So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Understanding And Applying the Text
The Holy Spirit sent out Saul and Barnabas. There is no mention of the church sending them. As we saw in the previous passage the church did not send them. The church was only obedient to the Holy Spirit. The church blessed them before they went.
Saul and Barnabas left Antioch and went to Seleucia. It was a port city 16 miles west of Antioch. They then sailed to Cyprus. Cyprus is a large island in the Eastern Mediterranean near Syria. The inhabitants were Geeks for the most part. But there were some Jews.
Saul and Barnabas started their missionary work in the city Salamis. This was a well-known city on Cyprus.
It may appear they had a misstart. God sent them to preach to the Gentiles. But they started in the synagogues. That is, they started with the Jews. That conclusion is the result of not understand the ancient world. Unlike today the ancients believe the old things contained the truth. The older something was the more likely it was true. They believed something new had little chance to be true. That is the exact opposite of today. Today the belief is the new is truer than the old. That was not the case in the first century.
Judaism was the most ancient of all the other religions and so it had a great deal of credibility. As a result, Christianity had to show it was not new. It was beneficial to show its Jewish roots. Starting at the synagogue gave Saul and Barnabas a launch point. It also gave the Greeks reason the listen to them.
Also, while God was sending the gospel to the Gentiles He did not abandon the Jews. Starting at the synagogue was practical socially, physically and theologically.
Luke tells us that John was with them. This is not the apostle John. This is John Mark.
The team went through the whole island of Cyprus preaching the gospel. When they arrived at Paphos they found a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. Luke tells us he was a magician.
Magicians were not the same in the first century as they are today. Today a magician is an entertainer. He may trick or fool you, but you know you are being tricked. There is no claim to supernatural powers. That was not the case in the ancient world. Magicians claimed supernatural powers or knowledge.
We still have magicians like Elymas the magician today. But we don’t call them magicians. We call them evangelists. They are faith healers and word of faith heretics. They are men like Benny Hinn, Todd White, Todd Bentley, Jim Bakker, and many others. They claim to perform miracles. But they are only doing magic tricks. And they are not even good magic tricks. A modern stage magician could not get away with their poor technical ability. They claim to have a special pipeline to God. God gives them special knowledge. What they preach is their brand of the ancient heresies of Gnosticism and Montanism. They are the same type of false prophet as Elymas the magician. Satan’s playbook never changes. It does not need to change. The plays still work.
Notice that Elymas the magician was a false Jewish prophet. He used Judaism for authority and respectability. Even though God forbid such activity. (Leviticus 20:6) People today do the same things. They use or rather misuse the bible to justify that which God forbids. Have you ever heard, “God told me it was Okay .” God never contradicts his word.
Elymas the magician was good at his craft. He had misled the proconsul, Serguis Paulus. Luke tells us Seguís Paul’s was an intelligent man. Intelligence will not protect you from Satan’s deceit. Modern magicians will tell you the easiest people to fool are highly intelligent.
Serguis Paulus was a proconsul. A proconsul was a Roman official who ruled over a province. He was under the control of the Roman senate. By contrast, Palestine was an imperial province. It had a procurator responsible to the emperor.
Elmas was in the proconsul’s court. He tried to keep Paulus from believing the Christian message.
In this passage, Luke calls Saul, Paul for the first time. Saul was a Jewish name. Paul was his Roman name. Christ sent Paul to the Gentiles. So from here on, Luke calls Saul, Paul.
Paul confronts Elymas head-on. Paul was angry. Paul called Elyams a son of the devil. He called him an enemy of righteousness. Paul said Elymas was full of deceit and villainy. Paul had no hope of doing any good if he dealt with Elymas’ evil in some moderate and mild fashion. It is obvious Paul had not read any church grow books. Paul did not believe you had to address felt needs. No, Paul was direct and to the point. He called Satan’s servant what he was. Paul taught the whole counsel of God.
Today we try to preach the gospel without the law. It is no wonder the world does not see their need for Christ. They believe they are sinners. If they are not cursed with sin. They are not under God’s wrath. If they are not under God’s wrath they don’t need for a savior. We must preach the law and the gospel. The good news does not make sense with understanding the human condition. The law shows us the human condition.
Paul does not curse Elymas. Read the passage with care. It is the Lord that curses Elymas. Paul proclaimed the word of the Lord. It is God who blinded Elymas, not Paul. The hand of the Lord came on Elymas and struck him blind. Is God love? Yes. But He is also a God of wrath. Those who denyGod’s wrath deny the God of the Bible.
Paulus saw what happened and he believed what Paul and Barnabus preached.