Acts 14:9

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Friday, 10 February 2023

This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Acts 14:9

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The verbs of the verse are not well translated. The verse should read, “This man heard Paul speaking, who having looked intently at him and having seen that he has faith to be saved” (CG). This will be used for the commentary.

The previous verse said that “in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting.” He was noted as a cripple from birth who had never walked. With that, the narrative continues, saying, “This man heard Paul speaking.”

The tense of the word translated as “heard” varies in manuscripts. Some have it as an aorist verb, some as an imperfect verb, and so on. Either way, the crippled man listened to Paul as he was speaking, probably on several separate occasions. Paul noticed this, probably realizing that the man was truly and attentively focused on what was being said. In response to the heartfelt focus toward what he was saying, it next says of Paul, “who having looked intently at him.”

Just because the man was a cripple, Paul did not neglect focusing on him. Rather, it probably captured his attention even more, realizing that the man was truly convicted in his heart at what he had been hearing. Because of this, Paul returned a fixed and focused attention on him as he sat there. With his eyes having so alighted upon him, it next says, “and having seen that he has faith.”

The words here must be taken in the context of what has been said. Before this man was introduced in the previous verse, it said, “And they were preaching the gospel there.” Paul and Barnabas were not carrying out a healing ministry. Rather, they were preaching the gospel concerning Jesus. This is key to understanding what the man’s thoughts must have been.

Paul was speaking about the salvation that comes through the finished work of Christ. He could tell that the man understood his words and accepted them as truth. This is faith. That faith then led to him believing the message in his heart. This can be deduced from the words “that he has faith.”

Faith and belief are not the same thing in the Bible. Concerning the difference, HELPS Word Studies provides these words –

“Faith (4102/pistis) involves belief but it goes beyond human believing because it involves the personal revelation (inworking) of God. Faith is always God’s work. Our believing has eternal meaning when it becomes ‘faith-believing’ by the transforming grace of God.

Reflection: Demons believe (and shudder) . . . but they do not have (experience) faith!”

The account of this man tells us that he had faith. But it is faith in what? Some commentaries cite similar examples in the gospels, such as –

“For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ 22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was made well from that hour.” Matthew 9:21, 22

“And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’
They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’
29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’” Matthew 9:28, 29

These and other similar accounts clearly indicate that the people anticipated healing. This is because this was an expected indicator of the ministry of the Messiah. The idea of being saved from sin was not what they were thinking of. Rather, they were considering physical restoration whether they were considering the issue of sin or not.

On the other hand, Paul and Barnabas are proclaiming the gospel which focused first and foremost on the issue of sin, from which man needed healing. As such, commentaries and translations need to consider this when presenting the final words of the verse, which say that he had faith “to be saved.”

The Greek word is sózó. It can mean saved, heal, preserve, rescue, make whole, etc. The context will determine what the meaning is. For example, in the account of Matthew 9:21, 22 above, the woman was clearly anticipating physical healing. On the other hand, the word is used in Matthew 27:42 where it twice says, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”

In that, it is not speaking of healing, but of saving one’s physical life. The scribes and elders may have been thinking of Lazarus or another person who was saved from physical death, and yet, there Jesus hung supposedly unable to save himself. In Acts 2:21, Peter spoke to Israel at Pentecost and said –

“And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.”

Peter then went on to explain that those words from the prophet Joel were anticipating salvation from sin and the saving of one’s soul. It is this, not physical healing, that Paul and Barnabas were proclaiming, meaning the gospel. Hence, rather than having faith to be healed, the translation should say the man had faith “to be saved.”

What happens afterward in his physical healing is only a bonus to the salvation from sin that he experienced. This is quite different from what occurred with the man in Acts 3. Peter and John spoke to the man but never mentioned anything about the gospel or cleansing from sin. That may have occurred later, but it was not a part of what Luke recorded. Rather, the healing was first and foremost a physical one.

To understand the difference more fully, go back and read the Acts 3:16 commentary. In short, in Acts 3, it was not the man’s faith that healed him. Instead, Peter and John healed him based on “the faith” which is established by Jesus Christ. One might say, “The church is established upon the faith found in (as the basis of) the name of Jesus.”

In the account now in Acts 14, it is the man’s faith in the gospel, leading to belief, that has saved him from sin. In his commentary on these words concerning this crippled man, Albert Barnes says –

“He had heard Paul, and perhaps the apostle had dwelt particularly on the miracles with which the gospel had been attested. The miracles performed also in Iconium had doubtless also been heard of in Lystra.”

There is nothing in the account to substantiate this. The only thing said is that these men preached the gospel. This man heard, believed, and the door to salvation was opened to him. As a witness to this, the events that will follow are then recorded. The physical healing is only a sign of the more perfect spiritual healing that has occurred.

Life application: When talking to others about Jesus, in noticing their amount of attention based on how their eyes are fixed or their other facial responses, one can then adjust his approach and words, directing them accordingly.

This is what Paul did. He was speaking out the gospel, he noticed a man’s facial expressions, and he realized that the man had faith in what was being said. With that, he more fully directed his attention to that man.

Be attentive to such things. If you are not having an effect with your words, redirect them. There is one gospel, but there are many ways to present it. Keep working with your presentation to bring about understanding in your audience. Salvation might be just a few words away for those who are listening.

Lord God, thank You that You have offered us Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And more, You have given us the choice to believe or disbelieve. Your greatness is displayed in this. You do not force Yourself upon Your people but appeal to them, asking us to reason with You and do what is right. Thank You for this. Amen.