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Acts 13:1-12 – The Holy Spirit initiates the mission ‘to the ends of the earth’

We are introduced to an interesting collection of people who were part of the Church in Antioch. There is Barnabas the encouraging Levite from Cyprus and favourite of the apostles, there is Simeon and Lucius from Cyrene in North Africa possibly a former colleague of Stephen, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod Antipas and finally Saul.

While they were worshipping Jesus, the Holy Spirit spoke and told them to, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The takeaway here is that the Holy Spirit is directing the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

The first place Barnabas and Saul go to is the land of Barnabas’ birth, the island of Cyprus. The proconsul, Sergius Paulus, is eager to hear God’s Word but Saul’s speaking is opposed by Elymas the magician who tries to turn the proconsul from their faith. Saul speaks a word of judgment against Elymas sentencing him to blindness. The sorcerer who claimed to see is rendered blind – his external physical condition reflecting his internal spiritual condition. They are strong words: “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy”. It recalls Peter’s words to Simon the magician.

The gospel proclamation to Jews and Gentiles may be opposed by idolatrous spiritual forces but these are overcome by Jesus. While the gospel proclamation results in judgment for Elymas, it also results in salvation for the proconsul who seeing the judgment believes as he is astonished by the word of the Lord.

Gospel proclamation results in both Judgment (Elymas) and Salvation (Sergius Paulus) – the ‘seeing’ becomes blind and the blind sees.

From this point Saul is called Paul. As Saul (Hebrew name) takes the gospel to the ends of the earth he is called Paul (Greek name).