“Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.” (Acts 14:18, ESV)
In the movie, “A Few Good Men,” there is a famous quotation, “You can’t handle the truth.” The Colonel in the movie is in a trial and being questioned regarding an incident that he ordered. He had denied the allegation. His response to the young prosecutor is to question his ability to understand the situation since the prosecutor had never been in armed combat. The prosecutor pressures the Colonel and tells him that he just wants the truth. To this, the Colonel replies, “You can’t handle the truth.”
As far as the movie goes, the Colonel believes that the lawyer could never understand his decision to issue an order that the military considered unlawful. Yes, this is slightly out of context with what Paul and Barnabas experienced in Lystra, but there are certain people who “Can’t handle the truth.” This is true of those in Lystra.
The previous devotion discussed the situation that Paul and Barnabas were seen by the people as the human embodiment of two of their gods. This is due to the miracle of healing a lame man that God wrought through them. Paul and Barnabas sought to stop the crowd’s false understanding by persuading them with the truth. They were not gods, but men just like those in the crowd. However, the Scripture states, “Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.” The word translated as “scarcely,” molis, refers to something accomplished with great difficulty. Paul and Barnabas had a difficult time convincing the crowd that they were not gods.
The problem here is that when people get something in their heads, it is often difficult if not impossible to straighten it out. This is especially the case in the area of ideologies. When people have a belief system, it can become so ingrained that it is virtually impossible for them to leave it and change to another. Some of the issue can be pride. However, the larger issue is that they likely just cannot see the truth even if it is clearly presented. We find this effect in witnessing all the time.
In our witnessing, many people are convinced that they are just good people, that they have obeyed the Ten Commandments. Many believe that they, through their own good works can justify themselves before God. Some have a view that Jesus is not fully God and fully man. Some hold to a variety of religious views which deny the gospel. Convincing people of the truth of the gospel is not something we can do through intellectual reasoning. It is only something that is done by the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote concerning this truth. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, AV).
We must remember that spiritual understanding is a divine work. Yes, we must present the truth of God’s word. However, understanding is not granted through human reasoning, loud communication, or fancy elocution. Understanding the truth of God is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we must speak and pray for the hearer to understand and receive the truth.