In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Act 14:8-17)
Jesus has the authority and power to heal 100% of the time, as we learn in our foundational article The Authority to Heal. That authority brought Jesus into sharp conflict with the Jewish rulers of his day, who were the approved providers of health care and the only ones allowed by law to declare someone “healed.” This authority to heal from Jesus was passed on to his disciples.
In the story above, Paul and Barnabas were on a trip preaching and teaching the message about Jesus. Their custom was to begin with the Jewish synagogue and the Jews in that city, because they had the teaching and foundational knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, including the writings of Moses which explains how the world was created. They followed this pattern in the city of Iconium, and they met with the usual response. As they taught their message about Jesus and performed “signs and wonders,” most of which would have been miracles of healing, some people believed, but the ruling Jews became jealous and started persecuting them. In Iconium, they tried to kill Paul and Barnabas by stoning them.
So they fled to the nearby cities and ended up in a place called Lystra. This is the first record of them coming to a city where there was no local Jewish synagogue. So when Paul invoked the authority of Jesus to heal a lame man who had never before walked, the people were amazed. Their own system of healing had never produced results like this. As I have written in other articles, the “physicians” during these times responsible for healing were associated with religious practices and worked out of the temples. Since these were non-Jews in Lystra, they looked to the Greek gods for healing in their health care practice. They obviously had some limited success in dealing with illnesses, or the people would not have supported them.
So the natural course of action for them in this situation, where Paul healed a lame man by the authority of Jesus, was for them to give credit to their gods and offer appropriate sacrifices. The healing was so incredible, that they assumed their gods had actually appeared to them in human form. The town doctor/priest himself appeared to offer the appropriate sacrifices for such a healing.
Paul’s response shows a very important truth regarding healing. Understanding and acknowledging the true source of healing begins with an understanding of creation, and the Creator. The Creator of the universe had revealed himself to Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people, and also to Moses who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. But these non-Jews apparently did not know the scriptures, since there was no synagogue in their city to teach them, and to offer people a different belief and health care system based on the knowledge of the Creator God and administered by the Jewish Aaronic priesthood. So Paul declares to the Lycaonians: “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
So to understand the healing that had just occurred by means of the authority of Jesus, Paul explains the following truths they needed to acknowledge:
1. There is a living God
2. He is the Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and everything in them.
3. He has shown kindness to his creation by providing for their needs.
4. He provides rain that waters the crops.
5. He has established seasons for the proper times for various crops to grow.
6. He provides man with food.
7. The things that fill our heart with joy come from him.
The Lycaonian culture (and Greek culture in general) enjoyed many of the benefits of the creation without acknowledging the Creator who had supplied it to them. They incorrectly attributed many of the benefits of creation to their own made-up gods. As a result, while they experienced and enjoyed just enough of the benefits of the Creator and the creation to survive, they were missing out on the full benefits of a relationship with their Creator, the living God. Their system of healing and religion probably had some success, because it was working within the realm of the created world where the Creator was active, but it was nowhere near as effective as the health care plan Jesus put into place by his authority and passed on to his disciples.
Are things any different today? I think not. The only things that have changed are the gods we give credit to for healing. Today in western culture, they are not the Greek gods and their priests that much of western culture was founded upon, but they are medicines and their doctors that for the most part are just as ignorant of the Creator and the authority of Jesus that the Lycaonians and the rest of Greek culture and their doctor/priests were. Just as there was most certainly some success in dealing with sickness in the Greek system, so too there can be limited success in today’s medical system (although the current medical system in the U.S. is also the leading cause of death.) But any healing is dependent upon the Creator and his interaction with the creation, whether it is acknowledged or not. To understand healing today, we need to understand the same 7 principles Paul communicated in this story, which cover the principles for physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Without a solid foundation of understanding the principles of creation and the Creator, complete healing will never be realized.
If you have put your faith only in today’s health care system which ignores the Creator and is built upon a foundation of Darwinian evolution, are you experiencing full health? If not, maybe you need to understand the principles of creation and begin a relationship with the living God. The created world today is imperfect, but God has provided the remedy through Jesus Christ, who alone has been given the authority to heal.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem… They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. (Acts 4:5-14)