SATANIC OPPOSITION ON CYPRUS (ACTS 13:6-12). From Salamis, the party travels throughout the island of Cyprus, continuing to preach within the Jewish synagogues to both Jews and “God-fearing” Gentiles. If they spoke of Christ to farmers or fishermen or miners as they crossed the island, there is no record.
When they reached Paphos, the Roman provincial capital, their ministry definitely changed. There the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, asked them to present their message before him. Was this an official inquiry into the nature of what the missionaries were proclaiming in the synagogues so that he might know how to handle charges being raised against these evangelists? Luke says otherwise, being “an intelligent man” and “he wanted to hear the Word of God.”
In the proconsul’s court was Bar-Jesus, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet, who was practicing sorcery and magic under the guise of Judaism. Satan plants his counterfeits in strategic positions. Bar-Jesus tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. This act signified that the apostles could expect similar opposition from Satan from Jews in the future.
Saul rebukes this child of the devil and blinds him. Like Christ’s miracles, this one is parabolic. Blindness and seeing light would become Paul’s metaphors for the unsaved and saved. For examples, see 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5.
Two men heard the Gospel that day. The Gentile Sergius Paulus sees the light and the Jew Bar-Jesus is blinded. This would be the primary result of the Gospel from this day forward—Jews blinded and Gentiles seeing.
In the power of the Spirit, Saul smote the Jew with blindness. This action is parabolic of the nation of Israel, having rejected Christ, and now smitten with blindness.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening [blindness] in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25).
Compare Jesus’ teaching on spiritual blindness and seeing in Matthew 13:10-17 and Mark 4:10-12. Luke is quick to point out that the proconsul believed the Word of God, not because of the miracle; something the Jews refused to do (Matthew 12:38-40). He believed what he heard over what he saw. Therefore, Paul would write, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Hence, many messages were preached and few miracles were performed in his ministry.
From this time forward, Saul will no longer be called by his Hebrew name, but by his Roman name Paul. This name switch parabolically typified the shift of the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles, though not in proclamation. Paul followed the pattern of “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
Luke begins to list Paul’s name before Barnabas indicating the latter has taken over leadership of the missionary journey.