep God at a distance not to know Him but simply to possess His reputation; “. . . are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God?” (Matthew Henry)
Again Paul tells the people that times have changed; “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31) When we make idols of our pastors, dead saints, and ‘super apostle’ celebrities, we do this to our damnation. To eclipse Jesus with intermediaries (be they people or ideas) is to make Him unknown again which is a futile rebellious attempt to turn back the clock. It makes us far worse than the heathen who came before Jesus’ time on earth.
God said; “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2:3) Jesus said; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) Times have changed and we are accountable to Jesus. He saves and He will judge!
Praise the Lord!