August 22nd 2009

An Intelligent Man

11 of 12 studies taken from Acts 7 to Acts 14

“Sergius Paulus…The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer…opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 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? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable 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. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.”
Acts 13:4-12 (NIV UK)

There is so much in this story! Luke, however, does not supply every detail.

Darkness has no power over light. Have you ever noticed that, when you go into a dark room and switch on the light, immediately the darkness disappears? Jesus is our Light. “For a time” Elymas would not see the light of the sun, perhaps to teach him that his previous deceptive way of life had kept him and others lurking in the shadows, needing to turn on the real Light. Did he learn his lesson? We don’t know.

Saul is now called Paul without any explanation. Was it because, as a Roman citizen, he also had the Latin name of Paul, and now that he was coming more into contact with the Roman world, he switched to using it? Possibly, but we don’t know.

Clearly Luke was impressed by Sergius Paulus, who is also referred to as the proconsul of Cyprus in non-biblical records. He calls him “an intelligent man”. Perhaps it is a comparison to Elymas, whose name means “wise” as in the wise men who visited Christ at his birth. Why did Sergius want to hear God’s word? Had he heard of Barnabas, who was from Cyprus? Had they met before? We don’t know.

What we do know is that Sergius was not taken in by the sorcerer’s wisdom and craft as Elymas tried to dissuade him from the faith. Sergius listened to the teaching of the Way and became a believer, a follower of Jesus.

Some historians argue as to whether Sergius became a Christian or not. And if he did, they suggest it was short-lived. We don’t know. But you know what? I like to think that Sergius, who was after all an intelligent man, clung to the faith and did not depart from the Way. What do you think?

Great God, thank you for the richness of the biblical stories. Thank you that Jesus is our Light, who keeps us from the darkness.

Study by James Henderson

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