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The Scriptorium

The Teaching of the Lord

It's what reaches the heart. Acts 13.8-12

On a Roll: Acts 13 (3)

Pray Psalm 83.1-3.
Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.

Sing Psalm 83.1-3.
(St. Chrysostom: We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought)
O God, do not be quiet now; do not be silent, nor be still!
See how Your foes erupt in a row and those who hate You chafe at Your will.
Shrewdly they plan, conspiring as one, against Your daughters and Your sons.

Read Acts 13.8-12; meditate on verses 8-12.

1. What was Bar-Jesus (Elymas) trying to do?

2. How did Paul respond?

It was the teaching that won the proconsul. The blinding of the false prophet was impressive, but it was the teaching that astonished and won the lost man’s soul. Saul, who was also called Paul (his Roman name), understood how very serious the Gospel is. He was not pleased – to say the least – that this false prophet was trying to downplay his message or otherwise distract or divert the proconsul from believing.

This is what the devil does, as Paul noted (v. 10). He keeps people from hearing the Gospel. He convinces them that it’s not all that important and most likely not true, so why give it a second thought? Eternal destinies are at stake, and the devil delights, through deceit and villainy, in barring people from entering the Kingdom of God.

Hence the ferocity – and that’s the right word – with which Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, confronted and confounded Bar-Jesus (v. 11). We don’t know about the lasting impression this might have left on that false prophet. But Sergius was persuaded and believed the Good News.

The progress of the Kingdom is always at the expense of the kingdom of darkness and the lie (1 Jn. 2.8). We can expect the principals of that realm to oppose the Gospel, but we must not cooperate with them or otherwise – by our silence, for example – aid and abet their purposes.

When the Lord opens doors for witness, we must go through them boldly and proclaim Jesus and His Kingdom clearly, and with conviction.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
We are called to be Jesus to others. We can do this because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2.16).

But have we ever been guilty of being Bar-Jesus to others? (Acts 12.8) Has there ever been a time when we intentionally, or not, led someone astray? Or our hypocritical behavior turned someone away from seeking Jesus? They were ever so close to believing, and then, ugh, there we were behaving badly? Or maybe they were new believers, waiting for the seed to land, either on the wayside, or a stony place, or among thorns, or on good ground. And something was done, or not done, that blew the seed off course? (Matt. 13.3-9)

Perhaps it wasn’t us who was Bar-Jesus, but a pastor or a friend. There are so many possibilities of who played the role of Elymas the sorcerer in someone’s life.

One thing we know for certain, the Holy Spirit does not look favorably on that behavior: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt.18.6). “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 12.10)

Pleading ignorance doesn’t work either: “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this’, does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (Prov. 24.11, 12)

We must be hypervigilant about our own behavior (Deut. 32.46, 47).
We must keep our hearts with all diligence for out of them spring the issues of life (Prov. 4.23).
We must, with the Holy Spirit’s strength and power, obey the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20.1-17).
We must strive to be Jesus to the people in our Personal Mission Field (Jn. 13.35; 14.15; 15.14; 1 Jn. 2.3).

“When the Lord opens doors for witness, we must go through them boldly and proclaim Jesus and His Kingdom clearly, and with conviction.”

In Jesus’ likeness, not Bar-Jesus’.

For reflection

1. What can you do, throughout the day, to make sure you are being Jesus, and not Bar-Jesus, to the people in your Personal Mission Field?

2. The world, the flesh, and the devil are working overtime to keep people from hearing the Gospel. How should you pray for the lost people in your Personal Mission Field?

3. Whom can you encourage today to be Jesus to the people in their Personal Mission Field?

The ways of the Lord Jesus are the only right ways to heaven and happiness. There are many who not only wander from these ways themselves, but set others against these ways. They commonly are so hardened, that they will not cease to do evil. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 13.4-13

Pray Psalm 83.4-18.
Pray for believers around the world who are persecuted for their faith, that they may be comforted, emboldened, and empowered to bear up under their sufferings and speak the truth of Jesus in love. Pray that their tormentors will relent or be removed.

Sing Psalm 84.4-18.
(St. Chrysostom: We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought)
“Come, let us wipe them out,” they say. “Let Israel’s name no more be heard!”
Bold they conspire to do us away, and covenant against You, O Lord.
Peoples and nations cast in their lot for this ambitious, wicked plot.

Deal with them, Lord, and bring them down, as You against old foes prevailed,
when You Midian cast to the ground and all her kings and princes assailed –
all who Your pastures sought to possess You brought to ruin and deep distress.

Make them like whirling dust, O God!  Scatter them like the windblown chaff!
Rage like a fire consuming a wood, like flames that burn a mountain pass!
Blow like a tempest, bring them to harm, and terrify them with Your storm!

Fill with dishonor every face that they may seek Your Name, O Lord.
Bring them to shame, dismay, and disgrace, and let them perish under Your Word,
That they may learn Your infinite worth, O God Most High of all the earth!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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