Acts 13:7

Sergiō, 1 each, an intelligent man.

Sunday, 18 December 2022

who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. Acts 13:7

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Previously Bar-Jesus the false prophet was noted. He is still the subject as this verse begins, saying, “who was with the proconsul.”

The word translated as proconsul, anthupatos, is introduced here. It essentially means “instead of the highest officer.” He stood as the highest official in place of the authority over him that remained in Rome. Of this position, Albert Barnes notes –

“The exact accuracy of Luke in this statement is worthy of special remark. In the time when Augustus united the world under his own power, the provinces were divided into two classes. Augustus found two names which were applied to public officers in existence, one of which was henceforward inseparably blended with the imperial dignity and with military command, and the other with the authority of the senate and its civil administration. The first of these names was “Praetor”; the other was ‘Consul.’ What is to be accounted for here is that the latter is the name given by Luke to Sergius Paulus, as if he derived his authority from the senate. The difficulty in the ease is this: that Augustus told the senate and the people of Rome that he would resign to them those provinces where soldiers were unnecessary to secure a peaceful administration, and that he would himself take the care and risk of the other provinces where the presence of the Roman legions would be necessary.”

In the verse, the word “who” refers to Bar-Jesus. The meaning is that he had the ear of the proconsul and was connected to his court. This proconsul’s name was “Sergius Paulus.” The Greek reads, Sergiō Paulō. The name Sergiō [Sergius] comes from Latin as does the second name, Paulos. This name, Paulos, is the same Greek as that of Paul, meaning “Little.” Concerning him, Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

“Di Cesnola relates the discovery at Soli, which, next to Salamis, was the most important city in the island, of a slab with a Greek inscription containing the name of Paulus, proconsul.”

Of this man, it says he was “an intelligent man.” The word translated as “intelligent” signifies understanding derived from correlating facts. In this case, he may have been intelligent, but he was also lacking discernment as is evident by the presence of Bar-Jesus. He had been beguiled by this charlatan and so his intelligence was being frustrated by him. However, he was also open to making comparisons, thus demonstrating wisdom. That is seen in the words, “This man called for Barnabas and Saul.”

The verb is an aorist participle, “having called for Barnabas and Saul.” The thought is preparing the reader for the next words. Somehow, the knowledge of these two became known to him. He heard that they were proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews (verse 13:5) and was obviously curious about the report. This curiosity may have been heightened by the fact that Bar-Jesus attended to him, and he wanted to know if what these two had to say supported or refuted the prophecies he had heard. For whatever reason, he reached out to them “and sought to hear the word of God.”

It is highly unlikely he was looking to hear words of salvation. He had a false prophet handy who was certainly feeding him sensational words to keep him spellbound. It is probable that Bar-Jesus was not unlike the description of Simon in Acts 8 –

“But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God.’ 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.” Acts 8:9-11

It is likely that Sergius Paulus was probably anticipating more sensational doctrines, magic tricks, and prophecies. And so, he called for these two.

Life application: There is a difference between intelligence, wisdom, and faith. Each has its own place, but they are not always in harmony with one another. Intelligence is the ability to evaluate circumstances and come to conclusions. The matter may involve making money, building a clock, discerning how to sail the oceans, or whatever.

Intelligence takes the surrounding information and puts it together to make things happen so that the desired outcome is realized. For example, a person may have the intelligence to build a marvelous clock that will allow others to sail the oceans while being able to determine their position with perfect accuracy.

However, such a person may not have wisdom concerning his invention. He used his intelligence to make this amazing clock, but then he is duped into giving it to someone who takes the invention and gets rich off of it. He failed to use wisdom in how his intelligence had been employed.

Faith is an even higher aspect than either of these. Intelligence and wisdom will only get one so far, but faith – when it is properly directed – will lead to proper use of the intelligence as well as a right directing of the wisdom. This is what will be seen when Sergius Paulus faces the power of God in the verses ahead.

When you see people that are intelligent, it does not mean that they are wise. And when you see a man of wisdom, it does not mean he has properly directed faith in the employment of his wisdom. And yet, there are people that are not intelligent but who have properly directed faith. They have demonstrated wisdom and have done so by directing it toward the true Source of where all logic and wisdom resides.

Pay heed to the people around you, and evaluate them first and foremost based on their relationship with God as He has presented Himself in Scripture. In this, you will be able to discern who is truly the wisest of all.

Lord God, Your word tells us that not many wise according to the flesh have been called. It is the humble soul who realizes his lowly state before You, regardless of intelligence or wisdom, that You find pleasing. Help us to be people of faith, rightly directing everything we are to You. Only in that will our other qualities find their true purpose. Amen.