6 “When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. “(Acts 13:6–8 (ESV)
Barnabas and Saul, along with John/Mark, traveled over the entire island of Cyprus. They began at Salamis, on the eastern coast and traveled as far as Paphos, located on the western shore. New Paphos, a Greek harbor town on the north and west of Cyprus, had long been the provincial capital and maintained some trade relations with Judea.
It was during their days of ministry, that they met a man named Bar-Jesus, or Elymas. The name “Bar-Jesus” means Son of Joshua. He was Jewish, a magician and a false prophet. In effect, Elymas practiced black magic and occultism.
Elymas was also an advisor to the Roman Proconsul, a ruler of a Roman province and under the authority of the Roman senate. The proconsul’s name was Sergius Paulus. Historically, Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Cyprus (the highest Roman official on the island) about a.d. 45–46. Luke describes him as a man of intelligence.
One commentator writes, “It was not unusual for Roman aristocrats to attach philosophers to their court; while magicians would be less appealing, the proconsul probably sees Bar-Jesus (“son of Joshua”) as a useful adviser from a “Jewish” perspective. Romans generally distrusted magic, but Josephus said that Felix, a Roman governor of Judea, counted among his friends a Cyprian Jew reputed to be a magician.”
Sergius Paulus wanted to hear the Word of God. Therefore, he summoned Barnabas and Saul to meet with him. However, Elymas was not happy about this. He opposed the two missionaries and sought to turn Sergius Paulus away from the Christian faith. He sought to prevent the proconsul’s conversion.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Elymas was a sorcerer and a false prophet, and he opposes the Gospel. Here again, we see spiritual warfare, such as Peter encountered in Acts 8:9-24. Elymas realized that if Sergius Paulus became a Christian, his (Elymas’) services would no longer be needed and he would lose his source of income.”
Always expect opposition to the Gospel. While opposition may not come from the individual you are sharing the Gospel, it may come from that individual’s friends or acquaintances who do not want to see their friend converted. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Soli deo Gloria!