Acts 13

Acts 13

Acts 13 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Paul and Barnabas visit multiple synagogues and work there way across the island of Cyprus from east to west. When they reached Paphos, they encounter a snag. A Jewish false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus seeks to stop them. Let’s take an in-depth look at this individual.

Bar-Jesus literally means ‘son of Jesus.’

He was masquerading as one with power and authority and blatantly associating himself with Jesus. This could indicate that he ran around in Christian circles or that he simply wanted the power or authority that came with that name. Remember, in Matthew 7 Jesus Himself condemns those who did all kinds of miracles in His name but never knew Him.

He was a smorgasbord of spirituality.

As I mentioned, his name indicated he possibly ran in Christian circles. The text also indicates he was Jewish and practiced the magical arts being described as a magician. He most likely would use any power he could to assist Sergius Paulus. Luke frames him as a serious threat to the Christian faith for these very reasons. He had knowledge, power, and influence.

A religious advisor for Sergius Paulus.

Rome used a proconsul to rule over their territories. It was common for these rulers to acquire certain individuals such as a Bar-Jesus which would help them to govern by using their power to see into the future. It gave them an edge in their leadership. The IVP commentary suggests…

“Bar-Jesus must have been the court-astrologer, who at the same time claimed to know the magic formula by which the bonds of fate could be broken.”

IVP Commentary

The crucial verse which helps us to understand why there is such a disagreement here between Paul/Barnabas/Mark and Bar-Jesus is found in verse 7. This man (Sergius Paulus) summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.  Scripture tells us that after Sergius Paulus began seeking to hear about Jesus, that’s when the enemy sprang forward to deter him from hearing the truth in any way possible. This is an absolute and practical application for us today.

The enemy is fine with you going to church, singing songs, reading Scripture, and even performing miraculous events in the name of Jesus! It’s when you begin to seek truth and actively pursue a relationship when he springs into action and will do whatever it takes to derail that growth from happening.

This is the most difficult part of our Christian walk. The seeking of God’s heart and denial of our own ways is a constant relationship that requires a humble attitude of repentance. Going through the motions with a little bit of Jesus – that’s fine. To Satan, you’re no different than the unbeliever. But committing to the truth whole-heartedly as we can assume Sergius Paulus is doing here triggers an all-out war. That’s when the gloves come off.

Where have you neglected an authentic relationship with Jesus for “spirituality?” What is your Bar-Jesus which has sprung forward to keep you from this pursuit? Do you recognize the signs of the enemy when he jumps into action to prevent you from going deeper?

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