God’s Word for You
Acts 13:6b-8 He wanted to hear the word of God
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 13, 2020
There they met a sorcerer and false prophet. He was a Jew named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. An intelligent man, the proconsul sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.
Josephus does not mention this incident, but he does mention a Jewish sorcerer called Atomos (Antiquities XX:7:2, most English translations of Josephus unfortunately make this name “Simon”). Some manuscripts of Acts have a name similar to Atomos here, either Etymas or Hetoimas. It is probably the same man. This encounter with Bar-Jesus or Elymas is a sketch of the overall outline of the second part of Acts: opportunity, conflict, resolution. Just as Saul and Barnabas were working with the most powerful man on the island, the devil threw his best warrior into the fray, a Jewish sorcerer who had the ear of the government and a reputation for being a man both powerful and wise.
This Bar-Jesus was “an attendant” of the proconsul. This seems to show that Sergius Paulus had given up on the old Greek or Roman mythology and that he was exploring other religions. The chicanery and tomfoolery of the Jewish magician may have impressed him, but the fact that Bar-Jesus also seemed to have some good answers (perhaps wisdom he learned in his youth from the Psalms and Proverbs) helped. Now, Sergius Paulus heard about Saul and Barnabas and the message that they were preaching about Jesus Christ. This didn’t make the magician very happy. He began to oppose Barnabas and Saul right away.
The proconsul wanted to hear the word of God, but the devil and his minion wanted to get in the way. Things don’t change much. We have friends and loved ones who want to hear the word of God, and there will be people around them who don’t like that idea at all. They will do anything they can to derail the work of the gospel. And when God’s enemies get the upper hand, we shouldn’t despair. God will come down and deliver us and our poor listeners. He will come down and open eyes that are blind, and he will open ears that have been deaf to his word. God encourages us in his word to be patient even when he seems to delay in helping us: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). And if it helps, remember that God’s judgment on those who reject the gospel today will be far more terrible even than his judgment on unbelief was in the flood or the plagues upon Egypt. Why? Because those who rejected the shadows of Christ that only foretold his coming did not have the benefit of the clear preaching of Jesus himself, but those who reject the gospel today are without excuse. As Paul said to the Athenians, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). So we keep preaching Jesus Christ, we keep teaching our children about their Savior, and we keep on remembering our Catechism and its magnificent review of the basics of our faith.
Pastor Timothy Smith