There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant. Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.
Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid His hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord. . . Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.Acts 13:5-13
Several of you have responded to the last two Gems with lots of questions. Primarily you have noticed that the pattern of Barnabas and Saul and Paul and Barnabas is not clear cut. So many of your questions arose from that fact. I was hoping you would notice. But much to the disappointment of many I am sure, I am not going to respond to your questions now. Why? Because the first of the anomalies occurs in Acts 14 and then later in Acts 15, so I will wait until we come to that part. And of course leave you to ponder in the meantime.
Paul and Barnabas
But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia. On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services.Acts 13:14
As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue that day, the people begged them to speak about these things again the next week.Acts 13:42
Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.Acts 13:43
Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles.Acts 13:46
Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town.Acts 13:50
The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas.Acts 14:1-2
While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sittingActs 14:8
They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting,Acts 14:12, 14
But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.Acts 14:18
After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.Acts 14:21, 23
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them.Acts 15:1-2, 4
Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.Acts 15:12
Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas.Acts 15:22
So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,Acts 15:25
Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.
After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.”Acts 15:35-36
I was talking with some people yesterday (whom shall remain nameless in order to preserve their anonymity) who said they wish I wouldn’t ask so many questions. Just tell us the answers without the questions. We trust you, and if you lead us astray well that’s ok because at least we are going astray along with Ian. Mmm not sure how to comment on that one. There is something seriously flawed with that thought. I prompt you with questions in order for you to learn to plumb the depths of Scripture for yourself. So for those of you who want immediate answers you will just have to exercise a little patience before you get the answers without effort. But those who put in the effort will hold on to the answers for longer. Enough said.
Now is the time for us to focus on the encounter in Paphos. It’s a fascinating one. There are so many elements to the story that are noteworthy. As usual I want you to learn to find such elements for yourself. Some of you have already written to me drawing attention to aspects you have seen in what Luke wrote for us which fascinated them. It does my heart good to see you all doing that. Take note of the following features in overview first.
These things happened in Paphos:
Paphos was the new administrative centre for Cyprus replacing the old one which lay about 11 kms to the east of the old centre. The two centres were operating at the same time but the new centre was gradually taking over. Clearly there would have been tensions between the two places. New Paphos is now the seat of government and hence the place where the new Proconsul is located. These two centres lie on the west coast of Cyprus. Old Paphos was Phoenician in origin, the new one was in the process of taking on more Greek influence. Both were influenced by ancient Syrian traditions and were heavily influenced by the goddess of Paphian and by the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Added to the above mix we have a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet:
Bar-Jesus was his name. Well isn’t that interesting that his name should be “Son of Jesus” – a chip of the old block? I don’t think so. One of the meanings or inferences of “son of …” is someone in the same mould. Well that is the claim at least. Also he is a [magos], a magi – one who combined his philosophy and teaching with magic or divination. He was a sorcerer, a charlatan, a swindler and a deceiver. This guy is also described as a Jew. So there is a quadruple threat hidden in his background. A Jew, a sorcerer, a false prophet and one whose name suggests he is just like Jesus, the one Paul and Barnabas were extolling.
Just like with Peter’s ministry, Paul faces a power encounter:
That is always how it is going to be. Be prepared for it. Is God God or is He not? To establish that fact there has to be a power encounter. That is how it was in the Old Testament – Joshua, Gideon, Elijah to name a few. That is how it was with the apostles and that’s how it is today. Are you ready?
Note the parallels with Paul in this story: (Some of you have seen them already):
Paul encounters another Paul, just like Bar-Jesus is coming face to face with Jesus, as he is manifest within his followers. Note too that we have a parallel between Saul’s blindness and the blindness of Bar-Jesus, all so that the other Paul can be saved.
We will pull it apart in the next Gem. I merely wanted to lay out the pieces of the story today so that you can be pondering on them in the meantime. Begin to ask your own questions and seek to understand the text at a deeper level as you go.
If the devil can’t make you bad he will make you busy.Jim Burns
When we get overcommitted we get under-connected. Under-connected with Him and others.Jim Burns
When they tell me I’m too old to do something, I attempt it immediately.Pablo Picasso
All men are brave, horror movies don’t scare them but wait until they see five missed calls from the wife.Lisa Purba
When you encounter the enemy of our souls face to face, move forward, don’t turn and run.Anon
A power encounter is simply an opportunity to prove the reality of Jesus for yourself and those witnessing the encounter.Ian Vail