Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7 & 8
Poetry: Proverbs 20
New Testament: Acts 14
As we look at chapter 14 of Acts, we are going to go back to the idea that one way we can learn is by studying what isn’t said. This chapter becomes even more unique and interesting when you look at it from this perspective. In context with the surrounding chapters, Paul and Barnabas are traveling to Jewish synagogues in order to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. This chapter is no different; the Jews are still stubborn and are stirring up the crowd and even trying to kill them. But when Paul saw a lame man who had the faith to be healed, he immediately healed him through the power of God. Their message is interrupted by the people claiming that Paul and Barnabas are gods who have come down to earth. This was common Greek mythology of the time. At the sound of this accusation, Paul and Barnabas immediately reject its legitimacy and instead give the one true living God the glory.
Paul describes the power of God and all the things that He has done for His creation. Paul takes a little intermission from the message of Jesus in order to stand up for the name of Yahweh. From a Trinitarian perspective, Paul’s approach should raise some red flags because he failed to mention how God “came to earth”. If Paul held trinitarian beliefs, then he would have used this as a preaching opportunity to connect the name of Jesus to the pagan beliefs of gods visiting earth. If I were Paul, and for the sake of the argument, I was theoretically a Trinitarian, then I would have told the crowd, “Hey, I’m only a human but the real God did come down to Earth, but you rejected him!” This would have been a Trinitarians’ dream opportunity to take the crowds’ presuppositions about gods coming to earth and use it to present Jesus as God in human form. Logically, this would allow Paul to connect with their understanding of gods and use it to preach the true God. Instead, he didn’t mention a human form of God, neither does he even mention Jesus at all. But instead, the issue at hand in the mind of Paul is solely on rejecting the crowds claims and giving all the glory to God. Jesus did not even cross his mind, instead he was focused on defending the authority and power of God. But it is not as if Paul said the wrong thing or missed an incredible opportunity to share the gospel. In fact, Paul even urges the crowd to turn from “these worthless things to the living God”. The only possible ‘worthless things’ that the crowd was discussing in this chapter was that the “gods have come down to us in human form”. Therefore, it seems that Paul is urging the crowd to disregard their pagan and Greek mythological beliefs about God and believe in the God who created the heavens and earth.
And when you combine this argument with the argument that Paul did not correct the Jews on their understanding of the Messiah, along with the fact that Paul never explains the Trinity, then I would consider it to be enough evidence to suggest that Paul did not hold Trinitarian beliefs. If we believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word to reveal himself to His creation, then it seems like we should be able to see God being accurately revealed.
Acts is the perfect book to study how Paul and the other apostles preach and reveal God and the Messiah to the crowds. We can learn so much from the theological lessons found in the book of Acts, hopefully you can keep an eye out for more theological truths as you continue through the book.
- In Acts 14 Paul is stoned and left for dead – and then continues on with his missionary journey – sharing the good news. What is so important about the message he is preaching? Is it that important to you?
- What can you learn about Paul’s God from his preaching (and what he didn’t preach) and from his life? Do you worship the same God?