Tuesday Dec 20, 2022

Acts 13:9

Tuesday, 20 December 2022


Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him Acts 13:9


The previous verse revealed the opposition of Elymas the sorcerer who was seeking to turn Sergius Paulus away from the faith. With that, it now says, “Then Saul, who also is called Paul.”


This is the first time that Saul is called Paul in Scripture. From this point on, it is the only name he will be called by apart from when citing past events in his life. As noted when Sergius Paulus was introduced in Acts 13:7, the name is the same for both. In Greek, it is Paulos. The name means Little. However, it is derived from pauó, signifying cause to cease, stop, finish, etc. Thus, it could refer to “the Stopper.”


Abarim Publications takes the similar-sounding Hebrew pa’a along with the connecting letter L (lamed) to form a name that sounds like Paul and defines it as “A Small Whisper That Propagates Into A Roaring Multitude.” Despite the name “Paul” originally being of Latin origin and not connected to the Hebrew, the name provided by Abarim well defines the effect Paul’s works have had on the world at large.


What appears to be likely is that the similarity between the name Saul and Paul was close enough that Saul decided to use this name henceforth. As such, it would be a bond of affiliation with Sergius Paulus and a memorial to the first recorded Gentile convert of his.


Some commentators disagree with this, noting that it was common for Jews to have two names (as has been seen repeatedly in Acts), but the fact is that he was called Saul up until this point and he is henceforth referred to as Paul.


This moment is a definitive moment in the life of Paul and this first recorded Gentile conversion serves as a point on which the Acts narrative clearly turns. That will become more perfectly evident in Acts 13:46, but the conversion of Sergius Paulus sets the tone for the future actions of Paul and his determined evangelization of the Gentiles.


As for Paul, it next says he was, “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Rather, it is an aorist participle in the passive voice – “having been filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke is penning the account in a lively manner, showing the sequence of events as they had occurred. In this case, the events caused by Elymas were so distressing that Paul leaned wholly on the guidance of the Spirit. He opened himself up and allowed the Holy Spirit to direct him in what he would do.


With that noted, it next says that Paul “looked intently at him.” Rather, this is also an aorist participle, “having looked intently at him.” However, the voice changes from the passive (having been filled) to the active (having looked intently). Having opened himself up to the filling of the Spirit, he then prepares to engage Elymas.


Life application: It is a good time to be reminded that the filling of the Holy Spirit is a passive, not an active, occurrence. When Paul says, “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18, it is in the middle voice. This means that the subject (the one being filled) is both an agent of an action and somehow concerned with it.


A way to look at this would be for one to step out of the way concerning the matter and let the matter continue without active effort. One might say, “The books he writes sell themselves.” The person has written a marvelous novel, now the novel takes on its own ability to act. In the case of being filled with the Spirit, a person will know the power of God and receive the gospel. That will then lead to the reception of the Spirit.


However, in our lives, we may later rely on ourselves to get things done. But when the time comes for the Lord to lead, we step out of the way and allow Him to fill us and take the reins. In the case of the passive voice, such as is recorded with Paul above, he yielded himself and the Spirit filled him.


So how do we allow this? We do so through knowing the word, praising God, fellowshipping with others, etc. We have our part in the process. When prepared in this manner, we can then allow the Spirit to fill us and take the helm as we encounter the waves that buffet us. A wine glass will not fill itself. It must stand ready to receive the wine. The filling is externally accomplished. Be ready to receive by being in a position that the reception is possible.


Lord God, may we learn to step out of the way and allow Your Spirit to fill us at all times. Help us in this so that we will be vessels properly prepared for the purpose. May we know Your word, be in close fellowship with You, and allow ourselves to be filled with Your Spirit. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.

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