Acts: Chapter 13

Themes:

  • Darkness and Light: In Acts Chapter 13 we see the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey. In this text we see two specific moments in two separate regions. Both moments show the difference between spiritual darkness and the true light of our life, Jesus Christ. In Acts 13:1-12 Paul is preaching the Gospel in Cyprus and is immediately confronted by a magician, false teacher, Elymas who was also called Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus). Elymas is a spiritual advisor to the proconsul of Cyprus. It is interesting that this false teacher proclaims he is a son of Jesus but does not want the true Gospel of Jesus to be preached. He attacks Paul and the Gospel as a form of self-preservation not wanting to lose his power and position with the proconsul. This shows that Elymas is instead a child of darkness acting in selfishness, pride, and love of money. But, God is merciful and utilizes Elymas to convert the proconsul to the Gospel. Paul, through the power of Jesus, blinds Elymas temporarily to show the true power of Jesus. The child of darkness will now live in darkness. Remember this is exactly what happened to Paul, temporary blindness. In this God is giving Elymas the chance to recognize the true power and the true light, Jesus Christ! Next, in Acts 13:13-52, Paul moves to the region of Paphos and goes to Pisidia. Here he encounters another form of darkness, unrepentant and antagonistic Jews. If Elymas represents a darkness that twists the truth for personal benefit, then the unrepentant Jews of Paphos represent a darkness that rejects the truth completely, wanting to hide and snuff out the light because of jealousy. But, the light of the Gospel and Jesus cannot be extinguished. And, this is what Paul preached in his sermon in the synagogue, that God who is light became man and lived among us. He was crucified, mankind tried to destroy the light, yet he rose anew victorious over the grave! And, even though the Jews rejected Paul’s preaching, the Gentiles responded and the light of Gospel became even brighter.     

People:

  • Elymas: “A Jewish sorcerer in the retinue of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul at Paphos in Cyprus. He was sharply reproved by Paul, and struck with instant blindness for opposing the religious inquiries of the proconsul, who was abandoning idolatry and superstition, and embracing the gospel, Acts 13:6-12. His blindness was to continue "for a season," and may have led to his spiritual illumination.”

Culture:

Places

  • V. 5 - Salamis - This was the principal city and seaport of Cyprus. It was situated on the southeast part of the island, and was afterward called Constantia.

  • V. 6 - Paphos - Paphos was a city at the western extremity of the island. It was the residence of the proconsul, and was distinguished for a splendid temple erected to Venus, who was worshipped throughout the island. Cyprus was fabled to be the place of the birth of this goddess.

  • V. 13 - Perga — the capital of Pamphylia, on the coast of Asia Minor. It stood on the banks of the river Cestrus, some 7 miles from its mouth, and was a place of some commercial importance.

  • V. 14 - Pisidia - Pisidia was a province of Asia Minor, and was situated north of Pamphylia. Antioch was not in Pisidia, but within the limits of Phrygia; but it belonged to Pisadia, and was called Antioch of Pisidia to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria.

Contemplating God:

Voices of the Past:

  • A Just Punishment: “By this sudden and miraculous punishment he would be awed and humbled, and the proconsul and others would be convinced that he was an impostor, and that the gospel was true. His wickedness deserved such punishment; and at the same time that due punishment was inflicted, it was designed that the gospel should be extended by this means. In all this there was the highest evidence that Paul was under the inspiration of God. He was full of the Holy Spirit; he detected the secret feelings and desires of the heart of Elymas; and he inflicted on him a punishment that could have proceeded from none but God. That the apostles had the power of inflicting punishment is apparent from various places in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20. The punishment inflicted on Elymas, also, would be highly emblematic of the darkness and perverseness of his conduct. For how long a time this blindness was to continue is nowhere specified. It was, however, in mercy ordained that the blindness should not be permanent and final; and though it was a punishment, it was at the same time benevolent, for nothing would be more likely to lead him to reflection and repentance than such a state of blindness. It was such a manifest proof that God was opposed to him it was such a sudden divine judgment; it so completely cut him off from all possibility of practicing his arts of deception, that it was adapted to bring him to repentance. Accordingly there is a tradition in the early church that he became a Christian. Origen says that "Paul, by a word striking him blind, by anguish converted him to godliness"

Footnotes:

ATS Bible Dictionary. “Elymas.” Acts 13:8.

Clarke’s Acts Commentary. “Slamis.” Acts 13:5.

Clarke’s Acts Commentary. “Paphos.” Acts 13:6.

Easton Bible Dictionary. “Perga.” Acts 13:13.

Clarke’s Acts Commentary. “Pisidia.” Acts 13:14.

Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible. Acts 13:11.

Peter ElliottComment