Summary: No one can stand in the way of God and not be punished. Christianity has nothing to do with the magic and superstition of the world. The power of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit overcomes them all.
Have you ever wondered what is it like to be commissioned by God to do his work in our world?
In the reading we heard from Acts, we see an example of one of the earliest ordinations or commissioning services in the church. Of the five men Luke mentions, four were Jews born outside the Holy Land who spoke Greek. Barnabas was from Syria, Simeon was from Africa, Lucius was a Cyrenian and Paul was from Tarsus. Only Manean was from Israel. By laying hands on Barnabas and Paul, the three other leaders were identifying with their mission. The text says “they sent them away”, but the wording is literally, “they released them.” They selflessly broke their emotional ties to them and freed them to do God’s will. Barnabas and Paul became the Christian church’s first two missionaries. They were recognized as prophets in the church but they did not have any guarantee that the Holy Spirit would speak to them unless they spent time in worship, fasting and prayer.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. It was also Barnabas’ home. It had two main cities: Salamis, the commercial centre on the eastern side, and Paphos, the political centre on the western side. Barnabas and Paul arrived first in Salamis, and preached the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. As a Jewish scholar, Paul was allowed to speak to those who knew the Scriptures. It was a perfect way to begin a ministry in a new area. Paul’s knowledge of the Hebrew faith, along with his preparation in Tarsus and knowledge of Greek culture and the Roman world, prepared him to speak to many different people. Our backgrounds, knowledge and interests also allow us to touch more people and a wide variety of people.
Paul and Barnabas found their life’s calling when they prayed and worshipped with fellow believers and not on their own. Likewise, God’s people must remain faithful in a local church. We learn to be ministers and our gifts can be developed. Our experiences will confirm whether or not God has called us to a larger place in ministry. Those Christian brothers and sisters who know us best will witness to God’s call.
God wants us to serve him together and show the world how relationships are supposed to work. God will work through anyone who is willing-even us. If we do not feel that we are up to the tasks he asks us to do, we don’t have to worry. God equips the called. He does not necessarily call the equipped. These gifts are to be used for his purposes and according to his will, to build his kingdom, not our own. They are affirmed by others who empower us to focus on what God is calling us to do.
As I mentioned earlier, Barnabas and Paul were prophets. Prophecy can mean foretelling future events, but it can also involve speaking a word from God that tells his followers what to do. Barnabas and Paul encountered a Jew who was a sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was also called Elymas, which means “The Enlightened One.” It was not uncommon for the governor of a district to send for visitors. It was the governor’s job to stay on top of all the latest news in his area.
Elymas was successful because the Romans believed in the ability to predict the future. He deceived the governor with false claims. He also tried to divert the governor from the Gospel. Elymas saw the Word of God as a threat to his own “ministry” of deception and false power. He did not want the governor to be converted to Christ because he would lose his position within the city’s power structure. Elymas opposed the missionaries because he saw them as a threat to his relationship with the governor. Indeed, they were a threat because Paul’s knowledge of the Hebrew faith enabled him to see Elymas for who he really was-a false prophet. When Elymas was struck blind, the governor became a Christian.
Paul’s verbal rebuke of the sorcerer is one of the most dramatic denunciations of demonic power in Scripture. Instead of calling the sorcerer Bar-Jesus (or “Son of Jesus”), Paul called him “son of the devil.” That play on words described him accurately as the enemy of righteousness-an opponent of everything Barnabas and Paul represented.
Besides labelling Elymas for who he was, Paul caused him to go temporarily blind, and that was a fitting picture of his spiritual blindness. The supposedly all-powerful sorcerer was reduced to being led around by the hand. No one can stand in the way of God and not be punished. Christianity has nothing to do with the magic and superstition of the world. The power of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit overcomes them all.