Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - The Schemes of the Devil - Acts 13:4-12

The Schemes of the Devil - Acts 13:4-12

Our gospel witness brings us constantly into a battle with Satan, the enemy of salvation in Jesus Christ. Therefore, as believers, we need to grasp how he works (his schemes), in order to do spiritual battle against him. In this passage, Paul was very aware that what he was encountering was not merely a man (Elymas the magician), but demonic powers working through the man to divert the governor (Sergius Paulus) away from the gospel. In Acts, this is one of only four instances where anyone is confronting demonic activity. Satan means “adversary” and devil means “the accuser”. Satan and the rest of the angelic beings who rebelled along with him are an unseen spiritual army, at war with the truth. Paul calls us to put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11) in order to wage war against them. The overall lesson is clear: anything Satan can do to keep people from hearing and believing the gospel, he will do (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan may give spouses, houses, educational opportunities, bank accounts, etc. to keep us from the gospel. The difficult thing is that God will too, so we are called to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33)

In Acts 13:10, Luke shows us that the devil will use deceit, fraud, and opposition in order to carry out his evil ways. Elymas the magician, a false prophet, is all about deceit and profit. Paul, a true prophet is up against a Jewish false prophet. Like in the Old Testament, it was a battle of the prophets. Elymas is a deceiver who leads people away from the straight path. Elymas is doing the will of his father, the devil, and thus the hand of the Lord is against him. This type of undermining of the cross of Christ is everywhere in our culture today: “There is no truth. Therefore, there is no sin. Therefore, there is no need for the cross.” These are the schemes of the devil. And we are to know his schemes.

Knowing the schemes of the devil, our passage guides us into 4 ways to constantly be prepared for that: 1) be filled with the Holy Spirit, 2) the battleground has to do mainly with truth versus error, 3) develop a nose for those who are really hungry to know the gospel, 4) be clear with the gospel. In Acts 13:9, we see that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be empowered by the Spirit for a task, or to come under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). What’s the way to go about doing that? Focused prayer, while looking to the Scripture (2 Cor. 3:17-18, Eph. 6:17-18). In Acts 13:8-10, we see point #2. While not all errors need strong confrontation like Paul’s rebuke here, error that keeps people from believing in Jesus for salvation is serious and needs clear, direct correction. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is extremely important in judging the level of confrontation needed (see 1 Thess. 5:14). In Acts 13:7, we see point #3 illustrated. Luke calls Sergius Paulus “a man of intelligence” because he was thinking carefully about eternal matters. Whenever a person is showing interest in spiritual matters, we can safely assume that God is at work in that person’s heart. In Acts 13:8 (“the faith”) and 13:12 (“the teaching of the Lord”), we see point #4 - the direct, clear gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. While the miracle of Paul striking Elymas blind was shocking, Sergius Paulus was really amazed at the teaching of the Lord. Why was he amazed when so many others were not? His eyes were opened to the clarity of the gospel that Paul and Barnabas preached (2 Cor. 4:6). This gospel clarity is the greatest weapon we have in this spiritual warfare.

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