December 1, 2010 by Jason Hood
When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” They called Barnabas Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates in order to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:11-15)
As frequently happens in the ancient world when a Jew or Christian encountered the pagan world, there is significant irony at work here, for the pagans are not as far off from the truth as we often think.
Granted, they need to learn the creator-creature distinction, which places Paul and Barnabas with them on the human side of the divine-human split (14:15). They need to learn monotheism. Paul immediately instructs them accordingly.
But ironically, God has in fact come down to Lyconia in Paul and Barnabas. His Spirit resides in them; He is encountered and known through them. In two of his servants, who are themselves putting on Christ, “the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4), God is showing up via his image-bearers.0 Comments