Mission Empowered By God | The Book of Acts | 13:1-12 | Pastor Duane Smets
This an exegetical and expository sermon on Acts 13:1-12. It deals with the various ways that the Spirit of God empowers the Word of God to do the Work of God. This sermon was originally preached on July 15th, 2012 at The Resolved Church in San Diego,CA.
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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
July 15th, 2012
Mission Empowered By God | Acts 13:1-12
I. The Spirit & Church Authorities (v.1-3)
II. The Spirit & The Word of God (v.5,7,12)
III. The Spirit & His Vessels (v.7-9)
IV. The Spirit & Satan’s Defeat (v.10-11)
V. The Spirit & The Amazing Gospel (v.12)
Good morning Resolved Church. It’s good to see you. If it’s your first time and your visiting today we are glad you’re here. My name is Duane, I’m one of the pastors here under our head pastor Jesus and I get the joy of preaching most weeks here at The Resolved Church.
Well, it’s been somewhat of a tumultuous week this last week in the life of our church. In last week’s sermon from the book of Acts we talked about setbacks in life and how God works in and through them to yet move us forward as we earnestly seek him in prayer. And we experienced that in a real way this week.
If you haven’t yet heard about it, Ricky & Ashley Warner, who are members here, during one of last week’s Sunday worship services had a bad feeling that something was wrong with their baby who wasn’t due for about another week. So they decided to get up and leave and go to the hospital and sure enough the doctors could tell right away that something wasn’t right and they went ahead and induced her into labor. When the baby came they immediately whisked her away and began working on her and Ashley who was having complications. Ricky went with the baby and he told me later that for a few minutes he thought he was going to lose them both.
My wife and I saw them later that day to provide pastoral comfort and prayer. If you’ve ever seen a baby in ICU it’s a wonder they can hook up so many tubes and wires to a little baby. Little baby Lucie was struggling to breath, had low hemoglobin levels and the doctors were afraid she had experienced brain damage. So we called the church to prayer. Several of us have spent hours praying, crying and begging the God of heaven and earth to have mercy.
I am so glad to report today that God has answered our prayers. Lucie is now breathing on her own, getting stronger by the day, is now able to eat, is opening and closing her eyes and gripping with her little hands…she had an MRI and the results came back yesterday that there was no brain damage whatsoever! So we are just praising God. Life is truly a gift from him and it’s situations like this which remind us that it is not guaranteed.
Many of you have been asking how you can help. Normally when a new baby is born in the church something we always do is shower the family with meals for the first couple weeks. Since baby Lucie is still in the ICU at the hospital and since Ashely was discharged a few days ago they are just going back and forth from the hospital and having to grab food on the run.
So what we’re going to do is change it up a little bit. Outside on our information table is a card for Ricky, Ashley and Lucie Warner and we want you to sign it and put some money or food gift cards in it. Lucie will probably still be in the hospital for a number of days and this is a real tangible way we can love and care for them while we keep praying for her to get strong enough to go home. Sound good?!
Okay, so this week in our study through the book of Acts we come to a section in the book which represents a significant turning point in the story as it has been unfolding.
• Up until now the Church and her ambassadors have mainly only been ministering, preaching the Gospel in and around Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
• And up until now, the Apostle Peter has been the primary spokesperson for the Church and the Gospel she is seeking to spread.
With Acts 13 all that changes as the mission moves out past Palestine, from a new base church, the one in Antioch and from here out in the book of Acts Peter falls out of the picture and Paul becomes the new main spokesperson. What the part of Acts 13 we’re looking at today emphasizes is that this mission, which Jesus said back in Acts 1:8 would be empowered by His Spirit, this mission, this turn in the mission is clearly superintended by the Spirit’s work.
So the title of my message today is, “Mission Empowered By God” (note if bulletin different) and we’ll look at five different ways God’s Spirit progresses the mission here in the first half of Acts 13. First let’s go ahead and read the text, declare it as God’s Word, thank him for it and pray over it.
• Read Acts 13:1-12
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
• Pastoral Prayer
The first things we’re looking at this morning is, “The Spirit & Church Authorities.”
I. The Spirit & Church Authorities (v.1-3)
Alright, so with the exception of Antioch mentioned briefly in chapter eleven, the first twelve chapters of Acts the Church has existed and operated all within about a hundred mile radius over a period of probably around ten years or so. I think I’ve got a picture for you…(slide) the map on the left shows where everything was going down in the first twelve chapters and the map on the right shows what gets launched here in Acts 13.
The mission launching from Jerusalem gets as far as Damascus, just over a hundred miles away. The mission launching from Antioch ends up expanding to nearly 900 miles away. So this is a huge expansion of the ministry of the Gospel…crossing not only greater distance but all kinds of cultural boundaries. It’s when this happens that we really start to see the universal power of the Gospel that addresses the hearts of all kinds of people and places throughout all time.
Now what is interesting and significant here in these first three verses of chapter thirteen is how this new segment in the mission of the Gospel goes down. The first verse basically tells us that Antioch is a well-established church…it’s not in its early years of existence anymore. Key qualified and proven leaders are in place…prophets and other teachers. “Prophets” most likely here meaning preachers and “teachers” most likely meaning other elders or pastors as they are later called in the Bible.
Five are named here and we’re not going to spend any special time on each of these guys but what I do want us to note is what happens in verse two and three. In verse two we’re told the whole church has gathered for worship and for whatever reason they are fasting as a group together. We’re not told why. But it’s clear by the word used for “worship” here that this is a formal gathering of the church not only with her leaders but also as verse one points out, the whole church they belong to.
So they are gathered for worship and somehow, someone…it doesn’t say who, has some impression that God has called and set apart Barnabas and Saul for some specific task. They likely already knew this, since we’ve already read about God’s calling upon Saul’s life given at his conversion. But what the Spirit seems to prompt here is that now is the time to set them apart or dismiss them to go.
I love how careful they are with this as it is stated within verse three. They are aware that feelings and impressions may not always be from God, so they test it. They wait it out fasting and praying some more to make sure that this is really from God. They don’t make a fast impulsive, absolute “God told me…” type of decision. They test it…it apparently proves true and so they lay their hands on them to send them off.
So there are two main things going on here I want to point out. One is their recognition and dedication to Jesus being the head pastor of the church. Notice they are, “worshipping the Lord.” That’s the Lord Jesus. And then it’s “the Holy Spirit” who gives them direction. Who’s Spirit is the Holy Spirit? It’s the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. Jesus had said before that they would receive the Spirit in his name (Jn 14:26).
This is a principle we attempt to emphasize a lot here at The Resolved Church…that Jesus is the head pastor here. So in all our decisions and in all our worship it is our goal to get on board with Jesus and what he wants by us attempting to be in tune with His Spirit, following the direction of His Spirit. Here in Acts today we see a prime example of that taking place.
Here’s the second thing, notice who enacts this movement in obedience to Jesus’ Spirit…those who laid hands on them, which was always an official function of church leaders going all the way back to the Old Testament times (Gen 48:18; Num 27:18-23; Deut 34:9). They laying on of hands signified authority and the conferral of blessing and authority symbolizing the hand of God and his direction.
Now the text here is speaking descriptively, describing here what they did do…it’s not necessarily speaking prescriptively, prescribing how things should be done. However, it does describe the acting out of what is directly prescribed in several other places in the New Testament that God establishes and wants there to be established spiritual and physical people of authorities who represent him and make significant decisions for the people as they are led and directed by Jesus’ Spirit. Like Hebrews 13:17 which says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your soul.”
Thus, really what we have here in Acts 13 is an example of the dual authorities of the Spirit and the church leaders functioning in tandem. Bible commentator John Stott says it well, “Both the Spirit sent them out, by instructing to do so and the church sent them out, having been directed by the Spirit to do so.”
The reason this is important to recognize is that it kills two common errors among the life of Christians and among the life of many churches. One error is individualism, where an individual senses they have some call or vision from God to do something but they do not submit or entrust it and/or its timing to any local church leaders. The other error is institutionalism, where the church is run simply by policy and authoritarianism without dependence on or sensitivity to the Spirit of Jesus and what he wants.
It’s a call for you, when you sense that God may be calling you to do something to work through it with your local church leaders and not just run off thinking you can do whatever you want because that’s what you feel God’s Spirit may be saying to you. It’s why so many parachurch ministries have run awry…because they do not submit their individual calling and their ministries to the authority of local church leaders.
It’s also a call for local church leaders to beware of existing, operating and charting a course for the church without praying, fasting and attempting to discern what Jesus the head pastor really wants and then trusting and obeying Him. It’s why so many churches end up dead and dry and ultimately have to close their doors at some point…because they do not submit the church to the authority of Jesus.
Okay, this whole point might feel kind of irrelevant to a number of you. It probably just made me feel better to thoroughly address it. If you need a clear take home the point is that both being under church authority is a good thing as well as being sensitive to the Spirit. They are meant to go hand in hand.
Some of you in the past or maybe even right now have a bad attitude when it comes to church leaders. You tend to be hyper critical because you think you know better, have more insight or whatever. My prayer is you would learn from this passage today that God’s Spirit means for you to happily come under their covering.
Some of you may be leaders or have leadership roles and the warning here is not to forget the importance of seeking the direction of God’s Spirit. I wanted to teach one of our Pastoral Interns this week so I took him out to the La Jolla cliffs with the church-wide prayer list and we just spent an hour there praying and seeking God.
May God work in all of us so that Jesus’ Spirit truly directs our church and her leaders this way.
Next in our story we see the Spirit send Barnabas and Saul out to Cyprus to proclaim the Word of God. So let’s look at our next point, “The Spirit & The Word of God.”
II. The Spirit & The Word of God (v.5,7,12)
Verse 4 reiterates that Barnabas and Saul were sent by the Spirit and then they do what the Spirit sent them to do, to proclaim the word of God and this phrase, “the word of God” gets specifically referred to twice…once in verse 5 and once in verse 7. In verse five they are proclaiming it in all over the island of Cyprus which is about 138 miles long and 60 miles wide. In verse seven, the ruler over the entire island, the proconsel named Sergius Paulus asks for a special audience with Barnabas and Saul so that he might hear “the word of God.”
Wherever they go and whatever they do, the word of God is clearer the focus and what the Spirit directed them to focus on. So I just have two main questions to ask on this. One is, what from or about the word of God did they proclaim and why is God’s Spirit so pre-occupied with the Word, what’s the connection?
Let’s talk about the first question. What is the Word of God here? This is the seventh and eighth time this exact phrase has come up from the book of Acts. In previous times here’s what we’ve been told about it.
• In Acts 4:31 the Spirit fills the believers and the speak the Word of God with boldness.
• In Acts 6:2 the Word of God is the message that the apostles preach and they refuse to neglect preaching it.
• And in Acts 8:14, 11:1 & 12:24 the Word of God is what believers in Jesus receive when they convert and become Christians.
So we know the Spirit and the Word go hand in hand and we know that the Word of God is what the Apostles preach which results in people becoming Christians. When we look at what they preach there is basically two elements to “the word of God” they preach. One, there is always some Scripture of some sort…some specific passage from the written Word that they quote and expound on. Two, summation or explanation of that message is always Jesus. That Jesus is the one who fulfills the Word and saves.
And we see this in our passage today. In verse 7 the proconsul wants to hear the Word and when he believes in verse 12 it’s the teaching of the Lord that astonishes him. So the Word of God is that which tells of who Jesus is and what he accomplished as spoken of by the Scriptures, the Bible.
That’s the easy fairly straightforward part. The second question is a little bit harder…why does the Spirit always work through the Word, or want people to share the Word, what’s the connection?
Well there are a number of things I know are true but I’m not sure any of them quite get at the answer to that question. I mean…
• I know God’s Spirit likes the written Word because He wrote it. 2 Timothy 3:16 says all Scripture is Spirited out by God.
• I know God has chosen for people to become Christians through hearing the Word since Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.
• I know as John 1:14 says that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, so I know the Word is all about Jesus and he’s good.
• I know all of those things are true…but to ask the deeper question, why did God set it up that way?
The best thing I think we we have on that is 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. It’s much later in Paul’s life and he’s talking specifically to the church at Corinth but since it’s in the Bible it’s really true for all churches. Look it up with me. Here’s what it says, “My speech and my message (which he called in chapter 1 “the word of the cross”) were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that (here’s our reason for why the Spirit always works through the Word) your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Here’s what’s significant about that…you see if the message truly comes from God, if it’s truly God’s Word then it does not come from us. It is not born in some feeling we have…it’s not resting on our personal wisdom or intuition…it’s totally from God. It rests…on him and his message…the Word.
Martin Luther, the great reformer writes this on the subject, “Is it not true that the Word of God is greater and more important than faith, since faith builds and is founded on the Word of God rather than God’s Word on faith? Furthermore faith may waiver and change but God’s Word remains forever.”
So in answer to the question…why the repeated and highly charged focus by the Spirit on the Word throughout the book of Acts? Why when various people are spreading the Gospel their message is the Word…I think the answer is: the Word of God is more sure! You can actually trust it! God wanted to give His people an objective unchanging ground upon which they could truly rely. Feelings are too fleeting and confusing! God’s Word is clear and remains forever. It not only has the power to convert the heart but the power to carry the heart and the life of the Christian unto eternity.
We’ll come back to this in a few minutes when we look at the showdown between Paul and Bar-Jesus and why the Word of God was stronger. But before we do let me just ask you where you are at with the Word…and I don’t mean, “have you been reading your Bible” though that’s a good question.
I mean is your faith resting on the Word or on something else? When I was in the hospital that first day this week with Ricky and Ashley you can’t help but feel helpless. But we stood in that hospital and held hands and I just prayed the Word.
• Psalm 46:1 God I thank you that you are very present help in time of trouble.
• John 11:25 Jesus I thank you that you are the resurrection and the life.
• Mark 7:37 Jesus I thank you that you are God and that you do all things well.
• Exodus 34:6 God I thank you that you are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Have mercy Lord.
You know in large I think one of my main jobs as your pastor is to constantly try to convince you and remind you that the Word of God is true and to teach you to rely on it and nothing else. I think that’s what Jesus our head pastor wants, His Spirit wants us to learn and know that His Word can be trusted.
And how about in regards to mission? When you’re on mission with your friends or those in the city do you see it as your responsibility to just give them what the Word says or do you fool yourself into thinking you can be more clever?
God’s been convicting my heart of this lately because I think I’m smart and really good at friendship and I often start to think that is enough to convert someone. But it’s not. Only the Word of God accomplishes the work of God. I need to learn how to be more faithful in just putting the Word out there and entrusting the results to God.
What people need is the Word. It’s what we need. It’s what God’s Spirit sent Paul and Barnabas to proclaim. It’s what the proconsul sought out and it’s what he later believed in. It’s what we live by, the great truths and promises of God.
Well, let’s turn and talk a minute about Paul. There’s a shift in focus towards him from this point on in the book of Acts and here in our story today is the first time we read about a specific personal story where he is used by God to do what God called him to do. So our third point for today, “The Spirit & His Vessels.”
III. The Spirit & His Vessels (v.7-9)
If you’ve been around here at The Resolved Church for a little while then you’ve heard the story of Saul, who gets called Paul here for the first time. Same guy. Actually if you’ve grown up around the church or Christianity then you probably know all about him…how he used to be a Christianity hater and then he met Jesus and became one of his most ardent and persuasive supporters.
Some have wondered why he started going by Paul rather than Saul from here out and the simple answer is that Saul was a Jewish name whereas Paul was a Roman name. So since beginning with this part in the story Saul really starts reaching out to the Gentiles (non-Jews) in Gentile areas…it makes more sense for him to use his Roman name, which would likely help him to be received better.
Now Paul is not the only figure mentioned here, Barnabas is there as well as John-Mark (vs.3), but Paul is the only one of them that the story focuses on. We’ll get into what happens in what Paul says and does in a second but before we do, just look at verse 9 for a second. Luke, the human author of Acts prefaces what Paul says and does by saying he was, “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
So the text emphasizes that it was the Spirit who empowered and enabled him to say and do what he does and it uses this language of filling. This is the second time Acts records him being filled with the Spirit, the first being when he became a Christian. Later on in Paul’s life when he writes the book of Ephesians he’ll say that we are as Christians to keep on being filled with the Spirit (present-active-indicative of Eph 5:18) and compares it to the experience of being drunk with wine.
I take that to mean that the language of filling is a sort of liquid analogy…that like the intoxicating power of alcohol, we can be filled with the Spirit in such a way that it gives us good courage & boldness…just not the sinful kind that makes people do stupid stuff when they are drunk. When you’re full of the Spirit of God you do wise things that bring God glory and further the mission of the Gospel.
Another analogy for this experience is that of being a vessel. In 2 Timothy 2:21…another one of Paul’s letters, he says, “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”
The word “vessel” there can mean any kind of domestic household utensil…like a plate or a cup. So the analogy then would be something like be a plate upon which the food of the Gospel is served up, or a cup through which the water of the Word of God’s Spirit flows. It’s just being a vessel, a tool to be used by the master for his work. And being used by master Jesus is always good.
It’s good working for Jesus. He’s not an unkind or cruel boss like some of you have. He’s not a lazy, unsuccessful or struggling. He’s not depending on you to do everything. He simply delights in having you help out.
But before we can be filled and empowered by God’s Spirit…which is a good thing…I think there is a humility thing that comes first. It’s coming to the point where you are willing to be used…where you are willing to set aside your own stuff so that Jesus gets glory.
Sometimes that involves a heart change to simply say…God just use me however you want. Sometimes that involves a life change where you have to do some house cleaning like 2 Timothy 2:21 talks about in getting rid of things that are dishonorable to God, things that don’t please him and you know it.
The main point here is that being filled and used by God is good but we have to be willing and we have to be living an honest repentful life before God. If we’re living in sin or if the drive and passion of our life is really not for Jesus but for ourselves it’s not going to go well for us.
Maybe for some of you today…it’s like you’ve been looking in on church from the outside for a long time and today God’s calling you to stop looking and to actually get in the game…become willing to be used.
Maybe for some of you today…it’s like you’ve been in or around the church but you’re really living a lie and you’re empty or just in rebellion against God in how you’re living your life and God’s calling you to clean house today.
Let’s be vessels used by the master for his good work.
Okay. So we’ve finally come to the most interesting and climactical part of this story in this part of the chapter…then showdown between Paul and Bar-Jesus. Let’s jump into it and talk about, “The Spirit & Satan’s Defeat.”
IV. The Spirit & Satan’s Defeat (v.10-11)
What’s going on here on the island of Cyprus is that throughout the island and even up to the highest level of government there is a magician prophet named Bar-Jesus, also called Elymas, which means magician, holds sway over the island. Until Barnabas and Paul arrive to introduce them to Jesus, this guy is their main spiritual leader.
We met a similar guy named Simus Magus back in Samaria in chapter 8. When we looked at it there we learned that ancient magicians were not like the ones we have today who do stunts for entertainment. No, these guys were ones who practiced the dark arts…much more like the witchdoctors today who hold sway over people in many third world country villages.
For example, one of the things people would often do is seek spiritual guidance from a magician…kind of like how some people today go to palm readers. In fact, this is likely the reason he had a relationship with the proconsul of the island. The Roman ruler of the island probably sought counsel from Bar-Jesus Elymas who would use divination to give him guidance.
Ancient magicians would do things like dress up in a special gown, spray themselves with juices from an olive tree, tie garlic around their waist, hang pebbles with certain numbers written on them and then repeat certain mantras that helped them tap into the spiritual world and gain useful information. I think I actually saw Bar-Jesus the Magician downtown at Comic-Con this week…purple robe, face paint, stunk like garlic and had stones hanging all over him.
So Bar-Jesus the magician has enjoyed this place of prominence on the island through this special occultic spiritual guidance he’s been offering. And this is why the text calls him a false prophet in verse 6…because even though he is Jewish, he is not getting his message or words from God. His name, Bar-Jesus means son of God who saves. But he is not seeking God with his magic…not acting as son of God but rather as a son of Satan.
When Barnabas and Saul come along and start sharing the Word of God, that the true son of God, Jesus had come and that he died on a cross for sin and rose again Sergius Paulus, the proconsul is intrigued and wants to hear and listen to the message. Right away Bar-Jesus the magician feels threatened and so look what it says he does in verse 8. He “opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.”
What we’ve got here is a power struggle. The power and force of God who sent his son Jesus to truly save and deliver by from sin and the power and force of Satan who is holding this island hostage through his servant Bar-Jesus the magician.
Paul comes along immediately recognizes what is going on. Look at verse 9. “Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him” and then he reads his heart and his rights like a spiritual police officer sent from God. The way it reads almost makes it sound like something just came over him, the Spirit filled him, and then he was able to see into Bar-Jesus’ heart and realize exactly what was going on and in response Paul just call him out.
Briefly, let’s just look at what he says and does:
• First he calls him a couple of names – “Son of the devil” and “enemy of righteousness”
• Then he exposes his heart – “full of all deceit and villainy”
• Next he identifies what he has been doing – “making crooked the straight paths of the Lord”
• And then Paul pronounces a curse upon, that since he was serving the prince of darkness he would now be in darkness for a time and immediately this mist comes over him and he becomes temporarily blind.
If we look at each of these things what’s interesting about them is they are not too far off from some things Jesus said when he encountered those who resisted him and the Gospel:
• In John 8:44 Jesus said to a group of religious leaders: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
• In Matthew 15:14,18 Jesus said once again to a group of religious leaders that they were like blind guides leading the blind and that their heart was full of evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
• In Luke 3:4-6 John the Baptist came saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” And then he said that through Jesus, “the crooked shall become straight and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
Apparently, Paul must have been reading the Bible and through it the Spirit empowered him and gave him words and insight into this situation and how to minister. Then, do you remember what happened when Paul was confronted with the condition of his heart and his ways? He was temporarily blinded and had to be led by the hand.
Just as Paul experienced when he had been resisting Jesus and persecuting his people, the same fate comes upon this Bar-Jesus fellow. This isn’t Paul fighting magic with magic…this is the Spirit of God showing and exercising the supreme truth and victory of Jesus over the power and work of Satan who makes people spiritually blind, causing confusing and leading people astray.
Which by the way is almost aways Satan’s tactic and strategy…to mix a little truth with untruth so that people might be confused and led astray so that they turn away from faith in Jesus. Satan does not want you to trust Jesus, love him, obey him and follow his Word.
There are a couple application points here for us to consider:
First, whether we are like Bar-Jesus…not acting as sons or daughters of God but instead leading or influencing God’s children away from faith in Jesus Christ? When you try to help people and people do need guidance and help…do you point them to Christ or do you just try to give them practical solutions only?
Second, whether we are seeking counsel and guidance from God for our lives or whether we are trying to blaze our own path in our own way. You may not go to a palm reader but you might superstitiously read into situations thinking it’s God when you haven’t really even been honestly seeking out his counsel and will in the way he prescribes you to.
It’s funny to me that people often seem much more willing in our sort of spiritualistic culture to seek out answers to questions in all kinds of ways except actually turning to God. Usually, I think it is because deep down we know that would require repentance. It’s much easier not to deal with your own heart and to seek out something more ambiguous, when in reality it is treating the forces of Satan as though they were God instead of actually turning to the one true, real and living God.
Well, there’s one last thing here in this story and that is the proconsul, Sergius Paulus comes to faith in Jesus Christ. So for our final point today let’s look at his response in, “The Spirit & The Amazing Gospel.”
V. The Spirit & The Amazing Gospel (v.12)
We don’t read of Bar-Jesus coming to faith like Paul did when he was struck blind but the ruler over the whole island does, which is the grand conclusion to this story. It’s verse 12, “Then, the proconsul believed, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”
Notice two things here. One, it wasn’t Bar-Jesus being struck blind that convinced him. It was “the teaching of the Lord.” Two, what was his reaction to the message? He was “astonished”!
This word “astonished” is a good clue for us as to what was going on with him. Remember, earlier back up in 7, we were told that this proconsul Sergius Paulus guy, that he was “a man of intelligence.” He was smart. So he’s listening to and hearing the Word of God proclaimed by Paul and sees the way that Paul, being filled with God’s Spirit is able to read Bar-Jesus Elymas’s heart and identify the need for and Lordship of Jesus Christ…and he is “astonished.”
The word in our English Standard Version Bibles here as “astonished” is translated from the original text Greek word “ekplesomenos” which literally means to be struck out of one’s wits, to be overwhelmed and amazed. When Sergius Paulus heard and saw the Gospel at work, it broke through all his intellectual barriers and left him overwhelmed and amazed at Jesus, the true son of God, who was the true power from heaven who could heal his heart and save his soul! He believed.
I think his reaction is one of the most true and proper responses to truly seeing Jesus as he is. When we realize the depth and the goodness of the Gospel the only proper response is astonishment.
So this is what I want to conclude with today.
We’ve seen how God’s Spirit empowers His church, God’s people through leadership structures and authorities, through the written word of God, through cleaning us out to make us usable vessels and through overcoming the dark works and force of Satan in the world.
There are lessons in each of those areas for every one of us. If God has been addressing something in your heart today in the service or the sermon then deal with that and bring it to the table.
But as we prepare our hearts for to come to the Lord’s table this morning to receive his grace in the body and blood of the bread and wine there is one proper response is for all of us…to come in faith and to be astonished at what God has done for us in the Gospel.
So think of it. Who are we in this story? The truth is we are all like Bar-Jesus. We were created by God, meant to be his children but we have all turned away and instead sought out other things which if the curtain was pulled back…we would see was us serving and seeking Satan and evil desires.
Isaiah 53:6 says we all like sheep have gone astray. Every one of us has turned onto a crooked path. None of us has followed the straight and narrow way which leads to the Lord. Our hearts have been full of sin, selfishness and all kinds of treachery.
Yet God loved us still and came to earth, taking on the very nature of man in himself…being born as a baby in the person of Jesus. Growing up and never giving into sin and Satan throughout his whole life. And then, in a moment he takes on all the sins of his people as if they were his own and suffers not just a physical beating from humans but the full brunt of divine eternal wrath. He dies the death we deserve for our treason…and then three days later he comes back to life and offers new life to all who put faith in him.
The teaching of the Lord the proconsul believed and that I pray you believe today is that we are sinners and Jesus is the savior. He and he alone. He’s the one who will straighten out our path. He’s the one who gives us life. He’s the one we can trust to lead and guide us. It’s Jesus.
So when you come to the table today…come astonished that God is so good that He gave you Jesus.