AN EXPOSITION OF ACTS 14:8-10
8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent [without strength] in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked:
While preaching at Lystra, Paul encountered a man who was crippled. Luke states his condition in such a way that there was no doubt he was in a helpless and hopeless condition. Luke says he was impotent, meaning he had no physical strength in his legs. He was a cripple from birth. Those who knew him well, knew this to be true. He had never walked, and so he was sitting. The cripple man was probably sitting in public to ask for alms. In many cities today, in America and abroad, those who are crippled can be seen in public places begging for alms.
9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
In the providence of God, “the same heard Paul speak.” He listened as Paul preached the gospel.
Paul spoke about Jesus, whom he had persecuted. Paul explained how Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
When Paul had finished speaking, the Spirit of God directed his attention to the cripple man. The man would have been hard to miss, for he was a pitiful sight. People had to walk around this afflicted individual lest they step on him, or trip over him.
Paul did something so many others did not do. He gazed upon him. He fixed his eyes upon the man, and discerned that he had faith to be healed. How Paul perceived this is not said.
There is a spiritual gift of discernment given by the Holy Spirit. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (1 Cor. 12:7-11)
The gift of discernment is important when engaging in spiritual ministries of counseling, or Church government. It is important to discover the attitude behind an action.
Perhaps, as Paul gazed upon the man, he noticed the man’s attentiveness to the preaching of the gospel. He did not turn away. Paul perceived the humility of the crippled man at being called a sinner, and his readiness to embrace the Saviour. What a person believes is often expressed on their face, for which they are responsible.
The story is told of an office seeker appealing to President Lincoln for a government position. The president dismissed the man curtly. When his secretary asked the president why he had sent the man away so suddenly, Mr. Lincoln replied, “I did not like his face.” The young secretary was surprised and said, “Is that fair?” And Present Lincoln responded, “After the age of thirty, every man is responsible for his own face.”
When I was in college as an undergraduate student studying history, a German professor said something that I thought was wrong. I remember thinking to myself, “I shall not say anything.” When the professor concluded his remarks, he looked at me and said, “It is obvious you disagree with what I have been saying. What do you want to say?” I was taken aback. I thought I was being polite and non-committal, but some expression on my face gave my heart away.
There was some expression in the crippled man that led Paul to believe he had faith in the gospel message, faith in Jesus, and faith to be healed.
The importance of faith in healing cannot be understated. Time and again in Scripture, faith in divine healing is honored.
By faith, a woman with an issue of blood was healed. “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.” (Matt. 9:20-22)
By faith, two blind men were healed. “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. 28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30 And their eyes were opened; (Matt. 9:27-30a)
By faith, ten lepers were cleansed, though only one returned to give thanks. “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:17-19)
The cripple man at Lystra, whom Paul gazed upon, had faith to be healed, and so Paul spoke to him in the name of the Lord, with divine authority.
10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
Paul spoke with a loud voice for all the people to hear. He also spoke with specific directions. The man was to stand upright on his feet. And he did. In fact, the man not only stood, but he began to leap with joy and walk. “Look at me!” “I I can walk!” “I can run!.” “I am healed.” “Mother, look at me!” “Friends! Rejoice with me. I can walk!”
Before leaving this passage several important truths should be noted.
First, God is a miracle working God. He always has been, and He shall always be a miracle working God. But, “What is a miracle?”
Some people say that any answer to prayer, any divine operation that continues in the world today is a miracle. This expansive definition allows people to speak about the miracle of life from the moment of conception. There is the miracle of rain. Miracles are everywhere.
Of course a skeptical scientist would not use the term, miracle, to define the natural birth process, or the fall of rain. He would talk in terms of the Laws of Nature.
While the birth of a baby is wonderful, and even beautiful, while the fall of rain is refreshing, there is nothing extraordinary about these events in the current universe. Both are very ordinary.
Some would argue that any supernatural work, such as the regeneration of the soul, is a miracle.
“My Father is omnipotent
And that you can’t deny;
A God of might and miracles;
‘Tis written in the sky.
It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
But when He saved my soul,
Cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!”
John W. Peterson
Some people believe that miracles are so ordinary they can be expected on a daily basis.
Others, who did not expect a miracle on a daily basis, have seen a miracle occur on a daily basis, for several days, until the miracle ceased.
What happened to Corrie Ten Boom in the concentration of Ravensbruck, 56 miles north of Berlin, built in 1939 for women, offers a modern example of a daily miracle, until it ceased. Corrie had a bottle of vitamin pills that her sister Betsie gave her at the time she gave her the Bible and the sweater. It is amazing how many vitamin pills came out of that bottle. Every time Corrie looked there still were nine pills left. It reminded Corrie of the story in the Bible of the widow’s jar of oil. It was one of the things that kept her going through the terrible ordeals she and sister Betsie faced from day to day.
Of course the whole point of a Biblical miracle is that it was something extraordinary, and turned the hearts of individuals to God.
When Moses performed a miracle, the heart of Pharaoh trembled.
When Jesus performed a miracle, the world was astonished that someone could open the eyes of a blind man.
When Peter healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, the people were amazed.
So care must be taken not to make miracles common. Miracles are not ordinary. They are extraordinary. That is why they attract attention. The very word, miraculum, from the Latin, means, wonder, or marvel.
Second, the purpose of a miracle is to confirm the power and presence of God, and the message of the gospel.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, he noted the signs that Jesus was able to do, and knew Jesus had been sent from God. “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (John 3:2)
Later, Jesus would instruct people to believe on Him because of the works, the miracles, the signs, which He was able to do. “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.” (John 10:37)
The author of Hebrews writes that the truth of the gospel is confirmed by signs and wonders that come from God. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:3-4)
Finally, from our passage, notice that miracles give the appearance of age. The man did not have to crawl like a baby, or waddle like an infant trying to find balance. The man leaped and walked. His healing gave the appearance of mature age.
This facet of a miracle is instructive when considering the miracle of creation. Everything that God originally created was created with the appearance of age. The earth, sun, moon, and the stars were created with the appearance of age. So were the animals. And so was man. Adam was created fully mature. When Eve was presented to Adam, she was called the Mother of all Living because she was able to bear children. Their childhood was not lost. It was not experienced.
The objective in the miracle of creation was not to deceive, or confuse anyone, for the matter of age was not in view when creation appeared. God simply spoke, and the universe came into existence, as His mind conceived it, fully mature and ready for reproduction. When the man was healed by Paul, the miracle was not designed to deceive but to bring glory to God, and to confirm the message of the gospel.
Let it be noted that this objective was accomplished.