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May 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 1, 2016 – Acts 13:1-2

The Magician, the Apostle and the Roman Proconsul

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Simeon who was Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then they laid their hands on them and they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.
When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.
Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
 Acts 13:1-12

Intro: If you weren’t paying attention or your skipped over the passage above, please read it again

Take your time with it, then notice the impression it leaves on your mind or heart
– what we want to notice is our immediate response before we begin analyzing it or asking questions
• so what gets your attention?
• do you have a definite thought or feeling? or do you swing from one thought or feeling to another?
– make a (mental or written) note of your initial reaction

Acts chapters 13 and 14 record Paul’s first travelogue

So Luke identified this unit with a literary “envelope” structure
– the way he did this is by using markers–sort of like book ends
• the section begins in 13:3 when the church fasted and prayed over Barnabas and Saul
• it ends in 14:23 when Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted over elders
(in the newly formed churches)

In Paul’s on-the-road experience a pattern emerges
– at first, the message of Jesus receives a positive response
• but soon they face Jewish opposition
• so they turn their efforts toward Gentiles who are more receptive

Right away we notice a geographical shift

Now there were at Antioch, in the church . . .
– it makes sense that Jewish Christians still saw Jerusalem as the center of the world
• it had been God’s “holy city” ever since the time of David
◦ God, however, did not share this conviction (see Jeremiah 7:1-15)
◦ his acceptance of the temple had always been provisional (1 Ki. 9:1-9)
• eventually, Antioch did not hold the central place either
– where is the heart of God’s work?
• in the heart of person who is devoted to it

Church (ekklesia) referred to people being called to assemble
– then it came to refer to the assembly itself
• in the New Testament, it means the communities that formed around Jesus
– the cosmopolitan church in Antioch was served by prophets and teachers
• this is a healthy combination that has passed the test of time

  • Prophets: spoke to circumstances that affected believers in a particular place and time
    ◦ their message, which was local and spontaneous, had a dynamic quality
    ◦ they addressed immediate situations, providing direction and encouragement
  • Teachers: interpreted and explained the Scriptures
    ◦ this included oral communication regarding Jesus’ life, teaching, miracles and death and resurrection
    ◦ their message was universal and foundational

Prophets and teachers exercized their gifts in a context — While they were ministering to the Lord
– our English word “liturgy” (a fixed form of worship) comes from the Greek word translated ministering
• worship or the church’s service to God
• this is the context in which Spirit usually spoke (and speaks) to believers

We also notice that it is the Spirit who sets the plot in motion

Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul . . . .
– Luke does not say, “And this was a first!”
• nor does he say, “This sort of thing was happening all the time”
◦ we do not know if this was a normal occurrence or something unusual
• what is clear is that in this whole adventure God is present
for the work to which I have called them
• this probably entailed the work they were already doing there in Antioch
• it was just that now they were to take it to others

In verse 4, we discover that the Spirit continues to move the plot forward
– for Barnabas, going to Cyprus was returning home
• at first, synagogues were the natural place to go
◦ the message was for them — it was their Messiah who had come at last
◦ God’s kingdom had arrived and become a here and now reality
• it was God’s message to his people
– as a footnote, we’re informed that John-Mark was with them assisting them
• he is not a central character, yet Luke does not want us to lose sight of him

Barnabas, Saul and John crossed from one end of island to other

Before leaving for the mainland, they received a summons from the proconsul
– but Luke doesn’t begin with him–they first encountered another man
• he is described as a magician and false (pseudo) prophet
◦ false prophets are as common in scripture as God’s prophets
• this magician’s name was Bar-Jesus (Bar means “son of”–like Barnabas)
◦ this was mostly likely his given name — Jesus was a common name at that time
◦ or it may have another meaning and that is why he adopted it
– he was connected with the proconsul (governor)
• the proconsul is described as a man of intelligence
• he may have wanted to investigate what Barnabas and Saul were spreading
◦ but it is just as likely that he heard enough about their message to be interested

Details of this story begin to get a little tricky
– Bar-Jesus had another name: Elymas the magician
• I’m not sure why Luke wanted us to know this
• perhaps it’s to intensify the contrast between him and Paul
◦ the magician with two names stood over against the apostle with two names
◦ also, we see there are two men with the same name, Sergius Paulus and Paul
– Elymas began to interfere with Paul’s message
• attempting to turn the proconsul away means to corrupt, to twist
• I am guessing that Elymas took personally Paul’s efforts to turn the proconsul to the faith
• if Sergio embraced the message of Jesus, Elymas would lose his influence

At this point, Paul explodes out of the gate

It is as if until now, he had been holding back
filled with the Spirit is an explanation
• it explains why he cursed Elymans–what prompted or inspired him
• and what empowered his words to have the effect they did
straight ways of the Lord is what God’s ministers try to provide people
• the goal is to make it easy for people to find their way to God

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame maynot be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Heb. 12:12-13)

Paul exposed the magician, and with emotionally charged language
– he does not give evidence for his accusation that Elymas was twisting the truth
• and if he did, it would not have carried any weight
• the game-changer is what came next

What do you think about this curse of temporary blindness?
– could it be Paul thought it was the best hope for Elymas?
• this is exactly what happened to Paul when he opposed Jesus
◦ he too had been blinded and needed to be led by the hand (Acts 9:8)
• that’s when Paul began to see through new eyes
◦ even if Elymas didn’t benefit from this sudden, temporary blindness, Sergio did

The thought that strikes me is, this is how it ought to be!
– if we stand for God and proclaim truth, then we should have God’s support
• like Daniel’s three friends who took a stand for their God and were not harmed by the flames
• or Esther risking her life to rescue God’s people
◦ the bad guys were defeated and the good guys won
– but then again, this is not the kind of authority that just any Christian should be able to wield
• for the same reason God hasn’t answered my prayer for a laser weapon mounted on the hood of my car
◦ one that could, on my command, vaporize any vehicle that did something stupid on the highway
• we know people, who if they are contradicted by logic they can’t refute, immediately leap to irrational argumentation
◦ they raise volume and emotional intensity of their speech
◦ so maybe it’s better God doesn’t always make things go the way we think it ought to be

Conc: Who is the hero–the protagonist–in this story?

The person in Antioch who first heard Spirit is not even named
– Barnabas wasn’t the hero – we could say Paul was
• but in biblical history, isn’t God always the Hero?
• and here we see the Father, Son and Spirit present throughout
◦ the Spirit spoke when they were ministering to the Lord
◦ it was the word of God they preached
◦ it was the word of God that the proconsul wanted to hear
◦ the hand of the Lord blinded Elymas
◦ and the teaching of the Lord amazed the proconsul

Pro athletes frequently have company logos plastered prominently
– on their clothing, surf boards, race cars, etc.
• they are happy to let the world know who sponsors them
– your spiritual life has been, is now, and always will be Sponsored By God!
• the Spirit’s energy in the church moves upward, inward and outward
◦ your life in Christ will move primarily in one of these directions
◦ and as you move:
upward in worship
inward in service to the church
or outward in taking the message to others
You will be sponsored by God

Don’t be afraid — you have his support

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