Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas made their way to another city in Asia Minor called Lystra. Luke does not mention a visit to the synagogue, which is surprising, but maybe there was not one there. Instead he briefly comments on how a crippled man was healed through Paul after hearing him speak.
It was obvious to Paul that the crippled man had strong faith in God. Therefore we can ask, since the man had such strong faith, why he was not healed without the intervention of the apostle. The answer is that God had more than the man’s personal benefit in mind; the Lord also wanted there to be public evidence that his ambassadors were in the city.
Needless to say, this particular healing was very obvious to the citizens and caused a reaction. The immediate response of the people was that they were the recipients of a divine visit from their false gods. Their description indicates that Paul was now the main speaker of the two. The travelling preachers were initially unaware of the response of the locals until they saw that a pagan worship service was to be held in their honour.
Paul and Barnabas did not sit around wondering how they could turn the proposed event to their advantage. Instead they were appalled and immediately tried to prevent idolatry connected to them from taking place. Their explanation to this Gentile audience reveals the ability of the two men to contextualise the Christian message quickly. Instead of highlighting details that would be more relevant for Jewish people, as they did when speaking in the synagogues, they focussed on matters that affected everyone.
They reminded the townspeople that they could know the living God rather than serving non-existent idols. He should be worshipped because he is the Creator of all and Provider for all. Moreover, a change had occurred in how he dealt with the nations – no longer were they left to their own ways, but now they are invited to share in the blessings of the gospel. Although those details should have been good news for the townsfolk they found it hard to desist from their idolatry.
A challenge to us is how can we draw attention to God and his grace when we are in the company of those who do not understand it. The example of Paul and Barnabas shows us how we can speak to people with no understanding of the gospel but who have an interest in what can be termed loosely as spirituality. Speak to them about the good things God does for them as Creator and then mention the gospel.