Last time we saw the early church in Antioch fasting and praying and ministering to the Lord. The Holy Spirit called for Paul and Barnabas to be separated from the others to take the message to the gentiles.
Let’s talk for a moment about a Spirit-filled church. Many times we hear folks refer to themselves as a Spirit-filled church. The proof they offer can be the handling of snakes without getting bitten, the speaking of tongues, the manifestation of various healings and miracles… and so forth. But, what is a Spirit-filled church, really?
John MacArthur says that a Spirit-filled church is one in which its members walk in obedience to the will of God. God reveals His will through scripture so a Spirit-filled church will be deeply committed and obedient to the word of God. An examination of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 shows how being filled with God’s Spirit and allowing the word of God to richly dwell in one’s life produce same outcome.
I’m afraid at this point that I must detour for a moment in order to hit upon an important topic. Many people today talk about “God showed me” or “God spoke to me and told me” and other such things. These things that “God spoke or showed” usually result in you being asked to send money to the one who received the revelation. Don’t do it! God reveals Himself in His word. Every claim of revelation or inspiration must be thoroughly examined against what is taught in scripture.
There is also a rising tide of false teaching existing today. Much Emergent, Prosperity, Word of Faith, Roman Catholic, New Age, and other teachings are competing against the truth. And since the word of God is not richly dwelling in the lives of people, many are falling headlong into deception.
Our scripture today shows an excellent example of this. Verse 6 says that Paul and Barnabas had been across and throughout the entire island of Cyprus preaching and teaching Jesus. Luke makes a point, however, of mentioning this next bit of information as opposed to anything else that occurred on Cyprus. A local Roman official, Sergius Paulus, summoned Paul and Barnabas so that he could hear their message.
Luke notes that Sergius Paulus was a man of intelligence. His job as a local leader would have required him to learn of the teachings of traveling evangelists. He doubtlessly kept himself informed of all the news about the happenings in his area. The scripture seems to insist, however, that this man was interested on a deeper level that simple curiosity about Paul and Barnabas. Regardless of his reason, he seeks to hear from God’s men.
Now note how the proconsul is flanked by a messenger of Satan. A Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. I remember in school when studying math that sometimes a problem would have variable noted as A and another noted as Bar A (A with a bar above it). There was a huge difference between the value of the A and the Bar A. As a matter of fact, there was no relation at all between A and Bar A.
There was also no relation at all between Jesus (the real and only Son of God) and Bar-Jesus (a false prophet of Jewish descent). This Bar-Jesus was attached to the proconsul for some reason. Scripture says that Bar-Jesus (also known as Elymas which was a Greek word for magician) opposed Paul and Barnabas. He tried to stop them from giving the word of God concerning Jesus Christ to the proconsul.
We are told in Ephesians 6 that ” our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Telling someone about Jesus will be met with resistance by the enemy forces because hearing the gospel message is the method God uses to call His elect unto Himself. ” Faith comes from hearing the word of God” we are told in Romans 10.
So Paul and Barnabas are opposed outwardly by Bar-Jesus but spiritually, they are opposed by Satan and/or his emissaries. This is very important to understand. I will end today’s lesson with this truth and pick up next time with it as a reminder. Giving someone the word of God about salvation through Jesus is not an academic exercise where someone simply weighs the information intellectually and makes a decision. Heaven and hell are in a struggle that God allows to take place when someone is confronted with the gospel. We will look more deeply into this in the part 3 of this text.