“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.” (Acts 13:7–8, AV)
In World War II, one of the ploys of the German Army was to switch road-signs so as to divert the Allied forces to the wrong direction. In some cases, this ruse would send those forces into an ambush or to some other destination that would hinder their advance. In war, deception or misdirection is a tactic that armies often utilize to their advantage. Yet, this tactic is not just used in our earthly conflicts. It is also utilized in our spiritual conflict.
We who believe in Jesus, are called into a spiritual conflict. Our mission is to advance the gospel for the glory of God. Our adversary stands in opposition to this work and thus the conflict. Paul wrote to the Ephesians regarding this conflict. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, AV). As previously mentioned, one of the tactics our adversary uses is misdirection. In this passage, we see a classic example.
The church in Antioch, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, sent forth Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on a missionary endeavor to the remote lands. During this journey, the encountered a man appointed by Rome to govern over Cyprus named Sergius Paulus. He is described as a man of intelligence who wanted to hear the word of God from Barnabas and Saul. However, a sorcerer named Elymas attempted to turn the governor away from the Christian faith.
This type thing of does happen when we attempt to preach the gospel message to those who are unbelievers. This is especially so when we witness to those who are genuinely seeking to know the word of God. I remember an occasion when I led an Evangelism Explosion team in witnessing to a person in her home. When we went through the gospel presentation, there were constant interruptions of all sorts. However, the greatest came right at the moment of decision. When I asked the person if she would like to receive the gift of eternal life, there was a large crash in the kitchen. Apparently, some pots and pans fell on the floor and interrupted the moment. When the woman came back, we retraced our steps and started again, taking her to the point of decision.
The thing we must understand regarding all this is that God is totally in control, even if we are not. Sometimes when witnessing, things can get chaotic. However, nothing can stand in the way of God saving a lost soul. In this story, Paul persisted. He dealt with the sorcerer and continued in his witness to the governor. The result was that when the governor saw how Saul handled the situation, he believed (v12).
Now, most of us will probably never experience the same situation that Saul did, and will not see God do the same exact miracle that caused the governor to believe. However, we still must be persistent and trust God for the results of our witnessing opportunities. We must not get flustered in the face of spiritual opposition. Out best recourse is to pray for the person to whom we are witnessing and patiently persist as long as the door is open. Then trust that God will use our effort in accordance with His perfect plan and timing. Some sow and other reap where they have not sown.