So after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
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."
I. THE DIVINE ALLOTMENT OF WORK AND WORKERS.
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.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia
And from thence they sailed to CyprusI. ITS BOLD CREW.
1. The great Paul.
2. The noble Barnabas.
3. The youthful Mark.
II. ITS FRESH WIND.
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.
IV. ITS GREAT PRIZES.
1. The sorcerer vanquished.
2. The governor converted.
(K. Gerok.)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.
(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.)
I. IN ITS MANIFOLD COURSES.
1. Externally, Seleucia and Cyprus, by sea and land.
2. Internally, to Jews and Gentiles.
II. IN ITS SEVERE CONTESTS.
1. With heathen vices — the worship of Venus at Paphos.
2. With heathen superstition — the Sorcerer Elymas.
III. IN ITS BLESSED VICTORIES.
1. The powers of darkness are overthrown.
2. Souls are gained.
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
And when they were at Salamis
They preached...in the synagogues.
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)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
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos.
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.
They found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus
(H. B. Hackett, D. D.)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
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.
III. AS A PERMANENT ORNAMENT TO THE APOSTLE. Supplanting his Jewish name.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)I. ITS NATURE.
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.
III. ITS MEANS AND MOTIVES.
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.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(L. M. Stretch.)
(S. Smiles, LL. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)i.e., thoughtful, having a spice of common sense; and therefore he "sent for the apostle," etc.
I. The deputy, BEING IN DOUBT, SEEKS FARTHER LIGHT.
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.
II. The deputy DESIRED TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD.
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.
III. The deputy DESIRED TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AT FIRST HAND.
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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