Warnings of Words and Motivations
Acts 13:9 But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
Acts 13:10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
Acts 13:11 And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand.
Acts 13:12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
Acts 13:44 ¶ The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul.
Paul and Barnabas were out on their missionary journey sharing the Good News with anyone who would listen. What they ran into were people motivated by their own selfish greed. First of all we find them on the island of Paphos where they run into a sorcerer who is using magic tricks to lead people astray. There is no encouragement to follow God, but to follow him. His motivation is personal gain, not the spiritual lives of the people within his community. Paul is able to look him down -- and see the evil which was present in him. God had given Paul the spirit of discernment regarding this individual.
Next we find a new deterrent to their ministry in the form of good religious folks. They are in Pisidian Antioch and they have preached the fulfillment of the prophecies. This is what everyone had been waiting for. With great excitement the synagogue is packed to capacity on the second Sabbath that Paul and Barnabas are there. While at first the religious officials were excited about the truth that they were hearing -- about the fulfillment of all that they had been waiting for -- now they are filled with jealousy. Their motivation to be popular outweighs even the message. They are willing to distort the truth to retain power and favor among the people.
Oh the draw of power! Most of us live our lives without much power. We are the simple and ordinary people of this world and yet give us just a little power and who knows what we might do with it. During the days of the Soviet Union fuel for cars was often in short supply. Not that it needed to be in short supply but the delivery system was ineffective. There weren't enough gas stations and they weren't run very efficiently. Usually the stations were run by a woman who became known as the Queen of the gas. Why is that? Because she discovered that she could exert power over the fuel supply. She was simply to take the money and turn on the pump, but what power is contained in that simple act. She could choose to shut down the station for an extended lunch break. People would line up outside her station for an hour waiting for her to finish her cup of tea. What power! So now, even the poorest and uneducated woman could exert her influence within her community. She could choose to only allow you to have a few liters of fuel instead of filling up your tank. You had to be nice to the gas queen or you would be without fuel for your vehicle. Bribes were always welcome as well. Maybe just a little extra tip for her and her family might get you the ability to fill your tank to the top. Her motivation was not to help out those around her, but to get the most that she could out of what she could control.
One would think that if someone had the best news for all of humanity we would do anything that we could to share it with the world. Sadly, that is not the case. There are those like the gasoline queen, who want to control the flow. They want to let it out when they have gotten enough for themselves. The world today is also filled with sorcerers. There are those who are willing to do magic tricks for earthly gain. Maybe it's for the money, but maybe it's for the power. What happens when hundreds or thousands of people begin to follow an individual because of the manifestations which are seen when they are around? Paul looked the sorcerer right in the eye and could see that he was evil. There are times when we need to look the evil right in the eye an call it out for what it is for there are too many who are trying to deceive the people of God.
But what about the good religious folks who at first believed and then argued against Paul and Barnabas? Look out for when God pours out his Holy Spirit and there is a spirit of revival there will be those who will speak against it. We must ask God for discernment in the midst of revival. We need to make sure this is his movement -- but when it's his movement he gets the credit and the manifestations will be in line with the workings of Jesus Christ. When a preacher begins to do things that Jesus would never have done, we need to ask ourselves whether this is truth?! How could it be when the call of the Christian life is radical transformation into the image of Christ. If the preacher and the teacher doesn't look or act like Christ -- run! May God help us to be his discerning followers in an age where the truth about Jesus is desperately needed.
Lord, please help us to be your discerning children. May your Holy Spirit flow through me and may you use me for your kingdom's work -- but may Jesus be seen in me. Amen.