We also are men of like passions with you - This saying of the apostles has been most strangely perverted. A pious commentator, taking the word passion in its vulgar and most improper sense, (a bad temper, an evil propensity), and supposing that these holy men wished to confess that they also had many sinful infirmities, and wrong tempers, endeavors to illustrate this sense of the word, by appealing to the contention of Paul and Barnabas, etc., etc. But the expression means no more than, "we are truly human beings, with the same powers and appetites as your own; need food and raiment as you do; and are all mortal like yourselves."
That ye should turn from these vanities - That is, from these idols and false gods. How often false gods and idolatry are termed vanity in the Scriptures, no careful reader of the Bible needs to be told. What a bold saying was this in the presence of a heathen mob, intent on performing an act of their superstitious worship, in which they no doubt thought the safety of the state was concerned. The ancient fable related by Ovid, Metam. lib. i. ver. 211-239, to which reference has already been made, will cast some light on the conduct of the Lystrians in this case. The following is its substance: - "Jupiter, having been informed of the great degeneracy of mankind, was determined himself to survey the earth. Coming to this province, (Lycaonia), disguised in human shape, he took up his residence at the palace of Lycaon, then king of that country: giving a sign of his godhead, the people worship him: Lycaon sneers, doubts his divinity, and is determined to put it to the trial. Some ambassadors from the Molossian state having just arrived, he slew one of them, boiled part of his flesh, and roasted the rest, and set it before Jupiter: the god, indignant at the insult, burnt the palace, and turned the impious king into a wolf." From this time, or, rather, from this fable, the whole province was called Lycaonia. The simple people now seeing such proofs of supernatural power, in the miracles wrought by Barnabas and Paul, thought that Jupiter had again visited them; and fearing lest they should meet with his indignation, should they neglect duly to honor him, they brought oxen and garlands, and would have offered them sacrifice, had they not been prevented by the apostles themselves. This circumstance will account for their whole conduct; and shows the reason why Jupiter was the tutelar god of the place. As, therefore, the people took them for gods, it was necessary for the apostles to show that they were but men; and this is the whole that is meant by the ὁμοιοπαθεις ανθρωποι, men of like passions, fellow mortals, in the text, which has been so pitifully mistaken by some, and abused by others.
The living God - Widely different from those stocks and stones, which were objects of their worship.
Which made heaven and earth - And as all things were made by his power, so all subsist by his providence; and to him alone, all worship, honor, and glory are due.
And saying, Sirs - Greek: Men.
Why do ye these things? - This is an expression of solemn remonstrance at the folly of their conduct in worshipping those who were human. The abhorrence which they evinced at this may throw strong light on the rank and character of the Lord Jesus Christ. When an offer was made to worship Paul and Barnabas, they shrank from it with strong expressions of aversion and indignation. Yet when similar worship was offered to the Lord Jesus; when he was addressed by Thomas in the language of worship, “My Lord and my God” John 20:28, he uttered not the slightest reproof. Nay, he approved it, and expressed his approbation of others who should also do it, John 20:29. Compare John 5:23. How can this difference be accounted for except on the supposition that the Lord Jesus was divine? Would he, if a mere man, receive homage as God, when his disciples rejected it with horror?
Of like passions with you - We are human beings like yourselves. We have no claim, no pretensions to anything more. The word “passions” here means simply that they had the common feelings and propensities of people - the nature of people; the affections of people. It does not mean that they were subject to any improper passions, to ill temper, etc., as some have supposed; but that they did not pretend to be gods. “We need food and drink; we are exposed to pain, and sickness, and death.” The Latin Vulgate renders it, “We are mortal like yourselves.” The expression stands opposed to the proper conception of God, who is not subject to these affections, who is most blessed and immortal. Such a Being only is to be worshipped; and the apostles remonstrated strongly with them on the folly of paying religious homage to beings like themselves. Compare James 5:17, “Elias (Elijah) was a man subject to like passions as we are, etc.”
That ye should turn from these vanities - That you should cease to worship idols. Idols are often called vanities, or vain things, Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Kings 17:15; 1 Kings 16:13, 1 Kings 16:26; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 10:8; Jonah 2:8. They are called vanities, a lie, or lying vanities, as opposed to the living and true God, because they are unreal; because they have no power to help: because confidence in them is vain.
Which made heaven - Who thus showed that he was the only proper object of worship. This doctrine, that there is one God who has made all things, was new to them. They worshipped multitudes of divinities; and though they regarded Jupiter as the father of gods and human beings, yet they had no conception that all things had been created by the will of one Infinite Being.
Thus persecution followed the teachers of truth from city to city. The enemies of Christ could not prevent the advancement of the gospel, but they succeeded in making the work of the apostles exceedingly hard. Yet in the face of opposition and conflict, Paul pressed steadily forward, determined to carry out the purpose of God as revealed to him in the vision at Jerusalem: “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21. AA 233.1
Paul's hasty departure from Berea deprived him of the opportunity he had anticipated of visiting the brethren at Thessalonica. AA 233.2
On arriving at Athens, the apostle sent the Berean brethren back with a message to Silas and Timothy to join him immediately. Timothy had come to Berea prior to Paul's departure, and with Silas had remained to carry on the work so well begun there, and to instruct the new converts in the principles of the faith. AA 233.3Read in context »
But Satan was stirring up the Jews to destroy Paul, and Jesus bade him leave Jerusalem. In company with Barnabas, he went into other cities, preaching Jesus and working miracles, and many were converted. As one man was healed who had always been lame, the people who worshiped idols were about to sacrifice to the disciples. Paul was grieved, and told them that he and his fellow laborer were only men and that the God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein, must alone be worshiped. Thus Paul exalted God before the people; but he could scarcely restrain them. The first conception of faith in the true God, and of the worship and honor due to Him, was being formed in their minds; and as they were listening to Paul, Satan was urging on the unbelieving Jews of other cities to follow after Paul to destroy the good work wrought through him. These Jews stirred up the minds of those idolaters by false reports against Paul. The wonder and admiration of the people now changed to hate, and they who a short time before were ready to worship the disciples, stoned Paul and drew him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But as the disciples were standing about Paul and mourning over him, to their joy he rose up and went with them into the city. EW 203.1
Again, as Paul and Silas preached Jesus, a certain woman possessed with a spirit of divination followed them, crying, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” Thus she followed the disciples many days. But Paul was grieved; for this crying after them diverted the minds of the people from the truth. Satan's object in leading her to do this was to disgust the people and destroy the influence of the disciples. Paul's spirit was stirred within him, and he turned and said to the spirit, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her”; and the evil spirit was rebuked, and left her. EW 203.2
Her masters were pleased that she cried after the disciples; but when the evil spirit left her, and they saw her a meek disciple of Christ, they were enraged. They had gathered much money by her fortunetelling, and now the hope of their gain was gone. Satan's object was defeated; but his servants caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place, unto the rulers, and to the magistrates, saying, “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city.” And the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks. But the angels of the Lord accompanied them within the prison walls, and caused their imprisonment to tell to the glory of God, and show to the people that God was in the work, and with His chosen servants. EW 204.1Read in context »
The greatest of human teachers, Paul accepted the lowliest as well as the highest duties. He recognized the necessity of labor for the hand as well as for the mind, and he wrought at a handicraft for his own support. His trade of tent making he pursued while daily preaching the gospel in the great centers of civilization. “These hands,” he said, at parting with the elders of Ephesus, “have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” Acts 20:34. Ed 66.1
While he possessed high intellectual endowments, the life of Paul revealed the power of a rarer wisdom. Principles of deepest import, principles concerning which the greatest minds of this time were ignorant, are unfolded in his teachings and exemplified in his life. He had that greatest of all wisdom, which gives quickness of insight and sympathy of heart, which brings man in touch with men, and enables him to arouse their better nature and inspire them to a higher life. Ed 66.2
Listen to his words before the heathen Lystrians, as he points them to God revealed in nature, the Source of all good, who “gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17. Ed 66.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on Acts 14:1-26.
From Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium. In this place, as at Antioch, they began their labors in the synagogue of their own people. They met with marked success; “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” But in Iconium, as in other places where the apostles labored, “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.” AA 177.1Read in context »