Last time I stated that the giving of the gospel is not an academic exercise but a spiritual one. Paul and Barnabas were opposed outwardly by the magician Bar-Jesus but they were also being opposed inwardly as well. The magician apparently sought to not only distance Sergius Paulus from Paul and Barnabas but to convince him not to believe them as well. We will also see later how a growing disagreement between Paul and Barnabas would lead to the separating of this ministry team that God had sent out with a definite mission. The opposition to God’s work was indeed fierce.
Paul addresses Bar-Jesus directly giving him an ear-full of revelation about the false messenger’s lack of character. Paul also pronounced a time of blindness to be upon him which did indeed occur. The proconsul believed the message of Paul and Barnabas according to verse 12. He also witnessed the power of God in seeing the judgement upon his deceitful sidekick.
So, did the proconsul carefully weigh the information and “decide” to accept Jesus based upon his intellect alone? There is no example of such a thing anywhere in scripture. To the contrary, we are told over and over again how God rescues the perishing by His grace by producing faith in those who believe. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. The sovereign hand of God plucks out a people to be His own. We never see someone give out info about Jesus and wait while people carefully consider the information as if they were deciding whether to buy a used car. We never see the apostles give out the gospel and then try to manipulate the audience to get “decisions” in a pragmatic way.
What we do see however is God’s message being proclaimed and people responding. Those who are the elect will believe is the general idea. Those who are not have no capacity to do righteousness or it would be works that demand a credit to their accounts. In Phillipians 2, Paul tells believers that it is God who works in believers both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Jesus stated very plainly that those whom the Father gives Him would come to Him, would be kept by Him, and nothing could take them from His hand in John 6. Again in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 we see God’s sovereign election of His own unto salvation and eternal life. Many more examples of the same idea exist throughout scripture.
So what do we take away from this knowledge? We MUST evangelize the world! God has chosen to use the spreading of his word to call out His elect. In Jesus’ great commission to His followers, He told them to take the message to the world. He didn’t say to conquer the world politically nor militarily. He didn’t say to build mega-churches nor to repackage His message into gobblygook that doesn’t resemble the original idea in order to bring into a social group those who would not respond to the gospel.
In our day as well in any day, we must not lose track of the central truth that God is doing His work using us as His tools. His will will be accomplished with or without us. God is sovereign, we are not. God has the roadmap. God is the pilot. He drives the bus…you get the message.
We see an excellent example of His sovereignty in Acts 13. Sergius Paulus responded in belief despite cultural, political, physical, economical, social, and religious differences. May God be praised for His sovereign grace.