(Acts 13:1-12) The Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them” (v. 2). We find the missionary adventures of Paul in the second half of the book of Acts. It is at this point that Saul becomes Paul: “Saul, who was also called Paul” (v. 9). In his testimony to King Agrippa, Paul revealed what the Lord had said to him at his conversion: “For this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you” (Ac. 26:16). Therein lies our missionary work: to be a minister and a witness of God’s activity in our lives! We see a clear principle about God’s work. Verse 3 says that the church sent Paul and Barnabas on their way, but verse 4 explains that they had been “sent out by the Holy Spirit.” The church is the body by which God trains and sends out His servants.
Almost immediately Paul encountered a challenge such as he would see many times in his missionary journeys. A Jewish false prophet and magician named Elymas attempted to oppose the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. “Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, stared at him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not stop making crooked the straight ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time” (vv. 9-11).
This false prophet was a terrible sinner who sought, according to verse 8, “to turn the proconsul away from the faith.” But do you remember how Paul described himself to Timothy? “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
Here you have a former pharisee saying he was worse than the false prophet Elymas! One thought he was serving God; the other knew he was serving Satan, but both ended up trying to “make crooked the straight ways of the Lord” (v. 10). Both were made blind so they would be forced to look inward and see their need of Jesus. We don’t know what became of Elymas, but we will follow closely the God-appointed work of Paul over the next few weeks.
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace” (Ac. 20:24).