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God’s Word for You

Acts 13:9-12 Saul, also called Paul

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, May 14, 2020

9 Then Saul, also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said…

At this moment of opposition, the Holy Spirit filled Saul with what to say and do, and so Saul stepped forward to take the lead. Before this, Barnabas had been the leading member of their team. Perhaps on account of the change, Luke now introduces Saul’s name among the Gentiles: Paul. We know that Paul was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22:28), and therefore he would have received his Jewish name, Saul, on the eighth day of his life when he was circumcised, and his Roman name on the day after. A Roman name would typically have three elements, as in “Gaius Julius Caesar.” The third name, known as a cognomen, was used the way we use our first names. It was often passed from father to son, and since we aren’t otherwise told the name of Paul’s father, we might guess that he, too, was called Paul. We don’t know Paul’s first two Roman names.  There are no grounds for the claim, still sometimes made, that Paul was his “baptism name” (why would a Jew take a Greek baptismal name?). His Hebrew name, Saul, was probably given because it was the name of a famous member of their tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5) who was the first king of Israel. “Paul” would have been given either because it was also his father’s cognomen or because it was the name of a famous man of the time.

(Paul) looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You son of the devil! You enemy of all righteousness! You are full of all kinds of deceit and villainy. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You will be blind, and for an appointed time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately a mistiness and darkness fell on him, and he groped around, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

This is the end of the story of Elymas as far as the Scripture is concerned. Perhaps he became a believer, or perhaps he didn’t, but he no longer figures into the tale of the spread of the gospel on Cyprus or anywhere else. Paul struck the man blind, just as Paul himself had been struck blind. The purpose of the law of God is to drive us to despair over our sins and our helplessness. The gospel is the only rescue for this helplessness and despair. While Elymas groped, “seeking someone to lead him,” it could only be someone with the gospel who could lead him to faith in Jesus. When Paul called him “Son of the devil,” he was saying that this magician was a man with all of the devil’s characteristics, a man who hated God and God’s word. Having struck him blind, Paul taught him who God truly is, how powerful he is, and therefore who he was up against. Paul would later write: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Romans 15:18-19).

As for the proconsul, he believed. Luke’s verb stands, unassailable, without any modifiers or qualifications. “He believed.” His interest in the preaching of the word had led him to invite Paul and Barnabas to his court. He had seen one of his chief counselors attempt to oppose the teaching, and been struck blind on the spot by Paul. He was convinced in his mind and in his heart that this Jesus whom Paul preached was truly God, and that he, Sergius Paulus, had a place in God’s kingdom through Jesus. This was Paul’s mission: “To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

Elymas the sorcerer was a Jew; he should have known better. He had been raised in the synagogue with the word of God as a part of his life. He was struck blind in order to see just how far he had fallen from the true faith. Sergius Paulus was a Gentile, a man who was raised knowing nothing of God and who had no reason to know anything about Jesus at all. He was led from his spiritual blindness by the power of a miracle and the preaching of Christ crucified. Give glory to God for the faith you already have. Know that you have a place with Jesus forever in heaven because of his grace and mercy, because he loved you and has rescued you. You have true sight in the true Light, Jesus our living Savior.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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