The Missionary Spirit of God
It is Acts 13 that records the missionary outreach beyond Jerusalem, beyond Judea, and beyond Samaria to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Barnabas and Saul took the Word of God to Cyprus, having been sent out by the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed it in the Jewish synagogues (Acts 13:1–12).
Having been set apart by the Holy Spirit for the proclamation of the Word, the fulfillment of their high calling kept them moving from place to place. Resistance to the Gospel being preached was brought by a Jewish magician, a false teacher named Bar-Jesus or Elymas. The Apostle Paul’s rebuke to this man brought him into temporary blindness.
A Roman proconsul by the name of Sergius Paulus was the Gentile witness to the power of God. Faith in the Gospel teaching was complemented by the spirit of amazement. Amazing grace visited this elect redeemed man of intelligence. Once again, the preached Gospel brought a visible division between two hearers.
The receipt of the Gospel, contrasted with the resistance to the Gospel, is ever a matter of the will and grace of God. One man heard Paul and Barnabas and endeavored to thwart their ministry. The other man received grace, received the Spirit, and received the Word of God, by the will of God.
The preacher presses on from place to place. He is found faithful by preaching in season and out of season. He may have an audience in the next town that is happy or hostile. As the reader of Acts of the Apostles learns, the probability is that both will be present.
For those who were granted grace to believe the Gospel, the preacher, indeed, has beautiful feet, having come to this place of service and suffering. Christian, that God would send the faithful man of God to the place of your hearing the Word of truth, is cause for singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of praise and thanksgiving.
All of what we witness in Luke’s history book of the earliest church is the work of the Holy Spirit. We who believe magnify the Name above all other names. We glorify Him for what He alone could do, does, and will do. The naysayers will ever be among us, until the day their unbelief and idolatries will be exposed in the final judgment.
Meanwhile, the Spirit of Christ is still setting apart men and women to go to serve the cause of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. He is still filling the people of God to serve Him in worship. This includes the preaching of the Word of Christ that opens the ears of the spiritually deaf, to hear what the world cannot hear.
The Word of God has no place in the hearts of those who do not belong to the Good Shepherd. This is why they do not believe in Christ, in contrast with Sergius Paulus that day in Paphos.
The judgment of God against Elymas was not only instant, but it was fitting, as a sign, for what he suffered as a reprobate who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. The temporary nature of his blindness is indicative of God’s sovereignty over one’s ability to see or not see. This humbles those who can see and hardens those who claim to see (magic), but who are blind to the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14).
By way of application, this passage in the Bible liberates the preacher from performance anxiety. The man of God is sowing, watering, and laboring in the harvest. The Lord of the harvest has planned it all, even the enemy who sows the tares. The Apostle Paul recognized the evil intent of the magician who attempted to dissuade Sergius Paulus. He spoke judgment toward him.
The reader of this historical account is blessed to know the grace that saves. He knows that he, too, was blind until Jesus opened his eyes to see the truth that set him free from enslavement to sin and the fear of death. We have the account of Sergius Paulus’ encounter with the Word of God and his conversion. We do not have the rest of his story of the remainder of his days of abundant faith.
The many New Testament accounts of peoples’ conversion experiences are recorded for our edification. Aspects that accompany our own conversion experiences can be seen in the people, Jews and Gentiles, from every walk of life, on the pages of Scripture. We have heard the same Jesus being preached. We have received the same faith, passed down to all the saints throughout history.
Our faithful God has produced the fruit of faithfulness, by the Spirit, in missionaries set apart, filled, and sent to the uttermost parts of the earth. When faithful slaves of Christ are taken home from their missionary assignments, we sigh at the loss, and then to our surprise, a new ambassador appears. Just as David was faithful in his generation, so were Paul and Barnabas…and Sergius Paulus, Roman proconsul of Paphos, a believer in Jesus Christ.
July 6, 2021