Acts 13:5-12 - Working With God

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Welcome to our Bible study today. We are studying Spiritual Applications from the Book of Acts. Today, my text is Acts 13:5-12. Barnabas and Saul were sent out as missionaries from Antioch to the island of Cyprus. Their first stop was in the Port city of Seleucia. They then journeyed to the Greek town of Salamis, and from there they went to Paphos on the westward side of Cyprus. The city was well known for its worship of Venus.

In our text, Luke tells the story of Paul's ministry in Paphos. His ministry brought men to a decision about Christ. When people heard Paul, they were not neutral. Therefore, we will be studying how two men reacted in very different ways to his presentation of the gospel.

1. Paul proclaims the Word at Paphos

While in Paphos, Barnabas and Saul encountered a false prophet and magician by the name of Bar-Jesus. Bar-Jesus was known also as Elymas. He was with Sergius Paulus who was the proconsul of Cyprus, a man who governed the entire island. The proconsul summoned Barnabas and Saul in order to hear the Word of God. He was an intelligent and understanding man who listened with great interest, but Elymas tried to turn him away from the faith.

Very often, it is the false religious leaders who are the most opposed to the gospel. It is not hard to understand why. The proclamation of the gospel strikes them as being in direct competition with their message. Quite often, their livelihood was at stake right along with their popularity and acceptance of their message. Some of the religious leaders in our day also oppose the gospel. Therefore we should be prepared to deal with their response.

2. Paul was filled with the Spirit

Luke tells us that Saul "was also known as Paul." This is the first time that he uses the name Paul with reference to Saul. From this point on, except when Paul shares his own testimony (Acts 22:13; 26:14), Luke uses the name Paul. Luke says that Paul was "filled with the Holy Spirit" and fixed his gaze on Elymas. Paul could not meet Elymas in his own strength. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit. God therefore filled Paul with the Holy Spirit so that he could overcome this magician and false prophet.

We do not know when Paul was filled with the Spirit the first time. It may have been immediately after he was converted, (Acts 9:17) but without a doubt, he was filled with the Spirit prior to this occasion. Paul was filled again in order to meet the opposition of Elymas and as a result, he spoke with authority and exposed the wickedness of Elymas. The important point is the Spirit inspired Paul for this purpose.

The Holy Spirit's oversight of the church was obvious by the way He continued to give fresh fillings to meet new needs and challenges. For example, although Peter was filled with the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4); he was filled again when he spoke to the Jewish rulers and elders (Acts 4:8). Being filled with the Spirit on special occasions is, indeed, one of the hallmarks of the Book of Acts.

3. Paul appeals to Elymas to change his ways

Paul condemned Elymas and appealed to him to change his ways. Luke does not record how Elymas responded, but clearly he did not turn to Christ. Then Paul said that the "hand of the Lord" was upon Elymas and that he would be blind, not see the sun for a set period of time. A mist and a darkness fell upon Elymas, and he was afflicted with blindness. Elymas went about seeking people who would lead him by the hand. Whether or not Elymas later repented, we do not know.

Paul did not back away from delivering God's message of judgment to Elymas, unlike so many today. Many ministers are incredibly reluctant to pronounce the judgment of God. When we do however, we must be sure that God has spoken, and that our message is from Him. Given our culture today, an incident like this one would raise huge issues with the public. However, God is not limited as to what He can do.

4. Sergius Paulus accepts Christ as Savior

There was a very different result with Sergius Paulus. When he saw what happened, the proconsul believed. 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 this man 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.


As servants of the Lord, we do not work in our own strength. Wherever we preach the gospel . . .wherever we minister God's love . . . wherever we confront evil, and wherever we call for a decision . . .the Spirit of God guides us and empowers us. The Spirit is a powerful persuader and is at work in advance of when we do our work.

This does not mean, however, that we always will get a positive response. Some men and women will reject the wooing of the Spirit and will suffer the judgment of God. God is perfectly just, and He is love, so all will be done by Him in His timing, His love, and His perfect justice. We simply do our part and trust fully in Him.

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