A Turning Point
Acts 13:4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 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? 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. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
Luke, the author of Acts, masterfully unfolds the story of the expansion of the gospel story across the known world and, very specifically, to the Gentiles. Beginning with the Ethiopian Eunuch, to Cornelius and his family and now Sergius Paulus, the proconsul in Cyprus, the news is being spread. This story becomes a turning point in several ways for itt reinforces the place of Gentiles in the Christian story and leaves us, without hesitation, to understand the mission of Barnabas and Saul.
It was not unusual for secular leaders to have numerous advisors. Some leaders within the Roman world had begun to invite Jews into their inner circle of counselors, for they were pleased with their discipline and relationship with just one God. Somehow a false prophet, Bar-Jesus, had made his way into a place of influence with Sergius Paulus. However, he was far from following the truths of God and practiced magic, which was taboo for the religious Jews.
Sergius Paulus heard that Barnabas and Saul had arrived on Cyprus and one must imagine that he thought they might also be enticed into providing him with advice or direction. It is in this curiosity that we find a major turning point. The proconsul was an educated man and Saul with his great education steps forward. A great miracle is performed through Saul, also known as Paul. One also assumes that he argued well for the faith, because overcoming evil is often understood as teaching. Because Sergius Paulus becomes a believer the place of Christianity is solidified within the Gentile world. From this moment forward Luke only identifies Saul or Paul — as Paul. This is an acceptance or adoption of his name for the Gentile world.
The other major turning point is that no longer are they referred to as Barnabas and Saul. The missionary team is renamed, Paul and Barnabas, as Paul takes over the leadership role within the partnership.
There are moments in life which become turning points. Usually they are completely unplanned or unexpected. Paul had no idea what he would be facing in Cyprus, but simply walked in faith, abiding in the presence of the Lord Jesus, and God took care of the rest. By being obedient to the call, there came a turning point in his life, but also in salvation history. God would use the educated man, Paul, to overcome evil with the power of the Holy Spirit, but also with the persuasive words that came from his mouth. It simply required the right moment in which God could take all of Paul’s surrendered abilities for the sake of the kingdom.
The turning point was not about boosting Paul’s ego, but about super-boosting the message of the gospel. God is not looking for moments to energize the careers of professional clerics, but for those who are willing to submit to God’s leading into a turning point. God did far more with Paul than he could have ever imagined. Paul lived into God’s leading with great humility. The turning point was not about Paul’s career, but the ability for God to use him for the greater good of Christianity.
Turning points are not about us, but about the kingdom. If we fail to see them in this way then we are losing sight of our call to follow Christ, the humble servant. Embrace life’s turning points for the kingdom’s sake and allow God to get all the glory.
Lord, I know that there have been turning points in my life, and I am grateful. Please help me to walk with you daily into the places where you would lead. May the turning points all be yours. Amen.
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