Saul becomes Paul
Acts 13:4-12; 10/15/2023; BCBC/IOUC; Rev. Paul Wang
The book of Acts reaches this point, bringing about the mission of the church, Paul’s name change, and Paul’s first missionary journey. We find that God’s gospel strategy is primarily about selecting, cultivating, sending out, and empowering people. Let’s look at the first point:
The church’s response is to obey the leadership of the Holy Spirit and do the work of saving people. First, go therefore. Where to go, where to start? Chapter 13:1 says that he was sent out by the church in Antioch. So, where is Antioch? Judging from the geographical situation at the east and west ends of the Mediterranean, Antioch had a population of about half a million in the first century, making it the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Antioch is a strategic location from the perspective of military, political, economic, and population mobility. Europe and Asia gathered here from the east and west, passing through Palestine and heading south to Alexandria in Egypt, leading to Africa. Such an important strategic location became the first city for the early church’s foreign missionary work and church planting. This actually points out the principles for each of our churches to choose the direction of missionary work: Where is the Antioch of our church? Where is our first missionary stop?
Second, preached the gospel at Salamis. It is about 24 kilometers from Antioch to Seleucia. Although in Daniel’s writings, Seleucia, who was called the king of the north, was once powerful. However, Seleucid was passed over lightly in Luke’s writing without much pause, but ”sailed from there to Cyprus. “ Kibris is today’s Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Some may ask, why did Paul choose Cyprus for his first missionary journey? In fact, God uses people, and evangelism strategies are of course related to people. Barnabas is a Cypriot, so it is logical that the first stop is Cyprus. Salamis is the ancient capital of Cyprus and has been the capital since the Byzantine period. According to the gospel strategy of the Jews first, they first came to the Jewish synagogues to preach the word of God.
Finally, build a team together. Judging from the arrangement of the scriptures, the short-term mission leader at this time should be Barnabas. There were at least two team members. One was Saul, also known as Paul, and the other was John, also called Mark, who was Barnabas’ cousin. The combination of these three people not only became a drama, but also created an era. Barnabas was called the Son of Consolation. Needless to say, he was a first generation apostle of the church. Even more precious is that he brought out Saul, who was unknown at the time and against whom many people were prejudiced, and made him Paul. Saul means to ask, with a hint of request. Paul means small, humble, and looks upon the world as rubbish. Barnabas’ cousin John, or Mark, was a rich second generation who acted on his own will and was unwilling to obey. Such a team composition is really not easy to establish. Regardless, the Bible emphasizes John as their helper, thank God! Let’s look at the second point:
The gospel is the power of God
The Bible says that signs will follow those who believe, let alone those who preach the gospel! Of course, in fact there are not only miracles, but also crises and challenges. First, meet the false prophet. Barnabas acted like a landowner and took Paul and Mark around. The Bible says they went through the entire island, or on a trip around the island. Salamis was in the northeast corner and Paphos was in the southwest corner. There, they met a Jew named Bar-Jesus who had magic powers and pretended to be a prophet. The time when this false prophet appeared was during the mission journey of the early church, and it was also the initial stage of the transformation from the prophetic office to the gift. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who reminds the church to be alert and pray, lest they fall into temptation. Usually, false prophets will give people a sense of mystery or even have some kind of special function. This Bar-Jesus can perform magic, or it may be related to evil spirits.
Secondly, it hinders belief in the gospel. We may not know much about false prophets, but it is not difficult to identify them by their fruits. The Bible says that this false prophet opposed the apostles and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Who is the proconsul? In fact, it means governor, agent. That is to say, when Barnabas and his party were traveling around the island, in addition to encountering the false prophet Bar-Jesus, they also met the local governor and governor Sergius Paul who was often with the false prophet Bar-Jesus. The names here can easily confuse people. They are named Jesus and Paul, but they are neither Jesus nor Paul! In short, when Barnabas and his party preached the gospel to the proconsul, governor-general Sergius Paulus, Bar-Jesus wanted to make the proconsul not believe in the truth.
Finally, rely on the Holy Spirit. What to do? Three people rolled up their sleeves and beat Bar-Jesus? It makes sense when you think about it. You are beating the bad guys, so why not? However, the Bible allows us to see that God’s way is higher than man’s way! The bible says, “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas.” I believe that before Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, he must have been praying. Because prayer is the only gesture to welcome the filling of the Holy Spirit! In other words, the Holy Spirit will not fill a person who does not pray! A person who has a life of prayer will often experience the filling of the Holy Spirit. The essence of relying on the Holy Spirit is to delegate authority; to let go of your own ego, desires, expectations, and habits, and let God lead you. In particular, we must be prepared that the outcome may not be what we expect, because we believe that the Lord’s way must be higher than our way! Let’s look at the third point:
The gospel raised up Paul
Since verse 13:9, Saul has changed his name to Paul. The first thing after changing the name is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, revived by the gospel, and be favored and used by God. First, change the perspective of the Holy Spirit. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at the false prophet Bar-Jesus. This Bar-Jesus also has a name, which is “Elymas the sorcerer”. It means practicing magic. When dealing with such people, if they are not filled with the Holy Spirit, they will not recognize that Bar-Jesus is full of all kinds of deceit and evil, nor will they know that he is “the son of the devil and the enemy of all good”! A few years ago, antichrists visited Texas in the name of pastors and churches. Because they told lies, falsely claiming that China has freedom of belief, has the largest number of Bibles printed and sold, and so on. Next, they even wanted to have Bible exhibitions held in various states in the United States, aiming to deceive the American church and society.
Second, live out the power of Christ. Some of us are willing to make dumplings in fellowship with the representatives of the Antichrist and act as the thugs of the Antichrist! My prayer is: Will you continue to mess with the Lord’s truth? Paul slowly said to Bar-Jesus: “Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.” It’s been ten years since the Antichrist visited the United States. The Holy Spirit allows us to see that the accomplice who led the wolf into the house is still spiritually blind. The spiritual power has also disappeared, except for the love of being in a high position, being in the limelight, fanning the wind, lighting will-o’-the-wisps, talking about disputes, and causing divisions, just as John the Baptist rebuked: brood of vipers!
Finally, bear the fruit of the gospel. Thank God! Those who believe in the Lord will definitely preach the gospel, those who belong to the Lord will definitely believe the gospel, and those who love the Lord will definitely live out the gospel! This person called proconsul “When he saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.” The gospel is a road of no return and a touchstone of truth or falsehood. Now that you have believed in Jesus and decided to walk on the road to heaven,
why should you care about the vain promises made by a few Three-Self Church officials who actually have no power? Little do you know that when you travel thousands of miles to reach the platform of the antichrist’s stronghold, What you preach is still the truth of God? Can you still speak the truth even if you throw yourself under the feet of the Antichrist? One day, when the Lord comes to examine your fruit, can you hand over a gospel account?
Well, thank the Lord! When Saul becomes Paul, what changes is a person’s core values. From the demanding view of Saul in the past, to the viewpoint of humble and small after becoming Paul. Being humble does not mean that you cannot live out the power of God, but that you speak the words of the Bible after being filled with the Holy Spirit!
Let us pray……
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,
7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.
9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,
10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.