The next clear incident of spiritual warfare recorded in Acts happened about a dozen years after the incident with Simon, about fifteen years after Jesus’ resurrection. Paul had come to salvation and started his training (Acts 9), and Peter had begun began taking the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11). Persecution continued as James was killed, and Peter was imprisoned and awaiting death (Acts 12:1-4) until God supernaturally intervened and released Peter (Acts 12:5-19). Then Paul and Barnabas left on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). When they reached Cyprus they met strong Satanic opposition (Acts 13:4-12). Since Jesus Himself had found Himself in numerous power encounters with Satan and demons, it is no surprise that His followers would experience the same opposition as they continued His mission and ministry.
Bar-Jesus, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet who had a lot of influence with the local official, opposed Paul and Barnabas when they tried to present the gospel to him (Acts 13:4-12). Bar-Jesus is also called Elymas, meaning “sorcerer”. The same word, ‘magos,’ is used of him as was used of Simon Magus (Acts 8). That man was a Gentile but Bar-Jesus was a Jew and was demonized (Acts 13:10). He was Satan’s pawn against God and His work in the continuing battle of Satan to defeat God’s Kingdom (Genesis 3:15). The results of who won this power encounter between Satan (through Bar-Jesus) and God (through Paul) would determine who would have the most influence on the leaders and people of Cyprus. The kingdom of darkness was again challenging the kingdom of light (John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12).
Paul was not intimidated but gave Bar-Jesus direct eye contact (Acts 13:9) and gave him the strongest recorded rebuke he ever gave anyone: “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.” (Acts 13:9-11).
How did Paul know this man was a pawn of Satan and seeking to undermine God’s ministry there? God’s Spirit must have shown Him, as He did Peter about Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5; 1 Corinthians 12:10).
LESSON FOR TODAY: When encountering a demon in someone who is demonized do not let them intimidate you or cause any fear. God is greater (I John 4:4) and we have nothing to fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Looking them in the eye is important, for this contact establishes your authority in Jesus over them and puts them under Jesus’ authority. Our eyes show truth, along with who we are and the words we speak. This truth is greater than anything that lives in lies and deception. Be sensitive to God’s Spirit as He shows you what you need to know to have victory against these demonic forces.
God’s judgment on Bar-Jesus was very appropriate – physical blindness to illustrate the spiritual blindness he already had (Acts 13:11-12). Everyone present saw God’s power defeat Satan’s power and that opened the way for the gospel to spread in that area. Hopefully his time in darkness brought Bar-Jesus to a realization of the truth and he found the true light in Jesus.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)