Acts 14:8-18 – Mistaken Identity – The Objective is Subjective to the Heart
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 14:8-18
The title comes from the previous lesson on the subjective/objective ways God gives “witness to the word”.
But, as it applies to Acts 14:8-18, where the signs & wonders are misinterpreted by the Lystran gentiles.
They witnessed a healing (objective) with their own eyes, but credited it (subjective interpretation) to Zeus and Hermes.
1) THE PURPOSE OF SIGNS AND WONDERS
In our text today, the S&W were misinterpreted by the Lystrans.
If they can be misinterpreted/misunderstood, this begs the question, “what is their purpose”?
Here is a Biblical perspective of the purpose behind signs and wonders.
To demonstrate God’s many roles in the historical redemption of the Hebrew people from Egypt:
It must be noted that S&W, in relation to the Egyptian redemption and Exodus, are highlighted in at least 9 books of the OT – Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Nehemiah, Psalm, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.
This conveys the importance of these S&W in revealing & confirming the historical relationship between God & Israel.
Exodus 3:20 God says he will strike with wonders and Pharaoh will let you go – to motivate.
Deuteronomy 4:34 Moses declares that God’s S&W in the history of a nation are w/o precedent – to show uniqueness.
Deuteronomy 6:22 Moses reminds Hebrews that S&W were before their eyes – to witness to God.
Joshua 24:17 it was the Lord our God in our sight who preserved us – again, a witness to God in Israel’s history.
Jeremiah 32:20-21 we learn that God used S&W as a strong hand and with great terror – to make a name for Himself.
Psalm 135:9 illustrates Egypt’s first hand knowledge of the S&W of God as “foreign” – to show authority and power.
POI – God’s S&W in Egypt and the entire Exodus story are foundational to the authenticity of our faith.
That God was physically involved in the history of Israel is evident by its birth and development.
Israel’s history is real and its birth and development must be accounted for.
The Lord God is the best explanation.
As Deut 4:34 says, a nation was called out of a nation and was done so by God.
This verse is remarkable to me; repeatedly, God promised Abraham a nation, people and land.
In the first chapter of Exodus, we see the Hebrew people growing greatly in number.
And then, as this verse states, God calls them out as a nation (via S&W) and brings them to the promise land.
This is fufillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and, in my mind, verfiable evidence of God at work in the history of Israel!
To bear witness to Gospel:
Acts 14:3 from last weeks lesson.
Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us that “a great salvation” was witness to by S&W.
POI – Hebrews 2:3-4 also distinguishes between S&W and gifts of the Holy Spirit
To authenticate a true apostle:
Acts 15:12 shows the Gospel to the Gentiles was God’s will because, through S&W, Paul’s ministry to them was validated.
2 Corinthians 12:11-12 Paul is forced to argue his apostleship is real and S&W are one reason why.
To authenticate Jesus:
John 10:37-38 Jesus says the S&W are legit and show that He is legit (He and the Father are one).
Acts 2:22 Jesus is “a man attested to you” by S&W.
To fuel the preaching of the Gospel:
Romans 15:18-19 “by power of S&W” fulfilled ministry of Gospel to Gentiles.
To lead astray:
Jesus gives us a warning about prophets of the last days.
Matthew 24:21-25 Jesus warns us that S&W will used to lead astray.
2) THE LIMITS OF SIGNS AND WONDERS – US NOT GOD
This weeks text, among other things, illustrates why S&W have limitations.
It shows us that if the heart of the observer is lost or in rebellion, he will misinterpret or disregard the S&W.
Other Biblical examples of S&W limitations:
Psalm 78:32 In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe
Nehemiah 9:17 about stiffened neck in spite of wonders.
Judges 6:13 Gideon suggests God has fallen down on the job since Egypt because of subjugation to Midian – to despair.
Acts 14:8-18 this weeks text.
POI – These responses reveal exactly why we interpret experience based on Scripture and not the other way around!
3) A PROPER REPONSE TO SIGNS AND WONDERS
There seems to a pattern of 2 proper responses in the Scriptures we have explored:
First, if you are saved – GIVE THE GOD OF THE BIBLE CREDIT.
The “The Miracle on the Hudson” is a perfect example.
When someone says about this that “god” or “someone” was looking out for that plane, what would Paul say?
Acts 14:15-17 gives us an idea of exactly what he would say and therefore of what we should say.
Second, if you are not saved and God is calling you and you recognize Him in the S&W – SURRENDER TO HIM.
POI – Concerning Christopher Hitchen’s challenge discussed last week:
The S&W of God himself, Jesus & the apostles have limitations due to the heart of the observer.
It follows that “statements or actions” (including S&W if they are still present) of men today have similar limitations.
So for Hitchens to look to “statements or actions” to reveal a difference between a believer and an atheist, assumes that he has the heart to recognize the difference to begin with.
This weeks text demonstrates that an inability to recognize God in the S&W is an indictment of the observer not of God.
Of course, Hitchens would say that the fact we believe that a God performed S&W through himself, Jesus and the apostles, demonstrates that we have the inability to see the truth and it indicts us.
But it is not a moot point to concede that our position is based on Scripture that is, in some cases, almost 3000 years old.
And that there exist manuscripts of some of that Scripture that are as much as 2200 years old.
And that our position is rooted in the real history of the nation of Israel.