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Success In Cyprus

13:4-12 So when they had been sent out by the Holy Spirit they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed away to Cyprus. When they were in Salamis they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogue of the Jews; and they had John as their helper. They went through the whole island as far as Paphos, and there they found a man who was a dealer in magic, a false prophet and a Jew. His name was Bar-Jesus and he was with the pro-consul Sergius Paulus who was an intelligent man. The pro-consul summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. Elymas (for such is the translation of his name), the man of magic, opposed them and tried to turn the pro-consul away from the faith. But Saul--who is also Paul--filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him and said, "You who are full of all deceit and all villainy, you son of the devil, you enemy of righteousness, will you not stop twisting the straight ways of God? And now, look you, the Lord's hand is on you and you will be blind and you will not see the sun for a season." And thereupon a mist and a darkness fell upon him; and as he groped about he looked for people to lead him by the hand. When the pro-consul in astonishment saw what had happened he believed in the teaching of the Lord.

It was to Cyprus that Paul and Barnabas first went. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus ( Acts 4:36 ), and it would be typical of his gracious heart that he should desire to share the treasures of Jesus first of all with his own people. Cyprus was a Roman province, famous for its copper mines and its shipbuilding industry. It was sometimes called Makaria, which means the Happy Isle, because it was held that its climate was so perfect and its resources so varied that a man might find everything necessary for a happy life within its bounds. Paul never chose an easy way. He and Barnabas preached in Paphos, the capital of the island. Paphos was infamous for its worship of Venus, the goddess of love.

The governor of Cyprus was Sergius Paulus. These were intensely superstitious times and most great men, even an intelligent man like Sergius Paulus, kept private wizards, fortune tellers who dealt in magic and spells. Bar-Jesus, or Elymas--an Arabic word which means the skilful one--saw that if the governor was won for Christianity his day was done; Paul dealt effectively with him.

From this point on Saul is called Paul. In those days nearly all Jews had two names. One was a Jewish name, by which they were known in their own circle; the other was a Greek name, by which they were known in the wider world. Sometimes the Greek name translated the Hebrew. So Cephas is the Hebrew and Peter the Greek for a rock; Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus the Greek for a twin. Sometimes it echoed the sound. So Eliakim in Hebrew becomes Alcimus in Greek and Joshua becomes Jesus.

So Saul was also Paul. It may well be that from this time he so fully accepted his mission as the apostle to the Gentiles that he determined to use only his Gentile name. If so, it was the mark that from this time he was launched on the career for which the Holy Spirit had marked him out and that there was to be no turning back.

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