Tuesday Feb 14, 2023

Acts 14:13

Tuesday, 14 February 2023


Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. Acts 14:13


In the previous verse, those at Iconium had proclaimed that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. Having been designated gods by the masses, it now says, “Then the priest of Zeus.”


In other words, this is the man who was designated to mediate between the people and their god. He would consult the supposed deity, offer sacrifices to him, lead the form of worship necessary to supposedly appease him, and so on. For those who worshipped Zeus, this would be the most important person in their Zeus-directed spiritual lives. Of him, it next says, “whose temple was in front of their city.”


This is more of an explanation of the Greek than a translation. Also, the tense of the verb is incorrect. Rather, it simply says, “that, being before their city.” Taken together, the two clauses would then read, “Then the priest of Zeus, that, being before the city.” It surely means that the temple itself, or an idol in the image of Zeus, was there before the city and it is where he ministered to Zeus. It is probably a temple though based on the next words, saying that he “brought oxen and garlands to the gates.”


Rather, the verb is an aorist participle, “having brought oxen and garlands to the gate.” He had arrived with his objects of ceremonial worship and sacrifice and was ready to use them in honor of these supposed “gods” who had come among them.


As can be seen, if the priest had oxen and garlands, it is likely he had charge of an entire complex dedicated to Zeus, including the necessary altars, lavers, a spot for keeping the instruments of worship, animals, and so forth. Now, believing that his god had come down among them, he is bringing garlands to adorn them and oxen to butcher to them. That is seen in the words that he was “intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.”


The order of the words by the NKJV gives the sense that he intended to sacrifice and was bringing the multitudes along for the ride. Rather, the Greek more closely reads, “with the crowds was desiring to sacrifice.”


In other words, it wasn’t just the priest who wanted to sacrifice while the crowds watched. It is the crowds who proclaimed Paul and Barnabas gods. It is they who obviously ran to the priest outside the city to tell him the news. It is they who now, along with the priest, were in a frenzy to sacrifice to these men. The same crowd who had heard the gospel had forgotten that good news and conjured up another idea in their minds about what had taken place.


Life application: What has occurred at Iconium is not that unusual. People can easily get crossed thoughts in their heads about the message of Jesus. This can happen directly as it did with Paul and Barnabas where a person starts attending a church because a preacher’s message convicted them. In their minds, they then substitute the message about Jesus with the one who gave the message. The preacher becomes the object of their worship in some fashion.


This can also happen when someone knows that the Bible can change lives, having seen it in others. They then substitute what the Bible says with the King James Bible itself. The book becomes the object of their idolatry. This may sound laughable, but there is an entire cult built around the King James Version of the Bible. The same is true with the Greek Septuagint, the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Scriptures, and so on.


To them, the writings as a text, not what the writings say, take the preeminent spot in the lives of the people. This is true with denominations, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormons, and so forth. There is an idolatrous fixation on the communicating body rather than on the One who is supposed to be proclaimed out of the sacred writings.


Remember the simple words of Scripture and keep them in your mind always, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). He is to be the Source of our lives, worship, prayer, attention, and hopes. In all things and at all times let us honor God through the honoring of Jesus Christ our Lord. To the glory of God above all else, let us do this.


Heavenly Father, forgive us for diverting our eyes from Jesus. We look to the left and to the right in an innumerable number of ways, missing the target when we do. Instead, help us always to fix our eyes on Him. May our hearts be directed toward Him, and may our souls be filled with You because of what You have done through Him. Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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