Every believer has memories of hearing the good news of Christ Jesus.
Some people came to know the Lord because of their parents or other family members. Other people were led to Christ by the witness by a friend or spouse. All of us, however, know the Lord Jesus Christ because of the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Luke tells us that believers were scattered after the death of Stephen, and Antioch was one of the places where they preached the gospel. The good news was well-received at Antioch, and many people were saved. Barnabas had been sent from Jerusalem and, seeing what was happening, he brought Paul to be part of the work.
Five men, including Barnabas and Paul, are named by Luke as prophets and teachers at Antioch. The other men were Simeon, Lucius and Manaen. Simeon’s nickname suggests that he was probably a black man. Lucius was from Cyrene, located in north Africa. Manaen had been a member of Herod’s court. The point is that these men represented a broad range of people drawn to the work at Antioch.
While they fasted and prayed, the Holy Spirit spoke to at least one of the men, saying, “Separate me Barnabas and Paul for the work whereunto I have called them.” When they finished fasting and praying, the group laid their hands on Barnabas and Paul. The laying on of hands was a sign of the believers’ acknowledgement of their calling and ability, as well as the support of the ministry of Barnabas and Paul.
The Holy Spirit separated the men for ministry, and then the Holy Spirit set the course for their missionary journey.
Accompanied by John Mark, they set sail from Seleucia, a port a few miles from the city of Antioch. They sailed to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. On Cyprus, they preached “in the synagogues of the Jews.”
Their witnessing brought them to the city of Paphos, where we are told “they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus.” This Barjesus was an attendant to Sergius Paulus, a high-ranking Roman official. The Roman official had heard of Barnabas and Paul, and he sent for them because he “desired to hear the word of God.”
The sorcerer, probably fearing he would lose his influence and job, tried to convince Sergius Paulus to not receive Barnabas and Paul. If the Roman official believed in Christ Jesus, he would have no need for a sorcerer.
Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, understood that the sorcerer was trying to stand between this man and Jesus. Paul said the sorcerer was a “child of the devil” and the Lord would cause him to be temporarily blind. Immediately, the man became blind and had to ask for help.
Seeing this, the Roman official “believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” Sergius Paulus is described in this chapter as a thoughtful man. It seems the miracle he witnessed convinced him to believe in Jesus, but his real astonishment was in the teaching of the Lord.
The Holy Spirit is still leading people to this astonishment. I pray we never stop being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. He can be reached at [email protected]