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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Acts 13:4-12 – Venturing for God

In obedience to the Holy Spirit Barnabas and Saul, accompanied by Mark, set out on their travels. No doubt they anticipated having opposition from various quarters, but they would also have looked to the Lord for converts. They discovered soon that they were to have both.

We are not told if they had specific guidance from the Lord to go to Cyprus. Barnabas was from there, which may have influenced their choice of destination. Luke does not say if they had many converts even although they travelled throughout the entire island. If they did have many, their new situation would be very different from the spiritual strides they observed in the church in Antioch. This is a reminder that God can call his servants from places of popularity to locations of obscurity.

Sometimes, God tests by delaying giving a desired blessing and it looks as if Barnabas and Saul had to wait a while before seeing fruit. But when it came, they saw a very prominent man converted. Indeed, some scholars suggest that Saul changed his name to Paul after Sergius Paulus was converted.

It looks as if Sergius Paulus was a religious man and his choice of Elymas as a spiritual counsellor could suggest he was drawn to the Jewish religion. He had been informed that two men were preaching an enlarged message in the synagogues about the Messiah and he wanted to hear what they had to say. Without knowing about it, Sergius Paulus was undergoing a preparatory work of grace.

The kingdom of darkness did not like this development and Elymas attempted to make the proconsul lose interest in Christianity. Paul spoke bluntly to him and made use of his apostolic authority and pronounced a temporary judgement on Elymas. We may be surprised that Paul spoke so directly in what was a missionary setting. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, realised he was in a spiritual battle and at that moment he needed his Master to deal with an enemy soldier, which he did. After all, tolerance of a false message and evangelism do not go together.

The effect was that Sergius Paulus was convinced about the authenticity of the Christian message and believed in Jesus. On that day, Paul made inroads into two kingdoms. One was the Roman Empire for whom Sergius Paulus worked and the other was the kingdom of darkness from which he was delivered.

The description of the attitude of Sergius Paulus is wonderful – he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Luke does not say it was the preaching of the apostles, nor does he say that the message was about the Lord. Instead he says that the Lord was teaching Sergius Paulus through the words of Barnabas and Saul. And when that happens, listeners are filled with wonder.

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