“…The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.“ (Acts 13:7-12, NIV)
Just before Jesus left his disciples, he made this promise: “These signs will accompany those who believe… (Mark 16:17)” and listed several miraculous acts. When Jesus did miracles, the Bible often calls them signs (see John especially). They were definitely miracles (the suspension of natural law) and wonders (amazing acts)…but also signs. A sign is something that conveys meaning. When Jesus did a miracle, it pointed beyond the action to the reason behind it. In other words, Jesus wasn’t just removing a sickness, Jesus was showing that He was the Son of God.
When Paul and Barnabas deal with Elymas here and he goes blind, it points beyond the astounding action to the fact that they were filled with the very Spirit of God. No man can do what they did unless God’s power was with them. And it’s a pretty convincing argument.
Interestingly, before this miracle happened the apostles had been witnessing to Sergius Paulus. We’re told he was a man of “intelligence” who wanted to hear the Word of God. The implication is that he would have been persuaded regarding the Gospel message except for Elymas. The tipping point for Sergius was witnessing the miracle. There was a sign and he understood the meaning.
We live some 2,000 years after these events, but I don’t believe humans have changed all that much. We can use logic and rhetoric to convince people of the truth of Jesus. Some will believe. Others will be distracted. But boy, if we can show them the power of God, that’s pretty hard to argue against!