Cyprus and the Proconsul: Part 1 of 5

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

August 20, 2014


Acts of the Apostles


Scripture (Acts 13:4-12; KJV)

4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
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.
6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
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.
8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
10 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?
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.
12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.


Introduction

Arriving in Cyprus They Preach in the Synagogues of Salamis—At Paphos, Elymas Is Struck Blind, and the Governor of the Island Is Converted.

Satan is busy with great men and men in power, in order to keep them from being religious, for their example will influence many. Saul is called Paul for the first time, and never again is he called Saul. Saul was his Hebrew name; Paul was his name as a citizen of Rome. Under the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, he reveals the true character of Elymas; that he is a child of the devil. The proconsul was astonished at the force of Paul’s doctrine upon his own heart and conscience, and at the power of God by which it was confirmed.


Commentary

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

So they being sent forth by the Holy Ghost
“So they being sent forth by the Holy Ghost;”by His express direction. This seems to be inserted to connote that though they were earnestly recommended to God by the prayers of their brethren, their authority was not derived from them, but from the Holy Spirit Himself. It was the Holy Ghost that induced Paul and Barnabas at Antioch to separate themselves from the other prophets and teachers, and to leave Antioch and go to Seleucia and then to Cyprus; and directed them as to the course to steer.

This part of the verse may be only a summary of the previous facts (vs. 1-3), but looking to Acts 16:6-7,—“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not”—it seems more probable that they refer to a fresh revelation, following what we should call the “ordination” or “consecration” of the Apostles.

Departed unto Seleucia
“Seleucia” was a city in Syria, also called Seleucia Pieria; it got its name from Seleucus Nicanor, king of Egypt, who was the founder and builder of it: it was not far from Antioch—it is said to be twenty-four miles (41 by water) from it. Seleucia was the sea-port for Antioch. It was a free city by a grant from Pompey. It was one of the most important cities in Syria, and was situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea at the mouth of the Orontes River. Seleucia united the two characteristics of a fortress and a seaport. Saul and Barnabas did not stay there long; and it seems that their only reason for going there was to obtain passage on a ship bound for the island of Cyprus.

Here, in the midst of sympathizing sailors, the two missionary apostles, with their younger companion, stepped on board the vessel which was to convey them to Cyprus. As they cleared the port, the whole sweep of the bay of Antioch opened on their left—the low ground by the mouth of the Orontes; the wild and woody country beyond it; and then the peak of Mount Casius, rising symmetrically from the very edge of the sea to a height of 5000 feet. On the right, in the southwest horizon, if the day was clear, they saw the island of Cyprus for the first time. The current flows northerly and northeast between the island and the Syrian coast. But with a fair wind, a few hours would enable them to make the run from Seleucia to Salamis, on Cyprus.

And from thence they sailed to Cyprus
“Cyprus” is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, the native country of Barnabas—“And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus” (Acts 4:36). No doubt, Paul and Barnabas were influenced to go there by the number of Jews living on the island, and the partial evangelization of it which had already taken place—“And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:19, 20),and they would be a needed source of assistance and support. John Mark went with them, as we learn from the fifth and thirteenth verses, and possibly other brethren such as deacons and ministers. They sailed straight to Salamis, which was the principal or one of the principal towns where there was “a convenient and spacious harbor,” in the center of the eastern end of the island. It had a large population of Jews. It was destroyed in the reign of Trajan. A terrible insurrection of the Jews occurred there, in which they massacred 240,000 Gentiles. Since then, no Jew has been allowed into the land of Cyprus.

The population of the island was largely Greek, but the Jews were numerous in Salamis. By sailing to that city, they were following the path of the synagogues; and though their mission was chiefly to the Gentiles, their surest way to reach them was through the proselytes and Hellenizing Jews. The island was infamous for the worship of Venus, or Aphrodite, who was supposed to have her residence there, and therefore was commonly called the Cyprian goddess. She was its tutelaryi goddess, and Paphos was the chief center of her worship, which there, as elsewhere, was conspicuous for the depravity of the harlot-priestesses of her temple. Some of the Cypriotes were already Christians. Indeed, no one place outside of Palestine, except Antioch, had been so honorably associated with the work of successful evangelization.

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.

And when they were at Salamis,
“Salamis,” as stated above, was situated at the east end of Cyprus, and was the principal city and seaport of that country. It was the nearest port of Cyprus for voyagers from Seleucia. Now it is called Famagousta.

They preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews:
They preached, here and elsewhere, in the synagogues, either because they found no other such convenient places to preach in; (these were large structures, and many worshipped there). The apostles preached first to the Jews though they were sent unto the Gentiles; and they continued to follow this practice until the Jews renounced and discarded the Gospel, which made their way more clear and open to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, which is apparent throughout the Bible, and at the conclusion of it—“Be it known therefore to you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28).

The plural “synagogues” implies a considerable Jewish population, and henceforth the Apostles followed the general rule announced in Acts 13:46—“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles. Jews were living in all the countries adjacent to Judea, and in those countries they had synagogues. Salamis had more than one synagogue, in which Barnabas and Saul preached, while other cities had only one.

And they had also John to their minister.
This was John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, whom they brought with them from Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), who waited upon them and provided them with the necessities of life; but he was not active in the ministry of the word, which is particularly attributed to Paul and Barnabas. He did not function as an assistant to them in the Gospel ministry; nor was he the minister who direct public service in any of the synagogues, so it cannot be thought he held any such office and authority; but he provided personal service and ministered in civil and secular things to the apostles, or to the poor by their orders. It is probable that he was engaged in baptizing converts, and, where a church was founded, he made preparations for the Lord’s Supper. He was with them as their friend and traveling companion; and was also employed in making the necessary arrangements for their comfort, and in supplying their needs during their travels. Considering the total work of Mark, it would not be too much to say that he was, more than any other disciple, the courier of the Apostolic Church.

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