Read Acts 14.
Paul and Barnabas are still on that first missionary journey which concluded here at the end of Acts 14, specifically verses 26-28.
As God’s miraculous power worked through these chosen men (vv. 8-10), it was inevitable that someone would ascribe deity to them (vv. 11-13). Unlike Herod back in Acts 12, Barnabas and Paul did not receive the worship that was offered to them; instead, they turned the attention back to the one true God (vv. 14-15) and used this misunderstanding as another avenue to deliver the true gospel. In just a few short verses–verses 15b-18, to be exact, Paul began to describe the religious history of humanity:
- First, God created everyone and everything. Verse 15b says, “…the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.”
- Second, humanity rebelled against God by sinning. As families developed into nations, God chose Abraham and the nation that would come from him and let all other “nations go their own way” (v. 16).
- The third point would have been “but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30b) but Jewish opponents interrupted Paul’s message in verses 19-20.
Going back to the second point where God “let all nations go their own way” (v. 16), one might think that it would be unjust for God to punish pagan nations that did not receive his law and his promises like Israel did. Paul and Barnabas anticipated that objection in verse 17a and said, “Yet he has not left himself without testimony….”
God did not speak directly–theologians call this “special revelation”–to other nations as he did with Israel. But he did communicate with these nations through “general revelation.” Barnabas and Paul specified what this general revelation–the “testimony” they referenced–was in the next few phrases of verse 17: “by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
We tend to focus on the hardships of living in a fallen world and there are severe hardships. Some of these hardships are death and the sorrow it causes, physical pain due to illness and injury, sin and the consequences and pain it causes, natural disasters, and others.
But God has been very good to us all–believers and unbelievers alike. During our lifetime, we enjoy food, friendships and family, physical affection, excitement, joy, rest, and many other blessings. These are all gifts of God; he could have punished Adam and Eve with immediate death that would have disallowed the human race from ever growing beyond them. That would have prevented us from ever knowing the joys of God’s creation and from wondering about the Creator who is the source of them all. Unbelievers, then, know enough about God to damn their souls for eternity. This knowledge gives us a starting point for evangelism, just as it did for Paul and Barnabas in this chapter.
As Christians, now that we know God and have the better light of his word–“special revelation”–we have all the things Paul and Barnabas listed here and more to lift our hearts in praise and worship to God. Think of one blessing in your life that you may have taken for granted today. Now let that be the starting point for your prayers and praise to God today.