PAUL’S SERMON TO THE IDOLATORS

Paul preaching at Lystra

We have come with Good News to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made sky and the earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past He allowed all the nations to go their own way; but even then He did not leave you without evidence of Himself in the good things He does for you: He sends rain from Heaven and seasons of fruitfulness; He fills you with food and your hearts with merriment. (Acts14:15-17 New Jerusalem Bible)

After experiencing persecution at Iconium, Paul and Barnabas moved on to  Lystra  where Paul healed a man crippled in both feet.  Those who saw it were so impressed with the miracle that they declared Paul and Barnabas to be two of their gods, renaming them Mercury and Jupiter respectively. Unsurprisingly the two evangelists were greatly distressed by this, prompting Paul to make the speech featured above.. It is of interest because it hints at what might be described as Paul’s natural theology, and that becomes more evident in a few chapters time as we shall see. Here Paul is indicating that unlike God’s chosen people of the Old Testament whose inexcusable idolatry was not tolerated, God had permitted primitive people to “go their own way” in terms of their search for God, hoping that they would recognize the goodness of His nature through the natural provisions made for them. Far from despising humanity, even in its fallen state, God had been pleased to “fill their bellies with food and their  hearts with merriment” in order that they might come to discern the goodness of His nature. [This is Paul’s God and mine]. According to the apostle, God expected that primitive man might “grope after God” and find Him to an extent as we shall see in chapter 17 (vv26-28).

Now, thanks to the incarnation, ministry, sacrificial death, resurrection and glorification of the Word of God, such groping would no longer be required. For Christ, even in His earthly ministry (Jn14:9) had been the express image of God, and following His death and resurrection had provided the means and spiritual resources for fallen human beings to come to know and be reunited to God, His Son and Spirit – the phenomenon the Bible refers to as “αἰώνιος  ζωὴ”, usually translated from the Greek  as “eternal life” (Jn17:3)**,As the Biblehub excerpt I have quoted below affirms the full sense of the meaning (as being a quality relating to an age) tends to be obscured in the translation. This Good News was no longer reserved for Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, it was  provided to out and out pagans such as Paul was addressing. And as considered in the last post,  “as many as were appointed to eternal life”  came to believe.

**Biblehub.com’s analysis of  αἰώνιος (aionios)in the context of “eternal life”

“Cognate: 166 aiṓnios (an adjective, derived from 165 /aiṓn (“an age, having a particular character and quality“) – properly, “age-like” (“like-an-age“), i.e. an “age-characteristic” (the quality describing a particular age); (figuratively) the unique quality (reality) of God’s life at work in the believer, i.e. as the Lord manifests His self-existent life (as it is in His sinless abode of heaven). “Eternal (166 /aiṓnios) life operates simultaneously outside of time, inside of time, and beyond time – i.e. what gives time its everlasting meaning for the believer through faith, yet is also time-independent”

 [Excerpt from Biblehub “HELPS: word studies for G166 – my highlighting]