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​Grace Overcoming Spiritual Blindness 

Acts 13:4-12

Figures of Speech are normal grammatical devices employed in everyday speech and writing. A figure of speech can add life and dramatic color to a statement. One thing a figure of speech will always do is bring the author’s emphasis to a statement. 

For example, you say, “I have something to tell you.” The response you hear is, “I’m all ears.” That is the figure Metonymy. Metonymy is a figure about relation. One noun used to replace another noun that is related to it. In this example ears replace the word listening.

I open this section of Acts chapter 13 with a figure of speech because they become important in understanding what takes place in the Bible and in this section of Acts 13. One problem with a failure to understand figures of speech is making figurative things literal and literal things figurative.

Acts 13:4
So, they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

The preposition “by” is hupo in the Greek. Hupo is generally translated “by” or “under.” In the genitive case, as it is here, hupo relates to the power from which the action proceeds. The action, departing on their trip is “under” or “by” the direction of the holy spirit. 

Whenever the text, as it does here, has “the” holy and “the” spirit, the text is speaking of God, and Holy and Spirit should be in the upper case, or capitalized. When holy spirit is speaking of God’s gift, holy and spirit are in the lower case. 

Acts 13:5
And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

John is known as John, John Mark, or Mark. John was the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). When Paul and Barnabas took an offering to Judea concerning the famine prophesied by Agabus, John Mark returned to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25). John is therefore added to the ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:5.

The word minister is hyperetes in the text. Again, the prefix of hupo we just saw in verse 4, Although this time it is in the accusative case which gives it a slightly different meaning. The second part of the word comes from eresso which means to row. Here hyperetes literally means under-rower. It was used of the men on a Greek ship that were the oarsmen. The slight difference in meaning because of the change in case refers to John serving Paul and Barnabas. An hyperetes minister has made a commitment, either moral or legal, to the one he is serving. Understanding the meaning of hyperetes helps clarify what happens later, in Acts 13:13, when John decides to leave, thus breaking his commitment and again in Acts 15:37-39 when Paul and Barnabas separate from one another because of John.

Acts 13:6-10
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him. And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 

Here are the details of these verses.

Sergius Paulus is the proconsul of Cyprus. Proconsul meaning, he ruled for the Senate of Rome rather than the emperor. God also calls Sergius Paulus a prudent man. Prudent is synetos and identifies Sergius Paulus as a man of intelligence, a man of wisdom.

Elymas has three things that describe him physically and three things that describe him spiritually.

Elymas has two methods of operating physically and two methods of operating spiritually. 

They are laid out in this manner:
Physical description
Physical methods
Spiritual methods
Spiritual description

His physical description is, sorcerer, false prophet, Judean.
His physical methods are, to withstand and seek to turn away. 
His spiritual methods are, subtilty and mischief.
His spiritual description is, child of the Devil, enemy of all righteousness, pervert the right ways of the Lord.

The tools of the Adversary are old, they go back to the Garden in Eden. But they are not rusty because tools do not get rusty when they are used daily.

Elymas withstood (anthistemi) Paul and Barnabas from speaking God’s Word to Sergius Paulus seeking to turn Sergius Paulus away from the Truth. 

2 Timothy 3:8
Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood [anthistemi] Moses, so do these [people believers wilencounter today] also resist [anthistemi] the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith [pistis = the right way of believing].

Jannes and Jambres are two sorcerers of Pharaoh, (Exodus 7), that cast their rods to the ground to withstand Moses and turn Pharaoh away from the Truth. Notice how the Adversary places his men in relationship to worldly leaders.

Subtilty is dolos and means to trick. It comes from dello which means to bait. When you go fishing you invite the fish to a meal, except there is a hook in his meal, so that, he can be your next meal.

Mischief is rhadiourgia and is only used here in God’s Word. The verb form, rhadiourgma (not used in God’s Word) is used in Greek literature as wicked schemes or plots.

Elymas was filled, pleres, from pimplemi, meaning he was filled to overflowing with deceitful bait to trick Sergius Paulus into wicked schemes or plots that would turn him away from God’s Word.

Recognize that these are the opening verses of the Administration of Grace. The Adversary must use every deceitful trick he has to turn people away from the Truth of the doctrine of this administration. For had he, the Adversary, realized what God had planned for our administration he never would have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8).

What scares the Adversary?

Colossians 1:25-27
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

What scares the Adversary? One person believing God and walking forth in the power of God in Christ in that individual.

What scares the Adversary? Ten thousand, a million, a billion believers walking on this earth with the power of God in Christ in each and every person! 

What scares the Adversary? YOU

So, the Adversary pulls out every deceiving lie he knows to turn people away from the Truth. This is the one Jesus described as the thief who comes to steal, to kill, to destroy. But to the believer, with Christ within, the Adversary is under, hupo, our feet (Ephesians 1:22).

Acts 13:11
And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

We are not looking at the judgment of God for had God judged Elymas his life would have been forfeit. As a child of the Devil the result of his life was already determined by his choices. Rather this is the figure of speech metaphor.

A Simile says, “All flesh is like grass.” A Metaphor says, “All flesh is grass.” Elymas was told, “…thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season…” Israel is being told they are spiritually blind, not seeing the doctrine Paul teaches for the season of the Administration of Grace.

It is a physical metaphor that is carried out spiritually by the Adversary.

Romans 11:8
(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

All those who take the bait from the children of the Adversary will be spiritually blind for our administration, not seeing the son of God and what he accomplished for them. This spiritual blindness includes Israel and even other Gentiles.

Matthew 15:14
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The Adversary has devised many ways to turn people away from the Truth, hoping to keep them spiritually blind for a season.

Romans 11:25
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

Can a physical Metaphor, Elymas going blind, refer to the spiritual?

Psalm 23:1a
The LORD is my shepherd…

This is the figure of speech Metaphor. A physical statement for a spiritual reality.

But there is one other aspect to this account that needs to be viewed more fully.

Acts 13:7
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

Acts 13:12
Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Sergius Paulus saw what happened with his former advisor, and being astonished by the doctrine, believed. 

It makes no difference how many children the Adversary has in our day and time, the Gospel of Grace will cut through the bait, revealing the hook for all who desire to hear the Word of God and believe as Sergius Paulus.

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A Journey through the Book of Acts