Acts 13:3
So after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
An Illustrious ChurchW. Clarkson Acts 13:1-3
Ordination of Barnabas and SaulE. Johnson Acts 13:1-3
An Ordination ServiceP.C. Barker Acts 13:1-5
Human Separation to Divine MissionsR. Tuck Acts 13:2, 3
The Presidency of the Holy GhostR. Tuck Acts 13:2, 4
A Place Found At Last for SaulH. R. Haweis, M. A.Acts 13:2-13
Barnabas and Paul Sent ForthA. Barnes, D. D.Acts 13:2-13
Blessing Sent to OthersActs 13:2-13
Bodily AbstinenceJ. Pulsford.Acts 13:2-13
Church Enterprises, How They Must Begin in Order to be BlessedK. Gerok.Acts 13:2-13
Church OfficesRieger.Acts 13:2-13
Mission and CommissionBp. H. C. Potter.Acts 13:2-13
Missions, Home and ForeignActs 13:2-13
Obligation of Christians to Send Out MissionariesActs 13:2-13
The Best Travelling Attendance for a Departing MissionaryK. Gerok.Acts 13:2-13
The Completion of the ApostolateProf. Von Dollinger.Acts 13:2-13
The Duty of Sending the Gospel to the HeathenActs 13:2-13
The First Foreign MissionM. C. Hazard.Acts 13:2-13
The First Foreign MissionC. S. Robinson, D. D.Acts 13:2-13
The First Missionary JourneyJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 13:2-13
The First Missionary JourneyT. Binney.Acts 13:2-13
The First Missionary Ordination At AntiochLisco.Acts 13:2-13
The Messengers of the GospelLisco.Acts 13:2-13
The Strength of Missionary WorkK. Gerok.Acts 13:2-13
Work of MissionsR. Roberts.Acts 13:2-13
A Prudent ManJ. N. Norton, D. D.Acts 13:3-12
Christian PrudenceG. Clayton.Acts 13:3-12
CyprusDean Plumptre.Acts 13:3-12
Cyprus and its PeopleC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 13:3-12
Elymas the SorcererDean Plumptre.Acts 13:3-12
John MarkH. R. Haweis, M. A.Acts 13:3-12
PaphosBp. Jacobson.Acts 13:3-12
Paul and ElymasB. Kent, M. A.Acts 13:3-12
Paul in PaphosK. Gerok.Acts 13:3-12
Paul's Fitness for His MissionH. R. Haweis, M. A.Acts 13:3-12
Prevalence of SorceryH. B. Hackett, D. D.Acts 13:3-12
Prudence DefinedMilton.Acts 13:3-12
Prudence ImprudentActs 13:3-12
Prudence is Practical WisdomS. Smiles, LL. D.Acts 13:3-12
Prudence is the Art of ChoosingL. M. Stretch.Acts 13:3-12
Prudence, FalseC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 13:3-12
Prudence: its Necessity for Self-ProtectionJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 13:3-12
SalamisBp. Jacobsen.Acts 13:3-12
Saul in CyprusJ. Eadie, D. D.Acts 13:3-12
Seeking for the TruthJ. M. Charlton, M. d.Acts 13:3-12
SeleuciaBp. Jacobsen.Acts 13:3-12
Sergius PaulusK. Gerok.Acts 13:3-12
The First Missionary IntelligenceK. Gerok.Acts 13:3-12
The First Missionary ShipK. Gerok.Acts 13:3-12
They Preached the Word of GodC. S. Robinson, D. D.Acts 13:3-12
To the Jew FirstH. C. Trumbull, D. D.Acts 13:3-12
Undying FameArchdeacon Farrar.Acts 13:3-12
The point to which attention may be directed is that the living Lord, presiding in his Church, selects the persons to do his work, but requires the Church to make outward and formal recognition of his selection. Christ calls to work. The Church separates to work. This subject may be introduced by illustrations of the ways in which God was pleased to communicate his will under the older dispensations, as e.g. by the vision and message of angels, by the mission of prophets, by inward impulses. We may recognize a steady advance towards the more spiritual ways in which God communicates his will to the New Testament Church; sometimes directly inspiring the individual member; at other times revealing his will to some that, through them, it might be communicated to all. The indwelling Spirit is now the medium of Divine revelation to men. So indwelling, he becomes the constant inspiration of thought, feeling, judgment, and action. The Holy Ghost, conceived as the abiding Divine presence in the Church, said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." It has been suggested that the will of the Holy Ghost was known "through the lips of the prophets, speaking as by a sudden burst of simultaneous inspiration."


1. God has a work for each one of his creatures to do. This truth is illustrated in the infinite variety of things which God has made on the earth. Each minutest creature has his place, his work, and his fitness for doing it. As we ascend in the scale of being, the work becomes more complex; and it is difficult for us to realize that the same thing can be true of man, who is endowed with self-will and is free to choose his own way. Yet we do hold that, in the Divine omniscience and government, a work is appointed for every man, and that, for the doing of that precise work, each man is brought into being at a particular time and endowed with particular abilities. A perfect order on earth could be attained if each individual fitted precisely into the place and work to which he has been divinely assigned.

2. But God not only has a variety of forms of work, he has a perfect knowledge of the men who can best do it. Sometimes the Divine sovereignty is spoken of in a way that cannot honor God. It is assumed that he acts upon a bare exercise of will, and without the necessity for consideration. But the case of our text rather shows that the Divine selections are always made upon due estimate of the fitness of the individuals. Barnabas and Saul were evidently just the men to undertake this new mission to the Gentiles. It follows from this view of the Divine calls to work that it can never be a true humility that refuses a Divine call; Moses and Jeremiah were both in the wrong when they hesitated and shrank back from a duty which God laid upon them. We may be quite sure that we can do whatsoever God requires us to do.

3. And it may further be shown that God has the full right to call forth any one of his servants to serve him in any way that he may please. Moses must come from the deserts, Gideon from the winepress, David from the sheepfolds, Elisha from his ploughing, and John from his fishing, if the "Lord hath need of him."

II. THE HUMAN RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE ALLOTMENT. It may be said - Is not the Divine allotment of workers and their work sufficient? and why should more than this be necessary? In reply, it may be pointed out that God deals with us as communities, and recognizes our mutual relations, and our influence one upon another. For the sake of the blessing which one man's call may be to many, he requires that it shall be publicly and openly recognized. In this way his claims, his presence, and his abiding relations to all work and workers may be freshly impressed upon the Church. Ordination and dedication services are fruitful in blessing to the Churches. It may be well to point out:

1. The value of forms, services, and devout ceremonials.

2. The most profitable and helpful forms such services may take, noting and explaining that, in the ordination of Barnabas and Saul, there was union in fasting and in prayer, with the solemn "laying on of hands."

3. The purposes that may be served by such public dedications -

(1) increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the persons dedicated;

(2) assured interest of the congregation in their work;

(3) impulse to others to devote themselves to Christian work. - R.T.

And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
History has contemptuously obliterated from her annals the names of countless kings, who have set forth from their capitals for the scourge or conquest of nations at the head of armies, and with all the pomp and circumstance of glorious war; but centuries after these conquerors are in their turn forgotten, whom she still deigns to commemorate, she will preserve in the grateful memory of mankind the names of these two poor Jews, who started on foot, staff in hand, with little, perhaps, or nothing in their scrip but the few dates that suffice to satisfy the hunger of the Eastern traveller.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia
The port of Antioch, distant by land fifteen miles; by water, through the windings of the Orontes, forty-one miles. Built by the first Seleucus, it had by this time attained the privileges of a free city. Polybius described a very extensive excavation, which was the only communication between the city and the sea; and vestiges of its slopes and tunnels are still conspicuous. Two piers, the remains of its once magnificent harbour, retain the names of Paul and Barnabas.

(Bp. Jacobsen.)

And from thence they sailed to Cyprus

1. The great Paul.

2. The noble Barnabas.

3. The youthful Mark.


1. The east wind filled the sails.

2. The Holy Ghost inspired the teachers.

III. ITS FAVOURABLE ANCHORAGE. The renowned Cyprus, with its natural beauties and sinful abominations.


1. The sorcerer vanquished.

2. The governor converted.

(K. Gerok.)

The population of the island was largely Greek, and the name of the chief town at the east end recalled the history or the legend of a colony under Teucer, the son of Telamon, from the Salamis of the Saronic gulf. It owned Aphrodite, or Venus, as its tutelary goddess, Paphos being the chief centre of her worship, which there, as elsewhere, was conspicuous for the licentiousness of the harlot priestesses of her temple. The copper mines (the metal Cuprum took its name from the island), farmed by Augustus to Herod the Great, had attracted a considerable Jewish population, among whom the gospel had been preached by the evangelists of Acts 11:19. An interesting inscription — the date of which is, however, uncertain, and may be of the second or third century after Christ — given in M. de Cesnola's "Cyprus" (p. 422), as found at Golgoi in that island, shows a yearning after something higher than the polytheism of Greece: "Thou, the one God, the greatest, the most glorious name, help us all, we beseech Thee." At the foot of the inscription there is the name "Helios," the sun, and we may probably see in it a trace of that adoption of the worship of Mithras, or the sun, as the visible symbol of Deity, which, first becoming known to the Romans in the time of Pompeius, led to the general reception of the Dies Solis ( = Sunday) as the first day of the Roman week, and which, even in the case of Constantine, mingled with the earlier stages of his progress towards the faith of Christ. The narrative that follows implies that the prudence or discernment which distinguished the proconsul may well have shown itself in such a recognition of the unity of the Godhead; and it is worthy of note that M. de Cesnola ("Cyprus," p. 425) discovered at Self, in the same island, another inscription, bearing the name of Paulus the Proconsul, who may, perhaps, be identified with the Sergius Paulus of this narrative.

(Dean Plumptre.)

Cyprus was by no means a reputable island: it was devoted to the goddess Venus, and you can imagine what her worship was, and what would be the fruitful licentiousness which sprang of it. It was the native country of Barnabas, and, as he was at first the leader of the missionary party sent out by the Church of Antioch, it was fit that Barnabas and Saul should begin preaching there. Landing at one end of the island the two apostolic men traversed it till they came to Paphos, where the Roman governor resided. Now, this Paphos was the central city of the worship of Venus, and was the scene of frequent profligate processions and abominable rites. We might call it "the place where Satan's seat is." styled its religion "the deification of lust." Neither men nor women could resort to the shrine of Venus without being defiled in mind and depraved in character. Yet it was no business of the apostles to stop away either from Cyprus or Paphos because they were the resorts of the gay and vicious; but the rather there was a special need for them to go thither with" the purifying waters of the gospel. The more wicked the locality the more need for Christian effort in that very spot.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. Evangelistic work hitherto had been sporadic, the mere result of circumstances, or the prompting of spiritual instinct. The Church had made no direct effort to carry the truth abroad. But now Antioch has the honour of sending out the first heralds of the Cross. The vessel which carried them bore in the highest sense the fortune of the world. The two strangers were inaugurating a new era, and commencing a work which should be repeated, until every people shall have its sanctuary and its Scriptures, and the world bow to the happy reign of the Lord Jesus.

2. The evangelists landed at the nearest port, that of Salamis, which had a number of synagogues, while other towns usually had but one. It is to be borne in mind that numerous proselytes must have been in those synagogues, for paganism had greatly lost its hold, and the unsatisfied spirit of many sought refuge in Judaism. Such minds were the more easily impressed by the gospel, for they would find in it a doctrine that spoke to their inmost longings. A preference was given to the Jews. How could it have been otherwise? It was impossible even in the apostle of the Gentiles to throw off the attachments of blood and kindred.

3. Barnabas and Saul went through the whole isle as far as Paphos, a place infamous for its temple and dissolute worship. Here the gospel came again into contact with the magic of the East. Already it had confronted Simon at Samaria. Bar-Jesus — son of Jesus or Joshua, "was with the governor" — had attached himself to his court, and probably exercised no little sway over him as a confidential adviser. The proconsul had apparently thrown off the religion of his country, but had adopted none other. His soul was groping in darkness, scarce knowing what it yearned after. To a mind in such a state any doctrine claiming Divine authority is welcome, and the theology of this Jewish magician must have to some extent commended itself. It brought with it the unity and spirituality of the Divine Being — a refreshing doctrine to a mind wearied out with the very names of numberless divinities. But he was not satisfied, and the same desire that brought him under the power of Elymas led him to send for the preachers of a new religion. He could not be supposed to know much of the gospel, yet he seems to style it "the Word of God," for it was in its character of a Divine revelation that he wished to hear it. It was not speculation or philosophy that his soul thirsted after.

4. The addresses of the evangelists produced a deep impression on the mind of the proconsul. The sorcerer could not suffer those impressions to be deepened. His selfish schemes would all vanish if his patron should yield to the teaching of this two strangers. So he sought "to turn away the deputy from the faith." How, is not known; probably by sophistry and malignant insinuation. But so pertinacious was he and dexterous, that an example must be made of him; and Saul's first miracle must be one of judgment on a spiteful and irreclaimable adversary. The contest was, whether Elymas the sorcerer or the truth of Christ was to have the ascendency.

5. Saul, henceforth to be named Paul, has been during this mission rising to a full conception of his apostolical dignity and prerogative. "The Spirit of God came upon him" to do a mightier act than Samson ever did by the same influence. Intensely conscious of his position and what it involved at that awful moment, and looking on the wizard with an eye that read his soul, the anathema burst from his lips. "Filled with the Holy Ghost" — armed with a supernatural power to chastise the incorrigible — Paul said: "O full of all subtilty" — a master of low cunning and ingenious retort. "And all mischief" — facility of evil-working. "Thou child of the devil" — not a child of Jesus, as thy name is — proving thy lineage by showing thy father's spirit and doing thy father's work. "Thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" Not only the gospel, but also the old dispensation, which he contrived either to give a crooked turn, that it might lead in an opposite direction, or made it such a labyrinth that none could find their way in it save such as paid him for the clue.

6. The apostle adds the terrible words (ver. 11). This challenge was Paul's first conscious putting forth of supernatural power. Strange that his earliest miracle should be one of doom — the infliction of such a blindness as in the moment of his conversion had come upon himself. That blindness was a symbol of Elymas' spirit and work. His moral sense was blunted, and in attempting to sway Sergius Paulus, it was the blind leading the blind, while he needed to be led himself. His sin might be read in his judgment. His boast was of insight, but he was taught that he saw nothing. Infliction coming direct from God's hand, often takes its shape from the crime. Ham mocked his father, and his doom was one of servitude, under which a father's claims are ignored, Abimelech wished to add Sarah to his harem, and sterility was the penalty of his household. Israel, God's first born, are kept in bondage, and Pharaoh's first born fall before the destroying angel. Jeroboam put forth his hand against "the man of God which had cried against the altar in Bethel," "and his hand dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him." When Herod accepted homage as a god, his godship "was eaten up of worms, and gave up the ghost."

7. Paul had risen to the dignity and authority of his apostolate. He had a "power to edification," though it now assumed a terrific aspect; and the deputy, awed and overcome, believed, "being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." He was awe-struck, and unable to refuse his assent. He could not allow the sorcerer to trifle with him any longer, nor durst he longer "halt between two opinions." Thus judgment and mercy have been often associated. "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God!"

(J. Eadie, D. D.)

An emblem of all succeeding, representing missionary work —


1. Externally, Seleucia and Cyprus, by sea and land.

2. Internally, to Jews and Gentiles.


1. With heathen vices — the worship of Venus at Paphos.

2. With heathen superstition — the Sorcerer Elymas.


1. The powers of darkness are overthrown.

2. Souls are gained.

(K. Gerok.)

He was a Jew, well up in the literature and prejudices of his countrymen. That surely would be a great help to him as he passed from Jewry to Jewry. He was fairly well read in Greek, and tolerably fluent; speaking it, however, as a ready Englishman is apt to speak French, with a bad accent and a faulty construction, but rapidly, impetuously, and to good purpose. Greek was the passport language in those days as French is now. Then Saul was a Roman citizen — by that he saved his life more than once. And lastly Saul had a large heart, a great fund of humanity. This made him fit to treat on equal terms with princes like Agrippa, without being above slaves like Onesimus. Saul had, too, the restless enterprise of all Nature's great missionaries, explorers, and conquerors. In the early clays he was extraordinarily rash and reckless, and always utterly fearless, regardless of personal comfort and suffering — a perplexing and somewhat difficult person to work with, no doubt. In controversy unyielding, but subtle and full of tact in trying situations, and with an abnegation of self at all times perfect. In person, according to tradition, Saul was short in stature, with perhaps a stoop, rather bald, with black hair early streaked with grey, and a full beard; a defective eyesight, and perhaps a slight impediment in his speech. "His bodily presence," men said, "was mean, and his speech contemptible." But his soul made itself felt. People soon forgot what he looked like when he began to speak. There was a charm about him that few could resist. Such was Saul of Tarsus. Not man's conception of a popular preacher, but, taking him all in all, almost an ideal apostle to the Gentiles.

(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

And when they were at Salamis
The Greek capital of the island on its eastern side, the nearest port to Seleucia, at the mouth of the Perdicas, the largest river in Cyprus, a little to the north of the Venetian capital, Famagusta. Under its subsequent name, Constantia, given when it had been rebuilt by Constantine after an earthquake, Salamis had for one of its bishops. reports, that human sacrifices were offered there periodically till the time of Hadrian.

(Bp. Jacobsen.)

They the synagogues.
There is always a gain in touching others at the point of sympathy, rather than at the point of divergence. A lawyer who would win over a jury, addresses himself first to the one man who is clearly on his side of the case, rather than to the eleven men who are against him, to begin with. The wife who proposes to carry her own way quietly, starts out by agreeing with her husband at some point; and with that beginning she will have him agreeing with her at the main point, before she is through with him. There is sound philosophy in this way of working, and God's plan is always the perfection of philosophy. The Holy Ghost led the first foreign missionaries to begin their work abroad in the synagogues of their Jewish brethren. The Holy Ghost would now lead every Christian worker anywhere to look first for points of sympathy or agreement with those whom he would win over or influence, rather than to start out by recognising, and battling, differences and prejudices, which will thus be made to stand as permanent barriers to an agreement, when they might have been quietly passed, and left behind permanently.

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Those Christians have done most service who have in every instance trusted the Word for the power of the truth in it. Dr. James W. Alexander put in one of his letters, near the end of his career, the statement that, if he were to live his public life over again, he would dwell more upon the familiar parts and passages of the Bible, like the story of the ark, the draught of fishes, or the parable of the prodigal son. That is, he would preach more of the Word of God in its pure, clear utterances of truth for souls. When the saintly Dr. Cutler of Brooklyn died, the Sunday school remembered that he used to come in every now and then during the years of his history, and repeat just a single verse from the superintendent's desk; and the next Lord's day after the funeral, they marched up in front of it in a long line, and each scholar quoted any of the texts that he could recollect. The grown people positively sat there and wept, as they saw how much there was of the Bible in the hearts of their children, which this one pastor had planted. Yet he was a very timid and old-fashioned man; he said he had no gift at talking to children; he could only repeat God's Word. Is there anybody now who is ready to say that was not enough for some good?

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

They had also John to their minister
Saul and Barnabas were highly educated men. Mark was a friend of the fisherman Peter — young, active, a useful courier, no doubt, but not in his habits or tastes the social equal of his companions. From the first Mark does not seem to have been one of them. His heart was still at Jerusalem, his sympathies were Judaic, his natural friend and master was Peter, not Saul. He had his own work, but he soon found he was not called to the Gentiles. No, Mark! When you get to Perga and see those wild hills of Pisidia in the distance, when you think of those heathen cities beyond, those treacherous lone countries, you wont care to face them. Your mother is at Jerusalem, your teacher also is there; you cannot assimilate brother Saul's strong anti-Judaic doctrines, just yet at least; you don't share his contempt for ceremonies. You are a little nettled at one so new to the work (not one of the twelve) posing as an authority not quite in accord either with Peter or James, and yet habitually, and without question, stepping in front of Barnabas. Saul thinks you lukewarm. You are not exactly that. Nevertheless, you will "not go with him to work" — you will return to Jerusalem. Perhaps you are right. You have your own work; do it in your own way. Had you gone with those two you might never again have sat at Peter's feet, collected his memoirs, written that priceless, brief, matter-of-fact statement — the earliest, the most authentic of the Synoptic documents — which was once called Peter's Gospel, and which we know as the Gospel according to Mark.

(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos.
Now Baffo, at the western extremity of the island, about a hundred miles from Salamis, on a rocky eminence about a mile and a half from the sea, with a small harbour, which at certain seasons affords no shelter from the prevalent winds. The city was restored by Augustus, after suffering most severely from an earthquake; but in 's time its site was covered with ruins.

(Bp. Jacobson.)

Or the preaching of the Cross in its power to conquer the world. It conquers —

I. THE SINFUL LUSTS OF THE WORLD. In the lascivious myrtle and rose groves of Venus, the apostle plants the Cross of Christ as the symbol of repentance, and of the crucifixion of the flesh.

II. THE FALSE WISDOM OR THE WORLD. The deceits of Elymas dissolve before the light of evangelical grace and truth.

III. THE POWER AND WEAPONS OF THE WORLD. The Roman proconsul surrenders as a prisoner to the Word of God.

(K. Gerok.)

They found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus
The incident presents a true picture of the times. At that period impostors from the East, pretending to magical powers, had great influence over the Roman mind. The East, but recently thrown open, was a land of mystery to the western nations. Reports of the strange arts practised there, of the wonderful events of which it was the scene, excited almost fanatically the imagination both of the populace and the aristocracy of Rome. Syrian fortune tellers crowded the capital, and appeared in all the haunts of business and amusement. The strongest minds were not superior to their influence. Marius relied on a Jewish prophetess for regulating the progress of his campaigns. Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar sought information from Oriental astrology; Juvenal paints to us the Emperor Tiberius "sitting on the rock of Capri, with his flock of Chaldaeans round him." "The astrologers and sorcerers," says Tacitus, "are a class of men who will always be discarded, and always cherished."

(H. B. Hackett, D. D.)

The word is Magos, the same as that used for the" wise men," Matthew 2:1, but it is obviously used here in the bad sense which had begun to attach to it even in the days of Sophocles, who makes Edipus revile Tiresias under this name, as practising magic arts ("OEd. Rex.," 387), and which we have found in the case of Simon Magos, the sorcerer. The man bore two names, one Bar-Jesus, in its form a patronymic, the other Elymas (an Aramaic word, probably connected with the Arabic Ulema, or sage), a title describing his claims to wisdom and supernatural powers. We have already met with a character of this type in the sorcerer of Samaria. The lower class of Jews here, as in Acts 19:14, seem to have been specially addicted to such practices. They traded on the religious prestige of their race, and boasted, in addition to their sacred books, of spells and charms that had come down to them from Solomon.

(Dean Plumptre.)

1. Among the chief enemies to the gospel in early times was the sorcerer. He was the degenerate descendant of the astrologers and wise men of the courts of Pharaoh, and Babylon. They interpreted dreams, explained the language of the stars, and had knowledge of the laws of nature. We can account for their ascendency. It would be easy, e.g., for the wise man to account for the cure of disease, by ascribing it to his power over occult qualities or evil spirits. A mysterious look would do much!

2. They were the Jesuits of antiquity. Their one object was to make all things work together for the glory of their order. The stars, the past, the future, the dream, the disease, the earthquake, the eclipse, were all taxed for their interest. All depended on making men think that they had influence over nature. Thus their power rested on a lie.

3. The light of the East was waning, the craft of the sorcerer, therefore, moved westward, and the Rome of Tiberius was inundated with them.

I. THE SORCERER LIVES ON FROM AGE TO AGE. He belongs to no particular profession, he is in all. There is the sorcery of the political economy school; the magician of literature; the false prophet of science; last, but not least, worse than all, is the Church Magus, who calls attention to himself instead of directing it to God. To make use of the Bible, of sacraments, of heaven and hell, to terrify men into conviction of our authority and influence, is the essence of modern sorcery. The ancient used a star, the modern a cross; the old Magus availed himself of diseases of the body, the new of diseases of the mind. For one man to stand up and proclaim himself to be possessed of power or privilege not possessed by all, is to write Elymas in large letters on his forehead.

II. YES! AND THE CURSE OF ELYMAS IS ON YOU! The gospel darkens and blinds this sorcerer, by showing what are "the right ways of the Lord." The apostle disclaimed all power. He came to turn men away from man; to say that all were sinners, he the chief; that all must turn to God, from all false and hollow supports; and being converted from man to God, they became, through faith in Christ, priests — offering up their bodies a living sacrifice through Christ. And anyone who calls away the attention of the priestly people offering themselves to God, to himself, is a thief and robber. The glory of the gospel is that it gives glory to God only. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom," etc. The glory of the gospel is, that it points sinners to God, away from all human, secret ways of giving aid. These are the "cunning craftiness," the "sleight of men," which the apostle denounces; the "enticing words of man's wisdom," "the hidden things of dishonesty," which he disclaimed. The doctrine of the universal Christian priesthood, of the one sole High Priest, is, therefore, Paul meeting Elymas. This it is most needful to ponder; for human indolence, guilty fear, and love of power are all equally interested in the support of the sorcerer ecclesiastic.

III. THEY ARE BLIND, BOTH SORCERER AND VICTIMS. How blind to think it a greater thing to make himself mysterious, than to be simply a channel of God's truth to a soul! How blind to think it better to seem than to be! How much more glorious to break in on superstition with, "We are men of like passions with you," and come to turn you away from idols to the "living God"! How much greater to wake men up to a sense of their priesthood, than to claim an exclusive priesthood which degrades them! There is absolutely, then, but one way of dealing with Elymas and his victims, that is to preach the whole truth of Christ respecting the lofty privileges of the sons of God. We cannot, if we would, strike the sorcerer blind. He is blind, blinder he cannot be; but we can proclaim the truth he hides. We can tell them that the only way to be sure of "the doctrine of the Lord," is to receive and experience its gracious influence; that we preach "the unsearchable riches of Christ, to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery."

(B. Kent, M. A.)

Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man
The first great trophy of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.

I. TAKEN FROM THE MIDST OF A HOSTILE CAMP. A Roman, a man of power, a man of education.

II. WRESTED FROM A CRAFTY POSSESSOR. Elymas the sorcerer, as the representative of the falsely praised art of human sophistry.


(K. Gerok.)

In a worldly point of view, nothing could be considered more imprudent, than for a prominent man, in a Pagan empire, to recognise the claims of the prophet of Galilee, who had so lately been crucified at Jerusalem. Sergius Paulus ran the risk of losing, not only his office, but his life, and yet the Divine record describes him as "A prudent man." The cunning, artful man is not prudent, neither is he always prudent who is most successful in the pursuit of worldly gain. Prudence is discovered in the preference which it gives to every object according to its relative value. And what better evidence can we have of it, than the choice of an everlasting portion in heaven, instead of being content with the short-lived pleasures of sin? How fearfully, in the great day of account, will the Holy Spirit of God vindicate this use of the term, when all other wisdom shall be proved to have been folly, and all other prudence insanity, except that which leads men too seek diligently for the pearl of great price, and when they have found it, to sell all that they have to purchase it! Are you acting the part of "a prudent man," in God's sight? Alas! in how many hundred ways has this point been brought home to the conscience of some thoughtless worldling, who is hardening his heart against it now! One can almost hear his imprudent resolution to delay, although he does not put it into words. A railway passenger observed three persons in the same car with himself, in three very different conditions. The first was a maniac, guarded by his keepers, who was on his way to an asylum, perhaps to spend weary years. Another was a culprit, in chains, on whom the iron hand of justice had seized. The third was a bride, gay and joyous, speeding onward to her new home, where a warm welcome awaited her. Thus are we all flying towards eternity; some, the veriest madmen, because they neglect to care for their souls; some, condemned culprits, for grievous violations of Divine law; and some, prepared for a Father's welcome to the heavenly city. We all belong to one of these classes. Which one?

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)


1. The cunning man is not prudent.

2. The worldly-minded, persevering for their own advantage in this life, are not prudent.

3. Conceit of our own wisdom does not prove us among the prudent.

II. ITS SPHERE. It is seen —

1. In an insatiable thirst for useful knowledge.

2. In the preference it gives to every object according to its relative value.

3. In the subordination of the passions.

4. In foresight of, and provision for, circumstances.

5. In a willing subjection to reproof.

6. In a capacity to be silent on fit occasions.

7. In observing the fittest seasons for the improvement of opportunities.


1. Be it your concern to imbibe a fixed sense of its vast importance.

2. Consider the numerous evils sure to result from its absence.

3. Remember that prudence sweetens all the endearing charities of domestic life.

4. Prudence increases and facilitates the means of doing good.

5. Prayer and an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures are the grand means of its successful cultivation.

(G. Clayton.)

James I once said of armour, that "it was an excellent invention, for it not only saved the life of the wearer, but it hindered him from doing harm to anybody else." Equally destructive to all usefulness is that excessive prudence upon which some professors pride themselves; not only do they escape all persecution, but they are never able to strike a blow, much less fight a battle, for the Lord Jesus.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Prudence, in its ordinary and most inadequate sense, has done little for the world, except to tease and hinder many of its masters. It would have kept every mariner from the deep, and deterred every traveller from the desert; it would have put out the fires of science, and clipped the wings of poetry; it would have kept Abram at home, and found Moses a comfortable settlement in Egypt. Beware of imprudent prudence; it will lull you to sleep, and bring you to a nameless and worthless end.

Prudence is that virtue by which we discern what is proper to be done under the circumstances of time and place.


He is prudent who among many objects can distinguish that which deserves the preference.

(L. M. Stretch.)

and comes of the cultivated judgment. It has reference in all things to fitness, to propriety, judgment wisely of the right thing to be done, and of the right way of doing it. It calculates the means, order, time, and method of doing. Prudence learns of experience, quickened by knowledge.

(S. Smiles, LL. D.)

The child who has only sailed his paper boat on the edge of a placid lake, might wonder what was wanted with enormous beams and bars of iron, innumerable bolts and screws, and clasps, and bars of metal, in making a ship. Ask the sailor and he will answer. He says we must be prepared for something more than calm days, we must look ahead, the breakers will try us, the winds will put us to the test, we may come upon an unknown rock; we must be prepared for the worst as well as for the best. We call this prudence. We condemn its omission. We applaud its observance. What of men who attempt the stormy and treacherous waters of life without having any regard for the probable dangers of the voyage?

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The position of Sergius Paulus was just this. On the one side were the spirit-stirring reports of a Divine message; and on the other, this false prophet plying all his subtle arts to discredit it. The situation is not an uncommon one. A young man often finds himself standing between his evil genius and his faithful friend, without very clearly discerning which is which, or wavering between the tidings of salvation and the spells of infidelity, and the question with him is, in which direction shall he turn? like a traveller standing where two roads meet, at the foot of a guide post, unable in the grey twilight of morning, to read it, and knows not which will lead him to his home. In the case before us, the deputy was a "prudent man," i.e., thoughtful, having a spice of common sense; and therefore he "sent for the apostle," etc.


1. It is natural to suppose that some features in the reports which had reached him impressed him favourably, and that others were perplexing. Elymas, playing upon his old prejudices, would take care to exaggerate some and to explain others away, and to feed his Roman pride; but after all his arts were exhausted, the deputy still desired additional light, and determined to act for himself. All this suggests to us an honest mind. He does not rush to a conclusion; does not all at once swear by Bar-Jesus or by Barnabas, or even take a middle course, and dismiss the whole matter from his thoughts; but he determines to get more knowledge.

2. Now, there are many professed truth seekers in the world who vaunt their love of truth and proclaim certain principles with unflinching boldness. But they never go a step out of their way to catch the sound of any voice but their own, or of their own school. Their reading is all on one side; and their beliefs float along with the same tide as their worldly interests. But he who unfeignedly sets himself to the pursuit of truth, welcomes her in every situation and guise. It is not this system or that which he seeks. Truth is the pearl of great price, for which he is prepared to sell all that he has, even if it be found beneath his feet and entrusted with miry clay.


1. Barnabas and Saul did not come with a philosophy or a new theory. They claimed to speak in the name of God, and to be entrusted with His own Word, and it was this which the deputy was anxious, or, at least, curious, to hear.

2. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, for us to conceive the thrill of interest which the very phrase the Word of God would awaken in a devout, truth seeking, heathen soul, and yet most natural. The soul was made for God. In its fallen state it is unconscious of this. But when God is pleased to breathe upon it, it begins to yearn after Him, and soon finds the signs of His presence, but it wants to hear His voice.

3. Imagine, then, the impetuous rush of feeling when the deep silence is broken by the voice of God; or when only the report comes — God has spoken! But someone may say, but, after all, it may really not be the Word of God, but some specious fabrication. Possibly, for many false prophets had gone out into the world, as, e.g., this Elymas the Sorcerer. There was the possibility that Paul and Barnabas might be pretenders of the same kind. But suppose your father had gone to a distant part of the world, and after a long absence you were hoping for his return, would not every new voice, every reported arrival naturally excite the question, Is this he? And if the news reached you that a gentleman from a far country had arrived at a distant port, answering somewhat to the description of your father, how eagerly would you set out to ascertain the fact and to rush into his arms! But if the tidings arrived that your father had returned, though, after all, it might be a false report, yet how enthusiastically would you fly to meet him! So, in like manner, if you hunger after your heavenly Father, and anything comes in the shape of a message from Him, you will certainly determine to hear it. It may possibly, after all, not be His word, but you will hear it. There can be no harm in hearing it. It may be your Father's arrival.


1. It is always best to go to headquarters for our information. Judge not of any man, or system, or Church through the eyes of another, but look and see with your own. There must have been all kinds of rumours in reference to Paul and Barnabas, rumours exaggerating, disparaging, caricaturing, or falsifying. Now, there are many people in our day, and, no doubt, there were some then, who would have contented themselves with these flying reports, and would, perhaps, have helped to distort and to spread them. Or they might have made a selection, each taking up just those elements which were most congenial with his own tendencies. But the sensible man who wanted to know the truth would have done just what the deputy did — "sent for the apostles." Pay all proper respect to the judgments of others, and open your ears to every voice which may possibly direct your way; but, in dependence on the guidance of God's Spirit, examine and judge for yourself; for you are responsible for yourself, and you have your account to render at last to God.

2. But I would especially urge this course in reference to your own study of the Word of God. You desire to hear it. Then do as the deputy did. The Scriptures are in your hands, and you can read them for yourselves. This is the best school in which to learn spiritual truth. Do not be content with the mere assertions of others as to what is contained in the Scriptures; but like the noble Bereans, search the Scriptures themselves daily, to see if these things are so. But take care how you deal with them; not hastily or lightly caught by the sound of words, or the first blush of a text; not taking out of it what you have first put in, but making it your earnest endeavour to draw from it what God has intended to teach and nothing else. Before all things, therefore, invoke the Divine Spirit of light and truth. Then take the best help you can get, in order to reach the real meaning; compare one part of Scripture with another. This may be a toilsome labour, but it is gainful. Men do not shrink from the labour and dangers of mining. The Scripture is a mine, which must be worked with equal earnestness and hard labour, but with infinitely more profit (Proverbs 2:3). In this manner the Bible becomes its own witness, and proves itself to be the Word of God.

IV. The deputy having desired to hear the Word of God, WAS FAVOURED WITH A WONDERFUL DISPLAY OF ITS DIVINE POWER. But the Spirit of truth, here as everywhere, was too mighty for the spirit of lies. Here was the man who was going to enlighten others, himself immersed in darkness; he, who was going to lead all wanderers, is seeking someone to lead himself by the hand. There, as you see him staggering and groping about in bewilderment, how striking is the emblem of the dismal confusion of his soul! He had opened his eyes to stare impiously at the glorious Sun of truth, and its beams have blinded him. The Roman is astonished at the doctrine of the Lord, and, convinced by such overwhelming evidence, becomes a believer in the gospel of Christ. Observe —

1. That the form in which this Divine manifestation was made was one of power. This was the one thing which the Romans reverenced. They had little taste for the speculations of philosophers, or for the tenderness of poets. They were not fascinated by the arts, unless, indeed, in the creations of stately and massive buildings; but they were profoundly impressed with power. They had aspired, not without success, to be the masters of the world, and to give laws to subject nations. Sergius Paulus was a Roman, and had come with these proud conceptions to rule over Cyprus. A gospel preached by a few poor Jews, having for its object a crucified Jew, would naturally appear to him a weak and contemptible thing, which no eloquence could render worthy of his notice. But when Paul, speaking in the name of the living God, hurled the thunderbolt of His vengeance against an impostor, the pride of the Roman was subdued into a humility of wondering reverence.

2. That the power of God is here put forward to expose imposture and to unmask pretence. It was a false prophet who was thus smitten with blindness. It was the lurid light of cunning and lies which was quenched by the sunbeams of truth. The Roman ruler must have in this event recognised the awful presence of a God of purity, whose eye pierced into the inner chambers of the soul, and to whom lying lips are an abomination. And therefore he believed. If you will earnestly bring yourselves into contact with the Word of God, you, too, in like manner, will become the witnesses of its Divine power. But there is a mist and a darkness still ready to fall on those who, like Elymas, deal in hypocrisies. Beware how you stifle your hidden convictions, or disguise your real character, or deal in hollow pretence.

(J. M. Charlton, M. d.)

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