5 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.
6 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,
7 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.
8 But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,
10 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?
11 "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.
12 Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord. NAU
Barnabas and Saul were released and sent out from Antioch to the island of Cyprus. This was the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey. John Mark, a cousin (Col. 4:10) of Barnabas, was with them. They set sail from the port city of Seleucia. We are not told why they went to Cyprus. We do know that this was the island where Barnabas grew up (Acts 4:36). He knew the people and the customs. Perhaps this was a factor.
The travelers reached the Greek town of Salamis on the east coast of Cyprus and proclaimed the Word of God. According to Bruce (p. 263), Salamis was the seat of government for Eastern Cyprus. The Jewish community in Salamis was large enough to have several synagogues. It was Paul's practice to go to the Jews first, so they preached in the synagogues. No doubt there were God-fearers in attendance as well.
From Salamis Barnabas and Saul made their way westward through the whole island. Then they went to the city of Paphos on the westward end of Cyprus. In Paul's day Paphos was the capital of Cyprus. The city was well known for its worship of Venus. New Paphos was 8 miles northwest of Old Paphos. New Paphos was the port of the old city, but it became the larger and more important center.
While in Paphos, Barnabas and Saul encountered a Jewish false prophet and magician by the name of Bar-Jesus. The magician was known also as Elymas. Elymas was with Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus. As proconsul, he ruled the entire island. He summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the Word of God. The proconsul was an intelligent man of understanding who listened with great interest. Elymas tried to turn him away from the faith.
Now, Luke says that Saul "was also known as Paul." This is the first time that Luke uses the name Paul with reference to Saul. From this point on, except when Paul gives his own testimony (Acts 22:13; 2614), Luke uses the name Paul. Bruce (p. 264) writes:
The apostle, as a Roman citizen, must have had three names--praenomen, nomen gentile and cognomen--of which Paullus was his cognomen. It is probably a mere coincidence that Luke should first designate him by his Roman cognomen in a context where another bearer of the same cognomen appears. The apostle's praenomen and nomen gentile, unfortunately have not been preserved. Had Luke been a Roman, he would no doubt have mentioned them; for him as a Greek, however it sufficed to mention the cognomen.
Now, Luke says that Paul "filled (plestheis) with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said (eipen). The word plestheis is a passive aorist participle. It can be translated "having been filled." The verb eipen is the main verb, and it is an aorist. This is the same grammatical construction that Luke used in Acts 4:8 concerning Peter.
Sometimes the question is asked, "When was Paul filled with the Spirit?" Ervin (Conversion, p. 35) holds that Paul was filled with the Spirit right after his conversion (Acts 9:17). Therefore, he did not need to be filled again. For him the passive aorist participle refers back to Acts 9:17. However, most scholars hold that Paul, although previously filled with the Spirit, was filled again for this special event. Robertson (p. 181) says that this was "A special influx of power to meet this emergency." Similarly, Horton (p. 150), states:
A marked evidence of the Holy Spirit's superintendence of the work of the Church was the way He continued to give fresh fillings to meet new needs and new challenges. The Book of Acts gives [Acts 4:8; 4:31; 13:9] two examples of such fillings of individuals and one of the whole group at once.
The aorist participle translated "filled" in verse 9 does not fix the exact time when Paul was filled. It could have been just as he spoke, just before he spoke, or sometime earlier. Nevertheless, the context suggests that when Paul saw what Elymas was doing, he was filled with the Spirit for the purpose of dealing with the situation. As a result, he spoke strongly and exposed the wickedness of Elymas. The important point is that Paul was inspired by the Spirit for this purpose.
Paul condemned Elymas and appealed to him to change his ways. He went on to say that the "hand of the Lord" was upon Elymas and that he would be blind and not see the sun for a time. A mist and a darkness fell upon Elymas, and he was afflicted with this blindness. Luke does not say whether or not Elymas later repented.
There was a different result with Sergius Paulus. When he saw what happened, the proconsul believed. In this case God's intervention brought him to a place of faith. He was amazed at the teaching of the Lord. The Spirit worked powerfully through Paul to bring the proconsul to Christ. Once again, Luke emphasizes the role of the Sprit in confronting people with the claims of Christ. We can rely on the Spirit to help us as we proclaim the gospel.
George M. Flattery
Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.
Ervin, Howard M. Conversion-Initiation and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984.
Ervin, Howard M. These Are Not Drunken As Ye Suppose. Plainfield: Logos International, 1968.
Horton, Stanley M. What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1976.
Rea, John. Bible Handbook on the Holy Spirit. Orlando: Creation House, 1998.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
© Copyright 2003. GMF.