In the book of Acts we have recorded for us several messages that Paul the Apostle preached. All of these messages, as with the other Apostles, pointed people to Jesus Christ. In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas are new on the mission field. They arrive in a town called Lystra and during Paul’s conveying of the Gospel a man who was “impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb…” was healed miraculously by God through Paul’s actions. In verse 10, faith is seen both in Paul and the impotent man. Unfortunately, those who witnessed the preaching and the miracle that had taken place wrongly understood what it meant.
As this situation progressed, it became understood by Paul and Barnabas that these idolaters believed Paul and Barnabas were gods. In verse 13 the Bible declares that the “priest of Jupiter” began to commence leading worship of the two missionaries. Of course, once the apostles “heard of” it, Paul began to convey the truth. One phrase in particular I would like to draw your attention to is in verse 15. Paul in speaking to these states, “We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:…”
The direct phrase here really sums up the choice that every man must make. We must turn from these vanities unto the living God.
In Psalm 31:6 the Bible uses a similar phrase and speaks of “lying vanities…” Jonah in his prayer from the fishes belly cries out using the exact same expression stating, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8)
What exactly are these vanities that are spoken of? In this passage the vanities are lies concerning false ‘gods’ that the people had believed and held onto. In fact, the very stone and wooden idols that these lost people worshipped were themselves vain (false or worthless). This word employed by Paul is an adjective describing what the people had chosen.
As we go back to Acts 14 let us make note of a few items declared in this passage. First of all, we can be admonished that:
All People Are Of Like Passions
Paul started his correction of these people’s behavior explaining that “We also are men of like passions with you…” (In our text the miraculous healing of the impotent man influenced their thoughts toward Paul and Barnabas.) Sometimes those that are without get the idea that Christians are ‘holier than thou.’ In this case, Paul was exhibiting great faith in God and was used in the miraculous healing of this man. Paul wanted to set the story straight that they were men of like passions. These idolaters looked at Paul and Barnabas because of their superstition as being ‘gods.’ If we are not careful, we will allow people to think we are something other than sinners to whom Christ has saved and transformed. The truth is that Christians are different. They are children of Light rather than children of darkness (John 8:44; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13; I Thessalonians 5:5). However, the difference is Jesus Christ! Paul was careful to explain, we are “…men of like passions...” In other words, we are not “gods” we are Christians. We are sinners that have trusted in Jesus Christ as our Saviour!
Secondly, we can glean that all men:
Should Turn From Vanities
Paul is expressing a matter of principle here, that all people have a God-given ability to choose (individual Soul liberty). He signifies this by stating these people “should” turn from these vanities. He does not state that the people would turn from them. All around us, there are people that are choosing the empty and the worthless over the all-sufficient God. Christians are not immune from this sad state either. Oftentimes, we choose the empty and worthless over fellowship with God. Learning from the passage in the book of Psalms and Jonah above, we find that these vanities lie to us with promises of fulfillment but have no ability to provide what God can only give us.
Not only should all people turn from these vanities, but they:
Should Turn To The Living God
These people needed to turn to Jesus Christ. The great need of the day is for all men to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. The lost person needs to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. The Christian needs to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. As we survey the Bible we see God’s message of Salvation. It is the story of God reconciling man unto Himself. But God has given you and I the choice to turn from vanities to Him. May we pray fervently in this new year that God would help us to always look to our wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and forsake the lying vanities of this world.
- James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
Showing People the Way to God
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