Acts 14:18

ESV Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
NIV Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
NASB And even by saying these things, only with difficulty did they restrain the crowds from offering sacrifices to them.
CSB Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.
NLT But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.
KJV And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

What does Acts 14:18 mean?

About mid-way through their missionary journey (Acts 13:1–3), Paul and Barnabas are in Lystra. In most of the cities they visit, they start preaching in the synagogue. There, they will encounter devout Jews and God-fearing Gentiles with a good understanding of the prophecies of the Messiah found in Jewish Scriptures. That presents a comparatively simple task: to show how Jesus of Nazareth fulfills those prophecies as the promised Son of David (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1).

Lystra is different. It's a small town and there don't seem to be enough Jews to have a synagogue. Still, the people listen as well as they can, and at least one man, who has been crippled since birth, has come to accept Jesus as his savior. As a sign this man has placed his faith in the true God, Paul heals him (Acts 14:8–10).

The crowd immediately misunderstands what has happened. Their territory has legends of visitations by local gods they have renamed Zeus and Hermes. In one story, Zeus and Hermes visit a town and find no one to show them hospitality except one old couple. In response, they flood the entire town, killing everyone except their kind guests. Not wishing to meet the same fate, the Lystrans decide Paul, who does most of the speaking, must be Hermes and Barnabas is Zeus. The priest of the temple of Zeus leads the people in offering sacrifices to the visitors (Acts 14:11–13).

Paul and Barnabas are horrified. They tear their clothes, and Paul tries to convince the crowd they are mere men, there to share the true God who made the world and provides for His creation. The crowd is determined, but they finally listen (Acts 14:14–17).

Yet, the crowd proves to be fickle. There are few more despised things than idols that fall from their pedestal, even if they never asked for honor. Jews who fought with Paul and Barnabas in their last two stops, Pisidian Antioch and Iconium, arrive and convince the Lystrans the two apostles are dangerous heretics. The crowd stones Paul and leaves him for dead. But the Creator God who provides rain and food and joy for His creation isn't done with Paul, yet. The apostle lives, and he and Barnabas continue to their next town (Acts 14:19–20).
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