Sermon: The Gospel’s Victory Over Darkness (Acts 13:1-12)

The Gospel’s Victory Over Darkness

Acts 13:1-12

Introduction

Last time we saw how Herod was no match for the power of God.  We saw how secure Herod had Peter held within his prison with two chains, four squads of soldier, Roman Sentries guarding the doors and the city tightly shut.  Then we saw the ease in which the angel sets Peter free, chains fall off, Peter walks right past all the guards, and the door fortifying the city opens on its own.  Herod’s prize got away and Herod was first humiliated and then eaten by worms.  The king who would have the people think he was god was literally eaten from the inside out by unclean worms.  Through it all, the Word of God grew and multiplied throughout the region.

Today, Luke reports a time when the Gospel triumphs over the forces of evil again.  This time it doesn’t overpower another evil king like Herod but over one sent by Satan himself to trouble the missionaries and their mission.  Guess what?  God wins again.

TT- The Gospel, preached by men called and sent by God, will always triumph over Satan and his false prophets.

Human need met by text

We live in very evil days.  It seems all you hear about are things that are in conflict with a Christian worldview.  We live in a day where many anti-Christ’s flex their arm as if to cause Christians to be afraid.  We need this passage because we need to be reminded that God will win this cosmic battle.  Last week we saw how easily Herod was defeated and this week we’ll see how easily one sent by Satan is defeated.  There is no power on earth or in the universe that can overpower and defeat the Church.

We also need this text to remind us that in this world we live in we must be on guard against all forces of evil, even some who claim to be Christians. Beloved, be on your guard and alert.  The devil is on the prowl seeking to destroy you and me.  He really doesn’t care how he does it as long as he is successful.  He can use the influence of atheists, agnostics, political powers, and even those claiming to be Christians but really are wolves in sheep’s clothing masquerading as believers.  We need to be able to separate biblical truth from heresy and half-truth.

Some of these false-prophets have either never had or understood truth or they have had it at one time and for the sake of popularity, forfeited it to be bigger and more successful.

We must always remember that the true Gospel will always win.  It might not seem to be winning the day all the time, but perhaps that is by design.  Perhaps God allows others a bit of success while those of us seeking the undiluted Gospel seem to be overshadowed at times.  It might be by design in order to wean us off of what the world sees as success.

I wanted to introduce this passage today this way because we are going to see two very different people in this text.  We are going to see Paul and his heroic passion for the true Gospel message, no tricks, no gimmicks, no seeker friendly felt needs junk., just pure Christ-centered Gospel driven preaching.

Then in opposition to that, we are going to see a man named Elymas the magician.  He is one who opposes the Gospel message.  Who wins?

Acts 13:1-12 (ESV)
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.
6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus.
7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

1.  True Prophets Sent Out by the Holy Spirit

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
The Bible is made up of real people, not a bunch of wax or stone statues or stained glass pictures, but real people.  Luke takes a moment to list some names…

Barnabas- who was from Cypress.  Son of encouragement.  One who was a leader an organizer within the early church.  Trusted and sent to Antioch to help the young church.

Simeon, called Niger (Latin meaning Black).  He was probably from Northern Africa.  A trusted teacher.

Lucius of Cyrene- Another trust man in the ministry.

Romans 16:21 (ESV)
21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch-
One whom the Gospel had radically changed.  He was at one time buddies with wicked King Herod and now through the life changing good news, he is a leader within the church.  He is also, viewed by scholars as the one giving Luke the account of Herod.

Saul- whom we all are beginning to get to know and will further as we continue.  Another man radically changed by Jesus Christ.

The Church at Antioch led by these amazing born again men is praying and fasting.  We learned last week how important it is for the church to pray…Herod had Peter held in chains etc…but the church was fervently praying.

Here again, Luke highlights prayer.  The Holy Spirit moves and sets apart Barnabas and Paul for a special task.

I want to take a few minutes to look at something Luke tells us about worship.  He writes, 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting…3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
The word here for worship is leitourgounton…this word and its Hebrew counterpart previously were used to indicate the work of sacrifice by the priest in the OT.  So, what Luke does by describing prayer specifically as worship is to indicate that prayer by God’s people and especially, corporate prayer, as indicated here, has taken the place of priestly service.  Where formerly the smoke of the burnt offer created a pleasing aroma to God, now the prayers of the saints rise like incense to God.  It pleases God when we pray.  Luke rightly calls it worship.  When the church prays, the Holy Spirit moves…

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Have you notice that it says here that the Holy Spirit said!  What did He sound like?  The Holy Spirit responds to the prayers of the church and sets apart from the larger group the beginnings of a missionary team.  He spoke…

Also, notice that twice in these verses Luke indicates that it was not the church’s idea to send out Barnabas and Paul.  It was God’s plan to send them out.

Then to affirm God’s call the church lays hands on them showing them their support and recognition of God’s call.

–the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit,

Barnabas and Paul were called by God and sent by God and sent by the church.  The local church is to sense the calling of God in someone’s life and affirm the call.

Now by contrast, notice a man sent out by the devil…

TT- The Gospel, preached by men called and sent by God, will always triumph over Satan and his false prophets.

2.  A False Prophet Sent Out by the Devil

5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.
6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus.
7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
Whenever the Word of God goes forth, it will accomplish God’s purposes and because it is going out into a world of sin it will also encounter opposition.  Here, Satan had planted a false prophet.

What was going on here was that the Island of Cypress was governed by Rome.  So Rome had set up governing leadership and various proconsuls.  This specific one was led by  , Sergius Paulus.  This man had employed Bar-Jesus or as Luke refers to him as Elymas, which is his Greek name, meaning magician, to interpret various signs in the heavens etc.  Luke also tells us that Bar-Jesus, the magician was Jewish.  He adds that to show us that he understood the Jewish traditions and what God had said through the prophets concerning those who practice magic, soothsaying, and dabble in the occult.

Notice that Sergius Paulus was interested in hearing Barnabas and Paul.  At this point, his interest was probably merely academic but there was an interest… , a man of intelligence.

So, Sergius Paulus summons Barnabas and Paul to speak the Word of God to him.

Notice that the preaching of Jesus Christ intrigued those of the proconsul but it brought opposition from Elymas.

Now Paul steps up and curses the magician.  Elymas was seeking to discredit the Gospel message and turn the proconsul away from believing and following Christ.  Paul steps in and intercedes.

9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?

He called it like he saw it.  He didn’t water down the truth but very quickly used his apostolic authority and silenced God’s enemy.

Luke writes that when Paul did this he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He wasn’t filled with hatred or anger but as God’s spokesman and representative addressed this one sent by Satan as God Himself.  He spoke exactly the words the Holy Spirit intended him to speak.

This occult practicing magician was evil in every way and perverting righteousness.  He was full of lies, deceit and trickery.  He was an enemy.  Paul thundered his pronouncement of judgment upon this enemy of the cross.

Just as easily as the angel freed Peter from prison so too the Paul would stike down one sent by Satan himself.  Much like Herod being embarrassed at Peter’s escape, can you sense with me how pathetic this powerful magician looked stumbling around in the dark?  He was no longer leading other astray but notice… 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.

3.  The Word of God Triumphs

12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

While the enemy of the souls of men had been overpowered with just a word from one whom God had called and filled with the Holy Spirit.  When Sergius Paulus heard the message and saw the power of God, he believed.  The jugement of God falling on Elymas astounded the Proconsul and Sergius Paulus believed the message of Paul.  Remember, Sergius Paulus now believed the very message that before he was told not to believe.

TT- The Gospel, preached by men called and sent by God, will always triumph over Satan and his false prophets.

Beloved, do not trust everyone who tells you what to believe.  Always use God’s Word as the litmus test fro truth.  If someone comes at you with opinions and ideas that oppose God always put them to the test with Scripture.

Always remember, God’s Word will triumph over darkness and free those who are bound in sin.  If you oppose God you will loose.  Trust Christ, trust Him with your future and trust Him in the evangelism of your loved ones and friends.  God’s Word will overcome.

The Bible records in Acts chapter 13 verses 6 to 12 how when Paul, Barnabas and John Mark visited Paphos, on Cyprus, at the start of Paul’s first missionary journey, they had a dramatic encounter with the Roman governor (or proconsul) Sergius Paulus, which led to him becoming a follower of Christ.

In 1877, an inscription was found near Paphos, bearing Sergius Paulus’s name and title of proconsul.

Ten years later, his name was also found on a memorial stone in Rome. The stone records that in AD 47 he was appointed as one of the keepers of the banks and channel of the river Tiber. He held this office when he returned to Rome after his three years as governor of Cyprus.[1]


[1] The Sergius Paulus inscriptions in Cyprus and Rome  http://www.facingthechallenge.org/paulus.php

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