Friday, 23 December 2022
Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Acts 13:12
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
In the previous verse, a dark mist fell on Elymas and he wasn’t able to lead himself any longer. Now, it will explain the reaction to what occurred. The structure of the NKJV deviates too much from the structure of the Greek. It should more rightly read, “Then the proconsul having seen what had been done, did believe, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (CG).
Therefore, we begin with, “Then the proconsul.” This is Sergius Paulus, introduced in verse 13:7. He has been described as an intelligent man. Despite that, he had been led astray into the false doctrine of Elymas. Now that Elymas has been overwhelmed by the power of God, Sergious Paulus’ intelligence can be properly directed. And so, the narrative continues with, “having seen what had been done.”
It is obvious that the differences in opinion about the proper ways of the Lord were argued right in the presence of Sergius Paulus. Hence, the blinding of Elymas demonstrated an immediate eyewitness event to the fact that Elymas was not at all what he claimed to be and that his doctrine was false.
Further, it was verifiable proof that the power of God was to be found in the message of the gospel. As such, Sergius Paulus “did believe.”
The verb is a perfect participle meaning: 1) it is a completed action and 2) its results continue to the present. His faith in the gospel had been settled and he was added to the faith, once and for all time. And this was in conjunction with his “being astonished.”
He had seen the verifiable proof of Paul’s words with his own eyes, and his heart was overwhelmed by it. The word translated as “astonished” is ekpléssó. It is a word signifying to strike out of one’s senses. There is a sense of fear mixed with amazement in the word where one will gape in astonishment. And this astonishment was “at the teaching of the Lord.”
Ellicott notes that the use of the genitive case “is, probably, that of the object, the teaching which had the Lord, i.e., the Lord Jesus, as its main theme.” In other words, Paul was doing his job and he was teaching about the Lord Jesus, meaning the gospel. An obvious exclamation to that would be, “Duh, what else would he be doing!” This is what he was called to do.
Of this account, the Pulpit Commentary says, “We cannot, perhaps, conclude positively from this that Sergius was baptized and became an avowed Christian, though the usual language of the Acts rather leads us to infer it.” From there, they proceed to cite scholars who adamantly argue why he was not converted and cite some that take the opposing view.
The argument is ridiculous. First, it is rather certain, based on the renaming of Saul to Paul at this time, that the name change is based on the events now recorded. He was Saul and from this point on he is Paul. But more, to argue against the conversion of Sergius Paulus is to argue against the words of Paul in his epistles –
First, Paul’s citing of the gospel: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4
Next, he says what happens when that is believed: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Luke records that Sergius Paulus believed. He records it in the perfect tense. And this was “at the teaching of the Lord,” meaning the teaching about the Lord. To argue against the salvation of this man is as ridiculous as using beach sand as an additive to a bowl of ice cream. The purpose of the account is to demonstrate that the gospel was presented, it was presented with power, and the one hearing and seeing believed and was saved.
Life application: Sergius Paulus was given a visual demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit in silencing the opposition of Elymas. This should no longer be expected within the church. The reason for this is obvious. The word concerning what occurred has been recorded. Luke sufficiently explains how the early gospel was communicated and about the signs that accompanied it through the hands of the apostles.
Now that the apostolic age has ended, and with the completion of Scripture, there is no longer a need for such demonstrations of power. As Paul says elsewhere –
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Romans 1:16, 17
The word of God carries the power of what it records because it is a true, literal, and accurate account of what it details. It calls for faith in what it proclaims. Having sight, such as seeing what happened to Elymas, does not require faith. Jesus’ words to Thomas show this –
“Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:29
With Scripture’s completion, we are asked to believe what it proclaims. The Spirit has inspired accounts of Jesus’ miracles as well as the miracles of the apostles. What more do we need? Nothing. What more should we expect? Nothing.
Have faith and believe.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your precious word. Help us to be reliable in reading it, reliable in attending Bible studies that explain it, and reliable in attending church that glorifies You through the proclaiming of it. What we do reveals where our priorities lie. May our priorities be centered on Your word first and foremost because Your word tells us of Jesus! Amen.