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
Take some time to ponder what Luke has written here for us. Bear in mind that Paul has just met Elymas. What do we know so far? We know that Elymas has attached himself to the governor (the ProConsul). Sergius Paulus was wanting to hear the Word of God. Clearly the message of Christ had reached Paphos before Paul and Barnabas appeared. Elymas, a sorcerer, one skiledl in the arts of seeking signs and black magic was interfering and urging the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Paul said. From what Luke has written for us, we don’t know whether Elymas did this openly as they were talking or whether he was whispering to Sergius Paulus and telling him not to listen. But either way Paul exposes Elymas for what he was. Paul looked Elymas in the eye, no whispering, no doing things in a round about way. Paul called Elymas for what he was, straight to the point while looking him in the eye and 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.”
Now you have to say that was pretty bold and brassy to have done that. Paul knew nothing of the relationship between Sergius Paulus and Elymas except that it would have been clear that Elymas had the governor’s ear. Whether the nature of what Elymas was saying to the governor was clear to Paul or not Paul came straight out and exposed him. I suspect Elymas would have been whispering his input and not doing it openly. Why do I say that when I have no other evidence other that what is written for us? Simply because that is the way satan works, in whispers and innuendo. He, as Paul said, was a son of the devil. So he was likely to work in the same way the devil does. You have to admit it’s a pretty confrontative kind of statement. Paul wasn’t being diplomatic in anyway at all.
- You son of the devil
- full of every sort of deceit and fraud
- enemy of all that is good
- you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord
Now that is telling Elymas to his face and letting the governor know exactly who he is dealing with. My goodness that is the kind of talk that could get you killed when you don’t know what or who you are dealing with. But you see Paul did know. Luke tells us he was full of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in Paul exposed the devil in Elymas. What we are reading here is a word of knowledge or more correctly a statement which comes from the gift of discernment – I.e. Discerning of the spirit with which Paul was dealing. How did he know that? Simple, the Holy Spirit told him. If you want to know more about this read the gems I wrote when dealing with the manifestation gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Gems 428 – 437: in particular 430 and 431 on the Word of Knowledge and 437 on the Gift of Discernment.). After Paul has made these amazing statements of truth he backs it up with a prophetic word – “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.”
Do you see, if Paul (or the Holy Spirit) had left Elymas and Sergius Paulus with just the first statements then it would have been on the level of a debate over the truth. But Paul went further under the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and closed the deal with the clincher, the prophetic word from the Lord of Hosts as to what is going to happen. As I said in the previous Gems, Paul’s “Watch now” statement was not just for Elymas, nor for Sergius Paulus but for all who were present and heard what was going on. The Holy Spirit in a very definitive way exposed the truth about Elymas and then backed the words up with action.
“Sergius Paulus, do you want to know the truth of what I have spoken?” Well just watch. The Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ has told me these things and He has told me to say this: “the Lord [the same Jesus we are telling you about] has laid His hand of punishment upon you [Elymas], and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” To come out with a statement like that takes both the courage of knowing that you have heard from God and the faith to stake your reputation on it. That does not come easy but it comes with the assurance of having heard the voice of God before and recognising it to be Him who is speaking.
Watch now, dear Gems reader, what happens! Luke tells us, 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. What exactly happened here. Two of you wrote to me asking about this. “Was it like a cloud of darkness or mist that descended on Elymas and no one else? That would have been freaky Ian. Did that really happen? How exactly did this happen? What is Luke describing here?” Remember Luke was a medical doctor. He uses the term [achlus] for “mist” which was used by medical writers at the time for what occurred when the eye became misty and filmy or opaque and blindness occurred. But Luke seems to be using it in a wrong way. This kind of condition doesn’t usually happen immediately such that you can make the statement and then it happens in the next few seconds. Kind of like dying as a result of worms immediately.
I don’t have a problem with these words Luke used. I don’t think it happened as you asked Robert in the form of Elymas’ own personal cloud of darkness and mist surrounding him while everyone else looked on wondering what on earth was happening to this guy in a personal cloud. That stuff only happens in cartoons or comics. Rather I suspect it was an instant misting over of the eye and Elymas’ eyes went dark and opaque and he could no longer see. I believe also that it happened instantly on cue in accord with the words that Paul had spoken. Watch now . . . and Elymas’ eyes went opaque and misty and he could no longer see. Many commentators and experts at this point take great pains to explain how this could not happen and how a process like this takes time and therefore Luke (the physician) is using the word [achlus] wrongly. How do they know? They were not there. Neither was I, but I am sure Luke would have questioned Paul and Barnabas at length about this incident and found out exactly what happened. The words Luke has used make it abundantly clear (not misty) that the words spoken by Paul by way of prophecy, word of knowledge, gift of discernment (call it what you like) were perfectly matched in time to what happened before their eyes and in Elymas’ eyes. For Paul to say “watch now” and then for them all to wait days or weeks while Elymas’s eyes clouded over with a white filmy substance does not make sense. I believe it happened instantly as Luke the physician tells us. But that is because in my trust in God I can make room for the supernatural. Many others have to explain away the supernatural and find natural causes and observable processes to explain what happened. I have seen God work in miraculous ways so many times that I have no problem accepting His supernatural intervention. This was not a debate over truth. This was the manifestation of God’s power over mankind. It was predicted by Paul and it came to pass. Having that happen before your eyes ought to convince you of the truth; not human argument but divine intervention.
That is why the story closes with the statement “when the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.” This teaching of the Lord was a practical personal demonstration of power. I don’t believe for a moment that Sergius Paulus had to wait around for a week or two to see the opaque eyes and witness the blindness and groping of Elymas and his need for people to take his hand to lead him. No, it happened right then on the spot in the moment in which Paul spoke that words. That is what convinced everyone that this was the hand of God at work and resulted in the conversion of Sergius Paulus.
Bear in mind, Paul had only just met Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas. What a gift of discernment!Ian Vail
Get to know the supernatural nature of the God who created the universe with words.Ian Vail
Better yet learn to hear and discern His voice to your inner being so you know the difference between your thoughts and His words to your heart.Ian Vail
Learn to read the Word of God with the right heart attitude so you can marvel at the miraculous and not doubt the dubious.Ian Vail